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 February 9th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes a Gerard Butler-led disaster pic, a children’s classic, a masterpiece of paranoia, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The El Duce Tapes [Arrow Video]
What is it? A home video documentary about a man, a band, and the perils of the American Dream.
Why see it? The Mentors may not be a band you’ve heard of, and their intentionally crude and crass style of music is arguably pretty terrible, but lead singer El Duce is a fascinating and harrowing subject. The videos were filmed in the 90s and then forgotten about, but their discovery prompted documentary filmmakers to rescue the footage and restore them into the semblance of a dark, disturbing tragedy. The quest for fame combined with alcohol and general cruelty lead El Duce from cult stardom to the railway tracks, and it’s an unsettling descent that, while focused on one man actually speaks to this country of ours in fairly unflattering terms. It’s powerful stuff.
[Extras: Commentary, audio interview, video sessions, deleted scenes, interview, tribute]
What is it? A family tries to survive an impending comet strike.
Why see it? Gerard Butler headlining a big disaster pic has Geostorm vibes, but thankfully this go around takes a far more serious approach. It still delivers some solid action set-pieces as comet shards wreak havoc and people behave like selfish assholes (surprise!), and while it’s ultimately a riff on 2012 — a family rushes through various interactions to make it to the bunker — it’s a smart one with emotional beats and strong turns by Butler and Morena Baccarin. You’re doubting me, but it’s good stuff.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, commentary]
The Hills Run Red [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man seeks revenge in the Old West.
Why see it? Carlo Lizzani’s late 60s western isn’t as well known as it deserves to be, but genre fans will want to seek it out for its collection of great characters and even better action. The set-pieces run the gamut through shootouts and robberies, and there’s even a pretty gnarly stunt that sees a guy accidentally run over by a stagecoach wheel. Add in a villainous Henry Silva and a solid Ennio Morricone score and you have a western worth discovering.
[Extras: Commentary by Alex Cox]
The Little Prince
What is it? A classic tale, reimagined.
Why see it? Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic story gets a gorgeous adaptation here that tells the story as we know it while also adding new characters worth adding in to the mix. The film shifts between the two and distinguishes them via animation style — the new story is attractive CG while the classic is told in breathtaking stop motion. It all lands (and soars) with real heart delivering an important tale about companionship.
[Extras: Featurette, music video]
The Parallax View [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A reporter suspects foul play in the death of a politician.
Why see it? The great Alan J. Pakula gifted film lovers with several terrific movies, and this remains one of his best. Warren Beatty plays the journalist who comes to believe an assassination was something more than a one-man job, but the deeper he digs the more dangerous his investigation becomes. It’s a constantly engaging and suspenseful watch delivering one of the best paranoid thrillers of the decade. Beatty is terrific here, Gordon Willis’ photography is stunning, and the film remains an all-timer. Criterion’s new Blu is loaded with extras, all good, but it’s the movie you’ll come back to again and again.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interviews, featurette]
The Suspect [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man’s wife dies and he’s suspected of murder.
Why see it? Charles Laughton stars in the lead role as a man who falls in love with a woman who isn’t his wife. He’s keeps things professional, but his wife suspects he’s cheating all the same, and when she dies others suspect he is responsible. Part noir, part character piece, the film manages real suspense with characters we come to enjoy. The dialogue is sharp, the turns are sometimes surprising, and the performances — especially from Laughton — are strong.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
Elizabethtown [Paramount Presents]
What is it? A suicidal man finds love and family are worth living for, I guess.
Why see it? Cameron Crowe made some fantastic films that have stood the test of time, but this 2005 title marked the end of that. It’s almost a remake of sorts of Crowe’s own (and far superior) Jerry Maguire (1996) as a man faces an immense career disaster by finding his humanity, but good gravy does almost nothing work here. Orlando Bloom is miscast, the narration is grating, Kirsten Dunst is too precisely precious, and the film’s attempts at smooshing your face in middle America’s greatness just misses the mark. The soundtrack is pretty great tho!
[Extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
Elysium [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A man uses technology to survive the future.
Why see it? Neill Blomkamp’s filmography is an interesting one as he started with the still-terrific “indie” District 9 (2009) before stumbling upwards with this gorgeous clunker and 2015’s abysmal Chappie. (He has a horror film in post-production now, so there’s still hope for a return to form.) Matt Damon headlines this tale of lower class humans facing off against the wealthy who live a sweet life in the sky, but the story and characters never move beyond the one dimensional. The visuals, however, are pretty damn stellar, and they absolutely shine in this new 4K release. This is great title to show off your systems with, but a great movie would have been preferred.
What is it? A family gathering turns ridiculous and violent.
Why see it? This Israeli/American black comedy is set in Los Angeles as a wealthy couple have some family over for dinner. Wounds new and old open up, though, and soon anger and bad luck turn deadly. There are some minor laughs here, and the blood starts flowing pretty freely making for an entertaining enough ride even if a bit too much of the “accidental” violence feels forced through pratfalls and unchecked aggression.
What is it? A wannabe deity is faced with a tough decision.
Why see it? This loose follow-up to 2019’s Ne Zha ups the ante when it comes to the animated action as humans, gods, and warriors fighting for a fox demon clash in style, and the central story also has a bit more heart than the earlier film. The star, though, remains the animation itself as the film delivers lush visuals and action sequences that move with a controlled fluidity.
Love Story [Paramount Presents]
What is it? A love that knows no classes can’t fight cancer.
Why see it? Arthur Hiller’s 1970 romantic drama was a major blockbuster back in the day, and its fans will want to scoop up this new Blu-ray from a 4K remaster. Viewers new to the film might not have the same response, though, as the drama doesn’t quite ring as true half a century later. Ryan O’Neal is fine, Ali MacGraw is lovely, but it’s all a bit too soft around the edges at times making for an unconvincing tale.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary by director Arthur Hiller]
What is it? Sex and political intrigue collide.
Why see it? Director Just Jaeckin follows up the likes of Emmanuelle and The Story of O with more softcore shenanigans, and it’s once again a mix of saucy times and darkness. The former seems like the focus here for quite a while as the madam’s line of high class women shed their clothes frequently, but the latter slowly worms into the mix as powerful people come to both play and work. It’s a lushly photographed film, based to some degree on a true story, and fans of political thrillers by way of Cinemax will want to check out this fantastic restoration.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, commentary, interview]
Panic Beats [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A murderous plan goes off the rails.
Why see it? Paul Naschy is a genre favorite from Spain, and his filmography is filled with all manner of horrors often featuring lots of flesh. As the filmmaker and star he ensures he’s front and center to it all, and that’s the case here too as he plays a man planning to murder his wife with the help of his mistress. Add in a potentially supernatural relative hungry for vengeance of his own, and you have a thriller that shifts from the saucy to the mean fairly easily. Mondo’s new Blu looks quite good as well.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interviews, commentary]
Queens of Evil [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A hippie meets three weird women in the woods.
Why see it? This is an odd one that almost plays like a weird riff on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Ray Lovelock plays the young man who gets caught up with the three women via their conversations, sexual banter, and baking skills. There’s magic in the air, but it’s rarely blatant and instead plays like everything is just a bit off. Are they witches? Probably, but you’ll have to watch to find out, but if so who’s the dude in the top hat? And why is there a gun poking out of that one woman’s bajango?! The film maybe takes a bit too long to reach its Twilight Zone-like ending, but it’s a fun watch all the same.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interview, commentary]
What is it? An astronaut returns to Earth with something inside him.
Why see it? We’ve seen variation on this theme before from The Astronaut’s Wife to Life, but this Russian slice of horror/sci-fi finds a fairly fresh take on the material. The film delivers suspense and atmosphere, but it finds its greatest strength in its lead character (played by Oksana Akinshina), a doctor already slightly off kilter before the alien elements even raise their head. It’s perhaps a bit too much of a slow burn until the third act, but it’s an engaging watch.
Also out this week:
Freaky, Man of the East [KL Studio Classics], So Evil My Love [KL Studio Classics], A Tale of Two Cities [Warner Archive], Wings of the Hawk [KL Studio Classics]