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Pick of the Week
The Seventh Sign [Scream Factory]
What is it? A young woman holds the key to preventing the apocalypse.
Why see it? Too many religious horror films focus on possession stories which is unfortunate as that’s boring, but this under-appreciated late 80s gem comes at it from a more literary angle as the book of Revelations threatens to unleash hell on earth. Demi Moore gets a meaty role, Michael Biehn plays a regular guy, and Jurgen Prochnow is Jesus Christ. There’s an evil priest, a helpful Jewish teen, and prophecies aplenty! It’s a solid genre film, and Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray includes some fun new interviews including terrifically candid ones with Biehn and the film’s writers.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
What is it? A man struggles between keeping his father’s shop or forging a new direction.
Why see it? Ice Cube headlines a fantastic ensemble of talents both comedic and less so in this tale of neighbors,friends, and co-workers in Chicago. Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Anthony Anderson, Michael Ealy, Keith David, and more banter and have fun even as more serious themes are woven in lightly throughout. Crooks, pimps, and a non-black barber bring minor conflict into the mix, but at its core it’s an affirming tale of family and other bonds.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers, music video]
Hearts Beat Loud
What is it? A father bonds with his college-bound daughter over music.
Why see it? Some films are so focused on telling a story or delivering “beats” that they forget to make their characters truly human. On rare occasions, though, you get a movie like this absolute gem of a film. Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons star as father and daughter, and both are going through some life-changing experiences. She’s falling in love and heading to college, and he’s about to close up his long-standing record shop, and the film lets each of them breathe without the constraints of rushing for the next story turn. They record a song — an incredibly infectious song you’ll want to listen to again and again — and find minor success with it, but the film remains true to them and the core idea of family, love, and being yourself.It’s just ridiculously delightful.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Barbershop 2: Back in Business
What is it? A local barber faces stiff competition when a fancy shop opens nearby.
Why see it? While the first Barber Shop tackled family legacies, community relations, and dire financial straits, the sequel settles into the easier theme of small business shenanigans. It’s a slighter affair all around — not that the original was all that serious — and feels more like a traditional Hollywood sequel. The cast once again shines as a strong and fun ensemble even if they are working this time in service of something more familiar.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, music videos]
What is it? A woman opens her own shop after being pushed too far by her successful boss.
Why see it? Like the Barber Shop films before it, this comedy succeeds largely on the strength of its ensemble cast. Queen Latifah heads up an eclectic mix of performers including Alfre Woodard, Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Kevin Bacon, and more. Sure it’s a lot whiter than those earlier two films, but community feel of the beauty shop remains. There’s a bit less social commentary than was found in the first Barber Shop, but the heart is still here.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, commentary, gag reel]
What is it? Could love be the only equation these geniuses can’t solve?
Why see it? This long-running slice of comedic stylings that just aren’t for me continues to be not my bag. But who am I to argue with the most popular sitcom on television at the moment? So rather than talk about how bad the show is I’ll instead focus on how it’s not good. The jokes are continually basic, often in direct opposition to how clever they think they are, and the characters are all far more annoying than entertaining. Well, everyone but Penny.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel]
What is it? A family finds terror in the woods.
Why see it? There’s a lot to like in this oddball chiller, from the cast (Barbara Crampton, AJ Bowen, Brea Grant) to the creepy and gory beats, but it’s definitely something of a mixed bag. Too much is left unanswered, some of the kills are frustrating, and worse, the film’s structure reveals far, far too much in the beginning which essentially neuters the suspense and tension to follow. We’re told character outcomes up front, and then we watch them unfold without the benefit of surprise or shock. It’s an odd choice, and while the “true crime” interludes bring some laughs they effectively kill the horror.
[DVD extras: None?]
Diamonds of Kilimandjaro
What is it? Like Sheena, but less.
Why see it? That 1984 “gem” is probably a slight inspiration for this Jess Franco flick as a white child lost in the jungle grows up to become a vine-swinging protector of the land, animals, and peoples. The main plot here sees people after her inheritance back home who arrive to finish her off, another who legit wants to rescue her, and a father who becomes a Scottish king to the local cannibals (?), but the real focus is on female nudity, recycled footage, and utter nonsense. My quest for a good Franco movie continues.
Golden Temple Amazons
What is it? Even less like Sheena.
Why see it? A white couple is killed by Amazons on horseback, and their daughter grows up to become a fur bikini-wearing protector of things she chooses to protect. It’s complicated. Visitors to the jungle bring bad attitudes, a thirst for gold, and a willingness to teach our lady Tarzan the ways of human copulation, and in return she goes along with most of it. Okay, fine, it’s not that complicated. My quest for a good Franco movie continues.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A group of women plan and execute a diamond heist.
Why see it? It begins on solid, if oddly low-key, ground as the cast and characters are introduced, but while director Gary Ross and co-writer Olivia Milch set an engaging enough table they disappoint with the meal that follows. The heist lacks drama, surprise, and an antagonist for viewers and thieves alike to root against. Things go pretty much as expected with the glitz and glamor of NYC’s high fashion replacing the shine and clamor of Las Vegas casinos, but there’s a distinct lack of energy and excitement. For all that underwhelms, though, it’s hard to walk away unhappy with this cast.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A reboot of the iconic 70s classic.
Why see it? This is a somewhat loose redo of the original, but it keeps the general themes and main plot points. The new Priest once again has a standout hairdo, but he also has a glitzy as hell criminal empire. Oh, and he has some super slick fighting moves? Director X delivers a film that’s ridiculous at times, cheap at others, and overly long… but also kind of fun? Trevor Jackson gives a charismatic performance in the lead role, and while the film fizzled at the box office it’s the kind of feature that seems destined to find an audience on home video.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, music video]
Watcher In the Woods
What is it? A family vacationing in rural England find something spooky in the woods.
Why see it? Florence Engel Randall’s YA bestseller got a feature film adaptation back in 1980 with the legendary Bette Davis as the weird old woman spouting weird concerns, and Anjelica Huston does a solid job in her shoes for this TV movie version. The story remains every bit as engaging as a light piece of horror/mystery, but the production’s limitations leave something of a dull feel over the whole. The suspense doesn’t quite work, the reveals underwhelm, and the cast (Huston aside) feel serviceable at best. It’s a minor gateway into genre films.
[DVD extras: None]
Also out this week:
American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice, Brain Dead [Scream Factory], Christine [4K UltraHD], Cold Water [Criterion Collection], The Guardians, Robin Hood [4K UltraHD], Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge, Scorpion – The Final Season, The Tree of Life [Criterion Collection], Westwood
Related Topics: Home Video