Plus 15 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 high school teacher gets mixed up in the race for class president with unfortunate results.
Why see it? Alexander Payne’s biting, incisive, and wickedly funny comedy remains every bit as entertaining and relevant today as it was eighteen years ago. The cast — from Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon on down through the supporting players — remains perfection in delivering both pathos and impeccable comic timing, and the dialogue is brutally sharp throughout. It’s a dark comedy first and foremost, but its commentary on our drive for personal success and for holding each other back is spot on. Criterion’s new Blu-ray offers the best possible picture in addition to new and old extras, and it should be a blind buy for fans of smart movies.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K transfer, commentary, interview, short film, documentary]
What is it? A cop begins an affair with an unhappily married woman, and it ends in murder.
Why see it? The 90s were a great time for Hollywood thrillers made for adults with movies like Basic Instinct and Malice delivering the R-rated goods. China Moon is lesser known but fits beautifully into that group. Ed Harris falls madly, deeply, and understandably in love with Madeleine Stowe, and it lands him in deep water. It’s a sexy, smart ride offering up a few twists and turns along the way, and Benicio Del Toro adds some side flavor in a supporting role.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
What is it? A Chicago cop fights the mob and the thin blue line.
Why see it? Great Chuck Norris movies aren’t very common, but by any action junkie’s standards Code of Silence sits at or near the top. Norris plays a detective who’s as tough on criminals as he is on dirty cops, and the latter sees him ignored when he calls for backup. It even features Henry Silva, a bunch of familiar, Chicago-based character actors, and a heavily armored police tank! There’s some gun play, but Norris gets to unload punches and roundhouse kicks on more than a few bad guys. It makes for a pretty great double feature with director Andrew Davis’ other Chicago cop flick, Above the Law — which also features Silva as the big bad.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]
What is it? Winter is coming. (Still.)
Why see it? The seventh season of George R.R. Martin’s epic series runs a few episodes shorter than usual, but there’s just as much packed in here as fans are used to. Characters and subplots are finally coming together as new allies are formed in preparation for winter, and for better or worse that includes the eventual meetup of Daenerys and Jon Snow. I’m not fully convinced I’m onboard with where they take it, but it’s definitely not boring. As usual, HBO has put together a fully loaded home video release with all manner of informative behind the scenes extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, episode guides, commentaries]
What is it? A woman visits India while exploring a secret from her family’s past.
Why see it? Merchant Ivory films are never less than beautiful, immersive affairs, and this early 80s effort fits that description well. The film spends time both in the present and in the India of a generation prior, and the story weaves characters through the society, politics, and dramas of of the time with both longing and romance. Julie Christie and Greta Scacchi offer strong performances revealing strong women making their way through a bustling and ever-changing world. Cohen’s new Blu-ray captures and enhances the film’s already attractive visuals, and they’ve included a second disc loaded with extras.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, short film, commentary, interviews, Q&A]
What is it? A disgraced Chinese soldier finds new purpose protecting Asian immigrants in Africa.
Why see it? The issues here are minor in comparison to what it gets right, and what it gets right is the action… the occasionally brutal, frequently ridiculous, always entertaining action. We open strong with a scene straight out of Jackie Chan’s First Strike but without the shark-related comedy, and it just works. The action shifts to dry land going forward as he fights rebels with his fists, feet, and whatever weaponry he can find, and before you ask yes, of course he stops a rocket-propelled grenade with a mattress box-spring before tossing it away to explode. Later action sees him crafting homemade crossbows, engaging in a pretty solid car chase through a shanty town, and taking part in tank fights the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Some of it’s CG, but all of it’s ridiculous fun. All that plus a brutal, well-choreographed brawl with Frank Grillo that ends the film on a high note.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? An American cop heads to London to pick up a suspect and finds some good old fashioned violence instead.
Why see it? John Wayne’s second to last film — he went out on The Shootist — is a fun action picture that sees him play the big, American hero against the calmer British police department. The Brits are headlined by Richard Attenborough, and the two have a couple engaging face-offs on their way to joining forces against a common enemy. It’s an entertaining romp that never takes itself too seriously, and Kino adds a fun, very insightful commentary too from the director of the new doc, King Cohen.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
What is it? A cop responding to a bank robbery discovers it’s his brother behind the trigger.
Why see it? Michael Jai White is usually enough of a reason to see a movie as the man kicks butt when called upon to do just that. Unfortunately, his latest decides instead to rely on stunt casting — Quinton “Rampage” Jackson! — and a super low budget to engage viewers. It doesn’t work, and we’re left with a dull, shoddily executed tale of the gray area between good guys and bad guys. The action underwhelms, again due mostly to the budget, and not even the presence of a white-haired Tom Berenger can lift it up.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A true story about abusive police, an unwise riot, and the evil that men do far too often.
Why see it? Director Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark) dives into history again after Zero Dark Thirty, but instead of strife and triumph her focus here is cruelty, crime, and tragedy. There’s no denying that the story is an important one, but good god is it a brutal and oppressive one with zero relief. It creates something of a dilemma for viewers as the value in knowing the truth of a historical event is counter-balanced by the constant suffering and pain on display. Is it enough to know what happened and work to ensure it never happens again? Or do we need to see it with our own eyes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A newly separated mother of two invites three young men into her home with unexpected results.
Why see it? The daughter of famed rom-com filmmaker Nancy Meyers continues her mother’s trend of light, fluffy tales of wealthy white people dealing with romantic stress, and the results are perfectly okay. Reese Witherspoon takes the lead and is endearing as usual, and more than enough minor laughs land to make a watch both harmless and entertaining enough. It’s certainly better than her mom’s own Something’s Gotta Give anyway.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
What is it? A young man goes off the deep end after his father is killed by obnoxious Brits.
Why see it? Imagine Death Wish but with Paul Kersey deciding to dish out human flesh as well as revenge. This British thriller paints a nightmarish portrait of modern day city life in the UK complete with constant verbal abuse, racism, and foulness, but while it turns viewers off from visiting it still delivers a solid tale of one man pushed too far. He’s a restaurant owner (after his dad’s demise) and turns that into a commentary of sorts on the kinds of people he’s targeting and feeding.
[DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
What is it? A super strong, bullet proof man becomes the begrudging protector of Harlem.
Why see it? The 37th Marvel show on Netflix is one of the good ones, but as is often the case its strengths are found outside of its superhero action. Mike Colter does good work as the black man in a hoodie turned hero, and his tale that intertwines with the community itself is a far more interesting narrative than just another rich guy turned vigilante. The action itself is the expected mix of punching, throwing, and slamming of bodies into walls, and at thirteen episodes it runs about four too long, but fans will enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? A pair of psychos dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus terrorize a small town.
Why see it? The Christmas horror sub-genre is filled with movies about killer Santas — honest, here’s our epic ranking — and there are elements here that suggest it’s on the right track. Namely, it has an actual story that unfolds over the film, and that’s already more than most others. Unfortunately, the performances and dialogue, mostly on the part of the two killers, is so endlessly obnoxious to the point of making the whole film a turn-off.
[DVD extras: None]
One Million B.C.
What is it? A tale of cavemen, cavewomen, and the dinosaurs that come between them.
Why see it? Hal Roach Studios produced this adventure back in 1940, and while it lacks the more exciting stylings and stakes of later films like The Land That Time Forgot there’s fun to be had here. Our characters are being told a story, one which they themselves play roles in, so it’s clear from the beginning that it’s all in fun. The creature work is a combination of stop-motion, live footage, and animals (or people?) in costumes. It’s goofy, but it’s a fun period ride.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Pulp [Arrow Video]
What is it? A writer is tasked with ghost-writing an autobiography for a deranged actor.
Why see it? Michael Caine is always worth watching, and while this gangster flick doesn’t live up to his previous collaboration with director Mike Hodges, Get Carter, it offers some gangland charms alongside a heavy dose of goofiness. Caine is playing it straight even as the world around him isn’t, and Mickey Rooney shines as an aggressive prick well outside his usual wheelhouse. There are laughs to be found here at the expense of actors and writers both, and the gorgeous European scenery doesn’t hurt either.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, interviews]
What is it? Two CIA agents are sent to Russia (?) to investigate the crash of a US space craft.
Why see it? Indie sci-fi films lack the budget for spectacle meaning they’re typically left to rely on engaging ideas with smart scripts — think Moon or Primer — but this Eastern European made genre effort can’t quite manage it. The core of some fun ideas are definitely present involving alien life forms and strange powers, but rough acting, poorly staged action, and budgetary limitations leave it a bit too flat. Curiously, the film’s subtitle — Dark Side of the Moon — becomes more resonant in the musical choices including an opening track that’s very Pink Floyd-ish.
[DVD extras: Making of, music video]
Also out this week:
Bad Lucky Goat, Fuller House – The Complete Second Season, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards, Monterey Pop [Criterion Collection], Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, The Strain – The Complete Series, The Unknown Girl, Viceroy’s House, Whisky Galore!