Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
What is it? A detective (of sorts) with Tourette’s Syndrome tries to solve a murder.
Why see it? Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel was unfairly ignored at the end of last year but is well deserving of a second chance on home video. It’s an engaging noir with a compelling lead performance by Norton himself, and while his Tourette’s takes a few minutes getting used to the film delivers a compelling mystery, intriguing characters, and a fun watch. It’s like a lighter Chinatown, and there’s room for that in the world.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
Fail Safe [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A computer malfunction sends bombers toward Moscow, and the US president struggles to cancel the apocalypse.
Why see it? Sidney Lumet’s stunning drama about two superpowers on the brink of a nuclear war creates a powerful “what if?” scenario involving human choices and mechanical failure capable of destroying humanity. Terrific performances by Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, and others bring home thought provoking ideas building to an unforgettable ending. Criterion’s new disc is beautiful and brings the black & white film to sharp life, and the extras offer plenty of insight into the film’s production and topics.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interview, documentary]
Flesh Eating Mothers [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? As is to be expected, promiscuity leads to cannibalism.
Why see it? This quickie little horror film pairs some mild commentary with some fun gore and enough laughs to make it an entertaining watch. Moms developing a taste for human flesh? Particularly flesh belonging to their own “teen” children? Laughs ensue. The bloodletting is well done and better than should be expected for the budget and comedic stylings, and the dialogue — while ridiculous and sketchily delivered by an amateur cast — is often hilarious.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews]
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death [Scream Factory]
What is it? A recently institutionalized woman suspects she may still be mad.
Why see it? This atmospheric chiller has eluded me for years, but having finally caught up with it thanks to Scream Factory’s fantastic new disc I can only request that you don’t wait like I did. It’s a spooky, surprising horror film exploring a fragile sanity with possibilities both tragic and cruel. There’s a dreaminess to it at times which adds to the mystery, and the journey satisfies with thrills and revelations focused around Zohra Lampert’s charismatic lead performance.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, featurette]
What is it? The best film of 2019.
Why see it? Bong Joon-ho’s latest has taken the world by storm, and deservedly so, as he delivers a movie that blends genres in beautiful, funny, and shocking ways. A razor-sharp critique of class lines and expectations, the film introduces viewers to differing families living different lives, and their relations are filled with laughs, drama, and surprises. It’s a movie filled with life, and despite the foreign setting and subtitles the story remains utterly universal.
What is it? Two men encounter an unlikely being with differing results.
Why see it? Perry Blackshear previously gifted genre fans with the fantastic They Look Like People (2015), and while this follow up isn’t quite as intense it still delivers emotionally satisfying horror like few filmmakers attempt. The title creature is a lake nymph, of sorts, responsible for death but capable of love, and the triangle that forms offers a compelling look at the complications from both. It’s once again a slow burn, but it’s worth the pace.
[Extras: Commentaries, interview]
Two On a Guillotine [Warner Archive]
What is it? A young woman’s inheritance requires her to spend time in her dead father’s home.
Why see it? This mid 60s chiller does great work blending mystery, supernatural shenanigans, and a great sense of humor. Connie Stevens takes the lead as the daughter of a recently deceased magician, and she’s an absolute joy displaying both wit and an adorable personality in the face of the spookiness. It’s a fun flick, and while the disc is disappointingly free of extras it’s an entertaining enough movie on its own.
Ballers – The Complete Series
What is it? Sports agents and football players have fun.
Why see it? HBO’s become home to numerous series that find audiences and elite praise from critics, but they also play host to shows like this. The series lasted five seasons, which is no small feat, but it never amounts to much more than basic humor and enjoyable personalities. If an episode works for you then you know they all will as it’s much of the same throughout. Big names, real players, and a base sense of humor are the norm, and if that’s your speed then give it a spin.
Battle of Jangsari
What is it? A battle during the Korean war is devised as an essential suicide mission.
Why see it? War movies sometimes create scenarios encouraging viewers to root for the soldiers, but when it’s made clear that a mission — one based on real events — is designed as a necessary distraction with a guaranteed high body count the drama ramps up. This tale goes heavy on that front and pairs the character drama with action scenes big and small. It’s solid stuff, and the presence of Megan Fox makes it even more interesting as it’s an unexpected face and character.
Body Parts [Scream Factory]
What is it? A man’s lost limb is replaced with a killer’s arm.
Why see it? Jeff Fahey headlines this thriller from writer/director Eric Red, and while it delivers some dark fun it can’t touch Red’s scripts for The Hitcher or Bad Moon. Still, fans of movies about people losing control of their body parts will find enjoyment here as Red and Fahey play it for grim laughs and bloody thrills. Scream Factory’s release adds some entertaining extras offering a glimpse behind the curtains.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, deleted scenes]
Edge of the Axe [Arrow Video]
What is it? An axe murderer kills people with his axe.
Why see it? This little seen 80s slasher features some surprisingly effective kills that, while not spectacularly gory, are often captured in single shots with the blade hitting people and sending blood splattering. The story is a bit silly, and the film’s use of computer hijinks is hilarious, but it’s an entertaining romp for slasher fans. Arrow’s new Blu restores the picture to its original “glory” and includes recollections of its production.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, interviews]
What is it? The slightly beefed up story of Harriet Tubman.
Why see it? The facts of history support the amazing achievements of Harriet Tubman and her work on the “Underground Railroad,” so a movie about her feats is long overdue. Comparisons to superhero origin stories are only slightly exaggerated as she’s portrayed as an action hero with a direct line to god, but Cynthia Erivo’s lead performance captures the woman’s struggle and journey with power and beauty. It’s not quite history, but it’s a good watch.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary]
Terminator: Dark Fate
What is it? A young woman is targeted by a Terminator.
Why see it? It’s probably not saying much that this is the best Terminator sequel since James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Linda Hamilton returns alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it’s Mackenzie Davis who shines brightest as an augmented human from the future. Script issues aside, the action is pretty great including plenty of practical stunt work which adds to the thrills. Give it a shot people.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Underwater! [Warner Archive]
What is it? A shipwreck promises treasure.
Why see it? The recent Kristen Stewart starring horror romp is the best film with this title, but there’s fun to be had with this adventure from the 50s about divers, scavengers, and a sultry dame. We get some underwater adventure, and while none of it is necessarily spectacular it’s a must watch for fans of Jane Russell.
Very Bad Things
What is it? A bachelor party goes awry.
Why see it? Peter Berg is more of an action/patriotic director these days, but he began his filmmaking career with this blackly comic romp about a dead prostitute. It wasn’t funny then and still isn’t today, but it’s an interesting time capsule all the same with a cast that includes Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Leland Orser, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Daniel Stern. Humor being subjective, it’s worth revisiting for yourself, and fans should definitely pick it up anyway.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
Zombie Island Massacre [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Tourists find terror on vacation.
Why see it? There’s an island here and a slow drip of deaths — some murder, some accidental — but there are certainly no zombies on display. So no, this isn’t a Fulci-like descent into undead carnage. It is a mystery of sorts that sees dumb tourists picked off one by one by an outside player, but it’s also not very gory. Your mileage may vary on what’s left, but even beyond not living up to the title there’s just not a lot going on here. That in and of itself makes it a little different, but while it’s never dull it’s also never really all that interesting.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, sizzle reel]
Also out this week:
All About My Mother [Criterion Collection], Black Angel [Arrow Academy], My Name Is Myeisha