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Pick of the Week
What is it? A small town implodes when its residents are hacked and their secrets made public.
Why see it? This is an aggressive movie. That alone may turn some people off, and I’d argue it’s maybe a bit to proud of being in your face early on, but if you make it past the setup the movie delivers something special. There are some solidly thrilling action and suspense beats as four teen girls are targeted by a fearfully conservative town, but there’s also a heavy and scary commentary on the danger of extreme right-wing rhetoric and beliefs. It spares no one in its take-down of toxic masculinity, religious hypocrisy, misogynists, and more. It’s a ride.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel]
Bloody Birthday [Arrow Video]
What is it? Find out what happens when three babies are born during an eclipse!
Why see it? The killer kid sub-genre isn’t nearly as populated as it should be, but there are some real gems to be found. 1976’s Who Can Kill a Child? and 2008’s The Children are two of the highlights, but Bloody Birthday deserves to be in that same conversation. The kids are malicious as hell and aren’t fooling around as they perv on an older sister, kill adults,and try to murder young ones too. It’s ridiculous but delivers really damn well as a slice of exploitation.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, interviews]
Dark of the Sun [Warner Archive]
What is it? An elite commando team tries to save civilians in need while also securing a fortune in stolen diamonds.
Why see it? This 60s flick is an absolute blast of action, testosterone, brutality, and then more terrific action. Rod Taylor headlines alongside Jim Brown, and the pair help deliver fist fights, gun fights, chainsaw fights, and more. It’s a strong mix of action big and small — a train car on a bridge sequence is especially impressive — and the romp shares the screen with some great character work exploring the morality of saving some lives and abandoning others. This is the good stuff.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Dracula: Prince of Darkness [Scream Factory]
What is it? Dracula welcomes four tourists to his castle.
Why see it? Hammer’s Dracula films are in many ways their most steady presence, and Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the bloodthirsty count remains as iconic as ever. There’s no Van Helsing in this direct sequel to Lee’s first Dracula film, but the thrills, cleavage, and Gothic chills are around every corner of his stone home turned tomb. The included extras are informative fun, and they include two new additions in the form of a Troy Howarth commentary and a beautiful new scan of the original elements. This is a blind buy for horror fans.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K scan, commentaries, TV episode, documentary]
Horror of Dracula [Warner Archive]
What is it? Meet Dracula.
Why see it? Christopher Lee’s first foray as Dracula sees him spread terror and dread wherever he goes, but his immortal nature isn’t prepared for Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. The two are quickly at odds, and I will never tire of seeing Cushing in aggressive and energetic hero mode. Yes, he makes a great villain in other films, but he makes the best heroes. Warner’s new Blu is sadly devoid of extras, but it’s sourced from the BFI’s sharp new restoration resulting in a beautiful picture. If you don’t already own it, this is the way to go.
[Blu-ray extras: New remaster]
Schindler’s List [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A businessman finds his conscience during World War II and works to save Jewish lives.
Why see it? Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film remains an all-timer and an experience that never grows old or tired. The impact of its performances, action, and drama are just as strong on repeat viewings as it was the first time. It’s always been a gorgeous film, thanks both to its cinematography and black & white photography, and it’s somehow even more beautiful in 4K. The beauty pops, as does the horror, and you can’t help but be drawn into its world all over again.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
Starman [Scream Factory]
What is it? An alien arrives on Earth in the form of a deceased man.
Why see it? John Carpenter is best known for his horror films and thrillers, but one of his best remains this beautiful sci-fi drama about love and connection. Jeff Bridges plays the alien delivering an underrated performance in the process while Karen Allen is the widow shocked to discover her “husband” has returned. It’s a sweetly comedic and romantic film with real heart and soul at its core, and Jack Nitzsche’s score is equally gorgeous. Scream Factory has included new interviews with Carpenter and Bridges making this a worthy pickup.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
When a Stranger Calls [Second Sight]
What is it? A madman terrorizes a babysitter and years later escapes the asylum.
Why see it? The first twenty minutes of this thriller remain sheer genre perfection in pacing, performance, and execution. The rest of the film is a slight downshift, but it’s still a solidly entertaining suspense flick. Carol Kane only appears in the opening and final twenty minutes, but she’s a highlight alongside a dogged Charles Durning. This new release cleans up the picture, adds some extras, and even includes the sequel which, while not a s strong, is still another enjoyable thriller with a killer opening.
[UK Blu-ray extras: Interviews, sequel]
X Y & Zee [Twilight Time]
What is it? A woman struggles to hang onto her husband after he takes up with a younger woman.
Why see it? There’s a dark soap opera at the heart of this tale as relationships crumble — or at least appear to — but while there’s drama and black comedy to spare the big draw here is the cast. Both Michael Caine and Susannah Yorke do good work as the man and his mistress, but it’s Elizabeth Taylor who shines as the woman who won’t let go. She’s having a ball with a character facing ups and downs, and it’s her energy and intensity that pulls viewers along for a story that just might end in tragedy.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Anne of the Thousand Days [Twilight Time]
What is it? King Henry VIII has his hands full with Anne Boleyn.
Why see it? The royal life looks nice and fancy from the outside, but the machinations within are often among the ugliest you’ll find. Case in point is this look at 16th century England’s most infamous king and the woman who almost brought him down. Richard Burton chews mightily through the role of Henry and plays up his urges and attitudes with abandon while Genevieve Bujold shines as a small but strong voice of reason and love. It’s an engaging, albeit depressing, tale.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? Michael Moore acts all Michael Moore in pursuit of an important truth.
Why see it? Moore’s documentaries are an acquired taste, not because of their topics or craftsmanship, but because his personality and persona is always on brand. If you can get past that his films are worthy conversation starters and think pieces. His latest targets the American disaster that is Donald Trump’s presidency, and while the result is sad, frustrating, and entertaining its biggest problem is that the offenses change on a daily basis in Trump world. Everything here is already old news.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The House With a Clock in Its Walls
What is it? A newly orphaned boy finds a magical adventure with his mysterious uncle.
Why see it? This is a pretty entertaining YA adventure that pushes the boundaries of its PG rating with some truly creepy and somewhat disturbing sequences. Comedy is the focus, though, and Jack Black is a strong go-to with that goal in mind. Toss in Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, some fun effects, and a little bit of heart and you have one of the better YA adaptations going. The film also marks an unexpected turn from director Eli Roth who takes to the material quite well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel]
A Man Called Peter [Twilight Time]
What is it? The true story of a woman and the man of the god she loved.
Why see it? Peter Marshall found success and fame as a immigrant to America who became chaplain to the United States Senate, and the film is an adaptation of his wife Catherine’s book about his journey and their life together. It’s a romantic drama at its core, but the understandable focus on faith and some subsequent “miracles” limits its sincerity and appeal. It’s well-acted, though, and features some attractive cinematography.
[Blu-ray extras: Audio sermon, news reels]
What is it? Thieves find more than they bargained for when their latest target turns out to be a home with a dark secret.
Why see it? This is a pretty great premise, and the film does a good job introducing the characters on both sides and teasing out the reveal. (The back of the Blu-ray spells it all out, though, so maybe skip reading that.) There are some genuinely intense beats here and something of an unpredictable kill order too. It fails to stick the landing, though, in a pretty big way, and while it doesn’t ruin the movie it dampens the enthusiasm from earlier.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? The long-awaited sequel to Predator 2.
Why see it? Honestly? It’s worth a watch simply to see how a sure-thing can be messed up so thoroughly. Writer/director Shane Black is better than this so the issues are probably a mix of his own and the studio’s, but the result is just disappointing. The script is bad stuff — a product of poor writing or bad editing calls — to the point that subplots and threads feel disjointed and abrupt. The action and violence could have saved it, but we’re short-changed even there.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: ?]
Satan Never Sleeps [Twilight Time]
What is it? A missionary priest in post WWII China finds struggles of the heart, body, and soul.
Why see it? William Holden headlines as a middle-aged priest taking up a new post with an old priest on his way out. Communists ruin everything, though, and they do so here too kicking out the nuns, disrupting the priests’ days, and worse. The highlight here is France Nuyen as a young Chinese woman who falls for Holden. She’s terrific and endears viewers in short order, and that makes the film’s sharp turn into brutality a powerful one — until the film’s focus on forgiveness leaves you shaking your head at its ending.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A group of teens cut loose on an overnight scavenger hunt.
Why see it? You may or may not remember this light teenage romp from 2004, but odds are you’ll recognize some of the cast — Brie Larson, Steve Carell, Jane Lynch, Evan Peters, Sara Paxton, and Scoot McNairy are all part of the ensemble. It’s teen comedy at its most harmless, but there’s some fun to be had here especially if the cast appeals to you. Fans will also love this new Blu-ray as it’s loaded with extras.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, gag reel]
What is it? An ex-cop takes a job as a building superintendent, but the walls hold something far more dangerous than he expected.
Why see it? This is being marketed as a Val Kilmer flick, but while he has an important supporting role the leads are actually Patrick John Flueger and Louisa Krause. That’s not a bad thing, especially as Krause is always fantastic, but you should set your expectations accordingly. It manages some creepy beats and bloody demises, and genre fans should still have a good time with it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? The sequel to 2017’s Life.
Why see it? I kid, of course, as this is the latest Sony/Marvel flick about the character Venom — frequent enemy of Spider-Man turned antihero. The movie clearly has its fans — $800m + at the box-office can’t be wrong — but this is just a mess of a throwback to 90s comic book “cinema.” Sloppy CG action is never fun, and poor Michelle Williams(who’s saddled with the film’s worst effect, her wig) is clearly just here for the paycheck. All of that said, there’s some fun here as Tom Hardy is clearly having a ball.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Also out this week:
An Afghan Love Story, Coby, The Jerk [Shout Select], Marwencol, Murder By Death [Shout Select], Not Without My Daughter, Our Cartoon President – Season One, Panique [Criterion Collection], Sawdust and Tinsel [Criterion Collection], The Sea Hawk, The Secret of Dorian Gray, A Simple Favor, Topper Takes a Trip
Related Topics: Home Video