Take a Fateful Trip With Our Pick of the Week

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Pick of the Week

Harpoon

What is it? Three friends find betrayal and bad behavior on the high seas.

Why see it? This nifty, twisty, and mean little thriller reminds favorably of Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave in its portrayal of close friends caught up in a fast-moving tale built on lies, deception, and lust. Oh, and violence. We can’t forget the violence. Brett Gelman narrates as only Brett Gelman can, and the film delivers dark laughs, character surprises, and grisly beats on its way to becoming something of a morality tale. It’s great fun and a fast watch — 83 minutes! — and the new Blu-ray includes plenty of extras as well.

[Extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]


The Best

Annabelle Comes Home

What is it? Annabelle, she comes home.

Why see it? The third Annabelle film — the seventh film overall in The Conjuring Universe — is a solid spookfest that benefits from time spent with the Warrens (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga). They’re supporting players here, but the heart they add goes a long way, and director Gary Dauberman brings some good chills and thrills as well. This line of spinoffs remain the best so far in this particular universe, and here’s hoping we get plenty more.

[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

Baby Blood [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A woman is impregnated with an alien worm.

Why see it? This French shocker is something special in its embrace of the concept and gung-ho attitude towards bringing gore and flesh to the screen. The worm talks to her throughout the gestation — she grows increasingly pregnant — and insists she feed it blood which leads to some gory murders along the way. There’s some dark humor here too, but it comes alongside lots of bloodletting and nudity. (Neither of these are negatives, just offering up a warning for those who care.)

[Extras: Commentary]


The Rest

From Beyond the Grave [Warner Archive]

What is it? Antiques lead to doom!

Why see it? Amicus was a competitor to Hammer Films back in the day, and while they seemed locked in second place one area where they shined was in horror anthologies. This little gem features four tales tied together by an antique shop run by Peter Cushing… which honestly should have been the first sign shopping there was a bad idea. The tales are lightweight fun, but the cast (that also includes David Warner, Donald Pleasance, Lesley-Anne Down, and more) keeps things lively.

[Extras: None]

Kung Fu Monster

What is it? A man works to secure a monster’s freedom.

Why see it? Chinese period films are as common as, well, something really, really common, and like many of them this one blends the period details with a fantastical plot. It’s f/x heavy, and while much of the CG is solid it too often takes the place of something more substantial like character, story, and action. We do get plenty of that last bit, but it comes via CG shenanigans meaning your mileage may vary.

[Extras: Featurette]

Light of My Life

What is it? A man protects his daughter in a post-apocalyptic world.

Why see it? We’ve seen this basic story before, but the twist in writer/director Casey Affleck’s tale is that the plague wiped out females from across the earth. Affleck’s character tries to guide and protect his daughter the best he can, and part of that is accomplished by having her pretend to be a boy. There are some interesting ideas at play here, and an extended fight in the third-act is very well crafted, but it’s very talkative with elements that don’t really work. The 12-minute opening with the dad telling his daughter a story feels like an hour itself.

[Extras: None]

Midsommar

What is it? A young woman finds a new family in Sweden.

Why see it? Ari Aster’s Hereditary became a hit with fans and critics thanks to its unbearable dread, gorgeous cruelty, and darkly comic heart (honest, it’s funny), but his follow-up takes a different route. The film tackles crazy killer cults, horror, and drama in the context of a bloody comedy. The laughs work, and the movie is very nice to look at, but the characters and thrills are all empty. The theme of family doesn’t quite land, and the effort to paint all of the young guys as assholes is just shooting fish in a barrel. It’s worth a watch, but it’s far less memorable than Aster’s debut.

[Extras: ?]

Toy Story 4 – 4K UltraHD

What is it? A franchise milked passed the expiration date.

Why see it? Big fans of the Toy Story series will obviously want to watch this latest entry so take my thoughts with a grain of salt, but for me it’s now overstayed its welcome by two movies. We get some new characters — Forky! — but the antics and emotions are the same as we’ve seen all along. Action is again familiar, laughs are mild, and the end feels more like a “til next time” then closure. Meh.

[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

Toys Are Not for Children [Arrow Video]

What is it? A messed up young woman doesn’t get better.

Why see it? What a bleak and weird little tale this is. The focus is a young woman, most likely abused by her father as a child, who develops an attraction towards prostituting herself to older men who she calls daddy. It gets worse when her real father returns. The film feels more like a Vinegar Syndrome release than an Arrow Video one, but that doesn’t stop the label from doing the film justice with a sharp restoration and some informative extras. It’s an interesting film at times, but I’m not convinced it’s entertaining.

[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, featurettes]

The Wedding Guest

What is it? A man’s desire to rescue a bride-to-be comes with hidden motives.

Why see it? Michael Winterbottom’s latest is a dramatic thriller with a mildly interesting plot at its center. Dev Patel is a captivating performer, but the bigger draw here is the locales as the film moves between India and Pakistan. It’s a lively setting, both electric and colorful, and offers a glimpse beyond other western films’ brief detours.

[Extras: None]


Also out this week:

Deadwood: The Movie, Father Hood [KL Studio Classics], Gwen, Hercules In the Haunted World [KL Studio Classics], The Monster [KL Studio Classics], My Boyfriend’s Back [KL Studio Classics], Red Joan, Three Silent Classics By Josef von Sternberg [Criterion Collection]

Rob Hunter: @FakeRobHunter "Rob is great. He likes movies. He writes about them. And he's a good person."