‘A New Leaf’ Sees Comic Perfection from Elaine May and Walter Matthau

Plus 13 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!

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Pick of the Week

A New Leaf [Olive Signature]

A New LeafWhat is it? A man loses his fortune and sets out to marry into money with a spot of murder on the side.

Why see it? Good gravy is this one hell of a funny movie. Elaine May writes, directs, and stars as the goofy but wealthy woman targeted by a brilliant Walter Matthau. To be clear, Matthau’s performance is brilliant even if his character is anything but. From his early discovery that he’s broke to his later thoughts on murder he is absolute comic genius. May’s no slouch either delivering a terrifically daft performance, but it’s her script that shines brightest. Her pre-studio interference cut is nothing more than a dream, but we’ll happily settle for this lovingly presented new Blu-ray of all that exists.

[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, essays]


The Best

Better Watch Out

Better Watch OutWhat is it? A babysitter is forced to fight back when home invaders threaten her and her charge.

Why see it? I’ve been singing the praises of Chris Peckover’s (Undocumented) sophomore feature for over a year now, so I’m thrilled to see it finally come to home video. It’s a sharp and funny take on the home invasion sub-genre, but more than that it’s also an equally smart and entertaining take-down of male entitlement and the ownership too many of us take over women. That said, the film is light years from preachy and instead delivers the holiday-themed thrills with terrific pacing and wit. Seek it out before its story beats are spoiled for you.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis [Shout Select]

Eagles Of Death MetalWhat is it? Three months after a deadly terrorist attack during a rock concert the band returns for a defiant new show.

Why see it? I’d never heard of the Eagles of Death Metal before November 13th, 2015, but that night seared them into history as the band playing at Paris’  Bataclan Theatre when cowardly terrorists took 130 lives throughout the city (including 89 at the concert). The band were among the survivors, but like many others they were left with PTSD from the trauma. This doc follows from the attack itself through their triumphant return to perform a show for other survivors and fans in Paris. It’s an emotionally affecting journey punctuated by kickin’ rock songs.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Fargo – Season 3

FargoWhat is it? A fantastic film begat a great series, and this is its third season.

Why see it? Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Thewlis, Michael Stuhlbarg, Shea Whigham, Scoot McNairy, Ray Wise, Mary McDonnell, and the voice of Billy Bob Thornton? Easily the most deliriously brilliant cast of the year. The story that unfolds this season is deserving of the talent too as criminals, heroes, and losers once again cross paths on the snowy landscape of Minnesota. They’re all intertwined in an intricate tale that starts with greed, ends with murder, and leaves no one unscathed. Dark humor remains an equally visible element with bleak laughs falling alongside the bodies, and while not all of its final beats live up to what came before it’s just terrifically involved storytelling that holds your head and heart until the end.

[DVD extras: Featurettes]

Letter From an Unknown Woman [Olive Signature]

Letter From An Unknown WomanWhat is it? A playboy receives a letter from a woman who, unbeknownst to him, is the only one who ever loved him.

Why see it? Joan Fontaine, obviously. The film itself is a wonderfully melodramatic romance told through Fontaine’s narration as the woman of the title. We flashback as she shares the story of her love with the man who never knew, and what could have been a sappy romance instead moves toward a sad, heartbreaking conclusion. Louis Jourdan is the man in question, and we see him slowly shift in his understanding to strong effect, but it’s Fontaine who takes center stage here. Director Max Ophuls crafts a lush atmosphere for the tragic love story to play out against, and it’s the kind of film you don’t see much of these days.

[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, essays]

Silent Night, Deadly Night [Scream Factory]

Silent Night Deadly NightWhat is it? Childhood trauma leads a young man to commit messy murders while dressed as Santa Claus.

Why see it? As holiday horror movies go this 80s slasher is something of a classic. Granted, it’s remembered best for its audacious narrative, nationwide controversy, and the sight of a poor, topless Linnea Quigley being impaled on a mounted deer head’s rack, but it’s actually a fun little slasher movie. The holiday antics give it a boost and add extra layers of fun too. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray gives the film a fantastic presentation with two cuts of the movie and a Santa sack filled with extras new and old including an in-depth making-of with new interviews. It’s a must-own for slasher fans and Santa lovers alike.

[Blu-ray extras: Theatrical & unrated versions, interviews, featurette, commentaries]

South Park – The Complete First / Second / Third / Fourth / Fifth Season

South ParkWhat is it? One of the smartest, funniest, and occasionally grossest cartoons ever sees its early seasons come to Blu-ray.

Why see it? South Park is far less of a cultural player these days, but once upon a time the show’s commentaries on American life were hot topics at the office water cooler. (Office water coolers may have also gone the way of the dodo by this point.) You can see politics, pop culture, and social commentary slowly building across the seasons as Trey Parker and Matt Stone find their voices and interests, but laughs — both smart and crass — remain constant. The discs aren’t heavy on extras, but we do get several commentaries with the guys spread across the episodes that bring their own laughs and insight.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, music video]


The Rest

American Assassin

American AssassinWhat is it? A man seeks revenge on the terrorists who killed his fiance.

Why see it? The film opens with a brutal and brazen attack reminiscent of 2015’s No Escape in its boldness, but rather than follow that film’s over the top nature it buckles down to become a perfectly competent action/thriller. Dylan O’Brien is fine, Michael Keaton is fun, and Taylor Kitsch finds his niche as a brash bad guy. No molds are broken here story-wise, but the action scenes are pretty terrific in their choreography and editing. Those scenes give the film dramatic thrills and make up for the otherwise generic plotting. Action fans should give it a spin for its shootouts, fisticuffs, and vehicular shenanigans.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Q&A, featurettes]

Auntie Mame [Warner Archive]

Auntie MameWhat is it? A young boy is sent to live with his eccentric aunt when his father dies unexpectedly.

Why see it? My heart belongs to Joan Fontaine (see Letter From an Unknown Woman above), but Rosalind Russell is another class act from the 40s and 50s. Here she brings her acclaimed Broadway turn to the screen, and the result is a fun, fast-moving comedy about class and family that brings some healthy laughs. Being a stage adaptation of a big, loud production the film is equally big and loud, so while the humor and personality land the heart is a bit shakier. Still, it’s good fun and a reminder that you can never go wrong with Russell.

[Blu-ray extras: Isolated score]

Crash Pad

Crash PadWhat is it? An act of infidelity leads to unlikely roommates.

Why see it? Everything about this one aside from the cast makes it look like a loser, but thankfully the cast will be enough to get people to watch because it’s actually surprisingly funny. The dialogue is filled with quotable gems, and the cast — Domhnall Gleeson, Thomas Haden Church, Christina Applegate — deliver them to perfection. The story, though, itself is admittedly goofy and highly unconvincing with story turns and outcomes that land with a thud. It hurts the film’s aspiration as romantic comedy, but thankfully the comedy half works well.

[DVD extras: Bloopers]

The Crucifixion

The CrucifixionWhat is it? A nun’s death during an exorcism leads a reporter to investigate the unbelievable details.

Why see it? Xavier Gens (Hitman, Frontiers) makes attractive movies in the action/horror genres, but they don’t always have the best scripts or stories. His latest continues that trend with a tale of possession and exorcism that, while based on a [cough] true story, feels far too familiar in its narrative turns. It also too often falls victim to the trappings of modern horror films with loud noises meant to stimulate scares that the actual material can’t deliver. It’s attractive though.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Despicable Me 3

Despicable MeWhat is it? A bratty new villain causes real pain for the family Gru.

Why see it? As annoying as the Minions are in large doses (sorry Minions) they bring some laughs to this already mildly entertaining tale from Illumination. The new villain (voiced by Trey Parker) helps elevate it over the second film as his 80s-inspired antics bring a smile to your face. Everything else is pretty much as expected with bright, sharp animation and fast-moving story beats. I’m not the biggest fan of most CG-animated kids fare as they typically play down to the little ones, but this franchise does a good job appealing both to them and the rest of us.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short film, featurettes, deleted scene]

Jumanji

JumanjiWhat is it? A boy returns twenty six years after being sucked into a magical board game, and he brings the game world with him.

Why see it? Joe Johnston’s fantasy/comedy delivers laughs alongside its more magical elements as creatures from the game enter the real world of suburbia. It’s a kids movie with some pretty basic themes at play, but Robin Williams does great work and it’s always fun being reminded of Kirsten Dunst’s early years. The supposed but clearly not at all related reboot hits theaters this month, so it’s as good a time as any to revisit the Williams-starring original. The new Blu-ray includes old extras and new.

[Blu-ray extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, commentary, featurettes, episodes of animated TV series]

The White King

The White KingWhat is it? A young boy finds something to fight for while living under a brutal dictatorship.

Why see it? It’s not clear if the book this film is based upon falls under the YA banner, but the resulting adaptation feels akin to the format. It’s more drama, though, than adventure, and that’s something of a mixed bag. An interesting-enough world is built, albeit one familiar from dystopian fiction, but the story being told remains small throughout. It’s ultimately little more than a story about a boy who misses his father, and while bigger things are teased they’re never really brought into focus. It’s a fine little drama.

[DVD extras: Featurette, interviews]


Also out this week:

Conor McGregor: Notorious, Digimon Adventure: Confession, Howard Lovecraft & the Undersea Kingdom, Santa Stole Our Dog!