Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
Holiday [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A man almost marries into a nutty but wealthy family through the wrong woman.
Why see it? George Cukor directing a fast-paced comedy about class and manners with leads Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn? Of course it’s fantastic. Grant plays a young man set to marry into a socialite family, but plans change when he meets his fiance’s sister (Hepburn). Fast chatter, funny banter, and some smart plot machinations keep the film moving on all cylinders. Criterion’s new Blu offers a restored picture and some minor extras, but the film is alone worth the price of admission.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, earlier adaptation from 1930, featurette]
Brick [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A teen-set noir.
Why see it? Remember Bugsy Malone (1991)? If not, go seek it out, but it’s a gangster tale cast entirely with preteens including Jodie Foster and Scott Baio. It’s good fun, but it’s a gag of sorts. This teenage noir is not that and is instead played serious from opening to close. Rian Johnson’s debut feature sets Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a mystery involving his missing and soon to be dead ex, and everything from the visual cues to the dialogue feels like a fresh take on noir concepts. It’s damn good, and Kino’s new Blu-ray looks fantastic.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, deleted scenes, casting audition]
What is it? The American health system claims one more victim.
Why see it? The film made a billion dollars at the worldwide box-office, so the odds are good you’ve already seen it, but for those that haven’t just know that it’s neither the pure masterpiece that some claim nor the irresponsible garbage as labeled by others. It is however a fantastic drama about a man pushed to the edge by an indifferent society — think a less fun Falling Down and you’ll be in the ballpark — but with the added ingredient of focusing on a known quantity in the comic/film world. Joaquin Phoenix is quite good here, the madness is captured well, and it builds to a wonderfully nihilistic finale.
Kill Them All and Come Back Alone [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Turns out you can’t trust your fellow thieves.
Why see it? Chuck Connors headlines this tale of mercenaries who take on a job involving the theft of gold from the Union Army, but while the plan is to return it to the Confederates things quickly grow complicated. Bad guys be bad guys and all of that. It’s a mean-spirited yet fun ride, and that’s no easy blend. Credit director Enzo G. Castellari and his fairly consistent talent for delivering grim but entertaining fare. Kino’s new Blu looks fantastic thanks to its restoration, and Castellari’s film does all the rest.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, includes both the English cut and the slightly longer Italian cut]
Big Little Lies – Season 2
What is it? Five women holding onto a deadly secret face new challenges.
Why see it? HBO’s adaptation of the best-selling novel was a big hit for the streamer, and that’s more than enough reason to produce a season two of original content. Well, in theory anyway. The actual end result is fine even if it does lack the charisma and power of season one. It’s the cast that holds it up as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz return alongside newcomer Meryl Streep. The six are a collective powerhouse making for compelling viewing even with a weaker plot.
Doctor Cyclops [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A mad scientist shrinks some visitors.
Why see it? The filmmakers behind King Kong and Mighty Joe Young delivered another slice of genre fare with this less creature-oriented sci-fi thriller, and while it’s less memorable overall than those it delivers some good fun. The big draw are the special effects used to create the world for tiny people facing off against the doc, local animals, and everyday objects, and their predicament leads to some thrilling sequences. Fans of the likes of The Incredible Shrinking Man should give it a spin.
[Extras: New 4K master, commentary]
Girl on the Third Floor
What is it? A man’s attempt to remodel a house reveals its deadly secrets.
Why see it? The expected trappings are here for a tale of ghostly revenge, from the spirits and strange noises to the creepy visuals and shocking discoveries, but the lifeblood running through this gooey horror film is a message of acknowledgment and retribution. It’s a story about man’s proclivity for using, abusing, and forgetting women, and while the focus here is on one man the condemnation is aimed at all of them. It’s an effectively unsettling horror film about pains caused by monsters who are far too real.
The Hellbenders [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A family of soldiers hopes to restart the Civil War.
Why see it? The great Sergio Corbucci directs this post-Civil War western about bad men doing bad things and finding the wrong end of a gun barrel as a result. He delivers some solid action populated by mean people and the unlucky bastards who get in their way, and the Civil War angle — a popular element in spaghetti westerns — adds some interesting ideas too. Add in an Ennio Morricone score and you have a good time.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary]
What is it? Two men walk into a lighthouse…
Why see it? Robert Eggers’ follow up to The Witch is a different kind of genre beast, and while it has its appeals the narrative and presentation aren’t nearly as engaging as his debut. It’s interesting but far from the kind of film you’d probably watch again anytime soon. Tastes vary, though, obviously. What definitely works is the casting of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as the two elaborately crazy personalities, and together they deliver some memorable laughs
[Extras: Featurette, commentary, deleted scenes]
What is it? A teenager keeps a monster for his own purposes.
Why see it? Monster movies typically pit the creatures against human heroes/victims, but the narrative is twisted slightly here as our protagonist uses a captured beast for his own brand of revenge. It’s an intriguing idea, and while it’s captured far better in 2017’s Mon Mon Mon Monsters, it manages some engaging thrills here too. The film suffers from too many dream sequences — seriously, they quickly grow tiresome — but enough works to make it worth a watch.
The Specialists [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man seeks revenge in the spaghetti-strewn west.
Why see it? More Sergio Corbucci is never a bad thing, and whether you’ve been a fan for a while or are new to his work thanks to Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), his is a filmography worth indulging in. This time around it’s Johnny Hallyday who arrives in a sketchy western town in search of revenge for the men who killed his brother. Action, betrayal, and bloody dust fills the air, and Corbucci crafts an engaging and mean-spirited adventure.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary]
Wrinkles the Clown
What is it? A guy almost makes a living dressing up as a clown.
Why see it? Clowns are inherently creepy, and no one who isn’t a clown argues that fact, but there’s something extra iffy about an adult who chooses the lifestyle willingly. This doc explores the viral sensation of a clown named Wrinkles who lives in Florida and is available for hire to scare your kids. The doc has fun with his identity, and the ultimate take away is the art of illusion already inherent in someone who paints their face/wears a mask. It’s interesting.
[Extras: Deleted scenes]
Also out this week:
Bulletproof 2, Chained for Life, Cobra Woman [KL Studio Classics], Crown Vic, Depraved [Scream Factory], Imprisoned, Paradise Hills, The Nightshifter, The Omega Syndrome [Scorpion Releasing], Stand Alone [Scorpion Releasing], Trespassers