Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
Robocop – Limited Edition [Arrow Video]
What is it? A cop is transformed into a cyborg cop!
Why see it? Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 action/sci-fi masterpiece remains as fun today as it did thirty years ago. From great and bloody action beats to funny commentary on society to some truly memorable performances and dialogue, the movie is an absolute blast. The basic story has been copied to death, but this original towers over them all thanks to its wit and absolute exuberance. The bad guys are wicked, the good guys are few, and the thrills are through the roof. It’s a rare film that goes out with some laughable claymation fx but still leaves you wanting more. Arrow Video’s new limited edition release is another gorgeous effort from them and makes for the ultimate edition of the film with tons of extras alongside both the theatrical cut and Verhoeven’s director’s version.
[Extras: 4K restoration, director’s cut and theatrical version, commentaries, interviews, featurettes, booklet, post cards, poster]
Christmas in July [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A practical joke leads to kindness, romance, and the best of humanity.
Why see it? Writer/director Preston Sturges is better known for films like The Lady Eve (1941) and Sullivan’s Travels (1941), but this warmly comedic gem is equally deserving of love. Dick Powell plays a man tricked into believing he’s won a big cash prize, and before things can be sorted out he’s gone out and shared his windfall with the community. Jokes and hijinks ensue, but there’s a sweet thread running through it all as well.
[Extras: New 4K master, commentary]
Great Day in the Morning [Warner Archive]
What is it? Two men face off in the lead-up to the Civil War.
Why see it? Jacques Tourneur made a few westerns during his career, and while they don’t get the same attention as some of his other genre work they’re terrific examples of the form. This entry plays with expectations and tropes in varied ways to tell the story of two men and two women struggling to succeed in Denver with gold, glory, and survival awaiting the winners. Morality is muddied, but it’s a heist movie of sorts which means a good time at the movies.
[Extras: Short films]
What is it? The true story of a whistleblower.
Why see it? History has shown that the rush to invade Iraq in 2003 was a manufactured disaster, but one of the smaller stories from the time involves a woman who worked with British intelligence who decided to leak relevant info to the press showing just how ill-advised it was. She was charged with violating the UK’s Official Secrets Act, a crime that could land her in prison for life as a traitor, and it’s a harrowing journey she’s forced to endure. The film captures the story from her perspective as well as from the press and government agents involved, and it remains an important cautionary tale.
Angel Has Fallen
What is it? Agent Stabby McHeadshot has to stop terrorists and prove he isn’t one of them.
Why see it? Gerard Butler’s Has Fallen franchise rubs some folks the wrong way, but for old school fans of Cannon Films these movies are gold. Butler is big and bombastic, the action is fun and frenzied, and it’s all just ridiculous enough. This third entry is the weakest of the trilogy due in part to some obvious budget cuts — it cost $40 million compared to Olympus‘ $70m and London‘s $60m — as well as the overdone plot of a hero suddenly accused of being a traitor, but it’s still a good time for action fans.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Dracula [Scream Factory]
What is it? A dapper vampire has a bone to pick with some neighbor ladies.
Why see it? John Badham’s late 70s take on Bram Stoker’s much-filmed novel was one of the first to play up the sexiness of vampires, for better or worse, and he succeeds in large part thanks to the lead performance by Frank Langella. The actor is at his most charismatic and seductive, and while little else here lives up to his high standard (aside from John Williams’ score) it’s still an atmospheric descent into gothic shenanigans. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray offers the original film and Badham’s preferred color desaturation, but you’ll want to watch the original as the production design offers a bright, colorful nightmare.
[Extras: Director’s edition and theatrical, introduction, interview, commentaries, featurette]
What is it? A hit man and his daughter face off against zombies.
Why see it? Mark Dacascos headlines this action/horror effort, but while he’s always an interesting presence the movie around him is an unfortunate dud. Calling your film The Driver and then featuring lots of shoddy green screen driving effects isn’t a great start, but neither the action nor the horror manage to stand out either. Dacascos’ daughter Noelani plays that role here and does good work, so here’s hoping they can reunite with a stronger script next time.
What is it? A prehistoric caveman gets busy in a small desert town.
Why see it? The 60s were a wild time man. Richard “Jaws” Kiel stars as the angry, horny, out of time caveman, and his size is put to good use. That said, while the premise sounds like a fairly traditional genre piece the film is anything but thanks to musical numbers by gas station attendant turned rocker Arch Hall Jr. who goes big hair to big hair with the cave dweller in a fight for his girl. It’s a killer caveman movie by way of Beach Blanket Bingo, and while it’s goofy it’s also fun. This limited edition Blu-ray offers a restored picture and a clear affection for the film.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, interviews]
What is it? A family’s sailing trip turns to terror.
Why see it? Don’t let the fact that this film comes from the writer of The Shallows trick you into watching as water aside the two movies couldn’t be further apart. Gary Oldman headlines this one, but in addition to a janky script unclear of what it ultimately wants to be doing the direction, editing, and visuals leave a lot to be desired. The horror never lands, and rather than build tension the film only raises frustrations with the wasted talents and premise.
Mr. Wrong [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The worst movie I’ve ever paid to see in the theater.
Why see it? The list of talented people associated with this movie is in direct conflict with just how terrible it is. Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman take the lead, Joan Cusack and Hope Davis co-star, and Nick Castle (The Last Starfighter, 1984) directs, but good gravy is this bad. There’s zero chemistry between the stars, none of the humor lands, and the whole thing just grates.
The Nude Bomb [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A secret agent stops a pervy terrorist.
Why see it? Get Smart is a spy spoof that’s heavy on visual gags and playful banter, so it’s expected that the first feature from the team would continue that trend. Don Adams headlines, of course, as a spy working to stop a madman from detonating bombs that leave people naked. That’s dumb! But the film has fun all the same, and while most of it is casual fun there’s at least one beat that is drawn out and executed so perfectly that it brought me to tears — it involves Agent Smart trying to get a fellow spy to safety, and it is hilarious. Is the movie worth watching/owning for that massive laugh? Maybe. Kino also includes a pair of commentaries including one by Sledge Hammer! creator Alan Spencer, and that guy shares an obvious appreciation for the goofier side of law enforcement.
[Extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes]
Prophecy [Scream Factory]
What is it? Pollution mutates forest animals!
Why see it? The legendary John Frankenheimer directs this tale of ecological horror, and along with some sincere performances the seriousness of the message makes its way through. They’re somewhat overshadowed, though, by a pretty shoddy bear creature that occasionally waddles its way into camp to terrorize folks including a little boy in a sleeping bag who gets swatted into a tree where he explodes. So yeah, you’re damn right I love this not great movie. It’s extremely serious but thankfully unable to squash the silliness making for a fun enough creature feature. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray includes some new interviews with the two leads, Talia Shire and Robert Foxworth, as well as man-in-the-suit Tom McLoughlin who would go on to direct horror movies of his own.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
What is it? A woman takes a detour in her life.
Why see it? Richard Linklater’s latest is a human comedy about a woman who decides change is in order despite having a beautiful life with a husband and daughter, and while it never hits high notes it succeeds thanks in part to a strong cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, and Laurence Fishburne. It’s a diversion film.
Also out this week:
All About Eve [Criterion Collection], Don’t Let Go, The Holly & the Ivy [KL Studio Classics], Long Day’s Journey into Night, Now Voyager [Criterion Collection]