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Pick of the Week
What is it? A routine space ship journey heads off course into oblivion.
Why see it? This film adapted from a poem is science-fiction more interested in humanity’s inner struggles than our outward ones, but while you’ll find no real action sequences here it still hits with a firm and painful punch to the gut. It’s divided into chapters, each signifying a passage of time, and what starts with hours and weeks soon becomes years. It’s every bit a disaster movie, though, despite the time period covered, but rather than attempt to survive the immediate accident the goal is to outlast its echoing effects. Aniara isn’t technically a horror film, but it’s ultimately as upsetting and oppressive as more traditionally harrowing fare.
What is it? A cop pursues bad guys.
Why see it? This Hong Kong gem is one of the year’s best action films thanks to its numerous and beautifully executed fight sequences. We get some brutality from the bad guy, some reluctant heart from the hero, and a whole lot of ass-kicking, and that my friend is a perfect combination. It’s a fast-moving thriller with blistering action set against some fresh backdrops including grimy alleys, Hong Kong slums, and more before culminating aboard a ship rocking to the waves, rain, and wind of a typhoon. Add this to the list of Zhang Jin-starring winners that already includes SPL 2 and Ip Man 3.
What is it? A cop goes undercover to catch a killer.
Why see it? William Friedkin’s a filmmaker used to controversy, but few incidents exploded as much as this thriller about a cop trying to catch a madman killing gay men. It’s a sweaty, engrossing tale that energizes the slasher genre — it’s also a drama and a procedural — by playing with what we see and hear in fascinating ways. I’ll let you discover that on your on, though, and will simply praise it as a terrific and still-fresh exploration of a world foreign to most of us paired with the thrills of a genre gem. Arrow’s new Blu-ray features an absolutely gorgeous restoration in addition to a new commentary with Friedkin making this a must-own release.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentaries, featurettes]
What is it? A slave goes searching for her son.
Why see it? Harry Pollard’s extravagant and expensive feature turns a harrowing reality into a dramatic adventure complete with a big cast and bigger set-pieces. It’s not free of troubles to today’s eyes, but it’s still more insightful and fair than you might expect. The restored film is well worth a watch, but the big draw here is Kino’s commitment to the film in its varied formats. New 2K masters of earlier adaptations from 1910 and 1914 are included alongside the 1958 reissue of the main feature. It’s a lot to take in but works to make this an important release.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, essay, three additional versions]
What is it? A young boy discovers a conspiracy of witches.
Why see it? Roald Dahl, Jim Henson, and Nicolas Roeg don’t seem like the ideal pairing to bring a film to life, but their sole collaboration is a gem of creepy, unsettling children’s entertainment. Angelica Huston’s lead witch is a nightmare walking, and while the focus is on their playful shenanigans in pursuit of a child — who’s been turned into a mouse because he’s onto their scheme — we get plenty of scenes built on dark humor, suspense, and the witches’ monstrous intentions.
What is it? An aspiring reggae musician gets caught up in corruption.
Why see it? Jimmy Cliff’s foray into film sees him struggle against bad music producers, gangsters, and more, and for fans of the man’s music it’s a burst of energy as his songs come to life. It’s a rough film, though, and if you lack the connection to Cliff there’s every chance the movie alone won’t cut it thanks to its low budget and drawn out feel. Still, Shout Factory has done a tremendous job crafting this release for fans as it’s packed with goodness and extras.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, featurettes, interviews, music video, second feature]
What is it? A remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Why see it? The appeal behind a gender-flipped take on a successful comedy is understandable, but the challenge of matching Steve Martin and Michael Caine’s comic perfection proves elusive here. It’s hard to blame Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson as they’re doing what they do, but the script is just atrociously unfunny leaving them nothing to work with. The locales are lovely though.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary]
What is it? A playboy finds meaning after a near-death experience.
Why see it? Douglas Sirk’s melodrama walks a fine line between an engaging character study and an over the top drama filled with coincidence and exaggeration. The cast helps sell the story with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman both doing good work as the motivating forces behind the romantic drama, and Sirk’s camera captures their ups and downs in attractive and bright colors. It’s the kind of film you shake your head at even as you sink into its warmth. Criterion’s new disc includes an earlier adaptation of the famed novel as well.
[Extras: Commentary, 1935 adaptation, documentary, interviews]
What is it? A playboy falls in love with a showgirl.
Why see it? Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger were a thing back in the 90s, and while it got us solid enough remakes like The Getaway it also got us passable romantic comedies like this one. Both leads are at their biggest and most charismatic here, for better and worse, and fans will find their chemistry appealing. Much of the comedy and romance feel overly familiar, but they carry it through.
Also out this week:
4D Man [KL Studio Classics], Akio Kissoji [Arrow Academy], American Gods – Season Two, Arrow – Season Seven, The Assault, The Biggest Little Farm, Billy the Kid vs Dracula [KL Studio Classics], Brightburn, Buster Keaton Collection – Volume 3, Dinosaurus! [KL Studio Classics], Horror of Frankenstein [Scream Factory], Last Year at Marienbad, The Sun is Also a Star, Sweet Charity [KL Studio Classics], Uncle Tom’s Cabin [KL Studio Classics], The Walking Dead – The Complete Ninth Season, The Wild Pear Tree