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Pick of the Week
The Thin Man [Warner Archive]
What is it? A married couple find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery.
Why see it? Not sure why I’ve waited until now to watch this utterly splendid and terrifically witty film, but now that I have I won’t be shutting up about it. Dashiell Hammett’s novel finds a warmly hilarious life on the screen with William Powell and Myrna Loy creating the epitome of couple goals with their loving, banter-happy husband and wife, and the mystery itself keeps pace with revelations, suspense beats, and a fantastic third act set-piece as the suspects all come together. The film is an absolute joy, and Warner’s new Blu-ray is a must-own for fans of perfection.
[Blu-ray extras: Radio broadcast, The Thin Man episode]
Glory [4K UltraHD]
What is it? The true story of the first black regiment fighting for the North during the Civil War.
Why see it? Ed Zwick’s 1989 Civil War film remains every bit as powerful three decades on thanks to masterful filmmaking from all involved. From the cast — Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes — to James Horner’s score and Freddie Francis’ cinematography, the film is an epic filled with stunning battle sequences and powerfully emotional scenes. The new 4K upgrade heightens and highlights the action beats, and the disc includes a video commentary offering additional insight into the film from Zwick, Broderick, and Freeman.
[4K ultraHD/Blu-ray extras: Vide commentary (4K only), commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, documentary]
Quatermass and the Pit [Scream Factory]
What is it? A strange object is found beneath the London streets.
Why see it? The third and final Quatermass film — a fourth was made as a limited series before being edited down for a feature version — is the only one in color and arguably the most fun. Aliens, devilish remains, and more lead the renowned Professor Quatermass to apply his intellect and curiosity to a threat that might just destroy the world. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray is loaded with extras featuring all kind of detailed insight into writer Nigel Kneale’s creation.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, interviews, World of Hammer episode]
What is it? Four teens are all that stands between an alien invasion and humanity’s survival.
Why see it? What starts as a young adult genre flick quickly turns unexpectedly darker, but it’s not quite enough to save the film. The script doesn’t do any favors, but the bigger issue is a budget that doesn’t allow for convincing production design. An alien planet looks like someone’s back yard, and we never really buy it as anything but that. Some practical effects (visuals and gore) are highlights, though, meaning that while some aspects underwhelm tehre’s still fun to be had.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, interviews, short film]
Body at Brighton Rock
What is it? A young park employee finds herself stuck in the woods overnight in the company of a dead body.
Why see it? Roxanne Benjamin has proven herself with segments in films like XX and Southbound, and while she’s currently in pre-production on a Night of the Comet remake (I can’t wait) her feature debut is just hitting home video. It’s an engaging tale showcasing someone in over their head who perseveres and triumphs, but it definitely highlights Benjamin’s directorial chops over the writing. The disc also includes a fun commentary with her and her lead actor that offers some entertainment of its own.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
What is it? A couple buys a home from an owner not quite ready to let go.
Why see it? This is every bit a throwback to the 90s and thrillers like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Unlawful Entry, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s obvious and exaggerated, but it works in large part thanks to Dennis Quaid’s unhinged turn as the old homeowner unable to move forward. He’s an absolute nutter and clearly having a blast, and that translates to good fun for viewers.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, commentary, featurette]
What is it? A team-building event strands a group of co-workers on a deserted island.
Why see it? This Chinese film is something of a fantastical comedy making for a tale that doesn’t quite go where you’re expecting. It’s not a matter of twists, per se, but what starts as a story about a dreamer — he envisions a better life and the love of a woman — becomes something more as comets, Castaway shenanigans, and a winning lottery ticket all come into play. The film plays a bit long, but the comedy and drama are enough to hold the attention throughout.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Leopard Man [Scream Factory]
What is it? Is it a big cat or a bad man killing young women?
Why see it? The filmmakers behind Cat People — director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton — reunite for another tale involving big cats and bloody murder, but this time around they’re more interested in madness than magic. It’s still a solid film, albeit one clocking in at barely over an hour, and the black and white photography make good use of shadows and expressions of pure terror. A highlight on Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray is a commentary with William Friedkin.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries]
What is it? A politician and a journalist come together.
Why see it? Charlize Theron is a fantastic performer who’s not given the opportunity to go comedic nearly enough. Young Adult remains her masterpiece on that front, but she has plenty of fun here as well opposite Seth Rogen’s shaggy (surprise!) writer. As rom-coms go it walks a fine line between the cliche and the fresh, and there are enough laughs to make a watch worthwhile.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Quatermass II [Scream Factory]
What is it? Aliens take control of human minds!
Why see it? The best version of this tale remains the Invasion of the Body Snatchers film from the 70s, and while this isn’t technically based on the same novel the similarities are notable. Still, the good Professor Quatermass and writer Nigel Kneale find their own rhythms and fun with this story of mankind fighting back against a wily intergalactic threat. Scream Factory’s new Blu is another terrifically produced package starting with a sharp restoration and continuing on to the numerous extras.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, commentaries, interviews, World of Hammer episode]
What is it? A group of people plan to take down the man behind an epic ponzi scheme.
Why see it? South Korean thrillers are typically gloriously convoluted and/or wonderfully violent, and this fun and twisty romp falls in the former camp. numerous characters on both sides of the law come together (or tear apart) as perpetrators of a giant scam are targeted for payback. There’s a lot going on here, and even more to keep track of on the character front, but it comes together nicely as a satisfying confidence game.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Target: Harry [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A pilot gets dragged into a tale involving smugglers, mobsters, and murder.
Why see it? This Roger Corman-directed flick is an odd one for a few reasons, but it’s also an entertaining watch. Vic Morrow plays a tough guy — he’s not necessarily convincing, but he is compelling — dealing with nasty killers, two-timing dames, and Cesar Romero, and we get some fun action beats along the way. There’s also an ugly sex scene inserted into the picture despite having been filmed seven years after its completion. Thanks Corman! Kino Lorber’s new Blu looks fantastic with a new master, and the included commentary offers all kinds of anecdotes on the film.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K master, commentary]
What is it? It turns out beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Why see it? You and your kids have a lot of options these days when it comes to animated feature fare, and one movie you could subject them to — were you so inclined — is this fairly harmless ode to finding beauty in everyone and not judging books by their covers. The lessons are obvious and well-worn, but this time they come with songs. Honestly, you already know if this is for you and yours, but if you’re on the fence about it then trust your instincts and maybe give it a pass.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Also out this week:
Chain of Death, El Chicano, Domino, Lust for a Vampire [Scream Factory], The Reptile [Scream Factory], Shiraz: A Romance of India