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22 New Movies to Watch at Home This Week

By  · Published on August 11th, 2015

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

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Tobi (Patrick Stewart) is an eccentric ballet instructor at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City who fills his free time with knitting, drinking and rooftop dancing in place of personal connections. He grants an interview to a woman (Carla Gugino) working on a dissertation about dance troupes in the ’60s. Her husband (Matthew Lillard) is along for the ride, but as the interview progresses it becomes clear that the couple may be there under false pretenses.

“I love my life. I regret my life,” says Tobi. “The lines eventually blur, and it’s just my life.” This feels very much like an adaptation of a play, which it is, but Stewart’s dialogue is so sharp and colorful that he can’t help but leap from the screen. Lillard plays his over-written character a bit too big, but Stewart and Gugino find an incredible chemistry in their quickly developing friendship. There’s some suspense here as the story unfolds, but the “mystery” at its core is really secondary to the bonds being built and destroyed over one evening.

[DVD extras: None]

Agnes Varda in California (Criterion)

Sometimes knowledge of context and the links between films can seriously enrich the experience of viewing. This is certainly true for Criterion’s forty-third Eclipse set, which collects together the various works that French New Wave director Agnes Varda made in Los Angeles between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. Comprising of shorts and features, narratives and documentaries, this set provides a fascinating lens into the look and feel of a diverse and radically changing California through the eyes of an observant filmmaker, and shows how the same materials can produce a myriad of results across different modes of filmmaking.

A rewarding set of deep cuts, Agnes Varda in California shows how a particular place as a site of inspiration can blur the line between fact and fiction, filmmaker and subject. Particularly of note here are two titles: Varda’s carnivalesque portrait of counter-cultural Hollywood, Lions Love (…and Lies) and a hilarious personal documentary tribute to her eccentric uncle, Uncle Yanco. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Criterion)

In adapting the novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman to screen, writer Harold Pinter and director Karl Reisz struggled with figuring out how to adapt the spirit of John Fowles’s postmodern, almost clinically academic examination of an illicit Victorian romance. The filmmkers did so by putting a present tense spin on it, resulting in a film about the making of a film of the novel in which the actors depicting an affair are themselves involved in an affair. Thus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman switches back and forth between perspectives of romance that violate the bonds of marriage across two centuries.

Rather than realizing a clever, winking take on difficult source material, this decision produced a surprisingly natural, intricate, and deft depiction of doomed romance with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep (in the role that earned her first Best Leading Actress Oscar nomination) more than game to embody two characters each that stretch across different eras, revealing a deeply felt and rather intelligent portrait of the complex entanglements between society, gender and romance across distinct points in history. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New interviews with Irons, Streep, crew, and a film scholar; episode of The South Bank Show featuring Reisz, Pinter, and Fowles; trailer, illustrated booklet with essay by scholar Lucy Bolton]

The Front Page

Hildy Johnson is hard-nosed, successful reporter who decides to hang up his news cap to marry the other love of his life, but hours before he’s due to begin his honeymoon the city’s biggest story gets even bigger. A death row inmate escapes custody and ends up in the press room under everyone’s noses. Hildy can’t resist the pull of the story, especially when a whole new truth comes to light, and it becomes a race against time protecting the man from detection by either reporters or authorities.

I’m more partial to Billy Wilder’s remake in the ’70s due in large part to its cast including Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Charles Durning, Susan Sarandon, Austin Pendleton and others, but the equally energetic and madcap pace of the original is undeniable. The 1931 version also deserves respect as one of the precursors to the screwball comedy genre, something it masters right out of the gate with fast dialogue, sharp humor and biting commentary to boot.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Twilight Time)

Matt (Spencer Tracy) and Christina (Katharine Hepburn) are happily married and the parents to a wise and wonderful young woman named Joey (Katharine Houghton). She returns home from a trip to Hawaii with big news and a special guest ‐ her fiance John (Sidney Poitier). Her parents may fancy themselves as celebrated liberals, but this is one litmus test they never thought they’d have to face.

This was a first-time watch for me, and I’m happy to say that nearly half a century after its premiere the film holds up incredibly well. Society’s come a long way, albeit not far enough, but even beyond the issues of culture and racism on tap in the film it remains a sharply-written, beautifully-acted and extremely funny experience. Poitier’s speech at the end transcends race to focus on the responsibilities of parents toward their children, and it’s brilliant. Order Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner from Screen Archives Entertainment.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, newsreels]

The People Under the Stairs

Fool is a young boy trying to survive in desperate times, but even he knows to avoid the creepy old house on the corner. His hand is forced though when some local thugs (including Ving Rhames) strongly require his assistance robbing the place. Things go south quickly when the secrets of the home and its inhabitants come dangerously clear.

I still hate the ending to Wes Craven’s early-’90s thriller ‐ hate it in all its cheesy, optimistic, joy-filled glory ‐ but the rest of the film remains one of Craven’s most entertaining and wild films. S&M killers, monstrous basement-dwellers and a captive girl (AJ Langer) up the excitement and energy while the far from subtle commentary on America’s economic woes flows freely throughout. Thankfully the thickness of that message only hurts the ending as the rest of the film moves well alternating between atmospheric terror and goofy comedy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews, behind the scenes]

2 Broke Girls: The Complete Fourth Season

Max and Caroline have seen their side business ‐ cupcakes! ‐ slide in popularity so they begin searching for something new to build their dreams on. That journey has ups and downs, but the one constant is laughs! Look, I still don’t get the appeal here. It’s not quite Two and a Half Men bad, but the punchlines here fall so flat and the laugh track echoes so loudly

[DVD extras: Unaired scenes, gag reel]

Dig: Season One

Peter Connelly (Jason Isaacs) is an FBI agent pursuing a case in the holy city of Jerusalem, but the grounded crimes her was doggedly after morph into something far grander when a conspiracy comes to light involving a world-shattering prophecy. The show does a good job of layering in the mysteries, teases and revelations ‐ and there are a lot of each here ‐ but it’s in no rush to answer even a small number of them. Still, Isaacs makes for an unusual and appealing lead as the twists slowly unravel to reveal the truth. The setting adds an interesting atmosphere to the tale too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season

The epic tale of the building of America’s East to West Union Pacific Railroad continues as the men behind it lay claim to the growing city of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Like Deadwood with tougher ratings restrictions, the series features a wide array of motivated, morally-suspect characters doing terrible things to each other. Anson Mount and Colm Meaney lead a strong cast that brings the highs and lows of the dirt and muck-covered story to life.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Hot Pursuit

Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is something of a laughing stock among her peers, but the case of a lifetime lands in her lap when a simple protection assignment leaves her and a drug dealer’s widow (Sofia Vergara) on the run from villains and corrupt cops alike. It’s great seeing Witherspoon in a fast-moving comedy again, but the joy she brings is muted just ten minutes in by Vergara’s arrival. From that point on the movie is a loud, unfunny mess that sets female buddy comedies back decades.

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

House of Bamboo (Twilight Time)

A gang of ruthless Americans runs rampant in post-World War II Tokyo, and while they usually leave only bodies in their wake their latest robbery sees one of their own go down. Before dying he reveals he’s married to a Japanese woman named Mariko (Shirley Yamaguchi), and when a supposed friend (Robert Stack) of her husband’s arrives in the country he falls for her as well. Things grow even more complicated when he joins that same gang too. Director Samuel Fuller’s 1955 film succeeds best as an unusual noir ‐ unusual for it locale ‐ and features some fine sequences of suspense and action. The romance between Eddie (Stack) and Mariko is far less successful though as not only does she bounce far too quickly from her dead husband but the two also have minimal chemistry. Order House of Bamboo from Screen Archives Entertainment.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, newsreels]

I Am Chris Farley

Chris Farley died too young, but he left behind plenty of material that continues to make people laugh on repeat viewings. This biographical documentary features some of his best-remembered bits, but the meat of it is in the shared memories of those who knew and loved him. Family members join Adam Sandler, David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Mike Myers and others as they remember his life. There are no surprises or deep dramas here, instead it’s a simple act of appreciation for a lost talent.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]


A young man with little in his life worth valuing fills his time reviewing apps online, but when he begins using a mysterious new app called i-Lived he finds it has a fantastic effect on that previously terrible existence. Everything starts coming together for him, but then he reads the user agreement and discovers what he’s actually signed on for. The problem here is two-fold. First, the lead actor/character is immensely annoying with his “funny” voices and even “funnier” jokes, and second? The movie takes 100 minutes to riff poorly on something that South Park tackled in 22.

[DVD extras: Second screen experience]

The Knick: The Complete First Season

New York City in 1900 is a foul, dirty and corrupt place pretending to be something far more proper. Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) is Chief Surgeon at the struggling Knickerbocker Hospital, and as he works to save lives and perfect his abilities he also faces the changing times and a drug addiction that won’t release its grasp. Steven Soderbergh’s Cinemax series is a richly-detailed period drama along the lines of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Deadwood with its moral grays, prejudices and historical touches, but its focus on early medical practice offers a new world to explore. The shaky-cam and occasionally over-the-top dialogue are mood-killers, but the graphic surgeries are difficult to turn away from.

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

A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (Twilight Time)

Three couples converge on a remote country house for a weekend celebration, and their various relationships come into question as conversations, interactions and mental fondlings come into play. Woody Allen’s early ’80s romantic comedy features some fun, fast banter from an accomplished cast including Allen, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer, Julie Hagerty, Tony Roberts, and Mary Steenburgen. It’s not quite a laugh out loud experience, but it’s amusing enough watching Allen’s characters talk themselves into and out of trouble. Order A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy from Screen Archives Entertainment.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

The Monster That Challenged the World

Bearing perhaps the funniest title of any ’50s B-creature feature (I picture a monster forcing the world to read Sartre or something), this genre entry following an attack of giant mollusks that prey on the Navy men and residents of California’s Salton Sea can indeed provide silly fun in the MST3K vein. But there’s also material here that rewards treating such movies seriously, including a Godzilla-esque subplot about the monsters as a nuclear byproduct of this man-made “sea” and a creature realized by some still-impressive costumed effects. These are, after all, the B-film formulas that eventually transformed into Hollywood’s contemporary bread-and-butter. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]

Northmen: A Viking Saga

A ship filled with Vikings sinks in a storm off the Scottish coast, and as the survivors clamor to shore they find themselves immediately thrust into battle with the locals. The fight ends with the king’s daughter as their hostage and the king’s army hot on their trail making their efforts to get back home seem more and more futile. The Viking craze gets a gritty and perfectly okay feature here. It’s surprisingly light on the bloodshed, but the fights and set-pieces are entertaining enough.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Person of Interest: The Complete Fourth Season

Who watches the watchers? A computer does, that’s who, and it seems only fair as the malicious Samaritan A.I. is targeting a team who themselves work at the mercy off another machine nicknamed “The Machine.” The team uses info from The Machine to help people who don’t even know they’re in danger yet, but Samaritan’s goals are far more dangerous. CBS’ paranoia-themed action show is must-watch material strictly for the presence of Amy Acker, but the story lines do a good job holding viewers’ attention too.

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

Police Story: Lockdown

Wen (Jackie Chan) has been a cop for a long time, and he wears the weariness in his every movement and expression. When some gangsters take a club filled with people hostage ‐ including Wen and his daughter ‐ the aging policeman is forced dig deep for the strength to fight one last time. Chan’s Police Story series delivered three incredible films (Police Story 1, 2 and Supercop) and one solidly entertaining sequel (First Strike) before going into hibernation. Chan revived it in 2004 with the good and gritty New Police Story, and now he’s at it again with somewhat less appealing results. The story is scattershot, the action is frequently unimpressive and the photography is unappealing. But still, it’s Chan, so I can’t help but enjoy it to some degree.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, behind the scenes]

Scandal: The Complete Fourth Season

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is Washington DC’s best fixer, but recent events have left her and her firm shattered. Conflicts with past allies and even a certain family member make rebuilding difficult, but Pope has never been one to back away from a fight. Shonda Rhimes’ twisty political drama is more than a little ridiculous at times ‐ should the President of the United States have time in his schedule to be a part of every episode’s drama? ‐ but there’s real chemistry among the team (aside from the redhead who really doesn’t work here), and the stories offer a fun variety of conflicts and resolutions. Pope’s certainty is troublesome ‐ her gut is always right! Except when it’s not! ‐ but again, the fun craziness of it all entertains.

[DVD extras: Extended episodes, featurette, bloopers]

Summer Lovers (Twilight Time)

Michael (Peter Gallagher) and Cathy (Daryl Hannah) arrive on the Greek isle of Santorini for two months of fun in the sun, but their vacation ends up giving them an unexpected surprise in the form of Nina. The three grow close ‐ very close, wink wink nudge nudge ‐ but like all things their summer fling must soon come to an end. The director of Blue Lagoon delivers another classic from my youthful viewings of late-night HBO, and it succeeds in capturing a Greece that no longer exists thanks to politics, HIV, and advances in personal grooming habits. It’s loaded with tan, naked bodies, and while it’s primarily a slight and sexy relationship drama there are enough comedic bits along the way to add some laughs amid the flesh. Order Summer Lovers from Screen Archives Entertainment.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of, featurette, screen test]


A group of friends chatting online are disturbed by the arrival of a mysterious presence they can’t seem to delete from the connection. Things turn horrific when the uninvited guest starts dropping shocking revelations about the friends and their connection to a recent suicide. The film’s technical merits are outstanding and shape the entire thing into feeling like a true 80 minutes of online activity ‐ you may even find yourself reaching for your own mouse once or twice ‐ and the cast deliver as well moving from casual banter to fear-induced moments of stress to sheer terror. Less successful, and what ultimately holds the film back (and from reaching the terrifying heights of the similarly laptop-based The Den) is the script. The friends’ behaviors feel artificially-structured to keep them at their computers, and the end revelation is something viewers have figured out in the first ten minutes. It’s a slick ride though.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Dead Silence, The January Man, Soaked in Bleach, Still of the Night

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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.