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16 New Movies to Watch at Home This Week

By  · Published on May 24th, 2016

Child abusers, serial killers, and Rob Lowe headline some of this week’s best new releases.

Pick of the Week


What is it? Twelve year-old Adar lives with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, Michael. The man is unemployed and spends his days at home, and over time he and Adar develop a routine of playful role-playing where they take on personas and pretend to fight. He only refers to her as his prince, but shortly after Adar gets her first period the game takes a darker turn. Michael crosses a devastating line, and the next day Adar’s aimless wandering brings her in contact with a boy named Alan who bears a striking resemblance to her. She brings her new friend home, and it’s not long before this new dynamic affects them all.

Why buy it? Films about child abuse can’t (and shouldn’t) approach the devastation of the real thing, but that doesn’t make them any easier to watch. Writer/director Tali Shalom-Ezer’s second feature is a haunting and harrowing walk along the blurred line between the real world and the imagined one, and while it features a couple scenes guaranteed to pause your breath it presents this particular nightmare with fantastic beauty. It’s a difficult watch with subject matter destined to scare away potential viewers, but it handles this delicate topic with grace and power. It’s also as far from a revenge tale as it is from misery porn, existing instead in a world of its own creation ‐ it’s a harsh world, but it’s one where hope and courage still exist, so maybe it isn’t that far from our own after all. (Read my full review.)

[DVD extras: None?]


The Best

Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers By Emilio P. Miraglia (Arrow Video)

What is it? Alan has been in and out of the madhouse since the death of his wife, Evelyn, and his latest trip home to the family castle sees him dealing with the loss by abusing redheaded prostitutes. And then the murders start, in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. Kitty and Franziska are part of a cursed family as every hundred years a bloodthirsty woman appears to kill seven members of the clan in The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.

Why buy it? Director Emilio P. Miraglia delivered two entries in the giallo genre, and while neither is cream of the black glove-wearing crop they each have entertaining thrills to share. Both feature murders being committed by an unknown assailant, but while Red Queen seems to be the more popular I’m actually more partial to Evelyn. There’s a wicked absurdity to the setting and proceedings, and it works to create a dangerously morbid atmosphere. Arrow Video’s beautiful new box set is a limited edition of 3000 copies and includes a 60-page booklet to accompany the two restored features. The titles will probably receive individual releases later on, but giallo fans will want to pick up this incarnation.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews, introductions, reversible sleeves]

Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers by Emilio P. Miraglia (4-Disc Special Limited Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]

Manhunter (Scream Factory)

What is it? A serial killer nicknamed ‘The Tooth Fairy’ has slaughtered two families and has eyes on a third, and with no where else to turn the FBI calls on a retired profiler named Will Graham (William Petersen). He takes on the case, but to get back into the necessary mindset he pays a visit to the most dangerous adversary he’s ever faced, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox).

Why buy it? Anthony Hopkins is most well-known in the role of the good doctor (and with a different spelling to boot), but Cox’s brief portrayal sets a terrific tone for this introduction to the world of Thomas Harris’ thrillers. Michael Mann is in full-on Mann mode here ‐ not a bad thing ‐ and infuses Harris’ Red Dragon with color, mood, and a terrific score/soundtrack. I’ve always loved the Graham character and wish Harris would bring him back again, and Petersen brings him fantastically to life here. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray comes loaded with extras, new and old, and they help to make this the definitive release for fans.

[Blu-ray extras: Theatrical and director’s cut, interviews, commentary]

Manhunter [Collector's Edition] [Blu-ray]

The Player (Criterion Collection)

What is it? Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is an important man. He’s not the most important, but he’s important enough in his role of studio vice president. His already busy and frustrating life takes a dark turn when a writer ‐ one Griffin promised to call but didn’t ‐ begins sending him death threats. His efforts to identify the sender complicate things even further, and with the police at his door he’s left juggling both his failed reality and his failed attempts at creating fiction.

Why buy it? Robert Altman’s early ’90s comedy is a scathing take down of an industry he knew all too well, and while murder is the focus of the narrative the film’s aim is a bit broader. A fantastic supporting cast rubs shoulders with Hollywood cameos as Altman and writer Michael Tolkin lay the town’s greed to waste with smart, biting commentary. Robbins is perfectly suited in the role of a powerful man with no discernible talents of his own, and he manages to keep Griffin from being a wholly unlikable prick. Criterion’s new Blu-ray comes loaded with new and old special features including new interviews with Robbins and others.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, documentary, deleted scenes]

The Player (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami

What is it? Georges Duroy (George Sanders) is a man who knows what he wants and how to get it. Namely, he’s after wealth and status, and he gets it by working his way through the women of Paris. He treats them like playthings as he moves ever upwards in late 19th century society, but the higher he climbs the greater the inevitable fall.

Why rent it? It’s rare for a mid ’40s film to embrace this kind of character ‐ there have been plenty of bad guys on the screen, but Duroy’s emotionally devastating affairs make him a particularly twisted man. The film’s power comes from a morality that makes strides even as Duroy heads towards trouble he may not be able to charm his way out of. Sanders is great in the role as he uses his character actor strengths to strong effect, and the other performances are equally fine including an impossibly young Angela Lansbury.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Private Affairs of Bel Ami [Blu-ray]

The Rest

Bad Influence (Scream Factory)

What is it? Michael (James Spader) is an unassuming financial analyst on the cusp of a promotion and marriage, but his stressful every man life is about to get even more nerve-wracking. He crosses paths with a slick stranger named Alex (Rob Lowe) who challenges him with increasingly crazy behavior. It’s fun at first, but it’s not long before things turn dangerous.

Why rent it? It’s unclear what happened to director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys) over the past decade and a half, but once upon a time he crafted some solid little thrillers. This 1990 film is a good example of his genre abilities, and both leads do solid work ‐ Spader’s awkward good guy pairs well with Lowe’s sleazy troublemaker. The story itself goes in some familiar directions, but the talent involved make it good fun.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]

The Finest Hours

What is it? A big winter storm hits offshore of Cape Cod in 1952, and one of the casualties is a large oil tanker that suffers severe damage and begins to sink. The men aboard, led by Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), struggle to keep it afloat as long as possible while a U.S. Coast Guard boat is dispatched to perform a rescue against all possible odds. Bernie Webber (Chis Pine) is the man at the helm of the rescue boat, and while no one expects him to succeed his fiance has to believe that he will.

Why rent it? Like Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea from earlier this year, this ocean-set drama’s two greatest strengths are its cast and its action at sea. The character drama doesn’t work nearly as well as the interactions and relationships feel a bit too typical and light. The cast raises it up though with Affleck being the standout. This is based on a true story, and it really is an impressive tale of courage at its core.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]

French Postcards

What is it? Several dozen American college students head to Paris for a year of study abroad, and challenges, love, and McDonald’s Big Macs await. The young men and women find themselves far from home and are forced to make the best of it in their relationships to each other and with the locals.

Why rent it? This is a wholly generic ensemble film, but it hits some fun and familiar buttons for anyone who’s done the foreign exchange thing. The cast is likable enough, and it presents a nice cross section of those having fun on the trip and those having a bit of trouble. The drama of it all is fairly slight ‐ it’s certainly no L’auberge espagnole ‐ but it’s an engaging diversion. The supporting cast helps including very early turns by Debra Winger and Mandy Patinkin.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

How to Be Single

What is it? Alice (Dakota Johnson) tells her college boyfriend that they need a break so she can find herself. Her sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), is a single doctor in her 40s who discovers she wants a baby. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is a wild child interested in partying and one-night stands. Lucy (Alison Brie) has her spreadsheets and dating sites to help her find the perfect partner, but so far she’s found only failure. David (Damon Wayans Jr.) is a widower and father to a young daughter. Tom (Anders Holm) is a bartender happy spending time with a new girl every other night. Also, there are other people in New York City, and they all discover just how challenging single life can be.

Why rent it? As ensemble comedies go this one has an incredibly strong cast of familiar faces and reliable comedic abilities, but the script doesn’t quite do them justice. For a film with this title ‐ and this supposed message to match ‐ it’s incredibly uncomfortable allowing its characters to be single and happy. Mann’s character in particular is happy with her career and lack of children, but she’s not allowed to stay that way. The others fare no better adding to a roster of characters who don’t feel all that authentic. Still, the cast is amiable and there are more than a few laughs to keep you smiling.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes, gag reel]

Major Crimes: The Complete Fourth Season

What is it? Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) leads a squad of detectives tasked with investigating some of the most dark and violent crimes committed in Los Angeles. More often than not those crimes involve murder, but it’s the team’s job to discover both the who and the why behind the violence.

Why rent it? This spin-off from TNT’s The Closer lacks a lead performer/character as compelling or charismatic as that show’s Kyra Sedgewick, but the ensemble does solid work building the procedural atmosphere required for a crime of the week series. The major crimes in question are almost exclusively murders, and the show does a fine job in keeping them unique enough across the 23 episodes, but the best narrative threads are the ones that recur throughout the season building to the finale.

[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel]

Outsiders: Season One

What is it? The Farrells are a typical Kentucky mountain family ‐ they live apart from society with their guns and their strict rules, but their reign is threatened when a mining company sets it sights on their mountain. Asa (Joe Anderson) is a member of the family who returns after ten years away in the real world, and his arrival also presents a challenge to the family’s intended leader, Big Foster (David Morse).

Why rent it? No one really things of WGN as being home to compelling drama, but this new series makes a case for a change in that area. Comparisons to Sons of Anarchy have already been made, and while this is a far more localized drama the atmosphere is definitely similar. The Farrells are a rough family, but the casting ensures our engagement as both Anderson and Morse get to channel the kind of aggression we rarely see from either one. The story creates a solid dynamic between the family and the law, and the title works well to describe either group.

[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

Rich Kids

What is it? Jamie is the new kid in town, but he fits right in thanks to his personality and the things he has in common with the others ‐ namely divorced parents. Franny bonds with him over the family issues and helps hold her hand through her own parents’ imminent demise. Together the two young friends survive the inevitable and grow closer as a result. Very, very close.

Why rent it? This is a sweet tale exploring divorce from the perspective of the pre-teens caught in the middle, and it manages a fine balance between their innocence and the stark reality of everyone’s situation. The adults continue to mess up their lives while the children are forced to grow up by the seat of their pants. Both young actors are good, but Trini Alvaredo in particular stands out as a girl dealing with her parents’ impending break-up while discovering her own first love. A strong supporting cast including John Lithgow, Olympia Dukakis, and Paul Dooley add to the fun and the drama.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Rise of the Legend

What is it? Fei (Eddie Peng) was orphaned as a young boy after his father was killed by a vicious mob boss (Sammo Hung), and he grows into a man hell-bent on vengeance. His plan involves infiltrating the killer’s gang and dismantling it from within, but a lot of bodies are going to hit the floor in the process.

Why rent it? Peng is a pretty solid fighter, and the film takes great advantage of his abilities with numerous fights, both one on one and Peng versus dozens of ponytailed enemies. The cinematography and editing are highly stylized offering an attractive mix of slow-motion, wire-fu, and incredibly slick visuals. The character work and drama aren’t quite as appealing though resulting in an abundance of dialogue scenes that add little to the film’s appeal and effect.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

The Whoopee Boys

What is it? Jake (Michael O’Keefe) and Barney (Paul Rodriguez) are street peddlers in New York City, but when that career path grows troublesome the pair head to Palm Beach in search of sunnier good fortune. Things start looking up when Jake meets a lovely young woman, but she has her own problems including an inheritance that hinges on her getting married within the next thirty days.

Why skip it? Comedy is subjective, more so than any other genre, but this one checks off a lot of boxes for things I don’t find all that funny. O’Keefe was always an underrated actor, and Rodriguez can be a funny guy, but their characters here are a bit too obnoxious to be all that likable. Barney’s antics in particular frequently cross the line into the abusive towards women and men alike, and there’s not enough here to care all that much about (or even believe) Jake’s romance. It feels like something I might have enjoyed back in the ’80s, but none of it really works for me now.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]


What is it? Barney (Scott Baio) is a lab geek (and member of the baseball team, inexplicably) with a crush on a cheerleader (Heather Thomas) and an obnoxious best friend (Willie Ames). High school life gets a bit more complicated, goofy, and misogynistic when Barney accidentally gives himself telekinetic powers.

Why skip it? Pre-teen me loved this movie ‐ high school nerd uses his mind to pop girls’ shirts open! ‐ but grown-up me is pretty put off by the unfunny comedy and the constant mistreatment of the ladies. (And immature twenty-something me was also disappointed to realize that Thomas used a body double…) The best sex comedies manage to be sexy, funny, and even-handed with the sexes ‐ Porky’s for example has plenty of T&A and big laughs, but it never feels like its singling out the females for abuse. Here though the guys are constant winners while we’re asked to applaud girls being publicly humiliated.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Zoolander No. 2

What is it? It’s been fifteen years since superstar male models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) foiled an attempted assassination masterminded by a malicious fashion icon named Mugatu (Will Ferrell), but time has not been kind to the duo. Zoolander has been in isolation after his Library for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too collapsed killing both his wife and his career. It also left Hansel horribly disfigured with a two centimeter-long scar on his cheek. The two are willed back into the business through the power of Billy Zane, but they’ve barely walked a single runway before they discover another nefarious plot is brewing.

Why skip it? Who could have predicted that opening a film with the gratuitously bloody and violent murder of Justin Bieber would be a bad idea? It sounds good on paper, and it’s certainly appealing in its execution, but it’s a smile-inducer that the rest of Zoolander 2 can’t match meaning it’s all downhill from there. Stiller and friends find a handful of minor laughs across its belabored running time, but a reliance on recycled jokes and disconnected cameos leaves the film feeling outdated and desperate. (Read my full review.)

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Also Out This Week

Call the Midwife: Season Five, Fever, Journey to the Shore, A Married Woman, Risen

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.