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17 New Releases to Watch at Home This Week

By  · Published on May 2nd, 2016

Welcome back to our look at this week’s new releases for home viewing!

Pick of the Week

The Club

What is it? Four priests share a modest home in a small coastal town where they keep to themselves and raise a greyhound dog for racing. A nun lives with them as both their den mother and public face ‐ they’re not allowed contact with anyone outside of the house. Their haven is shaken up when a new priest arrives, like them, a man being hidden away by the Church, but unlike them he’s unable to find peace there leading to a shocking act of violence that threatens them all.

Why rent it? Pablo Larrain’s (No) latest is a pitch black look at one of organized religion’s many dark sides. The recent Oscar winner, Spotlight, explored the Catholic church’s massive efforts to hide away “trouble” priests, but Larrain zeroes in on just one such home while finding just as much to condemn. These people have committed crimes ‐ some literal and others in the eyes of God ‐ but while the world views them as monsters they themselves tend to disagree. It’s an incredibly dark film in both action and theme, and its ability to make these people feel even remotely like victims is a trick that pays off in unexpected ways.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview, press conference]

The Best

High-Rise [VOD release]

What is it? Dr. Robert Lang (Tom Hiddleston) settles into his new home in fancy, high-tech apartment building, but all is not well in the tower. Tenants are divided physically and financially by floors with the wealthy looking down on the poor from above. It’s a delicately balanced microcosm of society, and it’s just one outrage away from combustion. Cue the incendiary outrage…

Why watch it? Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of the J.G. Ballard classic is an incredibly funny and absurd look at class, blind consumerism, and the destabilization of community. The film spills its societal indictment onto the screen very early on, and while the random acts of violence and catering grow in intensity the theme remains the same. Things escalate, but the film simply plateaus partway through ‐ at an admittedly entertaining state ‐ and then eventually comes to an end. This is less a negative than a statement of fact, but it and its now quaint (albeit still cynical) observation on society prevent the film from becoming much more than “just” a ridiculously fun and intensely aware experience. Still, while it lacks the satirical gut punch enjoyed by readers in the ’70s, the film remains an absurdly fun watch.


What is it? Zev (Christopher Plummer) lives in a retirement home with his wife, but when she passes all he has left is Alzheimer’s disease and his friend Max (Martin Landau). Well, as Max reminds him, he also has a plan. The Nazi who murdered his family in a prison camp decades prior is living in America under an assumed name, and Zev is going to get revenge if it takes his final breath.

Why rent it? Plummer mesmerizes here with a performance filled with rage, loss, and confusion, and he’s more than enough of a reason to give this one a watch. Happily it’s also a smart and suspenseful little thriller with director Atom Egoyan (Exotica) and writer Benjamin August crafting an unusual revenge tale around an atypical protagonist. It doesn’t play out like you might expect from the genre, and that adds both tension and weight in an unlikely ways.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]

The Rest

The 5th Wave

What is it? An alien ship appears in the sky, soon followed by others, and while they at first appear to pose no threat their tune changes with a series of categorized assaults on humanity. Natural disasters and plagues eventually give way to humans being turned on each other by the alien parasites attached to their brains.

Why skip it? It turns out The 5th Wave will be the last wave in more ways than one as the box-office take has killed any chance of a sequel. Of course, that alone doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Instead, the fact that it’s a bad movie makes it a bad movie. The writing is pretty bad ‐ surprise, Akiva Goldsman co-wrote the screenplay! ‐ as characters behave stupidly and the story itself fails to properly execute its need for teen leads. The argument it makes as to why the teens are being trained for battle is laughable and is part of why the plot is so predictable. Skip it and watch Beautiful Creatures instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, gag reel, commentary with the director and Chloe Grace Moretz]

The Choice

What is it? Travis (Benjamin Walker) loves the ladies and his casual bachelor lifestyle, but when he meets Gabby (Teresa Palmer, Restraint) he chooses monogamy. But Gabby already has a boyfriend! Life goes on, more choices are made, and then much later a bigger choice has to be made involving love and stuff.

Why skip it? Nicholas Sparks adaptations aren’t inherently bad ‐ the first, Message in a Bottle, is still a solid romance ‐ but too many of them are just so damn generic. White couple falls in love, and someone gets sick or faces a major life dilemma. Sometimes it works to create drama, but often it doesn’t, and this latest entry in the Sparks canon falls under the latter. Palmer is always a delight, but neither lead character is even remotely interesting meaning their love story is equally dull. Skip it and watch the far more romantic Sophie’s Choice instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, featurettes, music video, commentary]

Easy Rider (Criterion Collection)

What is it? Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are friends and bikers who feel a bit removed from the late ’60s America all around them. Conservative values have given way to (and emboldened) both hatred and bigotry, and the result is a country that expects conformity while squashing the individual spirit.

Why rent it? Hopper’s directorial debut (co-written with Fonda and Terry Southern) is an ode to a time and a place that we still, sadly, catch a glimpse of in today’s United States. The film’s power and message, in its time, were undeniable, but watching it today leaves a bit to be desired. More a series of vignettes than a proper narrative, the film too frequently drags and wanders, and neither lead is all that charismatic as they ride their way across country. All of this builds to an ending that may have shocked audiences in ’69 but now just rings hollow. Criterion’s release will please the film’s countless fans though with a brand new HD transfer alongside comprehensive documentaries and commentaries.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, making of documentaries, interviews]


What is it? Dan and Joyce are the happy parents of three little kids, but they’re in desperate need of a break. Coincidence and manipulation lead to their hiring of a new-to-them babysitter named Emelie (Sarah Bolger), but while she passes initial muster once the door closes her true colors come clear. She lets the kids eat excessive sweets, allows the youngest to scale an unsafe shelf, and after snooping around the house she also forces the kids to watch their parents’ sex tape. The oldest knows something is amiss, but his suspicions are temporarily interrupted when Emelie invites him into the bathroom to watch her pee and insert a tampon. (They sure don’t make sexy, older babysitters like they used to.) As the night wears on though he realizes she’s up to more than just careless exhibitionism ‐ and not everyone’s going to make it to the morning.

Why rent it? There’s a terrific first half here as the setup reveals an immediate threat but then takes its time with the details. We know Emelie is up to no good from the start, but rather than jump into some manner of slaughter she toys with three kids in increasingly twisted and perverse ways. Her disdain is clear and at times we feel just moments away from seeing one of the tykes bite the dust, but those moments of suspense and discomfort come to an end once Emelie’s motivations come clear. It’s not that her motives are bad ‐ they’re actually sound and grounded in something real ‐ but they make little to no sense when paired with all that came before and all that comes after. Her end goal is clear, but her path to achieving it is utterly nonsensical. Still, Bolger’s deliciously dark turn and a handful of fun beats make it worth your time.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

The Haunting of Alice D

What is it? A man hosts a party in a mansion that once belonged to an overly cruel ancestor who dabbled in sex slavery, and his antics awaken something in the walls. Over a century ago a young woman forced into prostitution took her revenge and her life, and now she’s back for more.

Why skip it? Ignore the mind-boggling blurbs on the DVD cover because all three of them are absolute b.s. Nothing about this movie works ‐ the acting is bad to mediocre, the sound design is atrocious, the script is incredibly basic, the effects are ineffective, the characters fail to earn our care or concern, the scares are non-existent ‐ and even at 79 minutes it’s a chore to sit through. Skip it and watch We Are Still Here instead.

[DVD extras: None]

Hostile Border

What is it? Claudia has lived in the United States for most of her young life, but she’s technically an undocumented immigrant. She’s fully embraced the American dream by refusing to learn Spanish and supporting herself through crime, but when her actions catch up to her she’s deported to her now foreign homeland of Mexico. Her father feels little connection with the English-speaking thief, and Claudia is forced to choose between fighting for his approval or taking the easier route of more criminal activities.

Why rent it? Dramatic thrillers focused on the U.S./Mexico border typically set their sights on armed conflict (Sicario) or psycho patriots (Desierto), but while Claudia wants desperately to return to the U.S. the film’s mainly about her new conflict and relationships. That gives things a fresh spin, and the story engages because of it. The third act grows a bit more traditional and our affection for Claudia is rarely strong, but the cast and story hold our attention throughout.

[DVD extras: None]

Hyena Road

What is it? A squad of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan comes under attack by a larger force and is forced to take refuge in a remote village where they come face to face with a legendary freedom fighter. An intelligence officer (Paul Gross, Slings & Arrows) realigns the mission to reconnect with the man.

Why skip it? Gross, who also wrote and directed the film, gives an engaging supporting turn here, but the film itself fails to be nearly as compelling. Some scenes feel authentic in their build-up, but once the action starts the CG blood/explosions distract and deflate in equal measure. Much better action sequences would have also helped make up for the lackluster and cliched script. Skip it and watch I Declare War instead.

[DVD extras: Featurettes]

Jack of the Red Hearts

What is it? Jack (AnnaSophia Robb) and her younger sister are orphans working scams and the system to stay together, but when she ends up on her own Jack is forced to aim for something bigger. She talks her way into taking care of a young autistic girl and discovers maturity and love before it all threatens to fall apart.

Why rent it? Robb does good work here on both sides of the moral divide ‐ she’s a devious little criminal early on, but her deception opens her up to maturity ‐ and her journey is worth watching. Her dealings with the autistic girl could easily slip into annoyance, less a comment on the condition than it is on its portrayal in film/TV, but the growing friendship here is more affecting. Parts of the story do strain credibility, including elements of the ending, but the positives outweigh the issues.

[DVD extras: None]


What is it? Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is living a chaotic and noisy life. She’s a single mother with a dead-end job, a bed-ridden mom (Virginia Madsen), an ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) in her basement, and a head buzzing with the realization that somewhere along the line she gave up on her childhood dream of becoming an inventor. A flash of inspiration comes one day while cleaning the floor, and suddenly Joy is the proud creator of the self-wringing Miracle Mop. Numerous obstacles rear their ugly heads in her pursuit of the American Dream, but she’s a strong woman, and with financial help from her father (Robert De Niro) the journey leads to a QVC producer (Bradley Cooper) and a chance at selling her mop to a national audience on TV.

Why rent it? We’re told the mop’s fantastic, but we never see that it’s fantastic. Joy isn’t a movie about a mop, but this one element is illustrative of the film’s main problem overall. We’re told everything, and far too frequently the result is that we’re rarely given the chance to feel it for ourselves without a character alerting us that we should be outraged, sad, happy, etc. Worse, it’s all told so loudly. As sloppy as the narrative is though writer/director David O. Russell knows his leading lady is an undeniably powerful presence. Lawrence is still only in her mid-twenties, and portraying older women who’ve lived fuller lives should theoretically be outside of her extended range. She has a fire though, and when combined with her acting talent even our knowledge of her youth falls before her performance.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interview]

Mojin: The Lost Legend

What is it? An adventuresome trio has made a career and a life from exploring old tombs and recovering valuable artifacts, but they give up the game and retire to America where financial despair awaits. They’re pulled back into the game though when a love interest long thought lost resurfaces.

Why rent it? There’s fun to be had with this Raiders of the Lost Ark-like adventure ‐ and I’m not just referring to Angelebaby ‐ as our heroes find themselves in over their head due to threats from both a legendary tomb and evil competitors. It relies a bit too much on CG leaving some of the set-pieces lacking in tangible thrills, but the characters have a bit of depth and and the beats are fun. It sure does run a bit longer than necessary though for the story it’s wanting to tell.

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

Sacrifice [VOD release]

What is it? Tora (Radha Mitchell) is a surgeon in need of a fresh start after she encounters troubles in her attempts at becoming a mother. She and her husband move to the small island off the coast of Scotland where his family resides, but while everything seems fine there’s something amiss beneath the small community’s surface. A corpse is found buried on her property, and strange markings on the body indicate cult-related shenanigans.

Why watch it? The short answer here is Mitchell. An ideal world would gift us with a new Radha Mitchell thriller each week, but instead we need to settle for one or two per year. This isn’t one of her best, unfortunately ‐ it’s a simple setup that unfolds pretty much as you expect ‐ but she remains compelling throughout.

Scherzo Diabolico

What is it? Aram has had enough. His wife nags and gives him a cold shoulder, and while he works hard his boss still walks all over him. So of course he abducts a teenage girl, terrorizes her, and takes nude pics of her. His “plan” works at first as the rest of his life starts falling into place, but soon his actions catch up with him.

Why skip it? Director Adrian Garcia Bogliana’s previous film is a very cool werewolf flick complete with smart writing and fantastic creature effects, so why are so many of his other movies so unappealing and low-rent? His latest is no different as a cheapness pervades everything from the visuals to the performances, and the script seems to exist solely to get women to disrobe for his camera. It definitely isn’t telling an engaging story. Skip it and watch Late Phases instead.

[DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, music video]

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (Scream Factory)

What is it? Fracking is dangerous business to local residents, and that’s never been more true then when a series of earth-shaking efforts open a hole in the swamp floor. Deadly prehistoric sharks escape up into our world and begin munching their way through the populace which includes a gaggle of female prisoners on work duty.

Why skip it? Woof. The issue isn’t that this is a low budget thriller or that it’s a made-for-TV one, but the problem here is that it’s just so damn bad. The sharks are all CG ‐ atrocious CG ‐ and not even their idiotic turn into Tremors-like antics makes them interesting. It still could have been salvaged by a fun script and/or some T&A ‐ but the movie features neither. Skip it and watch Chopping Mall instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]

Submerged (Scream Factory)

What is it? A limo driver awakens behind the wheel and several feet under water with five passengers trapped along with him. Flashbacks reveal how they all got there while they struggle in the present to escape and avoid the armed scuba divers outside.

Why skip it? Director Steven C. Miller (Silent Night) has made good movies before, but this is decidedly not one of them. The script is wholly to blame as the structure and characters are helping no one. Subplots and seemingly unimportant characters played by notable actors take time away from the immediate threat, while most of the “teens” trapped in the car behave consistently like obnoxious pricks. The situation lacks suspense or tension, and it’s not long before you start rooting for the water. Skip it and watch Wrecked instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Also Out This Week

Arabian Nights, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, East Side Sushi, Janis: Little Girl Blue, A Royal Night Out, Sniper: Special Ops

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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.