This Week in Home Video
Zombies Politely Request More Paramedics in One of the Best Horror/Comedies of All Time
Pick of the Week
The Return of the Living Dead [Scream Factory]
What is it? You’ve gone through life thinking the events dramatized in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead were fictional, but the fact is the film was based on a real incident. Freddy learns this truth the hard way on his first day at a medical supply warehouse when he accidentally unleashes the chemical that once again resurrects the dead into flesh-hungry zombies.
Why buy it? Dan O’Bannon’s mid-’80s classic is one of the best horror/comedies ever made, period. The laughs are frequent, sharp, and just as likely to come from dialogue, delivery, or events, but don’t let its comedic chops make you doubt its quality as a horror movie. Scares, gore, and terrific pacing drive this gem forward to the kind of cynical ending that would make Romero himself happy. The film is previously available on Blu-ray, but Scream Factory’s new release offers a brand new 2k scan resulting in a glorious image, and they’ve packed it with special features too. This is a must-buy for fans of horror, comedy, and beautiful collector’s edition.
[Blu-ray extras: Four commentaries, featurettes, extended workprint, documentary, interviews]
Bad Moon [Scream Factory]
What is it? An adventurer (Michael Paré) is bitten by a werewolf and decides the best place to take his new taste for human flesh is to his sister’s (Mariel Hemingway) home where she lives with her son Brett and dog Thor. He’s hoping the power of familial love will cure his lycanthropy, but thankfully for fans of bloody werewolf action the odds are pretty slim on that.
Why buy it? Eric Red’s masterpiece will always be the the script for 1986’s The Hitcher, but he’s delivered some mildly entertaining thrills as a director over the years too with films like Cohen and Tate and Body Parts. His best two-hander though is this werewolf romp thanks to an effective story, a solid quartet of characters, and some wonderfully gory practical effects work. It never shies away from showing us the creature in all its hairy glory (see above), and the story keeps things moving without ever getting bogged down in unnecessary subplots. The film also earns bonus points for opening with a scene featuring coitus lupus interruptus. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray gives fans two cuts of the film along with some fun new extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Two cuts of the film, commentary, interviews]
Kill Zone 2
What is it? The plot is a convoluted and contrived tale of fate and purpose that begins with Kit (Wu Jing), an undercover Hong Kong cop with a drug habit, who sees his cover blown resulting in his abduction. He awakes in a Bangkok prison that serves as home base for the organ harvesting operation he was investigating at the mercy of both the crime boss and the impeccably-dressed warden. One of the prison guards, ChatChai (Tony Jaa), is a good man with a dying daughter desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant, and he finds himself at something of a moral crossroads. He’s paid extra to turn a blind eye to illicit activities, but when he’s asked to cross a certain line he responds with integrity, honor, and a flying knee/elbow combo.
Why buy it? There’s no connection here, aside from a couple of shared actors, to Wilson Yip’s modern classic from 2005, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the operatic ass-kickery here. We get multiple set-pieces ranging from one-on-one fights to large-scale brawls, and each of them feature an abundance of rapid-fire kicks/punches, high-flying hits, and blistering brutality. A prison riot free-for-all is one of many highlights with its digitally-assisted single take moving us above, below, and through the action. All three leads ‐ Wu, Jaa, Zhang Jin ‐ get several opportunities to showcase their fighting skills against random enemies and each other, and none of them fail to impress.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes]
The Ratings Game
What is it? Vic de Salvo (Danny DeVito) found wealth as a New Jersey trucking magnate, but his heart belongs in Hollywood. He moves to the west coast to make his name as a filmmaker, but no one’s buying his scripts. When he lucks his way into a production he makes the most of it through the help of a woman (Rhea Perlman) who works at the company monitoring viewer ratings.
Why rent it? DeVito makes his directorial debut here with a smart little satire about Hollywood’s desperate and confused inner workings, and there are plenty of laughs along the way. The cast he’s assembled is a who’s who of early ’80s comedy with the likes of George Wendt, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Steve Allen, and others appearing in various roles. The movie is good, but what elevates this release is Olive Films’ extra effort with the supplemental features. Their releases are typically bare bones, but this one is remastered in addition to including numerous extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short films, featurettes, deleted scenes, booklet]
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
What is it? Batman (Ben Affleck) is furious at the damage and death caused by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) epic brawl with his good friend Zod, and he sets out to bring the flying hero down. As these two squabble though a greater evil is rising in the form of Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) ambition and insanity.
Why rent it? There’s a not-bad-at-all movie here ‐ one that would probably only run about 90 minutes ‐ but it’s buried beneath the bloat of DC’s past and future. It’s hurt by the wrong kind of ambition as Zack Snyder and company try taking shortcuts to attain Marvel-level success with detrimental results, but hey, it’s still a better movie than Avengers: Age of Ultron. It looks good too, but the biggest draw here is the supporting presence of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. You won’t love this movie, but you’ll love looking forward to her stand-alone film due next year.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Bitten: The Final Season
What is it? Elena Michaels is a werewolf whose struggle to lead a normal life continues to be hampered by the supernatural beings around her. Realizing that normality and peace are impossible as long as her enemies still breathe she instead chooses to bring the fight to them.
Why rent it? This Canadian series based on the novels of Kelley Armstrong lacks the budget and visceral (ie graphic) impact of similarly-themed pay cable efforts like True Blood, Outlander, or Game of Thrones, but fans of the books and of the genre in general should find enough to enjoy here.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
What is it? The small town of Bridgend, Wales has seen better days, but they were long ago. Jobs have dried up and money is tight in most households, but the bigger tragedy facing the community is the rash of teenage suicides. The deaths are well into the double digits by the time Sara (Hannah Murray, Game of Thrones) and her policeman dad move to town hoping to find a fresh start after the loss of Sara’s mother. As the days and weeks move slowly forward Sara finds herself growing more intimate with local behaviors and mindsets, and in a town where the youth are walking, ticking time-bombs her father realizes perhaps too late that Bridgend may not be the new beginning they were seeking.
Why rent it? It’s reminiscent of Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown in how it drops viewers up to their eyeballs into a world of pure apathy, and the result is a film that makes it difficult to connect with. The characters may be less than appealing, but the cinematography wraps them up in scenes of stunning beauty. Frequently dreamlike, the film carries viewers into the forest and down deserted streets on an uncertain breeze. We brought into the fold and made witness to the boredom and manufactured despair, and the listlessness in the air becomes a tangible thing, as much a character in the film as anyone else. This is a slow-burn of self-induced pain and suffering ‐ kids and adults alike are creating their own misery ‐ and while it’s accompanied by haunting visuals it remains an elusive watch as it becomes more and more difficult to connect with anyone or anything.
[DVD extras: None]
Crimes of Passion [Arrow Video]
What is it? Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner) is a successful fashion designer with an unexpected late-night hobby. She becomes a street-walker named China Blue, and along with her usual johns she’s drawn the eye of two men. One is a married man fooling himself into believing he’s happy, and the other is an insane pervert (Anthony Perkins).
Why skip it? Ken Russell’s sex-centric killer thriller is weighed down by stilted dialogue delivery and a cheapness that pervades every frame. Neither the characters nor their actions ever approach the level of interesting. My dislike of the film aside, fans of the movie should pick up this new Arrow release immediately as it is as terrific a presentation as Russell’s movie will ever see. A new 2k restoration gives us a sharp, bright picture alongside a solid amount of extras including a new interview with composer Rick Wakeman
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Two cuts of the film, commentary, interviews, featurette]
Elvis & Nixon
What is it? 1970 is coming to a close, and as President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) sits in his office he receives word that an a visitor has approached the White House requesting a visit. The visitor without an appointment is Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon), and he’s come to see what he can do for America.
Why rent it? You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a work of fiction, but while details have been tweaked for audience enjoyment the core of this story is surprisingly true. Elvis wanted to be a lawman, and who better to ask about it then the most powerful man in the world. Spacey and Shannon do fun work here, and while the film is ultimately lightweight it’s an enjoyably odd diversion.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
What is it? Harlem in the ’20s is a dangerous place and time, and those being targeted most violently are the black gangsters angling for their own piece of the pie alongside the Italians and the Jews. Bumpy Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) takes control of his gang and steps up their resistance to the ones run by Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) and Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia).
Why rent it? Bill Duke’s film aims high but lands as a solid-enough action drama complete with Tommy-gun murders, dancing girls, and a trio of great actors going head to head (to head). It’s an interesting angle on a familiar setup, and that goes a long way toward making it worth a watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Magicians: Season One
What is it? Quentin is a bit removed from his peers thanks to his intelligence and dormant interests. He’s invited to a secretive university where he discovers the world is filled with magic, and that some of those who possess it are planning terrible things for mankind.
Why rent it? This is, in many ways, Harry Potter: The College Years, and if that even remotely appeals to you then you’ll have fun with Syfy’s new series. The effects work is strong, the action is frequent, and there’s enjoyment to be found in the mixing of the magical and the modern. It’s slight, something that may change across further seasons, but for now it feels more like simple entertainment than must-see TV.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, gag reel]
My Best Friend
What is it? Kristen is a typical preteen, happy with her friends and her life, but things change when circumstances force her family to move to a far more remote home. It’s a rough transition, especially when she meets a boy, but luckily she finds a friend named Stanford who helps her find self-confidence and joy. Stanford is a horse. Stanford speaks with her telepathically.
Why skip it? Did you not read that synopsis? It’s a goofy premise, but goofy premises can still result in fun movies. That’s not the case here though as everything is played with generic simplicity and an antiseptic sheen. The message is fine, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a preteen who identifies and/or engages with the movie.
[DVD extras: Interviews, bonus episodes]
What is it? Michael (Craig Wasson) returns from Vietnam disillusioned with the America he thought he knew. In search of a people and a place where dedication and intensity still exist he comes to land in Ireland where he quickly makes an effort to join the IRA. He believes in their cause and their fight, but sometimes belief isn’t enough.
Why rent it? Wasson delivers a strong performance here ‐ yes, that’s him on the Blu cover and not David Duchovny ‐ and it’s easy to call this his best work. The story offers some interesting observations and turns, and it avoids the flashiness found in typical American films on foreign conflicts, but the main draw is one man’s journey.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
A Perfect Day
What is it? Mambru (Benicio del Toro) and B (Tim Robbins) are humanitarians trying to help out in the war-torn Balkans, and currently that means retrieving a dead body from a small village’s well. Fate and bureaucracy have other things in mind though.
Why rent it? The film takes place over a 24 hour period, and it’s a pitch black, darkly funny day for viewers. For the characters it’s a more depressing and frustrating affair as everything that can go wrong does in their efforts to help, but the result is a smartly observational look at the futility of international aid. Del Toro and Robbins are both terrific and are joined by the equally appealing Melanie Thierry and Olga Kurylenko.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurette, interviews]
Also Out This Week:
The 100: The Complete Third Season, Demolition, Miles Ahead, Muriel or The Time of Return [Criterion Collection], Night and Fog [Criterion Collection], Orphan Black: Season Four, The Perfect Match, Person of Interest: The Fifth and Final Season, Rio I Love You, A Touch of Zen [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video