This Week in Home Video
Pick of the Week
What is it? An unnamed college student arrives at a remote house looking for quiet solitude in which to complete his thesis work, but the accommodations don’t quite match the promises of the ad. The head of the household tallies up every little expense from second helpings of dinner to napkins used and discarded, and he uses that growing debt to insist that the student pay it off by tutoring his young son, Klaus. “Young” is something of a misnomer as Klaus acts like a child but appears to be quite a few years older. Mother dotes on not-so-young Klaus in some uncomfortable ways and takes advice and instructions from a wound on her leg ‐ a wound named Heinrich who is actually an alien visiting from a galaxy far, far away. The “For Rent” ad most definitely failed to mention Heinrich.
Why see it? The setup of writer/director Nikias Chryssos’ feature debut begins every bit like the the setup to a terror-filled experience featuring abduction, torture, and peculiarly German abominations, but it’s clear very early on that horror is not the intention here. Instead, while still fairly disturbing, the film is actually an unsettling, quirky, and weirdly humorous look at the pressures put on the young to succeed. The family is clearly a bit off, but just as visible is their affinity for one another. There’s a sweetness here alongside the vaguely threatening eccentricities that leaves viewers uncertain at any given moment if they should be enjoying the family’s warm embrace or fearing what the wet wound on mother’s leg is going to have her do next. It’s easily the most creatively disturbing use of an open leg wound since David Cronenberg’s Crash. Character beats, laugh out-loud jokes, and an endearing unpredictability make for a fun, fast, lightweight watch that offers Americans a glimpse at a typical German family. Probably.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary]
Der Bunker [Blu-ray]
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town
What is it? Cassie (Jewel Staite) left her small, conservative town in shame after being branded a teenage slut, but now years later she’s returning for her mother’s funeral as a successful sex columnist. Her plan is to get in and get out, but she quickly discovers that perception doesn’t always equal reality. A group of locals convince her to help them organize an orgy, but there’s only one hitch on her end. She’s a virgin.
Why see it? This small Canadian indie snuck in and out of release earlier this year, but it’s one worth seeking out now that it’s on DVD. It’s a funny, sexy comedy that manages both while also being sweetly romantic at times. It’s biggest draw though is the frankness with which it tackles the topic of sex. It doesn’t shy away from the dirty stuff and instead embraces it all as part of the experience. Sex is messy, and Canadians know it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town [Blu-ray]
Midnight Run [Shout Select]
What is it? Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) is a tough, no-nonsense bounty hunter who’s estranged from his family and looking for one big job to help him leave this life behind. The Duke (Charles Grodin) is an accountant who stole from his mob bosses, got himself arrested, and then skipped out on bail. Now Jack has just a few days to find the man and return him to New York City with the Feds, the mob, and another hard-ass competitor (John Ashton) on their trail.
Why see it? Martin Brest’s late ’80s film is a comedy gem that’s finally getting the Blu-ray treatment it deserves. De Niro and Grodin are both at the top of their game here, and the supporting cast is equally strong including Ashton, Dennis Farina, Yaphet Kotto, and Joe Pantoliano. The writing is incredibly sharp, the action excites and thrills, and the film even finds time for moments of real heart. Shout Select’s new Blu offers up a beautiful new 2K scan alongside some new interviews including an absolutely fantastic talk with Ashton.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurette]
Midnight Run (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]
The Nice Guys
What is it? Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) are two not-so nice guys. Healy is a heavy who (inexplicably) makes a living sending “messages” to bullies, stalkers, thugs and the like, and his combination of concise words and bone-crunching violence gets the point across every time. March is a single father and widower working as a private eye more accustomed to shaking down clients than actually solving cases, and while his young daughter loves him she sure doesn’t respect him. A teenager named Amelia is the catalyst that brings the two together, begrudgingly, and they quickly find themselves neck-deep in a case involving murder, corruption, pornography, and bird lungs.
Why see it? The good news here, and perhaps the only news that ultimately matters, is that Shane Black’s latest is a very funny film that like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang gives comedic breath to two performers better known for their dramatic chops. Crowe is at his most charming with a soft tone and wry smile even as he’s snapping arms ‐ especially as he’s snapping arms. Healy’s not given much of a back story, but his delivery of one short monologue in particular tells us everything we need to know about who he is and who he wants to be, and while he’s a tough guy Crowe’s performance ensures we see the warmth and wit beneath. Gosling meanwhile cuts loose and frees the comedian we always suspected was inside him with a performance equally adept at both physical comedy and line delivery. March is far from the brightest bulb in the drawer, and Gosling embraces the character’s often accidental self-deprecation. The two of them are enough to make the film a must-see, but the inevitable comparison to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang reveals The Nice Guys to be something of a step backward in the script department. Happily, one step back from greatness is still a lot of fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Nice Guys (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultraviolet Combo Pack)
What is it? Joe (Kip Pardue) just wants a drink, but his attempt to enter a club is thwarted by the antics of two girls in front of him clashing with the bouncer over their fake IDs. Allyson (Jordan Lane Price) and Brittany (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) draw Joe into their shenanigans, and soon the three are sharing spirits back at his apartment. They’re playful, mischievous and cagey about their ages, and while he’s wary of that last fact it’s clear he might be willing to take the risk of sleeping with one or both of them. But is sex what the girls are after? Is Joe’s interest driven by their youth or by sheer desperation related to his current relationship? As the night goes on the various members of the trio seem at odds with each other’s intentions, and the competing desires never quite seem in sync ‐ let alone completely clear.
Why see it? The film begins at its most obnoxious point, and if you’ve seen Eli Roth’s Knock Knock the temptation might be to write this one off as a low-rent copycat ‐ but don’t. Whereas Roth’s film features an abundance of annoying behavior married to some highly improbable but mildly entertaining genre trappings writer/director Gary Gardner’s feature debut uses a similar setup to tell a far richer and more satisfying tale. It’s a delicately crafted threesome with sexy, sad and awkward emotional fumblings in place of intertwined limbs resulting in an evening more chaotic and honest than anyone expects. It’s a slyly sharp film that walks a fine line between seduction and loneliness ‐ it’s tantalizing, depressing and refreshingly honest, sometimes all at once, and it ends with an inevitability that only one of them saw coming.
[DVD extras: None?]
The Walking Dead: Season Six
What is it? The survivor group led by Rick has found a sanctuary in the walled neighborhood of Alexandria, but they know that safety is often a mere illusion. Their attempts to fit in and make this their home leads to conflict and exposes cracks in the existing community’s foundation. Violence ensues.
Why see it? AMC’s zombie epic is something of a punching bag for critics on social media, and to be fair it has earned those knocks over the years, but this season is a tremendous success. The zombie action and gore continue to thrill, but the real strength of the season is in its characters. Real emotion and suspense come from their various interactions and fates ‐ we care about these people, some more than others obviously ‐ and that makes for nerve-wracking television. The show’s enemy has been the seeming repetition of finding a new home (farm, prison, etc), defending it, and ultimately losing it to various human enemies, but as long as the journey remains exciting, gory, and engaging its one I’ll stick with through to the end.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
The Walking Dead, Season 6
What is it? Anthony Weiner was run out of politics in 2011 for his involvement in a phone-centered sex scandal, but two years later he returned to the public arena with a run for mayor of New York City. A documentary crew follows his attempt at a comeback and watches as he and his wife weather the ups and downs of the fight, and they’re there when new allegations arise to knock Weiner down again.
Why see it? This is a fascinating look into both the political process and the world of media feeding frenzies, and neither facet is all that attractive to us outsiders. Weiner is a man to be respected in some ways for his agenda and efforts (not to mention his success in overcoming that unfortunate name), but he’s also revealed to be a man to be pitied as he throws it all away for cheap thrills. It’s unbelievable that he would grant the filmmakers this kind of access, but you’ll be glad he did as the result is both entertaining and enlightening.
[DVD extras: None]
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
What is it? Ruby (Jamie Chung) is visiting Hong Kong on business as a toy designer when she meets an American expatriate named Josh (Bryan Greenberg). The two share a leisurely stroll through downtown ‐ he’s helping her find a bar where her friends are partying ‐ and share a clear connection made evident in their ease of conversation and growing interest in each other. The night ends abruptly though when he reveals his girlfriend is waiting for him back at another bar. A year later the two run into each other again, but will changes in their personal life lead to a different ending this time?
Why see it? Comparisons to Before Sunrise are inevitable, but while those characters spent one night together writer/director Emily Ting’s film spreads them across two. The changes in Ruby and Josh’s lives between these two random encounters fuels the topics they discuss and the themes of the film. These two aren’t engaging in grand philosophical debates between flirtatious discussion ‐ instead their focus is their own lives, the ups and downs, the differences between wants and needs. Both leads deliver charismatic and naturalistic work here. Their uncertain flirtation and growing affection feel authentic, and their situation is bound to remind viewers of similar circumstances in their own lives ‐ the ease of conversation with someone who’s not your partner, the idea of emotional infidelity, the risks we take when we feel a connection.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Ash vs Evil Dead: Season One
What is it? Ash (Bruce Campbell) has faced death and the undead more times than he can remember, but that life is behind him now. He’s back working a thankless retail gig, but when he makes a drunken mistake and accidentally reads from the Necronomicon all hell breaks loose once again.
Why see it? Sam Raimi’s beloved Evil Dead trilogy probably won’t see another sequel anytime soon, but fans should be more than satiated with the antics on display in this new series from Starz. Campbell remains the main source of joy here as he takes Ash on some new adventures, but for me at least the tone tips a bit too far away from horror and towards the goofy. It’s the same reason I prefer the recent reboot to Raimi’s films ‐ it’s darker, scarier, and far more thrilling. As a comedy though this show offers plenty of gory laughs as it works to revisit and rebuild the mythology behind Ash’s supernatural foes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
The Bloodstained Butterfly [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young woman is murdered in a park, and the main suspect is quickly apprehended. It should be an open and shut case ‐ there are witnesses who say they saw Alessandro running away, there’s physical evidence like blood and mud, and he refuses to offer his alibi ‐ but the case is thrown into disarray when a second murder happens while he’s still in custody.
Why see it? Billed as a giallo, of sorts, this Italian thriller gives a lot of time over to the court case as the mystery unfolds. I’d argue it’s maybe a bit too much time as it robs the film of suspense focusing on case details instead of building atmosphere and story. It’s never dull though, and there’s something to be said for mixing up the giallo formula once in a while ‐ something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. The mystery itself is actually quite solid and offers more than a few engaging story turns. Arrow Video gives the film their usual TLC with a beautiful 4k restoration and numerous extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, interviews]
What is it? Kent is a loving husband and father who’d do anything for his family including donning a clown suit for his son’s birthday party. He has the misfortune though of choosing a cursed costume that becomes impossible to remove. Its power begins taking him over and turning him into a demonic entity intent on killing and eating children, and his son may just be next on the menu.
Why see it? Jon Watts’ film takes a little while to get rolling as the writing and performances aren’t exactly captivating, but the movie’s worth a watch for horror fans thanks to a third act that sees a Chuck E. Cheese’s turned into a bloodbath. I seriously don’t understand how the company would sign off on a film featuring kids slaughtered in one of their restaurants, but I’m thankful they did. There’s some good gore and solid set-pieces too once the ineffective character work and family drama is wrapped up. Oddly, it’s also one of the least frightening clown movies you’ll ever see.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
DC Superhero Girls
What is it? It’s almost time for Super Hero High’s Hero of the Year ceremony, but trouble is brewing on campus. The devious Dark Opal and his minions are stealing rare artifacts and weapons from the girls in order to create something dangerous, and it’s going to take the combined efforts of teen Wonder Woman, teen Supergirl, teen Batgirl, and others ‐ including, oddly, teen Poison Ivy and teen Harley Quinn ‐ to save the day.
Why see it? In the grand tradition of Muppet Babies comes this animated peak into the alternate universe teen years of your favorite DC superheroes, and that may very well be the only real draw here. It certainly isn’t the portrayal of female heroes as these girls aren’t exactly the most competent, and do they all need to look identical with their big eyes and long hair? I get it, they’re teens in training, but they still make for poor role models. The action is equally underwhelming as Dark Opal’s baddies resemble nothing more than amorphous Scooby Doo villains.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A Texas Ranger (Liam Hemsworth) is tasked with investigating a series of disappearances in a remote area of the midwest, and his mission involves going undercover in an odd little town run by an even odder man (Woody Harrelson). He finds the answer, but it includes a connection to the death of his own father years before.
Why see it? We don’t get nearly enough westerns these days, but there have still been some great ones recently including Slow West and In a Valley of Violence. This is not a great one, but it is an entertaining and interesting one. Harrelson makes for a charismatic villain, the violence is well-crafted and bloody, and the story takes some odd turns. It’s not always successful in its choices, but it’s never boring in those decisions either.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
What is it? Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is known throughout the land as an evil witch, but she encounters resistance when she turns her dark ways in her sister Freya’s (Emily Blunt) direction. The sisters’ feud draws in another pair of siblings (Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain) whose allegiances shift as the land goes to war.
Why see it? If you think you know the whole story of Snow White, well, you do, but the lack of a story is hardly enough of a reason not to make a film right? Universal’s decision to produce a follow-up to Snow White & the Huntsman without Snow White was an odd decision, and the result ‐ a hybrid of both prequel and sequel ‐ fails to find any dramatic weight. The four leads are appealing in general, but only Theron seems to understand the goofiness of what they’re apart of.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended and theatrical cuts, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes, commentary]
What is it? Maggie (Greta Gerwig) hasn’t had the best success with men, but her desire to have a child remains. Undeterred, she decides to find a man willing to donate his seed without needing a relationship, but as she moves forward with the plan she meets a man (Ethan Hawke) who might just be the one she’s been looking for along.
Why see it? Rebecca Miller’s new film shares some initial traits with all manner of generic romantic comedies, but as the story moves forward the story finds its own path in funny and unexpected ways. As is often the case with Gerwig-starring films though she remains the biggest pull here with her mix of goofy humor and heart. Hawke is fine as a struggling writer ‐ has any actor played more writers across their career? ‐ oblivious to the whims of the women in his life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, Q&A, featurette, outtakes]
The Man Who Knew Infinity
What is it? Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) is a brilliant mathematician, but in the early 20th century the people and establishments of England see only that he’s an Indian. His arrival at the famed Trinity College causes a stir, but he finds a mentor in professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), and together they make history.
Why see it? The template for this kind of film ‐ a true story about a marginalized character proving himself against the system ‐ is a well-worn one, and director Matthew Brown’s film manages it with a steady hand. It’s a good film, but it’s the kind of experience you almost immediately forget. Still, the two leads do strong, charismatic work, and their time together onscreen makes for a
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Narcos: Season One
What is it? Pablo Escobar is a feared drug kingpin who became the most powerful man in Colombia through violence, intimidation, bribery, and worse. Two DEA agents find themselves on the front lines as they’re tasked with spearheading the investigation to bring the legend down.
Why see it? This Netflix series explores the rise of South American drug cartels, and while the focus is on Escobar the show highlights his competitors as well. Boyd Holbrook plays one of the DEA agents and narrates the show as it moves backward to explain how the pieces all come together. Good performances and some exciting action beats help hold attention, but the frequency of the narration often works to keep us at arms length from the tale. The result is that the show never quite engrosses beyond a curiosity as to what terrible thing Escobar will do next.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentaries]
The Other Side
What is it? Tucked away in rural Louisiana sits a pocket of civilization that barely reaches the level of civilized. Drug addicts, disgruntled veterans, and unemployed young people populate the screen, and documentarian Roberto Minervini enters their world to capture how they spend their days and nights.
Why see it? The common thread among the subjects here is two-fold ‐ they’re white, and they’re ignorant. This subgroup of America shouldn’t shock anyone as they’re also the ones supporting the rise of Donald Trump with their litany of angry, racist thoughts and insistence on blaming everyone else for their issues instead of looking inward. The doc is frightening at times ‐ one sequence featuring a bunch of yokels who target an Obama mask with their gunfire is upsetting for obvious reasons ‐ but it’s sadly not surprising or enlightening.
[DVD extras: Deleted scene]
Outlaws & Angels
What is it? A group of cowboy criminals on the run from the law come upon a remote cabin in the vast expanse of the American west and decide to hole up there for the night. What should be a simple hostage situation instead becomes the worst night of their lives.
Why see it? It’s a simple enough setup that writer/director JT Mollner crafts here, but very little of it ever amounts to much. The performances are a mixed bag with very few of them achieving the level of good or believable, and that same sensibility affects the production design too resulting in a film that never quite convinces us of its time or place. Those technique and technical issues aside, the story itself takes too many frustrating, obvious, and off-putting turns to ever engage.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Psycho IV: The Beginning [Scream Factory]
What is it? Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) has been out of the looney bin for years. He’s cured don’t you know and ready to live a happy life with a woman who loves him, except, maybe he isn’t? Norman calls in to a radio talk show about people who’ve killed their mothers and recounts his life story leading up to the events made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s film.
Why see it? Mick Garris’ entry into the Psycho franchise is a prequel that found life as a Showtime made-for-TV movie, but there are still some highlights within. Young Norman is played by E.T.’s Henry Thomas, and while he’s fine the film is at its best when focusing on Perkins. Olivia Hussey plays Norman’s mom, and her performance is fairly abysmal. The story feels fairly standard, but fans of AMC’s Bates Motel might enjoy seeing the show’s extended story compressed down to its core elements.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
Ratchet & Clank
What is it? Evil is afoot in the galaxy, and the only hope good has rests with two unlikely heroes. Ratchet is an orphan without family, friends, or purpose, and Clank is a small robot deemed useless by those around him, but when the two find each other they realize that together they can save the universe.
Why see it? Fans of the popular videogame franchise will probably find some fun here, but for the rest of us the movie is something of a loud yet underwhelming experience. Laughs never quite land, action never escapes its generic trappings, and the characters’ path to friendship and heroism lacks weight.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Kunta Kinte is captured in Africa, transported across a harsh ocean, and put to work as an early resident of the budding United States. His struggle for freedom, for him and for his eventual family, is followed across the years and generations.
Why see it? Alex Haley’s classic bestseller gets an updated adaptation with this History Channel mini-series, and it’s a highly competent production from beginning to end. Laurence Fishburne and Forest Whitaker headline, although Malachi Kirby does solid work as Kinte. It never surpasses the power evident in the late ’70s version though making this endeavor feel a bit unnecessary and redundant at times. That said, the history and story here is important enough and one that too many young people seem to be forgetting, so if it takes a slick new production to hold their attention than that can’t be a bad thing.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary]
What is it? Chris (Agyness Deyn) is a young woman in the early days of the 20th century struggling with the highs and lows of life. Her home is run by an abusive father (Peter Mullan) who mistreats her and her siblings equally as he shifts between the bottle and working the family’s farm. Her aspirations for something different for herself leads to conflict, strife, and sacrifice.
Why see it? Terence Davies’ film offers a beautifully photographed look at one woman’s fight against ugly times and uglier people. She fights battles at home as the world moves towards war, and Davies captures her struggle and its place in history well. Mullan can play this character in his sleep, but he still electrifies with his violence.
[DVD extras: None]
Superstore: Season One
What is it? Cloud 9 is a giant superstore offering thousands of life’s essentials to bargain-conscious shoppers, and amid the sales and displays sits a staff whose lives revolve around their time together.
Why see it? Workplace comedies are a tried and true formula on network television, and this is certainly one of them. The dynamic is here with a solid mix of character types and actors (America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney), but the writing struggles throughout. Weak physical comedy and stagnant verbal gags share the screen with a recycled series of storylines and interactions, and very little of it earns a laugh.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel]
Also Out This Week:
Lucifer: The Complete First Season, A Taste of Honey [Criterion Collection], Wiener Dog, Woman in the Dunes [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video