New DVD Releases

This Week In DVDRemember rushing to your neighborhood Blockbuster every Tuesday to browse the New Release aisles? Remember Blockbuster? Well thanks to the magic of the interwebs you can now browse new titles from home! Each Tuesday, Rob Hunter takes a look at the week’s new DVDs and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which ones are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these aren’t mandates people… they’re just suggestions. But feel free to tell him how wrong he his in the comments section anyway.

Updated Every: Tuesday

HURRY SUNDOWN discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Hurry Sundown Henry Warren (Michael Caine) is a landowner on the brink of making a big deal, but there are still two plots of land he needs to acquire. One belongs to a white relative’s family, and the other belongs to a black family whose lineage traces back to time spent as slaves to Mrs. Warren’s (Jane Fonda) relatives. Those times have passed, but 1940’s Georgia isn’t that much more enlightened, and as Warren’s efforts conflict with those of two families struggling to make the most of their homes and farmland racial tensions and civil expectations are tested. Director Otto Preminger‘s all-star look at Southern relations leans heavily towards melodrama at times, but it works well all the same. The cast — which also includes Faye Dunaway, John Phillip Law, Diahann Carroll, Burgess Meredith and George Kennedy — do fine work conveying the ignorance and humanity of the time and the people. At over two hours the film takes its time with the characters allowing them to settle in and establish their relationships to each other before culminating in an entertaining court scene and a powerfully exciting finale. Is it a little bit simplistic? Maybe, but that doesn’t lessen the intent or effect. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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LORD OF ILLUSIONS discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Lord of Illusions Members of a cult rebel against their leader when he takes a young girl hostage, but thirteen years later the man they left for dead threatens to return from the underworld. Members still loyal to him begin slaughtering the innocent in preparation for his return, and a NYC detective (Scott Bakula) with a history of taking cases that lean towards the supernatural might be all that stands in the way of the murder of the world. Clive Barker‘s third and final feature as director brings together all of his trademarks — nightmarish visions, a disdain for religion, a terrible sense of fashion — and mashes them into a tale that combines noir elements with the supernatural. He delivers some wonderfully creepy and icky visuals involving the cult members and like the story it’s based on it makes me look forward to the return of Harry D’Amour in Barker’s upcoming novel. As much as I love Barker’s fiction though he’s not always the best person to bring them to cinematic life — because his appetite for cheese is never satiated. Some of the digital effects are dated too, although the practical work is all still stellar. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and director’s cuts, commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, interview, photo gallery]

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CALVARY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Calvary Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a small town priest in rural Ireland who receives an oddly unwelcome confession one morning from someone who calmly promises to murder him by the week’s end. The priest goes on with his business, trying his best to do right, but the next seven days are filled with frustration, eccentricity and an unsettling energy in those around him. Writer/director John Michael McDonagh‘s second feature is a slowburn character piece that weaves black comedy and mystery through a soulful rumination on the power of forgiveness. Gleeson is a quietly rumbling powerhouse and gives an immensely affecting lead performance, and the supporting cast is a stellar mix of aggressively engaging friends, strangers and suspects including Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) and Kelly Reilly. The script is filled with wisdom and wit, and it leaves you feeling drained and reflective on those who’ve passed through your own life. It’s my favorite film of the year. It’s the best film of the year. It will stay with you well into next year. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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LONG GOODBYE discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! We were off on holiday break last week, so this post includes releases from 11/25 and 12/2. If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Long Goodbye Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) awakens to a world of trouble when his best friend is accused of murder before committing suicide across the border in Mexico. Now cops and thugs alike are giving Marlowe a hard time as he investigates what the hell is going on around him, but the more he digs the more twisted the lies become. A gangster with a violent streak (and a bodyguard played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) insists that Marlowe owes him money, and a wealthy Malibu couple mixes in some insanity and infidelity. It’s not all bad though as the women who live next door have recently discovered the joys of nude yoga. Robert Altman‘s take on Raymond Chandler’s infamous noir creation updates several elements, and while it’s far from typical noir it plays with the conventions while honoring them. Gould is fantastic as a Marlowe removed from his chronological element, and the ending is a punch that may feel tonally misplaced on the surface but is actually the darkness the entire film is building towards. Not that it’s a dark film… there are laughs aplenty here, and Altman’s constantly moving camera keeps viewers an active participant in the story. Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray features a few featurettes, but the real joy is finally […]

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HOUSEBOUND discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Housebound Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) has made a series of poor decisions of late with the most recent one seeing her sentenced to several months of house arrest in the home where she grew up, and the prospect of living beneath the same roof as her mom is more terrifying than jail. The two clash almost immediately, but their battle of wills is interrupted by the realization that the house may be haunted by the restless spirit of a teenage girl who was murdered there before Kylie’s mom bought the place. With the help of Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), a security guard with a belief in the supernatural, she sets out to identify the murderer and set the trapped spirit free. It should surprise no one that this may not be a wise decision. I’m not sure what New Zealand has been pumping into their water supplies, but this makes the second film from the country this year to deliver an immensely entertaining mix of horror and comedy. The other one, What We Do In the Shadows, puts a much heavier focus on the laughs than it does the thrills, but Housebound is still a frequently funny film that also happens to feature plenty of scares and overall creepiness. The pair will make for a damn fine double feature once they’re both available, but for now fans of high energy scares with […]

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NOCTURNA discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Nocturna Tim is a typical orphan, round-headed and curious about the night, but when an after-hours misstep lands him in the grip of a creature named Cat Shepherd he finds himself on a very unique adventure. His new friend becomes a guide of sort as he shares with Tim the world of Nocturna, the nighttime world the rest of us sleep through, and shows him the true faces and beings behind our tussled hair, late night noises, dew-covered trees and very dreams. It’s not all fun and games though as a dark shape is floating over the night threatening to steal the stars right out of the sky. This Spanish film is a 2007 release, but its US debut was worth the wait for fans of animated wonder and pure imagination. The story keeps one sleepy toe in the real world even as it reveals an original and beautifully-crafted one behind the curtain of the night, and the animation follows suit as the familiar gets an inventive and enticing make-over. It’s a gorgeous dream of a film with scenes of true beauty and inventive thrills, and it deserves to be seen by more eyeballs. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurette]

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Classic Media

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: 50th Anniversary A dapper snowman (voiced by Burl Ives) shares a tale about a Christmas that almost wasn’t and the plucky little reindeer who saved the day. Sounds simple, but the adventure that brings Rudolph from his beleaguered youth through his adventures with misfit toys, a bumbling snow monster, an elf with dental aspirations and a surly ginger named Yukon Cornelius. Also, love. He has an adventure featuring love. Sure, Halloween just ended and we’re still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, but does that mean we can’t start seeking out Christmas specials? Okay, yes, it does, but that hasn’t stopped the onslaught of holiday-themed releases from hitting DVD today. While most of them are easily ignored this 1964 classic deserves far more respect. This Rankin/Bass production is 52 minutes of pure stop-motion, sing-along joy, and I’m not just saying that because people felt for the longest time that I resembled Hermey the dentally-inclined elf. The bumble cave sequence, the time spent on the Island of Misfit Toys, the opportunity for Rudolph to step up and save Christmas — these are magical sequences, and even at half a century old their power remains. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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GRACE discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Grace: The Possession Grace (Alexia Fast) heads off to college unprepared for the pressures of her peers due to a childhood that saw her raised by a strictly religious grandmother (Lin Shaye) after losing her mother during her birth. A rowdy party ends with grandma pulling her from school and bringing her back to their small, religious town, but what no one knows is that a demon is inside Grace just itching to cause some bloody mayhem. The narrative here is mostly straightforward and will feel familiar to viewers who’ve seen any number of possession films, but what makes this one unique — and what makes it highly watchable and impressive — is that the entire movie is POV. (It’s not found footage though, thankfully.) We float into the back of Grace’s head early on and spend the rest of the film seeing through her eyes. It’s a cool idea, but more than that, it’s executed pretty damn flawlessly by director Jeff Chan. It’s like one of the V/H/S/2 shorts — that was the great one in the franchise — get the feature treatment as the POV impresses multiple times. The script and story could have used more polish, but the performances, effects and technical aspects are solid. All that plus Alexis Knapp and Lester (Clarke Peters) from The Wire! [DVD extras: None]

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VINCENT PRICE discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Vincent Price Collection II A duel between magicians leaves one man transformed into a bird in The Raven. An undertaker takes matters into his own hands in an effort to increase business in The Comedy of Terrors. A widower finds new love complicated by an obsession with his dead wife in The Tomb of Ligeia. A scientist is the last normal human alive after a plague turns others into vampire-like creatures in The Last Man on Earth. The abominable Dr.Phibes rises again in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. The son of the first film’s scientist begins some experiments of his own in The Return of the Fly. A millionaire offers a cash reward to five people if they’re willing and able to spend a nigh tin his home in House on Haunted Hill. Vincent Price is a genre legend, and his output is filled with horror classics. Scream Factory’s second collection of his work brings together seven films highlighting Price’s dramatic, horrific and (in a couple instances) comedic chops. Everyone will have their own favorites among the collection, but for me The Last Man on Earth, House on Haunted Hill and The Raven are the real stand outs. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, featurettes, commentaries, trailers]

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DONT BLINK discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Don’t Blink A group of friends head to a remote cabin for a vacation, but before they can even get settled inside they begin to notice things are not as they seem. The surrounding woods are devoid of birds and wildlife, the lake has frozen over catching a fishing boat in its center and all of the nearby cabins are empty of people as well. Food is on tables, cars are still running and they even find a bottle of warm baby milk. The situation intensifies as they start disappearing too, one by one, whenever one of them is out of sight of the rest. You’d be forgiven for thinking this direct to DVD thriller was a slight affair not worth your time — after all, the names above the title are Brian Austin Green and Mena Suvari — but I’m here to say it’s actually a well acted/shot and frequently suspenseful mystery. It’s smartly constructed too with believable characters and reactions. It wobbles a bit at the end with something of a cheat, but it remains a satisfying experience. To be clear, its selection as the Pick of the Week doesn’t make it the best release of the week (that would be X-Men: Days of Future Past), but I think it’s a cool little movie deserving of a few more eyeballs. [DVD extras: None]

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RICK AND MORTY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Rick and Morty: Season 1 Rick is a scientist of great renown, probably, who lives with his daughter’s family in suburbia and spends his days tinkering and having adventures. His “partner” is his frequently unwilling grandson, Morty. Together they travel through space and time interacting with aliens, mutants and everyday people. And by interacting I mean causing trouble. The latest addition to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup comes from the twisted minds of Justin Roiland (who also voices both Rick and Morty) and Dan Harmon, and while it found its origin in riffing on Back to the Future it quickly develops a life of its own thanks to a steady stream of very funny gags and smart writing. There’s a hint of Futurama here, but it’s a darker and far more foul world much to our enjoyment. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you see the episode where the human-sized jelly bean tries to rape Morty in a bathroom stall. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, commentaries, deleted scenes]

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SPACE STATION 76 discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Space Station 76 The Omega 76 is a space station expecting two new visitors. First up is a new co-captain (Liv Tyler) who immediately sets the current captain (Patrick Wilson) on edge and disrupts the crew’s flow, but she’s still far less threatening than the second visitor. Because it’s an asteroid! Or meteor. Details aren’t important, but what is important is how the crew reacts to the impending danger coinciding with a bevy of personal dramas among them. Actor Jack Plotnick directs this surprisingly dark space-set comedy and delivers a lot of laughs along the way. The gags are both visual — this is sci-fi as envisioned in the ’70s meaning the tech is old fashioned and quaint — and dialogue/delivery-based as the script serves up plenty of great lines and humorous conflicts. It’s a goofy romp in many ways, but there’s a definite darkness beneath it all that comes creeping out over the course of the film. It’s definitely not for all tastes, but folks who like their comedies with a dash of edginess and a dollop of WTF will find much to love here. [DVD extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes, featurette]

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WE ARE THE BEST discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. We Are the Best Three girls form a tight friendship over their shared interest in hairstyles, punk music lyrics and remaining true to themselves in a sea of disco-loving, brightly dressed automatons. Two members of the trio have never even held an instrument before, but their infectious determination drives them forward and helps them navigate the all too recognizable perils of being a twelve to fourteen year old. Lukas Moodysson‘s latest film is an absolute pleasure to watch and experience, a rare treat that fully immerses you in a world that’s foreign yet familiar with its story of the time in our lives when we still believed anything and everything was possible. Watching We Are the Best! is a genuinely positive experience, one that leaves you smiling inside and out even days later as you think back not only on scenes from the film but also to memories of your own life and friends from that magical time of your life. Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me said it best — “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Turns out that sentiment is the same the world over. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurette, photo gallery, trailer]

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THE BATTERY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Battery The zombie apocalypse has left America a wasteland of the undead with pockets of mankind struggling to survive. Two former baseball players forced by the situation to become fast friends travel the country looking for supplies and safety, but their different personalities and views on the situation lead to dramas far removed from the flesh-eating varieties. Zombies have been ubiquitous in the horror genre for years now with three out of every five horror films focusing on them as their monster of choice. (I totally made that up, but it feels right.) The vast majority of them are pretty damn terrible, but once in a while a real gem comes along, and one of the best is this American indie that dares find the humanity in a story about the inhuman. It feels like a drama, but a lack of flesh-chewing scenes doesn’t mean it’s devoid of horror as the reality these men find themselves in is a terrifying one. Writer/director Jeremy Gardner (who also plays one of the two leads) is a refreshingly smart new voice in genre film-making. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, outtakes, featurette, trailer]

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CA WINTER SOLDIER discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Captain America: The Winter Soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to fit in to the modern world while working for SHIELD on a regular basis. His latest mission leads to yet another conflict with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) over his and SHIELD’s priorities and methods in fighting the war on terror. Rogers thinks criminals should be punished after a crime has been committed, but Fury says they can’t afford to wait that long. The arrival on scene of a mysterious and legendary assassin, the Winter Soldier, shakes things up even further, and soon Captain America is fighting not only for the lives of millions but for his past, his integrity, and every core belief he holds dear. I usually reserve the “Pick of the Week” spot for a great title in need of more press, but hot damn do I love this flick. If you’ve followed my reviews here over the years you know I’m no easy mark for Marvel or other big movies, but there’s not a dull minute to be found here between the expertly crafted action sequences, plot revelations lifted equally out of the comic books and the New York Times, character moments and legitimately funny laughs. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is big, spectacular entertainment that manages to stay grounded even as the action turns to explosive spectacle. It’s the kind of summer […]

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KOCH header

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Citizen Koch The sadly ridiculous details of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s election and recall fight are just part of the backdrop for this documentary about the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizen United” ruling and the rise of the Tea Party. At the center of it all are the billionaire Koch brothers (and other immensely rich donors), who having been empowered by the court’s decision unleash a tidal wave of legal support for political agendas. To be clear, this is not an impartial doc looking at two sides of a story. That may sound improper, but some things that look politically slanted are actually straightforward facts. Both sides of the aisle have seen their fair share if disgusting behavior, and this doc looks at the actions on the right that led to a heavy loss for the idea of a democracy of the people. The film spends a bit too much time with ex-governor/Congressman Buddy Roemer, but the core message and theme rings true elsewhere as the power of the people is blatantly replaced by the power of the dollar. You could argue that the people of Wisconsin got what they deserved (via the majority vote) as Walker proceeded to dismantle the state’s unions — and you’d be right — but that doesn’t make the damage and nationwide fallout any less distressing or unfortunate for America’s future. [DVD extras: Deleted scenes, […]

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Scream Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Legend of Hell House The Belasco House had seen its fair share of tragedy and carnality even before the man who had it built disappeared, but the years since have seen a continuation of death and terror. It’s known as Hell House, the Mt. Everest of haunted houses, and now a team consisting of a scientist, his wife and two mediums is going in to prove once and for all whether or not ghosts and the afterlife exist. Two of them are going to find out first hand before the week is out. Richard Matheson’s novel (Hell House) was adapted to the screen way back in ’73, but it remains one of the best haunted house flicks out there. There are legitimate chills throughout, some PG-rated sexiness and a wonderfully intense performance from Roddy McDowall too. Even better, at least for someone like myself who favors grounded explanations, the script gives nods to both the supernatural and the scientific. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: interviews, trailer]

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TIE ME UP discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (Criterion) Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was a massive cross-Atlantic hit in the early 1990s, helping to launch the global career of Antonio Banderas. Following an obsessive but charming former mental patient (Banderas)  as he captures a porn star (Victor Abril) so that she learns to fall in love with him, the dark comedy was the import of the season on summer movie screens 24 years ago, accompanyingWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the one-two punch that made Almodovar an arthouse fixture. While Almodovar has gone through various stylistic phases since, Tie Me Up remains a prime example of his unique propensity for comic chaos that plunges unabashedly into the trenches of sexual id. The film’s success can be credited in part to its massive controversy: its sexual content threatened its US release with an X rating, which began a lawsuit that resulted in the creation of the NC-17 rating. The story behind the film is thus as much a part of it as the film itself, and Criterion justly adorns this set with a collection of new special features that illustrate how the film changed the career of those in front of and behind the camera, with Almodovar thankfully present across all of them. Hopefully this first release of Almodovar’s work promises many Criterion treatments of the Spanish auteur to come. […]

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A24 Films

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Locke Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has just made a decision that will affect the rest of his life. The fact that he made it moments after hopping into his car after work means he long drive ahead of him will be spent dealing with the fallout, both expected and unexpected, and the entirety of it occurs without leaving the car. He takes calls from home and work, talks to himself as he works through his problems and mile by mile grows closer to his final destination. So simple yet so mesmerizing. Tom Hardy in a car for eighty minutes probably shouldn’t be this engaging, but his performance as an ordinary guy facing the life-altering fallout from one bad decision is powerful affecting. He feels real — his dilemmas, frustrations, actions — and we can’t help but relate to the grounded drama and emotion. Suspense builds through conversations and Hardy’s acting, all without leaving the car. And not for nothing, but this is one incredibly (and unexpectedly) gorgeous film too. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary]

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Scream Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Phantom of the Paradise Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a musician and songwriter hoping to make it big, but his efforts to get his work noticed by the infamous producer and personality, Swan (Paul Williams), results in trouble. Swan hears, loves, and steals Winslow’s music leaving the artist deranged and badly burned in the process, but Winslow returns behind a mask to wreak havoc on the man’s hot new club. Toss in a thief of another kind, a dame named Phoenix (Jessica Harper) who steals Winslow’s heart, and the stage is set for tragedy. It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Faust, part comedy and part musical, and it had to have been clear from the outset that it was not going to find a home with general audiences. It also has some not so subtle critiques for both sides of the entertainment industry, from the selfish cruelties of corporate interests to talent who are accepting of it all in search of fame of fortune. The message never gets in the way of the zaniness or the musical numbers though. There are some new extras here as well as ones ported over from Arrow Video’s recent Blu, and the best supplement remains Guillermo de Toro interviewing/chatting with Williams. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, making of, alternate takes, outtakes, trailer, gallery]

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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