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 14th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes Steven Spielberg’s latest, a gore-soaked action from South Korea, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Three Colors [4K UHD, Criterion Collection]
What is it? A trilogy inspired by love, loss, and the French flag.
Why see it? Krzysztof Kieslowski crafted something extraordinary in the early 90s with a trilogy of films, barely connected, that touch on shared themes. Blue stars Juliette Binoche as a woman reeling from the accidental death of both her husband and child, White sees a man struggling after Julie Delpy divorces him over his impotence, and Red follows Irene Jacob as she finds an unlikely friendship. The middle film leaves me a bit cold despite its playful tone, but both Blue and Red are beautiful, affecting tales of people lost and hoping to be found. The new 4K restorations give new life to Kieslowski’s already appealing visuals, and the release is packed with extras exploring the filmmaker’s career and this trilogy in particular.
[Extras: New 4K restorations, cinema lessons, interviews, video essays, documentary, short films, featurettes]
Bio Zombie [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A zombie outbreak is unleashed in a Hong Kong mall.
Why see it? Wilson Yip is best known these days for his action epics including the four films in Donnie Yen’s Ip Man franchise, but he dabbled in other genres earlier in his career. This zom-com is one of those oddballs, and while it’s no groundbreaker in zombie cinema, its offering of a glimpse into pre-handover Hong Kong is an engaging one. The setup is similar enough to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as a group of survivors fend off the undead from inside a shopping mall, but this place is tiny. The comedy is heavy until it’s replaced by somber realizations, and while the gore is minimal the emotional effect lands all the same. Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu sees them do some touch-up work on a new studio-supplied master, and the result is a good looking film with vibrant colors and detail.
[Extras: Commentary, interview, video essay, alternate ending, booklet]
The Fabelmans [4K UHD]
What is it? The origin story behind the world’s best-known filmmaker.
Why see it? Steven Spielberg might not be your favorite director, but you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think he’s made several masterpieces well also delivering numerous blockbusters. His latest touches on themes familiar in his work, but this time he’s fully embracing them in the open. It’s an autobiographical tale about a teen with a love for making movies whose creativity and passion finds motivation and fuel in his parents’ split. It’s an engagingly sweet tale, familiar in many, many ways, but Spielberg is a master even with the obvious meaning its’ an attractive and effective film. And that final scene is great!
Project Wolf Hunting
What is it? Think Con-Air meets Under Siege but with a monstrous twist.
Why see it? Some action movies turn the violence and carnage up pretty damn high, but this South Korean splatterfest surpasses them all on those counts. Every death is a celebration of physical cruelty and gore as criminals on a ship break loose and go to war with the authorities — until both are targeted by a secret from the bowels of the ship. It’s a fast, mean ride that ticks all the boxes of action/horror ensuring a wildly entertaining time for fans of blood, bones, and utter brutality. This is a seriously fun one, people.
What is it? A group of adventurers find more than they’re expecting on the other side of the mountains.
Why see it? This Disney animated adventure was unfairly dismissed earlier this year as it deserves a wider audience. It’s fun, sweet, and action heavy while also being absolutely gorgeous to look at. Incredibly creative and imaginative visuals bring the alien landscape to impressive life. The characters are engaging, and while they tread familiar paths the humor and heart keep them from ever growing stale. It’s ultimately a story about fathers and sons, with family being caught in the wider net, and it works to find emotion and adventure along the way.
[Extras: Featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes]
The Cult of Humpty Dumpty
What is it? An egghead killer is revived for more killing.
Why see it? This is apparently a sequel to a film called The Curse of Humpty Dumpty, but if this is any indication that’s not a movie I’ll be seeking out any time soon. The mythology is weak and chatty, the performances are unfortunate, the bloodletting is cheap and minimal, and Humpty himself is far from threatening. Four feet tall, eighty pounds soaking wet — he’s a nerd that one of these ladies should have stuffed in a locker. Never scary, suspenseful, or thrilling, this is basement level horror made for undiscerning palettes.
The Devonsville Terror [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Three supposed witches killed three centuries ago return with a vengeance.
Why see it? This messy gem from Ulli Lommel sees a small, conservative town disrupted by the arrival of three young women. They don’t know each other, but each brings ideals and behaviors that quickly incense the puritanical community, and it’s soon decided that they just might be witches. The acting and filmmaking are sometimes a bit rough here, but the themes and observations at play go a long way towards delivering an entertaining watch. The bloody finale doesn’t hurt either. Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu has the film looking better than ever, and the new interviews offer some engaging looks at the film’s production.
[Extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
Goodbye 20th Century [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A post-apocalyptic tale from Macedonia set in the far away year of 2019.
Why see it? An immortal man wanders the wasteland searching for answers that might never come, and violence, weirdness, and a saucy bath follow. The first half of this oddball film engages with its atmosphere and world-building, but it arguably stumbles when the second half makes a far less interesting jump backwards. While the film is ultimately one that doesn’t fully work for me, its existence on Blu-ray is one of the reasons why Vinegar Syndrome is such an important home video label. This is a movie that would otherwise be near forgotten, and that’s no small thing.
[Extras: New 4K scan, interviews, music video]
What is it? A man seeks revenge after his wife’s death.
Why see it? The subgenre of films featuring an angry guy looking for vengeance after losing a loved one is a big one, but at least the inciting incident here is a bit different from the norm. For one thing it’s a drug overdose, and for another? It doesn’t happen until forty-five minutes in. The time spent with characters leading up to then ensures we actually care about them, and it goes a long way. From then on the beats are more standard, and while Robert De Niro and John Malkovich add some class it’s still a pretty straightforward back half (aside from a weird subplot involving the sheriff and some unnecessary godliness).
What is it? A charter boat is threatened by misfortune and sharks.
Why see it? Look, sometimes you don’t have the money or talent to make the sharks look real for your shark attack movie. Ideally you’d stop right there and find a new story to tell, but if you do press forward knowing your shark fx are going to look like cold garbage, well, at least make your movie funny. This new thriller doesn’t heed that advice and instead plays everything straight with its characters and supposed terror, and unsurprisingly, none of it works. The acting is subpar, the scenes are hobbled together, the fx are cheap as they come, and there’s not a damn moment that makes you care about any of it.
Warm Bodies [4K UHD]
What is it? A zombie begins to come alive.
Why see it? Jonathan Levine’s zom-com finds some fun in the conceit of a zombie rediscovering his humanity, and in turn his life, and while it never shambles across the line into greatness it’s still an entertaining time. Nicholas Hoult is the zombie, a young man who finds new memories by eating people’s brains, and Teresa Palmer is the young woman who sparks his heart back to life. Their playful romance is a good time that’s interrupted to some degree by plot. Levine gives the action and visuals a sharp look, and the zombies are appealing in their presentation. The new 4K UHD highlights some of the visuals, but the upgrade itself may not be worth the upgrade.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary, gag reel]
Also out this week:
Dark Glasses, Decision to Leave, Enter Santo: The First Adventures of the Silver-Masked Man [Indicator], Romeo & Juliet [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video