Plus 10 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!

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Pick of the Week

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Professor MarstonWhat is it? The true story of a married couple outside the social/sexual norms who invent Wonder Woman.

Why see it? Any concerns about a dry, generic biopic should be abandoned now, though, as the film is a true marvel that manages to be romantic, funny, challenging, and sexy to boot. Writer/director Angela Robinson crafts something wonderful and rare here with an atypical love story for both the past and the present. The romance that blossoms between these three adults is as invigorated with lust as it is with sweetness, but their challenges are legion in a society more accustomed to hiding its “dirty” secrets from view. The creation and origin of Wonder Woman is woven throughout their collective story, and it offers a fascinating glimpse into the early days of a character we clearly didn’t know as well as we thought.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]

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The Best

10 Cloverfield Lane [4K UltraHD]

Cloverfield Lane KWhat is it? A young woman awakes in a bunker with a stranger who claims he’s saved her life from a deadly plague above, but did he?

Why see it? With or without the Cloverfield connections, this is a top-notch, claustrophobic little thriller. The majority of the film takes place in cramped quarters, and director Dan Trachtenberg makes sure we feel that lack of space in our lungs. An air vent sequence, in particular, might just trigger fears you never knew you had. Scenes of plausible serenity give way to suspense and terror, sometimes slowly, excruciatingly, and sometimes faster than we’re prepared for ‐ blame Goodman for most of the latter instances ‐ and the entirety holds viewers in a grip that only continues to tighten. 4K is usually a noticeable improvement in films that are are action/effects-heavy or that feature gorgeous landscapes — this (mostly) single location thriller is neither but the sharpness highlights the claustrophobia and actually tightens the experience.

[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]

 

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Old Stone

Old StoneWhat is it? No good deed goes unpunished.

Why see it? Johnny Ma’s feature debut is a dark, cynical look at a system and a populace that gives zero shits about you. It’s China here, but it could just as easily be the United States as one man’s attempt to help spirals him towards ruin. Suspenseful and heartbreaking, the film moves forward on the power of its increasingly desperate tale and the lead performance of Chen Gang who anchors it all. It doesn’t paint a very optimistic portrait of humanity in general and instead leads to some very dark places, but man, is it a memorable and sadly honest ride.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, short film]

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The Square

The SquareWhat is it? A museum curator wanting to put good into the world sees his desire challenged at every turn.

Why see it? Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure is a smart, funny take-down of a man who thinks he’s better than he is, and The Square continues that theme on a bigger scale in brilliant and very funny ways. It explores our relationship to art and the perceived “goodness” in its appreciation, but it also follows one good man’s tumble down a hole of good intentions. The film is methodically paced and won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes, but if you can get on its wavelength a remarkably insightful and entertaining journey awaits.

[DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Viva L’ Italia [Arrow Academy]

Viva LitaliaWhat is it? The true story of Italy’s great general, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Why see it? Director Roberto Rossellini was tasked with making a biopic about the man who helped unify Italy in the late 1800s, but rather than deliver a dry drama the resulting film is an honest to gosh epic. The character work intrigues, but the battles demand our attention as they unfold across hillsides and patchwork farmland with hundreds of fighters filling the screen. It’s a thrilling feature that also happens to look good and educate those of us unfamiliar with the region’s history. The supplements add more understanding of Rossellini’s motivation, and it leaves you wishing the US government would occasionally fund feature films to celebrate our own varied history.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, alternate US cut, interview, essay, booklet]

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The Rest

Cloverfield [4K UltraHD]

Cloverfield KWhat is it? Monsters interrupt a party!

Why see it? I know all of you love it and it was a big hit, but Cloverfield is just not for me. It’s a damn shame as I love monster movies, but the found footage angle here is just too damn annoying. If a monster is visible to you that’s what you should and would be filming (if you were still filming at all), but here they repeatedly turn the camera to look at friends’ expressions and dialogue scenes. Who would do that? No one! So dumb. Anyway, all of that said, the creature/military action does find new life in 4K meaning fans with the tech to back it up will want to double-dip on this one.

[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]

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Last Flag Flying

Last Flag FlyingWhat is it? A father recruits two old friends to attend his son’s military funeral.

Why see it? IT’s impossible not to be moved by the story of a parent burying their child, and while this child is a twentysomething who died during military service it doesn’t lessen the emotional impact any. The film’s affecting story is bolstered by a trio of strong performances from Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne with Carell shining brightest as the father. It’s a simple story, and while brief detours into a commentary on veterans and the way they’re treated play into the whole the main thread is one of grief, love, and moving forward.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, outtakes]

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Legend of the Naga Pearls

Legend Of The Naga PearlsWhat is it? A supernatural race of beings decides it’s time to take down humanity.

Why see it? Chinese cinema is filled with fantasy adventures as the culture is overflowing in legends and tales of supernatural wonder, and as these things go this is a pretty okay one. The CG is mostly solid, the action is plentiful, and it’s hard to argue with the colorful costumes and set designs. It is heavy on the wire-fu when it comes to the action beats meaning it’s mild fun that never really impresses on that front, but fantasy fans will enjoy the world-building and character design.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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Rendel: Dark Vengeance

RendelWhat is it? A leather-clad vigilante stands up against a dangerous corporation.

Why see it? It’s being billed as Finland’s first superhero feature, but it really is more of a vigilante film as our hero lacks superpowers and instead simply kicks butt. Of course, there’s not a damn thing wrong with kicking butt, and the film enjoys a darkly stylish vibe as he does just that. It’s ultimately a solid, albeit underwhelming, action film, though, due as much to budget as it is to being a first-time effort. Still, the style bodes well for what’s to come with more practice.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

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Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween

BooWhat is it? When an idiot teenager heads to a creepy campground for a Halloween party her only hope for survival is Madea and friends.

Why see it? Look, only you know if you’re a Tyler Perry / Madea fan, and if you are then this is clearly for you. The rest of us are stuck finding the laughs absent, the performances wanting, and story devoid of thrills. It plays more like a Scooby Doo cartoon than a comedic thriller, and Perry’s fondness for playing multiple characters leaves you wanting to watch Coming to America instead. Again, though, I say this knowing that the movie was a minor hit in theaters, so you do you.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes]

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The Witches [Arrow Academy]

The WitchesWhat is it? Five tales with the same actress connecting them all.

Why see it? Anthology films are always a mixed bag, this one more than most as its central connecting thread is a loose interpretation of the idea of “witches.” Silvana Mangano is the performer taking the lead in all five, and her characters range from the immediate to the secondary without tangible connection. There’s humor to be found in a couple of them, but the more serious tales don’t quite land as well. It remains an interesting film for a few reasons, though, including an appearance by Clint Eastwood in the last story.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary with Tim Lucas, English-language version, booklet]

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Also out this week:

Class of 1999 [Vestron Video], Fugitive Girls [Vinegar Syndrome], God’s Own Country, Gothic [Vestron Video], Kameradschaft [Criterion Collection], Lucifer’s Women [Vinegar Syndrome], Penitentiary [Vinegar Syndrome], The Projected Man [Scream Factory], Westfront 1918 [Criterion Collection]

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