Albert Brooks and the Criterion Collection Invite You on a Road Trip to Hell

Plus 14 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!

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Pick of the Week

Lost in America [Criterion Collection]

Lost In AmericaWhat is it? A couple in a rut decide to drop out of society and live on the road, but life has other plans.

Why see it? Albert Brooks is a gift, and any opportunity to celebrate his genius is a welcome one. Lost In America is one of the greats and his second best as writer/director (after Defending Your Life), and its witty and wise look at the shifting American Dream is as whip smart today as it was three decades ago. Brooks and Julie Hagerty are both pitch perfect as a couple whose dreams get the better of them, and they deliver big laughs even as their world crumbles. Criterion’s new Blu is only missing a Brooks commentary (something he doesn’t do), but everything else is stellar including a fun chat with James L. Brooks and an equally fun and informative discussion with the filmmaker revealing an interesting making-of tidbit involving his character’s call with the Mercedes dealer. It’s a fantastic Blu-ray for a fantastic film, and it belongs on everyone’s home video shelf.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k restoration, new interviews with Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty, and others, booklet]


The Best

Beyond the Darkness [Severin Films]

Beyond The DarknessWhat is it? A young man refuses to let go of his dead girlfriend.

Why see it? Joe D’Amato’s version of a love story gets a solid Blu-ray release offering up a restored picture guaranteeing all of the fleshy bits — both in the form of naked ladies and bodies under assault — are looking better than ever. The film itself is jumbled at times as subplots appear and fall away, but the main narrative of a man who loves his stiff and occasionally kills women who aren’t his lady love. It’s incredibly gory (to the point that it faced accusations of using real corpses at times) and immerses viewers in grimy foulness that you’re either on board with or offended by. The extras are informative with one in particular, the hour-plus D’Amato featurette, delivering a fantastic look at his filmography via footage and interviews. It’s enlightening and a great watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, live Goblin performance, featurette]

My Chauffeur [Vinegar Syndrome]

My ChauffeurWhat is it? A young woman gets a surprise job and so much more.

Why see it? I wrote more fully about my love for My Chauffeur and star Deborah Foreman here, but the short version comes down to this. It’s a goofy movie anchored by the utterly delightful and very funny Foreman, and it deserves more love. She’s a bundle of charm and energy, and while she went on to co-star in two fun horror/comedies (Waxwork, April Fool’s Day) this was her last lead role of note. Vinegar Syndrome goes a bit outside their norm of sleaze and obscure horror to give this sweet 80s comedy a fantastic presentation complete with a brand new interview with its lovely star. It’s silly fun and guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k restoration, new interview with Deborah Foreman, commentaries, isolated soundtrack]

Silkwood [KL Studio Classics]

SilkwoodWhat is it? The true story of a nuclear plant worker whose efforts to reveal unsafe work conditions led to deadly consequences.

Why see it? It’s probably worth noting that this is not a feel good kind of movie despite the presence of Kurt Russell. He plays Silkwood’s (Meryl Streep) boyfriend with Cher portraying a friend to both, and all three leads do tremendously affecting work. Director Mike Nichols shows himself comfortable with life’s more serious endeavors and emotions, and his film proves to be an effective one about the people behind the still newsworthy concept of whistle blowers. It’s sad and made sadder by the vitality and relationships shared by these three. I’m not convinced it’s a film you’ll want to re-watch on a regular basis, but that doesn’t detract from its power.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]

Where the Boys Are [Warner Archive]

Where The Boys AreWhat is it? Four friends head to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break and have more than just fun in the sun.

Why see it? It’s always great catching up on a beloved film you’ve somehow missed over the decades, but it’s even better when that film surprises you with its greatness. This 1960 favorite is far more than the 60s beach romp I expected. The boy-chasing is present of course along with the fun of spring break, but there are also some dark turns and smart dramatic beats peppered amid the laughs and romances. Dolores Hart is a stunner, and the rest are equally appealing with the likes of George Hamilton, Paula Prentiss, and Connie Francis brightening the screen. It’s a wholly entertaining and surprisingly progressive comedy, and this new Blu is a great way to see it whether for the first time or twenty first.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette]


The Rest

Bag Boy Lover Boy [Severin Films]

Bag Boy Lover BoyWhat is it? A disturbed young hot dig vendor discovers a calling as a photographer and a taste for hamburgers.

Why see it? This somewhat comedic indie thriller takes a page from Maniac but leans as much towards the mentally challenged as it does the mentally deranged. Albert’s descent into murder is more of a lateral move as he’s already clearly “off” and on the edge, and while the narrative moves exactly where you expect there are small delights along the way, typically at the expense of the city’s more obnoxious upper class residents. It’s never quite as thrilling, disturbing, or funny as it needs to be, but it’s well made enough that Andres Torres marks himself as a filmmaker to watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, short films]

Black Butterfly

Black ButterflyWhat is it? Things get worse for a writer suffering a block when a killer takes him prisoner.

Why see it? The Blu cover promises “a killer story with a twist” which is precisely what you don’t want to do when your story has a twist. Worse, the twist is exactly what you suspect it will be. While the narrative stumbles from trying way too hard other elements work a bit better including the gorgeous Colorado landscape and a solid enough cast. Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers play the writer and killer, respectively, and it’s always great seeing Piper Perabo even if her role is minimal here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]

The Final Master

The Final MasterWhat is it? A martial arts master finds a world of trouble when he tries to open a new Wing Chun school.

Why see it? Liao Fan takes the lead here as a great fighter trying to play the system in order to spread his style of choice, and his journey involves both a new love and numerous enemies. There’s some solid action here, typically in brief bursts and exemplified by a late alley trip, but there’s also some oddly unappealing fights that appear to be based more on style than actual skill. The fight between the apprentice and a kicking woman? Terribly lame. The story is also a bit too busy for its own good. Still though, Liao Fan is a quietly charismatic lead and there’s enough action to make it an enjoyably entertaining film.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost In The ShellWhat is it? A cybernetic cop in near-future Tokyo fights a villainous uprising and discovers a grand conspiracy.

Why see it? Like Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets currently playing theaters, this is a film worth watching for the visuals and little else. (Beat Takeshi Kitano is one of those little things.) There’s some well-stylized action and CG work here, but the narrative leaves much to be desired as it jumps between points too quickly and without dramatic effect. It may or may not affect your viewing, but the presence of the otherwise reliable Scarlett Johansson playing what amounts to a Japanese woman is an unfortunate bit of miscasting.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Girls – The Final Season

GirlsWhat is it? Four girls on the outs remember why they were friends in the first place.

Why see it? HBO’s popular series comes to a strong close that sees the estranged friends drawn back together. The last season offers laughs and engaging story beats, but interestingly the series’ oddest realization remains — the male characters are far more engaging and entertaining. Maybe it’s because less time is spent with them, but their stories and behaviors hold our interest far tighter and with bigger laughs. Still, the series goes out strong offering enough closure for everyone while opening up new possibilities for each of them.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended final episode, commentary, featurettes]

Night People [KL Studio Classics]

Night PeopleWhat is it? An American GI is abducted by the Soviets in post-war Germany and only a U.S. colonel has a chance of getting him back.

Why see it? Gregory Peck gives another compelling performance as an American officer working every channel afforded him to rescue his soldier. The action stays focused on the U.S. military base as Peck’s character moves fast with Russian, German, and American counterparts, and while the single locale limits the bombast the film manages plenty of turns in plot and character loyalty. You’d be hard-pressed to call it exciting exactly, but it’s never less than engaging.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, interviews]

Pretty Little Liars – The Seventh and Final Season

PrettyWhat is it? Five friends finally move on to new hobbies.

Why see it? The CW’s hit series ran on roughly four seasons too long as its initial core mystery (Who’s A?!) mutated and evolved into several unanswered questions, and at a certain point it all became a bit ridiculous. Even so, it remained a slickly-produced show headlined by five talented young women including Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, and the terrific Troian Bellisario — who I’m not just praising for being the daughter of the man behind both Quantum Leap and Magnum, P.I. The show is still pretty watchable despite the ridiculous twists and turns, and if you have the time it’s not the worst binge option.

[DVD extras: Featurettes]

Prizzi’s Honor [KL Studio Classics]

Prizzis HonorWhat is it? A mafia hit man marries an assassin, but the pair’s relationship is tested when they’re each tasked with killing the other.

Why see it? The legendary John Huston’s hit-person comedy predates Mr. & Mrs. Smith by two decades and understandably focuses more on the laughs and mafia culture than on the action. It’s hard to argue with this cast which includes Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, Robert Loggia, and Anjelica Huston. There are some laughs here, but several of the performances feel… off. The caliber of the talent suggests it’s by design, but it affects the overall feel to the point that neither the romance nor the drama lands instead leaving us solely with an offbeat, periodically funny comedy, for better or worse.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]

The Stendhal Syndrome [Blue Underground]

The Stendhal SyndromeWhat is it? A female cop falls victim to a hallucinatory illness while tracking a serial rapist/killer.

Why see it? Every Dario Argento film is worth seeing at least once, even his horrible ones (Giallo, Dracula), and that goes for his simply bad ones too which is unfortunately where this one falls. It trades his usual lush visuals for horribly aged CG and replaces suspenseful, artistic kill sequences with rape scenes. It’s an unattractive film outside of Italy and a short-haired Asia Argento, and that’s unfortunate for a filmmaker who known for crafting beautiful set-pieces. The bright side here is that Blue Underground’s new Blu-ray is a fantastic release offering loads of extras as well the best the picture’s ever looked. (Note: There have been reports of image artifacts, but I noticed nothing of note while watching the Blu-ray.)

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews, booklet]

Unforgettable

UnforgettableWhat is it? A woman doesn’t like her ex-husband’s new girlfriend, and murder follows.

Why see it? Studio thrillers tend to be rehashes of the familiar, and this one is no different as we’re given a “woman scorned” scenario that goes precisely where you expect. Katherine Heigl gives a suitably cold performance as the wacko while Rosario Dawson plays the new girlfriend taking all the heat from Heigl’s rampage. The story turns annoy more than thrill as we not only see them coming but feel like it could have been avoided with some smarter behaviors. It’s just a dull watch all around.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary, deleted scene]


Also out this week:

Billy Jack – The Complete Collection [Shout Select], Emerald City – Season One, I Olga Hepnarova, Scorchy [Shout Factory], Warlock Collection, The Zodiac Killer [AGFA]