‘Three O’Clock High’ Is the High School Memory We All Deserve

Plus 18 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!

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Pick of the Week

Three O’Clock High [Shout Select]

Three Oclock HighWhat is it? A meek high-schooler accidentally incurs the wrath of the school’s new bully, and his destiny will be decided at 3p.

Why see it? Phil Joanou’s 1987 comedy is a modern classic that perfectly captures the mundane fears and annoyances of high school even as it presents the world in a stylized manner. The film is alive with energy and wit, big laughs and clever observations, and even multiple re-watches can’t dull its vitality. Casey Siemaszko kills it with a rare lead, and his supporting cast is every bit as fun and exciting. The tone is different, but this is every bit the “bully comedy” classic that My Bodyguard is, but I’d argue its comedic achievements raise it even higher. Shout Select’s new Blu is long overdue and adds some engaging extras as well.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]


The Best

American Gods – Season One

American GodsWhat is it? Gods, humans, and everything in between come together in a clash of power, intention, and mind-fuckery.

Why see it? Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel comes to the small screen with all of its big ideas and images intact thanks in part to the talents of Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller. Speaking for myself, the show suffers the same early fate as the novel — a book I’ve tried twice to read but couldn’t get into — as it throws too much at you before establishing characters and the world. Stick with it, though, and Fuller’s imaginative and gorgeous visuals embrace the narrative in terrifically creative ways. There’s not a grounded second to be found, but the mix of horror, fantasy, and dark humor carry viewers along without a dull moment.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, featurettes, commentaries]

Barry Lyndon [Criterion Collection]

Barry LyndonWhat is it? A young man schemes, tricks, and talks his way up the social ladder and into history.

Why see it? Ignore the bland synopsis and three hour running time — Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 character journey is actually a visually engrossing period piece anchored by a memorable turn from Ryan O’Neal. It’s something of a precursor to Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can as he maneuvers his way through life on the backs of lies, and while it occasionally settles into a slow-moving series of scenes ‐ the third act consists solely of a single duel (that’s an exaggeration) ‐ the film is never dull. Of all of Kubrick’s films this is the one that seems most intended for older viewers, not just for its pacing but also for its theme of life’s consequences. The film is already available on Blu-ray, but Criterion’s new release is a gorgeous, sumptuous feast of restored image and brand new extras.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, documentary, featurettes, interviews]

Girls Trip

Girls TripWhat is it? Four old college friends have some rough nights when they reunite years later.

Why see it? The setup here is similar in spirit to this year’s Rough Night — friends reunite and things get crazy — but where that film stumbled this one succeeds to deliver big laughs, heart, and a strong message on friendship over blind affection. Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah all do good work, but Tiffany Haddish steals the show with attitude and foul-mouthed charm to spare. It’s specifically a tale about African American women, but the themes vary between the particular and the universal. Even better, it’s just damn funny. And you’ll never look at a grapefruit the same way again.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, commentary]

Rawhead Rex [KL Studio Classics]

Rawhead RexWhat is it? A demonic beast bursts from the earth to wreak havoc on a small village.

Why see it? Clive Barker’s second feature film isn’t well-respected, but screw the haters. It’s a fun, bloody monster movie that lets loose a creature who eats children, baptizes a corrupted priest in a stream of hot urine, and generally makes a mess of things. Its issues are evident, but they don’t prevent the film from delivering an entertaining creature feature. The bigger story here is KL Studio Classic’s newly restored Blu-ray — the existence of which it’s still hard to comprehend — which brings a fantastically sharp picture and a monster load of new extras.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews]

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spiderman HomecomingWhat is it? A Spider-Man movie, finally.

Why see it? There’s no single element here deserving of special accolade because the film’s success — and it is a glorious, cheer-worthy, laugh-filled success — is the result of multiple pieces coming together in near perfection. Director Jon Watts (Cop Car, Clown), six (!) screenwriters, a tremendously charismatic cast, and hundreds of crew members have delivered a superhero movie that understands the importance of absolute fun. The big action set-pieces thrill, but the film’s most exciting moments are the less dangerous ones popping with color, light, and personality as the characters interact with each other. It’s an injection of pure, non-stop fun into what has become a formulaic sub-genre, and the innocence serves to enhance the more serious scenes.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]


The Rest

Apple Tree Yard

Apple Tree YardWhat is it? A married woman begins an affair which soon leads to assault, murder, and a fight for her life.

Why see it? Louise Doughty’s best-selling novel gets a UK series adaptation, but drama that feels at home on the page doesn’t quite work as well here. The first episode drags a bit before hitting the tale’s major conflict, and from there we’re left with more of a drama about poor judgement than a thriller of any sort. It’s ultimately a tale better fitted to feature length than four episode series. There is some suspense to be found in the ensuing court case, and Emily Watson is quite good as the middle-aged woman who finds excitement in life once again only to see it explode in her face.

[DVD extras: None]

Batman vs Two-Face

Batman Vs Two FaceWhat is it? A machine meant to destroy evil instead shoots it into part of Harvey Dent’s face.

Why see it? This new animated feature pulls together familiar talents with Adam West and Burt Ward voicing the dynamic duo and Julie Newmar giving life once again to Catwoman. They’re joined by William Shatner as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and the result is an odd one — they’re fun, familiar voices, but they all sound super old and mismatched to these young faces. Still, it’s a film in the vein of the old 60s show meaning puns, gags, and quips galore. Old-school fans are in for a treat.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Captain from Castile [Twilight Time]

CaptainfromcastileWhat is it? A sword-fighter moves from the Spanish Inquisition to additional dark adventures.

Why see it? This late 40s spectacle is a lavish affair with Tyrone Power in the lead role as a man tempted equally by love, honor, and battle. It’s appeal is in the visuals, from sumptuous sets to big action, but at over two hours there’s time for not-so subtle commentary on the warring classes too. It’s a love across class lines that develops against the intrigue and swordplay, and fans of old school adventure will find what they crave.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]

Escape Room

Escape RoomWhat is it? A group of friends looking for escape room fun find terror instead.

Why see it? No film has wanted to be Saw more, except for maybe one of the Saw sequels, but while there are puzzles and traps here there’s no wit or purpose. The characters are a mix of dull and annoying, the puzzles themselves are distractions — solving one still results in “punishment” so what’s the point? Suspense is equally absent as it’s clear the film has no interest in explaining or wrapping up the tale instead hoping to set itself up for a sequel. Skip it and watch Would You Rather? instead.

[DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers]

God of War

God Of WarWhat is it? Pirates. Why’d it have to be pirates?!

Why see it? The 1500s come alive in this big-scale (ie cg-filled) action/drama from director Gordon Chan (Fist of Legend, The Medallion) that follows a military effort to fight back marauding pirates. Vincent Zhao takes the lead and is perfectly competent in the role, but more personality is to be found in Sammo Hung’s supporting turn. The film runs a bit long — an expected knock for these types of epics — but the story offers plenty of character clashes while the action delivers for fans of wire-work and cg “enhancements.”

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

The Honor Farm

The Honor FarmWhat is it? A group of teens head into the woods on prom night.

Why see it? What begins as a familiar setup becomes something far different, but that’s not exactly the positive it should be as the film feels ultimately about nothing at all. We at first think they’re in for a night of terror, but a dreamlike state overcomes the action simultaneously raising the confusion while lowering our interest. It’s a shame as the film is beautifully shot, and honestly that’s enough to hold attention, but when the credits roll it’s not enough to hold the film in your memory.

[DVD extras: None?]

Justice

JusticeWhat is it? A priest is murdered, and a U.S. Marshall wants revenge.

Why see it? As direct to dvd westerns go this is definitely one. The basics of the story are those of a lawman seeking vengeance for his brother’s murder, but the script does fatten it up some with villains motivated in part by their refusal to accept the end of the Civil War. Beyond that, though, it all plays out with familiar beats. The budget doesn’t help either as it often feels like people playing dress-up in rented costumes. If nothing else we at least get yet another turn by Stephen Lang as a villain. Skip it and watch Silverado instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Lady Macbeth

Lady MacbethWhat is it? A young woman is sold into an abusive marriage, but she has no intentions of becoming a victim.

Why see it? Florence Pugh takes on the lead role with such intense ferocity and bold sexuality as to mesmerize from beginning to end. Her story is a descent into darkness in the guise of someone reclaiming their own power, and it’s an undeniably vicious journey that sees viewers’ sympathies shift with each new turn. It’s a bleak tale, gorgeously told, and Pugh is the driving force behind it. Is it a victory in the end? The truth rests in Pugh’s face.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

Moka

MokaWhat is it? A woman’s grief over the death of her son in a hit and run leads her to some dark truths.

Why see it? Emmanuelle Devos gives a powerful performance as a woman whose grief fuels a desire to find the person responsible for her son’s death, but the resulting journey is far from the usual path of revenge. Romance, deception, and an overwhelming sense of loss pervade the tale. It’s more slow-burn than ratcheting suspense, but through it all Devos holds our attention with her insistence.

[DVD extras: Interview, short film]

The Pirates of Blood River [Twilight Time]

ThepiratesofbloodriverWhat is it? Pirates attack a Huguenot settlement in search of gold.

Why see it? Hammer Films leaves horror behind for a foray into swashbuckler territory but curiously leaves the most piratey thing of all — ships! — off the menu. We do get Christopher Lee in an eye patch, though, as head of the pirate horde, the film builds to a third act loaded with death at the end of bullets, swords, trees, and piranha. Yup. Piranha. A young Oliver Reed makes a brief appearance here too, and the film as a whole is an entertaining enough romp.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]

Red Christmas [Artsploitation Films]

Red ChristmasWhat is it? A family gathered for the Christmas holiday is disturbed by an uninvited guest.

Why see it? Dee Wallace headlines this offbeat slasher, and for the first half or so she’s enough to anchor the story as other characters are introduced and the story is set up. The tone grows increasingly wobbly to the point where things become too ridiculous to care about much of what’s happening or who it’s happening to. The film does earn points for bringing abortion into the conversation, but it does so with an uncertain conviction — unless the film is intended to be a pro-life argument. Still, the slasher elements work well against the Christmas backdrop, and the addition of some bloody demises add fun to the mix as well.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, interview, bloopers, deleted scene, commentary]

Rolling Vengeance [KL Studio Classics]

Rolling VengeanceWhat is it? A man is wronged so he sets out for revenge behind the wheel of a monster truck.

Why see it? That synopsis should have already sold you as it’s pretty much the gist here. It’s a feud between trucking companies that leads to the carnage, but while the murder of a woman and two children is more than enough to get the ball rolling the film does go (arguably) a step too far in tossing in a rape to piss off our hero all the more. But hey, that’s exploitation for ya. Kino’s new Blu gives the film a good home and pairs it with a fun commentary with Canuxploitation.com’s Paul Corupe.

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

Summer of Fear

Summer Of FearWhat is it? A family takes in a suddenly orphaned cousin but discovers too late that there’s a reason why she’s alone.

Why see it? Wes Craven’s early features are best known for their brutality, but this TV movie (adapted from a YA novel by Lois Duncan) required a softer hand that he proved himself more than capable of displaying. Linda Blair brings a wholesome yet ornery teen to life well, and as their visitor’s secrets begin to reveal themselves it sets up a nice contrast. It’s a tame film overall — being both a TV movie and a YA adaptation — but it’s an entertaining enough watch for fans of both Craven and Blair.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary by Wes Craven, interview with Linda Blair]

Titanic

TitanicWhat is it? An unsinkable ship sets out across the Atlantic ocean.

Why see it? As familiar as film viewers are with 1958’s A Night to Remember and 1997’s Titanic, this German epic — produced amid the flurry of World War II — offers a unique view on the doomed ship and its passengers. Politics, greed, and the unpreparedness of ego lead toward a preordained conclusion, and it comes to the screen with both lavishness and disaster picture mayhem (ie miniatures, water-logged sets, etc). Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray offers an insightful commentary along with a couple short featurettes from the period.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, 1912 newsreel, ship line promo film]


Also out this week:

Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection, Ernie Kovacs: Take a Good Look – The Definitive Collection, The Evil That Men Do, La Chinoise, Landline, Shot Caller, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me [Criterion Collection], Wes Craven’s Summer of Fear

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