Plus 11 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
What is it? Astronauts aboard the international space station make a poor decision involving an alien life form and pay the expected price.
Why see it? The story here is familiar in most ways, as evidenced by that synopsis above, but what raises it above the fray is the effectiveness of the script, the strength of the performances (and cast which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds), and the slick as hell direction of Daniel Espinosa. It’s just a terrific and thrilling ride through to the end, and while the final moments aren’t the unforeseen twist that some claim it’s a testament to Espinosa and company that its power remains even knowing what’s coming. It may not be a new modern classic, but Hollywood genre films rarely come as entertaining as this one. Plus, did you hear that it might be a Venom prequel?! (It is most definitely not a Venom prequel.)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage [Arrow Video]
What is it? An American writer in Rome witnesses the attempted murder of a woman and soon finds himself stalked by the same attacker.
Why see it? Dario Argento’s feature directorial debut set the stage for the glorious career to come and establishes themes and visual ideas that would become mainstays in his artistic toolbox. It’s a twisty thriller about memory and perception, and it shows a confident filmmaker at the helm as evidenced most explicitly in the early attack sequence. Argento shows us the scene through two layers of glass and then explores what we see and what we recall in interesting ways that would return to even better effect in his masterpiece, Deep Red. Arrow Video’s new Blu is a thing of beauty from its gorgeous slipcase on through its copious extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 4K restoration, commentary, visual essay, interviews, reversible sleeve, poster, lobby cards, booklet, slipcase]
Car Wash [Shout Select]
What is it? A day in the life of one car wash’s employees, customers, and passers by.
Why see it? Everyone knows the song, but the film is filled with every bit as much joyful, memorable rhythm as characters move in and out of both the frame and the loose narrative. There’s no real story holding it all together — not a knock on Joel Schumacher’s script — and instead it’s the variety of characters who give it life portrayed by the likes of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Antonio Fargas, Lorraine Gary, Otis Day, Bill Duke, The Pointer Sisters, and more. It’s the kind of movie you pop in for the simple pleasures of good music, friendly faces, and goofy laughs.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
Joe Versus the Volcano [Warner Archive]
What is it? A man with six months to live trades his dull existence for a glorious demise.
Why see it? John Patrick Shanley’s film is divided into two parts — the first third takes place in Joe’s (Tom Hanks) drab workplace, and the rest occurs in the colorful wild of both the real world and the tropical islands — and when I first saw the movie I loved the former and disliked the latter. I’ve softened with time though, and while the film’s ending is still hot garbage the genius hilarity of the rest of it has only increased. Meg Ryan’s triple performance is the real highlight alongside a script filled with witty, ridiculous, and highly quotable one-liners.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, music video]
The Paul Naschy Collection [Scream Factory]
What is it? Horror rises from the tomb, zombies seek vengeance, women seek vengeance, cannibals make dinner, and a werewolf returns.
Why see it? Paul Naschy is affectionately referred to as the Spanish Lon Chaney for the multiple genre characters he’s brought to life from Count Dracula to the Mummy to Frankenstein’s monster, and this Scream Factory collection serves as a great introduction to his work. The five films here vary in quality, but at least two of them are fantastic. Horror Rises from the Tomb is a fun, gory, and sexy siege film of sorts with undead folks terrorizing the living, and Human Beasts pairs some solid action elements with story twists and a nihilistic sense of justice. All five films are in HD and come with a mix of extras including three commentary tracks digging into the films and Naschy’s career.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes]
What is it? An FBI agent on a flight of shame finds herself in the middle of an odd hijacking.
Why see it? Dolph Lundgren’s presence is the only real reason to give this one a watch even if he does play one of the villains threatening the plane. That said, the film is less Red Eye and more of a re eye encouraging you to fall asleep. The characters are fairly dull and dim-witted, and neither the action nor the suspense amount to much. Denise Richards is fine as the agent, but she’s unable to convince with her character when it comes to the action sequences. Plus, you’ve never seen a film get so much wrong about a plane’s geography.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A scientist exploring enhanced intelligence experiments on a slow landscaper with devastating results.
Why see it? The issue has long since been resolved, but I still laugh at the chutzpah it took to pass this off initially as an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story. The balls that took! Anyway, the film itself has its moments including a chimpanzee attack and the eternally under-appreciated Jenny Wright, but dated CG aside it’s a pretty standard riff on the Frankenstein story. The big draw here for viewers though is the abundance of care that Scream Factory has put into this collector’s edition release. The two Blu-rays are loaded with extras offering insight into the film’s production from cast and crew alike.
[Blu-ray extras: Theatrical & director’s cuts, commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews]
What is it? A ragtag group of freedom fighters attempt to hijack a heavily-guarded supply train.
Why see it? Jackie Chan continues to churn out new features despite slowing himself down onscreen, and while his recent years have seen less impressive films some still deliver good fun. This period action film is one of those as Chan and his group face daunting odds resulting in some very lively set-pieces. CG plays too big a role of course, as is the new norm, but there are still some thrilling stunts and action beats to be found amid the animation. It’s minor Chan, but it’s still Chan.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
This Beautiful Fantastic
What is it? An idiosyncratic young woman and a cranky older man form a friendship over a garden wall.
Why see it? Jessica Brown Findlay remains the best part of Downton Abbey’s first season, but she is having a hell of a time with her transition into movies. Winter’s Tale is a terrible delight, Victor Frankenstein is just a joke, and her latest is an oddly dull affair masquerading as a playful near-fantasy. She’s quite endearing, and it’s good to see her in a lead role, but her character remains at the whims of the men in her life. Her arc, like most of the film feels expected, and to that point the character played by Tom Wilkinson exists solely so that he can… well, you’ll know almost immediately.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? The creator of a struggling kids show brings his writers to a remote retreat for one last stab at success, but it’s the writers who gets stabbed instead.
Why see it? This indie thriller offers an engaging look at one man’s descent into madness even if it does so with few surprises along the way. There’s a desire on the guy’s part to succeed, and the constant failure and frustration he faces slowly tightens the screws. His lack of moral restraint fuels the process further, and the film captures what amounts to a disturbing co-worker crossing numerous lines with those around him. It’s a solid little psycho-thriller, and while it’s ultimately uneventful it marks Justyn Ah Chong and Matthew Ward as filmmakers to watch.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A misanthrope discovers he has a now-teenage daughter and sets out to connect with her in his own peculiarly obnoxious way.
Why see it? Woody Harrelson gives good cantankerous jerk face, and he does good work here as a man initially indifferent to those around him but forced to make changes when his situation changes. He’s not exactly lovable though which is the effect the film is aiming for and final redemption — the About Schmidt angle if you will — and while that’s not necessary it leaves viewers with little more than a jerk. There are laughs here, and Laura Dern is a delight, but Wilson may just be too grumpy for his own good.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? Blake, Adam, and Ders are friends first and slackers second.
Why see it? Slacker comedy can be a mixed bag, but it works well here thanks to the lead trio even moreso than the writing itself. The wisdom of crafting three distinct characters as opposed to three similar ones offers the show and the comedy far more room to breathe and play around in which ensures some freshness from one episode to the next. They don’t have the same pull on me as the ensembles in Community or It’s Always Sunny do, but they bring the funny on a regular basis all the same. Comedy Central collects all seven seasons and eighty six episodes of the show together and packs the discs with fun extras that add additional laughs as well as some insight into the series and its production. It’s a must-own for big fans.
[DVD extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers]
Also out this week:
Death In the Garden [UK], Harmonium [UK], Island of Terror [Scream Factory], The Marseille Trilogy [Criterion], A Midsummer Night’s Dream