An Environmental Warrior Headlines Our Home Video Pick of the Week

Plus 16 more new releases to watch at home this week on Blu-ray/DVD!

Woman At War

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

Woman at War

What is it? A woman fights back against an industry damaging the Icelandic landscape.

Why see it? Good gravy this is spectacular. Such a beautiful nod to the apocalyptic importance of humanity’s stewardship of the planet, but it tells the story focused on one badass woman’s ongoing fight against the system. The drama and character work is strong and engaging, and the commentary on society manages moments both humorous and damning. The film even delivers some suspenseful beats as our hero tries to avoid police helicopters — it’s harrowing and tense stuff. Halldora Geirharosdottir does tremendous work in the lead role, but she also delivers as a twin sister whose approach toward doing good by the universe differs dramatically. (Technology has come a long way, but the shot of the two of them in the pool together still impresses.) And that final sequence and shot! Just a breathtaking kick to the heart and head.

[DVD extras: None]


The Best

The Andromeda Strain [Arrow Video]

What is it? A satellite returns to Earth carrying an alien lifeform that threatens humanity.

Why see it? The movies are filled with sci-fi/horror films exploring the dangers of space-born threats to Earth, but Michael Crichton’s debut novel (under his own name) gets a very methodical and scientific adaptation from the great Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951). This is no monster alien, it’s a microscopic form of life, and like 1973’s The Day of the Jackal it takes a very specific approach tackling the story in minute detail. It’s suspenseful and fascinating all the same. Arrow’s new Blu-ray restores the picture and offers up some interesting extras shining a light on the film and Crichton himself.

[Blu-ray extras: New 4K scan, commentary, featurettes]

Screwball

What is it? A documentary about the doping scandal in baseball that took down players like Alex Rodriguez.

Why see it? Much like the narrative film Moneyball (2011), this is a baseball-centric film doesn’t require an interest in the sport to enjoy. Director Billy Corben tells a tale too ridiculous to be true, but he brings the receipts to back it up with a crazy roster of “characters” and first-hand accounts of how the doping scandal blew wide open and ended where it did. Reenactments are done with children dressed up (clothes, wigs, etc) like the various participants, and it puts a fine point on the silliness of it all. And not for nothing, but it makes for a crazy double feature with Brian Helgeland’s Payback (1999) as both films are built entirely on the premise that none of this would have happened if a guy named Porter had just gotten the small amount of money that was stolen from him returned.

[DVD extras: None]

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Season One

What is it? An original series detailing Jack Ryan’s move from the desk to the battlefield.

Why see it? We’ve had five films based on the Jack Ryan character so far, and while some have been pretty great — The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger — the last two have been pretty iffy. This new Amazon Original series, so far at least, leans towards the former with a charismatic Ryan (John Krasinski) and some sharp writing building its story and delivering its strong action beats. Michael Bay is one of the producers, and it’s his weight that probably lends the film its military realism, and that’s a plus. It’s a thrilling, well-paced first season, and I’m hoping we have more heading our way.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]


The Rest

Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

What is it? The shelled heroes head to Gotham where they team up with the caped crusader.

Why see it? Batman and the teen turtles have met before in the comics, and this new feature brings them together for some action fun. Fans of the varied heroes will enjoy the antics, but I’m going to admit something here I hope you won’t judge me too harshly on — the ninja turtles do absolutely nothing for me. I don’t like the way they talk or the way they look. I know, I’m terrible. Happily, the Batman antics are plenty fun and occasionally bloody (hence the PG-13 rating) with plenty of fights and a few laughs.

[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]

Captive State

What is it? Years after an alien occupation a resistance attempts to strike back.

Why see it? There’s a lot to like here for fans of the original V miniseries as the initial setup is fairly similar. It quickly veers away from the expected, though, by pushing the aliens themselves into a minor role — we only really see them a few times — and instead focusing on a pair of brothers and the cop (John Goodman) trying to crush the resistance. The film becomes more of a paranoia thriller as the rebels make plans and stage actions leading towards a major strike. Ultimately, the film feels like a setup for a bigger story, and given this film’s box-office it’s a story we’ll never get.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]

The Cleaning Lady

What is it? A wealthy young woman befriends a disfigured housekeeper with tragic results.

Why see it? Jon Knautz busted onto the genre scene with the horror/comedy Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007), but while that film had fun with its premise his latest is a serious and mean little thriller. The initial thrust of the film offers a contrast between a woman who has it all and another who never stood a chance. It builds toward some familiar but grim thrills, and Knautz isn’t shy about getting vicious and gory when necessary. It’s a nasty little flick.

[DVD extras: None]

Double Team

What is it? A counter terrorist and a weapons dealer join forces

Why see it? Look, Jean-Claude Van Damme may not be a great fighter but he’s usually an engaging film presence. Pairing him with Dennis Rodman, though, is an absolute drag as the guy is obnoxiousness on a stick. The character aims for the same kind of “cool” that Vin Diesel strives for in his XXX films, and while both fail at least Diesel’s movies offer some fun in the action department. This is more basic with its gunplay and explosions.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Excess Baggage

What is it? A spoiled teen crosses paths with a nice car thief.

Why see it? The big plus here is the talent on display with the lead roles — Alicia Silverstone, Benicio Del Toro, and Christopher Walken are all actors worth watching. Unfortunately, the script is a dud that mistakes wild behavior for endearing and tries so very hard to make the romance between Silverstone and Del Toro work. It doesn’t, and in addition to feeling forced (both the love and the laughs) it’s also a bit dull. The Chase (1994) does something similar a bit better.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

J.T. Leroy

What is it? The true story of an author who used a stand-in for appearances who took on a life of her own.

Why see it? The story itself is fairly straightforward, once you get past the initial setup — Laura Albert (Laura Dern) finds success as a writer but uses her boyfriend’s sister (Kristen Stewart) as the face behind her pseudonym — but the strength of the film comes through watching both characters, and in turn both actors, bring these people to life. Stewart in particular is mesmerizing (as usual) as someone finding her way in the world.

[DVD extras: None]

Jackie Chan Adventures – The Demon Portals Saga

What is it? Jackie Chan fights crime and demons.

Why see it? This animated series ran for five seasons, but while the others average 13 episodes each this second season clocks in with a whopping 39 episodes. Chan’s not playing himself, per se, but he’s closer to his Armour of God character as far as being an explorer and archeologist. The show offers up plenty of cartoon fight scenes and family fun, and this season’s main story line brings in possession, demons, and more. It’s good fun for fans and kids alike.

[DVD extras: None]

The Kid

What is it? Pat Garrett pursues Billy the Kid.

Why see it? Vincent D’Onofrio directs (and co-stars) in this solid western that pairs a legendary tale with a more personal one involving a boy and his abusive uncle. The former elements work best as the two are played by Ethan Hawke and Dane DeHaan, and both give sincere performances. D’Onofrio captures the dry landscape and dusty days well, and while a more original tale might have been more thrilling there’s plenty here to enjoy and savor for fans of a genre we just don’t see enough of. Kudos also for casting Chris Pratt in a truly villainous role.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Mindwarp / Brainscan – Double Feature

What is it? A woman struggles to survive the wasteland and a teen faces off against a virtual villain.

Why see it? Mindwarp starts as a sci-fi tale about the danger of virtual living before shifting into a wasteland adventure featuring mutants, fights, Bruce Campbell, Angus Scrimm, and people eating people. It offers up some genre fun in the form of bloody action and, obviously, Campbell, and while it’s a low-budget romp it’s a fun one. (It even made the cut in a Campbell-centric list from our own Kieran Fisher.) The second half of this double feature isn’t nearly as entertaining as Edward Furlong plays an obnoxious teen who gets caught up in a virtual reality game and dome very real murder. The “monster” wants so terribly to be the next Freddy Krueger, but he’s just so goddamn annoying.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Opportunity Knocks

What is it? A conman is challenged by both the truth and love.

Why see it? Dana Carvey’s comedic stylings may not be to everyone’s tastes, but he does good work in this lightweight comedy as a nice guy crook who just might be able to go straight. There’s still plenty of shtick to be found, but we get enough of Carvey acting like a “normal” person to see the character. Like I said, it’s lightweight fun but fun all the same.

[Blu-ray extras: Deleted scenes]

Rondo

What is it? A man looking for sex finds violence instead.

Why see it? There are a handful of fun, cool beats here in this sleazy and stylized thriller, but they’re over-shadowed by some horrendous dialogue. That’s bad enough, but more than once the dialogue is applied via voiceover across whole scenes which annoys and distracts from the characters and events we should be engaged in following. There’s enough going on here to mark the filmmakers as ones worth watching, but the film itself is a bit too overdone and unsure of itself.

[DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]

Trapped Alive [Arrow Video]

What is it? People trapped in a mine find terror!

Why see it? This late 80s thriller blends a few threats into a mildly entertaining mix. We start with three escaped convicts who abduct to young women, and we watch as they’re tossed into an abandoned mine shaft where they’re forced to deal with being trapped and hunted by an old man who eats human flesh. There’s some minor fun here and a couple gory beats, but it’s pretty slow-going on the cannibal front. The real bonus here is in Arrow’s copious extras including three brand new commentary tracks and more. Fans of the film or of the tiny Wisconsin-based studio behind it will find plenty to chew on.

[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, featurettes, interviews]

The Trigger Effect / Body Count – Double Feature

What is it? A couple finds out just how strong they are and a heist goes wrong.

Why see it? The premise behind David Koepp’s The Trigger Effect is a sound one as comfortable people are pushed to their limits during a city-wide power outage, and its clear Twilight Zone influence suggests something of a morality play. It does test the limits of time, though, as the story (well-suited for a half-hour format) overstays its welcome starting with the most annoying opening 17 minutes in film history. Body Count is a bit better as it doesn’t aim so high and is instead a straightforward action/thriller about a messed up heist and its fallout.

[Blu-ray extras: None]


Also out this week:

All You Ever Wished For, Arabesque, Bright Angel [KL Studio Classics], A Film Trilogy By Ingmar Bergman [Criterion Collection], Knife + Heart, The Last Warning, The Man Who Laughs, Mo’ Money/High School High – Double Feature, Money for Nothing [KL Studio Classics], The Odds, Sara Stein: From Berlin to Tel Aviv – The Complete Series, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral, Veronica Guerin [KL Studio Classics], Winning

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