Welcome back to This Week In Discs where we check out tomorrow’s new releases today!
What is it? Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) is a prospector wasting his years in the frozen north until a magical moment lands him in a cave lined with gold. Two decades later he’s one of the world’s wealthiest men, living on his own island in the Caribbean, and dying a little bit inside with every breathe. His wife is an addict, his daughter (Theresa Russell) is entangled with a suspicious suitor (Rutger Hauer), and Miami mobsters (Joe Pesci, Mickey Rourke) are after his land.
Why buy it? Nicolas Roeg’s 1983 drama isn’t necessarily a great movie ‐ despite that killer cast ‐ but it is an endlessly fascinating one. Beautiful exteriors give way to surreal touches, and sex and violence weave their tendrils throughout what amounts to a character piece about one very determined, paranoid, and strange man. It’s worth noting that the movie features one of the most brutal murders I’ve ever seen ‐ and I watch a lot of movie featuring murders. It’s graphic, gory, and painful, and yet it’s also every bit as odd as the rest of the film. It’s all based on a true story, but it’s clear that Roeg has taken more than a few liberties along the way.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series
What is it? It’s Detroit, 1980, and like with every other high school in America the students walking the halls of McKinley High fall into strictly defined categories. Two of those groups ‐ the geeks and the troublemakers ‐ are the focus here as we meet and follow friends dealing with all the trials and tribulations of their teenage years.
Why buy it? It may have only ran for one season, but this series from Paul Feig and Judd Apatow has left a lasting mark on audiences and pop culture in general thanks to the eventual careers of its stars ‐ Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco, Samm Levine, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Martin Starr, to name a few. It manages to find both the laughs and the heart across its eighteen episodes ‐ is there a greater scene than the one showing Bill Haverchuck recovering from a bad day with Garry Shandling and a sandwich? Shout! Factory’s new collection brings the series to HD in both its original aspect ratio and a new widescreen presentation (it was shot on film).
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, commentaries, outtakes, bloopers, featurettes]
All Hell Breaks Loose
What is it? A biker gang in league with the devil roam the midwest killing dudes and kidnapping virgins, but they have met their match when they off a nerdy newlywed and abduct his bride. God himself reanimates their latest victim giving him the chance at revenge and rescue, and a blood bath is set in motion.
Why skip it? There’s really no reason why a movie made in 2014 should still feel the need to emulate grindhouse cinema with fake film scratches, but here we are. Annoying aesthetic aside, the movie relies far too often on CG blood ‐ a shame as some of the practical effects work are good gory fun ‐ and its attempts at humor, action, and thrills fare no better. The script actually features some interesting and fun ideas, but they just can’t bring it together.
[DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]
Bandits (Olive Films)
What is it? Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) are escaped convicts who’ve taken up bank robberies to fund their retirement, but their relationship and their future grow a bit tenuous when an unhappy woman (Cate Blanchett) tags along and steals both their hearts.
Why rent it? I’m not the biggest Barry Levinson fan, but his three leads here share a fun chemistry that makes for a casually entertaining mix of comedy and drama. The laughs are slight, and the emotional beats even slighter, but their interactions as they play off each other work to keep things engaging enough on the path toward the inevitable.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Black Mama, White Mama (Arrow Video)
What is it? Lee (Pam Grier) is a hard-assed hooker in jail for selling sex. Karen (Margaret Markov) is a revolutionary imprisoned for supporting unrest against a corrupt regime. They hate each other on site, but when they’re handcuffed together and set loose after a botched escape attempt they’re forced to work together to survive.
Why rent it? Part exploitation, part The Defiant Ones redo, this is a sleazy, slap-happy romp chugging forward on the power of its cast and terrifically extreme characters. Grier and Markov play up their contrasting personalities, and Sid Haig steals the show as a bounty hunter with zero restraint. Jonathan Demme contributed to the story here back in his “women in prison” phase.
Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews, gallery, reversible sleeve
The Boost (Olive Films)
What is it? Lenny (James Woods) has seen better days, but as if being in immense debt wasn’t enough he’s also developed an intoxicating and dangerous addiction to cocaine. Good thing he has Sean Young to keep him calm.
Why rent it? Woods has become something of a tool in recent years with his political rantings, but thankfully that doesn’t make him any less appealing of an actor. His performance here is every bit as intense as you’d expect ‐ Woods on coke? ‐ and even as he circles the drain of life he remains an engaging character. Director Harold Becker keeps the film and story moving and even pulls a strong, controlled performance out of Young.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Breaker! Breaker! (Olive Films)
What is it? J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) is a trucker beloved by his peers and undefeated in arm wrestling, but his happy go lucky life hits a bump in the road when his brother goes missing in a small Californian town.
Why rent it? Most people believe 1978’s Good Guys Wear Black was the first “Chuck Norris” movie ‐ a lead role that sees him kicking butt ‐ but this PG-rated romp hit screens a year earlier with many of his trademarks already intact. He’s a good guy pushed too far and forced to roundhouse kick his way through a town filled with malicious hillbillies, and while the action is back-loaded it’s an entertaining enough little adventure all the same.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Bunny the Killer Thing
What is it? A group of friends head to a cabin in the woods only to be tormented by a big-dicked weirdo in a bunny suit who may or may not be a mythical creature.
Why skip it? There’s an audience for this kind of nonsense, and maybe you’re it, but for me the various elements don’t add up to anything worth recommending. Much of the violence takes a sexual angle ‐ the bunny isn’t twirling his junk around just for show ‐ but even if that’s okay by you there’s little here to hold your attention. Characters are obnoxious, the effects are far from memorable, it’s never scary or suspenseful, and the only real highlight is hearing the deranged killer roam around mumbling “pussy!” And honestly, that’s no real highlight at all.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Clean Slate (Olive Films)
What is it? Maurice Pogue (Dana Carvey) is a private detective with a problem. An accident left him with short-term memory loss, and it’s hindering more than just his latest case ‐ it’s putting his life at risk. Also, comedic hijinks abound.
Why rent it? It’s not quite Memento with laughs, but Carvey and friends ‐ including Kevin Pollak, James Earl Jones, Michael Gambon, and Christopher Meloni ‐ have fun with the premise as they work their way through murder, intrigue, and fast thinking. It’s something of a step down for director Mick Jackson after his one-two punch of L.A. Story and The Bodyguard, but Carvey fans will enjoy his more restrained comedic stylings before his taste for makeup and accents took over.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Disturbing Behavior (Scream Factory)
What is it? Steve (James Marsden) and his family are new to the small island community of Cradle Bay, but it doesn’t take him long to suspect something is amiss with the other teenagers in town. A growing group of them known as the Blue Ribbons are making their parents proud with good grades and better attitudes, but could there be something evil behind these Stepford teens?
Why rent it? Katie Holmes stars as a bad kid who wears a midriff shirt and a disdain for authority, and that’s enough to make up for the film’s multiple shortcomings. It’s very much a Stepford Wives clone that fails to find its own footing, but other highlights including Bruce Greenwood and a whole lot of dead teenagers make it watchable entertainment. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray doesn’t add anything new to the mix and only includes previously available special features.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]
Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete First Season
What is it? Families in Los Angeles struggle with relationships, discipline, and drug use, but all of that pales beside the drama on their doorstep. A virus of some kind, a plague if you will, has descended upon humanity and is turning the dead into the flesh-craving undead.
Why rent it? Part prequel, part sidequel to AMC’s uber-popular The Walking Dead, this new show follows all new characters as they try to survive both zombie attacks and family squabbles. It’s that latter bit that hurts the show ‐ consistently, and with almost every character decision ‐ as their actions are so continuously frustrating. Entire set-pieces and subplots are forced into existence solely because these bastards don’t know how to communicate with other people. It’s seriously annoying. On the plus side for those of you who are fans this new release is loaded with special features (that were absent from the initial release). Whether or not it’s worth a second bite is up to you.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentaries]
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay ‐ Part 2
What is it? The rebels continue to move on the Capitol, but Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) attack on Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has left her disoriented and angry. She makes plans to assassinate President Snow (DOnald Sutherland) and sets off with a small team to end their collective nightmare once and for all.
Why skip it? This is just a terribly written movie all around. Character motivations are hollow and rushed, military experts make utterly ignorant decisions on the battlefield, the film’s big emotional beat lands without an ounce of emotion. It’s an unfortunately weak denouement to a franchise that began with real potential.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, featurettes]
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay ‐ Complete 4-Film Collection
What is it? The country is a fractured place united only by their service to the Capitol and its upper class residents. Each year a contest is held ‐ the Hunger Games ‐ with representatives from each district fighting for their lives and for entertainment. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is forced into the games when she volunteers to replace her younger sister, and she soon finds herself a symbol for the oppressed.
Why rent it? The film series ends on a sour note ‐ see the entry above ‐ but the first two movies are exciting, well produced entertainment with an engaging storyline and a strong cast. Fans will want to buy this complete collection, but others may be happy renting it for the absolute abundance of special features spread across the six discs. (Collectors note, the Blu-ray comes packaged in a DVD-sized case height-wise.) It is interesting to watch the progression across the films, and the making-of featurettes are incredibly detailed affairs documenting every aspect of the productions.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentaries]
My Summer Story (Olive Films)
What is it? Ralphie Parker (Kieran Culkin) and his family have survived the travails of winter and the challenges of finding the gift you want most beneath the Christmas tree, but the summer promises even more comical adventures.
Why skip it? Sure the cast has changed with this sequel to the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story ‐ Culkin is joined by Charles Grodin and Mary Steenburgen ‐ but Bob Clark is still in the director’s chair and it’s once again narrated by and based on the writings of Jean Shepherd. So why does none of it work? So many of the gags and beats are direct copies of the first film, but even those moments fail to connect with anything resembling heart or laughter. It’s also known as It Runs In the Family, in case you’re wondering why you didn’t even know this existed.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Noma: My Perfect Storm
What is it? NOMA has been voted “best restaurant in the world” four times, but even its head chef, René Redzepi, knows that’s something of an empty distinction. Of course, that doesn’t mean he isn’t constantly working to keep his restaurant a magical, creative experience for the incredibly wealthy people who enter its doors.
Why rent it? Like most food-based documentaries ‐ the pro-food ones, not the ones warning us about all the terrible, deadly things we’re ingesting ‐ the main draw here is the gorgeously photographed meals. Few of Redzepi’s meals looks all that worth the price, but they sure do look visually appealing. It’s difficult to take his dramas all that seriously though leaving us with pretty food and a slight look at the mentality required to run such an endeavor.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, gallery
The Royals: Season Two
What is it? The effects of King Simon’s murder are still reverberating through the palace halls as the rest of the family work to make their own mark and discover the identity of the assassin.
Why rent it? This series remains a British take on nighttime soaps like Dynasty and Dallas, but this second season finds a life missing from the first. It’s still filled with intrigue and cleavage, but the characters have filled out some and moved beyond a single dimension. Elizabeth Hurley was made for her role as the Queen. If those previously mentioned shows aren’t up your alley though you’ll be hard-pressed to find much of a reason to watch.
[DVD extras: None]
Turn ‐ Washington’s Spies: The Complete Second Season
What is it? The Revolutionary War continues, but morale among the patriots is low after losing Philadelphia to the British. They struggle with battlefield victories, but far from the front lines the secretive spy work orchestrated by George Washington is paying off.
Why rent it? This AMC show doesn’t get much in the way of public love ‐ it’s no Mad Men or Breaking Bad for the network ‐ but history fans should be enjoying much of what it has to offer. Real historical figures mix with fictional ones to tell a big story, one small plot turn at a time. It’s less about the big action and more focused on the smaller intrigues, and that’s sometimes a more engaging take on war-centric stories.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
A Brighter Summer Day (Criterion Collection), City Lights (Criterion Collection), Daddy’s Home, James White, Little House on the Prairie: Season Eight, Tokyo Story (Criterion Collection)
Related Topics: Home Video