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Pick of the Week
What is it? A young pop idol finds terror and madness when she changes careers.
Why see it? Anime films can sometimes be pigeon-holed when it comes to genre, but like western animated films they can actually tackle any genre. Exhibit A is this terrifically thrilling psychological thriller that shreds nerves and captures madness better than many live-action features. It’s rough stuff at times as our young hero faces some leering and assault, and a pizza delivery murder scene rivals the best out there with its gruesome intensity. The thrills come with more than a slight commentary on fame, society’s mistreatment of women, and the public’s belief that they own the artists. It’s dark stuff that seemed ahead of its time in regard to recognizing the dark heart beating in the anonymous online world. Quick note, this is a GKids release, and while they’re a fantastic label it’s easy to think their titles are all kid friendly — Perfect Blue is most definitely not.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, recording sessions]
What is it? Aquaman’s origin and arrival into the world of heroics is brought to life.
Why see it? DC’s cinematic universe has seen its fair share of problems since Christopher Nolan wrapped up his Batman trilogy, but it’s starting to turn around. Wonder Woman is great entertainment, Shazam looks like fun, and James Wan’s Aquaman is legit bonkers in the best way. It’s ridiculous and silly, but it also knows it and has a good time embracing the zaniness. Big, colorful set-pieces, crazy world-building, and an octopus playing drums add to the good time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A man provides cadavers for medical research, but his supply comes from a dubious source.
Why see it? The pedigree here is strong as Boris Karloff takes the title role for director Val Lewton in an adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s tale. It’s an engaging thriller following the man’s descent into seriously improper behavior, and Karloff shines in a role that’s more dependent on his acting chops than genre character excess. It’s a very good movie, but it’s Scream Factory’s extras that life this release into this week’s best. The picture is beautifully restored, and the new & old extras offer plenty of insight and detail about the film and Lewton.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K scan, featurette, commentary, documentary]
What is it? The death of man’s father leaves him stranded in Columbus, Indiana.
Why see it? You’d be hard-pressed to really describe the plot of Kogonada’s feature debut, but the absence of a traditional A to B story is far from a negative. It’s a character piece about people, places, and the things that occupy our thoughts. John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson are absolute aces here with the latter proving — again — that she’s a talent deserving of leading role opportunities. It’s just a gorgeous film both on the surface and beneath. Odds are you’ll recognize yourself in one or both of these two, and their journey is all the more fascinating because of it. The two leads also offer some select scene commentary bringing more personal beauty to this release.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, short film, deleted scenes]
What is it? Two bounty hunters target the same big bad guy.
Why see it? Sergio Leone’s ‘Man with No Name’ trilogy is understandably beloved — all three are killer westerns with a quietly hard-hitting Clint Eastwood in the lead — and of the three it’s this second film that’s often regarded as the least best. It’s arbitrary, obviously, but that’s a tough call to make. This entry sees Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as cautious acquaintances, and it allows for some fun banter and several minutes of stare-downs that don’t end in death. Plenty of bad guys bite it, though, helping balance the film’s more meditative shots of an unforgiving landscape. As was the case with Kino’s handling of the other two films, this new Blu-ray is beautiful and fully-loaded.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, featurettes, US release version]
What is it? Two funny guys and a gal get stamps in their passports.
Why see it? The “Road” films don’t often get mentioned when it comes to long-running franchises, but seven films with the same two leads — and six with the same female sidekick — is a fairly impressive run. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby headline, and while my Bing tastes run more Danny Kaye/David Bowie there’s plenty of light fun to be had in these films. The pair never play the same characters, well, technically. They’re very much the same characters each time as both are skeptical of relationships but easy marks for love. Hijinks, song breaks, and adventure ensues as their efforts at avoiding responsibility and bad guys see them traversing the world. These first four films (of seven total) see the boys getting caught up in all manner of schemes involving Dorothy Lamour (who legit plays differing roles), and the laughs are fairly frequent throughout for fans of playful banter and mild innuendo.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
What is it? A bad-ass, karate-chopping mercenary gets into some disagreements.
Why see it? Sonny Chiba is a fantastic screen presence and a fun fighter to watch dole out pain, and here we get to see three of his best brought together. The Street Fighter pits him against some employers who stiff him, Return of the Street Fighter sees him stiff his employer, and The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge sees him targeted by his fellow assassins. So yeah, that last one does sound like the upcoming John Wick 3. All three are brutal, action-packed thrillers dense with excuses and opportunities for more fights. Shout Factory’s new release gives each film its own Blu-ray and is guaranteed to delight action fans.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan of all three films, interviews]
What is it? Three days in the lives of circus performers and journalists.
Why see it? Douglas Sirk is no stranger to high-profile, acclaimed films having helmed the likes of Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life, but this adaptation of a William Faulkner’s novel Pylon is equally deserving of the love. Dorothy Malone is the lynch pin in a love triangle involving Robert Stack and Rock Hudson, and while the romantic drama unfolds over just a few days the film packs in plenty of character work to leave these three feeling more weighty than three days in New Orleans typically manages. Sharp direction and three strong performances lead the way.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A teenager growing up Brooklyn finds the ups and downs his eccentric family provide.
Why see it? Neil Simon’s plays and films run the gamut from mostly good to truly great, and this adaptation falls somewhere in between. It’s a solidly entertaining and sometimes amusing coming of age tale that feeds off Simon’s own life and imagination. Jonathan Silverman plays young Eugene with a comedic bent, and while my preference is for Matthew Broderick’s turn with the character in Biloxi Blues it’s a fun watch all the same.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A woman is mixed up in love and espionage on Catalina Island.
Why see it? Doris Day was one of Hollywood’s most successful female actors, and this goofy comedy continued that run into the late 60s. She’s paired with Rod Taylor who does good work as the casual straight guy while comedic antics splash around him, and the supporting cast is populated with real talents too including Dom DeLuise, Paul Lynde, and Dick Martin. The gags run the gamut from funny to exaggerated, but it’s a fun and bright piece of 60s pop entertainment.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A group of friends try desperately to attend the Ed Sullivan show featuring The Beatles.
Why see it? This is Robert Zemeckis’ first feature film (co-writer/producer Bob Gale’s too), and while it’s a far cry from the blockbusters and CG-filled family films he’d become known for his personality and sense of humor are clear through later films like Used Cars and Back to the Future. Sure it’s slight fun, but the energy and enthusiasm for physical gags and wordplay are abundant, and even as casual entertainment it captures well the madness of Beatlemania. Criterion’s new disc comes with a new interview featuring Zemeckis, Gale, and uber producer Steven Spielberg which sees the old friends reflecting on the production.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, commentary, short films]
What is it? A female cyborg has some adventures.
Why see it? Albert Pyun is a filmmaker with fans and a long filmography, but I’ve yet to find one of his movies that’s for me. Nemesis comes close as it’s a fairly stylish slice of direct to video 90s sci-fi/action, but his three sequels? Hoo boy. Female bodybuilder Sue Price takes lead duties in all three, and while she has a unique look it comes with neither acting nor fighting skills. Pyun changes things up for part 4 by having Price be naked nearly the entire time, but distraction does not a good movie make. The $12 per film budgets don’t help either. Extras are a bit lighter this time too, and it looks like Pyun made attempts at commentaries on all three that were just too short and are instead presented as <30 minute stretches of the films that he talks over.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A middle aged woman finds success.
Why see it? This is as simple and basic as studio comedies come, and that’s not a bad thing. Jennifer Lopez makes a convincing enough 40 year old (she’s 49) who takes a stand against a system designed to favor younger, more educated employees. It’s an easy cause and character to cheer for, and Lopez is well suited as the underdog while being supported by the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, and Treat Williams.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? A blond woman fights for the African continent.
Why see it? Look, you either find entertainment in this goofy 80s romp or you don’t. I’ve gone from a teen appreciating its PG nudity to an adult appreciating its absurdly carefree approach to the gender-flipped Tarzan tale. Tanya Roberts and Ted Wass star — Ted Wass! — in a story involving evil interlopers, multi-species ESP, romance, and biggish adventure. It’s dumb fun, and I don’t think anyone associated with it would argue. This release is part of Mill Creek’s retro VHS slipcover series which means its free of special features (just like VHS tapes), but hey, it’s also the film’s first appearance on Blu I believe.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A bank robbery goes sideways when ghosts make an appearance.
Why see it? Horror films typically reveal themselves as horror early on, but credit to this flick that a couple brief visions aside focuses exclusively on the crime thriller aspects for its first half. The bank robbers are an eclectic mix, and both Francesca Eastwood and Taryn Manning do good work as the criminally minded sisters. Once the horror arrives it comes with some familiar imagery and well-crafted gore.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A secret government lab suffers a deadly biochemical accident.
Why see it? This mid 80s thriller is for fans of The Crazies — both George Romero’s solid original and the superior remake — as the accidental leak turns deadly and soon draws in locals and government spooks with some deadly results. This is a more optimistic take on the formula, though, on nearly every front making for more of an entertaining thriller than grim slice of horror. Happily, it’s still a fun ride, and having Sam Waterston and Kathleen Quinlan headlining is never a bad thing. Plus Dean Cundey as director of photography! Scream’s new Blu-ray looks good and includes some informative extras centered on director Hal Barwood.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, commentary]
Also out this week:
Blood Hunger: The Films of Jose Larraz [Arrow Video], Japon [Criterion Collection], Jivaro [KL Studio Classics], King of Thieves, Life After Flash, Pet Sematary [4K UltraHD]