Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
Ulzana’s Raid [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? US cavalrymen head out after an Apache war party.
Why see it? While some westerns offer a nuanced look at the supposed barbarity of Native Americans, this early 70s effort from director Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen, 1967) goes all in with violence, gore, and brutality. It’s a mean movie, but while it casts its Apache as extremely cruel it suggests in small ways that it’s more of a human trait than one specific to their tribe or race. Burt Lancaster headlines alongside a young Bruce Davison, and the pair offer up observations on the world they’re enmeshed in — a violent one where wrongs result in more wrongs, and so one. The action is thrilling, although the horses have a rough time of it per the apparent requirements of older westerns, and the film delivers plenty of sequences that hold the attention. The disc includes an interview with Davison which is also worth a watch.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
What is it? Scottish teens get horny too.
Why see it? The individual elements that make up this coming of age tale may not be unique necessarily, but their execution is just delightful. Thick Scottish accents, big 80s hair, and a goofy innocence fill the screen, and while the plot is bare bones — Gregory likes a girl! — the film carries viewers along to its conclusion without convoluted threads. It’s a funny film, honest too, and fans of the genre should give this 1980 gem a spin. This new Blu features a commentary track with writer/director Bill Forsythe and critic Mark Kermode that showers both affection and observation on the film.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
House By the Cemetery [Blue Underground]
What is it? A family moves into a bad house.
Why see it? Lucio Fulci’s horror output is varied with the real constant being gory set pieces, atmospheric settings, and great scores, and this entry is among his best. The supernatural elements are kept to a minimum as instead we’re dealt a Hider in the House situation, but the creepiness remains along with some truly bloody demises. The plot engages more than Fulci’s usual dreaminess and delivers some interesting turns too. Sure, little Bob is still annoying as hell, but as the actor interview reminds it was the dubber’s fault, not his! This new 4K restoration brings out Fulci’s eye for color and biology, and the extras include a mix of old and new interviews spread onto a second Blu-ray.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, Q&A, soundtrack CD]
Pain and Glory
What is it? A man looks back over his life.
Why see it? Pedro Almodovar’s latest is a semi-autobiographical look at an artist struggling with his memories and desires to continue creating art. He recalls incidents and relationships from his childhood and reconnects with an old friend, and the film moves between the past and present with an affection for life, love, and the importance of art. Antonio Banderas delivers one of his best performances in one of his best roles.
[Extras: Q&A, interview]
The Addams Family
What is it? They’re icky and they’re spooky.
Why see it? An animated Addams Family movie feels unnecessary as the features brought all of that visual imagination life already, but fun animation and a great voice cast help make this a fun time. Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac play the morbidly loving couple at the heart of the family with Chloe Moretz and Finn Wolfhard giving voice to their kids. Bette Midler, Nick Kroll, Martin Short, Allison Janney, Catherine O’Hara, Tituss Burgess, Elsie Fisher, and more join in on the fun.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Black and Blue
What is it? A rookie cop is hunted by dirty boys in blue.
Why see it? Deon Taylor’s latest may not bring much new to the table, but it’s a solid little action/thriller all the same anchored with a terrific lead performance by Naomie Harris. She sees something she shouldn’t and then spends the rest of the film on the run with her body-cam footage, and while CG blood is lame and the script makes some silly choices it succeeds with shades of 16 Blocks (2006). The film makes some observations on race relations, police brutality, and criminal activity, and while none of its new it’s refreshing in its approach — rather than point fingers the film is simply saying we all can and should do better. It’s a mild diversion but worth a watch.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
Cimarron [Warner Archive]
What is it? The founding of Oklahoma comes alive.
Why see it? Ron Howard’s Far and Away (1992) is built in part on a historical event that saw land given away to settlers in the form of a mad dash to stake claims, and this 1960 epic takes a similar start. Glenn Ford is the big name here as the film follows characters across decades of settlement through ups and downs of frontier to city life. It touches on the mistreatment of Native Americans, the fragility of manhood, and the importance of persistence, and it all works as big, old-school drama. It lacks some strong centerpieces, but the performances are fine and help bring it to an emotional close.
What is it? An app counts down your final moments.
Why see it? Writer/director Justin Dec makes his feature debut with a premise that pairs elements from films like Flatliners (1990) and Final Destination (2000) with a mysterious app that knows when you’re going to die, but it does far too little with those ideas. Countdown struggles to find its own voice, though, with the result being a fairly generic mashup that, a few laughs aside, fails to entertain with thrills, chills, or anything in between. Read my full review.
What is it? A courier bites off more than she can chew.
Why see it? Look, I am an easy mark for Olga Kurylenko-led action movies so you should adjust your expectations accordingly. This time around it’s basically her fighting a bunch of would-be assassins in a multi-leveled parking garage in London while a passive-aggressive, one-eyed Gary Oldman listens to loud music in his NYC penthouse. The action grows increasingly brutal and thrilling — we get some CG blood early on but are later treated to some nasty head injuries — but the film suffers every time it jumps back to Oldman. Action fans should give it a spin though.
High-Ballin’ [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Truckers find trouble on the open road.
Why see it? Jerry Reed shares the lead as a trucker facing hard times when his friends find themselves hijacked and robbed on their routes, and along with best friend turned motorcycle-riding stunt man (?) Peter Fonda they take the fight to the bad guys. Helen Shaver co-stars as a saucy love interest, but the real action is on the road where the film delivers some pretty thrilling stunts and action beats. It’s a Canadian production shot during the winter so things look cold and miserable, but if anything that makes the action look even better. There are no real surprises here or stellar scenes, but it’s a solid 70s trucker flick.
[Extras: New 2K master]
I See You
What is it? Missing kids and mysterious happenings draw a family toward danger.
Why see it? The first half of this thriller delivers some genuinely creepy sequences and works well to grab hold of viewer attention with its blend of dark behaviors and supernatural suggestions. The back half, though, drops the ball by retelling things from a new perspective that robs the film of mystery and drags when it should be zagging. It’s interesting enough and worth a look for its setup.
The Knight of Shadows
What is it? A demon hunter hunts demons.
Why see it? Jackie Chan headlines this CG f/x-heavy fantasy, and the end result is an action-heavy flick for kids. Good little demons help Chan fight big nasty ones, and the bulk of it all takes place on digital landscapes. Even the more traditional action is accomplished mostly with assists making this more of a family-friendly romp than an engaging fantasy film.
The Mindy Project – The Complete Series
What is it? A young doctor finds her way in the world.
Why see it? Mindy Kaling’s series ran for six seasons, 117 episodes, and while it grows pretty weak in the back half due to lazy writing and the unfortunate decision to make her increasingly incompetent, the first few seasons are still good fun. They led with smart writing and engaging characters exploring single life, dating, Mindy’s Indian culture, and the realities of being a female doctor, and the laughs followed. Later seasons stuck vaguely to the same ideas but dumbed Mindy and others down considerably.
Semi-Tough [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Football players and their lady friend have fun.
Why see it? I’d say this late 70s romp is essentially a football version of Slap Shot (1977), but they released the same year. Still, it’s similar in spirit as the film delivers a bawdy, non-pc comedy about the players on and off the field. This film is less interested in their underdog status, though, and while it’s in play it’s not the central thread we get with Paul Newman’s film. Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson plays the players — the latter’s grey beard makes him suspect as a celebrated wide receiver, but whatever — and Jill Clayburgh is the woman they both maybe love. It’s funny and plenty rude, and this new Blu looks great.
[Extras: New 2K master]
Sliding Doors [Shout Select]
What is it? A woman moves between her alternate realities.
Why see it? It might be hard for some to remember, but before Gwyneth Paltrow started her cult of the Goop she was a fairly well respected actor. This romantic comedy/drama is lighter fare than some, but it’s a solid tale exploring ideas and “what ifs” through the simple act of choosing whether or not to enter open doors. John Hannah and Jeanne Tripplehorn are along for the ride, and it’s a solid late 90s excursion into love and other unknowns.
[Extras: Commentary, documentary, interview]
Tobruk [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Allies prepare a daring raid on Rommel’s fuel depot.
Why see it? Rock Hudson and George Peppard headline this World War II action/drama that benefits immediately from a setting outside of Europe. Libya is home to much of the action here, and it offers a relatively fresh set of visuals for war movie fans. Hudson and Peppard are solid, and while there’s a bit too much rear projection for my tastes the film still delivers some action set-pieces particularly in its third act.
Zombieland: Double Tap
What is it? More zombie action from the people who killed Bill Murray.
Why see it? Fans of the first will probably find plenty to enjoy here as the foursome — Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin — return for more zombie carnage and jokes, but there’s nothing new if you’re not already on board. Well aside from the utterly perfect Zoey Deutch who joins as a young woman who’s been surviving in a freezer. She’s hilarious. A few other newcomers bring some laughs too including Luke Wilson and Rosario Dawson, some of the zombie bloodletting is fun, and the return of a certain someone is enjoyable, but overall it’s fine. Definitely stay through the credits though.
[Extras: Bloopers, deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
Also out this week:
Complicity, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Le Petit Soldat [Criterion Collection], Sprinter, The War Lord [KL Studio Classics]