Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for February 16th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes Korean action, some captivating documentaries, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
What is it? A retired swordsman returns to his killing ways.
Why see it? South Korean action movies are rarely disappointing, and while most are merely solid more than a few stand out as top shelf genre entries. This period tale of revenge and honor is a terrific example that delivers a compelling storyline, strong performances (Joe Taslim as a baddie!), and some truly spectacular action sequences. The fights here are mostly sword-focused, obviously, but they’re beautifully choreographed and executed with speed and style to spare. Highly recommend picking this one up folks.
What is it? A documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man.
Why see it? A friend once introduced me Leon Vitali at a film fest, and while I recognized the name I couldn’t place him in cinema. Conversation (and later Googling) fixed that, though, as I realized his career was filled with Stanley Kubrick memories. This documentary digs in and explores Vitali’s relationship to the master filmmaker over the decades through his work behind the scenes in all manner of roles. It’s a fascinating life and film.
The Kid Stays in the Picture [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A documentary about the rise, fall, and rise of Robert Evans.
Why see it? Robert Evans was quite a personality, and his journey from middling actor to the head of a major Hollywood studio is a remarkable one. What came next is every bit as engaging, and this doc, based on Evans’ autobiography, brings the man to legendary life. Anecdotes, insights, and observations about Hollywood’s arguable golden years through the 60s and 70s offer plenty of fascinating beats here with Evans’ own words capturing it all with equal parts eloquence and arrogance. It’s a great watch for film lovers.
[Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]
Man with a Movie Camera
What is it? A documentary about life told with innovative style.
Why see it? Dziga Vertov’s late 20s feature tells a story of sorts in its observations of everyday people going about their business in a chaotic Russian city, but it’s the execution that has left it a masterwork for nearly a century. Vertov uses, and in some cases seemingly creates, numerous film techniques, styles, and edits to craft an energetic eye-opener. It’s more than a mere encyclopedia of techniques, though, and instead it becomes a masterclass regarding what’s available at a filmmaker’s fingertips.
[Extras: Commentary, interview, essay]
The Underneath [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man with a shady past finds more trouble at home.
Why see it? Steven Soderbergh’s mid 90s thriller isn’t discussed much among his filmography, but it’s a rock solid thriller with a stellar cast including Peter Gallagher, Elisabeth Shue, Joe Don Baker, William Fichtner, Paul Dooley, Shelly Duvall, and a terrific Alison Elliot. The film moves between three timelines with a story about theft, mistrust, and poor life decisions, and it delivers suspense and atmosphere to spare.
The War [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A family comes home from the war.
Why see it? Kevin Costner is the marquee name here and does great work as a man newly returned from the Vietnam War, but the real focus is Elijah Wood as his son. The boy and his friends are trying to build an epic treehouse fort, but rival kids push them to a breaking point leading to violent conflict drawing parallels to his father. It’s a character piece with strong performances and small beats of suspense, and it’s ultimately something of a tear-jerker.
What is it? A homeless man claims to be from another world.
Why see it? Joe Manganiello takes the lead here as a slovenly drunk who may or may not be from another galaxy, and he’s ultimately the glue that holds the film together. It’s a superhero origin story of sorts, but its budget leaves its more explosive beats minimized in their absence or portrayal via animation. That all works to ultimately mark this as more of a character piece than a true action/adventure, but Manganiello delivers as its heart.
Baby Doll [Warner Archive]
What is it? A man’s teenage bride sets her sights elsewhere.
Why see it? Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan join forces again (after A Streetcar Named Desire) to deliver an adaptation of Williams’ searing stage play. It’s a relationship drama built on lust that sees a husband jilted by his wife who decides to offer her womanhood to another man. Eli Wallach’s turn as the second man is the fierce energy of it all, and while all three (including Karl Malden and Carroll Baker) play things big it remains an intriguing glimpse into past limitations.
What is it? Agencies are on the hunt for a spy.
Why see it? People tend to knock Ryan Phillippe, but I’ve always enjoyed him in roles that leave his character a bit challenged and befuddled. Here he plays a young agent tasked with earning the trust of a possible spy (played by the excellent Chris Cooper), and the film finds some suspense and drama along the way. It’s good stuff.
The Cowboy Way
What is it? A pair of concerned cowboys head to NYC.
Why see it? Hollywood action/comedies from the 90s have an amiable nature about them — silly, toned down from the excesses of the 80s, and more interested in fun than real seriousness. This fits the bill with an endearing Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland as fish out of water in the big city in search of a missing girl. Horse stunts and hijinks ensue, and while the film has little lasting power it’s a fun ride while it lasts.
What is it? A couple is stuck on a plane when the pilot dies.
Why see it? Allison Williams’ post-Girls career has been a series of small film roles, and it continues with this direct to video suspense flick. It’s easy to see why she took the job as it takes place in an island paradise before she and her costar end up trying to fly a small plane without a pilot through a storm. It’s a familiar tale told competently enough.
[Extras: Deleted scenes]
Jetsons: The Movie [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The animated family get a feature!
Why see it? This 1990 animated feature didn’t exactly make a splash on the big screen, but fans of the show should still find plenty to enjoy as the characters are voiced by their original performers. The story becomes one about community and kindness and the Tiffany song lands the sci-fi setting squarely in the late 80s/early 90s, but it’s an entertaining romp.
[Extras: Commentary by Lee Gambin, interview]
The Net / The Net 2.0
What is it? A double feature of internet thrills!
Why see it? The 90s were filled with “high tech” thrillers capitalizing on the exploding internet usage and concerns, and while some were good and others bad, some landed somewhere in between. Sandra Bullock headlines Irwin Winkler’s The Net and gives it the human connection that much of it is missing as we get closeups of computer screens and clackity keyboards alongside a pretty solid thriller about identity and conspiracy. The DTV sequel, though, is bottom of the barrel stuff. Winkler’s son takes the directorial reins here and delivers an abomination of horrible choices.
San Francisco [Warner Archive]
What is it? The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 comes to life.
Why see it? Disaster movies weren’t born in the 70s despite the efforts of Hollywood to convince you otherwise, and this mid 30s Oscar winner is exhibit A. Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy headline in a romantic drama that unfolds in the weeks leading up to the epic 1906 quake that leveled much of San Francisco. The highlight, though, is the third act destruction brought to vivid life with big set pieces and special effects. The characters and god stuff temper the film’s overall quality, but it remains memorable for the disaster antics.
[Extras: Alternate ending, featurette, shorts]
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee
What is it? Paul Hogan is still alive?
Why see it? There’s a meta approach here with a story that sees Paul Hogan playing himself in a fictional situation — he’s being honored by the queen, his life is filled with troubles, and everyone thinks he’s simply Crocodile Dundee. John Cleese and Chevy CHase join the fray, but despite its intentions it never really finds the funny. Fans of Hogan will be happy to see him back, but it’s a fairly uneventful return.
Also out this week:
Border Town Season 2, Breaking Surface, Fear of Rain, Harley Quinn Seasons 1 & 2, Lovecraft Country Season 1, Mandabi [Criterion Collection], Mayor, Random Acts of Violence
Related Topics: Home Video