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17 New Movies to Watch at Home This Week

By  · Published on June 23rd, 2015

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The African country of Mali saw an invasion of gunmen and ideology in 2012, and the city of Timbuktu fell under Jihadist control. The newcomers quickly went about establishing Sharia law which outlawed music, sports, smoking and more. The citizens found themselves facing stiff penalties for the most minor of “offenses.” Kidane avoids most of these new problems by living with his wife and daughter well outside the city limit, but when an infraction leads him to commit a crime he’s quickly swallowed up by a cruelly hypocritical and man-made system.

Director Abderrahmane Sissako’s film manages to be an indictment of an oppressive movement while avoiding the use of simple cardboard bad guys. It’s a casual, fly on the wall affair at times as we’re made to witness Jihadists milling about bored and aimless as frequently as they find an offense worth punishing. A couple is stoned to death before our eyes, a woman is given lashes, a man threatens violence to secure the child bride he feels he is owed ‐ terrible events unfurl before us, but Sissako shows us immense beauty too. A soccer game played without a ball is simultaneously sad and beautiful, and the landscapes reveal natural wonders that temporarily distract from the pain mankind is inflicting on itself. Devastating, playful and wise, the film shines a light on the people both behind and in front of the action.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]

Dog Soldiers

A squad of Scottish soldiers on a routine drill in the rural Highlands come across an unexpected foe whose presence wasn’t exactly covered in training. Under assault by numerous assailants they retreat to a remote farmhouse where they realize the creatures howling at the front door are werewolves. Forced to make a last stand against the beasts they put their abilities to the ultimate test.

Director Neil Marshall’s feature debut is a low budget affair, but he manages to create a thrilling genre film with those limited means and one of the top five werewolf movies in the process. A large part of his success comes due to a stellar cast (Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, Sean Pertwee) who create compelling characters amid the carnage. The creatures themselves are also fantastic thanks some strong effects work from Image FX resulting in a third act filled with monsters, gore and some tight-quarters action. The Descent remains Marshall’s best film, but this is easily his second most thrilling and memorable creation.

Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, short film, gallery

The Fisher King (Criterion)

After the expensive commercial disaster that was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Terry Gilliam made his comeback with this dramatic return to his Python-ian roots. Adapting Richard LaGravenese’s first screenplay, Gilliam turns New York City into an elaborate, deeply felt fantasy world through this story of a burnt out shock jock (Jeff Bridges) who befriends a delusional homeless man (Robin Williams) in search of the holy grail lying somewhere within the depths of modern Manhattan.

A character study of two unlikely friends who try to, respectively, recover from personal disappointment and deep trauma,The Fisher King is a remarkable meeting between visionary imagination and human drama, proving that Gilliam’s talents also reside in territory more nuanced than fantastic worlds, overwhelming dystopias, or knights who say nee. Featuring one of the best performances by the late Robin Williams (nominated for an Oscar here), Criterion’s release of The Fisher King comes packed with lovingly assembled recollections on the production and its unique role within the careers and lives of many of its cast and crew. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary featuring Gilliam; two making-of documentaries; a special effects retrospective; 2006 interview with Williams; rehearsal footage; video essay of Bridges’s on-set photographs; deleted scenes; costume tests; trailers; illustrated booklet with essay by Bilge Ebiri]

The Mean Season

Malcolm Anderson (Kurt Russell) is a Miami crime reporter ready to leave the sweaty and dirty city behind, but he finds new purpose on the job when a serial killer calls him directly. The man makes Malcolm his mouthpiece, drawing him into his reign of terror and raising his profile in the process, but when the reporter starts growing more famous than the killer the madman decides it’s time to alter their relationship.

This mid-’80s thriller doesn’t seem to get a lot of press these days, but it’s a legitimately solid and atmospheric ride. Russell overflows with energy and charisma and reminds us just how great he is at playing the every man pushed to the edge, and a supporting cast including Andy Garcia, Richard Bradford, Joe Pantoliano and Muriel Hemingway adds immense character throughout. It’s not a whodunnit as we meet the killer early on, but it finds thrills in the set pieces and encroaching storm. It’s just an effective film, top to bottom, and Olive Films deserves kudos for giving it new life on Blu-ray. Now if only they’d start including extras on their releases.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Needful Things

Castle Rock, Maine, has seen its fair share of tragedy and suffering, but those days are left in the past thanks to a settled populace and the efforts of the honorable Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris). It all starts slipping away though when a mysterious new shop opens its doors. The owner (Max Von Sydow) prides himself on stocking exactly what his customers want and charging mere pennies on the dollar for those goods. Well, pennies and a deed of some sort. Soon the townspeople are causing all manner of mayhem and murder in an effort to pay the devil’s surcharge.

Stephen King’s novel gets a fun and thrilling adaptation here that seems to occupy a blind spot in audiences’ collective memory. It’s a shame as the story is a delightfully morbid morality tale told with great performances and a wonderfully dark sense of humor. The events grow more and more horrific, but director Fraser C. Heston and his cast keep things lively and entertaining throughout its two hour running time.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]

The Bridge (Criterion)

The Bridge was the first WWII-related film from Germany to have significant export and acclaim after the war, and Bernhard Wicki’s depiction of seven schoolboys whose naïve idealism meets the stark, impersonal horrors of warfare proved not only to be a powerful statement on behalf of a Germany attempting to come to terms with its recent past, but is also a landmark entry in the antiwar film genre writ large. While The Bridge’s “war is hell” tropes might seem familiar in more than fifty years of similar films made since, that’s only a testament to a film that depicts so starkly how short-sighted ideals of heroism and triumph can intoxicate a march to one’s certain death. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New interviews with memoirist Gregor Dorfmeister and filmmaker Volker Schlondorff; archival interview and behind-the-scenes documentary featuring Wicki; illustrated booklet with essay by Terrence Rafferty]


Two prisoners (Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin) on a chain gang are forced on the run ‐ while chained together! ‐ when a fellow inmate takes violent action against the guards. Their escape is complicated by secrets they hold and the men that want them silenced. Kevin Hooks’ action film is okay fare that never quite gels as an engaging piece of entertainment. Part of the problem is the choice of leads as neither Fishburne nor Baldwin are all that charismatic ‐ the latter isn’t even much of an actor ‐ but equally at fault is a script that fails to captivate.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

The Forger

Raymond Cutter (John Travolta) is one of the world’s most accomplished art forgers, and he has the prison sentence to prove it. Desperate to get out early he makes a deal with some unsavory folks to do a job for them in exchange for them pulling some strings. Ray’s son (Tye Sheridan) is sick and it’s unclear how much time he has left, so Ray takes the deal. It’s a good thing to find films that aim higher than a simple one-note tale, but just as important as that aim is the execution. This one tries to be character drama, heist film and emotional ride, but none of the various elements work independently or in unison. Travolta is fine, his hairpiece less so, and you can never go wrong with Christopher Plummer in a supporting role, but there’s no sense of urgency on display here ‐ which is odd for a film that not only features an elaborate crime but also has a teenager facing a health-related death sentence.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]


Jessica suffers nonsensical dreams and nightmares on a regular basis, and their presence in her life has led to her pursuit and mastery of lucid dreaming ‐ the art of consciously navigating your dreams. Her experiences intensify when she returns home for her grandmother’s funeral as the image of a menacing figure with a horse head grows ever more threatening while she slumbers. As she moves closer to the truth behind her dreams a family secret threatens to tear her soul apart. This French film boasts some very attractive photography of both its lead actress and her frequently surreal nightmares, but even at 81 minutes in length the experience grows repetitive and intentionally obtuse until it comes time to make its reveal. It does work its way towards a narrative conclusion, but by the time we get there our interest has waned considerably.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, short films]

Johnny Be Good

Johnny Walker (Anthony Michael Hall) isn’t the first high schooler anyone would expect to become a football star, but that’s just what he’s become as quarterback of his school’s team. His success brings rewards of all kinds including offers from recruiters looking to get in early on Johnny’s career, but his girlfriend wants him to join her at college so they can be together and he can continue his education. Football can wait, or can it? This was Hall’s first film to move him out of the “nerd” role, and he does better with the transition than the film itself. Paul Gleason co-stars as a rare non-asshole character, and Robert Downey Jr. takes on the sidekick role as Johnny’s best friend, but it’s Hall’s movie. He displays a real energy here, more so with the comedy than what passes for drama, but he’s not enough to overcome the film’s weaknesses.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Pound of Flesh

Deacon (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a serious guy who arrives in the Philippines on serious business with no time to fool around. Well, okay, a little fooling around never hurt anyone, so after rescuing a woman from an apparent mugger in an alleyway he shares some drinks with her before heading back to his hotel room for the old Manila In ’n’ Out. He awakes the next morning in an ice-filled bathtub with bloodied sheets and a shoddy surgical scar on his back, and he quickly realizes that someone has snatched one of his kidneys. This isn’t cool for several reasons, but top of the list is that he was in town to donate that very organ to his deathly ill niece. So yeah, he’s thinking he wants his kidney back. Sadly, the film fails as an action pic. Van Damme can still do splits and spin kicks for days, but his fight choreography here is uninspired and unexciting. You could argue a narrative reason ‐ the man did just have his kidney removed after all ‐ but that’s not the case. The fights are arranged and shot with the bare minimum of interest. And don’t get me started on the car chase. Too late, I’m started, and this film’s car chase may just be the singular worst one ever captured on camera. All of the in-car shots are poorly green-screened, the cars are clearly crawling along at 5 MPH and the chase’s numerous “close calls” and “collisions” make this the saddest sequence I’ve seen since the entirety of Dear Zachary.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Song One

Franny (Anne Hathaway) returns home after a lifetime away to tend to her recently injured brother, and through a notebook he left behind she begins to learn new things about his life. Her journey brings her across a musician, and soon the two form a relationship against the backdrop of her brother’s suffering. This is a slight romantic drama ‐ actually more of a concert film in the guise of a romantic drama ‐ that’s success really depends on viewers’ interests in Brooklyn, coffeehouse music and Hathaway.

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

Soul Plane

Nashawn (Kevin Hart) has recently come into a large sum of money, and he’s decided to start a business catering to a very specific clientele ‐ he starts an airline for black people. Method Man, Mo’nique, Snoop Dogg, D.L. Hughley and Tom Arnold (obviously) co-star, and that should tell you just how loose of comedy this is. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but the laughs definitely fall on the broad side of things with gags and jokes that constantly remind us not to take the setup even remotely seriously.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Stone Cold

Joe Huff (Brian Bosworth) is a cop with an attitude and a mullet as well as the brawn to back it all up, but he gets a chance to flex his muscles when the FBI tasks him with infiltrating a biker gang prone to racial outbursts. He heads down south and quickly works his way into the group where he discovers the leader (Lance Henriksen) is planning something violent and epic. This action romp has “early ‘90s” written all over it from the fashion to the embrace of the R-rating, and while it won’t win any awards the damn thing delivers. Director Craig R. Baxley fills the screen with brawls, shootouts and more including a third act that kicks some major ass as a capitol building comes under assault while a helicopter causes mayhem outside. It’s bloody and loaded with solid stunt action, all of which makes up for the jokes that fall flat and Bosworth’s terrible, terrible appearance.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]


Kate Abbott (Milla Jovavich) is an agent recently dispatched to the American embassy in London to help monitor for terrorist threats, but when an attempt on her life is used to frame her instead she finds herself on the run. She’s betrayed by someone she trusts and forced on the defensive when the merciless hitman (Pierce Brosnan) insists on finishing the job. Say what you will about James McTeigue’s films but they never look cheap or dull. This one feels at times like a familiar exercise, but the action and set-pieces are well-crafted and the cast does solid work. It’s fun seeing Brosnan take on an unabashed villain, and Dylan McDermott surprises too. The film attempts to carry a heavier weight than necessary by tying motivations and ideologies into 9/11, but while that fumbles the basics of the plot and action are enough.

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

The Thing With Two Heads

Maxwell Kirshner (Ray Milland) is one of the most renowned transplant surgeons in the world, and his body is failing him. Determined to survive his illness he’s devised a radical surgery designed to attach his head to a different, healthier body. When he falls into a coma his medical team acts fast and attaches his noggin to the best possible option on such short notice, a black convict from death row named Jack Moss (Rosey Grier). Did I mention that Kirshner’s also a raging racist? This ridiculous early ’70s thriller is played mostly straight but never loses sight of just how ludicrous it all is. Crazy premise aside, the movie never really embraces the concept beyond its one note existence ‐ the operation happens, a chase ensues, film ends. No joke, there’s a dirt bike chase that takes up just over ten percent of the running time. It’s just entertaining enough to warrant a watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]


Corey (Josh Brolin) arrives in Los Angeles for a skateboarding competition, but he finds something so much more. Love. He finds love. He finds the competition too of course, and it pits him against a local board legend who not only wants to beat Corey but also wants to prevent his new love from blossoming. He’s a double threat. I had never heard of this ’80s romp, and Brolin’s presence aside it’s easy to see why. It’s wholly generic and predictable, and it doesn’t help that skateboarding isn’t all that exciting. Still, fans of movies that scream “the eighties” will find a fun enough diversion here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Big In Japan
Lost for Words
Marfa Girl
Ripper Street: Season Three
Spike Island
Trophy Heads
Workaholics: Season Five

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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.