Features and Columns · Movies

Take a Break from the Darkness of the World, and Smile With Our Pick of the Week

Plus 17 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Discs Savannah Smiles
By  · Published on May 24th, 2018

Plus 17 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

Savannah Smiles

Savannah SmilesWhat is it? Two criminals cross paths with a young runaway and are mistaken for kidnappers.

Why see it? This is one of hell of a sweet movie, and it’s one that has stuck with me over the years as a story of compassion, friendship, and redemption. Young Bridgette Andersen is cute and adorable, but more than that she shows an immense heart and talent. There’s fun here alongside some minor action/suspense, but its core is a story of just how important companionship and human interaction are. Her own life story ended tragically, but the film serves Bridgette well as a reminder of a better and more innocent time.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K transfer, documentary, featurette, interview]

The Best

The Birth of a Nation [Twilight Time]

Tt The Birth Of A NationWhat is it? Two families on either side of the Civil War divide find triumph and tragedy.

Why see it? D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent epic is probably one of the most conflicted viewing experiences going. The film features some engaging and fresh (at the time) film techniques, and early wartime scenes are well crafted, but the movie is blindingly racist in its portrayal of black men. Worse, it makes heroes out of the KKK. It’s ultimately less a film to be enjoyed and more one worth studying and critiquing, and Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray is loaded with extras offering more insight and thoughts into the film’s existence in addition to four more silent films from the era — The Coward, The Rose of Kentucky, Stolen Glory, The Drummer of the 8th. (Order from Twilight Time directly.)

[Blu-ray extras: Sound reissue extras, outtakes, four additional silent films, featurettes, essays]

Daphne & Velma

Daphne And VelmaWhat is it? Before the dog stole all their thunder, two new friends solved mysteries on their own.

Why see it? Scooby Doo isn’t exactly the kind of cartoon you’d expect to have a backstory for its “lesser” characters, but it happened anyway with impressively entertaining results. We meet Daphne and Velma in high school and see them brought together over a mystery involving other students and a wealthy sponsor, and it’s all presented with bright colors, energy, and real wit. It’s a fun and funny movie for young and not-so-young alike that hopefully leads to a whole new franchise. Fans should also seek out director Suzi Yoonessi’s feature debut Dear Lemon Lima (2009) which is fantastic.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel]

A Fantastic Woman

A Fantastic WomanWhat is it? A trans woman struggles to grieve after the death of her lover, but society seems determined to prevent it.

Why see it? Sebastián Lelio’s drama offers a timely look at a sadly timeless issue, and Daniela Vega shines in the lead role. Her character begins the film in love, and after tragedy strikes, she’s forced to face obstacle after obstacle to confirm that love to other people’s satisfaction. There’s a simplicity to it all, but both Vega and her character are such fierce powerhouses offering strength and complexity that the tale becomes highly engaging. Brief moments of fantasy highlight the journey.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras:]

A Fistful of Dollars [KL Studio Classics]

A Fistful Of DollarsWhat is it? A Yojimbo remake.

Why see it? Its origin as an Akira Kurosawa “homage” aside, the film finds its own value as a terrific western exploring morality and violence with style, atmosphere, and a memorable Ennio Morricone score. And not for nothing, but it’s also the start of “spaghetti westerns” as we know them and paired Clint Eastwood with Sergio Leone for the first time. Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” is a mysterious presence seemingly more interested in cash than loyalty, and it became a prototype for hundreds of future antiheroes. As they’ve done with a few other classic westerns recently, Kino Lorber presents the film with a beautifully restored picture and numerous extras. One interesting extra here is a prologue added to the film’s network premiere featuring Harry Dean Stanton, an Eastwood double, and a misguided attempt to explain his character’s actions.

[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries including one by Tim Lucas, interview, Trailers from Hell, outtakes, featurettes, network prologue]

Game Night

Game NightWhat is it? A group of friends sees their calm game night take a turn when one of them is abducted… or is he?

Why see it? This is the best studio comedy in several years, and it’s not even close. The cast is terrific — Jason Bateman, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, and a stellar Jesse Plemons — with Rachel McAdams killing it and reminding the world that she’s a comic genius, the jokes and gags are smart and numerous, and the direction is remarkably alive and vibrant. Scenes have real energy and visual style, and the script keeps up with sharp story turns and plenty of surprises. It’s just a ridiculously fun time at the movies, and the high replay value (along with the guarantee you’ll want to share it with friends) makes it a movie worth owning.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, gag reel]

Geronimo [Twilight Time]

Tt GeronimoWhat is it? The story of Geronimo’s fight against the white man’s encroachment.

Why see it? Walter Hill films run the gamut from the fantastic (Southern Comfort) to the awful (The Assignment), but happily more lean toward the former across his filmography. This early 90s effort doesn’t get much in the way of attention, but it’s one of his great movies. Wes Studi is terrifically commanding in the title role while supporting players include the likes of Gene Hackman and Matt Damon. It’s a beautiful film about American ugliness, and it works equally well as an action film, drama, and character study. (Order from Twilight Time directly.)

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Jurassic Park: 25th Anniversary Collection – 4K UltraHD

Jurassic Park ThWhat is it? Scientists and capitalists think it’s a good idea to create living dinosaurs… four times!

Why see it? A fifth Jurassic Park film is set to open this summer, so a re-issue of past films is to be expected, but happily, rather than simply drop new Blu-rays Universal has upgraded all four existing films to beautiful and often stunning 4K. Steven Spielberg’s original remains the best of the bunch, but all of them display varying degrees of thrills and wonder — and those displays are often jaw-dropping in UltraHD. The discs are loaded with special features, and while none of them are new they still offer up a wealth of detailed information on the franchise’s production.

[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]

Next Stop, Greenwich Village [Twilight Time]

Tt Next StopWhat is it? A young man moves out on his own to face life, but his mother’s not quite ready to let him go.

Why see it? Paul Mazursky’s semi-autobiographical feature is a warmly crafted look back at a time and place with friends, family, and lovers all playing a role in one man’s growth. Like life itself it’s alternately fun, sweet, and tragic, but unlike life it’s never dull. There are some big laughs here alongside moments of real sadness, and the performances are all aces. Keep an eye out for “Chris” Walken, Lois Smith, Ellen Greene, but be prepared to be blown away by Shelley Winters as our man’s mother. She gives a stunning turn with the ups and downs of a woman who’s both proud of her son and fearful of what he’s becoming. (Order from Twilight Time directly.)

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]

Of Unknown Origin [Scream Factory]

Of Unknown OriginWhat is it? A Wall Street executive finds the biggest challenge of his life when a persistent rat settles into his fancy condo.

Why see it? There are other rat-focused horror movies, but none are better than George Cosmatos’ early 80s look at obsession and vermin. Peter Weller takes the lead opposite the rat, and the film follows his descent towards madness as the two enter into a battle of wills that threatens to bring the walls down around them. The film walks a fine line between tragic terror and black comedy, and unlike the similarly structured The Vagrant it balances the two pretty damn well. It’s thrilling, funny, and seemingly destined to not end well. Scream Factory’s new Blu looks fantastic, and the commentary featuring director and star is a solid listen.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K scan, interviews, commentary]


VazanteWhat is it? A young woman in the early 19th century struggles to make a life.

Why see it? The first thing you notice with this black & white beauty is the stunning confidence of Daniela Thomas’ feature debut. Gorgeous cinematography draws viewers into the past, and while pacing is in no rush the characters come to life through their humanity, hope, and misery. The bigger tale being told her is one of colonialism’s effect on culture and women, and while it’s not a film to watch when you’re in the need of some light it’s a film worth watching all the same.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

The Rest

The 15:17 to Paris

The To ParisWhat is it? The true story of three Americans who helped prevent a terrorist assault while on vacation.

Why see it? Clint Eastwood’s “patriotic” interests have been on display for years now, but his ability to turn it into worthwhile entertainment hits a wall with this absolute turd of a drama. It’s riddled with problems, but the two biggest facing it come down to story and casting. The real event lasted mere moments meaning the dramatic intensity is severely limited. And the three American heroes? They’re playing themselves. These guys deserve praise for their actions, but they are most definitely not actors. Their performances add to the myriad of issues holding the film back from being even remotely interesting, and a flat script sees ridiculous dialogue share the screen with dull flashbacks, bland narratives, and a supporting cast slumming it for a once-great director.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Black Venus [Arrow Academy]

Black VenusWhat is it? The true story of an African woman used as an oddity in Victorian London.

Why see it? There’s a stark beauty to Abdellatif Kechiche’s biographical tale of Saartjie Baartman, but it’s constantly at war with the oppression and misery suffered throughout by its lead character. At 162 minutes it becomes something of a hard watch as there’s little respite from the abuse and ignorance she’s subjected to on a daily basis. She’s a curiosity to the people around her, both the elites and the dregs who see her at a freak show, and that becomes the driving force within the film itself — a curiosity as to whether or not she’ll escape this life. It’s a heartbreaking journey, so venture in at your own risk.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]

Death Smiles on a Murderer [Arrow Video]

Death Smiles On A MurdererWhat is it? A woman returns from the dead for vengeance.

Why see it? Joe D’Amato’s filmography is a varied thing, but he’s best known as the director of numerous genre efforts filled with all manner of sleaze and terror including Beyond the Darkness, Porno Holocaust, and several Emanuelle films. This early film features both bloodletting and T&A, but it gives more effort towards atmosphere and mood than his later movies. It’s a story of cruelty that comes back to haunt the cruel, quite literally, and it features a rather sedate performance by Klaus Kinski too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary by Tim Lucas, interviews, visual essay]

Early Man

Early ManWhat is it? A caveman fights back against the Bronze Age.

Why see it? Nick Park’s (Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep) features as director and/or writer bring joy through an animation style less frequently used than the usual CG or even hand-drawn, but while they’re less common they’re often far more affecting because of their tangible nature. (Or maybe that’s just me.) His latest is a fun romp, and while many of the jokes will land best with European football fans (and British locals in general) more than enough appeal more broadly to those of us who just enjoy a good underdog story. Toss in some goofy visual gags and a rousing football game to determine it all and you have a solid feature for the whole family.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Hilda Crane [Twilight Time]

Tt Hilda CraneWhat is it? A woman returns to her small home town in search of love and finds judgement and scorn in the bargain.

Why see it? Jean Simmons takes lead here and delivers attitude and heart to spare as a woman with two failed marriages behind her and hope up ahead. She finds new suitors and drama, and the close-minded locals are mostly responsible for the latter. The morals of the time are challenged, but the film stands by her side throughout. (Order from Twilight Time directly.)

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]

I Kill Giants

I Kill GiantsWhat is it? A girl believes her town is due for an attack by a giant.

Why see it? Fans of the recent A Monster Calls will enjoy this drama with a tease of fantasy as its story feels very reminiscent as a pre-teen with a rich imagination struggles with bullies at school and a sick parent at home. As YA adventures go this one leans towards the dramatic, but the performances make it work even if it grows a bit heavy-handed at times. There’s power to the ending, though, and it’s ultimately an important tale for kids and young teens.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Red Sparrow

Red SparrowWhat is it? A young Russian woman is trained to be a saucy spy (of sorts) but runs into trouble.

Why see it? Jennifer Lawrence takes center stage as the “sparrow” while Joel Edgerton plays a CIA agent who crosses her path. Performances and visuals are strong across the board, but at 140 minutes the film is something of a cruel and slow-moving slog. Action is minimal — it’s no Atomic Blonde — and an excessive amount of time is spent highlighting mean, degrading methods used to keep people in line. It wraps up nicely, but the journey is a challenge. It basically comes down to the performances and the period feel, but if you’re looking for more than that, say a fresh take or engaging story, you’re out of luck.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes]

Wild at Heart [Shout Select]

Wild At HeartWhat is it? Young lovers go on the run.

Why see it? David Lynch’s films are almost always strange, stylistic tales, and this story of forbidden love, gruesome violence, hazy sex, and a road trip is no exception. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern headline, and while the former channels Elvis for the umpteenth time of his career Dern stands apart with an electric performance capturing youthful abandon. That said, as with most Lynch films, this one just doesn’t hold together for me. His style of excess and exaggeration leaves me cold. I’m clearly in the minority, though, so for the rest of you this new Blu-ray is a recommended pickup.

[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, deleted scenes, documentary, featurettes]

Also out this week:

Beyond the Hills [Criterion Collection], The Bloodthirsty Trilogy, Frank & Eva, Graduation [Criterion Collection], Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters [Criterion Collection], Night Zero, The Party, Swung, The Vampire and the Ballerina [Scream Factory]

Related Topics:

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.