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Pick of the Week
Heroes Shed No Tears
What is it? A commando squad finds resistance attempting to deliver a drug lord to justice.
Why see it? John Woo’s 1986 action romp is honestly every bit as deserving of the praise afforded his bigger, better known features. It’s filled with explosive action, bloody gun fights, bonkers antics, and a little boy who delivers both an affecting performance and some crazy stunts. You can tell this movie was made at a time and in a country with no safety standards, and viewers are better off for it as it is a crazy ride. And no joke, Woo also dips his wick into some softcore shenanigans that are as sexy as they are nonsensical for the story at hand. Film Movement’s new Blu-ray looks fantastic, and it’s a must-own for action fans.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
What is it? A young woman uses magic to find a dude.
Why see it? Disney’s classic film comes to Blu-ray loaded with extras, but the only real reason to pick this one up is for the film itself. It remains a thing of hand-drawn beauty, and while the title character’s ultimate valuation in the form of a prince taking a liking to her is a bit dated the magic of the film remains. From the evil stepmother to the mystical mice, it’s a film that’s stood the test of time for a reason and one deserving of a spot on your shelf.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Walt Disney-enhanced version, featurettes]
What is it? A public access show doesn’t quite run smoothly.
Why see it? Astron-6 is a collective of absolute nutters from Canada, and while we wait (far too long) for their next feature after the triumph that is The Editor (2014) this seven-episode YouTube series is all we have to suckle on. It’s short — the seven episodes clock in at under an hour — but it’s an absolute blast for fans of the group. A familiarity with the look and feel of old public access shows adds to the fun as the characters dabble in the mundane only to see it take sharp turns into hilarity and nightmares. Someone give these guys money to turn this into a feature film please.
[Blu-ray extras: Two bonus episodes, alternate footage, commentaries, short film]
What is it? A woman fights to rescue her daughter from very bad people.
Why see it? Imagine Taken but with a lead performer who could actually kick your ass, and you have a basic idea of what to expect here. More than that, though, the film delivers some surprising emotion for an action picture as well as a memorable production design. You’re here for the action, of course, and on that front the terrifically talented Veronica Ngo doesn’t disappoint as she chases, fights, and beats down everyone who gets in her way.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
Gaslight [Warner Archive]
What is it? A woman begins to doubt her own sanity.
Why see it? The term is well known as a verb these days in reference to people trying to convince others to doubt their own reality, but it all started with a play and a pair of successful films where the term simply referred to the mysterious dimming of lights. This second screen incarnation earned star Ingmar Bergman an Academy Award, and it’s well-deserved as she faces off against both her dwindling beliefs and her domineering husband. It remains a solid suspense flick, and Warner’s new Blu-ray also includes the earlier British version making this a fantastic pick-up.
[Blu-ray extras: Original 1940 version, radio play from 1946, featurette, newsreel]
The New York Ripper [Blue Underground]
What is it? A psychopath slashes and quacks his ways way through New York City.
Why see it? Lucio Fulci’s never been a filmmaker known for his subtlety, and his stab at pure slasher madness reflects that with brutal, over the top violence and an absolute disinterest in playing it safe. It’s a bloody flick, but its occasional nods towards the absurd keeps things from ever feeling too serious. It works as a slasher, though, and satisfies gore-hounds, so what’s not to love? Blue Underground’s new Blu-ray delivers an incredibly sharp picture capturing every slice in exquisite detail, and the extras are bountiful too.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, featurette, soundtrack CD, booklet]
24 Hour Party People
What is it? The true-ish story of legendary British music producer Tony Wilson.
Why see it? Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan have a long-standing relationship as filmmakers with The Trip series, but this comedy preceded those efforts with a similar blend of fact and fiction set against a frequently funny backdrop. The film weaves in real footage of real stars alongside factoids and kernels of truths, and while it’s main target are viewers familiar with the 70s/80s UK music scene it’s engaging enough to entertain even without that fore knowledge. Coogan does great work as the cocky Wilson complete with 4th wall breaks and humorous yet honest narration.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? One bad decision alters the post-war life of a young couple.
Why see it? The premise for this period drama is one based on a simple but stupid act of kindness — a British military officer sets up a home in Germany with his wife in tow but offers the house’s original owner to live there as well. Fool. Drama, betrayal, and untoward sauciness ensues as the film explores the reality that when it comes to human beings there’s no such thing as post-war.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
The Beast in Heat [Severin Films]
What is it? Nazis make terrible arbiters of morality.
Why see it? It should be expected that Nazisploitation would be home to some truly ugly and abrasive content, but this shocker is especially egregious all the same as naked women are tossed to an ogre-like man who’s constantly up for forced fornication. Toss in a sadistic lady Nazi and some war action scenes swiped from completely different movies and you have something very special indeed. Don’t let your family see this one.
[Blu-ray extras: New scan, documentary, interview]
What is it? A widower and single father finds himself caught up in a voodoo-fueled nightmare.
Why see it? The first of two studio-produced tales of voodoo — Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow dropped eight months later — this thriller hit the screen with the legendary John Schlesinger (Marathon Man, 1976) directing. It’s a solid tale pitting men of science and psychology facing powers beyond their rationalization, and it has a strong cast selling the hokum in Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Robert Loggia, Richard Masur, and Jimmy Smits.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The Dark Side of the Moon
What is it? A spaceship crew finds terror where the sun don’t shine.
Why see it? There really aren’t enough horror films set in outer space, and while few can even approach the genius of Ridley Scott’s Alien the paucity of attempts makes every one just a little bit more special. This low-budget 1990 effort is a bit slow-going for much of its running time, but there’s still fun to be had as our crew gets picked off one by one by a menacing force. The story touches on some unexpected ideas ranging from the Bermuda Triangle to Satan while the characters grow ever more suspicious of their co-workers. It’s a solid watch for genre fans, and this is the way to do it — the film has always been a dark experience, and this new Blu cleans things up to the point that you can actually see what’s happening.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews]
Double Face [Arrow Video]
What is it? A man is suspected of murdering his wife.
Why see it? Part crime film, part giallo, and not really either, this Italian flick sets up an intriguing enough mystery with a handful of red herrings throughout to keep viewers guessing as to the truth. A big draw is seeing Klaus Kinski as a — gasp! — normal guy. Well, relatively normal, it’s still Kinski we’re talking about, but most of the madness unfolds around him ensnaring his almost everyman in its grip of death and terror. There’s fun here in some sketchy model work and the mystery itself, and Arrow gives the film their usual spit ‘n’ polish.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, commentary by Tim Lucas, interview, featurettes]
What is it? A baby elephant in captivity is exploited by a pair of cute kids and their father.
Why see it? Disney’s classic animated tale gets the requisite live-action remake here, and the results are disappointing. From the dodgy CG landscapes to the extended focus on human characters, the film never really takes flight. Tim Burton’s direction feels a bit flat compared to talent he’s shown previously, but the bright side is a cast that includes the likes of Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, and Alan Arkin.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers]
Fatso [Shout Select]
What is it? A man struggles to lose weight and help his health.
Why see it? Dom DeLuise takes center stage here, and while the film features more than a few comedic moments the bulk of it sees his character facing some dramatic realities. It’s a touching watch at times, and DeLuise shows some endearing chops. The great Anne Bancroft co-stars, but her bigger contribution here is as writer and director. She crafts a film that blends laughs, drama, and pathos into a tale that all of us — big, small, and everywhere in between — can relate to.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, interview]
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
What is it? A young horndog hopes his girlfriend back home is more faithful than he’s been.
Why see it? As far as beach comedies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon go, this is the one also starring Buster Keaton. It’s a straightforward beach romp — understandable as it’s from the same director as the better known Beach Blanket Bingo and Muscle Beach Party — meaning the comedy is broad, the songs are frequent, and the sexism is rampant. We get some motorcycle hijinx this time around to spice things up alongside the expected antics. It’s fun enough for fans of the sub-genre.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Night Killer [Severin Films]
What is it? A killer is killing the living!
Why see it? The film’s highlight, in addition to the frequent and bloody gore bits, is a mask-wearing killer who appears through much of the film like a monster. It becomes something of a shock once the mask is removed, but before then the kills feel like the act of some alien creature, and the effect adds a layer of creepiness to the proceedings. Bruno Mattei is still associated so you know it’s not actually going to be smart or well-crafted, but the kills, gore, and craziness make for an entertaining and unusual slasher.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K scan, interviews]
The Poison Rose
What is it? A private eye takes a case that just might be the end of him.
Why see it? I’m not sure what to make of John Travolta’s career over the past decade or so, as while this is one of his better efforts it’s still a film that’s understandably gone the direct to DVD route. Incessant narration is its biggest sin with shoddy dialogue and disappointing story beats right behind. Its only real degree of interest comes in the supporting cast which includes Morgan Freeman, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Robert Patrick, and the elusive Brendan Fraser.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Robowar [Severin Films]
What is it? An elite military squad finds a deadly threat in the jungle.
Why see it? Bruno Mattei’s never been a filmmaker to inspire much confidence, but he has his fans. This action/sci-fi romp is fun on a budget, but there is at least fun all the same. Gun fights, explosions, poorly choreographed battles, and nods to the likes of Predator and Robocop keep things interesting enough.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K scan, interviews, featurette]
Also out this week:
American Horror Project Vol. 2 [Arrow Video], Donbass, The Green Inferno [Scream Factory], Hedwig and the Angry Inch [Criterion Collection], The Hummingbird Project, The Illusionist, Maze, Night of the Creeps [Scream Factory], Resurrecting the Champ, War and Peace [Criterion Collection], Winter’s Passing