Plus 11 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
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
Small Town Crime
What is it? An ex-cop desperate for relevancy gets caught up with criminals.
Why see it? John Hawkes headlines this indie thriller from last year that somehow got swept beneath the carpet, and it’s a damn delight. He’s terrific as a morally wobbly antihero, and he’s joined by a killer supporting cast including Robert Forster, Clifton Collins Jr, Octavia Spencer, and more. Characters are compelling, violence hits with visceral impact, and it even finds laughs (typically dark ones) amid the carnage and confusion. It’s a smart, bloody, and highly satisfying tale of redemption and bad choices that’s well worth seeking out.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentaries]
The ‘Burbs [Shout Select]
What is it? A handful of neighbors begin to suspect the new family on their street is up to no good.
Why see it? Joe Dante’s late 80s comedy was the debut film for Imagine Entertainment, and while it wasn’t quite the hit they were hoping for it’s lasted in the minds and hearts of moviegoers for nearly thirty years thanks to its manic energy, big laughs, and unabashed weirdness. Tom Hanks headlines, but the supporting cast is where it’s at with fun turns from Bruce Dern, Rick Ducommun, Carrie Fisher, and more. It’s an ultimately light black comedy, but the gags, dialogue, visuals, and double twist ending deliver a creative madness in suburbia. Shout Select’s new Blu-ray brings it home with a sharp picture, some informative extras, and a workprint version featuring deleted and extended scenes cut from the theatrical.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, commentary with the writer, making of, alternate ending, workprint]
What is it? A church built on the grave of murdered villagers spills horror onto its modern day patrons.
Why see it? Dario Argento co-wrote this slice of Italian horror, but it’s a Michele Soavi (The Sect) joint through and through. A crack in the crypt begins changing those in the church leading to all manner of gruesome demises including one poor fool who jackhammers himself to death. Soavi escalates his nightmare to include some terrifically imaginative creature/set piece work, and Asia Argento has fun in her second horror film (after Demons 2). The film touches on church abuse, but it’s all about the visuals and thrills. Scorpion Releasing has a deluxe edition hitting shelves later this year with additional special features, but this version includes new interviews with Soavi and Asia Argento. Whether you pick up this one or the the more expensive release, the picture is the same… and it is memorable.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
Ichi the Killer
What is it? An unstable amateur assassin is targeted by a vicious yakuza hitman.
Why see it? Takashi Miike’s 2001 feature is among his most controversial, and even as a fan it’s not hard to see why. There are some brutal beat downs and sexual assaults here, but what its critics fail to acknowledge is that the film is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to brutality. Men and women alike are violated, and despite the copious amount of bloodletting the film remains an equally vicious black comedy. The title appearing in a puddle of semen should be the first clue on that count. This new Blu features a new 4K restoration highlighting all of Miike’s visual mayhem, and while it’s light on extras Miike’s commentary (with subtitles) is plenty entertaining.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
The Passion of Joan of Arc [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Joan of Arc’s rigged trial comes to life.
Why see it? Few films from the silent era are regarded as highly as Carl Theodor Dreyer’s incredibly intimate look at the final hours in Joan of Arc’s life. His camera, in conjunction with Renee Falconetti’s face and performance, forces viewers to share in her experience, and the result is a powerfully affecting descent into conviction, madness, and hypocrisy. The faces of those judging her and watching in silence hold their own power, and the film as a whole hits hard. Criterion’s new Blu-ray is beautiful (as expected) and offers three different score options for the film. All three add a compelling voice to the film, but the most recent (by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and Portishead’s Adrian Utley) is my preferred listen. This is the best release of a must own film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, 20/24 frames per second versions, three scores, commentary, video essay, booklet]
Daughter of the Nile
What is it? A young woman struggles to hold what’s left of her family together.
Why see it? Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (The Assassin) 1987 feature lacks the stylized fighting of his most acclaimed work, but it finds beauty in the very real landscape of neon-drenched Taipei instead. Part family drama, part gangster tale, the film finds warmth in their response to conflict and trauma. It’s not quite a happy story, but it is a hopeful one, and of course being a Hou film it unspools at a methodical pace. Cohen Film brings the movie to home video with a beautiful restoration capturing bright colors in the night and the softness of the character’s attempted home life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interview]
The Divine Order
What is it? The women of Sweden stand up for the long-overdue right to vote in the early 70s.
Why see it? Switzerland isn’t often thought of in terms of backward thinking, but while other civilized, Democratic countries allowed all of their citizens the right to vote Switzerland held off on letting women into that club until the 70s. The film offers a rousing, crowd-pleasing telling of the women who drew a line in the sand and stood up for their rights. Its general beats are more than a little familiar and expected, but there’s an appeal to its unusual setting and time period for such a fight.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featutette, interviews]
What is it? Technology that shrinks people to mere inches tall may be the answer to over-population and diminishing natural resources.
Why see it? Alexander Payne has yet to recapture the utter magic of his first feature, Election, and his latest moves him even further away. It applies a sci-fi concept with an eco-friendly bent to what amounts to a character piece, but it hitches itself to a lead character who simply doesn’t move viewers. Matt Damon isn’t the problem, but he’s not enough to overcome the character’s issues either. There are some bright spots here between the effects work and a fun turn by Christoph Waltz, but the singular reason to watch is for the performance of Hong Chau. Her character is fantastic, and the scene with her breaking down the eight kinds of “American fucks” is among the year’s best. It’s just too bad it’s stuck in an overlong movie focusing on the wrong character.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Images [Arrow Academy]
What is it? A woman has a mental breakdown… unless she’s being gaslit by her husband.
Why see it? Robert Altman’s 1972 thriller is one of his lesser-known titles, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not an issue of quality as the film is a well-crafted, visually-appealing tale that keeps viewers on their toes, and that uncertainty is where it probably loses a lot of people. Susannah York gives a terrific lead performance as a woman moving through fear, confusion, madness, and rage, but her unreliability as a protagonist leaves the film consistently on uneven footing. Imagery that starts as unsettling soon loses its power to shock as viewers are taught again and again that it’s not real. York keeps it compelling, though, through to the end.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, scene-specific commentary by Robert Altman, featurette, interview, appreciation]
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
What is it? Four teens get sucked into a video game world and bond in the process.
Why see it? There’s a nod to the 1995 original here, but this is essentially a reboot that moves the action into the game world instead of bringing the game into ours. Rather than be a CG-heavy coming of age tale the film is instead an even more CG-heavy action/comedy. All four leads bring varying degrees of laughs, and Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart show a fun chemistry between them. There’s a surprising amount of penis chatter, and the film does a good job setting up aspects to criticize (Gillan’s outfit, Gillan being used to seduce villains) only to comment on and correct them itself. It’s a fun flick, and while it lacks the heart of the original the laughs make up for it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, featurettes]
Pitch Perfect 3
What is it? The Bellas just can’t leave the aca-life behind.
Why see it? Look, if you’re a fan of the first two then odds are you’ll have some fun with the trilogy’s capper, but don’t expect it to bring the franchise out on a high note. They’re outshined by musicians with actual instruments, the action gets more than a little silly, and the ultimate message is that all but one of the Bellas really don’t care about singing anyway. It’s an odd note to end on after all they’ve fought for previously.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes]
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall
What is it? An author who found success early finds tragedy on its heels.
Why see it? This film was much maligned coming out of Sundance last year, but I’m a fan. Logan Lerman does good work as a writer who goes off the grid after a tragedy he feels responsibility for, and the film explores ideas of fame, talent, and culpability through the search for the author. Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Elle Fanning, and more familiar faces share the screen along the way. The characters revere Hall for his writing, but both Hall and the film itself aren’t as congratulatory towards him. Instead, it’s a commentary of sorts on ego and self-perception.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Also out this week:
Allure, Baal [Criterion Collection], The Black Scorpion [Warner Archive], Delirium, Highway Dragnet, Lies We Tell, Nightmare at Noon [Scream Factory], No Orchids for Miss Blandish, Offerings, Rockula [Scream Factory], Still/Born, Stingaree