Features and Columns · Movies

One of William Friedkin’s Best Films Finally Gets the Blu-ray It Deserves

By  · Published on November 22nd, 2016

This Week in Discs

It’s Time to Upgrade Your DVD of William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA

What’s good on DVD and Blu-ray this week? We take a look at the new releases for November 22nd below ‐ you can click any of the titles to buy via Amazon and support FSR in the process!

Pick of the Week

To Live and Die in LA [Shout Select]

What is it? Richard Chance (William Petersen) is a Secret Service agent on the hunt for a master counterfeiter named Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe). The lawman lives life to the fullest, but he’ll have to push himself ever further to take down this criminal.

Why buy it? William Friedkin’s mid ’80s thriller made our list of Essentials for a reason ‐ it’s one of his best and delivers thrills, drama, and terrific turns from its cast. The highway chase remains one of the finest ever captured, and the story takes a still-surprising turn well before the credits roll. Petersen is a bow-legged force of nature, Dafoe is a slick antagonist, and even John Pankow manages to shine as Chance’s partner. Shout! Factory brings the film to Blu-ray with a terrific new transfer that brings new life to this 31 year old film. If you have the DVD already then it’s time to upgrade, but if you don’t then this should be a blind buy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4k transfer, interviews, commentary, deleted scenes, making of]

The Best

Hell or High Water

What is it? Toby (Chris Pine) is a divorced father of two who wants nothing more than to leave his kids with lives better than his own in a harsh economy, and together with his spontaneous, thrill-seeking, recently paroled brother Tanner (Ben Foster) he sets a plan in motion to achieve just that. The duo begin a spree of small, smartly-orchestrated bank robberies at multiple locations across west Texas. A pair of Texas Rangers take the case and quickly find themselves in pursuit of the brothers. Marcus (Jeff Bridges) is days away from a retirement he’s not quite ready for, while the younger partner already has big plans for his own post-career life.

Why see it? If anything in the paragraph above stood out to you as particularly cliched then congratulations! You already know where one or more of the characters will be by the time the end credits start rolling. David Mackenzie’s (Starred Up) American debut, from a script by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario), is a simple story held together by the talent and charisma of its cast even as they’re pummeled by a barrage of cliches and the deafening drumbeat of its message. All three leads to tremendous work and elevate a good movie towards greatness. Add in a terrific pace and a strong sense of humor, and you have an entertaining and affecting film despite itself.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, Q&A]

Kubo and the Two Strings

What is it? One-eyed Kubo and his mother have been in hiding since he was a baby, and the one rule he lives by as she fades into dementia is to always be back home before dark. The day finally comes where he doesn’t make it in time, and within minutes those who’ve been pursuing him appear ‐ his twin aunts and his grandfather ‐ and they want his other eye.

Why see it? Laika’s (Coraline, ParaNorman) latest adventure for kids not diagnosed with ADD is another beautifully-crafted stop-motion experience. The level of detail and wonder once again exceeds that of their CG-animated peers, but as is often the case with Laika’s films ‐ and I’m in the minority here ‐ Kubo never manages to connect with me emotionally. The pieces are all there, but I’m left loving the craftsmanship far more than the story and characters. That said, the fight scenes between the aunts (voiced by Rooney Mara) and the monkey (Charlize Theron) are spectacular.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]

One-Eyed Jacks [Criterion]

What is it? Rio (Marlon Brando) and Longworth (Karl Malden) are crooks on the run in Mexico, but when the latter leaves his friend behind to be captured by the authorities a five-year wait for vengeance begins. Rio escapes and heads to Monterey where Longworth is now living as a respectable sheriff, but revenge plans are messy things.

Why see it? Brando directed this western ‐ his sole directing effort ‐ and it’s a solid entry in a genre built on tales of violent men, vendettas, and the vast American frontier. It doesn’t follow a lot of the traditional story beats, but it delivers the expected gunfights and moral divides well set against a beautiful coastal backdrop filmed in VistaVision (the last time Paramount shot a film in the format). Brando is Brando ‐ he’s fine here, but his vocal stylings can’t help but feel a bit out of place at times ‐ but Malden and others (including Slim Pickens) deliver the gritty goods. The story is constantly engaging, and Brando ensures it’s also pleasant to look at throughout. Criterion brings the film to Blu-ray with a sharp 4k transfer and an introduction by Martin Scorsese who mentions how it was almost written by Sam Peckinpah and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4k transfer, introduction, Brando’s voice recordings, video essay]

Return of the Living Dead 3 [Vestron Video]

What is it? The government has learned their lesson when it comes to the corpse-raising chemical trioxin. Well, that’s not true as a new experiment causes an outbreak of undead brain-munchers. An unfortunate pair of young lovers finds themselves caught up in the carnage.

Why see it? Dan O’Bannon’s original remains one of the greatest horror/comedies, but its immediate sequel is a pale imitation. For the third film in the franchise Brian Yuzna removed the laughs and aimed for an effects-filled tale of misguided romance, and while the first half leaves a lot to be desired the back half more than makes up for it with some terrific zombie action and practical effects. Vestron’s added some fun extras to the mix, but the big draw here is a new HD transfer of the uncut version.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, interviews]

The Rest

100 Rifles

What is it? Jim Brown stars as an American bounty hunter who arrives in Mexico in search of a particular criminal (Burt Reynolds), but his efforts to bring him back to the States are stymied by a bubbling revolution. It seems the crook and his partner-in-crime (Raquel Welch) are working with the rebels, and soon all three are leading the charge against a corrupt military force intent on genocide.

Why see it? The film was made in the late ’60s, so you’ll have to forgive the casting of Reynolds as a half Indian and Welch as a Mexican, but those issues aside it’s a pretty solid period adventure filled with plenty of action and machismo. Gun fights, brawls, and horseplay make up the action while the three leads bring charisma and star power to the gritty goings-on. The action is the focus here, but the film does offer a commentary on the abuse of indigenous people by the governments in charge, and that’s a little more seriousness than most action movies aim for.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]

C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud [Vestron Video]

What is it? A pair of friends looking for a fun time come across a corpse in a secret lab, but their shenanigans result in something very dangerous being released into the world. Bud (Gerrit Graham) is a CHUD, and he’s hungry for human flesh. He’s also up for a dance should the opportunity arrive.

Why see it? This sequel to the far superior and even more serious original trades in both the horror and the social commentary for a heavy dose of humor. Unfortunately the laughs are almost nowhere to be found. The humor is played so broad as to negate any of the drama, but again, the humor is never funny enough to forgive the lack of thrills. Graham does his best and shows some charm in the lead role, but he can’t overcome the tonal issues. For all of the film’s faults, Vestron Video does a terrific job bringing it to Blu-ray.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews]

Hands of Stone

What is it? Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) was still a teenager in the late ’60s when he made his debut as a professional boxer, and over the next few decades he would fight his way to the top of the sport. His three constants were talent, persistence, and his trainer (Robert De Niro).

Why see it? Boxing films have grown far too ubiquitous these days with the main problem being that so few of them have anything worthwhile to offer. Creed was a recent exception as it breathed new life into a stale genre and franchise, but most others fall by the wayside. This is one of those others. The film is based on a real boxer, but the action in the ring and the character drama fail to spark with excitement or weight. The performances are fine with Ramirez in particular standing out, but it’s barely enough to carry the film.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]

I.T.

What is it? Pierce Brosnan stars as the CEO of a big, successful company on the verge of a much-needed deal, but all of it threatens to come crashing down when a new IT guy (James Frecheville) crosses the line. The boss invites the employee to his high-tech smart home to setup a new network, but the young man inserts himself into the mix when he becomes obsessed with the man’s teenage daughter.

Why skip it? I’m no IT expert, although I did work in the field for several years, but this is the least convincing tech-based film since Hackers. Nothing about it rings true, from the tech angle to the behaviors of even a single character, and the sleazy tech guy is the worst of it. Frecheville’s performance is troublesome on its own, but the character is such a false note in both his obsession and his tech wizardry. The film’s devoid of thrills and suspense from beginning to an end that doesn’t arrive soon enough.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

Intruder [Scream Factory]

What is it? Elizabeth is a Portland-based cellist who lives in a TARDIS-like house that’s much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. She’s just been offered a prestigious job in London, but despite the aggressive support of her symphony conductor/instructor she’s considering turning down the offer in order to stay closer to her on-again/off-again boyfriend. She spends the weekend debating her decision, showering, and doing laundry at a laundromat ‐ apparently her seventeen-room apartment lacks a washer/dryer ‐ utterly unaware that someone has entered her home. The intruder watches her sleep and shower, eats her food, pisses in her sink, and repeatedly stands mere feet from her oblivious ass. He even caresses her face and lips several times while she sleeps, but if you thought any of this would be enough for her to notice you’d be wrong. This goes on for seventy minutes.

Why skip it? The idea that someone has entered our home is terrifying on its face, but the film squanders that unease almost immediately by settling into a boring and repetitive routine of actions. The blurry figure moves in the background of a shot. The closet door he’s hiding behind opens or closes. The cat watches the intruder. Much of this is accompanied by a score that’s allowed to trample over the images and deflate the terror. The Strangers gets this right by having background figures announce themselves solely through their silent movement ‐ it’s incredibly effective and creepy ‐ but here loud sound cues tell us to be afraid. We are not.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Rabid ‐ Collector’s Edition [Scream Factory]

What is it? Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is in a terrible motorcycle accident with her boyfriend, but lucky for her it happens near a hospital that’s been experimenting with a radical new plastic surgery. How radical? She wakes up with a vagina in her armpit that’s hiding a literal needle-dick. And it’s hungry for blood.

Why see it? David Cronenberg’s second genre effort (after the superior Shivers) is another variation on the zombie theme this time with a 28 Days Later-like rage virus. There are some memorable sequences here, mostly involving Rose’s armpit lady-bits, but it doesn’t land with the same effect as Shivers which had the additional effort of social commentary. Cronenberg manages some interesting shots and tense attack sequences though. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray collects some solid extras, but the real draw here is the sharp new transfer and cool new artwork (the case artwork is reversible with the film’s original one-sheet on the flip-side).

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k transfer, commentaries, interviews, video essays]

War Dogs

What is it? It’s 2005, and David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a licensed massage therapist and entrepreneur. $75 an hour for massaging wealthy clients isn’t his idea of a career though, so when his best friend from high school, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), returns to town in a flashy suit and flashier car the two reconnect. His friend’s success comes from reselling guns online, but he has his sights set on a bigger piece of the pie thanks to new governmental rules put in place post-Halliburton that requires the Pentagon accept contract bids from smaller operations. Efraim wants to sell weapons, ammo, and other military supplies to the U.S. military, and he wants David to help.

Why see it? You’d be forgiven for thinking government loopholes and shady, greedy characters had never crossed paths like this before. The frame freezes repeatedly throughout the film, often on “funny” reaction shots, as narration points out yet another “unbelievable” fact or nutty plot turn. Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) is no stranger to fun, energetic tales, and sequences like the duo fist-bumping their way from Jordan to Iraq through the Triangle of Death offer some laughs, but too much of what we see here seems to rely on viewers simply feeling the vibe based on the details and casting alone. It wants to believe it’s dropping massive truth bombs through bombastic antics, but Phillips never musters the electric audacity of Martin Scorsese’s or Adam McKay’s similarly-themed films.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Yoga Hosers

What is it? Colleen M. (Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen C. (Lily-Rose Depp) are teenagers, best friends, and co-workers at the Eh-2-Zed convenience store where they divide their time between serving customers with sarcastic attitude and closing temporarily so they can jam in the back room as two-thirds of a three-person band. Adam Brody cameos as their 35-year-old, tattoo-covered drummer, and together they pass the time until their town is visited by an undead Canadian Nazi and his clone army of sausage soldiers.

Why skip it? Kevin Smith’s latest is an actively terrible, no longer gives a damn, he’s-forgotten-how-to-wipe-his-ass-and-is-just-flinging-shit-at-the-screen kind of movie. Smith himself plays the 8" tall Bratzis ‐ their habit of entering people through the anus becomes somewhat troubling when one targets Smith’s own daughter ‐ whose presence here is just one of many nonsensical detours including satanic cult members, ‘80-centric celebrity impersonations, and the same three verbal jokes (“Eh,” “aboot,” and “That’s so basic”) repeated ad nauseum. Several Tusk veterans return in different roles, but outside of the two convenience store clerks the only repeat character is everyone’s favorite porch conversationalist, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp). His presence here is just as indulgent, unnecessary, and stretched out, and it’s yet one more thing that feels like filler in the 88 minute film. Story points are tossed in and shat out periodically, but it’s clear that Smith cared not one bit about making a good movie here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Also Out This Week:

Chicken People, The Childhood of a Leader, The Land, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, Mechanic: Resurrection, Sneakerhedz, The Squid and the Whale [Criterion], Texas Rising / Sons of Liberty ‐ double feature

Related Topics:

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.