Plus 11 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
The Girl Without Hands
What is it? A girl finds herself caught up in her father’s deal with the devil.
Why see it? This is a dark tale, unsurprisingly for the Brothers Grimm, about the importance of virtue and staying true to yourself. The girl is accidentally gifted to the devil, but her purity prevents him from sealing the deal. He takes her hands in addition to other hardships, but his hope that it will push her over the edge come up empty. The animation style is very much a minimalist one with hand-painted frames bringing just enough to life for viewers to follow with their eyes. The animation won’t hold kids’ attention, but that’s for the best as the story and visuals aren’t for young minds anyway. The disc’s “making of” featurette offers an interesting glimpse into the artwork’s creation too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interview, short films]
The Covered Wagon
What is it? A wagon train heading west encounters highs and lows on their journey towards a new home.
Why see it? This 1923 silent film is considered to be the first Western epic, and you can see why as grand landscapes come to life with dozens of wagons, hundreds of characters, raging rivers, running buffalo, and more. They have tons of struggles on the trip with a massive Native American attack taking the lead in scale, scope, and dramatic push. It’s an epic in every sense of the word as small, intimate subplots are carried forward with their grand journey. The extras offer a detailed look at the film’s production, but the highlight is the short with Shirley Temple and a bunch of other kids spoofing the film with “The Pie-Covered Wagon.”
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, booklet essay, 1932 spoof with Shirley Temple, organ score]
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-the-Moon Marigolds [Twilight Time]
What is it? Come spend time with an offbeat family in distress.
Why see it? Paul Newman isn’t often referred to as a film director, but he directed five feature films (and a TV movie) from 1968 through 1987. This family drama, based on a Pulirzer Prize-winning play, keeps him behind the camera, and instead the focus is on the characters, story, and the stellar lead performance by Joanne Woodward. She’s devastating as a mother clearly beyond her mental means, and her moments of minor warmth are every bit as powerful as her cold outbursts. It’s a low-key film, but as a character piece about surviving your familial surroundings it’s an affecting and memorable feature.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The Florida Project
What is it? A six-year-old girl spends the summer with her mother in a motel in the shadows of Walt Disney World.
Why see it? Sean Baker’s Tangerine follow-up starts a bit rough as the acting and characters feel a bit off, but before you know it you’re pulled effortlessly into this world with sweetness, character, and a commentary on the lives unfolding just outside the gates of Disney. There are hardships and suffering, but the main drive here is family, love, and compassion. It’s also the best Willem Dafoe performance (and character) in years as a guy who feels as if he’s on the periphery before actually taking hold of the narrative in some ways. It’s a beautiful film, both visually and thematically, and it’s well worth your time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, bloopers, interviews]
The Incident [Twilight Time]
What is it? Two thugs terrorize a subway car full of New Yorkers.
Why see it? This late 60s film captures a hard truth in its look at people’s unwillingness to get involved in other people’s struggles. Two young men — played terrifically by Martin Sheen and Tony Musante — board a late night subway car and immediately begin harassing various passengers. It never goes fully exploitative, but they’re being victimized all the same, and the response again and again is inaction by those nearby. It’s a combination of their own fear and a selfish belief that what happens outside their own space isn’t their business, and there’s a raw reality to both the observation and the presentation. It’s harrowing and infuriating at times, and it’s a lesson about being better towards our neighbors. It’s fantastic.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? An exploration of Vincent Van Gogh’s life and death, as told through paintings.
Why see it? The core story here is an interesting look at the great artist’s life based on information and detail gathered through his own letters. There’s some engaging elements here for fans of the man, but the film’s real weight comes in its own creation. It’s animated, but it’s accomplished via artwork hand-painted in oils. Rather than traditional sketch animation or even CG rendered films, each frame is an actual painting. They include over a hundred of Van Gogh’s own works in addition to many, many more created just for the film. It’s a painstaking work of art.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Master – The Complete Series
What is it? An American ninja comes home in search of his daughter and finds an apprentice instead.
Why see it? The complete series only runs thirteen episodes, but fans of 80s action television will have fun (and maybe even remember) this one. It’s very much in the vein of The A-Team or The Incredible Hulk as our heroes roam the country on their own quest while also helping strangers in need. It may lack the bigger feel of those two shows, but Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi are always great fun as eternally serious enemies. The sidekick, played by Timothy Van Patten, brings some comic relief, but the main draw here remains the action and two dueling leads.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Daddy’s Home 2
What is it? Grandpas join the family for Christmas with results.
Why see it? As a trailer for Liam Neeson’s Missile Tow it’s not horrible, but on the whole far too much of this follow-up sticks with the easy laughs of pratfalls and injuries. Mel Gibson and John Lithgow join Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, and the foursome manage a few laughs (with Gibson’s concerns about respecting the manger scene standing out). It’s not exactly a high point for the female characters, but the youngest lands the film’s biggest guffaws with some drunk antics.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, gag reel]
Harry and Walter Go to New York [Twilight Time]
What is it? Two guys whose names I forget at the moment take their criminal ways to the Big Apple.
Why see it? You can’t argue with the casting here as James Caan and Elliott Gould play minor crooks in the late 19th century who find themselves crossing paths with a master criminal brought terrifically to life by Michael Caine. Diane Keaton joins the fray too, and all four do strong work with some fun material. It runs a bit too long for said material, but the production has an energetic feel to its inspired hijinks. Director Mark Rydell found far greater success with later dramas (The Rose, On Golden Pond, The River), but he shows a smart eye for comedy both written and physical. Again, though, the cast helps.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Manhattan Murder Mystery [Twilight Time]
What is it? A married couple are drawn into a mystery involving a possible murderer who lives in their building.
Why see it? Woody Allen’s greatest strength as a director remains his ability to attract compelling casts, and this early 90s entry is no different. Sure he stars in in too, but he also nabs Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Ron Rifkin, and Zach Braff. They’re a fun bunch, and they bring a lightly comedic tough to Allen’s material. The film itself is more of a mixed bag as the main story underwhelms — it’s not really much of a mystery –even as the smaller interactions between characters delight.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Mom and Dad
What is it? A pair of parents develop homicidal urges towards their children.
Why see it? Brian Taylor, one half of the Crank duo, goes solo with this comedic thriller that sees Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair killing it as they try to kill their kids. It’s funny and occasionally suspenseful as their suburban world goes sideways… and then it just ends. It feels like it’s missing an entire third act, and it works to deflate the entirety of what came before. It’s good fun until then and feels as if it’s building to some fantastic conflicts, but then, nothing. Still, fans of the two leads will want to give it a spin.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Rise of the Footsoldier: Part II
What is it? A gangster climbs the ranks of the underworld in search of revenge.
Why see it? Carlton Leach may not sound like a tough guy’s name, but his antics prove otherwise as he earns promotions and power through violence and cruel choices. There are direct lines to the first film, but flashbacks and exposition make having seen it unnecessary. Much of it does feel generic, though, and budgetary restraints keep the action beats small. The narrative does take some engagingly dark turns to make it worthwhile for fans of British crime flicks.
[DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]
Also out this week:
An Actor’s Revenge [Criterion Collection], Farewell My Lovely / The Big Sleep [Shout Select], The Hero [Criterion Collection], The Night Walker [Scream Factory], Same Kind of Different As Me, Steve McQueen: American Icon
Related Topics: Home Video