Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for August 31st, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes a Netflix Original from Criterion, a Jodie Foster musical, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Beasts of No Nation [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A child soldier comes of age.
Why see it? It’s often forgotten in the conversation of Netflix’s ongoing and ever-growing Original Film slate, but one of their very first acquisitions was Cary Joji Fukunaga’s intensely affecting tale of a boy turned soldier. We see his village razed, him abducted and trained, and we watch helplessly as he struggles to navigate his new world. Idris Elba terrifies as the man in charge, and it’s a film that balances its inner beauty with outer ugliness and terror. It hits hard, and it absolutely should. Criterion’s new Blu-ray adds a fresh commentary with the director, a new documentary on the film’s production, and more.
[Extras: 2K master, commentary by Cary Fukunaga, documentary, interviews, booklet]
Awaken [4K UltraHD]
What is it? ASMR for your eyes and soul.
Why see it? Producer Terrence Malick and the filmmakers behind Koyaanisqatsi deliver a journey of sight and sound that brings viewers around the world on a meditative journey. Brief narration comes courtesy of Liv Tyler, but the bulk of the film features only natural sounds and/or a beautiful score. The focus shifts between natural sights — landscapes, nature, animals — and humans, and the latter never feel intrusive (unlike in real life). We see children playing, adults engaged in craft or work, and all of it plays out in slow motion or time-lapse. It’s a gorgeous, calming watch that serves to remind that the world’s not quite the cesspool humankind makes it out to be.
The Big Steal [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A teen has a crazy time pursuing the girl of his dreams.
Why see it? The coming-of-age romantic comedy isn’t just an American film subgenre, and this 1990b gem from Australia shows great ones come from all over. A very young Ben Mendelsohn stars as a high school senior hoping to impress the girl he likes with his Jaguar, but little goes according to plan leading to hijinks and fun times. It’s a lively film filled with personality and good humor, and it’s great seeing Umbrella celebrate it under their Sunburnt Screens line. Recommended for fans of the subgenre and of Mendelsohn who reveals himself to be a real charmer.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, featurettes, interviews]
The Brotherhood of Satan [Arrow Video]
What is it? A family finds terror in a remote town.
Why see it? I’m not sure why I’ve avoided this 1970 shocker for so long, but I’m happy to report it’s a creepy little gem that should appeal to fans of films like Messiah of Evil. Different plot, of course, but a similar vibe exists here as a small town is far from welcoming to a family passing through. Satanic rumblings, killer kids, and a terrifically dark but ambiguous ending make for a great time. Arrow’s new Blu looks good, and Kim Newman’s commentary offers some interesting insights.
[Extras: Commentary, visual essay, interviews]
Bugsy Malone [Paramount Presents]
What is it? A gangster musical, with kids!
Why see it? Alan Parker’s first musical — he also made Fame (1980), The Commitments (1991), and Evita (1996) — may not have the reputation and respect of his later efforts, but it remains good fun and an entertaining comedy. A cast of child performers bring the gangster tale to life complete with gun fights (cream puff machine guns), cool pedal cars, and molls. Jodie Foster stars alongside some less familiar faces, and it’s just a silly time capped off with a child-like plea for kindness, understanding, and getting along. Kudos to Paramount for remastering it and releasing it for us fans!
[Extras: New remaster, interviews]
Dune [4K UltraHD, Arrow Video]
What is it? A story about white folks looking to spice up their lives.
Why see it? Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic calls home to several novels, but it’s only reached the screen in a single film — at least until the new adaptation opens later this year. David Lynch was the unlikely choice to direct back in the 80s, but while he gives it his best go at a big studio effort, there’s just too much at play here to squeeze into a single film. Still, while the story and characters suffer, you can’t argue with the visuals, atmosphere, and ambition on display here. Even better, fans of the film will want to pick up this gorgeous new 4K release as Arrow has done an outstanding job on both the transfer and the extras. New essays, a poster, and more make up the physical while featurettes and commentaries add context and conversation to the film’s production, reception, and legacy.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, booklet, poster, postcards, commentaries, documentary, featurettes, interviews]
The Overlanders [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A cattle driver undertakes a challenging journey to avoid Japanese forces.
Why see it? World War II saw the Japanese army move south towards Australia, and it set off panic in the sparsely populated Northern Territories. Most people abandoned their homes to head south, but Dan McAlpine decides to drive hundreds of cattle across treacherous territories instead of losing them. The Ealing Studio’s first Australian production, the film is an epic journey that should appeal to western fans as the group faces all manner of threats along the way. The black & white photography captures the landscape well.
[Extras: Commentary, documentary, bonus feature]
Tough Guys Don’t Dance [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A man wakes up from a bender in real trouble.
Why see it? Norman Mailer’s final directorial effort feels like a riff on Jane Fonda’s The Morning After — it’s not, of course, but plot-wise it shares some similarities. (It’s also based on his own novel.) Ryan O’Neal stars as a man who dips his wick in all kinds of trouble and winds up with a decapitated head or two along the way. It’s a thriller infused with character drama and layered with absolute ridiculousness. I probably wouldn’t call it a comedy, but it’s very funny? It’s definitely a film you’ll want to watch without reading too much about, but once you’re finished check out the new interview with Wings Hauser. It’s a great talk, one I wish ran for an hour or more, and it’s even better seeing him look healthy, happy, and relaxed.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, interviews, featurette]
Turkey Shoot [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? An exploitative take on The Most Dangerous Game.
Why see it? Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Ozploitation classic gets a slick release from Umbrella stacked with extras including the film’s soundtrack on CD. The film stars Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey as prisoners sent to a sadistic camp for those who refuse to conform, and they’re subjected to torture, adventure, and… a werewolf dude? I don’t know, it’s bonkers fun, and being an Australian genre picture it’s also filled with action and stunts. It’s a film you want on hand to show people who don’t understand the lengths that Aussie cinema will go for a good time.
[Extras: Soundtrack CD, commentaries, interviews, US cut]
Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Travelers find their way to a boarding house’s menu.
Why see it? As horror/comedies go, this one stars Karen Black, Pat Morita, and Michael Berryman. The supporting cast includes a bevy of Playmates, the better to lure young men to their doom, but while it’s harmlessly silly it’s also pretty forgettable. None of the beats here manage real laughs or thrills, and there aren’t any memorable gore scenes either which leaves viewers with nothing but cleavage, that cast, and the aforementioned silliness. Still, fans will dig Vinegar Syndrome’s newly restored Blu-ray and extras. The Grant Cramer interview is wonderful.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, recipe]
The Devil’s 8 [Code Red]
What is it? A group of convicts are enlisted by a fed.
Why see it? Like The Dirty Dozen before it, this is essentially a story about bad people brought together to do good but dirty work. Unlike that classic, though, this is a pretty meh affair. Christopher George headlines which is a plus, and the supporting cast includes Ron Rifkin, Ralph Meeker, and one or two more familiar faces. Their target is an illegal moonshine operation, and while that plays into certain exploitation tropes for rural American action it doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity for set-pieces beyond gunshots and guys getting roughed up. It’s fine for a B-picture.
[Extras: New 2K scan, interview]
The Gang / Three Men to Kill
What is it? An Alain Delon double feature!
Why see it? Alain Delon is a charismatic guy, but even he can’t quite pull off the perm his character sports throughout The Gang. The film itself is fine and basically a pretty standard affair about a group of thieves, complicated relationships, and one last job you just know won’t end well. Three Men to Kill is the better of the two films here and stars Delon as a man who stumbles into violence, finds himself targeted, and then reveals that he’s far from helpless. It’s a solid thriller from sun-drenched France.
Girls School Screamers [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Bad girls are tasked with cleaning a haunted mansion.
Why see it? Ah the 80s. There are fantastic horror movies from every decade, but the 80s were something special as a home to big fun, bloody gore, and cool practical creations. This 80s effort doesn’t quite achieve any of those highs, but it does deliver a couple entertaining effects along the way. It’s otherwise a fairly familiar effort, but fans will be pleased with Vinegar Syndrome’s rescue and restoration.
[Extras: New 2K scan, documentary, commentaries]
She Freak [AGFA]
What is it? A woman gets a job at a carnival.
Why see it? This late 60s slice of exploitation feels designed as something of a riff on Tod Browning’s Freaks, but while it ends with a lesson — a clearly spoken lesson — on karma, it misses the mark. The tease that’s so clearly laid out in the opening moments is saved for a last minute reveal. Literally the last minute. And while the she of the title is a bad egg she’s just one of many littering this seedy world meaning this ends up feeling like a tale targeting ambitious women. I’m reading too much into it, I know, but whatever. AGFA’s extras are good stuff here.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, shorts]
Also out this week:
12 Mighty Orphans, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fear the Walking Dead – Sixth Season, In the Heights, Mortal Kombat Legends, Rancho Deluxe, Spirit Untamed, Summer of 85, Terminal Island [Vinegar Syndrome, 4K UltraHD], Whatever it Takes [Vinegar Syndrome]
Related Topics: Home Video