Criterion’s Latest Is the Movie That Made Me Fall in Love with Black & White Cinema

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

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Pick of the Week

Rebecca [Criterion Collection]

RebeccaWhat is it? A young woman marries a mysterious man only to discover the dark secret of his family home.

Why see it? Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film is an atmospheric classic filled with romance, anxious discovery, and lush imagery. Joan Fontaine is our unsettled and unsure guide into this world of privilege and mystery, and it’s with her that we discover the deadly secrets at the heart of this home, its owner (Laurence Olivier), and its eternally present housekeeper (Judith Anderson). All give fantastic performances, but the atmosphere, tone, and house itself are every bit as important and present. Daphne Du Maurier’s novel got the big screen treatment it deserved here, and as a young movie fan who had yet to step foot into older cinema this was my gateway drug. To be more precise, it was Fontaine who lured me into black & white movies, but that led to more Hitchcock and a wealth of others. Criterion’s new Blu-ray features a restored image and numerous extras exploring the production, cast, and crew.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, documentaries, radio adaptations]


The Best

A Dark Song

A Dark SongWhat is it? A woman hires an occultist to help her communicate with her murdered son.

Why see it? Liam Gavin’s feature debut is a methodical descent into darkness that sees a distraught and desperate young woman struggling emotionally and physically. The film is focused almost exclusively on her and the expert as they move through the steps required — or supposedly required — to open the portal between worlds and connect the living and the dead. It’s a definite slow burn that feels at first like a supernatural Compliance as she submits to strange, invasive instructions that he could simply be making up, but as the minutes tick by something begins to happen. Gavin gives the film a fantastic sense of atmosphere and growing dread, and it builds to one of my favorite images — so bold and unusual — in a horror film in years.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, deleted scenes, storyboards]

Maurice

MauriceWhat is it? Two young men struggle with their sexuality and identity in the strict moral confines of the early 20th century.

Why see it? Hugh Grant is the name draw in this late 80s Merchant/Ivory production, and he delivers on this early promise with a tortured performance filled with love, regret, and self-doubt. James Wilby is equally impressive in the title role as the young man dealing more directly with the repercussions of his sexuality. The film is beautiful in spirit and presentation, and the new 4k transfer makes an even stronger case for its gorgeous visuals. It’s a tragic love story, but a love story all the same, and that’s something we can never have enough of.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, Q&A, featurette, deleted scenes with commentary]

Mr. Mom [Shout Select]

Mr MomWhat is it? When a husband/father loses his job and his wife goes back to work he’s forced to pick up the slack at home.

Why see it? This early 80s comedy was a critical dud upon release, but audiences ate it up making Michael Keaton a star. Watching it again now after several years it’s easy to see that both sides got it right. It’s very basic in its script (by John Hughes), but Keaton and Teri Garr are both terrific as the couple facing new challenges in a changing world. There are some highly memorable and funny sequences here, and the addition of Martin Mull ups the laughter even higher. Its definitely dated, and the broad comedy won’t be for everyone, but for Keaton fans this is good stuff. Shout’s new making-of featurette includes new interviews with the various (non-lead) cast members along with some fun insight from producer Lauren Schuler Donner.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Raw

RawWhat is it? A young veterinary student finds her upbringing as a vegetarian challenged by her classmates and her growing desires.

Why see it? I’m not as fully enamored by Julia Ducournau’s feature as some — the school’s existence as the least believable institute of higher learning since P.C.U. has something to do with that — but there’s no denying the film’s grip and ability to create a world of its own. There’s a growing dread throughout, and while it leads to a somewhat predictable reveal the journey there is fraught with tension, desire, and memorably bloody visuals.

[DVD extras: None?]


The Rest

All Eyez on Me

All Eyez On MeWhat is it? The life and death of Tupac Shakur gets the biopic treatment.

Why see it? Some biopic films appeal to a wide audience on the strength of the story and character at their core, and others seem designed strictly for the already existing fans. This is one of the latter, which is fine, but if you’re not already invested in the pre-stardom life, fast-moving career as a rapper and actor, and eventual murder of Tupac then this two hour-plus drama won’t change that. Demetrius Shipp Jr. does a phenomenal job with the role though delivering both the rage and the with in equal measure, and of course the man’s music is on full display as well.

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

Chronically Metropolitan

Chronically MetroWhat is it? A young white guy returns home to his troubled, well-to-do family and learns some life lessons along the way.

Why see it? The only thing lifting this otherwise generic comedy/drama above the fray is a cast that includes Addison Timlin, Mary-Louise Parker, Ashley Benson, Chris Noth, Josh Peck, and more. They’re all worth watching, but the story is exactly what you expect — and what you’ve seen before — at every step of the way. The family’s status and privilege also add a degree of distance making it difficult to care all that much about their issues and concerns.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, interviews]

First Kill

First KillWhat is it? A man and his young son witness a killing in the woods and soon find themselves involved with a violent band of bank robbers.

Why see it? Hayden Christensen plays the father here whose efforts to mentor his son in hunting deer leads to several human deaths, and it’s probably one of his better performances outside of Shattered Glass. Bruce Willis meanwhile sleepwalks (per usual in his direct-to-video fare) through his role as town sheriff. The action and twists are all fairly rote, but fans of the cast will want to give it a spin to see where it lands on the issue of children handling guns.

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

The Flash – The Complete Third Season

The FlashWhat is it? Identity, destiny, and everything in between find Barry Allen stuck between the life he wants and the life where he’s needed.

Why see it? As with most of DC’s many television shows the tone here is a bit more playful than its big screen counterparts, but if you’re watching season three odds are you’re already a fan of the show’s style and approach. This season sees conflict between alternate realities, various folks under the Flash moniker, and a 23-episode season. (That last bit’s the norm, but show’s like this struggle in my opinion to stretch out their season arc across so many.) It’s casual fun.

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

Guardians

GuardiansWhat is it? Four genetically-crafted superheroes must band together to fight a new threat against mother Russia.

Why see it? This epic superhero adventure from Russia tries hard, and there’s some fun to be had in some of its set-pieces as the quartet takes on mechanical weapons and clone armies, but it’s impossible to hold up against more traditional Hollywood fare. The CG is merely okay, the script is fairly basic, and the heroes aren’t great. One can turn invisible — when wet — while another can control rocks and a third can turn into a half man/half bear. The fourth is the only visually cool one even though his ability is a direct riff on X-Men‘s Nightcrawler. It’s passable fun for kids, but the adults among you may want to give it a pass.

[DVD extras: Interviews, featurette]

Iron Protector

Iron ProtectorWhat is it? A small-town fighter moves to the big city and takes a job as bodyguard for a spoiled young woman.

Why see it? This frequently entertaining action pic made the festival rounds last year as The Bodyguard, but regardless of the title it’s worth a watch for fight fans. The action is big and energetic with elaborate fights and foot chases, and the choreography is creatively varied. The downsides though are a hell of a lot of wire-work, rough direction, and the absolute worst scene transitions you’ve ever seen. Moments end, fade to black, and then jump into something unrelated for a minute before going to black again. It’s just ugly, which is a shame as the actual fight scenes are goofy fun.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

The Last Face

The Last FaceWhat is it? Love erupts between two doctors volunteering in war-torn Liberia.

Why see it? Sean Penn’s latest directorial pulls together a fantastic cast — Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Jared Harris, Jean Reno — and an important backdrop to his story, but none of that helped the film with critics or viewers. The performances are expectedly solid, but the film trips over itself attempting to balance the love story with the serious drama, suffering, and heartache of a country in chaos and a people under constant threat of slaughter. The latter finds its strength in well-shot scenes of drama and violence, but the relationship can’t compete. Theron’s narration doesn’t help either.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Lowriders

LowridersWhat is it? A man must choose between loyalty to family or himself.

Why see it? As the title indicates, lowrider cars and the culture built up around them are a big part of this family drama, but there’s more to it beyond that flashy centerpiece. Art, creativity, and self-expression are the eventual themes here as the young man finds himself torn between his own interests and abilities and those of his father, brother, and friends. It’s far from a new story, but its existence in a subculture touched upon in early Fast & Furious films might make it of greater interest for some.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Megan Leavey

Megan LeaveyWhat is it? A female Marine bonds with a service dog and together they save lives.

Why see it? This drama hits two key areas of interest with its focus on the military and our canine friends, and its basis in the true story of a real Marine corporal lifts it that much higher. None of that is to imply it’s anything more than okay though as it never transcends its key demographic appeal. Yes it’s just inspiring and touching enough, and Kate Mara does good work in the title role, but there’s nothing here to lift it beyond those minimal accomplishments. It’s fine.  And that’s fine for fans of military tales or stories about dogs.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Narcos – Season Two

NarcosWhat is it? Pablo Escobar escapes from prison triggering an epic manhunt.

Why see it? The sophomore season of Netflix’s drug and crime-addled series ups the action somewhat as the legendary drug lord finds himself targeted local police, federal agents from America, and even rival cartels hungry for his territory and profits. While this season ups the energy its main strength remains the performance of Wagner Moura as Escobar. It’s a charismatic and electric portrayal of a bad man. The show’s obviously still available on Netflix itself, so this Blu with its handful of extras is really for big fans only.

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

Rough Night

Rough NightWhat is it? Five college friends reunite for a wild night of drugs, death, and remarkably poor choices.

Why see it? This is an okay comedy, but the handful of laughs really should have been far greater with the talent involved including Kate McKinnon, Scarlett Johansson, Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell, and Zoe Kravitz. Instead though too much of the comedy stumbles in obviousness or conflicts with tone. Sadly, for a film that positions itself like a female Hangover, the subplot involving one of their boyfriends is actually far funnier than the main thread.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes]

Security

SecurityWhat is it? Mobsters hoping to snuff out a witness are forced to contend with the security guards at the mall where she’s hiding.

Why see it? As direct-to-DVD action movies go this is one of the okay ones. Antonio Banderas isn’t exactly the aging star you’d picture in one of these — as opposed to Bruce Willis in First Kill above — but he holds his own as an ex-military guy struggling to make ends meet. The film becomes something of a low-rent “Die Hard in a mall,” but while the action is small-scale it delivers some fun along the way as Banderas pulls together the rent-a-cops to fight against the heavily armed villains.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Supernatural – The Complete Twelfth Season

SupernaturalWhat is it? The demon-fighting brothers continue to fight demons.

Why see it? Let’s pause for a moment and acknowledge that this show about brothers chasing monsters, facing off against Lucifer, and dealing with the undead is heading into its thirteenth season. It’s been a long road, and while it hasn’t been a consistently solid one there’s enough fun to be had — particularly in the “monster of the week” episodes. This season sees the return of the boys’ dead mother and a group of monster hunters who take their job far more seriously. It’s still a CW show, but it’s one of their best.

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

The Wedding Plan

The Wedding PlanWhat is it? A woman’s fiance leaves her a month before the wedding, but she continues forward with the belief that a groom will appear.

Why see it? This is a sweetly humorous romantic comedy given an extra layer of uniqueness by virtue of being an Israeli film. The Jewish faith plays into the character’s life and decisions adding context and factors well beyond the genre’s norm, and while none of it interrupts the expected story turns it adds a different air. It lacks big laughs, but the heart makes it work.

[DVD extras: None]


Also out this week:

Band Aid, The Big Knife [Arrow Academy], The Birthday Party [KL Studio Classics], Master, One Week and a Day, The Spell [Scream Factory], They Shoot Horses Don’t They? [KL Studio Classics]

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