Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
What is it? A round-headed boy is banished from The Land of the Point.
Why see it? The 70s were a wild time, and that means animated films like this got pretty regular play enchanting kids and drawing them subconsciously into the world of cool music. Ringo Starr narrates with music by Harry Nilsson, and the story is one about society’s treatment of those who seem different or without familiar purpose. It’s a timeless tale told in a very 70s way, but it holds up! I shared it friends in their 30s and 20s, and it didn’t miss a beat while also delivering some laughs, some weirdness, and some catchy tunes.
[Extras: New 2K transfer, interviews, featurettes]
What is it? A brazen robbery resulting in dead cops sees the island of Manhattan locked down until they’re caught.
Why see it? Chadwick Boseman headlines this terrifically solid thriller, the likes of which they just don’t make anymore. Most studio action/thrillers tend to go smaller or bigger, but this mid-sized slice of entertainment is scaled just right to deliver plenty of practical thrills and set-pieces alongside a compelling enough narrative. Sienna Miller joins the fun too in a role that’s well above the usual “wife or girlfriend of lead male” that she’s so often stuck with, and it’s great seeing her play someone meatier than usual. The lack of pretension is refreshing, and the grounded beats make it a thrilling watch.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary]
Another Day of Life
What is it? A journalist travels into war-torn Angola.
Why see it? The front line reality of any war is an ugly place to be, but for one reporter his immersion into the horrors of Angola’s civil war almost marks the end of him. His true story comes to life here through vibrant, earthy animation as moves deeper into danger, and the human cost of it all is presented with the same clarity and lack of cover. The film intersperses the animated narrative with live action footage of the reporter’s partner in adventure revisiting Angola for the first time and recalling the story from his own perspective. The world is a nightmare, and this animated fare — most decidedly not for children — captures it in compelling ways.
The Light at the Edge of the World [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A lighthouse keeper finds himself targeted by pirates.
Why see it? Jules Verne’s stories have been adapted into numerous adventures known for their thrills and entertainment, but this early 70s feature adds in some unexpected brutality that heightens the drama and thrills even more. Kirk Douglas stars as the lone survivor of a pirate attack headed up by Yul Brynner, and in addition to women and children being slaughtered, a guy being flayed alive, a cute little monkey being disemboweled (not real), and one hell of a finale involving a love interest’s outcome, the film delivers real thrills as a tale of survival. It’s a bold move having the pirates essentially be on land for the entire film too. Fans of unexpectedly savage adventures should check this one out.
[Extras: Commentary with interviews]
What is it? A teenager has sex and finds herself nine months pregnant the very next day.
Why see it? Horror/comedies are tough, but this scrappy delight succeeds through a smart combination of practical effects and funny writing. It’s a terrifically fun slice of sci-fi/horror with a stellar cast of mostly unknowns killing it through charismatic and comedically talented performances. And the effects… as mentioned they’re mostly practical and add plenty of grue and guffaws of their own. It’s just an absolute blast and deserving of more attention, so make the effort people!
[Extras: Featurette, bloopers, commentary]
Tex Avery: Screwball Classics – Volume 1 [Warner Archive]
What is it? Nineteen classics animated shorts!
Why see it? One of the many joys of Warner Bros/MGM cartoons from decades past is that, unlike Disney, they’re not interested in hiding work that no longer meets today’s politically correct standards. Instead, they acknowledge that views have changed and then offer up the cartoons with that understanding. It makes releases like this historical documents, but even if you don’t subscribe to that you’re still getting some big laughs in the form of sixty plus year old cartoons. Avery’s style was energetic and he was prone to breaking rules and fourth walls making for cartoons that keep viewers on their toes. Warner Archive’s new Blu offers up 19 of these shorts, restored and looking beautiful.
Accident [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A professor finds himself entangled with a young couple.
Why see it? It surprises no one to see people in positions of power abusing it in carnal ways, and this late 60s melodrama explores one such reality through flashbacks, voiceover, and emotional dread. It’s a bit over the top at times, note the “melodrama” descriptor, but both Dirk Bogarde and Michael York are standouts. Again, it’s a bit showy at times, but those who find themselves invested will find an emotionally solid ending awaiting.
Beyond Therapy [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? A group of people find love and chatter in a French restaurant.
Why see it? Robert Altman’s films are typically recognizable through their use of ensemble casts, steady conversations, and overlapping dialogue, but while this 1987 release fits the bill it doesn’t share the popularity of the filmmaker’s far better known titles. It’s both difficult and easy to see why. Starting with what works, the cast is stellar with the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Julie Hagerty, Christopher Guest, Tom Conti, and Glenda Jackson delivering some fast banter between each other. Some laughs aside, though, the film as a whole doesn’t quite gel with its looks at anxieties and the dueling halves of the therapeutic relationship.
[Extras: New HD master]
The Day of the Dolphin [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A good man trains dolphins and bad men steal them!
Why see it? What a picture. Mike Nichols directs from a Buck Henry screenplay with George C. Scott taking the lead — the human lead — and the result is something. Scott’s joined by a solid cast including Fritz Weaver, Paul Sorvino, and Trish Van Devere, and the dolphins sure are smooth, but the plot is a whiff. Basically, an bad group of government types steal Scott’s trained dolphin, one they spent big $ facilitating, in order to have it attach a mine to a target’s boat. So rather than take one from Sea World, they go through all this noise to steal one that Scott has taught to… speak English. It ain’t a necessary skill for assassination, and they don’t even use it anyway. So much dumb here, but everyone’s taking it seriously so it’s hard to criticize. Be sure to listen to the Buck Henry interview as he has some entertaining thoughts.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews]
What is it? A family reunion reveals unspoken truths, pains, and loves.
Why see it? The premise here feels very Sundance film fest-like in its simplicity and focus on peeling back layers to reveal hidden feelings, but while the film does that competently its power is in its setting — a beautiful town in Portugal — and cast. Isabelle Huppert headlines, and she’s joined by Brendan Gleason, Marisa Tomei, and Greg Kinnear, all of whom deliver affecting performances as their characters move through the motions and emotions.
What is it? A tiny Nazi befriends a Jew.
Why see it? Taika Waititi’s latest is the epitome of an okay flick. It’s so harmless as hating it seems silly, and it’s so basic that loving it feels equally misguided. It’s amusing at times, mildly shocking at others, and the message at the end of the day stating that hate is bad is a pretty agreeable one, but it’s never incisive or biting in ways that the best satires inevitably are. Watch it for Waititi’s Hitler impression and Wes Anderson-like framing.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary with Taika Waititi, deleted scenes]
The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes
What is it? Two crooks pretend to be Holmes & Watson.
Why see it? This 1937 effort was produced in Nazi Germany before World War II, but while that seems like a dour setting for creativity the resulting film is a fun comedy all the same. The crooks initially pretend to avoid trouble, but when they find themselves tasked with investigating an actual crime they can’t help but get caught up in the mystery and thrill of the chase from the side of good. It maybe runs a little long for its premise and content, but it’s an entertaining glimpse at a different kind of Sherlock tale.
What is it? The Japanese attack on Midway is brought to life.
Why see it? Roland Emmerich’s days of big budget action/disaster pics seems to have passed as the budget here can’t quite deliver where it wants to most — the explosive war action. CG backdrops stand too clearly apart from the live action, and green screen set-pieces do no one any favors, but just as bad is the presence of Ed Skrein as the lead. The dud plays a good villain, but he is not leading man hero material. The lack of charisma at its heart hurts too much leaving a war epic that never feels epic or all that compelling.
[Extras: Commentary by Roland Emmerich, faeturettes]
The Twilight Zone – Season One
What is it? The new Twilight Zone hosted by Jordan Peele.
Why see it? Rod Serling’s enduring creation has been rebooted a couple of times previously to mixed success, but this latest stab has a bit more marketing and money behind it meaning it has potential to attract talents. Its biggest issue, though, is that its biggest talents are in front of the camera. The stories here are almost universally in need of trimming, both for pacing and content as they too often spell out their themes beyond the point of redundancy. There’s good stuff here with a mix of new tales and remade classics, but a tighter grip on episode length will go a long way.
[Extras: Episodes in color and b&w, featurettes, music video, commentaries, gag reel]
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Complete Series
What is it? A young woman’s escape from captivity reveals a whole new world.
Why see it? Ellie Kemper brings her peculiar comedic stylings to the role of a woman who escapes a doomsday cult after having expected the world to end. Shouldn’t be funny, but in the first season at least it’s also hilarious. Humor is played broad, satirical, surreal, and sharp as hell, and the supporting cast brings the talent and fun too including Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski, and Tituss Burgess. Later seasons go a bit too broad losing the slim layer of grounded reality that tethered season one, but it remains an often surprising comedy worth exploring.
Warriors of the Nation
What is it? Wong Fei Hung gets busy.
Why see it? Fans of old school martial arts films will find much to love here even as a bit too much time is handed over to CG shenanigans. Enough of the action is far more grounded — well, with some wire help, naturally — and Vincent Zhao remains a compelling Wong Fei Hung. The story itself involves traitors, deception, and enemies in plain site, but the core of it all comes down to butt kicking, wire-fu style.
What is it? Eight young adults behave poorly.
Why see it? Movies about nihilistic youths can go either way, but the best require characters who engage viewer interest, empathy, or emotion. None of the eight here manage that, and instead we’re stuck with obnoxious teens acting like dicks, twats, and assholes — all of which are bared to show viewers just how indifferent these “kids” are. There’s a tease of something interesting here as the film breaks its story into four chapters, each telling the story with different perspective and details. It suggests a more interesting story than the one we’re being told, but as it stands we’re left with nothing but young tools being cruel to each other and everyone around them.
Also out this week:
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Criminal, Deadly Manor [Arrow Video], Disturbing the Peace, Je t’aime moi non plus, Rasputin: the Mad Monk [Scream Factory], Teorema [Criterion Collection], X: The Unknown [Scream Factory]