This Week in Home Video
Welcome to this week in home video! Be sure to click the title to buy any of the the titles from Amazon and help FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
BrainDead ‐ Season One
What is it? Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays an assistant to her U.S. Senator brother, and while she expected Washington D.C. to be boring she didn’t expect to discover an alien invasion of brain-eating bugs.
Why buy it? The good news is I finally watched ‐ and binged ‐ this CBS series after missing it this summer when it aired. The bad news is that CBS has already cancelled plans for a second season, but while that sucks we still have thirteen very funny, extremely entertaining episodes featuring Winstead, Tony Shaloub, and others killing it with this comedic take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Heads explode, characters shift allegiances, and the incredibly sharp writing offers observations on our political system that are continually more astute than anything the real news media is managing. Again, I would have loved more, but the single season works as a complete tale.
[DVD extras: Bloopers]
BrainDead: Season One
The Bourne Ultimate Collection
What is it? Jason Bourne forgets who he is before he remembers, and through it all he’s being chased and chasing others.
Why see it? The latest Bourne film is repetitive garbage [see below], but the first three in the series form a perfect action trilogy. Jeremy Renner’s bastard child fourth film is merely okay, but as the set collects all five the great outnumbers the good and terrible. All of the previous extras are included here making it a terrific set if you don’t already have the original three on Blu-ray.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentaries]
The Bourne Ultimate Collection (Bourne Identity / Bourne Supremacy / Bourne Ultimatum / Bourne Legacy / Jason Bourne) (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
Don’t Think Twice
What is it? A six-person comedy improv team struggles with the daily grind, but they face their biggest challenge when two of their members get offered Saturday Night Live.
Why see it? Mike Birbiglia’s new film is a comedy unafraid to pair laughs big and small with the tragedy of failure, frustration, and the feelings these folks have for their more successful friends. Birbiglia is joined by Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key, and others, and they convince in their existence as funny people.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Don't Think Twice (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
What is it? An American (Scott Adkins) living in London finds himself on the news after a violent incident, and it draws the attention of some others who want him dead.
Why see it? Adkins has been getting a lot of work lately, which is great for him, but unfortunately it’s been in films that failed to take advantage of his fighting abilities. The recent Hard Target 2 was one of the good ones, and now we’ve got another winner. The story is straightforward, but the fights are frequent and terrifically-crafted with both Adkins and the WWE’s Wade Barrett delivering the goods.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Eliminators (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
The Exterminating Angel [Criterion]
What is it? A high-society dinner party winds down only to discover that none of them can quite bring themselves to leave the room.
Why see it? Luis Buñuel’s absurd comedy is as sharp today as it was in the early sixties. His biting commentary on the privileged elite comes in the form of a blackly comic and mildly surreal tale that sees members of the one percent fall apart. The humor is dry throughout as it picks apart their behaviors to delicious effect. Criterion’s release includes a documentary on Buñuel’s filmmaking career.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, interviews]
The Exterminating Angel (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer ‐ 30th Anniversary
What is it? Henry (Michael Rooker) is a serial killer.
Why see it? John McNaughton’s mid ’80s thriller remains a powerful and grim exploration of casual murder and sociopathic behavior. There are no good guys here ‐ this is purely focused on Henry and his “friend” who shockingly also happens to be down with murder. It’s deadly serious, but their relationship and antics also offer up some morbid laughs along the way. The film’s 30th anniversary is behind its newly remastered (and beautifully so) release, and the packed extras offer a look into its production and appreciation.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, interview]
Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer: 30th Anniversary [Blu-ray]
Howard’s End ‐ 25th Anniversary
What is it? Two sisters in early 20th century England find their lives complicated by relationships with two couples of competing social experiences.
Why see it? E.M. Forster’s literary classic receives a lush and atmospheric adaptation from the team of Merchant Ivory. Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, and Vanessa Redgrave lead this beautifully-acted tale of class distinctions and individual ideals. Cohen’s new Blu-ray offers a 4k remaster that captures the film’s exquisite beauty, and the extras provide a look into its production with new interviews as well.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, featurettes, Q&A, commentary]
Howards End [Blu-ray]
If There’s a Hell Below
What is it? A journalist meets up with an alleged government agent who promises to reveal top secret information important to the freedom of all Americans, but there’s a good chance she’s either paranoid or in real danger.
Why see it? The film’s exterior setting aside, it feels in some ways like a tightly-written play as its two characters discuss and debate ideas and concerns, and there’s a sense of suspense and foreboding that builds throughout. It opens in medias res unfortunately, so I’d recommend skipping the first couple of minutes for a better overall effect, but even with the opening scene it remains a compelling and tense experience.
[DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, alternate ending]
If There's a Hell Below
In Order of Disappearance
What is it? When a man’s son is murdered he follows a trail of vengeance all the way to its bloody conclusion.
Why see it? Stellan Skarsgard is always reason enough to see a movie, but even he raises the bar further with this blackly comic Norwegian thriller. He’s terrific as a man pushed into a plan from which there’s no return, and the film has fun even as it makes an effort to show the accumulating loss of life. The snowy landscape offers a beautiful backdrop for the bloodletting too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
In Order of Disappearance [Blu-ray]
Mad Max Fury Road ‐ Black & Chrome Edition
What is it? Max is understandably angry and a bit off his rocker, but he’s in control enough to step up and help people in need in a post-apocalyptic world.
Why see it? George Miller’s modern action classic is a must-have for any movie lover, and if you don’t have it yet this may be the edition to acquire as it features the film, special features, and Miller’s preferred black & white version. Personally speaking the color kicks the b&w’s ass into the next millennium, but it’s an interesting watch as it remains a gorgeous and electric experience all the same.
[Blu-ray extras: Introduction, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Mad Max: Fury Road /Fury Road Black & Chrome (BD Double Feature) [Blu-ray]
Phantasm ‐ Remastered
What is it? Two brothers discover the new mortician in their small town is up to know good and is instead collecting corpses with the aid of wannabe Jawas and deadly flying balls.
Why see it? Don Coscarelli’s beloved late ’70s horror film gets the Bad Robot treatment with this stunning 4k transfer (thanks to JJ Abrams), and while the picture looks incredible now the madness remains the same. It’s a dreamy and surreal nightmare that opened the door for several sequels, but the original is still the best and weirdest.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, episode of Graveyard Carz, deleted scenes]
Phantasm: Remaster [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
The Quiet Earth
What is it? A man wakes up to discover that everyone else has disappeared.
Why see it? New Zealand has found attention in recent years as a home to quality cinema, but it’s not really anything new. In addition to being home to Peter Jackson’s humble beginnings the country also birthed this sci-fi cult classic onto screens back in the ’80s. The premise is one found in various fictions, but Geoff Murphy’s film added to it with the love triangle and hard science. Film Movement’s new Blu-ray presents the film in beautiful HD, and while Neil deGrasse Tyson’s commentary is slight in content it features more than a few insightful and/or fun thoughts.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
The Quiet Earth [Blu-ray]
What is it? A young Korean American gets a job at a late night spa that awakens and encourages a sexuality he knows his family would disapprove of.
Why see it? Andrew Ahn’s film is set in a very specific demographic, but the story its telling is ultimately a universal one as the teen’s identity is kept at odds with his reality. There’s a beauty here that gets occasionally roughed up by circumstance and tradition, and the end result is an affecting drama about the things we choose and the things that choose us.
[DVD extras: None?]
What is it? A young man and his girlfriend reluctantly return home to visit his mother and sister, but the reconciliation he seeks comes with a side of madness.
Why see it? It seems like a tragic indie dramedy on its surface, but Richard Bates Jr’s latest is one of the year’s best horror/comedies. Brutally funny insults and an acerbic wit encourage laughter through the first half while an undercurrent of something unfortunate slowly builds. There’s a darkly emotional undercurrent to the laughs, and the rude hilarity slowly gives way to raw truths, murderous reveals, and the realization that a desire to be a better person isn’t enough to guarantee happiness. We quickly grow to like these characters, and as our increased affection is paired with an increased concern the darkness bubbling beneath the relationships begins to seep out as guilt, rage, and madness push it all to the surface.
[DVD extras: None?]
Trash Fire [DVD]
Call of Heroes
What is it? A stranger is drawn into the fight when a small village is targeted by a vicious warlord for daring to prosecute his murderous son.
Why see it? Period martial arts films are a dime a dozen these days, but there are still plenty of them that deliver solid action and fresh entertainment. Director Benny Chan’s (Shaolin, New Police Story) latest is a fun romp filled with some beautifully-choreographed (by Sammo Hung) fight scenes. They’re heavy on wire-fu, but that plays into the film’s fun. Story-wise the movie follows a traditional western path, but the fights and sense of humor keep things light.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]
Dead Rising: Endgame
What is it? A hard day’s work is never over for the world’s most dedicated TV news cameraman, and now that he’s escaped the zombie-infected quarantine zone he’s given a reason to head back in search of the truth.
Why skip it? Crackle is backle with a sequel to their adaptation of the popular zombie game, and fans of that one will be just as happy with the follow-up. There’s less humor/cheese this go around, but the government plot and creative zombie action remains. Of course, that mean the CG remains too, but there’s enough of a blend with the practical to keep things from growing annoying. Unfortunately it never grows all that engaging either.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Devil’s Dolls [Scream Factory]
What is it? A killer’s evil ways take up residence in a handful of small worry-dolls, and when they pass through town the people holding them turn into cold-blooded murderers.
Why skip it? A voodoo-like spin on the likes of Shocker or The Horror Show, this is an occasionally-inspired horror thriller that ultimately can’t find success beyond a couple bloody moments. The script can’t quite find the thrills it needs leaving us instead with uninteresting characters doing less interesting things.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A young woman with a mysterious past finds a job at a remote motel where she discovers a nest of duplicitous vipers and thieves.
Why see it? This modern Western noir offers an attractively shot thriller that takes full advantage of its desert setting. Some characters are better drawn than others, but the performances are fitting across the board from the likes of Jocelin Donahue, Kelly Lynch, and AJ Bowen. It’s more successful as an exercise in atmosphere than narrative, but it’s a memorable watch all the same.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurette]
What is it? Jason Bourne is once again being chased and doing some chasing as he’s targeted by CIA operatives for nefarious purposes.
Why skip it? This is a disappointment in every area where the previous films succeeded. The story is unnecessary, the action is flat, and the only one more tired-looking than the constantly on-the-run Bourne is Matt Damon himself. Maybe it’s time to send him back into retirement, because honestly, at this point I’d almost rather see a sequel to The Bourne Legacy than another lifeless cash-grab like this. The extras fail to include a commentary for the first time and get worse by only including studio-friendly featurettes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Brandon is a teenager whose beloved and very expensive sneakers are stolen by a local thug, but his efforts to get them back lead them all down a path toward destruction.
Why see it? The story here concerning the teen’s quest for his kicks and the fallout from his desire makes for some suspenseful and dramatic beats, but what holds our attention is the film’s balance between the harsh reality of Richmond, CA’s streets and Brandon’s imagination. His brief visions of an astronaut ‐ someone free of gravity ‐ lend power to his time on the ground.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Never Open the Door
What is it? A Thanksgiving dinner party is interrupted by death, screaming, and a bad decision.
Why skip it? This black & white thriller has something of a Twilight Zone feel to it making comparisons to last year’s Coherence inevitable, but it never approaches that film’s narrative engagement, smarts, and atmosphere. We spend too much time here with obnoxious characters making idiotic decisions, and as they get knocked off we’re left indifferent to their fates. Add in a final turn that feels tacked on with little weight to the story as a whole and you have a film that long overstays its welcome.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? Reggie’s fight against the balls continues as he travels between dimensions in search of Mike and victory.
Why skip it? Don Coscarelli didn’t direct this final entry in his beloved franchise, and it’s immediately evident in the film’s lack of personality and quality. Even Coscarelli’s lesser sequels still managed to exude some degree of charm, but this feels in every way like a low-end Syfy channel production.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, bloopers]
The Secret Life of Pets
What is it? Find out what happens in the lives of our pets once we’ve gone out for the day.
Why see it? Universal’s animation department, Illumination Entertainment, has delivered six films so far, and all have been hits ‐ four of them have been monster hits earning $3.5 billion worldwide. This latest effort is one of those hits, and like those others it’s a loud, fast-moving film that manages some funny observations and gags amid the noise.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Mini-movies, featurettes]
What is it? Four friends on a bachelor weekend rescue a strip club worker they suspect might be being held captive, but unfortunately for them they’re right.
Why see it? The “Amateur Night” segment from V/H/S gets a feature adaptation with mixed results. Hannah Fierman returns as the title creature who woos men with her song before eating them. We get some fun gory bits and a couple cool flying POV shots, but the script/acting leave something to be desired at times. Still, there’s a weirdness here in the world-building visible in other characters and the club where our siren is found, and it makes for an oddly engaging experience despite the predictable outcome.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Years after a family disappeared from their small-town home a young woman and her son move in, and they soon discover the truth of their new digs.
Why see it? There are some fun beats in this little chiller including a deeper than usual backstory and a couple terrifically gory bits, and combined they make for an interesting genre effort. The trouble comes in the film’s sound design as every “scary” moment ‐ and several that aren’t even trying ‐ are announced with an obnoxiously loud and atmosphere-killing sound cue.
[DVD extras: None]
Also Out This Week:
The Chinese Connection [Shout Select], Fists of Fury [Shout Select], For the Love of Spock, Greenleaf: Season One, Heart of a Dog [Criterion], The Hollars, Ordinary World, Other People, Phantasm: Ravager, Porky’s II: The Next Day / Porky’s Revenge, The Possession Experiment, The Quiet Earth, Scream Queens ‐ The Complete First Season, Zoo ‐ Season Two
Related Topics: Home Video