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Pick of the Week
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark [Warner Archive]
What is it? A young couple inherits an old home and the demons within.
Why see it? This made-for-television film is from 1973, but it holds up beautifully with some great atmosphere and scares as well as some fun (and still effective) effects work. The house’s demons are little creatures brought to life through shenanigans and the use of over-sized sets. It’s a creepy gem and still one of the best and scariest TV movies. Warner’s new Blu-ray looks beautiful and features two commentary tracks from knowledgeable folks adding more insight into the film and its production.
What is it? A trio of capable women fight bad guys at the behest of some other dude.
Why see it? McG’s feature adaptation of the popular 70s television series split audiences with its ramped up comedy and action, but with due respect to the purists this is a fun, goofy movie. Sure the emotional beats all ring hollow, but who cares when we have Bill Murray having a blast as Bosley and Sam Rockwell killing it as the villain. The three leads — Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz — are havign an equally great time, and McG’s action/editing chops keep things nice and lively. The new 4K UltraHD upgrade pairs well with the film’s kinetic visual style.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary, bloopers, deleted scenes, music videos]
The Dead Center [Arrow Video]
What is it? A psych ward patient has bigger troubles than mere sanity.
Why see it? Solid and sometimes creepy thriller that gives you just enough information to stay interested without filling the screen with exposition and explanation. Shane Carruth (writer/director of the brilliant Upstream Color) leads a tale tackling mental illness, oversaturated hospitals, and *something* deadly from beyond death, and it treats each element with an eye for the serious. A slow burn at times, but the finale cuts loose with a high body count (including some kids, which alone makes it a must-see).
[Extras: Commentaries, documentary, deleted scenes, interviews, short films, radio plays]
Galaxy Quest – Steelbook
What is it? The cast of a space-set show find themselves on a real space adventure.
Why see it? This studio comedy feels both beloved by anyone who sees it and not quite seen by enough people, but the bottom line is that it remains an eminently re-watchable movie for fans of fantastic things. The cast is pitch-perfect — including Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and yes, even Tim Allen — and while fans of Star Trek will understand more of the gags even non-fans will be hard-pressed to enjoy the smart script, fun action, and witty observations. The steelbook is celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary, and it’s a party you’ll want to join.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Return of Martin Guerre
What is it? A man is accused of not being who he claims to be.
Why see it? This French classic is set in the 16th century and posits a story that wouldn’t work in today’s more immediate world. Martin returns from seven years at war to a village and a wife that welcome him at first before coming to suspect he’s an imposter. Imagine a world with no photos or ways to identify a person beyond recognition, and you can imagine the complexity at play. Gerard Depardieu takes the lead with a strong and compelling performance, but it’s a stellar production from top to bottom with a story that holds the attention throughout.
[Extras: 4K restoration, interview]
Angel of Mine
What is it? A woman with a past believes her neighbor’s child is her own.
Why see it? There’s something of a Lifetime movie feel to this thriller but in a good way — the mystery is tightly wound with some fun turns, as opposed to a ridiculous and melodramatic romp — and both Noomi Rapace and Yvonne Strahovski are great as the two women claiming possession of the child. The always stellar Luke Evans is good fun too, but it’s the women who take center stage and hold the attention as the details unfold. It may not land as heavily as some bigger, smarter thrillers, but it’s a solid watch.
[Extras: Featurette, interviews]
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
What is it? The Angels take on one of their own.
Why see it? While McG’s first feature take on the popular show balanced the fun and spirit equally the sequel can’t quite manage the same. It leans too ridiculous without delivering fun thrills, and while the three leads remain as solid as they can be the new additions of Bernie Mac as Bosley and Demi Moore as the villain are steps down from the first film. They’re fine.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, music video]
Crimson Peak [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young woman marries a man with a hole in his roof.
Why see it? Guillermo del Toro’s grand haunted house tale is a visual feast that creates atmosphere and creepy imagery through terrific production design and f/x work. Where it stumbles, though, is in the script that teases a mildly engaging ghost story only to deliver narrative and character beats that feel hollow and empty. Fans will definitely want to pick up this release (if they don’t already own Arrow’s more elaborately beautiful limited edition) as it’s loaded with extras, but it might not be as rewatchable as your first theatrical viewing might have suggested.
[Extras: Commentary, documentary, interviews, featurettes]
The Killer of Dolls [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A disturbed young man grows more disturbed by the minute.
Why see it? This Spanish feature is all kinds of bonkers as the young man begins picturing people as mannequins… usually shortly before he kills them. It quickly grows unclear as to whether he’s offing real people or imagining the whole thing. It’s a wholly perverse film yet fairly chaste in its portrayal of fleshy shenanigans and works best — a relative term here — as a study in madness.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interviews, commentaries]
The Lion King
What is it? A remake of The Lion King.
Why see it? Disney’s ongoing effort to remake all of their greatest hits continues with this unnecessary tech demo. Don’t refer to it as a live-action remake, but do refer to it as a CG one featuring some truly impressive digital work bringing this world to life. Like Avatar, it’s very pretty and very empty… even as it copies the animated classic nearly beat for beat. There are some new jokes added, some of which earn a laugh, and the core story is still an effective one, but if you’ve seen the original you’ve seen the best version of this. If you do go this route, though, the 4K UltraHD release is fairly stunning at times.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Parasite [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A lab experiment escapes into a ravaged world.
Why see it? This early 80s creature feature from the early 80s takes its time getting to the monster action, but it finds some bloody fun along the way with effects work from the legendary Stan Winston. Some of it’s gore and some is creature-based, but while it’s solid work the film leaves you wanting more. The story and production follow suit, but the filmmakers and cast make the best of their limitations to deliver an entertaining genre adventure. Kino’s new Blu-ray is the real star here, though, starting with a 4K restoration and continuing on through a bevy of new supplemental material shining a light on the film.
[Extras: New 4K scan, 2-D and 3-D versions, interviews, commentary, featurette]
Phobia [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A therapy group finds themselves marked for murder.
Why see it? John Huston’s filmography features plenty of classics from The African Queen (1951) to The Maltese Falcon (1941), but he also made lesser films in later years. This is one of those, and while there’s fun to be had with the whodunnit aspect and Paul Michael Glaser in the lead — not to mention its clear role as an inspiration for Color of Night (1994) — the thrills don’t really come together across its running time. Still, Kino’s new Blu-ray gives it some love, and fans of the genre and/or filmmakers won’t find a better release of it.
[Extras: New 4K remaster, commentary, interviews]
What is it? A pizza delivery girl finds trouble in the suburbs.
Why see it? What a waste of a great and meaningful title. The idea here is fun as a young woman accidentally gets caught up with a group of upper-crust Satanists trying to bring a demon into the world, but the execution is so tonally off that it just falls flat. It’s a comedy, but while that’s not a problem in theory it requires the film to be funny — and it is not. Jokes and gags wither and die before our ears, and while it gets bloody the gore gags aren’t nearly as frequent or creative as they need to be to salvage the film.
What is it? A millennial faces off against a stuck in his ways older man.
Why see it? Writer/director Richard Bates Jr.’s three previous films (Excision, 2012; Suburban Gothic, 2014; Trash Fire, 2016) each deliver varying degrees of creativity, horror, and humor, with the last in particular being an tonally brilliant descent into madness, but his latest film lacks their intelligence, nuance, and care. The clash and subsequent dialogue exchanges all feel endlessly obvious and tired, and there’s no satisfaction from the face-off. It’s an odd misfire.
Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A suicidal man has a hard time of it.
Why see it? This is a wonderfully bonkers tale about life, death, butterfly dudes, talking heads, the will to live, and a two thousand-year-old woman who’s hungry for liver. Human liver. I’d be lying if I said I fully understood it all, but the creativity and logical cartwheels balance well with the film’s sense of humor. The director previously made the acclaimed The Housemaid (1960), and while this one lacks the commentary of that classic it doubles up on the sheer entertainment.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews]
Also out this week:
Billy Bathgate [KL Studio Classics], Bloodline, Covergirl [Scorpion Releasing], The Eagle [Kino Classics], Legend of the Demon Cat, NOS4A2 – Season One, Tamango [Kino Classics], Trilogy of Terror II [KL Studio Classics], When We Were Kings [Criterion Collection], The Wild Pear Tree, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, Zoltan: Hound of Dracula [KL Studio Classics]
Related Topics: Home Video