Plus 26 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
What is it? A young man dealing with loss tries to escape to Los Angeles.
Why see it? Demitri Martin brings his dry humor to the screen as writer, director, and star of this humane comedy about facing loss and staying sane in the process. Our hero’s lost his mom and fiance in recent months, and while the grief blocks his creativity he heads off to spend time with friends new and old. It’s a sweetly humorous film with laughs and moments of genuine warmth spread among the supporting cast which includes Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, and Gillian Jacobs. Martin’s real drawing talent is on display throughout as well with the simple illustrations offering a glimpse into the character’s wounded yet increasingly hopeful soul.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
Amsterdamned [Blue Underground]
What is it? A SCUBA certified serial killer roams the canals of Amsterdam.
Why see it? Bloody kills and attractive scenery abounds in this killer thriller, but the standout sequence feels straight out of a James Bond movie as two speed boats engage in a chase through the tight canals. It’s a fun genre effort and an entertaining watch. Dick Maas’ serial killer thriller finally comes to home video in the US, and it’s a special edition worth picking up for fans as it delivers a great-looking film alongside some solid extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, making of, interviews]
The Island of Dr. Moreau [Olive Films]
What is it? A man is shipwrecked on an island populated by a mad scientist and his creations.
Why see it? I have great memories of watching this one as a kid and it being one of my first horror movies that I enjoyed with my dad. That’s a meaningless anecdote for the rest of you, but I mention it because even now, some decades later, the movie still holds up as a fun creature feature exploring ideas of life, creation, and what it means to play god. Michael York and Burt Lancaster are both great, and the movie is just a fun horror-themed adventure for the entire family.
[DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
The Lion King
What is it? A young lion learns about life, himself, and the positives of a vegetarian diet on his journey towards adulthood.
Why see it? One of Disney’s many crown jewels comes to Blu-ray via their Signature Collection, and it’s a must-own for households that don’t already own the film in a previous home video version. It’s a just a fantastic movie regardless of whether or not you have kids in the house, and its hand-drawn animation remains gorgeous and unbeatable by today’s CG creations. There are big laughs, bigger heart, and plenty of catchy musical numbers too, and it’s every bit as fantastic as you remember.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Man With Two Brains [Warner Archive]
What is it? A world-famous brain surgeon meets the woman of his dreams a few months after marrying someone else, and did I mention the love of his life currently only exists as a brain in a jar?
Why see it? Director Carl Reiner made four features with Steve Martin, and I have to assume I’m in the minority in my belief that this one ‐ their third ‐ is the funniest. The Jerk and All of Me are both classics of course, but damn does this madcap, screwball adventure in love and murder make me laugh. The genius here is in sharp, fast gags and brilliant line delivery by all involved. There are some amazingly funny dialogue exchanges, wonderfully ribald innuendo, and probably the best killer reveal I can recall. There’s a sweetness to it all too though in Martin’s growing bond with the brain and the end revelation involving an eating disorder.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Ronin [Arrow Video]
What is it? A group of mercenaries come together for a simple job in Paris that turns out to be anything but French.
Why see it? Director John Frankenheimer is the man behind such classics as Seconds, The Manchurian Candidate, and Reindeer Games, but one of my favorites of his is this late 90s action gem that offers up master class in car chase action.The other elements work well too including gun fights, a twisty plot, and a fantastic cast (Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean, Natascha McElhone), but hot damn are the car chases both memorable and exciting. Arrow’s new Blu looks fantastic and comes loaded with extras offering an in-depth look at the film’s production. This is a movie to play loud — both for the smart dialogue and wickedly entertaining action beats.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, featurettes, alternate ending]
Snapshot [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A young woman gets a taste of modeling success and finds herself targeted by a disturbed admirer.
Why see it? This late 70s Australian thriller was also known under the highly deceptive title The Day After Halloween, but it’s far from a slasher or exploitation piece. Instead it’s something of a slowburn drama about a down on her luck woman whose apparent windfall is instead an opportunity for men to behave very badly. One pig head aside the film doesn’t grow ominous until its final minutes, and instead its focus is on the every day threats and leers from the males of the species. Director Simon Wincer later found success with (my dad’s favorite film) Quigley Down Under, but he shows an eye here for darker, moodier affairs. Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu delivers a beautiful, soft picture and some illuminating extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, alternate cut, interviews]
The Stranger [Olive Films]
What is it? A war crimes investigator travels to America in pursuit of their most-wanted Nazi fugitive.
Why see it? Edward G. Robinson is the investigator searching for Orson Welles’ Nazi in this tight and engaging little thriller. This was Welles’ third feature as director (after Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons), and while it’s not nearly as renowned as those two it remains a compelling and suspenseful post war thriller. He casts himself as the bad guy here, and while there’s no mystery as to whether or not he’s the Nazi in question the film still creates real tension as Wilson closes in on his prey. This is well worth the pick up if you don’t already own the Kino release from a few years ago.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, essay]
What is it? Slow-moving lifeguards break up a beach-side drug ring.
Why see it? Like the big screen CHiPs reboot from earlier this year, this R-rated comedy fails to find the laughs despite the talents of the cast and crew involved. Jokes and gags alike fall pretty flat as the very obvious story unfolds, and not for nothing but this movie features the absolute worst-looking effects-heavy action scenes of Dwayne Johnson’s entire career. A few gags/jokes manage to earn a chuckle or too, but it’s a shame the script in general is so unfunny because Johnson and Zac Efron make for a fun pair. Alexandra Daddario also stars, so that’s something at least.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
Black Sails – The Complete Fourth Season
What is it? Pirates!
Why see it? This Starz series has seen some ups and downs in its narrative choices, but the one positive constant has been the visuals and action sequences. Fight scenes big and small — the ship action is good fun — keep things lively even as the story sometimes gets mired down in double crosses, character details, and interpersonal shenanigans. It’s ultimately little more than an entertaining, ocean-set romp, but sometimes that’s all you want after a long day of land-locked work.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Bring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack
What is it? Cheerleaders compete in a cheerleading competition.
Why see it? The fifth direct-to-video sequel to the Kirsten Dunst hit continues the trend of diminishing returns in every regard but the actual cheers. Like the similarly structured Step Up franchise, these movies really only appeal to those who enjoy watching the subject at hand… in this case competitive cheerleading. The story and characters around it all are flat and uninteresting, and the humor that helped the first film become a hit is nowhere to be seen. All of that said, the cheer “action” is entertaining if you’re into that kind of thing.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel]
Designated Survivor – The Complete First Season
What is it? Turns out if enough people in the government are killed the line of presidential succession lands on Jack Bauer.
Why see it? Kiefer Sutherland’s follow up to his long-running series 24 sees him in a far different kind of character. He’s a less capable guy, definitely not someone used to fighting bad guys or cracking conspiracies, and he’s now been dropped into an unbelievable scenario. The show does a good job keeping the twists coming, and while I can’t see it continuing apace for more than another season this first one is an engaging new experience for fans of Sutherland’s intense charms.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Evil In Us
What is it? Six friends head to a remote island and fall victim to each other.
Why see it? There are a few threads running through this new horror thriller, but only the main one — friends in an isolated location brought face to face with intense violence — lands with any real consistency. The other two threads, one showing who’s behind the threat and the other following the investigation into their slaughter, lack urgency and interesting characters leaving two-thirds of the film underwhelming. There are some fun gore beats, and some sequences remind favorably of the likes of 28 Days Later, but there’s not nearly enough of the good stuff.
[DVD extras: None]
Gotham – The Complete Third Season
What is it? Commissioner Gordon continues his fight on crime in the pre-Batman days of Gotham City.
Why see it? When the idea of a show focused on Gordon and Gotham before its most famous citizen arrived on scene was first announced it felt like something that would come and go in short order. Well three seasons of the show later and I’m still not a network executive, surprisingly enough. It’s a fun enough series that finds its thrills in the villainous characters facing off against Gordon, but the young Bruce Wayne story line isn’t nearly as compelling in part because we know exactly where it’s going but also because at this point the bad guys and gals are far more interesting.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
Grey’s Anatomy – Complete Thirteenth Season
What is it? A show you thought ended a while ago is still going strong, apparently.
Why see it? I’m old enough to remember when this series first premiered and quickly became a big deal as a sexier E.R., but while I stopped watching after the first season the rest of apparently stuck with it. Checking in many years later reveals that while much of the cast has changed the sexy hospital shenanigans remain (to some degree). Obviously it’s a tough show to drop back into, but for those of you who’ve been watching the new full season release includes some fun (albeit minor) extras.
[DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes]
Heal the Living
What is it? An accident brings a teenager, a woman, and a team of doctors together.
Why see it? Tragedy triggers the tale here as a teenager lands in the hospital after a terrible car crash, and the film moves from there to follow the doctors dealing with his case, the boy’s days leading up to the crash, and a woman in another town who discovers her own health is on the decline. It’s a beautifully-shot film, particularly early on as the teen surfs and the driver sees waves on the road, and it finds additional beauty in humanity’s varied emotions ranging from joy to grief and everywhere in between.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]
Hell Up in Harlem [Olive Films]
What is it? The unofficial godfather of Harlem squares off against a corrupt district attorney, and the bodies hit the floor.
Why see it? Larry Cohen dabbles in several genres, but the one constant through them all is an energetic approach to the story and camerawork. Those stylistic touches are on full display here as chaotic action scenes play out in mansions, on cliffsides, and throughout the city’s streets. A beach assault involving spear guns, a bikini-clad kung fu girl, and hundreds of bloody squibs is especially fun. The story itself feels loose and chaotic beyond the core narrative, but it’s never less than an engaging ride.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New commentary with Larry Cohen]
What is it? A desperate man tries to rig a celebrity death pool by killing his pick.
Why see it? David Hasselhoff fans should be in heaven this week as both Baywatch and this “comedy” are both new to home video. If you can only watch one of the two though this is not that one. It literally opens with a freeze frame and voice over saying “I bet you’re wondering how I got here…” and goes downhill from there. Ken Jeong is a funny guy in short bursts, but as a lead his particular style of comedy grows tiresome quickly. Other familiar faces pop up too including Jon Lovitz and Rhys Darby, but none of them turn this into a worthwhile 80 minutes of your time.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
What is it? Seriously, never bring another woman into your home.
Why see it? Another week, another Nicolas Cage movie essentially making its debut on home video. He’s basically a supporting player this time around as Gina Gershon and Nicky Whelan take the lead as wife and interloper, respectively. The basic narrative is familiar, but the script throws in some specifics of its own involving surrogacy and eggs that add little to the suspense. It’s a wholly forgettable thriller as the revelations don’t build to any conflict of note. This isn’t The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is what I’m saying.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
My Cousin Rachel
What is it? A thirst for revenge turns to feelings of love.
Why see it? Daphne du Maurier’s novel comes to the screen with all of its romantic tension intact. It also benefits from a typically tremendous lead performance by Rachel Weisz as a woman who may or may not have killed a man in cold blood. Sam Claflin isn’t quite her equal, but that’s kind of the point and is befitting of their respective characters. It’s an attractive film that finds darkness in motivations both spoken and silent while seeing the beauty all around. It’s a menacing beauty at times, but that’s not such a bad thing depending on where it lands.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
Prizzi’s Honor [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A mafia hit man marries an assassin, but the pair’s relationship is tested when they’re each tasked with killing the other.
Why see it? The legendary John Huston’s hit-person comedy predates Mr. & Mrs. Smith by two decades and understandably focuses more on the laughs and mafia culture than on the action. It’s hard to argue with this cast which includes Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, Robert Loggia, and Anjelica Huston. There are some laughs here, but several of the performances feel… off. The caliber of the talent suggests it’s by design, but it affects the overall feel to the point that neither the romance nor the drama lands instead leaving us solely with an offbeat, periodically funny comedy, for better or worse.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Red Roses of Passion [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A young woman becomes entangled with a female cult interested in love and flowers.
Why see it? Joe Sarno’s mid 60s melodrama feels at times like an ancestor of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch as suburban women fall under a darkly sensual influence of possibly supernatural origin. It’s an interesting piece of artful sexploitation exploring female desire in some very direct ways. There’s a menace rippling just beneath the surface, but it’s the reaction of others that speaks to the film’s more powerful theme of sexual equality and revolution.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, interview]
The Slayer [Arrow Video]
What is it? Two couples head to an island getaway where they find sun, sand, and slaughter.
Why see it? The core of the story here is a familiar one with people trapped in a remote location while someone or something picks them off one by one, but there’s an interesting wrinkle this time around as one woman’s dreams are connected to the killings. The small cast of characters means there’s a lot of downtime before and between murders, but the film holds your interest anyway through the developing story and locale. Arrow’s new Blu cleans up this video nasty to present in sharper and cleaner than it’s ever been seen before, and the supplements provide an informative look at its production and history.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, making of documentary, featurette]
Star Wars Rebels – Complete Season Three
What is it? The rebels continue their fight against the evil empire.
Why see it? I’m still not the biggest fan of the animation style used in this series — it feels eternally like incomplete CG to me — but the stories being told and characters we’re introduced to make up for the visuals. There’s a freshness to the stories that’s notably absent from the recent feature films, and instead of retreading the familiar we’re given new worlds with new obstacles and adventures. The writing is sharp enough that some characters manage emotional reactions too, and some viewers will be thrilled to see connections to the new Star Wars feature films too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
Suffer, Little Children [Intervision]
What is it? A group of children fall under a demonic spell leading to the slaughter of nearby adults.
Why see it? What a strange little oddity this early 80s chiller is. The marketing around it presents a great, dangerous truth at its core, but the film was actually made by a drama teacher and her underage students. Most of the feature is a talky drag with brief moments of impending weirdness, but it all goes to hell in the final fifteen minutes with some of the more intense and believable child-led slaughter you’ve seen. It’s violent, bloody, and self-explanatory when it comes to the fact that the film led to censorship issues before release in the UK.
[DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? Two female spies in no panties is actually more accurate.
Why see it? Jess Franco’s blend of intrigue and softcore T&A makes for an entertaining romp into the world of sexual shenanigans and political turmoil, but the emphasis is clearly on the former. Lina Romay and Lynn Monteil keep very busy throughout, but I’d be derelict in my duties if I didn’t point out that at no moment in the film are either of them wearing flowered panties. This is less of a complaint than a detail worth clarifying, but still. The film itself never quite gets as crazy as you want nor as dramatically engaging as the intrigue could have made it, but Franco fans won’t be disappointed by this lovingly crafted Blu-ray.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, featurette, outtakes]
The White Princess
What is it? The War of the Roses has ended, but the fight continues.
Why see it? Starz continues their efforts to make a name for themselves in the area of original properties, and while their Evil Dead series is higher profile this limited series is every bit as eye-catching. It’s something of a historical epic brought to life with lush visuals and a melodramatic soul as love, lust, and greed weave their way through friends, families, and strangers alike. At nearly eight hours it threatens to grow redundant at times, but the story ramps up when necessary and prevents the onset of boredom.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Also out this week:
Batman and Harley Quinn, Elementary – The Fifth Season, A Family Man, The Love of a Woman, The Manster, Mouton, New Battles Without Honor and Humanity, The Originals – The Complete Fourth Season, Oxenfree, Panic, Timebomb, Vicious Lips
Related Topics: Home Video