‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Has Never Looked More Stunning

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

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Pick of the Week

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – 40th Anniversary Edition [4K Ultra HD]

Close Encounters Third KindWhat is it? A man in an unhappy relationship finds satisfaction in the sky above and the mashed potatoes on his plate.

Why see it? Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpiece isn’t a film a young director would get the chance to make these days as it spends an unusual amount of time on the character drama and science between scenes of absolute wonder. The 4K is spectacular, but even the Blu-ray stuns regardless of which of the three included versions you choose to watch. This new release collects numerous past supplements and also includes new featurettes and home videos from Spielberg himself. (There’s also a very cool limited edition box set available that lights up front and back while playing the iconic theme.)

[4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, outtakes & home videos, making of, deleted scenes]


The Best

The Big Sick

The Big SickWhat is it? A new couple break it off just in time for one of them to land in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.

Why see it? Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen these days with so few making an effort to stand apart from the herd. Michael Showalter’s latest does just that by not only finding inspiration in a true story but also by mixing up the usual dynamics. Kumail Nanjiani takes the lead (it’s his real story with now-wife Emily V. Gordon) as a young man who breaks up with his white girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) for fear of losing his old-fashioned family only to realize he loves her as she sits in the hospital in a coma. It’s sweet, funny, honest, and features the absolute best 9/11 joke you’ve ever heard.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes]

Certain Women [Criterion Collection]

Certain WomenWhat is it? Three stories, four women, one movie.

Why see it? Writer/director Kelly Reichardt brings three of Maile Meloy’s short stories to life in an intertwined tale of women making their way in small town Montana. All three are engaging in their quiet observations, and both Laura Dern and Michelle Williams do good work in their segments, but the standout here without a doubt is the short featuring Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone. The latter plays a ranch hand who develops an attraction and interest in Stewart’s adult education teacher, and both are terrific. Gladstone in particular devastates with a performance that just crushes your soul.

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

Gun Fury 3D [Twilight Time]

Gun FuryWhat is it? Stagecoach robbers leave a young man for dead, but it’s a mistake they’ll be paying for.

Why see it? I can’t speak to the 3D elements, but even in old-fashioned 2D this 1953 western delivers some solid thrills and fun action with its tale of revenge and justice at the end of a six-gun. Rock Hudson takes the lead here as the man out for vengeance with Lee Marvin bringing one of the villains to life. Donna Reed is along for the ride too as Hudson’s lady, and they work to bring magnetism to an already exciting tale. Great American landscapes offer a stunning backdrop to the action and drama.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Hana-Bi

Hana BiWhat is it? A detective struggles to hold his life together while the health of others crumbles around him.

Why see it? Takeshi Kitano’s made a second career (he started as a comedian) out of starring in and directing violent procedurals involving bad cops, worse villains, and lots of smiling while shooting people to death. This late 90s effort is one of his best and most powerful as he portrays a confident yet desperate man in a spiral of death and destruction. Kitano’s films, unlike most in the genre, make careful effort to give gun shots a sonic impact — they’re loud, but more than just mere volume they hit and rattle the bones.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of, essay]

The Hero

The HeroWhat is it? An aging actor diagnosed with a life-threatening illness finds his priorities rearranged.

Why see it? Sam Elliott. He’s the reason to see this soft little gem about getting older, growing wiser, and finding new reasons to fight. Elliott’s always been a delight even in small roles, but seeing him in a long overdue return as a lead is heartwarming to say the least. That voice, that mustache… his journey here is one of sadness, struggle, romance, and reflection, and all of it comes with a sheen of sweetness in his relationships to those around him. The supporting cast is also fun with warm turns from Nick Offerman, Laura Prepon, and Krysten Ritter.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]

Hour of the Gun [Twilight Time]

HourofthegunWhat is it? The gunfight at the OK Corral was only part of the story.

Why see it? James Garner and Jason Robards in a film together is all the reason you should need to give a movie a spin, but knowing it’s a western from director John Sturges (The Great Escape) should make it irresistible. The actors play Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, respectively, and the story follows what came after the infamous shootout. There’s some interesting character work here that builds towards solidly crafted action set-pieces fueled by revenge and honor alike. Garner’s in serious mode here while Robards gets many of the best lines, and together they make a hell of a team.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Lawman [Twilight Time]

LawmanWhat is it? A lawman arrives in town in pursuit of men charged with a crime a few towns over, but they’re not interested in coming quietly.

Why see it? Burt Lancaster headlines this uncommon R-rated western from the 70s, and he brings all of his stature and stoicism to the role of a sheriff determined to follow the law. He just needs them to stand trial — something their wealth and power could easily sway — but they collectively refuse and one by one force his hand. Michael Winner directs with a sharp eye for conflict, drama, and violence, and the supporting cast brings immense flavor in the form of Robert Duvall, Robert Ryan, Lee J. Cobb, Richard Jordan, and more. It’s a simple but solidly entertaining western about a good man, some bad men, and the deadly power of pride.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Lethal Weapon – The Complete First Season

Lethal WeaponWhat is it? A cop who’s too old for this shit is partnered with one who doesn’t give a shit.

Why see it? I was highly skeptical when this TV adaptation of Richard Donner’s beloved buddy-action movie franchise was first announced, and early ads did little to change that. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that after giving it a few episodes they really nailed the characters — particularly Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson in the films and Clayne Crawford here — and manage a solid balance between heart, humor, and ridiculous action sequences. It’s not a show to watch for realism, but sticking with the season reveals emotionally satisfying beats and a lot of fun.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended pilot, featurette, deleted scenes, gag reel]

Wonder Woman

Wonder WomanWhat is it? She’s a woman. And she’s wonderful.

Why see it? DC beats Marvel to the female hero standalone film, and they do so with a fun, attractive blockbuster that also happens to be among the best of the DC Universe. There’s wit, action, and humor aplenty, and it does good work in crafting a hero arc that moves her from naivete and optimism to the harsh reality of humanity’s truths. The action is equally fun and occasionally powerful — the “No Man’s Land” sequence is fantastic even on re-watch — and while the ending gets a bit silly it’s a forgivable turn as this is a superhero movie after all.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, blooper reel]


The Rest

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef [Twilight Time]

Beneath The Mile ReefWhat is it? A pair of competing families in the dangerous business of sponge fishing compete on the ocean and on land when their youngest fall in love.

Why see it? If you watched (or read) Romeo & Juliet and thought it would play better if the families were sponge-divers well then this is the movie for you. The young lovers alternate between clashing and kissing as their affair increases the already existing tensions between their parents. All of that said though the film can’t help but be an extremely lightweight fling. The drama feels artificially heightened, the acts of sabotage between businesses feel exaggerated, and the young couple are obnoxious as hell. It’s fun seeing a young Robert Wagner strutting around as a Greek, but it can’t help the film be any more memorable.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]

Cartels

CartelsWhat is it? A drug lord in US custody is under siege by competing forces.

Why see it? Once upon a time Steven Seagal was an action star making movies worth watching — but that was 16 years and a whopping 37 films ago. You’re lucky now to find a movie of his where he moves more than he sits, manages fight scenes that aren’t edited into two second fragments, and speaks his own dialogue. His latest ticks off one of those boxes, and the non-Seagal parts are equally unexciting. The highlight is watching the girl on girl fight — not because it’s sexy or impressive, but because the production apparently only had one female stunt person available leaving the other to be a dude in a wig.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Conan the Barbarian [4K Ultra HD]

Conan KWhat is it? A young Cimmerian warrior goes on a journey of revenge.

Why see it? Marcus Nispel’s reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring favorite lacks that film’s campy fun — Jason Momoa is great, but he’s no Schwarzenegger — but it delivers on the action and grit front. Fights are bloody, violent affairs with texture and weight, and the fantasy elements are well presented too. Less engaging are the supporting characters and story lines — aside from Stephen Lang’s maniacal villain of course — as too much of it feels generic and overly focused on forgettable cg visuals.

[4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentaries]

The Illustrated Man [Warner Archive]

The Illustrated ManWhat is it? A drifter finds himself enamored by a man covered in tattoos and in pursuit of the woman responsible.

Why see it? Ray Bradbury’s anthology, The Illustrated Man, is a brilliant collection of short stories (one of many from the master’s career), and as HBO’s The Ray Bradbury Theater proved his tales are ripe for adaptation. Somehow, though, this feature adaptation fails to capture that magic. Three separate tales are held together by a connective fourth — Bradbury’s actual title story is forgotten and instead stretched into the film’s least interesting aspect. The actual story segments fare better, but the film’s insistence on maintaining that central thread — the same cast remains in each — claims some of their narrative power as victims.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]

Innocent Blood [Warner Archive]

Innocent BloodWhat is it? A saucy vampire who targets the morally corrupt runs into trouble when she leaves a mobster meal unfinished.

Why see it? John Landis is responsible for one of the greatest horror/comedies ever made with An American Werewolf in London. He also made this. I’m not saying it’s a highly unsatisfying mix of forced laughs, obnoxious caricatures, and a poor English-language debut from its French star — that’s for you to decide once you’ve seen (or re-watched) it. The film mashes together horror, comedy, mobsters, and romance, but none of the pieces work, let alone gel together as a whole. The bright side for fans, though, is that Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray features the extended international cut which fleshes out some of characters such as they are.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

The Legend of Hercules [4K Ultra HD]

Hercules KWhat is it? The son of Zeus discovers his heritage and leads a rebellion against mere mortals.

Why see it? Genre movies, particularly action, sci-fi, and fantasy, are typically the best ones for taking advantage of 4K’s glories, but it still helps for the film itself to be, you know, good. Renny Harlin’s action epic doesn’t reach those heights, though, thanks in large part to the charisma-free lead, Kellan Lutz. The supporting cast is a bit better, but this is one of those films that wastes the talents of Scott Adkins by having him act instead of kick ass. It’s ultimately a pretty bland and unexciting movie even in the beauty of 4K.

[4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray extras: Making of, commentary]

The Moderns [Shout Select]

The ModernsWhat is it? Paris, 1926. This town is hopping.

Why see it? Alan Rudolph’s period drama pairs some fun characters, both real and imagined, with an engaging tale of struggling artists, wealthy benefactors, and the interests that bring them together. Keith Carradine and Linda Fiorentino are at the forefront here as exes on their way towards being currents again if only they can get past John Lone, brutish thugs, and the whims of the fashionable elites. Shout Factory’s new Blu cleans up the picture and adds new interviews with Carradine and the director.

[Blu-ray extras: 2K restoration, interviews]

The Prison

The PrisonWhat is it? A cop is sentenced to jail time and discovers a criminal enterprise operating inside its walls.

Why see it? The convicts inside the prison are part of an elaborate scheme that sees them released at night to commit crimes only to return safely to the alibi of confinement. It’s a similar setup to the somewhat superior Filipino thriller, On the Job, but it finds solid action beats as our cop shifts allegiances in an effort to strike back at a legal system that wronged him. Korean genre fans should give it a spin.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

September [Twilight Time]

SeptemberWhat is it? Friends and acquaintances get together at an estate for conversation and canoodling.

Why see it? Woody Allen’s 1987 drama/comedy is one of his simpler efforts story wise, but it’s rich enough in character to make its brief running time engaging all the same. Its greatest strength, of course, is in the performances starting with Dianne Wiest, Mia Farrow, and Jack Warden. The conflicts are minimal in the grand scheme, but the performances pull viewers in as if they were of utmost importance and weight. Those performances are all we’re left with really by the end, though, making this a film that ultimately doesn’t last.

[Blu-ray extras: None]


Also out this week:

Arrow – The Complete Fifth Season, The Bad Batch, Bates Motel – Season Five, Modern Family – The Complete Eighth Season, Timeless – Season One

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