Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon!
Pick of the Week
What is it? An actor and his stuntman friend worry about watching their stars fade.
Why see it? Quentin Tarantino’s 10th feature film ranks among his very best, and while it showcases much of what he’s come to be known for — a knowledge of cinema, nuance and detailed time period perfection, brutal violence, women’s bare feet — it’s ultimately his sweetest film by a wide margin. It’s a love letter to the movies and the people who call them home, and it does a beautiful job blending comedy, heartfelt emotion, and suspense into its tale. Tarantino’s Hollywood of 1969 is a magical place, and while it may not stick strictly to actual history the magic of the movies means that’s not a requirement for brilliance.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? Eight films starring the legendary Anne Bancroft.
Why see it? The eight movies collected here include Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), The Miracle Worker (1962), The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Graduate (1967), Fatso (1980), To Be or Not to Be (1983), Agnes of God (1985), and 84 Charing Cross Road (1987). Extras are included on a few of the films, but it’s the movies themselves that are the draw with some good to great titles making up the collection. Bancroft was an accomplished actor, and while some of her classics are missing this set is an important step towards recognizing her talents.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, interviews, booklet]
Blue Collar [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Auto workers take a stab at crime with depressing results.
Why see it? Paul Schrader’s late 70s look at the American Dream is as fantastic as you’ve heard. It focuses on a trio played by Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto who struggle day to day before seeing an opportunity and leaping at it. Things quickly spiral leaving the film feeling every bit like a companion piece to the likes of Chinatown — the system is run by those in power, and the rest of us don’t stand a chance. Sounds bleak, and it is, but it’s also beautifully acted, written, and directed. Kino’s disc includes a commentary with Shrader that’s obviously worth a listen.
What is it? All five films in the franchise!
Why see it? For most viewers The Fly films are boiled down to two things — the fly with the human head saying “Help me!” as the spider approaches, and Jeff Goldblum. The original and David Cronenberg’s masterpiece of a remake are the two best of the series, but there are three others still worth watching. This Scream Factory box set collects all five along with a ton of extras making it a must-own for horror fans. Watch the two you already know and love, but definitely give time to The Curse of the Fly and The Fly II as both do some unexpected things with the basic story. The former takes a different route from the norm by letting the scientists actually succeed with their experiment, while the latter offers up a gooey creature feature with some interesting observations and solid lead performance from Eric Stoltz.
[Extras: Interviews, commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A two-part action/adventure epic.
Why see it? Fritz Lang gifted film lovers with several memorable features, and this double feature belongs in those same conversations. A truncated cut was released domestically, but the films are each deserving of their own glory as Lang delivers big adventure and romance that feels like a clear precursor to the likes of Indiana Jones and others. Epic set-pieces, stunts, animal action, large casts, and a still sexy dance highlight these films, and they’ve never looked better thanks to a new 4K restoration of both complete films. It’s grand, sweeping entertainment and adventure, and they look stunning.
[Extras: Commentaries, documentary, video essay, booklet]
What is it? Former strippers turn the tables on lecherous men with fat wallets.
Why see it? Lorene Scafaria’s latest tells the true story of some very enterprising women and the criminal acts they excelled at. The result is a film that’s funnier than expected while also being smart, affecting, and sexy. Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez take the lead here, but it’s an ensemble piece and serves as a strong, female-centric movie that’s also fantastic. There’s a desperation and a rage to their actions, and while you can’t quite condone their behavior you most likely won’t condemn it either.
What is it? An interview with a legendary actor sees her memories comes to life.
Why see it? Satoshi Kon’s love letter to the performers who create worlds for audiences to fall in love with is a gorgeous tale about memory, motivation, and affection. It’s beautifully animated — and the new Blu-ray features a recent restoration — and Kon infuses his lovely story with heart, action, and plenty of humor too. There’s a very human element at play here, and neither the animation or the story can quell the emotional pull recognizable to anyone who’s ever fallen for a movie star.
Aces: Iron Eagle III [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Louis Gossett Jr. don’t need no punk kid to be a hero!
Why see it? Jason Gedrick was the young punk in the initial films trained under Gossett Jr.’s Miyagi-like mentor, but here Gossett takes the lead alongside a less charismatic team. It’e the first of the franchise to be rated R which automatically makes it better than the rest, and it’s pretty good fun for a sequel no one showed up for. Director John Glen manages some solid enough action, but unless low-rent Top Gun shenanigans are your bag it’s one to miss.
What is it? The director’s restored version of his 1984 bomb.
Why see it? Francis Ford Coppola is no stranger to moving forward on newly constructed versions of his past films, but while we’re still waiting on him to do the same to Jack (1996) we can at least enjoy this improved version of The Cotton Club. Coppola restores character beats and full dance sequences that give more weight to the black side of the story previously trimmed by idiotic studio suits, and while they enhance the film the bigger bonus here is more time spent with the late Gregory Hines. His character is deepened, and we’re gifted more of his always welcome and impressive dance moves too. The film still isn’t great, but it’s most definitely better.
[Extras: Introduction, Q&A]
What is it? Four miserable people are drawn towards an inspirational pachyderm.
Why see it? At nearly four hours in length, this sedate and bleak tale is going to appeal to a very small audience. Those on its wavelength, though, should find a meditative quality to its misery, and the knowledge that the filmmaker committed suicide shortly after completing it should add to that weight. There’s drama here in its critique of a society that condemns capitalism even as it celebrates it, but it’s a challenge of sorts connecting with these characters for such a long time. The film isn’t interested in offering a traditional ending for these lost souls, but the one given feels about right all the same.
[Extras: Short film, booklet]
What is it? A young girl discovers the truth about her family and herself.
Why see it? This genre effort takes an X-Men inspired narrative involving a child with special powers and the government that wants her under their control, but rather than be a big action film the result is more of a drama in line with the recent (and superior) Fast Color (2018) that picks up steam in its third act. It’s a solid watch, and while the story goes in some obvious directions the performances and effects keep it engaging.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
Hard Night Falling
What is it? Terrorists crash a fancy dinner party.
Why see it? Dolph Lundgren is the reason to watch this one, but even that’s grown a bit slim as his direct to video output has recently approached some pretty miserable levels. Happily, this little action flick isn’t bad. The opening is no great shakes, but once they hit the party and bad guys invade it’s a solid enough watch as Lundgren fights back and calls in his team of badasses to seal the deal. As is usually the case with DTV action movies it’s not one you’ll re-watch, but it works for what it is.
Iceman [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A prehistoric man is thawed out in modern times.
Why see it? Timothy Hutton headlines as the scientist who’s first enamored by the discovery before realizing this man is lost, alone, and deserving of more than scientific study. The film works well as a tale of humanity’s hubris getting ahead of its, well, humanity, and the journey to that realization is filled with drama, some action beats, and some strong character beats. It’s the kind of film you don’t see much of these days in that it’s an adult drama — these days it would most likely be turned into a bigger genre effort (or an animated flick). It’s good stuff.
What is it? The clown is down, again.
Why see it? Chapter One of the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is a fantastic feature capturing the terror, the camaraderie, and the emotional horror of the kids’ encounter with the devilish monster living beneath their town. The sequel manages a fun scare or two, but the emotion and horror are fairly absent. The comedy is ramped up, though, for no good reason, and while some of it entertains it too often conflicts with the tone elsewhere. And not for nothing, but Pennywise should have been a bit more prevalent here. Still, all in all, it’s an okay movie that closes the story even if it does pale beside the first. I’d love to see a release that edits the entire thing together like the novel so that the adults aren’t saved for the back half.
[Extras: Documentaries, featurettes, commentary]
What is it? A lone man meets odd people in Spain.
Why see it? Jim Jarmusch’s filmography is filled with films told exactly the way he chose to tell them, and while that’s admirable and something all artists should strive towards it means that once in a while a film of his might fail to connect. This 2009 effort is that one for me as its beautifully shot, intentionally opaque tale is more interested in testing the limits of viewer patience. The cameos are fun, the cinematography is gorgeous, and Paz de la Huerta is naked (surprise), but the movie as a whole just plods along going nowhere fast. As always, your mileage may vary.
[Extras: Interview, featurettes, documentary]
Playing God [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A doctor crosses paths with a mobster.
Why see it? This is peak 90s cinema with David Duchovny still trying to be a movie star, Angelina Jolie before she was a star, and Timothy Hutton playing a bad-ass mobster, and it’s straightforward entertainment. The doc is forced to get wild before evaluating his morals, but while Duchovny is great fun on The X-Files he’s never been all that charismatic of a performer — I love the guy, but you know it’s true — and that’s something the big screen needs in its heroes. Still, it’s a fun 90s watch.
A Stranger Among Us [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A cop goes undercover in the Hassidic Jewish community.
Why see it? Melanie Griffith isn’t the first name you think of when you picture a tough New York City cop in a gritty crime drama, but with director Sidney Lumet at the helm her softer stylings are put to good use. It’s a perfectly competent thriller, and while it never leaps off the screen the story’s setting and community stand apart from the crowd in some atypical ways. Mia Sara and John Pankow co-star.
Terminal Velocity [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A poor man’s Drop Zone.
Why see it? Charlie Sheen and Nastassja Kinski go skydiving, but things get complicated when she dies on her first drop. Or does she!? I joked above regarding Drop Zone, but that Wesley Snipes-starring thriller opened within mere months of this one and is the superior of the two (thanks mostly to Snipes being worlds better than Sheen). This one has its fun, though, thanks to some playful action beats and overall silliness.
Also out this week:
The Abominable Snowman [Scream Factory], Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde [Scream Factory], The Fanatic, Monos, Old Joy [Criterion Collection], Twin Peaks – From Z to A, Until the End of the World [Criterion Collection], Viy [Severin Films]