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 March 9th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes new action films, four movies from the 70s, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A bartender takes on a far more dangerous job.
Why see it? Sam Peckinpah’s filmography includes more than a few bangers, but this is the only one brave enough to cast Warren Oates in the lead role. It’s a dark thriller with some exciting and brutal beats, but there’s also a humanity to it in moments of love and loss. Oates is terrific, and he walks a fine line between badass and good guy hoping for something better. Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray looks fantastic, and fans owe it to themselves to listen to the first commentary track with the film’s co-writer as it delivers some highly entertaining insight.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentaries]
Blood Ceremony [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A countess discovers a new skin regimen.
Why see it? The story of Countess Bathory and her habit of bathing in the blood of young women to keep her skin fresh has been told numerous times, but few have managed the lush atmosphere and grisly nature of Jorge Grau’s early 70s thriller. The film’s exploration of class, culture, and social paranoia add to the bloodletting as does the central relationship between the Countess and her husband. Mondo’s new Blu-ray looks fantastic with strong colors and depth, and the extras are filled with interesting commentary and insight.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, two versions, interviews, commentaries]
Gorillas in the Mist
What is it? The life and death of the legendary Dian Fossey.
Why see it? Sigourney Weaver’s Academy Award-nominated turn as the great Dian Fossey powers this film about her adventurous life and tragic death. It can be a hard watch at times, but it’s also an inspirational one filled with beauty and love for the wilds all around us. These retro VHS-style releases are sadly devoid of extras, but the film and Weaver’s performance make this worth a pickup all the same.
What is it? A collection of films and work by Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin.
Why see it? Fans of independent cinema will want to pick up and explore this collection from two artists whose work inspired legions of filmmakers who followed… even if they don’t know it. The four narrative feature films feature plot enough but instead focus on people, interactions, behaviors, and realness in their exploration of everyday people. Kino Lorber’s new release is the epitome of a fantastic effort that, while it doesn’t really appeal to my tastes, is worth the recognition.
[Extras: Commentary, documentaries, short films, commercials, home movies, interview]
What is it? A biopic about a famous baseball player.
Why see it? Babe Ruth was a legendary record-breaker on the field and rule-breaker everywhere else. Sports fans and fans of the man himself should enjoy this biopic, but those looking for something more might be left wanting. It’s solid enough but feels fairly straightforward. Still, John Goodman in a rare lead role is never a bad thing.
The Choirboys [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A story about the everyday lives of Los Angeles cops.
Why see it? This late 70s effort adapting the novel by ex-cop Joseph Wambaugh aims to be a blend of drama, comedy, and real-life camaraderie between the boys and girls in blue, but watching it today is a decidedly different experience. They’re all terrible men both in and out of uniform, and in addition to slurs, harassment, and assault these friends also help cover up a murder by one of their own. It’s the point of the title, that they’re not choirboys, but by the time it ends viewers are left with little to no satisfaction despite the film wanting audiences on their side. It’s an odd one.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
The Don is Dead [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An opening at the top of the mob leads to carnage.
Why see it? This tale of turmoil amid a large gangster organization features some thrilling, brutal beats, but its greatest strengths come from the characters. Anthony Quinn and Robert Forster are co-leads, in a way, and as the two go to war they deliver some engaging performances that pair well with the escalating violence. The film never tips over into “great” territory, but it’s a solid watch for fans of mafia flicks.
What is it? Two girls become fast friends and adventurers.
Why see it? Ah, the 90s. Simpler times all around, but also the exact right decade for movies about girls who want to have fun without the boys ruining it all. Christina Ricci and Anna Chlumsky (misspelled on the back of the sleeve!) star as new friends on the trail of a legendary treasure. It’s slight as expected, but the pair of talented young actors also make it compelling and fun in a toned-down Goonies kind of way.
My Girl / My Girl 2
What is it? A young girl learns about loss and love, in that order.
Why see it? Anna Chlumsky found success on the excellent Veep, but before delivering enormous laughs with foul-mouthed tirades she stole America’s heart as the little girl who made the mistake of befriending Macaulay Culkin. The pair, along with Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis, are all highlights in the first film and its build towards a memorably tragic end. Three of them return for the sequel, and while it’s undeniably lighter and less memorable the cast still makes it worthwhile.
What is it? A mercenary with revenge on his mind MMA’s his way through Russia.
Why see it? The filmmakers wanted to craft a Russian response to The Raid, as evidenced by the title, but while it can’t live up to that film’s action excellence it still delivers plenty of violent thrills. The fighting here is MMA style rather than Indonesian martial arts, and the plot gets a bit too much time and focus too, but its action chops are legit.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
What is it? A detective is saddled with the company of his mother.
Why see it? You can see the gears turning in the minds of studio executives at the pairing of a massive action star in Sylvester Stallone and a beloved TV icon in Estelle Getty, but the end result is a film that collapses in on itself. The comedic tone smothers beats meant to feel dangerous or serious, and worse, those comedic parts aren’t all that funny.
What is it? A family hires a security service to protect them.
Why see it? There are numerous Jackie Chan films that deliver thrills, charm, excitement, personality, and entertainment. This, like many in the last two decades, is not among them. We still get some fighting and stunts, but the film is spread between Chan’s team, none of whom have his persona. The action also feels underbaked thanks in large part to visual effects work behind some of the more interesting setups. The film is far from Chan’s worst, but go in expecting more than minimal thrills and you’ll be disappointed.
Also out this week:
Touki Bouki [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video