Plus 11 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
The Death of Stalin
What is it? The king is dead, long live the king.
Why see it? Armando Iannucci (Veep) sets his sights on government and politics once again, but this time he’s directing his focused precision on a very real regime from last century. When Stalin dies his cabinet fumbles and stumbles all over themselves trying to keep things running, and the resulting satire is both brilliant and brutally funny. It’s also just plain brutal at times as the laughs occasionally freeze in the face of an atrocity that in turn devolves back into the blackest of comedy. All that plus Steve Buscemi, Olga Kurylenko, Paddy Considine, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, and more!
[DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
Bowling for Columbine [Criterion Collection]
What is it? America loves its guns, so a Canadian set out to discover why.
Why see it? Michael Moore’s 2002 documentary was a groundbreaker in many ways, from its subject to its format, but while some docs offer a look at a specific time and place this one feels eternally evergreen. The film was initiated by the Columbine school shooting, and there have been dozens in the nineteen years since. Moore finds humor in some sad truths as he talks with regular folks, politicians, and corporate representatives alike, and it’s clear that everything he discovers is still the same today.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, featurette]
What is it? A woman falls in love with her lover’s double.
Why see it? Francois Ozon weaves his tale of deception and/or madness with striking visuals, both artsy and seductive, and the omnipresent themes of reflection and identity are given visible presence in mirrors, windows, and split screens throughout. It’s a heady affair, both as a mind trip and a genitally-focused tale exploring the physical and mental state of identity. Imagine David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, but instead of being about the two doctors sharing a woman it’s about the woman torn between two doctors — Ozon doesn’t reach that film’s grimly beautiful audacity, but it finds a life of its own by focusing on someone struggling to find a life of their own.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? A young woman comes of age in regard to sex, love, and family.
Why see it? The synopsis above doesn’t exactly suggest as much, but Flower is a very funny movie. Granted, much of the humor is dark, cruel, and unexpected, but it’s balanced so precariously against an atypical narrative and characters in real jeopardy that you’re not always sure if you should be laughing at all. Reigning overhead, though, and holding all of its unruly elements together, is a spectacularly affecting and ridiculously charismatic performance by Zoey Deutch. She’s often the best part of a weak film (Dirty Grandpa, Why Him?), but even here she stands apart with an incredibly difficult character who would crumble in lesser hands. Deutch projects a carefree energy and joy just barely masking a real sadness beneath, and when the film takes unexpected turns she makes it impossible not to go along with her.
[DVD extras: None?]
What is it? A young warrior leads the fight for Russia against invading Mongol hordes.
Why see it? It’s always interesting seeing historical epics from lands other than our own as while the struggles are familiar the details are typically different. This Russian film, for example, taught me that soldiers in the 13th century had giant bears that would never harm a fellow Russian. So yeah, maybe this isn’t the best example of a historically accurate film, but there’s fun to be had with the clashing armies and swordplay. It does go the 300 route though with CG and virtual surroundings, but lacking that film’s budget and Zack Snyder’s skills the film doesn’t strike the same visually compelling aesthetic.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Keep the Change
What is it? A cantankerous and autistic young man finds love despite himself.
Why see it? The core story here is pretty straightforward for the romantic comedy genre as David presents himself as a guy who thinks he’s above everyone else and beyond love. Surprise! He finds love when he’s not looking. What sets this apart, though, is the cast of autistic performers playing autistic characters. It’s a welcome change of pace and gives the film a distinct feel absent from more traditional tales. The story still goes pretty much where you expect, but that applies to most rom-coms.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, short film]
What is it? A French deserter becomes an underground brawler to raise money.
Why see it? Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1990 fight fest is a solid enough action romp that delivers a fairly familiar storyline — poor folks fighting for the entertainment of rich folks! — alongside some competent fight choreography. This may be controversial, but Van Damme’s never been the most impressive on-screen fighter. He’s obviously skilled, but his fights typically rely on the same handful of moves. It’s still a perfectly okay piece of 90s action, and fans will love MVD’s special edition release pairing an HD transfer with numerous extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and extended cuts, commentary, making of, documentary, interviews, featurette]
What is it? Young love finds complications in the sunlight.
Why see it? Love stories that see one (or both!) of the pair fighting a deadly illness are meant to appeal to viewers’ love of romance and tragedy, and this latest tale of young love fighting against the odds is no different. It doesn’t quite succeed, though, on either front. It’s fine, don’t get me wrong, but the illness — sunlight itself is a deadly threat against her — is distractingly silly, and the leads (Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger) aren’t exactly compelling performers.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Night of the Lepus [Scream Factory]
What is it? Attempts to decimate a rabbit infestation instead turns them into giant carnivorous beasts!
Why see it? There’s absolutely nothing frightening about giant, cuddly rabbits bounding towards you in slow motion, but this early 70s gem plays it straight all the same as the furry terrors trample, gnaw, and hop their way through a small town’s populace. Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, and Stuart Whitman are all along for the ride, and the mix of bloodletting and goofiness makes it a ride worth taking. There’s an ecological message here too for those who (like me) love horror movies that see nature fighting back against mankind’s idiocy.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, commentaries]
What is it? It’s been ten years since mankind faced down and defeated the giant kaiju creatures that crawled out of the ocean floor, but now a new threat has emerged.
Why see it? This follow up to the too-serious (and dimly lit) original invests cursory time towards the drama of relationships, but the film trades earnestness for goofiness and instead focuses on the action big things knocking the snot out of each other. It’s ultimately big dumb fun that entertains even as it’s quickly forgotten. It hits all the basics, manages a pretty unexpected plot turn, and loads the film with humor, and while not all the jokes and gags work they set a suitable tone for the punch, kick, and explosion-filled action. It feels every bit like the old-school kaiju movies that some of us used to watch on Saturday afternoons as kids with broad comedy, furrowed brows, and immense destruction to skyscrapers.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Two Weeks in Another Town [Warner Archive]
What is it? An actor recovering from a breakdown takes a small role that blossoms into something bigger.
Why see it? Movies about “the movies” are typically interesting affairs for movie lovers as they peel back the carefully cultivated image of Hollywood to reveal truths, and this early 60s drama definitely fits the bill. Kirk Douglas is terrific as an actor who follows up a stay at an asylum with a small gig in Europe only to see it become a troubled affair. Edward G. Robinson and Cyd Charisse co-star, and while the main thread here is a dramatic one the film finds moments of fun and fancy too.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A mentally unstable woman checks herself into a mental ward and grows more unstable.
Why see it? Steven Soderbergh’s latest is a twisted thriller in theory only as it wants too badly to have it both ways. Is she crazy? Is her stalker really following her? Is she nuts? Is she in real danger? It all grows pretty tiresome when it should be building suspense. Claire Foy is terrific in the lead and convincingly portrays paranoia and fear, but as a dramatic thriller it’s a disappointment.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Also out this week:
Alien Predators [Scream Factory], Class Rank, El Sur [Criterion Collection], The Hollow Child, In Syria, Paul Apostle of Christ
Related Topics: Home Video