Plus 11 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to last week in home video! (I was away at Sundance… forgive me!) Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
Opera [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? An opera performer is taunted and teased by a madman.
Why see it? Any Dario Argento film is worth seeing at least once, and this is the film that ended his run of movies worth watching more than once. It’s the last to deliver sumptuous visuals, elaborate set-pieces, a killer score, and a maniacal sense of energy driving viewers and the story forward. It’s stylish and bloody, and yes, operatic at times, and while it’s more than a little dumb at times in its script and characters it keeps your senses alive to the point that those things become forgivable. The new Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing isn’t loaded with extras, but the new 2K scan is enough to make it worth picking up as Argento’s colors, violence, and imagery look fantastic.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice [Twilight Time]
What is it? Two couples try to keep up with the times.
Why see it? The clash between “adulthood” and more carefree experiences found its greatest pool in the laste 60s, and this dark and sad comedy from Paul Mazursky (his feature debut) is one of the better explorations of it. Elliott Gould, Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, and Dyan Cannon are all great fun while still managing to deliver the sadness and worry sitting beneath their carefree surfaces. The film feels remarkably frank for its time with dialogue and circumstances of a very adult nature, but it’s all treated with a respect too. It’s sexy, funny, and just as it is for our foursome in the end, a little too real at times.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries]
Chasing the Dragon
What is it? The true story about two friends on opposite-ish sides of the law.
Why see it? Donnie Yen is always worth watching, and Andy Lau is no slouch either, so their first onscreen pairing is a film that any Hong Kong movie fan should rush to see. Happily, it’s actually good stuff even beyond the casting as the admittedly familiar story plays out with personality, style, and some solid action beats. Gun play, mob rumbles, and some solid fisticuffs from Yen keep things exciting, and the true story behind their relationship — Yen is a gangster, Lau is a cop — makes for an engaging tale across the years.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Dragonwyck [Twilight Time]
What is it? A young woman finds favor with a wealthy land owner, but happiness is not guaranteed.
Why see it? Vincent Price will always be reason enough to watch a film, and his presence here as the lord who welcomes a young farmgirl into his estate is a dark joy. It’s not his usual genre effort despite the darkness — think more like Rebecca or Wuthering Heights — but he’s terrifically imposing and gives an ominous turn. The film explores the artificial distinctions between the classes and offers a small commentary on the idea of “royalty” and lineage in early America, but at its core the film’s a tight little mystery thriller with dark nights, murder, and suspense.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]
The Hanging Tree [Warner Archive]
What is it? A doctor finds trouble and trauma in a late 19th century mining camp.
Why see it? Gary Cooper is a stalwart of the western drama, and while this one doesn’t receive love similar to High Noon it’s a worthy and engaging tale all the same. There’s suspense as the miners shift towards being a threat, and Cooper’s strong, upstanding hero finds support and challenge in the likes of George C. Scott and Karl Malden. The story, characters, and performances share the screen with some beautiful landscapes too.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The Sword and the Claw [AGFA]
What is it? A man seeks revenge against some very bad people.
Why see it? Genre cinema from 70s Turkey is where it’s at, and while the Turkish Star Wars homage/ripoff is the most well-known example this period action romp deserves some love of its own. It’s a straightforward film in some ways, and the character moments overwhelming the first hour won’t exactly light your hair on fire, but the big third act is filled with such ridiculous and entertaining action sequences that the whole becomes something worthwhile. Crazy dubbing adds to the fun as does a bonus movie on AGFA’s new Blu-ray, South Korea’s Brawl Busters. The two make for a silly but fun double feature, and both are cleaned up as best as can be expected for our viewing pleasure.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K scan, bonus movie]
What is it? Only Gerard Butler can stand up to mankind’s hubris.
Why see it? At its core this is pretty much just another Roland Emmerich disaster epic, but it’s one without Emmerich in the director’s chair. His frequent collaborator, Dean Devlin, takes over here, and the result feels like imitation that never finds its own energy or personality. We still get Butler punching weather fronts (no, we don’t), and the CG effects are good enough, but the film’s only real saving grace is its goofiness and the cast willing to give it their all. It’s not good, but it’s dumb entertainment.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Goodbye Christopher Robin
What is it? The creator of Winnie the Pooh finds success and bother.
Why see it? Biopics can be hit and miss depending on both the person being dramatized and the drama itself, and this one is perfectly okay. Domhnall Gleeson plays A.A. Milne and is joined by Margot Robbie and Kelly Macdonald (as his wife and nanny, respectively), but while the cast is top-notch the drama never rises beyond the level of watchable. The immediate comparison would be the J.M. Barrie film, Finding Neverland, which wove the author’s real life into an engaging production design and compelling story. This one’s watchable for the cast, but any residual love for Winnie the Pooh will add to its appeal.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
What is it? Old serial killers never die even when they do.
Why see it? Seven Saw movies were made from 2004 to 2010, one per year, and now an eighth installment has arrived long after the story ended. As is common through the series the script is a mix of elaborate devices, dumb people, and constant deception as timing and identity once again play a major role. There are highlights here in the production design, but the story feels far too familiar to make the wait worth it. We’ve seen so much of this before, and while it’s meant to start things anew (and may or may not do just that as it didn’t exactly set the box-office ablaze) it doesn’t quite give the franchise the shot of adrenaline it needed. Still, fans will find elements to enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, featurette, commentary]
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
What is it? A doctor’s mistake threatens his family.
Why see it? The filmmakers behind The Lobster turn their attention in an even darker direction here, and while there are still a few comedic bits to be found you won’t feel nearly as assured in your laughter. Performances are great with Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman delivering a killer turn as a couple caught up in something beyond their reasoning, and both feel like natural fits for Yorgos Lanthimos’ odd world. The script gets a bit bumpy requiring some forgiveness from viewers, but if you can accept the choices being made then the drama lands with a weightier punch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Thank You For Your Service
What is it? Three friends return from serving in Iraq to find new struggles awaiting them.
Why see it? It’s a sad truth that the United States doesn’t treat its returning veterans nearly as well as they deserve, and this drama captures that reality well with an ensemble look at the strains and stresses of returning home. PTSD is a major factor here, and we’re given various degrees of the disorder, but the overriding theme is the challenge faced after surviving a war zone. It rests pretty heavily on that automatic emotional drama but doesn’t quite manage enough of its own.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Woman Who Left
What is it? Thirty years in prison is a long time to think about the person who framed you.
Why see it? This nearly four Filipino film can be something of a chore to get into as director Lav Diaz (Norte) favors static shots, patient character work, and the simple beauty of black & white photography, but viewers with some patience of their own might find an engrossing tale developing here. The intention of revenge finds itself shifted into something different, something grander, and the film’s scope allows that journey room to breathe. It won’t work for casual viewers, but if you have the time it’s an experience unlike most.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet]
Also out this week:
Dance Macabre [Scream Factory], In Search of Fellini, Jawbone, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, Red Trees, Shakedown [Shout Select]
Related Topics: Home Video