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Pick of the Week
Sid Caesar: The Works
What is it? The legendary comedian gets a compilation highlighting his best and brightest sketches.
Why see it? Fans of Sid Caesar should be mightily pleased by this compilation from Shout Factory as it collects numerous sketches from the man’s television career into a fourteen-hour set. Starting with a feature film collection the five-disc collection offers up numerous sketches from multiple shows featuring onscreen talents like Caesar, Carl Reiner, Imogen Coca, and more, as well as writers Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and others. One particular highlight is the 90-minute Paley Center tribute from 2014 including Brooks, Reiner, Billy Crystal, and others remembering and celebrating the man’s work. Fans of old-school TV comedy should consider this a must-own release.
[DVD extras: Ten from Your Show of Shows feature film, specials, sketches, excerpts, interviews, booklet]
Ghost Stories [Scream Factory]
What is it? A trio of tales come together under a creepy umbrella of madness, monsters, and murder.
Why see it? Horror anthologies aren’t nearly as common as they should be, and the good ones are even rarer, but happily we still get great ones once in a while too. This UK entry is an elaborately constructed slice of horror blending together stories involving ghosts of one kind or another — dead people and past sins alike — and while there are ups and downs in the segments themselves the whole works together building to a terrific finale. It’s creepy, intense, and occasionally surprising.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A woman’s death leaves her family in a bit of a pickle.
Why see it? Writer/director Ar Aster’s feature debut borrows ideas and themes from a handful of memorable horror classics, but it makes something all its own with those ingredients. It’s a slow-burn of familial terror and horrifying legacy, and it’s brought to vivid life in part through terrific performances by the likes of Toni Collette and Alex Wolff. Add in some shockingly grisly moments, beautiful cinematography, and a doozy of an ending, and you have one of 2018’s best horror films. It’s wonderfully dark “fun.”
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
What is it? An Allied squad during World War II finds more than the expected terrors in an underground bunker.
Why see it? There really aren’t enough war/horror films so I’m inclined to like the few that do exist right out of the gate, but happily this one also delivers on all fronts. A solid mix of characters are established early on, and once they hit the tunnel a heavy dose of claustrophobia sets in too. And then the 28 Days Later-like rage zombies hit upping the thrills and terror for an otherwise sedate and tense experience. Toss in some stellar practical gore effects, and you have a tight little horror thriller.
[DVD extras: None]
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
What is it? The life and times of Fred Rogers.
Why see it? Fred Rogers welcomed kids to his TV neighborhood for over thirty years, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a bad thing to say about him. He treated children fairly and purely, and he recognized the value of their personalities, imaginations, and views. Rogers taught generations of children the importance of kindness, and that’s no small feat. The doc explores the impact of his show as well as the life he lived before and during its run. From military service to being an ordained minister, he seemed an unlikely kids show host, but he proved naysayers wrong every weekday morning. We didn’t deserve Fred Rogers, but we’re better off having known him.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A young couple capsizes while sailing setting off a struggle for survival.
Why see it? Shailene Woodley is very good actor with middling taste in films. That’s not to say Adrift is no good — it’s fine — but there’s just not a lot to it. It moves back and forth between the struggle to survive on the open ocean and the days/weeks leading up to their trip. Friendship, young love, and resilience are the themes running through it, but aside from the actual moment where they capsize and the inevitable ending there’s not much life to its story.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
What is it? A young woman finds love for the first time, but he might be a murderer. D’oh!
Why see it? This dramatic thriller from the UK is ostensibly about a killer, but the focus is the young woman who falls for him. Her life is a struggle on this small island community, and he represents the first real acceptance she’s felt. That relationship makes what comes next difficult for her to process, and that’s where the drama comes from. It’s an intriguing character piece, but the big beats — whether in action or drama — are a bit too few and far between.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
The Big Take
What is it? An aspiring screenwriter crosses a deadly line in his quest for success.
Why see it? Robert Forster, Dan Hedaya, and Zoe Bell bring personality to the supporting cast here, and they — along with the 78 minute running time — help make it a passable watch, but the story is a bit underwhelming despite its content. Down and dirty tales about Hollywood can be vicious fun, and you need look no further than Swimming With Sharks for one of the best examples. This one sets up a vaguely appealing cast of characters, but the story thinks it’s twistier and more engaging than it actually is. It’s fine.
[DVD extras: None]
Blame It On the Bellboy [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A mixup in a Venice hotel sends a trio of guests on wacky adventures.
Why see it? As slight, manic romps from the 90s go this is definitely one. It’s goofy from beginning to end with mild humor that leans more sexist and slapstick that witty, but there’s a place for that so who’s complaining. The cast is a solid grouping of familiar faces including Dudley Moore, Bronson Pinchot, Bryan Brown, Patsy Kensit, and others. The bigger star is Venice, though, as it’s a beautiful city that the film takes full advantage of.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji [Arrow Academy]
What is it? A samurai en route to Edo meets all manner of characters along the road.
Why see it? Yasujiro Ozu’s 1955 drama is an engaging character piece exploring themes of honor and responsibility in the form of a road movie of sorts. The samurai at the center of the group has a code to live by, but he’s also something of a dick when drinking. The film follows his journey, but it’s the growth of his servants that actually engage more as they see honor they’re meant to be apart from… and instead find it to be their home. There are some small action beats to be found here, but the gist of the film is in the character and dialogue. Arrow’s new Blu shines an informative light on the film with extras including an insightful Jasper Sharp commentary.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary by Jasper Sharp, interviews, featurette, booklet]
Cargo [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A man travels across a zombie-riddled Outback with his infant.
Why see it? As zombie apocalypse movies go this Australian thriller is something of drama rather than one focused on the carnage. We still get a few zombie attacks and some visceral bloodletting, but the focus is a character piece on one man’s struggle against frightening odds. Martin Freeman is terrific in the lead role, one far from his usual comedic choices, and the result is a film that engages in ways well beyond the expected genre fare. The film makes great use of the landscape as well as the indigenous people too.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, interviews, region free]
The Cotton Club [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A night club in New York City sees ups and downs alongside its jazz.
Why see it? This is a solid enough period drama capturing the mood and atmosphere of the early 20th century, but its reputation as a troubled production is still somewhat clear in the finished product. It’s well worth watching, though, for the caliber of cast and filmmakers. Director Francis Ford Coppola, writer William Kennedy, and producer Robert Evans shaped it from behind the scenes while a cast including Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Bob Hoskins, Laurence Fishburne, and more.
[Blu-ray extras: None, region free]
Found Footage 3D
What is it? Filmmakers making the first 3D found footage horror film find themselves living a real-life horror story.
Why see it? This smart horror/comedy is essentially a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a found footage film, complete with characters who continually point out the formats multiple issues, that itself becomes a ff film. Strong acting and entertaining observations make for a fun watch even as it becomes the very thing it’s been criticizing, and the film is at its best when the characters are simply bantering and talking as both the dialogue and acting are of a noticeably higher grade than ff films typically manage. It loses steam with the horror, though, as it makes the very mistakes it’s clearly aware of and fails to be scary. Still, while you’ll probably never be frightened you’ll also never be bored, and that’s no small accomplishment for a ff film. As for the 3D, the Blu-ray includes two pairs of old-school 3D glasses, and it looks great in addition to adding additional fun. (Ignore the putzes saying it’s “not real 3D” as they’re idiots.)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes]
The Goldbergs – The Complete Fifth Season
What is it? Welcome to the 80s!
Why see it? While That 70s Show gave way to a lame spinoff — That 80s Show — that deservedly died a quick death, this sitcom succeeds far better in mining the decade for laughs. It helps that in addition to those legitimately funny jokes and gags we’re gifted with characters and performers that magnify the laughs. Jeff Garlin, George Segal, and Wendi McLendon-Covey are talented comedians, and their skills are put to strong and frequent use here.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel]
Hawaii Five-O – The Eighth Season
What is it? A police department investigates the disappearance of Asian-Americans from its investigative team.
Why see it? The original series from the 70s found new life with this reboot as it explores criminal actions from across the spectrum. Killers, kidnappers, terrorists, and more have the misfortune of coming up against the island’s elite police unit. The action beats are typically strong, and you can’t argue with the scenery, but the show’s casting has only gotten weaker. Alex O’Loughlin is still bland as bread, and Scott Caan is still smug, but the bigger crime is the loss of Grace Kim and Daniel Dae Kim. Both are terrific actors who brought real personality, but more than that they were, yuo know, Asian-Americans in Hawaii.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]
What is it? A woman exploring an apocalyptic wasteland finds herself stranded.
Why see it? Post-apocalyptic thrillers featuring mutated humans and survivors alike have become something of a ubiquitous genre, and the good ones often differentiate themselves through story shifts and action. This effort divides its time between the “now” of the action/drama and our protagonist’s past life leading up to the apocalypse, but while the former parts are well-crafted, occasionally thrilling, and feature some solid creature design, the flashbacks amount to very little. There’s entirely too much of it for the payoff. Still, genre fans will enjoy the more horrific sequences even if there aren’t enough of them.
[DVD extras: None?]
Once Upon a Crime [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? American tourists find goofy adventure in Monte Carlo.
Why see it? This is actually a fine double feature with Blame It On the Bellboy (above), provided you’re a fan of familiar faces bumbling their way through minor comedies. John Candy, James Belushi, Sean Young, Cybill Shepherd, Richard Lewis, and more play it wacky for director Eugene Levy, and the result is the near definition of forgettable distraction. It’s the kind of movie that seemed to sprout up left and right in the 90s — ensemble cast of funny people and others acting silly in some foreign locale — but they really don’t make ’em like this anymore for better or worse.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Oscar [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A gangster tries to go straight.
Why see it? John Landis’ last great film is 1988’s Coming to America, but he’s made more than a few mediocrities since then. This amiable Sylvester Stallone comedy is probably the most harmless of the lot as its humor is soft-hearted and simple. It helps too that it’s brought to life by a solid cast including Chazz Palminteri, Kurtwood Smith, Vincent Spano, Peter Riegert, Tim Curry, Marisa Tomei, and others. The tone is just left of wacky, and a handful of laughs slip through. Like I said, it’s a harmless watch.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview with John Landis]
Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? Siblings make a life for themselves in a post-apocalyptic Australia.
Why see it? Alex Proyas is best known for films like Dark City and The Crow, but even his debut showed his interests as a filmmaker. It’s a much lower budget than those other two, obviously, but the story is one that’s not reliant on effects. The tale instead explores the idea of technology through its absence, and this new landscape sees the siblings and a strange newcomer balancing the material and the spiritual. It’s more attractive than engaging, but fans of Proyas’ will want to check it out and this new Blu is the best way to do so.
[Blu-ray extras: New transfer from 2K master, commentaries, interviews, featurette, region free]
Supernatural – The Complete Thirteenth Season
What is it? The brothers continue their fight against evil.
Why see it? This long-running genre show from the CW continues to be good fan for fans of creatures, creepers, and the ongoing battle between good and evil, and you’re either on board with it or your not. My personal preference for series like this — The X-Files being the most obvious comparison — is for the stand-alone monster of the week episodes, and while later seasons are still entertaining they too often rely on mythology episodes requiring knowledge and interest in much of what’s come before. Still, the cast, effects, and interactions continue to find fun in the darkness, and that’s worth celebrating.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes, gag reel]
Truth or Dare
What is it? A group of friends find themselves cured after beginning a game.
Why see it? This is not the recent theatrical Truth or Dare from Blumhouse — this is a slightly better second film on the same concept. It hits the same dumb beats as far as the game’s focus being forced dares which immediately disqualifies it as “truth or dare,” but it keeps things a bit simpler and delivers some grisly bloodletting along the way. It’s unfortunate that the Blumhouse release was higher profile as again, this is the more entertaining of the two, but neither is all that great shakes as a horror film.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A UFO sighting over an airport brings a genius college student into contact with government agents.
Why see it? This is an odd film. The UFO is seen by dozens of witnesses, but the official story quickly tamps down on speculation. One young man can’t let it go though and instead digs deeper to the point of possibly predicting when the crafts might reappear. It feels like the setup to a film, but it’s the entirety here as his theories are quickly revealed to be correct. David Strathairn and Gillian Anderson co-star, but while the former’s character feels relevant the latter’s feels beefed up simply because of her presence in the role. It’s odd, and also, this can’t be overstated, there is so much math in this movie. So. Much. Math.
[DVD extras: None]
Young Sheldon – The Complete First Season
What is it? The annoying guy from The Big Bang Theory was a child once!
Why see it? I give The Big Bang Theory grief because it’s an unfunny show, but this is a new venture with new talents and deserving of fresh eyes. To that end… it’s still not very funny. While Sheldon’s adult version is bouncing his genius inanity against other smart folks (usually) the joke here is that his family aren’t nearly as bright. Some gags work as these other players are better surrogates for the audience, but too often the “humor” rests on this imbalance which quickly nullifies it.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
Also out this week:
The Barn, Brothers, Bull – Season Two, Dark River, Godard Mon Amour, Ideal Home, Lake Placid Legacy, Scenes from a Marriage [Criterion Collection], Slaughter Drive
Related Topics: Home Video