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 May 11th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes modern classics brought to 4K, a couple of action gems, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Drive [MVD Rewind]
Why see it? They say never judge a book by its cover, but that’s just what I did for far too long regarding this movie. What looks like a generic 90s action film is in fact something amazing — one of the absolute best blends of American and Hong Kong-style action ever put to film. Mark Dacascos is a high-flying martial arts wunderkind as at home with the kinetic gun play as he is with the fun fights and wire-work, and the bigger action is every bit as entertaining. Even better, the damn thing is legitimately funny! Banter and physical antics abound, and the buddy comedy works well to deliver big laughs and plenty of smiles. The new Blu-ray features both the theatrical and director’s cuts along with a ton of extras, so consider this a must-own for action fans.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary, documentary, deleted scenes, interviews, two cuts of the film]
Action USA [MVD Rewind]
Why see it? Sometimes movies are made only to sit in obscurity for years, even decades at a time, before finally being released to great acclaim. This is that time. Director John Stewart made his coin as a stunt man, so it makes sense that his shift towards being a filmmaker would come in the form of an action movie — and what an action movie! It’s a low budget Lethal Weapon riff to be sure, but the stunts are big fun and pretty consistent throughout. They’re also wonderfully reckless-looking in their execution making the film stand out from the usual Hollywood action fare. MVD’s disc uses the same transfer as last year’s release from Vinegar Syndrome along with a few of the extras. Between this and Drive, old-school genre fans should be in heaven.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes]
Big Fish [4K UltraHD]
Why see it? Tim Burton’s filmography has been in serious decline for years, and it’s been over two decades since his last great film (Sleepy Hollow, 2009). He’s made eleven more features since then, and while most are misfires a few stand out as quality fare including this dramatic fantasy from 2003. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney play a man — in his younger and older years, respectively — whose life is filled with magical moments and tall tales, and as his son (Billy Crudup) discovers these possible truths the bond with his father grows. I’m an easy mark for father/son stories, but while visually mesmerizing its emotional grip doesn’t quite take hold. That said, I’m in the minority there.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, interviews]
Fast Times at Ridgemont High [Criterion Collection]
Why see it? Cameron Crowe’s Hollywood career starts here in the real sense as his screenplay paved the way for more films and his big success as a director. Amy Heckerling, though, deserves as much if not more credit for bringing that script to life with wit, energy, and one hell of a stacked cast. Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Eric Stoltz, and more bring the highs, lows, and messy middles of teenage life to the screen, and decades later it’s still an entertaining time. Criterion’s new Blu is loaded with extras including a new conversation with the writer and director.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, commentary, television cut with alternate footage, interviews, documentary]
Why see it? Jane Fonda’s anti-war actions during the Vietnam War are well documented, but did you know she had a traveling comedy/music show that toured Southeast Asia in 1971? Donald Sutherland joined her, and the result is a pretty amazing glimpse back into a world fractured by a war that the US should have never been a part of. Music, comedy, and banter played for thousands of American soldiers — and they loved it.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, introduction by Jane Fonda, interview, documentary]
King Kong [Scream Factory]
Why see it? Dino De Laurentis’ big budget reboot of the stop-motion classic brings the big guy to life with famed fx artist Rick Baker inside the suit he designed. It’s not really a great film, but King Kong‘s charms are endlessly evident in its casting, ambition, and effects. Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, and Charles Grodin headline alongside the ape, and while it brings nothing new to the tale it’s a fun ride. The extended TV cut adds forty-eight minutes of additional footage expanding on characters and plot points, and the release also includes new interviews with various behind the scenes players. One highlight there is an interview with two men who met as pages on the King Kong production and have since gone on to produce some big films in their own right.
[Extras: New 2K scan, theatrical and extended TV cut, commentaries, interviews]
Saw [4K UltraHD]
Why see it? The nine-film (!) franchise may be more meh than yay, but James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s original still packs a fun and twisted punch. Two men awake in a dank and dark room, both chained on opposite sides, and slowly the mystery unfolds and reveals itself. It’s a nifty ride with a killer finale, gruesome traps, and bloody surprises. This new 4K release offers all of the grit and grue in sharp detail, and the extras give fans a detailed glimpse into its conception and production.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, short film]
Speed [4K UltraHD]
Why see it? Imagine a world without Speed. How boring! Jan de Bont’s directorial debut wasn’t supposed to be a big hit, but it was anyway. The action and thrills are a big part, but the performances and chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock is what sealed the deal (and made her a star in the process). It’s fun, exciting, and wonderfully ludicrous as it races through Los Angeles leaving fiery, metallic carnage in its wake, and it looks new again on 4K.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, music video]
They Won’t Believe Me [Warner Archive]
Why see it? Robert Young headlines this noirish drama about a con man turned wannabe murderer whose latest criminal endeavor goes sideways. It’s a surprisingly mean movie for its time, part of its noir charm, and nice guy Young does great work playing against type as the baddest of men. The script is smart and unflinching, the co-stars (Susan Hayward, Rita Johnson, and Jane Greer) are sympathetic, and the disc is a newly restored release. Give it a spin.
Bachelor in Paradise [Warner Archive]
What is it? An author finds inspiration in the suburbs.
Why see it? Bob Hope fans should be happy as Warner Archive releases another of the comedy legend’s features. This one sees him as a successful author of self-help books whose latest assignment lands him in the brave new world of suburbia where his presence as a bachelor sets pulses racing. There are some laughs and dated ideas, but Hope’s shtick remains — fans will dig it, the rest of you won’t find any new reason to care.
What is it? An online columnist strikes back at her critics.
Why see it? Katja Herbers can do no wrong in my book, and this lead role proves her mettle as a bad-ass. She plays a woman pushed too far by online comments, and her growing rage leaves jerks dead on the ground. It’s a thriller, but black comedy courses through its veins making for a darkly entertaining ride critiquing social media’s less savory side effects. It’s a short film and probably doesn’t quite land the resolution all that tightly, but it’s a good time.
What is it? A legendary oil well firefighter faces more challenges.
Why see it? John Wayne’s action films typically revolve around him as a gunfighter leaving cowboys, Native Americans, and thugs in the dirt. This outlier, though, sees the Duke going toe to toe with oil fires. It’s a pretty solid action/drama exploring the dangerous lifestyle and family troubles that arise from it, and yes, it does feel like a template for Michael Bay’s Armageddon as Wayne tries to deal with a future son-in-law (Jim Hutton) he doesn’t exactly like and a daughter (Katharine Ross) he can’t help but love. It’s good stuff.
John Wayne: 14-Movie Collection
What is it? Fourteen films starring the Duke.
Why see it? John Wayne may have been an asshole in real life, but the man still headlined some terrifically entertaining films over the years. This new multi-disc collection from Paramount brings together some of his best (True Grit, The Shootist, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and some of his less familiar (In Harm’s Way, Island in the Sky, The High and the Mighty) into a solid sampling of his filmography. At about $4 per film, the price is only worth it if you’re interested in enough of them.
The Last Married Couple in America [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A married couple grow jealous of their recently divorced friends.
Why see it? The great (and late) George Segal and Natalie Wood headline this adult comedy that could only have been birthed in the late 70s and early 80s. The freeballing 60s and key parties of the 70s were over, and American couples found themselves in a rut — the answer dropping their drawers! The laughs here aren’t ever as big or hearty as they should be, but it’s hard to argue with the talents of Wood and Segal. Add in the equally great Richard Benjamin, Valerie Harper, and Dom DeLuise, and you have a fun enough romp.
What is it? Never bet against a special agent with a taste for celery.
Why see it? Before you jump all over me for dropping the comedic gem that is MacGruber into “the rest” section, just know that Mill Creek’s new Blu-ray features the R-rated cut only and is devoid of extras. The previous Blu-ray release featured a commentary track and a gag reel, both of which are well worth your time. As a bare bones release I’d say it’s really only worth the pick up if you can’t get your hands on that earlier one. Either way, it’s a comedy you need to own.
Man with a Camera – The Complete Series
What is it? A man with a camera catches bad guys!
Why see it? Charles Bronson headlined a television series? Charles Bronson headlined a television series! This late 50s series casts Bronson as a newspaper photographer with an eye for news and the courage and integrity to keep himself from becoming the news. Bronson is good and charismatic in the lead, and while the show never really delivers a stand-out episode — something that would have made it more memorable over the years — it’s solid, mid century entertainment. All twenty-nine episodes are included here, and it’s a smorgasbord of recognizable faces including guest stars like Angie Dickinson, Harry Dean Stanton, Yvonne Craig, and more.
What is it? The elusive Liam Neeson action movie.
Why see it? I kid Mister Neeson, and I hope his multiple claims to be retiring from action films continue to be proven false for eternity. His latest sees him as a loner tasked with protecting a young boy from Mexican gangsters, dirty lawmen, and more, and it’s nothing more than what you’re expecting. Neeson is his usual solid self, and the film’s various beats, while expected, are produced well enough.
What is it? A young woman is immersed in trouble.
Why see it? Olivia Cooke is always worth your time, and while her latest is a bit of an oddball it’s an entertaining romp all the same. She plays an Irish woman whose past and present associates are caught up in a feud between warring crime factions, and she sees that as an opportunity. Cooke is terrific and lively, and she’s supported by fun turns from a villainous Alec Baldwin and Colm Meaney. It’s a bloody ride with some laughs hitting their mark as often as the bullets do.
Sweet Liberty [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A writer’s worst fears are realized when his book is made into a movie.
Why see it? Alan Alda writes, directs, and stars in this fun look behind the scenes of the film industry through the lens of one outsider. It’s an entertaining romp that pokes good-natured fun at the industry and people involved, but its biggest draw is a terrific cast. In addition to Alda, the film stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Lillian Gish, Saul Rubinek, and others. There’s some political commentary on display as the book in question is about the American Revolution, but it’s light-hearted enough that those elements never feel intrusive.
The Yearling [Warner Archive]
What is it? A boy learns about life from a baby deer.
Why see it? The classic book for youngsters comes to beautiful life in this feature from Clarence Brown. It’s nice, G-rated family drama with warmth, triumph, loss, and death, and while I’m not sure about today’s kids loving it there are probably adults who remember it fondly. Warner’s new Blu offers a sharp picture, and fans up for the two hour plus revisit will want to pick it up.
[Extras: Radio broadcast, cartoon]
Also out this week:
Cool as Ice [KL Studio Classics], The Fast and the Furious [4K UltraHD], The Hot Spot [KL Studio Classics], Judas and the Black Messiah, Land, Lapsis, The Little Things, The Mauritanian, Morgue, The Reason I Jump, The Virtuoso