Plus 14 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
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Pick of the Week
John Wick: Chapter 2
What is it? A man’s dog is left unscathed after an attempted assassination, but the guy goes out and kills some people anyway.
Why see it? Because you love kick-ass, stylish action is probably the short answer as to why you should see this one, but you also owe it to yourself if you count yourself as a fan of the first film. This is the rare sequel that adds to the world without repeating itself while increasing the scope and appeal of its core strength. The action here is gorgeous and beautifully crafted, and Keanu Reeves once again excels with a character of few but very specific words. It’s a highly satisfying film in its own right, but expect it to leave you salivating for chapter three. The new Blu-ray expands on the universe further with numerous featurettes exploring the characters, world, and action of the film, and you can’t help but walk away from it all wishing that more action movies were directed by stunt performers as they inherently understand the language.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, “Dog Wick” short, commentary]
— One Perfect Shot (@OnePerfectShot) June 13, 2017
The Bridge at Remargen [Twilight Time]
What is it? Both the Germans and the Americans vie for control of a bridge during World War II.
Why see it? There’s a lot to love about this WWII epic, and it starts with a cast that includes George Segal, Robert Vaughn, E.G. Marshall, Ben Gazzara, Bradford Dillman, and more. Memorable faces are accompanied by some stellar action sequences as director John Guillermin delivers gun fights, explosions, and nerve-wracking stunts both on and off the bridge. It’s a decidedly deadly affair for both sides as circumstances and politics affect the outcome.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The Gumball Rally [Warner Archive]
What is it? The anti-Cannonball Run, and that’s a good thing.
Why see it? There are more than a few movies about illegal cross country road races, but while star-filled ones like The Cannonball Run get most of the attention this little gem is the far better entertainment. Recognizable faces fill the screen as the likes of Michael Sarrazin, Gary Busey, and Raul Julia rev engines and zip eastward towards California. It’s funny, unpretentious, and elevated with some impressive stunt work with cars zooming, vans exploding, and police in heavy pursuit. I wrote more in depth about the film here, but if the sub-genre already interests you this new Blu-ray from Warner Archive is a recommended blind buy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The LEGO Batman Movie
What is it? Even plastic heroes have daddy issues.
Why see it? Three years after The LEGO Movie took over the world that film’s breakout character, a previously unknown superhero named Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), has gotten his own film. It understandably doesn’t pack the same surprise and wonder this time around and is nearly running on fumes by the time the credits roll, but fans of the first film will still find plenty to love and laugh along with here as jokes, gags, and Easter eggs fly fast and furious across the screen. Fans of Batman in general will be even more pleased as the film is stuffed with lovable references to incarnations past from both the comics and the screen. It’s just a fun, energetic ride more often than not, and viewers young and older will find more than enough to enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Shorts, deleted scenes, featurette]
Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow / Drunken Master [Twilight Time]
What is it? A young man goes from zero to hero. Twice
Why see it? The short answer is Chan. The longer answer is Jackie Chan. The still longer answer is that these two films are early Chan classics that see him fine-tuning his craft and entertaining viewers simultaneously. Drunken Master is the precursor to one of Chan’s most memorable and highlights his ability to make the skillful look sloppy as he finds strength in an unusual fighting style. Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow follows Chan’s shift from bullied janitor to master fighter as he proves himself capable of fighting back. Both films reveal an immensely talented, skilled, and acrobatic star in the making.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A table for losers discovers that appearances can be deceiving.
Why see it? I may be the one guy in America not enamored with Anna Kendrick, but that doesn’t make me heartless. She succeeds here where she too often doesn’t in crafting a human character whose emotions and actions feel relatable. The supporting cast does equally good work delivering a sweet, simple little movie offering laughs and heart on their way towards a satisfying conclusion. It’s slight — and short at under ninety minutes — so I recommend a rental rather than a blind buy, but it’s a far nicer alternative to the typically more cynical Hollywood comedies.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? Motherhood remains the same even as the children change.
Why see it? A rare Hollywood film to focus on a transgender character, albeit one not played by an actual trans actor, this is an okay movie with important themes. Compassion, inclusion, and understanding are at the forefront of it all, and the message is put forth through strong performances by Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, and Susan Sarandon, but it never quite rises to the the level of must-see. Still, it’s a start, and hopefully less open-minded viewers can look past the “issue” to see that it’s ultimately a story about family and love which should be things we all support and value regardless of political leanings.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie [Shout Select]
What is it? The title pretty much sums it up.
Why see it? Cheech and Chong, like most comedy characters based on the drug culture, are an acquired taste that I never fully came to appreciate. I enjoyed the pairs’ bits that once played the “Dr. Demento Show,” and I loved what the brought to Martin Scorsese’s classic After Hours, but their own films just don’t grab me. This is such a scattershot approach to comedy and narrative with both hinging entirely on the appeal of two slacker potheads, but they’re not able to wring many laughs this time out. There’s potential in a subplot involving Cheech’s job on a studio lot, but it ends before anything comes of it leaving us instead with his identical cousin, a brothel, and other elements that never really come together. Call me a narc if you must, but the film isn’t funny.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New interview with Cheech Marin]
What is it? A chance to hear Patrick Stewart voice a dragon before he does the same for a poop emoji next month.
Why see it? This is the fourth Dragonheart film by my count, and we’re once again a long way’s off from Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery. The heroes have grown less consequential over the years while the dragon’s vocal star has moved from Robbie Benson to Ben Kingsley to this latest entry’s addition of Stewart. (Curiously the dragon has also gone from Draco to Drake to Drago over the incarnations.) This latest entry plays things mostly straight, but aside from the CG dragon there’s little to recommend here as the performances and plot feel familiar and only just competent enough.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Jason Bourne meets an R rating.
Why see it? Iko Uwais in an action movie will always be something worth watching, and his latest is no different. He plays a riff on the old amnesia storyline waking up and slowly remembering all of his awesome skills, but it’s the action that raises this above most other Bourne knockoffs. Uwais causes all manner of bloody, bone-breaking carnage, but while his skills are clear the filmmakers aren’t able to capture it as well as we’ve seen in films like The Raid. The editing here is too jumpy, the shots too close-up, and the choreography such that we don’t feel the speed and power that we know Uwais is capable of. There’s still more than enough violent fun to enjoy though.
[DVD extras: None?]
Hell and High Water [Twilight Time]
What is it? A submarine crew heads to sea hoping to stop a nuclear war.
Why see it? Submarine-set films are a sub-genre that’s constantly under-represented, and yes I realized what I typed as I typed it. The legendary Samuel Fuller directs this wartime action pic with all the energy, machismo, and miniatures you could hope for. (One shot sees the sub resting on the bottom as a fish swims by — a small fish that looks quite large beside the model sub.) There’s a bit of romance that can’t help but feel forced, but it’s kept to a minimum and rarely distracts from the story and action.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
Madhouse [Arrow Video]
What is it? God help the sister who comes between, well, I guess just god help the sister.
Why see it? The madness of Italian horror comes to Savannah, GA for a tale of sisterly love channeled into murder and mayhem, and the results are a nutty and bloody build up to a memorable birthday birthday party. Numerous odd visuals appear throughout the film competing with the unsettling image of a mad woman and her trusty canine pal, and while the film was labeled a “video nasty” in the UK all of the offending bits are available here. The dog gets the worst of it if I’m being honest, but you won’t feel bad for the beast. Arrow’s restoration of the film offers up a clear picture and a handful of interviews exploring the film’s production, and it’s both a film and a Blu-ray that slasher/horror fans will want to visit at least once.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews, reversible sleeve, booklet]
What is it? Noun: an explosive device triggered by emotional weight.
Why see it? Armie Hammer plays a US soldier who sees his partner blown up before discovering that he too has stepped on a landmine and is unable to move. The film moves between his efforts to survive and flashbacks to the youth that brought him here. Hammer’s fine, and there are moments of suspense to be found here, but the flashback structure is a drain on our goodwill and interest. The emotion of the past can’t compete with the present situation, but the story feels its far more deserving. At 107 minutes the premise also runs dry before the credits roll.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
The Valachi Papers [Twilight Time]
What is it? A gangster works his way up the bloody ladder before turning informant.
Why see it? Charles Bronson movies are always worth watching, and this one gives him a character with more depth and weight than he’s typically afforded. The film is based on a real-life man and situation, and Bronson creates a lead character who delivers both a capable physicality and an awareness of just what he’s gotten himself into. We get some action and brief moments of suspense, but most of the film is character work involving interactions between good guys, bad guys, and those who fall somewhere in between.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The Wedding Party
What is it? The wedding party at a wedding party into the night revealing personal triumphs and failures galore.
Why see it? There are two threads of appreciation here as the film is captured in a single take from beginning to end and we find ourselves engaged in the various interactions of a myriad of characters. Bickering, revelations, and the possible birth of new love are all on display, and the performances and script do well to sell the humor and drama alike. Two hours is a bit too long for these various subplots though, and as the night winds down we’re left feeling every bit as antsy as some of the wedding guests. Still, it captures the heartache and angst of weddings better than most studio comedies on the subject and is worth a watch.
[DVD extras: None]
Also out this week:
Alienator [Scream Factory], Alone in Berlin, Chapter & Verse, Inquisition [Mondo Macabro], The Lonely Lady [Shout! Factory], They Live By Night [Criterion]