This Week in Home Video
The Godfather of Gore Comes to Blu-ray in a Big, Big Way from Arrow Video
Pick of the Week
The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast [Arrow Video]
What is it? Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Two Thousand Maniacs, Moonshine Mountain, Color Me Blood Red, Something Weird, The Gruesome Twosome, A Taste of Blood, She-Devils on Wheels, Just for the Hell of It, How to Make a Doll, The Wizard of Gore, This Stuff’ll Kill Ya, and The Gore Gore Girls.
Why see it? Director H.G. Lewis earned the nickname the “Godfather of Gore” for a reason, but his career saw films far more diverse than just the bloody romps he’s most infamous for. His films feature a steady stream of sketchy acting and broad craftmanship, but there’s an undeniable sense of fun to the films too as Lewis’ energy and enthusiasm comes through in almost every frame. I’m not his biggest fan despite finding at least something to enjoy in each of his films, but Arrow’s new Blu-ray set is a monstrous accomplishment that shouldn’t be ignored. Fourteen of Lewis’ films are collected here accompanied by a wealth of supplemental material for each of them, and it’s all packaged with love and affection for the man and his movies. This is the kind of box-set you display prominently ‐ and not just because it won’t fit in a normal DVD shelf.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, outtakes, interviews, featurettes, short films, plus Limited exclusives: Documentary, book]
Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast, The (17-Disc Limited Edition Box Set) [Blu-ray + DVD]
What is it? Ben (Viggo Mortensen) lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with his six kids. His wife, their mother, has spent the past few months in a hospital while their lives have continued like normal. Of course, normal is relative, and for them it means survival skills, meditation, knife fighting, music lessons, and a thorough education in science, history, and the arts. The youngest can shift a conversation from biology to Pol Pot while the eldest has recently philosophically transitioned from being a Trotskyite to a Maoist. Their self-created utopia is put on hold though when an issue involving their mother necessitates a bus trip into the real world.
Why see it? Writer/director Matt Ross works some serious ideas and questions into a film that’s just as much of a boisterous road trip. We’re along for the ride through scenes of intense grief, first kisses, teen rebellion, and family bonding, and it’s never less than engaging. The cast is a big part of the film’s success with Mortensen taking the lead in more ways than just the obvious. Ben is a firm parental force, but his affection for his kids is never in doubt. His decisions may challenge our own standards at times, but even when we’re in complete disagreement with him Mortensen makes him a man we can’t help but respect and admire. The kids are all equally terrific and form a believable family through a visible fondness for each other. The film’s balance does slip ever so slightly into lean entertainment on occasion, but it’s never enough to hurt the momentum and more serious elements.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]
Captain Fantastic (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
Deathrow Gameshow [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? The most popular game show on television is also the country’s most controversial. Live or Die offers death row inmates a chance at clemency, but if they fail their particular challenge ‐ trivia, a physical feat, a mental game ‐ they’re executed on the spot. The show’s host runs into trouble with a liberal critic and an angry mob boss, and soon his hit show doesn’t seem all that important anymore.
Why see it? Vinegar Syndrome has made a name for themselves rescuing forgotten or sometimes completely unknown films from decades past, but while some leave you questioning the effort (sorry Hobgoblins) others introduce a whole new world to you. Deathrow Gameshow is one of the latter. It’s goofy and the comedy is broad as hell, but a surprising amount of it lands with a smile. There’s a degree of commentary to it too as it mixes Let’s Make a Deal with The Running Man in its criticism of capital punishment and the bloodthirsty tastes of the masses. There’s not a serious bone in its body though so none of it gets in the way of exploding old ladies.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k transfer, commentary, making of, director’s cut, short films]
Deathrow Gameshow [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
The Exorcist III [Scream Factory]
What is it? Father Damien Karras’s death many years ago saved a little girl but left his own friend haunted by his sacrifice. Det. Kinderman (George C. Scott) carries that loss every day, but now fifteen years later a gruesome string of murders bearing a painful connection to Karras immerses the detective in a whole new hell of his own.
Why see it? William Peter Blatty adapts his novel Legion for this follow-up to his and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, and the result is a film I for one think is the more entertaining of the two. (I know I’m alone in this.) Scott and Brad Dourif are terrific, the genre thrills are highly effective, and it features one of the most perfectly executed scare scenes in horror cinema. Scream Factory’s new Blu offers a sharp transfer of the theatrical cut along with a host of new interviews, but the big draw here is a long-overdue director’s cut. It’s compiled from less than ideal sources at times, but even so it’s a thrill to watch Blatty’s original vision.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k transfer, featurette, deleted scenes, interviews, director’s cut]
The Exorcist III [Collector's Edition] [Blu-ray]
The Night of the Grizzly [Olive Signature]
What is it? Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker) was a lawman in Utah before moving his family to the wilds of Wyoming, but while they expect a challenge they find something more difficult. A wealthy local is after their land, an old enemy is after Cole’s blood, and a killer grizzly bear is slaughtering every living thing it crosses.
Why see it? This mid ’60s western offers laughs and adventure from beginning to end. It’s a goofy, fun movie for most of its running time, but it descends quickly into intensity whenever the bear arrives to tear apart dogs, cattle, and men alike. Walker is a charismatic guy with an imposing physique ‐ he looks like an extremely buff Jon Hamm ‐ and he works as both a believable family man and capable outdoorsman. It’s a solid film all around and another great period discovery for me from Olive’s new Signature line.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurette]
Night of the Grizzly [Olive Signature Blu-ray]
The Quiet Man [Olive Signature]
What is it? Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is an American who returns to his birth place in Ireland with the intention of settling down in his familial home. A local is after the property too, the same local who’s brother to a woman who catches Sean’s eye. Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) is a fiery woman balancing both an individual spirit and an adherence to local traditions, and the latter causes Sean far more trouble than the former.
Why see it? John Ford’s Academy Award-winning film is a big, beautiful drama with laughs and romance to boot, and it looks tremendous on this new Blu. O’Hara’s red hair against the bright green of the landscape is something to behold. The film itself is a known classic and highlights Wayne’s softer side to great effect both in early playful scenes and later dramatic ones. I’m in the minority in thinking it’s maybe a bit too long for the story it’s telling, but it remains a grand tale unlike any we see these days.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4k transfer, commentary, featurettes]
Quiet Man [Olive Signature Blu-ray]
Schneider vs Bax
What is it? Schneider is a hitman by trade, but all he wants is to celebrate his son’s birthday. His plans are interrupted though when a last-minute assignment, an easy assignment, sends him to kill a writer at a remote lakeside home. Surprising no one, the assignment is not easy.
Why see it? This Dutch thriller is a funny, bloody, and occasionally twisted experience that plays like the best Martin McDonagh film since In Bruges. It’s a smart and violent affair, and while it’s lightweight on the emotional front there’s more than enough here to entertain.
[DVD extras: None]
Schneider Vs. Bax
Wolf Lake [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Four men, old friends and World War II veterans, arrive at a remote Canadian hunting lodge for a relaxing weekend of hunting, fishing, and misbehaving, but their fun hits a bump when they discover the caretaker’s secret. The young man is a deserter from the Vietnam war, and Charlie (Rod Steiger) ‐ who lost his own son in the war ‐ is having none of it.
Why see it? The film turns the usual expectation of people arriving at a remote locale only to be terrorized into something different by having them be the real threats. Steiger is a terrific prick here, and the film grows into an intense and suspenseful thriller about the inevitability of violence. Terrible things happen here, both by and to people regardless of their stance on fighting, and we’re left to bear witness.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
Wolf Lake (1980) [Blu-ray]
Girl in the Woods
What is it? Grace lost her parents as a child to illness both mental and physical, but she’s finally found happiness as an adult in love. A day hike with her fiance turns to tragedy though when his accidental death leaves her lost and struggling to survive in the woods.
Why skip it? There’s merit to a story about a person’s descent into madness, but the execution here is guaranteed to leave viewers wanting. The first four minutes alone feature three instances of Grace waking up from a scary dream. Three in four minutes! The film becomes something of a drag once Grace winds up alone in the forest as scenes of her wandering and hallucinating grow repetitive. There are some late surprises, but they’re not all that interesting in the face of the .
[DVD extras: None]
Hobgoblins [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Kevin is a night watchman working at a film repository who accidentally releases a horde of creatures that had been locked away for years. I say locked away, but the door was essentially cracked open already so let’s not blame poor Kevin. Now he and his friends are scrambling to defeat the the little bastards before they leave a trail of fantasy sequences and bloody carnage across the city.
Why skip it? Arguably inspired by the success of Gremlins and Ghoulies this creature feature aims for some similar laughs and thrills, but good lord does it achieve nothing of the sort. The titular monsters are mediocre hand puppets who continually feel like terrible hand puppets, and the mayhem they’re delivering is weak and uninteresting. And good lord is it far from funny. Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu offers the film a lot of love ‐ like Arrow Video’s recent Microwave Massacre, this is far more love than the film deserves ‐ so those of you who are (inexplicably) fans should make it a must-own.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k transfer, commentary, making of, interview, featurettes]
What is it? Meredith (Amanda Wyss) has spent her life caring for a man who deserves neither the attention nor the affection. Her father is a cruel, abusive man, and he always has been, but now he need her help with even the most basic things. His abuse continues, and soon something has to give.
Why see it? This slowburn of a thriller is a tough watch for several reasons, from its pacing to its depressing themes, but it’s worth watching for one. Wyss, she of A Nightmare on Elm Street, gives an emotionally raw performance as a woman at her wit’s end. I can’t imagine ever wanting to see the film a second time though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes]
What is it? A photographer and his models head into the Slovenian countryside for a fashion shoot, but their fun in the sun is shattered by the arrival of two mildly disfigured men. They find themselves captives of the pair and soon discover that they’re after more than just a Wrong Turn-like good time.
Why skip it? The film earns a point for giving the hillbillies a more unique goal than simply killing and screwing their prisoners, but their special human-powered still isn’t enough to overcome the film’s issues. The script and performances leave viewers utterly uninterested in the fates of the victims, and the resulting attempts at action and thrills are equally dull.
[DVD extras: None]
The Last Film Festival
What is it? Nick Twain (Dennis Hopper) is a renowned film producer, but his latest feature has resulted in a whole lot of disinterest from the film festival scene. One finally bites though and invites him to their small town, but as he tries to sell the film those around him ‐ including cast members, fans, his wife, and his girlfriend ‐ find themselves immersed in one uncomfortable situation after the next.
Why skip it? Liz Smith called this a “smaller version of… The Player,” but that’s just madness. Robert Altman’s film is a smart and playful romp that holds focus with character work and narrative threads. This film doesn’t create the same level of entertainment or interest, and not even its name cast ‐ also including Jacqueline Bisset, JoBeth Williams, Chris Kattan, and others ‐ can help. It feels scattershot and without purpose, and the jokes are just abysmal, obvious stuff.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) moved away from home years ago citing her mother’s (Maria Bello) behavior as the main cause. Her younger brother is now experiencing similar troubles, and only Rebecca can help him. The answers they find suggest their mom’s problems have a supernatural source.
Why see it? James Wan (Insidious) acts as producer here, and his influence seems clear in the film’s numerous effective scares. The story is a refreshing spin away from the norm as well, but the resolution is guaranteed to upset some viewers with a potentially insensitive turn of events. The film’s biggest issue though is a run-time under 80 minutes (w/o credits) as the story and characters don’t get the time they need. The disc includes an extended ending, and it’s actually well worth a watch as it gives the film a far more solid sign-off.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
Men & Chicken [Drafthouse Films]
What is it? Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) and Gabriel are brothers who discover upon the death of their father that they’re actually only half-brothers. They head out in search of their real bloodlines and find violence, misunderstandings, and yet another family secret in the process.
Why see it? This dry Danish comedy features more than a few laughs, much of it of the awkward variety, but the main draw here ‐ the mesmerizing and ridiculous draw ‐ is a very against type Mikkelsen. His hair style, mustache, and mannerisms reduce him to an oddly endearing goofball, and while the pacing feels slow at times his presence makes it enjoyable all the same.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet]
The Midnight Swim
What is it? A woman goes missing while swimming across a lake, and when her three adult daughters arrive at their childhood home near the water to reminisce, console each other, and make plans for their mother’s belongings, their time together soon takes an unsettling turn. Dead birds begin appearing on their doorstep, an incident with a camera suggests a possible intruder and the local legend of Spirit Lake ‐ a lake that reportedly has yet to reveal its bottom ‐ begins to fill their imagination. Long ago seven sisters walked the water’s shore only to drown, one by one, and like the Pleiades of Greek mythology they’ve come to symbolize a sad state of grace that’s eternally out of reach. Are the legendary sisters reaching out for fresh blood? Has their mother returned from her watery grave? Or is something all together different haunting their waking hours?
Why see it? The film creates an ethereal state of unease in its atmosphere and characters, but more than just an unsettling thriller the film captures a sisterly slice of life with an effective ease. If only the film’s unnecessary insistence on a found footage-ish format wasn’t so damn distracting. Happily, the strengths of writer/director Sarah Adina Smith’s feature are legion, and first and foremost is the magic it captures between the onscreen siblings. Not only do the three leads share some physical resemblance but they also share mannerisms and personas. They’re each distinct characters, but watching them interact together is to feel like a fly on the wall of an occasionally awkward family reunion. The joys and pains created and curated by the siblings rings true to anyone who has brothers or sisters.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Henry Joseph Church (Eddie Murphy) is hired to cook for a single mother and her young daughter, but what should have been a temporary arrangement eventually stretches out across the years. The girl grows into a young woman (Brit Robertson) whose life could also use a helping hand.
Why see it? Reportedly inspired by a true story, this is an overly generic play for viewer sympathies. The story takes obvious directions and never exceeds its simple setup, but the three main performances are solid and sincere. Murphy in particular stands out for a soft and warm turn that reminds us of his acting chops frequently hidden by time and comedy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Vee (Emma Roberts) isn’t the most exciting high-schooler, but one night she grows tired of existing in the shadow of her cooler friend and signs up for an online sensation called Nerve. The game is essentially Truth or Dare minus the truth, and soon she finds herself on a wild adventure through the city earning cash, racking up views, and approaching a date with murder.
Why see it? This is a ridiculous and harmless little thriller that feels at times like a YA take on David Fincher’s The Game, but it does so with an absence of suspense or emotional weight. Very little of it feels believable, and the morality lesson at its core rings wholly false. Still, there are some easy moments of casual fun here thanks to Roberts and Dave Franco.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, outtakes]
What is it? Hong Kong Detective Bennie Chan (Jackie Chan) has been trying to bust the man responsible for his partner’s death for several years, and his latest lead takes him to rural China and beyond. An American (Johnny Knoxville) has evidence that might just help Chan’s case, but bringing him back to Hong Kong may just be the most difficult task of his career.
Why see it? I’m a firm believer that every Chan film is worth at least a watch, but his latest offers something of a challenge to that attitude. There’s a ridiculous amount of green-screen used here which serves to neuter a large degree of the action, and the laughs are of the forced variety. The film wants to be another Rush Hour or Shanghai Noon, but the dynamic between Chan and Knoxville pales beside his previous co-stars. The scenery is gorgeous though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby ‐ Big Hairy American Winning Edition
What is it? Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is the best NASCAR racer alive, but his reign at the top comes under fire by a French driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) intent on shaking up the sport. Belittled and defeated, Ricky retreats as a failure until he once again finds the inspiration to be a winner.
Why see it? Adam McKay’s 2006 comedy hit gets a reissue complete with several new special features, so if you don’t already own a copy of the film and consider yourself a fan this is the edition to buy. It was one of the more successful Ferrell/McKay pairings but follows the very similar pattern of Anchorman and Semi-Pro, so you already know if the comedy is for you.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews, commentaries]
Also Out This Week:
The Executioner [Criterion Collection], The Tree of Wooden Clogs [Criterion]
Related Topics: Home Video