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 January 26th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes the second Nick & Nora mystery, classics from Russia and Danny Kaye, Mel Gibson as Santa Claus, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
After the Thin Man [Warner Archive]
What is it? The equally joyous sequel to The Thin Man!
Why see it? The Thin Man franchise doesn’t get enough love — and I say that knowing people love the original and having seen only the first four of six so far — so Warner Archive’s ongoing work bringing them to Blu-ray is a gift for movie lovers. The sequel sees William Powell and Myrna Loy return as the endlessly delightful Nick and Nora Charles, and the pair are pure joy as they banter, show affection, and solve a murder. It’s pure magic, and here’s hoping WB brings the rest of the films to Blu too.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, short, cartoon, radio program]
The Ascent [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A pair of rebels are captured by the enemy with differing fates.
Why see it? This Russian tale ticks off a lot of the expected boxes from Soviet cinema, from its pacing to its heavy themes, but that doesn’t stop it from being a memorable film. Taken on its own merits it’s an at times thrilling and thought-provoking drama about personal strength and faith, but knowing the country’s distaste for Christianity at the time it was made adds an extra layer of respect to its creation and staying power. Criterion’s new release includes numerous supplements documenting and exploring the film’s production and legacy.
[Extras: Introduction, partial commentary, interview, short film, featurettes]
The Court Jester [Paramount Presents]
What is it? The 65th anniversary of a comedy classic!
Why see it? Danny Kaye headlines as a goofy entertainer who gets mixed up in a royal fiasco of mistaken identities, foul play, and romance. Basil Rathbone, Glynis Johns, and a saucy Angela Lansbury co-star in this fast-moving romp filled with witty banter, song and dance, sword fights, and Kaye at his glorious best. Paramount’s new Blu-ray gives it a sharp face-lift, but it’s the film itself that makes this a must-own for comedy fans.
What is it? A hitman is hired to kill Santa Claus.
Why see it? My full review is here, but suffice to say this action/thriller is equal parts silly, suspenseful, and surprising. Walton Goggins plays the hitman hired by a spoiled rich kid upset by the coal beneath his tree, and Mel Gibson brings Santa to life with all the disgruntled, cantankerous attitude you’d expect. The laughs and the action are well-crafted, and while it’s a scrappy little movie it manages some big fun.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
What is it? A mysterious new drug causes all manner of weirdness to those who come in contact with it.
Why see it? My full review is here, but the short version is that Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead’s latest is a wild genre tale about the need for those around us. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play the two leads, co-workers and best friends, and while both men approach life differently the unfolding weirdness draws them closer together — and further apart. It’s a well-paced thriller that gives time to its characters before ramping up the momentum with danger, humor, heart, and a recognition of the good, the bad, and the important in our day to day lives.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scene]
Tales of the Uncanny [Severin Films]
What is it? A documentary about the joys of horror anthology films.
Why see it? Longtime readers know my love for horror anthologies, and while this documentary doesn’t touch on them all it does a damn fine job talking about many of them. Various members of the film community share their knowledge and appreciation for both the form and specific films. All of your favorites are mentioned along with some I was unfamiliar with making this a solid resource for fans.
[Extras: Two features – Eerie Tales, Unusual Tales]
What is it? An autistic boy is befriended by a monster.
Why see it? Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr. star as the parents of a young boy whose autism sees him relegated to communicating with the outside world through his cell phone and its apps. One appears with a monstrous side, and soon the family is dealing with a creature that insists on being the boy’s friend and taking him away. There are some solid enough thrills here along with the cast.
Family Portraits [Severin Films]
What is it? An anthology of heartland terror.
Why see it? Douglas Buck’s anthology film is a feature presentation of a handful of his short films, but while they were made years apart their themes make them work well together. They’re bleak stories about the soulless self destruction of lives given to family life without life itself. It’s a slowburn filled with grim teases that give way to graphic bodily destruction, so consider yourself warned.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentaries, short film, interviews, deleted scenes]
The Pajama Game [Warner Archive]
What is it? A musical about workers rights.
Why see it? The premise and setting — a factory sees its workers preparing to strike — may not feel all that typical for a bright, poppy musical, but that’s what you’ll get here all the same. Doris Day headlines and delivers her expectedly peppy song and dance numbers, and a requisite romance is included as well. Fans of musicals will get more from the film than others as the characters and story aren’t all that engaging, but if you are here for the music you’re in for a good time.
[Extras: Deleted song]
Room for One More [Warner Archive]
What is it? A couple takes in foster children.
Why see it? Cary Grant is always a star worth watching as he’s invariably charming and entertaining no matter the role. That stands here as he co-stars alongside his real-life wife, Betsy Drake, in a sweet comedy about making a family out of spare parts. The kids are trouble until they’re not, and there’s warmth in the love that eventually forms between them all.
[Extras: WB cartoons]
Snowpiercer – Season One
What is it? A post-apocalyptic tale of human fallibility and perpetual motion.
Why see it? Bong Joon-ho’s solid slice of sci-fi/action gets the television series treatment, and the results are pretty okay! The story is stretched, obviously, but this first season finds enough new thrills to maintain interest. Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly are the two big names here, and both bring charisma and depth to their roles. The world-building is well-crafted too, so the only real obstacle to enjoying the show is understanding that the characters trying to reach the front of the train… can never be allowed to reach it as it would be the end of the series.
Southland Tales [Arrow Video]
What is it? A convoluted tale of ambition and the end of the world.
Why see it? Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko took its time becoming a cult hit, and the same fate may eventually fall on his follow-up. Maybe. The film, in either the theatrical or Cannes cuts (both included here), is a stuffed hybrid of genres, and while none of it arguably works there’s no doubting the big swings that Kelly and his cast are taking. Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Christopher lambert, Jon Lovitz, Amy Poehler, and more make for an eclectic roster. It’s a ride although I’m unconvinced it’s a good one. Still, Arrow’s new two-disc Blu-ray is a treat for fans as it’s packed with extras including a pretty informative documentary exploring the film’s production.
[Extras: New 2K remasters of both cuts, commentary, making of, featurette, short film]
Theatre Bizarre [Severin Films]
What is it? An anthology hosted by Udo Kier.
Why see it? The premise here is essentially a gift to seven genre filmmakers who were each tasked with making a short film without restraints. Some are supernatural, others are more straightforward, and several of them aren’t shy about the lady bits. It’s a frequently bloody affair, and Kier’s turn as the ringmaster holds it together with a creepy sense of atmosphere and styled ugliness. Genre fans will want to give it a spin.
[Extras: Commentaries, making of, featurettes, interview]
Also out this week:
Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Border Town – Season One, Doom Patrol – Season Two, Gamera: The Heisei Era, Gamera: The Showa Era, Good News [Warner Archive], Impetigore, Trafficked
Related Topics: Home Video