Plus 15 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
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Pick of the Week
Seduction [Raro Video]
What is it? A man ruins three lives when he chooses to sleep with his girlfriend’s teenage daughter.
Why see it? Fernando Di Leo is best known for his police thrillers, but he was just as capable at delivering the goods with a film more focused on actions of the heart and genitals. It’s a Lolita tale as young Graziella intentionally plays her improperly seductive game with the man, but the film finds its power by actually being about the woman who loves them both. There’s brief sexual satisfaction to be found — and Di Leo shoots a very erotic film (with a 21 year-old playing the teen) — but there are no winners among these characters as the excitement comes with a price. Raro Video’s new Blu-ray
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, booklet]
The Crimson Kimono [Twilight Time]
What is it? A pair of mixed race detectives in late 50s Los Angeles find themselves challenged by a murder case and changing times.
Why see it? Sam Fuller (White Dog) directed this part noir, part social commentary film, and it’s something of an understated gem. The men are great friends and veterans of the Korean war, but the case opens concerns they’ve never felt before when a woman comes between them. The two halves of the film are equally engaging, whether it be the case or the growing drama between the friends, and it’s crazy that a half century later it remains among very few films to feature a romance between an Asian man and a white woman. The two featurettes included here both include interview time with Curtis Hanson, director of L.A. Confidential and big fan of Fuller’s work, and he offers plenty of insight along the way.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, interview ]
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask [Twilight Time]
What is it? Like the title says, it’s everything you ever wanted to know about sex.
Why see it? Woody Allen’s filmography is a case of quantity over quality in my view, but while my favorite (Match Point) of his films is the rare non-comedy this anthology flick is among his top five. The questions answered here run the gamut from “what is sodomy?” to “what happens during ejaculation?” to what if you made a classic horror movie homage about a giant tit? The comedy is a mix of the high and the low brow, and when it hits it’s aces. Gene Wilder stars in the sodomy segment as a doctor who falls in with a sheep named Dolly, and it’s a keeper. Other fun and familiar faces show up too including Burt Reynolds, John Carradine, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, and more. It’s a fun movie filled with gags Allen would probably distance himself from these days.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? An illegal gun deal in 70s Boston goes violently wrong for everyone involved.
Why see it? Ben Wheatley once again proves himself as a modern master of mixing graphic violence with the darkest of comedy. The film is little more than one big shootout, but he gives it and his characters immense personality as each of them feel like individuals rather than mere nameless fodder destined for death. Of course the cast goes a long way in this regard too as the charismatic likes of Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, and more light up the screen. It’s also, and this is a pleasant surprise, the first time Sharlto Copley has truly entertained instead of merely annoyed. It’s unavoidably one-note, but that’s not a problem when the note is this damn enjoyable.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]
Kong: Skull Island
What is it? An island exploration in search of monsters succeeds in finding monsters.
Why see it? Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ entry in WB’s big monster universe is a mixed bag that succeeds on the strength of what matters most… its monsters. Kong appears early, and he’s followed by a growing menagerie of big creatures delivering the visual goods in both action and appearances. It’s the humans who suck the life out of the film though whenever they’re onscreen thanks to an extremely rough script and a lack of character chemistry between leads. John C. Reilly is a standout though bringing big laughs and personality that entertain between monster sightings. The disc’s making-of is a solid extra though offering some fun details into the film’s creation.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
Stalker [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Three men enter a restricted zone in search of their greatest desires.
Why see it? Andrei Tarkovsky’s filmography is one built on methodical pacing, meaningful cinematography, and restrained emotion, and his last Russian-made feature is among his best known. Sci-fi more in spirit than reality, the film offers a world that’s both familiar and foreign as its loose story unfolds with multiple possible meanings. The imagery works well to balance the pacing, and while I won’t pretend to have a firm grasp on the film’s ultimate intent its power seems irrefutable. Criterion’s new Blu-ray presents the picture better than it’s looked before (on home video at least), and the accompanying extras add depth and insight as well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, interviews, booklet]
Stormy Monday [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young man gets mixed up in a new romance and a feud between a club owner and an American gangster.
Why see it? Mike Figgis’ feature debut is a moodily-paced, low-key thriller about ambition and consequences, and a stellar, accomplished cast draws you in even as very little is happening. Melanie Griffith is the love interest while Tommy Lee Jones and Sting play the competing businessmen, but it’s a young Sean Bean who takes the lead as a man who finds himself in well over his head. Figgis composed the jazz-oriented score himself which adds to the rainy ambiance, and there’s a restrained power to the film’s resistance towards typical genre beats.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Blood Alley [Warner Archive]
What is it? An American Captain is rescued from a Chinese prison in exchange for helping dozens of locals relocate to Hong Kong.
Why see it? John Wayne headlines this period action/adventure, but Lauren Bacall holds her own as a doctor’s daughter helping plan the epic operation. They’re both very much in iconic performance mode with Wayne in full-on American hero mode while Bacall is a tough as nails woman surviving in a man’s world. There are moments both comedic and mildly romantic, but the big pull here are sequences of suspense as Chinese soldiers infuse scenes with impending danger during their trip down the river. It’s a fine film that fans of either actor or of the period will happily enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Buster’s Mal Heart
What is it? A struggling family man goes mad.
Why see it? Rami Malek gives a powerfully-affecting performance as a man whose life is crumbling, and as the film moves back and forth in time it’s our empathy for his character that holds our attention. The narrative itself isn’t nearly as engaging though, and at a certain point the manipulation becomes unbearable. There are interesting ideas at work here, and writer/director Sarah Adina Smith keeps things visually powerful throughout, but it all ultimately leaves you wanting something far more substantial. Even with a jumbled time structure too many key story elements feel expected to anyone who’s seen a few movies.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
Freeway [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A killer stalks the L.A. freeways.
Why see it? There’s a simplicity to this story of a religiously-minded killer riding the city’s highways and killing people at an alarming rate, and it feels every bit a late 80s film.Billy Drago is the killer, obviously, and our heroes are portrayed by a staple of the decade, Darlanne Fluegel, and James Russo. There’s not much in the way of surprises here aside from Richard Belzer as a radio talk show host, but the action is well captured resulting in a solid genre entry for the decade. The disc includes an interview with the director who discusses the film’s production as well as clarifying that L.A.’s real-life freeway shootings started while the film was still filming.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]
The Last of the Finest [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A quartet of cops go against the system in pursuit of some rogue arms dealers.
Why see it? The first three faces that appear onscreen here are Joe Pantoliano, Jeff Fahey, and Bill Paxton, and they’re quickly followed by Brian Dennehy as leader of the four. This is a great cast, and together with a script that lifts the expected cops vs bad guys story in unexpected directions the resulting film is one that captures viewers’ attention. It’s a solid early 90s film overflowing with character actors given plenty to chew on, and it delivers some good action along the way too in the form of gun fights and vehicular action.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
No Man’s Land [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A rookie cop goes undercover to investigate a car theft ring.
Why see it? Charlie Sheen was in his prime for this late 80s action/drama, and it’s easy to see the charisma and energy that turned him into a star. He’s the slick, rich, bad influence on D.B. Sweeney’s easily-impressed cop, and the resulting action beats around them are actually pretty solid with some legitimately fun car stunts/action. The cop’s incompetence feels highly exaggerated leading to some annoying events, but the action and cast keep things engaging throughout. The highlight of the disc though is a new interview with Sweeney that’s candid and insightful as he chats about his dislike of Dick Wolf’s script, how much he was paid ($50k that was bumped to $125k when he agreed to take second billing behind Charlie Sheen), and the magic of making junky Porsches look and sound good. He even admits to stealing cars with their technical adviser, a “former” thief, and then putting them back a few hours later.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]
What is it? An Armenian medical student and an American journalist bond over a woman while a genocide unfolds around them.
Why see it? The two leads are the big draw here as Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale bring the doctor and reporter to life, respectively, but the rest of the film doesn’t quite equal their power. It looks good, even with multiple sequences requiring CG assists to create cityscapes and military hardware, but it can’t quite find the emotional energy required for a story about a real-life genocide. There’s a dryness to it at times that distracts from beats that should leave us engaged and enraged. Director Terry George’s previous film, Hotel Rwanda, is a far more successful look at an equally heinous chapter in human history.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
Resident Evil: Vendetta
What is it? One man’s quest for revenge puts the whole world in danger.
Why see it? No video game has seen more feature adaptations than Resident Evil — I haven’t Googled this, but it feels right — and while the live action films have come to an end (for now) the CG releases continue. The latest tells a familiar tale of heroes, villains, and a mix of zombies, devil dogs, and other monstrosities, and it’s actually plenty entertaining. The gory bits are plentiful and plenty bloody, and the sharp CG captures some pretty slick action sequences too. Fight scenes and vehicular action keep the film cruising between grisly demises and plot twists resulting in a fun piece of action/horror.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, gallery, featurettes]
State Fair [Twilight Time]
What is it? A pair of grown siblings find big-league romance at the state fair.
Why see it? Fans of big, old-fashioned musicals are well familiar with the names Rodgers & Hammerstein, and among the pair’s numerous successes this wholesome tale of rides, romance, and mincemeat recipes stands tall. Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, and Bobby Darin all bring their vocal chops to bear, and while the story is lightweight from start to finish it’s a sweet reminder of the perceived innocence of America from a half century ago. Boone’s commentary features a lot of gaps as he apparently finds himself sucked into watching the movie, but he offers the occasional piece of fun insight.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette, TV pilot]
Tom Sawyer / Huckleberry Finn [Twilight Time]
What is it? Two of Mark Twain’s classic novels come to G-rated life with accompanying song and dance.
Why see it? Both of the films here are fun, family-oriented affairs, and while the second one in particular loses the source material’s edge they serve as pretty good introductions to Twain’s work. They’re fast-moving tales with boyish charms and moral lessons to spare, and the roster of surprising faces include Jodie Foster, Warren Oates, Harvey Korman, Paul Winfield, and little Johnny Whitaker. I’m not sure how today’s kids will react, but unless they’re real jerks they should find some satisfaction here.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
Also out this week:
The Bat People [Scream Factory], Devil’s Domain, The Expanse – Season Two, Karate Kill, The Night of the Sorcerers / The Loreley’s Grasp [Scream Factory], Tommy’s Honour, With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story