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 Standoff at Sparrow Creek
What is it? A small militia group tries to ferret out a cop-killer among them.
Why see it? Writer/director Henry Dunham packs both suspense and tension into a tight 88 minute running time, and while action is minimal the film’s no less exciting for it. It’s a single-location thriller, but it does wonders with the warehouse’s deep shadows and varied light sources. As a straight genre effort the film successfully keeps viewers on their toes with six of the men making for highly believable suspects, but it’s equally strong as a lit fuse designed to raise questions, start conversations, and piss people off on every side of the gun debate.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Sister Street Fighter Collection [Arrow Video]
What is it? Four films featuring Etsuko Shihomi as the ass-kicking Sister Street Fighter.
Why see it? Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter character is acknowledged genre classic, but every bit deserving of eyeballs and praise is Shihomi’s spinoff franchise. All four films are collected here in high-def and feature tons of a high-kicking, face-punching action with Shihomi at its core. Fans of classic martial arts films should make this a priority as they’re all fun, exciting watches, and Arrow’s new two-disc Blu brings them home in style.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
Before and After [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A couple struggles to deal with the accusation that their teenage son is a murderer.
Why see it? There’s definite drama and suspense to be had in a story that sees parents tasked with questioning their child’s guilt in a horrific crime, and the film delivers on that front. The parents work to cover up evidence before they even know the truth, and its an action that will haunt them. The film’s aided by the presence of Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson as the parents, and they’re more than a match for Edward Furlong’s questionable performance. The ending isn’t wholly satisfying, but it works well enough.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with director and editor]
The Clovehitch Killer [Scream Factory]
What is it? A teenager begins to suspect his father might be a serial killer.
Why see it? The big draw here is a terrific performance by Dylan McDermott as the suspected killer as he does great work balancing a chilliness with a macabre sense of fun. The mystery itself isn’t actually much of one, though, and there’s a distinct lack of suspense as well. Still, the film presents an interesting dilemma — one similar to the film above — and both McDermott and young Charlie Plummer do great work bringing the drama to life.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
What is it? Adonis Creed finds a new challenge in the son of the man who killed his father in the ring.
Why see it? Ryan Coogler’s Creed took a familiar approach in spinning off the Rocky films, but it delivers magic through the combined power of emotion and performance. The sequel follows suit while feeling even more contrived in its narrative, but while parts of it struggle there’s some engaging heart to be found in the return of Ivan Drago. Performances are strong, and the film once again builds to a fairly thrilling fight. It doesn’t reach the original’s highs, but it’s pretty damn good all the same.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? A man struggles to escape the building where he’s destined to be murdered by mobsters.
Why see it? There’s an interesting structure to this Greek action/comedy in the way it moves its story from beat to beat and shifts on and off the computer screen. Our hero realizes he’s been double-crossed and now must escape the late-night porn studio with his life intact. Some of his efforts involve violence, others intellect, and sometimes he’s forced to use his words. It’s an entertaining ride blending minor political thrills with some MacGyver skills.
[DVD extras: Short film, featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Doctor [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A doctor becomes a patient which makes him a better doctor.
Why see it? William Hurt reunites with his Children of a Lesser God director with good but lesser results. The story and character arc are maybe a bit too simple as his journey feels evident from early on, but as is often the case it’s carried forward and made both watchable and affecting by the power of the performances. Christine Lahti, Mandy Patinkin, and Elizabeth Perkins co-star, but it’s Hurt who holds your attention.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with director]
Duets [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A group of strangers connect over a karaoke competition.
Why see it? Gwyneth Paltrow headlines this comedy directed by her father, but the real charm comes through in its supporting cast. Andre Braugher, Paul Giamatti, Maria Bello, Angie Dickinson, and more round out the cast. It has its romantic, humorous, and sweet moments, but at nearly two hours the song goes on a bit too long. There’s not enough weight to support the time and not enough fun to make the fluff worthwhile. Still, great cast!
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with director, deleted scenes, interview]
The Favor [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A simple sexual favor has unexpected consequences.
Why see it? The 90s were a special and productive time for forgettable ensemble comedies starring an oddly collected group of B-list actors — not a knock as they’re typically likable supporting players — and this 1994 effort fits the bill precisely. Elizabeth McGovern and Harley Jane Kozak (remember her?!) headline alongside the weirdest collection of male leads you can imagine in Bill Pullman, Ken Wahl, and Brad Pitt. It’s casual fun as hijinks ensue during a 15-year class reunion.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Fear the Walking Dead – The Complete Fourth Season
What is it? Timelines be damned!
Why see it? The fourth season of this pseudo spinoff from The Walking Dead finally gets a legit crossover as a character leaves that show’s eight season finale to appear on this show’s fourth season premiere. Crazy! The season addresses timeline issues by splitting itself into a couple different threads — one picking up right after its own last season finale and the other starting a couple years later when they meet Morgan Jones. Confusing? Maybe. But we’re still getting lots of character drama and zombie gore.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries]
What is it? Nazis find themselves trapped in a house of horrors alongside their POW.
Why see it? Featuring Nazis as your protagonists in a horror film is a bold move as audiences will find it challenging to work up any concern for their well-being in the face of whatever terrors await them. That’s the case here as viewers will most likely be fully on board with the horrors they see coming. There are plenty of spooky moments here, but the down time is far more ubiquitous, and while time spent with interesting, appealing characters is often well spent we’re instead trapped here with Nazis. Bring on their well-deserved ends!
[DVD extras: Featurette, short film, commentary, interview]
House of Cards – The Final Season
What is it? A female president?! About time.
Why see it? My preference was for the UK series this is based on even before scandal befell the lead actor as it knew precisely when to get out. That run ended after three seasons, and it ended perfectly. The Netflix run wasn’t as wise leading to seasons that grew increasingly ridiculous. Even this sixth and final season can’t help but embrace the lunacy, and while there’s fun to be had in the endless murders and twists coming out of the White House it works to dramatically reduce tension and suspense. Still Robin Wright as president is an idea we can get behind.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A couple decides to adopt three siblings.
Why see it? Rose Byrne is a comedy god, and any film featuring her and her perfect comic timing is one worth watching. There are some laughs here beyond her too including a repeated gag involving one of the kids being injured accidentally. The film is aiming to be a heartwarming experience, though, and in that regard it’s something of a mixed bag. There’s definitely real heart on display here with some powerful moments involving kids finding a family, but more than once the movie pushes too hard in that direction moving us past emotion and closer to indigestion. It works more often than not, though, so give it a spin.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes]
What is it? A young refugee develops the ability to levitate.
Why see it? White God remains a visually stunning and frequently thrilling tale of our attitude towards others, particularly immigrants. Director Kornel Mundruczo returns with a follow-up that once again explores those themes through a story steeped in genre elements. The young man finds rescue in a man whose true motivation is profit, and questions of motivation and outcome reach the forefront. As with his previous film, the movie is gorgeous and precise in its visuals making for an intriguing experience.
[DVD extras: None]
Kalifornia [Shout Select]
What is it? A couple exploring true crimes find themselves enmeshed in one.
Why see it? The ostensible theme here is the idea of what drives some people to commit horrible crimes while others in similar circumstances don’t, but don’t expect that question to be answered exactly. Instead the film delivers a thriller pitting a naïve couple (David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes) against a psychopath (Brad Pitt) and his idiot girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) on a road trip across America’s West. Some of the thrills work, but while Pitt plays everything heightened Duchovny is flatter than usual which drains much of the film of its intensity. It’s a stylish film worth it for Pitt and Forbes anyway.
[Blu-ray extras: Theatrical and unrated cuts, interview, featurette]
Mad Dog and Glory [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A love triangle of sorts develops between a cop, a gangster, and a bartender.
Why see it? The talents here are truly something here as Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, and Uma Thurman mix it up as the threesome in question for director John McNaughton (Wild Things) and writer Richard Price (Clockers). The end result, though, doesn’t quite live up to the names involved as the film is a fairly sedate experience both as a comedy and a drama. There’s an appeal to them playing against type, but De Niro’s wallflower cop and Murray’s tough gangster don’t fully work or gel. It’s still an interesting diversion though.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with the director, featurette, interviews]
The Prisoner [Arrow Academy]
What is it? A cardinal is jailed for treason and the game begins to get him to confess to crimes he didn’t commit.
Why see it? Alec Guinness is terrific in this adaptation of a stage play exploring themes of human willpower and self-deception, and Jack Hawkins goes toe to toe with him as the interrogator. Faith — in god, in one’s country, and in one’s self — is the target here, and the film touches on the ideas with a sharp eye. Its origin as a play, though, does limit the film’s power and feel as the adaptation never takes real advantage of the world at large. The film’s history is even more thrilling than the film itself as its release left in banned in various countries and festivals for being both anti-communist and pro-communist. Madness.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, commentary]
What is it? A trio of lighthouse keepers find a chest filled with gold, and the owners want it back.
Why see it? Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan remains one of the best riffs on this idea — innocents find a treasure and are then torn apart by greed, suspicion, and bad guys — and this variation can’t quite hold a candle to it. Get it? Because it’s a lighthouse? Anyway, both Peter Mullan and Gerard Butler do good work, and the island setting offers some interesting visuals and set-pieces, but it’s stuck at the level of quite serviceable. Not a bad place to be though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Also out this week:
Ben Is Back, Devil’s Path, Free Solo, Krypton – The Complete First Season, Liz and the Blue Bird, Marquise, Mercy, Prospect, Untamed Heart [KL Studio Classics], Vox Lux, Welcome to Mercy [Scream Factory]
Related Topics: Home Video