This Week in Home Video
Pick of the Week
Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection [Arrow Video]
What is it? Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji) is used and abused again and again by those around her, but each time she strikes back with a vengeance. #701 sees her taken advantage of by an unscrupulous cop and imprisoned, but she survives the prison’s hellscape and goes looking for revenge. Stuck in prison again in Jailhouse 41, she escapes with a group of fellow prisoners after being abused and humiliated by the one-eyed warden. Beast Stable sends her on the run once again, but the peace she finds is short-lived when she crosses paths with a local gang. Nami finally finds love in #701’s Grudge Song, but once again her solitude is far from permanent.
Why see it? The audience for films like these are a niche group, but if you count yourself among them then this new box-set from Arrow Video is a must-buy. All four films in this legendary Japanese series have gotten new 2k restorations, and each film comes with new appreciations from filmmakers and critics. The films themselves are filled with varying degrees of degradation, violence, and nudity, but all of them deliver with entertaining action and abundant style. Fans will have their own favorite, but for me the highlight of the set is the second film, Jailhouse 41, as it succeeds beautifully as a tale of women standing up to male authority and features one of my favorite endings. Kaji is a study in intensity across all four films, speaking limited amounts of dialogue along the way, and cements the presence she also displays in Lady Snowblood.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Appreciations, interviews, featurettes, booklets, reversible covers]
Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection (8-Disc Limited Edition Box Set) [Blu-ray + DVD] (includes Scorpion, Jailhouse 41, Beast Stable and Grudge Song)
What is it? Korea in the early 20th century is a land smothered beneath the thumb of Japanese oppression, but for one Korean hunter (Choi Min-sik) their rule has ceased being the most powerful threat he faces. The country’s last tiger roams the mountainside, and when a Japanese commander orders the beast killed a disparate group of men go on the hunt.
Why see it? Park Hoon-jung’s follow up to New World works equally well on two levels. On the one hand it’s a grand adventure tale of man vs nature, but it also stands as a historical commentary on the icy relations between the two countries. The CG tiger looks fantastic, and there are some terrifically bloody sequences as the creature tears its way through the people in its way. There’s a bit of a bloat to the second act, but once the various pieces fall into place the film finds its pacing and reveals an exciting hunt through gorgeously-shot landscapes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Tiger [Blu-ray]
What is it? Jake Epping (James Franco) is a high-school teacher whose desire to affect young minds is stifled by the idiocy and disinterest of his students. The opportunity to make a difference in a different way arises though when a sick friend reveals a secret ‐ his closet is a time portal between the present and the early ’60s. So of course he sets out to prevent the assassination of JFK.
Why see it? Stephen King’s novel gets a solid adaptation thanks to the talent involved and the time allowed by this eight-episode limited series from Hulu. Questions bubble up throughout, as is common for time travel stories, but the story maintains momentum and interest as it explores both a modern man’s life in the past and the mysterious effect his presence has.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Basket Case 2
What is it? Duane and Belial are brothers ‐ the former is “normal” and the latter is, well, not so much. Belial is a fleshy mound with a face, two sharply-clawed hands, and a murderous attitude. Their apparent demise at the end of the first film sees them still kicking and newly added to the menagerie at Granny Ruth’s house along with numerous other “freaks” who don’t fit in with society. They’re soon discovered though by a pesky reporter and the blood starts flowing again.
Why see it? Frank Henenlotter follows up his cult classic original with more campy fun filled with practical effects and goofy humor. It leans towards the silly as both brothers find love in various forms, but the promise of death keeps the darkness within reach. It’s not as funny as Henenlotter’s best, Frankenhooker, but there are laughs amid the absurdity. There’s an underlying current of sadness and insanity with Duane that pays off in the end. Synapse’s new HD transfer is clean and the colors pop where it counts.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview, featurette]
Basket Case 3: The Progeny
What is it? Duane has been in a padded room since his action at the end of the last film, and upon his release he discovers that Belial’s new lady is about to give birth. The magical day arrives, but so do the police who take custody of the little beasts setting their murderous off on another rampage.
Why see it? There’s plenty of gory goods here, but this third entry is the lesser of the trio thanks to an even sillier tone and (what appears to be) a noticeably smaller budget. There’s less effort and creativity in the makeup, and the campiness is played to higher (and lower) extremes with fewer positive results. Synapse’s new HD transfer looks solid though, and fans will want to complete the set.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Baskin [Scream Factory]
What is it? A squad of Turkish police officers respond to a call in a dilapidated part of town and discover too late that they should have clocked out and gone home instead. They stumble into a cult-like proceeding and find themselves targeted by the horrific and deranged man in charge.
Why see it? Best categorized as a descent into hell, this horror flick survives on the strength of its visuals, gore, and bonkers mentality. Less successful is the character and plot depth ‐ mostly because neither is present here. We know nothing about these guys and care even less. Still, genre fans will want to give it a watch as the hellish journey is creatively unsettling, cruel, and bloody.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Halt and Catch Fire: The Complete Second Season
What is it? Silicon Valley in 1985 is the backdrop for four people trying to find success and make their mark alongside the birth of the internet. Past successes embolden them even as recent failures haunt them, and the question becomes one of desire being every bit as important as talent.
Why see it? The second season of AMC’s exploration of the tech boom shifts the focus from the personal computer to the online explosion, but its strengths remain the same ‐ this cast is crazy good. Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, and Mackenzie Davis continue to be fantastic and the main reason to watch. The story and drama takes some expected turns, but the glimpse they offer into the dawn of something we all use every day now is often fascinating. The show makes for a fun companion to HBO’s Silicon Valley ‐ this is obviously the more serious of the two, but it finds humor in many of the same things. The laughs just come with healthy doses of misery and pathos too.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
A Hologram for the King
What is it? Alan (Tom Hanks) is a struggling sales rep for a communications company in need of a big contract. He’s sent to Saudi Arabia to pitch their product to the king, and new struggles and successes await.
Why see it? Hanks is always worth watching, and a pairing of director Tom Tykwer and author Dave Eggers seems promising, but oh my is this a flat and false-feeling film. Its best moments come in the clash between expectation and reality in the absurd Saudi Arabian kingdom as things work in skewed and ridiculous ways, but too much of the story is devoted to Alan’s emotional journey which never lands or connects. A local romance feels a bit forced too although Sarita Choudhury is terrific.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Also Out This Week:
Addicted to Fresno, Fathers and Daughters, A Monster with a Thousand Heads, Supergirl: The Complete First Season
Related Topics: Home Video