Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A small town in the English countryside falls prey to the sensual whims of a vampiric lady, but her bosomy reign of terror approaches its end when a group of men set out for vengeance.
Hammer Films’ adaptation of the literary classic “Carmilla” combines the old-school atmospheric horror they’re known for with some truly erotic happenings to great effect. Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt bring their own individual strengths in front of the camera while director Roy Ward Baker guides the film with his typically assured eye. It’s a slight story, but the film’s Blu-ray debut by way of Scream Factory looks better than it ever has. [Blu-ray extras: Featurette, commentary, interview]
Pitch: They won’t like him when he’s angry…
What’s It About? Shout! Factory’s first of two Bruce Lee double features releasing this week includes the legend’s first two starring features. The Big Boss (aka Fists of Fury) follows a young man who moves to Bangkok for work and falls right into the middle of a dangerous drug smuggling operation. Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) stars Lee as a man who returns home for his teacher’s funeral and decides to avenge the man’s murder.
Why Buy? Neither film has been cleaned up or enhanced in any way here, so if you already own the films this set can be ignored. But if not, this is a great opportunity to add Lee’s work to your library. As with most martial arts films from the ’70s the fight choreography isn’t all that great, but Lee’s speed, agility and charisma show him as the star he was always meant to be. [DVD extras: None]
Pitch: Crazy, Sexy, Love…
What’s It About? Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just gotten out of the hospital after a violent breakdown triggered by his wife’s infidelity, but just because he’s out doesn’t mean he’s cured. He makes plans to reunite with his wife, get his job back and move forward with his life, but a saucy and extremely determined widow (Jennifer Lawrence) has other plans.
Why Buy? Director David O. Russell‘s latest won Lawrence an Oscar, but Cooper is equally deserving of praise. The pair show a real dynamic chemistry and deliver performances that run the emotional gamut. It’s very funny, equally sweet and tragic and manages the impossible with a dance competition too. It plays a little loose with mental illness, but it’s easily chalked up to the uniqueness of individuals. Ultimately it’s a romantic comedy about two nutters finding themselves by finding each other, and if loving it makes me a nutter too then so be it. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Pitch: Say goodbye to the spandex, it’s wool season! Because in space no one can hear you itch…
What’s It About? Easily television’s most popular science fiction franchise saw its most successful incarnation with the Next Generation series that ran from 1987 to 1994, and according to many fans the third season is the show’s best. A pre-Battlestar Galactica Ronald D. Moore joined the production this season too.
Why Buy? As has been evident since the Blu-ray release of season one, CBS/Paramount has done an absolutely fantastic job remastering the series for HD. Not only do the episodes look brilliant and clear, but they’ve also seen an upgrade in the digital effects department. The season is definitely a strong one with a fun and exciting selection of stories and adventures and only a handful of real duds. I still lean towards darker fare (like Galactica), but fans of the series should have no hesitation in picking up this latest series release. [Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentaries, gag reel]
Pitch: They trap you by pairing a must-own with an abomination…
What’s It About? The Way of the Dragon stars Lee as a man sent to Rome to help out a friend of the family who’s experiencing some trouble courtesy of a local gang of ruffians after her real estate. Game of Death is about a fighter forced to fight.
Why Rent? The first film is an altogether different beast from Lee’s other work in its use of extremely broad humor and sound effects to lighten the tone. The final twenty minutes darken things up considerably, but the constant here is the solid fight work from Lee. There are some truly impressive bouts including the finale between Lee and Chuck Norris. The second film here is an abomination. Have I said that already? Lee’s death left some unused footage behind, and producers proceeded to patch together a full feature using roughly 11 minutes of previously unused scenes plus terribly edited bits from past films, new footage made using obvious body doubles, and in one scene, a cutout of Lee’s face over another actor. I am not joking. [DVD extras: None]
Pitch: I demand a Bio-Cop feature film…
What’s It About? The gates of hell have opened revealing a warrior race fond of Nazi paraphernalia, and mankind quickly finds themselves on the losing end of the war. A soldier who drops on the battlefield is reborn as a half man/half machine who may just be humanity’s only hope.
Why Rent? Astron-6 are a group of Canadian filmmakers who refuse to let budget (or lack of one) get in the way of their creativity, and the result is a growing body of absolutely ridiculous work. They produce shorts in the form of fake trailers, and while last year’s Father’s Day remains their best effort this first feature from them is loaded with charm. Make no mistake, it’s more cheaply produced than a Vine video, but genre fans may still find enough to enjoy thanks to a goofy sense of humor, a gleeful embrace of its violence and desire to simply have fun. [DVD extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, featurettes, short, interviews]
Pitch: If you thought Patrick Stewart was half a man in the X-Men films, just wait…
What’s It About? The Enterprise comes face to face with a Borg cube threatening mass destruction unless they turn Captain Picard over to them. They eventually take the good captain by force requiring his second in command to make some incredibly difficult decisions.
Why Rent? Considered by many to be the series’ best episode(s), this two-parter closed season three and opened season four with drama, suspense and some solid character work. It’s been made available as a standalone, but while it’s fun to watch in a single sitting it doesn’t necessarily warrant a buy. CBS/Paramount will be releasing season 4 to Blu in a couple months, so rent this for now and buy that then. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette, gag reel]
Pitch: Strictly closeups…
What’s It About? Scott (Paul Mercurio) is a ballroom dancer heading for the championships, but the biggest obstacle in his way is his desire to move to a different drum and dance the way he wants to dance. The competition of his life is approaching, and the pressure mounts from all sides when his long-time partner leaves him. Good thing there’s a homely girl in glasses hanging around ripe for a makeover and dance lessons.
Why Rent? The early ’90s Australian film plays extremely broad, jumps way too quick into the whole dance competition, is almost consistently obvious and has incredibly slight characterization, but it’s also fairly charming and has a pretty solid third act. In fact it’s that final 25 minutes or so that saved the movie from an Avoid recommendation. The humor remains, albeit toned down a bit, but the energy and style ramp up resulting in a compelling time. [Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, deleted scene, commentary]
Pitch: Witches man, witches…
What’s It About? An old house in the woods is home to a local legend about a child-snatching witch who hunts down the naughty kids who break her home’s windows. Shortly after another little kid goes missing a group of teens head into the woods for troublemaking and sexual shenanigans, but they soon discover the legends are real.
Why Avoid? There are a couple cool bits in this direct to DVD horror flick but far too much of it feels generic. It opens strong, and the idea of a witch is interesting, but they do very little with it. Instead we get the usual assortment of carbon copy characters, a little bit of sauciness and obvious turns of event. Horror films can sometimes be salvaged with their effects, but the CGI used here will impress no one. [DVD extras: Making of]
Skip it and read R. Patrick Gates’ Grimm Memorials instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
The Guilt Trip
History Of the Eagles
Night of the Scarecrow
Not Fade Away
Only the Young / Tchoupitoulas