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Pick of the Week
Do the Right Thing [Criterion Collection]
What is it? One day in a racially fragile Brooklyn neighborhood.
Why see it? I don’t typically like to highlight the same label twice in a row, but between last week’s fantastic release of Klute and this week’s Spike Lee joint, Criterion gave me no choice. Lee’s 1989 film is a powder keg reflection of society — a snapshot that’s every bit as relevant today as it was thirty years ago — filled with mesmerizing production, performances, and possibility. It’s meant to anger and enlighten in equal measure, and Lee succeeds in doing just that. The film highlights frustrations baked into everyday life, and while no one here is a saint their sins are ones we’re all responsible for. Criterion’s new Blu-ray is beautiful and packed with extras that explore and dissect the film’s intentions and accomplishments. All of it is worth your time, but excerpts from Lee’s journal while writing and making the film are a fantastic read.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary by Spike Lee, introduction, making of documentary, interviews, featurettes, music video, press conference, deleted scenes, booklet]
Death Takes a Holiday [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The Grim Reaper takes a break from collecting souls to become one instead.
Why see it? Meet Joe Black may be fresher in people’s minds, but this original take on the story remains a powerfully entertaining tale about the value of the human experience. The supernatural element adds flair to what is essentially a simple story about recognizing what’s important in life, and Fredric March brings a marvelous humanity to the lead role as death personified. Kat Ellinger’s informative commentary is as welcome as always.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
The Fate of Lee Khan
What is it? A rebel force plot and execute a daring attack.
Why see it? King Hu’s filmography is filled with wuxia epics, but there’s something special about this 1973 effort. That something is best captured in the presence of Angela Mao, Li Li-hua, and Helen Ma. The film is filled with intrigue, political shenanigans, and more as various players attempt to exert and execute power, but when the action kicks in it’s with great flair thanks to sharp direction and Sammo Hung’s elaborate and showy choreography. Film Movement’s new Blu-ray looks stunning too.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, booklet]
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy
What is it? A man turns his life around with his heart and his fists.
Why see it? Action spin-offs aren’t all that common, but neither are consistently fantastic franchises. The three Ip Man films are terrific action gems, and this spin-off — following the redemption of a “villain” from part three — is up to their high standards. Thrilling, exhilarating action sequences highlight the film, but Max Zhang’s presence at the heart of it all as a former tough guy newly humbled by life and responsibility is every bit as captivating. Add in supporting players like Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, and Tony Jaa, and you have a film I hope earns its own sequels.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Universal Horror Collection – Volume Two [Scream Factory]
What is it? Murders In the Zoo! The Mad Doctor of Market Street! The Strange Case of Doctor Rx! The Mad Ghoul!
Why see it? Scream Factory’s second collection of less flashy horror titles from Universal’s golden age is once again a must-own for fans of the genre’s older influences. Mad men rule all four titles, and while the first is my personal favorite — I’m a sucker for people using animals to do their bidding (also see The Black Zoo) — all four are fun little thrillers featuring crazies, zanies, and absolute nutters.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurette]
What is it? The critters… they’re back!
Why see it? Are you a fan of the Critters franchise? That’s what it will take to be a fan of this one I’d think as the film is something of an underwhelming watch. The critters are practical creations, and they get up to some bloody shenanigans, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else to love here. The script is abysmal, and most everything else falls flat because of it. Dee Wallace returns, but it’s a glorified cameo giving her little to do. Watch it if you love hairy balls with teeth, I guess, but maybe skip it if you don’t.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Death In the Garden
What is it? A tale of survival along the Amazon.
Why see it? Luis Bunuel’s filmography is highlighted with films that touch on the surreal or comedic, but this tale of adventure and death feels far more traditional. That’s no knock as the movie is a solidly entertaining journey of survival that sees an eclectic handful of people forced to work together to make it out of the jungle. The included commentary and essay offer an engaging and informative look into Bunuel’s career and intentions making this a fantastic release for fans.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, booklet, interview]
The Doors – 4K UltraHD
What is it? The true-ish story of Jim Morrison and his band.
Why see it? Oliver Stone isn’t exactly the first director you think of when it comes to a rock biopic, but he is someone used to documenting the 60s and 70s. His focus here results in a perfectly okay but at times dull look at Morrison’s life, eccentricities, and accomplishments. It’s interesting enough for fans, but for the rest of us the main pull is the lead performance by Val Kilmer who absolutely nails it in creating this bigger than life persona. The band’s music, along with other tunes of the era, help create the atmosphere and offer up a look back into a time we’ll never see again. The new 4K upgrade offers some notable highlights as Stone’s a very visual filmmaker, and the disc also includes some exclusive extras. Definitely worth the upgrade for fans of the film.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A half-demon/half-man hero fights evil.
Why see it? Everyone seemed keen to shit on this new cinematic adventure simply because it isn’t a continuation of the onscreen world created by Guillermo Del Toro, but for those of us who don’t exactly love his two films? This is a fun, silly, and very bloody monster romp. The humor is a mixed bag, but Neil Marshall plops viewers right into the action and mayhem building into some flesh-tearing antics that should bring a smile to your face. Del Toro’s films might be more intricately crafted, but this is a fun flick.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurette, deleted scenes]
What is it? A woman and her son test the boundaries of family life.
Why see it? The core here is a mother (Deborah Kara Unger) and her young son who live on the road, surviving off the scraps she steals or otherwise acquires from the random men in her life, but their relationship isn’t built to last. The boy’s behavior grows more criminal and illusory, and love is soon not enough to keep this small family afloat. It’s an interesting tale, but the balance between the sad and the silly keeps things from truly becoming engaging.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Manifest – The Complete First Season
What is it? A flight disappears only to land five years later.
Why see it? As much a Twilight Zone premise as it is a riff on Lost, there’s enough of interest here to hold the attention of fans of this kind of storytelling. The mystery is doled out slowly, and it pulls a page from Quantum Leap in its occasional deference to a higher power pulling the strings. It lacks that show’s personality and charm, though, leaving viewers with the story alone to hold them.
[DVD extras: None]
Merrill’s Marauders [Warner Archive]
What is it? A special unit is sent in to stop the unthinkable.
Why see it? Samuel Fuller’s 1962 feature is lesser known than his beloved The Big Red One, but it’s still a thrilling WWII epic pitting determined men against an equally determined enemy force. The focus is on celebrating the American soldiers and acknowledging their sacrifice and accomplishments, and to that end the film features some solid action sequences and memorable faces.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The Milky Way
What is it? A pilgrimage offers wonders both real and surreal.
Why see it? Luis Bunuel’s religiously-themed journey feels every bit a Bunuel’s film as we move in and out of reality with a hand both deft and blunt. Time itself shifts as our two leads move along the road meeting modern day travelers, eccentric visitors out of history, and Jesus Christ himself. It’s an odd journey.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, booklet, interview, featurette]
What is it? An adventurer helps the last Bigfoot realize he may not actually be alone.
Why see it? Laika’s films continue to be a marvel of stop-motion animation and vibrancy, and while the story is merely okay the magic of the visuals carries viewers through. It’s a fun enough tale of friendship and belonging, and the combined voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, and Zach Galifianakis help bring it to life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Rock Paper Scissors
What is it? The director of Fright Night and the writer of Friday the 13th shit the bed.
Why see it? I mean, don’t? A delusional serial killer screws with the system leading to death and dismemberment, and you won’t care in the slightest. Sure, there are a handful of okay bloody bits, but they’re not nearly enough to make the poor direction, atrocious script, and embarrassing acting worth watching.
[DVD extras: None]
Weird Science [Arrow Video]
What is it? Two nerds make a woman.
Why see it? John Hughes’ 1985 lacks the subtlety, human insight, and big laughs of his best work, but there’s still some fun to be had with this tale of geeks who find their true selves after playing scientist and making a woman out of thin air. Sure the comedy is base, but the cast is aces with turns by Bill Paxton, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and of course, Kelly LeBrock.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K scan, theatrical and extended and TV versions, deleted scenes, interviews, documentary, booklet]
Also out this week:
1984 [Criterion Collection], Alita: Battle Angel, Easy Living [KL Studio Classics]
Related Topics: Home Video