Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
What is it? Dan Torrance is still haunted by the events of the Overlook Hotel.
Why see it? Stephen King’s sequel to his classic The Shining became a bestseller in its own right, and the film adaptation has in turn found greatness of its own. Director Mike Flanagan captures the terror, both human and otherwise, in being the product of an alcoholic home, and the added horrors of psychic vampires, a girl with the shine in danger, and a return to the Overlook make for a big, compelling nightmare. There’s a warmth here that isn’t present in Stanley Kubrick’s original film, and we also get memorable visuals, scares, nods to King’s works, and one hell of a Jacob Tremblay cameo.
[Extras: Theatrical & director’s cuts, featurettes]
Boyz ‘n the Hood
What is it? Three friends come of age in South Central Los Angeles.
Why see it? John Singleton’s landmark feature offers a stark, emotionally affecting look into the lives of young black men in modern day America — it’s from the early 90s, but certain truths remain unfortunately — and it’s brought to life with memorable performances by Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, and others. The film is every bit as powerful today as it was upon release as it captures promise shattered through violence both tragic and unnecessary. The new 4K release brings the film’s observations to even brighter, sharper life while the drama remains as strong as ever.
[Extras: John Singleton tribute (4K), press conference (4K), featurette (4K), commentary with Singleton, featurettes deleted scenes, music videos]
Clockers [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Two cops pursue the truth behind a shooting that may have landed an innocent man in jail.
Why see it? Spike Lee’s adaptation of Richard Price’s bestselling novel brings together a stellar cast for a story about honor, family, greed, and indifference. Harvey Keitel shines in a more sympathetic role than usual, and others including Mekhi Phifer (in his debut), John Turturro, Keith David, and Delroy Lindo are equally good. The film does a great job exploring the shifting moralities of its various players with an honest appraisal of the reality they’re all living within. It’s not a fun movie, but it is a pretty great one.
The House That Jack Built
What is it? A serial killer recounts his serial killing.
Why see it? Lars von Trier is an acquired taste as a filmmaker, and speaking solely for myself it’s a taste I never grew fond of until now. This film, a violent, blackly comic exploration of art itself, is a love it or hate it kind of experience that is firing on all cylinders when it comes to pitch perfect tone, aggressive visuals, and some terrifically funny — and highly inappropriate — humor. Matt Dillon gives one hell of a performance as Jack, and if you have the stomach for what he and the movie are offering the journey is one that’s both highly entertaining and thought-provoking.
[Extras: Theatrical & director’s cuts, interview]
Jungle Fever [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A black man and an Italian woman fall in love, much to the distaste of everyone they know.
Why see it? Spike Lee’s early 90s look at interracial dating isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s always been one of my favorites of his anyway. Wesley Snipes rarely landed romantic leads, and the always great Annabella Sciorra shows once again why it was such a loss to cinema that she was essentially forced out of the business by Weinstein’s dickish actions. Their chemistry is strong, and you buy both their love and their banter. Comedy eeks in alongside the drama through interactions with friends, family, and strangers alike, but the core is the relationship and their reaction to the turmoil. It’s a good one.
Mon Mon Mon Monsters
What is it? A bullied teen finds a monster.
Why see it? This movie is a pitch perfect blend of dark comedy and mean-spirited horror that some viewers are going to love while others hate. It’s a tough watch at times in part because of its theme — that sometimes the bullied and the abused can become bullies and abusers — but it’s a message that’s worth repeating as victimhood shouldn’t be allowed to erase or excuse sins. There’s plenty of blood flowing, and the creature work is captivating and creepy in equal measure, but it’s the haunting and hurtful humanity at its core that makes it unforgettable.
Crooklyn [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A family comes together day after day in 1970s Brooklyn.
Why see it? Easily among Spike Lee’s sweetest, calmest films, this nod to his own family and upbringing is a very human comedy of life’s ups and downs. Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo play the parents to five children of varying ages, and the film simply sits back and lets their lives unfold on the screen. The film moves from funny to bittersweet to challenging to joyful, much like each of our own childhoods, and it’s ultimately a warm look backwards from one of cinema’s great historians.
What is it? A sick young woman falls in love with a mysterious man.
Why see it? Paul Feig’s at his best with films like Spy (2015) which combine fast comedy and brilliant action, but he’s dabbled enough elsewhere to make his work constantly watchable. This, though, is a bit of a struggle. It’s hard to know if it was hurt by plot twist theorizing on social media after the first trailer dropped — or if it’s just straight up not good — but the result is a rom-com that’s neither romantic nor all that funny.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, bloopers, featurettes, commentary with Paul Feig & Emma Thompson]
Mo’ Better Blues [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A celebrated trumpet player juggles life and love.
Why see it? Spike Lee’s always used music well in his films, but here a musician takes center stage. Denzel Washington breathes an aching life into the man as he’s torn between music and love, between women, and between loyalties. Sumptuous visuals compliment the score to a degree that the story takes a near back seat to the sensory journey. The story is fine, though, offering up a dramatic romance at times sexy and sad. The supporting cast is strong including a dynamic turn by Wesley Snipes.
The Oscar [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The story of an actor as he awaits a possible Oscar win.
Why see it? This mid 60s film is most notable for being co-written by the great Harlan Ellison, who went on to have some thoughts on it, as the film itself is an oddly miscast mess. To be clear, it’s still entertaining though. The dialogue is especially priceless at times, and it almost makes up for Tony Bennett’s disastrous performance and Stephen Boyd’s over the top one. It’s ultimately a fun glimpse into the backstabbing world of Hollywood, heightened at times, suspect at others, and Kino’s new 4K restoration brings it all to glorious life. Be sure to check out the commentary track with Patton Oswalt too for some extra laughs and info.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries including one with Patton Oswalt and Josh Olson]
Playing with Fire
What is it? Firefighters find feral kids and hijinks ensue.
Why see it? The question you have to ask yourself is do you like John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, or John Leguizamo enough to spend 95 minutes with them as they babysit a trio of obnoxious kids. The stupidity is played up for laughs — it’s broad comedy aiming for lowest common denominator humor — but if that’s your jam you have three (well, two and a half) solidly comedic talents leading the way.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes]
Rabid [Scream Factory]
What is it? An experimental medical procedure leads to a violent plague.
Why see it? David Cronenberg’s Rabid is far from the filmmaker’s best, but it’s memorable for its typically grotesque and tense approach to body horror and societal dysfunction. The Soska Sisters take their remake in a slightly bigger direction jumping quicker and more violently towards the plague angle, but the more intimate elements don’t quite land. To be fair, the original’s Marilyn Chambers never quite sells it there either, but the difference comes down to Cronenberg’s ability to make scenes feel cold and detached as a way of ramping up the discomfort. This one works best for fans of practical gore effects.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, interview]
Summer of Sam [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A community in the Bronx crumbles beneath a searing heat and a series of murders.
Why see it? Spike Lee’s look at the terror, mistrust, and chaos caused during the summer of 1977 delivers some highlights in the form of performances and production design, but the narrative is at times a bit too frustrating. Its focus splits between hypocritical behaviors and the nervous hunt for the killer resulting in the expected tragedy, but it’s less powerful than it should be thanks to the time spent elsewhere. John Leguizamo is quite good here, but his character’s journey feels unnaturally split in half. Still, it’s an engaging time capsule well captured and presented.
[Extras: Commentary by Spike Lee & John Leguizamo, interview]
What is it? A cop seeks the men responsible for killing his partner.
Why see it? Look, either you’re a fan of Bruce Willis’ straight to video adventures or you’re not. There is no middle ground. If you’re on board for these low budget shenanigans then his latest is for you. It’s not good, and Willis succeeded far better facing off against dirty cops in the excellent 16 Blocks (2006), but one thing this movie has that one didn’t is a single location. An abandoned hospital! Crazy how no one’s thought of that before. Nicky Whelan is the film’s real lead, so that’s potentially a plus, but if not you’re stuck with mediocre set-pieces, plenty of down time, and a tale you’ve seen before.
What is it? A family struggles.
Why see it? Trey Edward Shults’ followup to the underwhelming It Comes at Night (2017) and the excellent Krisha (2015) is a mixed bag that falls somewhere in between. The acting here is stellar with dynamic and powerful turns by Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, and more, but the drama — dipping more than once into wobbly melodrama — feels too forced and “staged” for effect. yes, obviously all films are staged for an effect, but here it feels showy rather than affecting.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, Q&A, deleted scenes]
What is it? A young couple seek the truth behind lost memories and deadly magic.
Why see it? This fantasy film from China explores an ancient myth from the land involving monsters, magic, and budding romance, and it’s brought to life through CG animation. As familiar as the story is the action and visuals are engaging enough to help keep things moving, and they’re similarly the main strength when it comes to the film’s smaller moments between the young lovers (to be). It might not be enough for young ones, but kids who’ve already expressed interest in fantasy may find enough to be captivated.
[Extras: Interview, music video, Q&A]
Also out this week:
Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds, FLCL: Progressive/Alternative, Fraternity Vacation, The Good Liar, Grand Isle, High Strung Free Dance, The Nightingale, Serendipity