Plus 10 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
Sleeping Dogs [Arrow Academy]
What is it? A man’s attempt to withdraw from society instead lands him in the middle of a nationwide societal conflict.
Why see it? Roger Donaldson’s gifted us with numerous fantastic films over the years including No Way Out, Species, The Bank Job, and more, and now Arrow has gifted us with a beautiful HD presentation of his very first feature. Sam Neill stars (in his first lead role) and delivers a compelling performance as a man torn between ideologues when all he really wants to do is relax with a beer and a babe. The film is a sharp commentary of sorts on both authoritarian shifts in government and the dangers of radical rebellion, but even beyond the film’s narrative strengths, there’s a great story in its production and role in New Zealand’s cinema New Wave. Arrow’s disc offers a gorgeous image as well as informative extras featuring Donaldson, Neill, and others.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of, featurette]
Aloha, Bobby and Rose [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? Boy meets girl, and all hell breaks loose.
Why see it? You probably haven’t heard of this movie, but it was a pretty big hit back in the 70s thanks to its blend of doomed love, cool cars, and great music. There’s a casual feel to its unfolding tragedy, and both Paul Le Mat and Dianne Hull deliver a convincing portrait of young people lost in life and looking for something more. There’s an easy comparison here to American Graffiti, but this story is far more intimate and less open-ended. It’s a mood piece in some ways as it’s the film’s atmosphere that takes over carrying viewers through to its sadly inevitable ending.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
Auto Focus [Twilight Time]
What is it? The true-ish story of TV star Bob Crane’s life and death.
Why see it? Paul Schrader’s biopic on the beloved star of Hogan’s Heroes descends into the man’s hidden interests revealing the truth that you never truly know another person’s thoughts and desires. Greg Kinnear brings the troubled man to life while Willem Dafoe dazzles as his increasingly eclectic best friend. It’s a film about obsession, jealousy, and the things that drive us, and it’s one of Schrader’s best. The disc is loaded with engaging extras with the highlight being a pair of commentaries — one from Schrader and one featuring Kinnear and Dafoe. They’re both great listens. Buy Auto Focus from Twilight Time.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Awful Truth [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A high society couple breaks up but discovers staying apart isn’t so easy.
Why see it? Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in a fast-patter romantic comedy? This is onscreen magic brought to life by ridiculously talented performers and the equally capable Leo McCarey behind the camera, and it manages something special in making us fall in love with a couple who’ve cheated on each other. A young Ralph Bellamy adds to the fun as a Southern businessman competing for Dunne’s heart. The script is a fast-moving joy filled with more wit and charm than most films even attempt, and Criterion’s new Blu-ray presents it with a beautifully restored picture and some informative appreciations of McCarey and Grant. At a mere ninety minutes, it’s a movie you can rely on to quickly brighten your day even as you’re wishing it would never end.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, video essay, radio adaptation]
No Down Payment [Twilight Time]
What is it? Four couples in suburbia find things aren’t always greener on the other side of the fence.
Why see it? The American suburbs came into their own in the 1950s, but while the perception that they represent the American Dream has faded somewhat it still comes as a surprise to some people. Case in point? These four couples all seem content and happy on the outside, but the cracks begin to show as financial troubles, infidelity concerns, domestic abuse, and more see each of them crumble. It’s a bleak affair, but stark black & white photography, sharp writing, and terrific performances create a living portrait of dashed dreams and violent awakenings. Buy No Down Payment from Twilight Time.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? The true story of a newspaper editor’s brave choice to share the truth with readers about the government’s actions in Vietnam.
Why see it? He’s not alone on the list, but Steven Spielberg is one of a handful of directors whose films are always deserving of a first-time viewing. This Academy Award-nominated drama features the most stacked cast of 2017 — Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bradley Whitford, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, and more — and all of them are at the top of their game. The script combined with Spielberg’s deft direction move what’s essentially a talking heads movie with notable energy and vitality, and it all builds with both suspense and a sense of importance. It’s ultimately a story about the need for a free and balanced press championing truth and facts above all else, and that’s a message and a moral we can never hear enough.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
A Taxi Driver
What is it? A taxi driver in 1980 South Korea is caught up in the dangers of political turmoil.
Why see it? Song Kang-ho can do no wrong, so his presence automatically makes a film worth watching. Happily his latest is also among the best films of 2017. The film explores a very real story that took place during the country’s military coup and civilian uprising. College students were being beaten, imprisoned, and killed, and a driver who’s always respected the government learns first-hand that sometimes resistance is required to save a country from itself. Song’s performance is at turns charming and heart-breaking, and the film reminds that dangers to democracy aren’t always history.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Blue Denim [Twilight Time]
What is it? Teens in love, or an approximate version of it, wind up pregnant.
Why see it? Unintended pregnancies are common factors in dramas, but the angle taken here sees the focus put on a pair of nice kids in good homes. The drama that unfolds sees them in real trouble, but it grows to envelop the adults in their lives who’ve seemingly failed the children as parents, teachers, and mentors. The film’s basis on the stage is fairly clear in the scenes and staging, but the characters at the heart of it show real life as they struggle with bringing new life into the world. Buy Blue Denim from Twilight Time.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A man’s very particular train-centric set of skills are challenged by some nefarious people.
Why see it? The bond between Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra is one that should be cherished and protected like a rare baby bird, because to lose it would be to lose something fragile, beautiful, and capable of wonder. The pair have collaborated five times in a row now (Neeson played the shark in The Shallows), and while the films are varying degrees of fun they’re never less than goofy entertainment. Their latest is basically a rehash of Non-Stop in some ways, but the twisty story and ridiculous action antics leave a smile on your face.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Deep Blue Sea 2
What is it? Experiments with bull sharks have predictably disastrous results.
Why see it? Renny Harlin may be off making his own direct to video movies these days, but his 1999 shark flick remains a high water mark for the sub-genre. It’s a fun, thrilling, charismatic ride with an agreeable cast and an unexpected ending. The sequel? None of the above. It apes most of the original’s story and brings nothing new aside from its entire cast and crew. No one onscreen displays personality or life, nothing happening offscreen manages visual thrills or interesting story beats, and we’re ultimately left with a movie that drowns in boredom.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Les Girls [Warner Archive]
What is it? A tell-all book is challenged in court leading to varying stories as to what really happened between four dancers.
Why see it? Director George Cukor’s filmography is legendary — The Women, Gaslight, My Fair Lady, and many more — and its sheer volume means some of us are still finding new titles of his to enjoy. This late 50s entry is a solidly entertaining musical starring Gene Kelly as a man whose dance trio learns truths about themselves amid the various memories and relationships they form. It’s a colorful and lively romp with engaging dance numbers, catchy songs, and a satisfyingly warm ending.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, cartoon]
Also out this week:
The Color of Pomegranates [Criterion Collection], Humor Me, Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 2 [Arrow Video]
Related Topics: Home Video