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Pick of the Week
What is it? A couple enters into an affair before falling in love.
Why see it? What starts as a hookup of convenience accidentally falls into love, and that’s where the drama kicks in. Only in the 70s could you make a romantic comedy about a man who’s cheating on his wife that doesn’t judge the guy as harshly as deserved, but the decade is also the reason why this same film can end on such a downer note. It’s a fantastic movie with laughs, heartache, and moral conundrums, and both George Segal and Glenda Jackson shine as the lead couple.
What is it? A young man falls for a magic genie, a flying carpet, and feisty princess.
Why see it? Disney’s animated classic may have gotten a live action version this year, but the original remains the real deal. The animation is sharp and vibrant, the action is energetic and fun, and the film is as hilarious and entertaining now as it ever was. The songs are catchy too, no matter how much you deny it, and they work to benefit character as well as they serve to delight. Disney’s new 4K upgrade is as gorgeous as you’d hope.
[Extras: Sing-along mode, alternate ending, featurettes, commentary]
What is it? Vampires are the norm, and humanity is nearing extinction.
Why see it? We don’t get a lot of action/horror hybrids, but this 2010 film remains one of the best. Ethan Hawke headlines as a vamp with a soft spot for humanity, and Willem Dafoe joins as a badass human fighting a losing battle with the undead. The plot brings mashes the bloodsuckers with a sci-fi story, and the result is a highly entertaining romp delivering big thrills and cool chills. It’s a sharply photographed film, and the 4K upgrade helps it shine.
[Extras: Featurette, short film, commentary]
What is it? John Wick is on the run.
Why see it? This is currently the best action franchise going, at least until The Raid 3 arrives, and it’s because the filmmakers know the secret to success is a combination of skill and continued growth. They’re not simply repeating themselves over again, they’re adding to the world and building it in exciting ways. We still get guns and plenty of martial arts here, but this time we also get horse vs motorcycle shenanigans, dog-fu, and a new way to kill someone with a book. It’s glorious, and the film is beautifully shot too which is even more evident in 4K.
What is it? A teenager is chosen as the third wife to a wealthy landowner.
Why see it? This beautiful tale of human interaction in 18th century Vietnam explores ideas of individuality in a time where such things were forbidden. May works to fit in and please her new husband, but she grows to discover that her interests lay elsewhere. It’s a small film with minimal dialogue, but so much is spoken through expression, score, and Ash Mayfair’s delicate direction. There’s sadness here, but there’s also a hint of the empowerment to come.
[Extras: Short film, interview, commentary]
What is it? A young man falls for a magic genie, a flying carpet, and a feisty princess.
Why see it? Look, this live action redo made a billion dollars at the box-office, so my thoughts on it aren’t really relevant. I’ll simply say that while the film might be unnecessary it’s also not very memorable. The live action and CG take away much of the magic (just as the latter does with the recent remake of The Lion King), but the songs are still solid enough, and there’s plenty going on to distract the kids too. Will Smith’s genie is no Robin Williams’ genie though.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, bloopers, featurette]
What is it? A serial killer’s family life interrupts his serial killing.
Why see it? There’s a hint of 1993’s Slaughter of the Innocents here with a big, bearded killer collecting kids for nefarious reasons, but writer/director Tom Botchii Skowronski is telling his own tale. The killer is fascinated by comic books and superheroes, but that surface innocence doesn’t come close to concealing the violent man within. The film offers up some suspense as an outsider makes a desperate bid towards rescuing the kids, but it is hampered somewhat by the dreaded character stupidity.
What is it? A convict finds himself at odds with a sadistic warden.
Why see it? Sylvester Stallone’s action films have grown silly over the years — some are still fun, but the action elements have grown extreme — but this late 80s entry takes a more grounded path instead. It’s as much drama as action as Stallone’s character faces moral quandaries and physical dilemmas as he heads toward imminent freedom. It’s perfectly solid. As such, it’s not really the kind of movie that benefits fully from a 4K upgrade. It looks great, but the improvements seem minimal.
[Extras: Featurettes, interviews]
What is it? A rabbi heads to Paris and gets caught up in criminal shenanigans.
Why see it? Gerard Oury’s early 70s comedy is a slapstick farce happy to go super broad at any moment. It’s all about the harmless laughs as cops, crooks, and oblivious tourists become embroiled in various antics. It’s casual fun and a reminder of simpler comedies of the past, but if wacky is your brand then you’ll want to give it a spin.
[Extras: Interview, essay]
What is it? A man suffering from amnesia finds himself caught up in a murder plot.
Why see it? Gregory Peck headlines this mid 60s mystery thriller and creates a compelling protagonist for the twisty tale that follows. the supporting cast is equally appealing with the likes of Walter Matthau, Diane Baker, Kevin McCarthy, George Kennedy, and more. There are some fun story turns here, and while the bad guys aren’t exactly difficult to spot ahead of time there’s still a good time to be had with the film.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
What is it? Two men build a friendship and empires that threaten to collapse.
Why see it? This 1942 drama premiered the same year as The Spoilers (see below) and stars the same three leads. John Wayne and Randolph Scott play miners who work their respective ways up as businessmen partially in the hopes of wooing a third friend played by Marlene Dietrich, but poor choices and selfishness brings it all down. It’s a solid if unmemorable tale.
What is it? Feuding ship captains rock the boat with danger.
Why see it? Director Cecil B. DeMille was never known for small productions, but while this 19th century adventure lacks the epic feel of his best known films it still delivers its share of adventure and romance. John Wayne headlines alongside Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard (but watch out for Robert Preston!), and they all work to deliver some rollicking sea-bound action while playign around with each other’s hearts.
What is it? Dracula is dead and loving it.
Why see it? The great Roy Ward Baker directs this Dracula entry with an eye for gothic flair, saucy shenanigans, and heaving bosoms. The story is typical Dracula fare with the count rising once again to torment some hapless villagers, but it’s kept lively through vibrant photography and some fun thrills. One of the commentary tracks features Christopher Lee — Dracula himself — along with Baker, and it’s worth a listen too.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurette]
What is it? The Alaskan gold rush brings both good and bad seeking their fortune.
Why see it? As mentioned above, this is the other 1942 release starring John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, and Randolph Scott, and it’s also the better one. The Alaskan town comes alive as does the surrounding areas, and all three leads do good work mixing business and pleasure with violent feuding. It’s a good old-fashioned time.
Also out this week:
Blindfold [KL Studio Classics], Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb [Scream Factory], Circus of Horrors [Scream Factory], The Cloud-Capped Star [Criterion Collection], The Dead Don’t Die, The Juniper Tree, Jurassic World – 5 Movie Collection – 4K UltraHD, Santana: Live at US Festival, Stella [KL Studio Classics], Supernatural – The Complete Fourteenth Season