This Week in Home Video
Pick of the Week
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made [Drafthouse Films]
What is it? Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark inspired numerous filmmakers since its release in 1981, but it’s the ones you’ve never heard of that might just be the most impressive. Three eleven-year-old boys began a multi-year effort of remaking the film, shot for shot, with friends, family, and imagination. Twenty years later they reunite to finish the final scene.
Why buy it? There are some fantastic making-of documentaries out there exploring the productions of films we like and love, but this inspiring love letter to movies succeeds even though its focus is a homemade film never meant for mass consumption. The doc moves between the present, as they struggle to get the plane explosion scene completed, and the past where the kids work their asses off recreating iconic scenes from one of Spielberg’s most memorable creations, and it’s a delightful journey all around.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet, commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, Q&A, reversible cover]
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made [Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy]
Hardcore [Twilight Time]
What is it? Jake (George C. Scott) is a god-fearing man raising a family in a small Michigan town, but when his teenage daughter goes missing in Los Angeles he discovers there are evils in the world he never expected.
Why buy it? Paul Schrader’s late ’70s drama is a hard-hitting, in your face critique of both the extremes of sexual perversion and the dangers of willful ignorance, but it’s also a sleazy descent into the worst mankind has to offer. Scott is a powerhouse as a man infuriated by what he finds and by his daughter’s role, and Peter Boyle delights as a morally bankrupt private investigator. The disc is light on extras, but it does feature a new commentary track with Schrader that is alone worth the price of admission as he shares terrifically entertaining stories about working with Scott.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries]
Session 9 [Scream Factory]
What is it? A five-man hazmat cleanup crew heads into the long-abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital to clean up years of use and abuse, but they find something far deadlier than asbestos.
Why buy it? Brad Anderson’s 2001 feature remains a highly effective chiller combining both supernatural and psychological terrors. It’s a very methodically paced film, to the point where it loses some viewers, but for those who stick with it the reward is a smart and frequently creepy exploration of madness. The cast (including Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas, and David Caruso) all do great work, but the real star is the old hospital (that has since been turned into condos). Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray gives the film a nice HD face-lift and adds some solid extras to previously existing ones.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes]
Session 9 [Blu-ray]
Theatre of Blood [Twilight Time]
What is it? Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) loves the plays of William Shakespeare and puts them on regularly for other fans of the Bard to enjoy, but critics aren’t as considerate to his efforts. Despondent, he attempts suicide before deciding that those critics should be the ones to pay with their lives.
Why see it? Price is always a charismatic and fun actor whether he’s playing it serious or for fun, and this blackly comic thriller from the early ’70s delivers on both halves of his particular genius. The laughs are sinister, the killings are delightfully gruesome, and the whole works as a self-reflecting critique of self-serious critics.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Theatre of Blood (Blu-ray)
What is it? A hot dog vendor with darkness in his past. A delivery man on a motorcycle. An actress tempting fate on c casting couch. A young man plotting a robbery. A husband who accidentally doped up his wife. Nuns eating hot dogs. All strangers, all united for a few fateful minutes in Warsaw.
Why see it? Movies with interconnected stories, typically ones that connect in the film’s final act, aren’t exactly uncommon, but the good to great ones are rarities. Think the likes of Magnolia, Short Cuts, Go, or Grand Canyon. Most fall short as the pieces don’t add up to a worthwhile whole, and that’s the category that this Polish film finds itself. The individual characters and stories vary in interest, but none rise to the level of truly compelling. The final minutes ‐ the scene where everyone connects ‐ is pretty stellar, but it’s a case of too little too late.
[DVD extras: None]
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
What is it? Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is a true renaissance man. Brain surgeon, scientist, musician, engineer… he has his hand in a little bit of everything. His resume gets a little fatter when his latest creation opens a connection to an alien threat from another dimension.
Why see it? W.D. Richter’s mid-’80s favorite blends comedy, sci-fi, and action into a goofy mélange that refuses to take a single moment seriously. It became a cult hit over the years, but I’m in the minority in that I just don’t see it as more than a minor entertainment. It’s real draw is the cast including Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Ellen Barkin, Clancy Brown, and Vincent Schiavelli. There are some fun moments here, but it’s the cast that makes the whole worthwhile. Shout! Factory debuts their new label, Shout Select, with the film, and they’ve packed it with features old and new including a two hour making-of featuring new interviews. This is the film’s Blu-ray debut (domestically, as Arrow released it previously in the UK), and the picture looks better than ever.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension [Collector's Edition] [Blu-ray]
What is it? Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) is serving a stint in the U.S> Army as a way to avoid a less pleasant detention, but while he tries to stay out of everyone’s business he realizes he has no choice when soldiers start dying at the hands of corrupt officials and ninjas. Good thing Joe’s a ninja too.
Why see it? This franchise-starter is exactly what you expect from a Cannon film from the mid ’80s, and that’s both a good and a bad thing. If it was your thing then odds are it’ll still be your thing, but I doubt it’ll win over new fans. The action choreography fails to impress, and it sets the series standard for cinema’s most incompetent ninjas.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of]
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation
What is it? Joe (Dudikoff) and his good friend Curtis Jackson (Steve James) return to action and once again find themselves stumbling into trouble with ninjas. They arrive in the Caribbean and discover a drug lord reigning terror over the locals with his army of ninjas.
Why see it? It wasn’t far to fall, but this is a step down from the first film as it feels even sillier in regards to plot, characters, and action. The ninjas are once again the least capable pajama-clad killers you’ve ever seen, and the action is executed with little to no enthusiasm. It’s never a good thing when you watch an action movie filled with ninjas and feel pretty confident that you could beat every single one of them.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of]
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia [Twilight Time]
What is it? A Mexican drug lord discovers his daughter has been impregnated by a man who she’s been seeing behind his back, and after belittling and injuring his child the furious crime boss issues a reward for the trespasser’s head. A piano player (Warren Oates) looking to escape his current place in life accepts the challenge.
Why see it? Sam Peckinpah’s soft touch with the ladies continues here, but as is often overlooked in his films the men fare just as poorly. It’s a thriller of sorts, although not the kind you might expect from the setup, and Oates makes for a terrifically flawed protagonist. The value of one’s life is the main focus here, and while the takeaway isn’t exactly inspiring it’s never a dull exploration of the theme.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (Encore Edition) (Blu-ray)
The Glory Guys [Twilight Time]
What is it? The Civil War is over and America’s push to expand westward continues, but standing in the way sits Indians, cockiness, and more Indians. Good thing General George Custer is heading up the charge.
Why see it? Sam Peckinpah wrote this nod to one of America’s darker chapters, but his bravado, wit, and grittiness aren’t truly on display here. There are moments, and certain characters show an aggressive personality easily attributed to Peckinpah’s pen, but too much of the film has a sedate feel. Time is spent on areas that don’t quite feel natural to the story ‐ ie a love triangle ‐ and it dulls the senses before the main thread of conquest and collision reappears.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Glory Guys, The (Blu-ray)
What is it? A group of friends head to a remote cabin in the woods for a few days of fun, but what they find instead is, well, you know what they find and what finds them.
Why see it? The film itself runs under an hour so it’s tough to call this homage to ’80s slashers a feature, but its brevity doesn’t doesn’t diminish the fun. A simple setup, a self aware attitude, and some fun visual gags add to the entertainment, as does a pre-roll featuring some faux trailers aimed at those of us who remember the good old days of VHS horror. Directors Christopher Phelps and Maxim Van Scoy show both an affection for the old and a talent for the new here, and I look forward to whatever they deliver next ‐ although I’m hoping it’s feature length and based on more original ideas.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentaries]
Man in the Wilderness [Warner Archive]
What is it? Zachary Bass (Richard Harris) is a fur trapper part of an expedition heading back to civilization, but when a bear attacks him his fellow trappers choose to leave him for dead. He survives though and slowly, surely, works his way back to them with vengeance on his mind.
Why see it? If that brief synopsis sounds familiar it may be because this 1971 film is based on the same true story as last year’s The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio. This version is a bit more straight forward, but the core story remains the same as do several near identical scenes. It’s a still an attractive film too as rural America is a beautiful place, but the lack of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s score is notable.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Midnight Massacre [Arrow Video]
What is it? Donald (Jackie Vernon) gets no respect ‐ not from his co-workers, not from strangers, and most certainly not from his nagging wife who can’t even do him the satisfaction of making a decent meal. So he kills her, and in a hilarious mix-up between leftovers and chunks of his wife Donald accidentally eats her hand and loves it. Now he’s stuck trying to find more fresh human meat.
Why see it? Lipstick on a pig. Polishing a turd. Say it however you want, this is a fantastic Blu-ray presentation for an absolutely shitty movie. The cover art suggests a far gorier film than we get as the body parts here all resemble mannequin accessories. Instead, the movie is content being a comedy, but it achieves that goal in name only as nothing here earns the slightest laugh. Seriously. “I’m so hungry I could eat a whore,” is the comedic high point.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, reversible sleeve]
Microwave Massacre (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
What is it? Romy (Diane Kruger) is visiting the American Southwest with her husband in an attempt to rekindle their relationship, but it’s not quite going as planned. She leaves him behind in a moment of panic and starts a new life in this unfamiliar land. New faces cross her path including a cowboy (Norman Reedus) who might just be her American dream.
Why see it? This is slow-moving drama that ultimately doesn’t amount to all that much, but it’s worth a watch for Kruger’s front and center performance. Her journey finds moments of joy, sadness, fear, and calm, and Kruger makes all of it feel real. The story doesn’t carry that same kind of weight though, and while she’s compelling the world around her fails to do the same.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Two high school friends who can’t get a girl’s attention in the US head to Mexico for fun in the sun and end up immersed in all manner of shenanigans.
Why see it? Part Losin’ It, part The Hangover, and all cliche, this is not nearly as fun as a movie about EDM should be. (That is a joke.) Nerdy guy finds love with a hot local (Camilla Belle)! His crass friend accidentally has sex with a man! Lots of gay panic! So much EDM! And what’s with the unnecessarily long cock-fighting sequence? There’s not a single believable frame to be found here either. On the plus side, and the one worthwhile beat here, Sara Paxton plays a terrific drunk girl.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
Tony Rome / Lady in Cement [Twilight Time]
What is it? Whether it be missing jewelry or a missing woman, private eye Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) is on the case.
Why see it? Rome may not be the first or even the most memorable private detective who lives on a houseboat, but he’s definitely one of them. That’s not a knock either as it’s a trait seemingly shared by characters who’ve tried to remove themselves from the restrictions of proper policework. Sinatra does good work as a tough guy trying to get paid, and both films evoke an atmosphere that screams light but gritty ’60s P.I. flick. If you like that you’ll like these.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Tony Rome / Lady In Cement
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Seventh Season
What is it? Elena is dead. (Well, in a coma and off the series anyway.) Stefan and Damon are moving forward with their supernaturally-lengthened lives with new dramas, loves, and acts of violence. Enemy vampires, a group called the Heretics, and a brief trip back in time to the Civil War are all par for the course.
Why see it? I won’t pretend to be a regular viewer of this CW series ‐ I have a distaste for vampire stories and the network’s supernatural series leave a lot to be desired for genre fans interested in more than young love ‐ but its lifespan speaks for itself. Fans of the CW’s particular style though will find more than enough to enjoy here as the show’s production design and writing do good work bringing its YA mentality to mildly atmospheric life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Also Out This Week:
Angry Birds: The Movie, Elvis, God’s Not Dead 2, Gotham: The Complete Second Season, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video