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Pick of the Week
My Man Godfrey [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A high society girl brings a down on his luck guy home.
Why see it? I’m ashamed to admit that this was a first-time watch for me, but having already re-watched it I’m confident in calling it one of my favorite screwball comedies. Carole Lombard and William Powell headline and deliver exquisitely timed chemistry — they were married in real life and divorced a couple years prior to making the film — in a tale about class, money, and integrity. It’s a very funny film with sharp dialogue and commentary, and it builds to an ending that just might leave you a bit misty.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, outtakes, radio adaptation, newsreels]
What is it? A man treks across the frontier in search of the woman he loves.
Why see it? This movie is pure brilliance. Ostensibly the tale of a man (Robert Pattinson) trying to rescue his love (Mia Wasikowska) from kidnappers with the plan to marry her as soon as possible, but as clear cut as that sounds it’s anything but. There are action beats, but the majority of the film is focused on character and dialogue, and both aspects are as smart as they are hilarious. The humor is dry as dirt, but if that’s your speed it will leave you laughing even as the film’s more serious themes begin to work their way under your skin. The film deconstructs tropes and subverts expectations in brilliant ways.
[DVD extras: None]
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum
What is it? A film crew spends the night in an abandoned asylum.
Why see it? Found footage films are typically not much to write home about, but a small percentage of them actually succeed in delivering fresh scares. This Korean release is happily among the minority and manages to be pretty damn entertaining for fans of spooky happenings in creepy places. The characters never become obnoxious, the continued filming is understandable, and the scares are steady and fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A small town grows violent, but why? Why?!
Why see it? Fans of The Crazies — George Romero’s original or the even better remake — will enjoy this mostly forgotten thriller from the mid 80s. The story is similar, but a sharp script and a terrific cast (Meg Tilly, Tim Matheson, and Bill Paxton) help bring the increasing terror to life. It’s something of an ecological horror film too once the truth is revealed, and it manages some solid thrills along the way.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K scan, commentary]
The Looming Tower
What is it? The decade leading up to the 9/11 attacks sees intelligence agencies at odds.
Why see it? The blame for the terror attacks rests squarely on the terrorists, but by reputable accounts our various intelligence agencies weren’t as helpful as they should have been in preventing them. Competition between the agencies — FBI and CIA — saw details and info kept from the other leaving key pieces of information left unclear until it was too late. This Hulu miniseries brings the drama together with sharp writing and strong performances from the likes of Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Tahar Rahim, and more. It’s an engaging and ultimately disturbing watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
What is it? The partially burned corpse of a young woman wearing yellow pajamas is found on an Australian beach, and the authorities are in the dark regarding both her identity and that of her killer.
Why see it? Writer/director Flavio Mogherini takes a note from a real murder in the 30s — one that wasn’t solved until a decade later, and even then not without question — and crafts a bleak tale here. While it’s definitely not the giallo it first appears to be, it’s hard to actually place the film in one of the traditional genres it seems designed for. The movie goes from sexy to sleazy to sad, all under the guise of a suspense film, and the result is a solid drama destined to disappoint audiences “promised” a saucy thriller.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary by Troy Howarth, interviews]
Retroactive [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A woman caught up in murder travels back twenty minutes in time to fix it.
Why see it? This is a beautifully bonkers movie that should be a blind buy for anyone who enjoys fun things. Jim Belushi plays a bad guy who’s a worse husband, and he ramps his performance up to eleven throughout. What starts as a dramatic thriller goes goofy as Frank Whaley’s time machine starts messing up people’s day, and the heroic effort to save a woman’s life instead leaves several more people dead. Add in some legit terrific car stunts/action, and you have a 90s film that deserves to find a new audience. Thank you Kino Lorber!
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Scream for Help [Scream Factory]
What is it? A teenager suspects her stepfather is planning to murder her mother.
Why see it? Wow. Wow to this absolute gem of what-the-fuckery rescued by Scream Factory for this new Blu-ray. The only thing more ridiculous than the narration is the dialogue. And performances. And story. It’s a bad movie by most traditional measures, but the damn thing is so much crazy fun. At it’s core there’s a tale of murder that builds into a home invasion, but it’s everything else that makes it a gift that keeps on giving.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary by Hysteria Lives!, interviews]
What is it? A colonel in Vietnam is shot down behind enemy lines.
Why see it? This is a solid tale of wartime heroism and one soldier’s struggle with morality during times of conflict. Gene Hackman gives a solid performance as the colonel stuck in enemy territory while Danny Glover shines as the pilot who refuses to give up on him. Some early f/x work aside, the film features some terrific in-cockpit flight sequences over jungle terrain, and some gun play keeps things lively too, but the film’s main push comes in the dynamic between the two men. And not for nothing, but the film makes a good Hackman bookend with Behind Enemy Lines where he plays the commander trying to bring his downed pilot home.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with director]
Cabin Boy [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A fancy lad finds adventure on the high seas.
Why see it? Look, some movies are destined for cult status and cult status only, and this is one of those movies. The comedic stylings of Chris Elliott are very particular, but while he’s great fun in short sketches (he got his start on Late Night with David Letterman) and supporting roles (Something About Mary) he’s maybe a bit much as a lead performer? It’s deliberately heightened — most of it is filmed on sets and in a big water tank — but only one out of every dozen jokes land with any degree of laughs. There’s imagination to spare including a snow monster, a multi-armed woman, a giant, and more, but they can’t make up for the “humor.”
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with Chris Elliot, interviews, booklet, auditions, outtakes]
Gold [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A group of vile investors plans to sabotage a gold mine to drive up prices.
Why see it? Part tale of corporate greed taking precedence over human life, and part adventure story, this 70s thriller is just a bit too long (at two hours) for the story its telling. When it works, though, it works well, and a big part of that is the cast. Roger Moore takes the lead as a new mine manager who discovers too late what’s going down, and Bradford Dillman, Ray Milland, John Gielgud, and Susannah York round out the recognizable faces.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
The Hired Hand [Arrow Academy]
What is it? A cowboy who left home years ago decides to return, but it’s no welcome homecoming.
Why see it? Peter Fonda plays a different kind of easy rider as the cowboy who finally attempts to make amends with the wife and daughter he abandoned years prior, and his efforts are met with both possible redemption and a violent challenge from an old enemy. His sidekick here is the eternally great Warren Oates, and together they bring both the soft and hard parts of the old west to life. It’s a good western, and Arrow Academy gives it a great release to home video with a wealth of extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary by Peter Fonda, documentaries, deleted scenes, interviews]
Horrors of Malformed Men [Arrow Video]
What is it? A crazy man heads to an even crazier island.
Why see it? There’s some real nuttiness unfolding here as a man escaping from an asylum heads to an island that’s basically home to Dr. Moreau. A mad scientist is experimenting on people with some ugly results. The pieces are here for something horrific, but some eerie visuals aside it feels more soap opera-ish than anything. It feels more interested in atmosphere, and it succeeds on that front, but the narrative is left in the dust.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, interview, featurettes]
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
What is it? The dinosaur’s island is threatened by a volcano, so it’s time to move the beasts to safety. Theoretically.
Why see it? Has there ever been a franchise that grossed more money the worse it got? Both Jurassic World films are just bad movies with shiny CG effects, and neither really manages much in the way of exciting set-pieces, engaging characters, or interesting story turns. There is one good moment here involving a Brontosaurus that might bring a tear to your eye, but otherwise JA Bayona doesn’t do much better than Colin Trevorrow did
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead / Phantasm IV: Oblivion
What is it? The Tall Man won’t give up.
Why see it? James Le Gros be gone! A. Michael Baldwin is back as Mike, and along with Reggie Bannister they’re once again facing off against the Tall Man and his little Jawa-like slaves. These two sequels see the war between them escalate across America’s heartland as well as through time and space. It’s an intergalactic nightmare for all concerned, and writer/director Don Coscarelli keeps it gooey, gory, and goofy. They’re dreamy horror movies blending the real and surreal, and these new Blu-rays give them both terrific new homes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scene, commentaries]
What is it? A businessman finds trouble in Russia.
Why see it? Keanu Reeves’ renaissance continues as we head towards the arrival of John Wick 3, but his in between movies aren’t quite living up to those standards. He may look similar on the cover, but his turn here as a diamond merchant caught up in criminal behaviors and murder isn’t nearly as thrilling. It reaches some action in the third act, but the journey there is unnecessarily convoluted for what amounts to double-dealing bastards.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Supergirl – The Complete Third Season
What is it? Superman’s cousin borrow his clothes to fight crime.
Why see it? TV is now filled with comics-based series from both Marvel and DC, and this remains one of the better examples. A big part of its charm comes directly from its lead Melissa Benoist who finds the humanity in her alien character. She’s funny and engaging, and when trouble arises she’s convincing in her determination. The action and story lines are well-produced, and unlike with some of Superman’s adventures she never bores in her invincibility.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Crossover episodes, featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]
What is it? A family road trip in an RV takes a deadly turn.
Why see it? Horror cinema is filled with haunted, possessed vehicles, so it was probably inevitable that we’d get one involving a haunted RV. It’s essentially a land ship, and it could work in the right hands, but one brief bit of creepiness and a specific demise aside the film just doesn’t work. It’s a rough script, and the performers — some of whom are typically reliable — match its underwhelming nature. Denise Richards and Mischa Barton are the recognizable faces, but even they’re clearly struggling to care.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
Also out this week:
Fahrenheit 451, MacGyver – Season 2, Silencer
Related Topics: Home Video