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Pick of the Week
What is it? Van Helsing catches wind of a vampire clan in Hong Kong.
Why see it? Once upon a time, Hammer Films joined forces with The Shaw Brothers to deliver the world’s first martial arts horror spectacular, and the result is an absolute blast. Dracula has a brief cameo book-ending the film, but happily Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing isn’t picky about which vampires he goes toe to toe with. He’s joined by a family of kick-ass locals who fill the screen with old-fashioned kung-fu fighting — because yes, the vampires and their undead army *also* know kung-fu — and the resulting adventure is some fun and bloody excitement. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray features a sharp picture and even includes the US cut known as The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula. You want this one.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, commentary, interview, alternate US version]
What is it? An Iranian man in Denmark tries to find a woman to marry, but life and past choices catch up to him.
Why see it? This European film takes a unique approach to the topic of immigration and the pursuit of green cards as instead of going the comedic/romantic route (Green Card, 1990) or tackling his Middle Eastern ethnicity in the form of terrorism, the film creates a far more intimate tale of suspense. His motivations are clear, but the cost and bigger picture only reveal themselves at the end.
[DVD extras: Short film]
Cold Sweat [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man’s criminal past comes calling.
Why see it? Charles Bronson’s European adventure in the late 60s and early 70s resulted in some oddly little-seen gems, and this adaptation of a Richard Matheson novel is one of them. Bronson plays a legit human rather than an expressionless tough guy, and the film delivers some solid thrills as he goes up against some thugs from his past. James Bond veteran Terence Young directs with style and energy too.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
The Aspern Papers
What is it? A young writer becomes obsessed with letters written by his favorite poet.
Why see it? Henry James’ novella has been adapted before, but this iteration benefits from a powerhouse trio in the lead roles. Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers do strong work in what amounts to a love triangle of sorts, and director Julien Landais works to create a lush atmosphere. It feels as literary as its source, and while the narrative is slow in its drama the film is worth a watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A military site handling dangerous entities comes under attack.
Why see it? There’s a lot going on in this indie genre effort, and while the budget keeps its ambitions in check — and holds it back from greatness — its blend of cosmic horror, sci-fi elements, and action make for a memorable watch. Firearms are ineffective in the compound meaning all of the action comes down to fists, feet, and knives. It’s good fun with solid fight choreography and execution, and the other genre elements including the Elder Gods are never less than interesting. These are filmmakers I’d love to see find a bigger budget next time arouond.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
Holmes and Watson
What is it? Turns out the world’s greatest detective and his sidekick are both idiots.
Why see it? What the hell happened here? The stars of Step Brothers (2008) and the writer of Tropic Thunder (2008) join forces for a Sherlock Holmes spoof, and the result is so abysmally free of laughs as to feel like torture. Gags fall flat, jokes hang limply in the air, and both Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are powerless to fix it. Skip it and watch the hilarious Without a Clue (1988) instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A murderer leaves bodies all over London and the trail points towards a diplomat.
Why see it? Not all giallos are created equal, and while the nonsensical title shines here the film itself is far more of a mixed bag. It’s plenty bloody enough, and while the gore effects are cheap their charm makes them effective enough. The T&A is also ample, but it’s the convoluted story that winds its way from entertaining to uncertainty. It’s a fun watch for genre fans, no doubt, but don’t expect to fall in love with much beyond the Steve Cipriani score (and Arrow’s expectedly strong presentation).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, appreciations, interviews]
Man on a Ledge
What is it? An ex-con sits on a ledge, but is he the story or the distraction?
Why see it? This is a solid enough little thriller offering up some interesting story turns along the way, and the cast (including Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Titus Welliver, and fine, Sam Worthington) is never less than engaging. It’s more about the reveals than anything else, though, and it loses some steam on rewatches because of it. This new 4K release looks fantastically crisp, but while there are some action beats it’s a hard sell as far as double dipping goes.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
Mega Time Squad
What is it? A not-quite intelligent young criminal finds himself with a time device.
Why see it? This fun little genre comedy from New Zealand has terrific, albeit small-scale fun with time, paradoxes, and the idea of multiple instances of someone occupying the same small town. It’s a goofy crime romp too as local crooks get caught up in the sci-fi shenanigans resulting in hijinks, laughs, and more than a few dead bodies. Well, they’re mostly the same body. kind of.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]
On the Basis of Sex
What is it? Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always been a badass.
Why see it? Our favorite Supreme Court Justice also had a terrific documentary released in 2018 (RBG), but while that explores her life up through today this feature focuses in on her earlier days as a young mother and lawyer already making a difference. Felicity Jones brings a fiery energy to the role and helps make for a memorably lively biopic.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Rider on the Rain [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A woman’s brush with a rapist brings a suspicious man to her door.
Why see it? This is an odd thriller that offers something of a slowburn with dark threads and Hitchcockian themes. The rape is followed by the woman’s understandable murder of her assailant, but her problems magnify when she dumps the body. Charles Bronson’s arrival as an American who may or may not be a criminal himself adds new wrinkles. He’s quite good here, charismatic and engaging even as his character remains somewhat in the shadows, and while slow at times the film’s never dull.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
We Die Young
What is it? Members of MS-13 tangle with the wrong Belgian.
Why see it? Jean-Claude Van Damme has delivered more than a few gems across his career, but as with his compatriot Dolph Lundgren, much of his later films seem to exist mostly for a paycheck. His latest is one such movie as most of the action concerns less charismatic characters — both good locals and bad — with brief incursions by Van Damme to kick some butt. Maybe stick with his recent The Bouncer (2018) instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Welcome to Marwen
What is it? A man dealing with trauma creates a world populated by dolls.
Why see it? The real life story behind Robert Zemeckis’ latest film offers an oddly interesting glimpse into one man’s tragedy, but the fictional take on it all can’t find the same emotion or focus. Steve Carell is good, as are his co-stars Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Janelle Monae, and others, but rather than feel like the intended celebration of women it comes across as slightly creepy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Also out this week:
Cam Girl, Enigma, Golden Job, Melo [Arrow Academy], Mirai
Related Topics: Home Video