Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
What is it? A doctor on a solo sailing voyage comes across a ship overflowing with refugees in dire need of help.
Why see it? From All Is Lost (2013) to last year’s The Boat, I’m an admitted sucker for movies that send people to sea alone and then thrust them into extraordinary situations. While those two films are modern survival classics, the latter with a horror twist, this new entry into the sub-genre adds a moral obstacle into the mix as a westerner is faced with a dilemma. Her instinct is to help the refugees, but her craft can’t hold them all and the Coast Guard is telling her to keep away until their rescue mission has time to arrive. But then people start falling from the crowded ship and drowning. It’s a tense, thought-provoking tale brought to life with beautiful cinematography and a strong lead performance by Susanne Wolff, and while there’s import in the brief dialogue exchanges there’s power in the silence.
[DVD extras: Commentary, short film]
What is it? A public library becomes the focus in a fight against homelessness.
Why see it? There’s no denying how earnest and on the nose Emilio Estevez’s new film is as writer, director, and co-star, but just because it wears its heart on its sleeve doesn’t make it less important or unworthy of attention. A winter storm drives the homeless into a city library, but things turn ugly when personalities clash and authorities enter the fray with their rules, regulations, and standards. The eclectic supporting cast includes Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Jeffrey Wright, Michael K. Williams, Taylor Schilling, and more, and while it’s not a great movie their work and the focus of the film make it an effort worth catching.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? The true story of an unlikely collaboration in the face of hate.
Why see it? A cynical take on this historical drama would involve suggesting that Sam Rockwell signed on to play a racist simply because his last go with a similar character resulted in an Academy Award, but it’s more likely he simply took an interest in the story. It’s understandable as the unlikely friendship between a civil rights activist (Taraji P. Henson) and a KKK member is an engaging one, but its power comes mostly from the two lead performances. The film itself isn’t quite able to generate much dramatic energy beyond the premise and historical setting. Watch it for Henson and Rockwell.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A pregnant cop and a visually impaired convict work together to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Why see it? Zombie films are among the most ubiquitous in the horror genre, but while most are a waste of your time and a handful are modern classics, there are more than a few that fall somewhere in the middle delivering solid, occasionally thrilling entertainment. That’s where this low budget effort lands as it finds suspense in its premise — two people whose wits and abilities are hampered by biology — and direction. The script, co-written by co-lead Liv Collins, keeps a simple but effective trajectory, and while it’s short on surprises it succeeds where it counts.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A dead man’s son seeks vengeance against Ray Breslin.
Why see it? 2013’s Escape Plan was an unlikely beginning for an action franchise — Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger break out of a prison together — but we’ve now gotten two direct-to-video sequels. Both are low budget affairs with Stallone co-starring alongside Chinese actors given as much screen time, and while neither can match the spectacle of the first there are varying charms in each. The new draws this time around are a solid supporting turn by Devon Sawa as the villain and the great Jin Zheng (Master Z: Ip Man Legacy) delivering most of the film’s best action beats. The guy’s a terrific fighter, and the film gives him plenty of asses to kick. The rest of the mixed bag includes the high of a little Dave Bautista and the lows of ugly CG blood and limited locales.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with Stallone, Sawa, and the director; featurette]
What is it? An FM radio station faces a fight with the man.
Why see it? There’s an Empire Records-like feel to this late 70s comedy as the action and character work all unfold at the radio station with DJs, office workers, musicians, and fans intermingling in the form of Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan, Cleavon Little, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Petty, and more. The story threads are slight and run the gamut from relationships to keeping the station up and running against the profit-oriented wishes of upper management, and while it feels like it could have been the basis for WKRP in Cincinnati you should know that it wasn’t. (Honest, I Googled it.) Arrow’s new Blu looks good, and while it’s light on extras the interview with lead Michael Brandon is both entertaining and candid.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, appreciation]
What is it? A young girl befriends a lion cub and forms a lifelong bond.
Why see it? Like Free Willy before it, the focus here is on a friendship between species that starts in innocence before the young human grows aware of mankind’s intentions. We can’t quite live in peace and harmony, and while kids don’t understand that they’re usually forced to realize it. Still, while the journey is similar this is a better film than that family “classic” thanks in part to the South African landscape at its heart. It’s an attractive film with impressive wildlife photography and an endearing family adventure at its heart
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? An orphan finds a newly magical family in the countryside.
Why see it? Kitaro Kosaka’s new animated tale is very much in the spirit of Studio Ghibli — unsurprising as he was an animator for the studio — as a young girl follows tragedy with wonder, magic, and a renewed sense of purpose. The animation style is bright, colorful, and lively, and while heartstrings are tugged the film is more of a celebration than a mourning. As is often the case it’s a beautiful family film that too few parents will show their children, but if you get the opportunity it’s recommended for both the entertainment and the observations on life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, Q&A]
Also out this week:
An Acceptable Loss, Bob le Flambeur [KL Studio Classics], Dead Trigger, Le Doulos [KL Studio Classics], Leon Morin Priest [KL Studio Classics], The Outsider [KL Studio Classics], Le Professionnel [KL Studio Classics]