Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for February 21st, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven in 4K, a Nicolas Cage western, some awards season contenders, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Magnificent Seven [4K UHD, Shout Select]
What is it? A besieged town hires seven gunfighters.
Why see it? John Sturges’ The Great Escape recently received a fantastic 4K makeover courtesy of Kino Lorber, and I’m happy to say his classic western has gotten an equally beautiful release from Shout Factory. Colors and details pop, and it almost feels like you’re watching it again for the first time. Even if you’re not impressed by the film’s look, though, the movie still delivers as a western riff on Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. It’s a simple but effective premise as villagers hire seven gunmen, and it’s a charming, charismatic ensemble including Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, and more. Time is spent with characters, but when the action hits it’s well crafted and thrilling.
[Extras: New restoration and color grade, commentaries, featurette, interviews]
What is it? A new Kore-eda Hirokazu
Why see it? You’re either in the bag for Kore-eda Hirokazu films, or you’re not. No one can fault the performances he collects or the themes he’s plating with, but his films are often paced at an intentional pace that is off-putting to some. Shoplifters was an exception, and his latest shares many of that film’s traits (and plot lines…) An oddball family of outcasts and desperate people (including a typically fantastic Song Kang Ho), illegal acts we can almost forgive them for, and an immense amount of heart — so yes, expect some tears.
What is it? A young gay man struggles in his efforts to become a U.S. Marine.
Why see it? There’s an argument to be made that Elegance Bratton’s feature debut is little more than just another film about boot camp hazings and tribulations. Even if you take that tact, though, the film still floats higher thanks to the power of compassion and performance. The former comes courtesy of Bratton’s own experiences during his stint in the military, and the latter comes from Jeremy Pope who gives a fantastic, empathetic turn as the young man finding his way against odds and expectations.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
The Mountain [Imprint Films]
What is it? A rescue mission leads to tragedy.
Why see it? While it’s not quite the premise for Cliffhanger, this drama from the 50s kicks off in somewhat similar fashion. Spencer Tracy is a retired mountaineer who left the climbing behind after losing a friend to gravity. When a plane crashes in the high peaks, he’s asked to return, but guilt and nefarious behavior threatens to derail him at every turn. Here it’s Tracy’s younger brother, played by a skeezy Robert Wagner, whose greed leads to suspense and death. The film stands out with its focus on the climbing brought to life via beautiful locales and staged settings, but it’s Tracy who seals the deal as a character shaped by integrity and loss.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
Something to Live For [Imprint Films]
What is it? An unofficial sequel to The Lost Weekend.
Why see it? Ray Milland is an alcoholic, longtime sober thanks to AA. He’s called to help a drunk only to discover it’s a famous actress (played by the always fantastic Joan Fontaine) wanting to get clean. The pair forma bond, a growing relationship, but the need and desire they find in each other runs up against his happy marriage. Milland tackles the addiction from a different side and does great work as a man stuck between two women he loves for different reasons. Fontaine, though, is brilliant as the drunk, the woman fighting the urge, and a human falling for another. That conflict is ultimately the heart and soul of the film. Good people caught up in their sometimes bad choices. It’s good stuff.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
Carrie [Imprint Films]
What is it? A young woman finds love in the arms of a salesman.
Why see it? Jennifer Jones heads to the big city in search of her dreams, but it’s only misery she finds. Things change, though, when she meets Laurence Olivier. The British legend is the star and driving force here, but Jones’ character arc is the one director William Wyler is most interested in. The love story is fine, but it’s her descent into poverty — and the subtle commentary on our social welfare system that follows — that holds the attention best.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
Empire of Light
What is it? We all look alike in the darkness of a movie theater. Or something.
Why see it? Sam Mendes’ latest means well with its look at race, love, and society during the 1980s, but it’s wholly unable to overcome its treacly approach to the conversation. It’s all entirely too obvious, and as a result we just can’t find the will to care about any of it. The cast is fine, and both Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward stand out, but to what end? Still, if you care little about actual insight and emotional weight, you can never go wrong with Roger Deakins’ cinematography.
Marquis de Sade’s Justine [4K UHD, Blue Underground]
What is it? A young woman falls victim to nearly everybody.
Why see it? I’ll admit right up front that, despite trying with many, many of his films, I am just not a Jess Franco fan. (The singular exception is 1966’s Attack of the Robots, which is unlike nearly ninety percent of his filmography.) His approach to exploitation topics — sexuality, perversion, S&M, sadism, etc. — is typically shoddy and dull in its execution. They are sometimes visually engaging, though, and that’s the case here with this minorly lush adaptation of a De Sade novel. It’s a rare case of Franco getting a real budget, and it shows. Still, so much misery and nudity that fail to reach the height of even slightly erotic. All of that said, Blue Underground is arguably the leader right now when it comes to labels releasing 4K UHD upgrades, and this disc is no exception.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, U.S. version]
Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy of the Boudoir aka Eugenie [4K UHD, Blue Underground]
What is it? A young woman has “fun” on an Epstein’s island.
Why see it? As with Justine above, this is another gorgeous 4K upgrade from Blue Underground of a film that just doesn’t connect with me. It’s the better of the two as its dreamy atmosphere and visuals find an appeal before the real cruelties kick in. It’s also the one that leans a bit more towards the erotic as much of its flesh on display comes more as admiration of beauty and less as sadistic voyeurism. All of that said, Jess Franco’s film still feels too disjointed and without purpose (beyond cruel titillation). It’s an issue of taste, and while the individual exploitation elements work they don’t create much as a whole. That said, Christopher Lee is on fire here.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
The Old Way
What is it? A Nicolas Cage western!
Why see it? It’s hard to believe that Nicolas Cage hasn’t made an actual western until now, but now that the day has finally arrived it’s maybe clear why he’s avoided them? To be clear, he’s not bad here, but it’s not a role that seems to get him all that jazzed, and a quiet Cage just feels slightly off in this setting. The story is familiar on its face but manages a few turns, and the action is well crafted (and features squibs instead of CG blood!) meaning it’s a solid watch anyway.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
What is it? A man seeks revenge.
Why see it? While a straightforward revenge tale on its surface — a peaceful pastor finds his inner brute after his teenage daughter is murdered — this high decibel tale bites off more than it can chew in the plot and character department. It jumps around in time, has multiple character introductions that don’t quite get a worthwhile follow through, and tries walking a tonal balance that it is unable to hold. CG blood doesn’t help, and it’s way too chatty, but the action is frenetic in its violence to the point of delivering some entertainment and thrills.
[Extras: Interviews, music videos]
Also out this week:
Dazed and Confused [4K UHD, Criterion Collection], Magnificent Warriors, Nocebo, The Price We Pay, The Remains of the Day [4K UHD], The Werewolf of Washington
Related Topics: Home Video