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
What is it? A young girl’s visitations from a dead woman she could never have known unnerves her father.
Why see it? As sequels go this Cat People (1942) follow-up is more atypical than most. Kent Smith and Simone Simon return for a film that’s miles away from its predecessor in tone and intent. Happily, it’s still a fantastical and beautiful film in its own right. It shifts its horrors from a woman convinced of an unusual and dangerous heritage to a girl unsure of her place in the world. Memory, loss, and family all play a role, and scenes in chilly exteriors play out warmly as a result. There’s still an air of eeriness at times, but the overriding theme is one of love and acceptance. It’s an odd sequel but a great film.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries]
Back to Burgundy
What is it? Three grown siblings attempt to save the family vineyard, but their various strains make it a risky venture.
Why see it? There’s a misguided view sometimes that movies need big conflict in order to engage with viewers, but sometimes the simplest dramas hold our attention best. This French film is more of the latter as three people work to keep their vineyard afloat through the ups and downs of seasons, harvests, and their own relationships. It feels real and warm, and while it may not sit with you for long it’s hard to argue with the experience while it lasts.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers]
What is it? A theater with a bloody history is reopened with unsurprising results.
Why see it? Rick Sloane’s mid 80s oddity is as silly a horror comedy as you’re likely to find, but the sheer enthusiasm on display makes it a fun watch. It also never hurts to have Mary Woronov along for the ride. Vinegar’s new Blu-ray pairs it with another Sloane film that’s actually a bit more cohesive but every bit as goofy. The Visitants is a period piece (the 1950s count as period!) about a pair of aliens trying to fit in while neighborhood kids act like little jerks. Neither film alone is necessarily a “must buy” gem on its own, but as a double feature this is another fantastic release from the label. (Click the link to buy from Vinegar Syndrome)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, bonus feature film, commentaries, Q&A]
The Escape of Prisoner 614
What is it? Two deputies in a quiet rural town find excitement when an escaped convict enters their jurisdiction.
Why see it? This modern-day western (of sorts) looks pretty straightforward on the surface, but it only takes a few minutes of watching to realize it’s actually a very funny tale about people on both sides of the law and those who decide where exactly that line falls. Martin Starr and Jake McDorman play the deputies, and their interactions are fantastic, and Ron Perlman takes the role of the far more serious sheriff who still manages his share of laughs. It’s a casual tale and ultimately a warm comedy that will leave you smiling.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A young woman chases fame at the expense of morality and common sense.
Why see it? Is this John Waters’ best and funniest film? I’m of the opinion that the answer is yes as both he and his muse Divine have never been better or funnier. The film is a blast of outrageous beats and quotable lines executed flawlessly. It’s a high energy romp through the addiction and superficial value of fame filled with eye-opening costumes, hair, and makeup bringing Waters’ typically eclectic mix of characters to life. There’s a tragedy to the film’s themes, but it’s all played up so high and “loud” that it doesn’t really land until after the credits roll. It’s a comedy through and through — a very, very funny comedy. Criterion’s new Blu-ray gives the beauty a 4K shine alongside tons of extras highlighting the film’s production and those involved.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, deleted scenes]
What is it? A young woman marries a mortuary worker and quickly realizes it was a bad move.
Why see it? Films like this one are why Vinegar Syndrome remains one of the absolute best labels around, genre or otherwise. This movie is a ton of fun with grotesque characters, smile-inducing makeup effects, car/motorcycle action, and more. It’s horror with a dose of comedy, and all the elements work to turn this low budget affair into a gem worth discovering (or rediscovering if you were one of the dozen people who remember it fondly from the late 80s). It’s creepy and pervy in all the right ways, the lead is a sassy waitress with no time for weirdos, and the ending makes zero sense. It’s fantastic. (Click the link to but from Vinegar Syndrome)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interview]
Jack Reacher [4K UltraHD]
What is it? An ex-Military Policeman saves the day.
Why see it? This first adaptation of one of Lee Child’s bestselling novels gets everything right. Yeah yeah, Cruise isn’t tall enough blah blah give it a rest. There’s far more to Reacher than just his body type. Cruise brings star power and quality control to this franchise starter, and director Christopher McQuarrie’s script is a smart, funny and sharp delight. Audiences seemed unhappy that this wasn’t Cruise’s usual “big action,” but there should be room for solidly entertaining mid-level thrillers at the multiplex too. Check your preconceptions at the door, and just enjoy the hell out of this charismatic and fun action picture. Plus Werner Herzog as a bad guy! It’s beautifully shot too meaning the 4K delivers the best look possible at the film’s crackling action beats.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
The Martian Chronicles [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Colonizing Mars is bad news for humanity and martians alike.
Why see it? Ray Bradbury’s classic novel gets the mini-series treatment with this 1980 classic that captures the beauty, wonder, and tragedy of mankind’s efforts to find a much-needed new home. Sure it’s dated and weakened by some sub-standard effects (someone needs to get this one a new adaptation sooner rather than later), but the themes and ideas come through all the same delivering drama, action, and pathos across its epic running time. The cast is solid too with Rock Hudson, Darren McGavin, Roddy McDowall, Bernie Casey, Bernadette Peters, Fritz Weaver, and more bringing this sci-fi gem to life.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
Mission: Impossible 3 [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Ethan Hunt sees his personal life threatened by his job.
Why see it? J.J. Abrams’ directorial entry remains my favorite of the series so far, although I love the two that follow as well. The action here is damn good, but while the stakes are technically smaller — one life compared to the thousands at risk in the other films — that more intimate nature raises the drama to fantastic levels. We care about more than just the thrills. Part of that too is the series best villain brought to disaffected and menacing life by Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s terrifying, and he makes everything else more affecting because of it.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Ethan Hunt is framed for a terrorist act.
Why see it? Pixar’s Brad Bird takes the reigns for this fourth installment in the franchise, and it’s a fantastically entertaining ride filled with big spectacle — the tower stunt is an all-timer — and terrific character beats. Hunt’s team expands to include Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton, and both get their time to shine. Fights, shoot-outs, chases, and more keep the story and action moving at a breathtaking pace with time allowed for laughs, exposition, and breathers. The film’s thrilling, funny, and highly re-watchable, and as with parts three (above) and five (below) it’s a stunner in 4K.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Ethan Hunt sees his organization challenged by an organization called the Syndicate.
Why see it? The pairing of Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie is one of my favorites as the two show a fantastic rhythm in their collaborations (Jack Reacher). The action here is spectacular, both big set-pieces and small fights, and the humor is allowed to infect an otherwise purely heroic and strong character. The film’s every bit as good as its predecessor, but it steps up the game with the introduction of Ferguson’s character who becomes far more than a simple sidekick limited to one cool scene (a la Paula Patton’s character in Ghost Protocol). It’s an immensely entertaining movie with great action and an equally fun sense of humor.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras:]
What is it? A college professor with something to hide is suspected in a young woman’s disappearance.
Why see it? As someone with an irrational fear of being falsely accused of a heinous crime I’m an absolute sucker for “innocent man” type movies, and to that end this little thriller works like gangbusters. If you think that spoils the film, though, guess again. Guy Pearce is terrific as a sketchy everyman, and Pierce Brosnan does good work as the detective investigating the missing teen. The film finds some good story turns and constantly keeps you guessing as to guilt and outcome, and while it plays fast and loose with the editing it works well to disorientate viewers.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, commentary]
The Addiction [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young woman is turned into a vampire in New York City.
Why see it? Abel Ferrara’s filmography is varied but with one thing in common — a love for NYC’s dark and grimy alleyways. His mid 90s effort gives a rare lead role to the eternally great Lili Taylor, but viewers looking for a traditional vampire tale will want to look elsewhere. Ferrara’s more interested in commenting on the people of the time through the lens of philosophy. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one hell of a cocktail party scene. Arrow’s new Blu pairs new extras with a sharp restoration highlighting the film’s black & white photography.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, documentary, interview, appreciation, featurette]
Black Lightning – The Complete First Season
What is it? A high school principal decides it’s time to pull his superhero costume back out of mothballs.
Why see it? I’ve lost track of the DC and Marvel TV shows that are currently airing (or have recently been canceled), but that’s the beauty of home video. This newcomer from the CW is entertaining enough, but it works best when our hero isn’t wearing the suit. Issues of police abuse against blacks, gang violence, and more are given an engaging eye through the lens of a community in trouble, and they’re more effectively handled when our guy isn’t shocking people with shots of lightning. That and the costume *does not look good.*
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]
What is it? The true story of a Chinese engineer trying to make a business deal in a corrupt African nation.
Why see it? Oh boy. If the pairing of Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal excites you then I have both good news and bad news. First, they’re definitely in this movie and even share a one on one fight scene. But two, despite the two fighting each other early on in the movie I’m pretty certain they were never actually on set at the same time. The action throughout underwhelms, the story is ridiculously convoluted, and neither Tyson nor Seagal are present (or talented) enough to make a watch worthwhile.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Colossus of Rhodes [Warner Archive]
What is it? A swords and sandals epic from Sergio Leone!
Why see it? A corrupt government built on war, weaponry, and fear creates a nod to their own power in a giant, oil-spewing statue, and Leone captures the spectacle well with a mix of miniatures, production design, and other effects. The focus here is on the rebellion building up around it, and it makes for a solidly rousing adventure filled with clashes big, small, and even bigger. It’s also fun seeing Western stalwart Rory Calhoun in a toga.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? Two brothers return to the cult they escaped years prior but find it’s not quite what they remember.
Why see it? Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson’s third feature sees the pair take the lead roles too in a tale that blends elements of horror, sci-fi, and comedy into an oddly unique look at memory and reality. The cult’s truths are far different and far stranger than they recall, and while the genre moments exist the bulk of the film comes down to the relationship between the brothers. It’s an engaging watch, and there are some memorable visuals, but its biggest appeal may be to fans of their first feature, Resolution. You’ll know why once you’ve seen this one.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Escape Plan 2
What is it? Ray Breslin’s back, but this time he’s stuck in a prison not of his own choosing.
Why see it? 2013’s Escape Plan is a perfectly okay action flick that finds fun in its pairing of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The direct to DVD sequel suffers from the big guy’s absence, but it’s far from its biggest issue. It’s clear the budget was smaller (and probably shrinking by the minute) as the normally reliable Steven C. Miller isn’t quite able to bring the action to life. Stallone’s fine, although he’s relegated to supporting player for much of the film, and Dave Bautista is a welcome presence, but excessive voice-over, out of place sci-fi elements, and a dull villain work to underwhelm.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, interviews]
What is it? An anthology of three tales of cruelty and horror.
Why see it? I can never get enough horror anthologies, but my love of the format isn’t always rewarded with engaging films. This German feature unfortunately fits that mold as its three tales are a mixed bag at best. The first two tales in particular overstay their welcome with stories and characters that never quite captivate or engage. A woman tortures a man. Fascist punks torture a young deaf couple. They’re cruel without purpose. The third story brings some imagination into the mix with a tale of desire twisted by the desired, but viewers may already have logged off by that point.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Mission: Impossible [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Ethan Hunt discovers a mole!
Why see it? Tom Cruise’s first go-round rebooting the Mission: Impossible franchise was my least favorite for a while because the thrills fizzle and the big finale (helicopter in the tunnel) is just ludicrous, but then I saw the sequel and realized what ridiculous really means. So now it’s my fourth favorite. The tension and drama don’t quite work for me as the over-reliance on masks and double-crosses underwhelms leaving mostly just the charisma of the cast and Brian De Palma’s chaotic direction to pull you through.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
Mission: Impossible 2 [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Ethan Hunt is forced into a fight for his life against doves.
Why see it? John Woo’s entry in the franchise is much derided for several reasons, but at its core the issues come down to stupidity and a lack of believability. The franchise, of course, is built on impossibilities, but Woo’s approach to big action leans more cartoonish than thrilling and well-crafted. Similarly, the film feels very at home alongside summer blockbusters that give no shits about logic, smarts, or common sense. What happens here happens strictly for the visuals.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Super Fly [Warner Archive]
What is it? A man tries to exit the business of crime but finds only violence instead.
Why see it? Ron O’Neal takes the lead here delivering an engaging turn as a man who wants out. It’s a familiar enough trope that we know it won’t be that easy. He becomes an antihero of sorts going up against gangsters, corrupt cops, and the will of the city itself. Its pop culture importance is clear, but the drama and action don’t quite live up to O’Neal’s performance. Gordon Parks Jr.s’ classic piece of blaxploitation gets a solid Blu-ray release from Warner Archive featuring plenty of insightful extras.
[Blu-ray extras: Documentary, commentary, featurettes]
What is it? A motley crew find their paths intertwined.
Why see it? This highly stylized tale of revenge boats an eclectic cast including Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, and Mike Myers, but while it’s clear they’re having a good time they’re not quite enough to help the story and style find their footing. Flashbacks, neon color schemes, and heightened dialogue combine into something that feels like its own thing yet still feels like very little. It only gets worse in the third act as an exposition dump explaining everything that came before feels as if it runs longer than the movie itself.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Vigil [Arrow Video]
What is it? A stranger appears in a small village, but while everyone grows to accept him only one young girl remains cautious.
Why see it? Vincent Ward’s first film was a big deal for New Zealand back in the late 80s, and it’s easy to see why it made such a mark. There’s some tension to the story, but it’s the visuals and natural beauty that feel more lasting three decades on. Still, for all of the landscape’s scope, young Fiona Kay holds your focus throughout. Arrow’s extras here are mostly archival, but a new appreciation of the film offers some insight and history.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, documentary]
Also out this week:
Gemini, A Taste of Phobia, Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, The Virgin Spring [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video