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
Happy Death Day 2U
What is it? A young woman’s nightmare continues in unexpected ways.
Why see it? I haven’t been shy about my lack of love for Happy Death Day — its tone just doesn’t work as a slasher — but the sequel is a goddamn delight. This is especially the case for fans of movies like My Science Project (1985) and Real Genius (1985) as the film dials back on the slasher elements to instead blend 80s-style sci-fi/comedies into its Groundhog Day (1993) premise. It’s immensely creative fun, and lead Jessica Rothe is just magic on two feet. Cast her in everything.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scene, featurettes]
What is it? The mission to the moon presented through previously unseen footage.
Why see it? Last year’s First Man offered a dramatic look at the people who brought humanity to the moon and focused on the character of Neil Armstrong. This doc tackles the same central story, but rather than find drama in characters it presents actual footage without interpretation. Control room footage, astronaut POVs, and illustrative animations offer an unparalleled look into this monumental achievement. The math required was immense, but it was dwarfed by the courage and belief required to make it all work. Beautiful, tense, and eye-opening, this is a stunner.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
The Big Clock [Arrow Academy]
What is it? A man heads up an investigation knowing he himself is the target.
Why see it? 1987’s No Way Out is a fantastic suspense flick that remakes this tale for the upper echelons of the US government, but even in its original form — the action here involves a magazine editor and a media tycoon — the story delivers the goods with a fantastic premise and plenty of suspense. Sure Ray Milland is no Kevin Costner, but the film remains an exciting thriller with a sharp script and tense set-pieces. Arrow’s new Blu-ray gives us the film in HD alongside some truly informative extras.
The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 1 – The General / Steamboat Bill Jr.
What is it? Two of Buster Keaton’s best.
Why see it? Buster Keaton remains an absolute gift to film fans who thrive on comedy, action, and pure possibility, and the folks at Cohen Film Collection are doing great work bringing his films to Blu-ray. This release is their first to feature titles that have received 4K restorations, and while either film is worth owning on its own the pair of them together is a must–own collection. Both are pure delights, but for my money The General is one of the greatest ever made.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restorations, featurettes]
The Landlord [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A young white man from a wealthy family buys a tenement building in an all-black NYC neighborhood.
Why see it? Hal Ashby’s directorial debut is as sharp a commentary on American race relations as you’re likely to see, and the fact that it also delivers as both a comedy and a drama is nothing short of impressive. Beau Bridges headlines as the man intending to boot out the tenants and remodel the building into his own home before coming to connect with the people instead. This is no white savior narrative, and he makes plenty of mistakes on through to the end, but the film — written by Bill Gunn — offers an honest glimpse into lives and intentions that feel every bit as relevant today. The new interview with Bridges is also well worth a watch.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
The Prisoner of Second Avenue [Warner Archive]
What is it? A middle class couple in NYC find new struggles with every breath.
Why see it? Neil Simon’s plays don’t always translate well to the screen, but this humorous look at life’s ever-growing trials and tribulations succeeds thanks to a smart script and its two lead performances. Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft are terrific as the long-married couple who hit some big bumps and head into a tailspin, and while we get some laughs they come with a heavy side of pathos and stark reality. It’s a beautifully acted look at rediscovering our limits.
[Blu-ray extras: Dinah! TV show segment, gag reel, featurette]
What is it? Three men are forced to fight for those who can’t defend themselves.
Why see it? The main reason to see this latest action romp from director Jesse V. Johnson is the cast — Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Jeeja Yanin — and that should really say it all. Maybe too much of the action consists of gun fights, but once fists start flying in the back half we get a handful of solidly entertaining face-offs. There’s enough to love here to leave me wanting a sequel with these three unlikely heroes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
The Adventures of Robin Hood – The Complete Series
What is it? You know who Robin Hood is.
Why see it? We’re still getting new Robin Hood movies every few years, but while they each have their individual charms none of them approach the density of this British series from the 1950s. This complete set includes all 143 episodes across four seasons, and the series starts with Robin’s return from the Crusades to find his home usurped by power-mad baddies. Some of the stories and characters are familiar, but many were created just for the series. All of them fit the bill as far as furthering the adventures and causes viewers expect. There are no extras here, and the episodes aren’t restored, but Robin Hood fans should love having the entire series on disc.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A big snake eats a bunch of familiar faces.
Why see it? As studio creature-features go this tale of a man-eating snake in the Amazon is a blast. Fun f/x work (both practical and CG), campy dialogue, and a killer cast — Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Jon Voight, Owen Wilson, Ice Cube, Kari Wuhrer, and Danny Trejo are an eclectic bunch — make for a silly but highly entertaining monster movie. The only real knock against the release is a lack of special features. This is the film’s third Blu-ray release, and like the others it’s devoid of supplements. Buy it if you don’t already own it, but there’s no reason for an upgrade.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? The family business continues to be a killer.
Why see it? No, nobody asked for a sequel to Ron Howard’s fantastic fire-fighting drama from the 1990s, but we’ve gotten one anyway. Joe Anderson plays the son of Kurt Russell’s character, and he’s finding his own struggle as an arson investigator. There’s sadly not very much fire here — and definitely not anything approaching the immersive hellscape the first film put viewers inside of — and the plot’s shift into a search for stolen missile guidance systems is underwhelming, but hey, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland return!
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A man fresh out of prison finds trouble waiting for him.
Why see it? The basic story here is pretty familiar as Jesse falls back into the criminal life despite a desire to stay clean, but there are some elements that make it stand apart from the pack. For one thing, it’s Mark Dacascos in the lead, and that’s never a bad thing. On the story front, though, Jesse’s good friend and ex-cell mate is also his romantic interest. The film doesn’t get too deep there,but it doesn’t shy away either. Toss in some mild action fun, and you have a late 90s crime picture worth seeking out.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K transfer, featurettes]
Eyes of Laura Mars
What is it? A fashion photographer begins seeing through the eyes of a killer.
Why see it? This John Carpenter co-scripted thriller is a solidly crafted slasher (of sorts) directed by Irvin Kershner, and it stars Faye Dunaway in the lead role. It’s a flashy affair as we’re dipped into an elaborate and sexy fashion world, but the kills deliver the necessarily dark suspense. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars as the detective investigating her situation, and the script does good work dangling red herrings and building suspense. The romance is for shit, but the rest is pretty solid stuff.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Fighting with My Family
What is it? Siblings from a wrestling family try to get into the WWE.
Why see it? This is an undoubtedly slight little comedy, but in addition to a few laughs we also get an equally undeniable degree of heart. It’s a true-ish story about the WWE’s Paige and follows her journey from small-town England to the international stage of professional wrestling’s biggest arena. Florence Pugh is fantastically delightful in the lead, and the supporting players — Nick Frost, Lena Headey, and Vince Vaughn — are equally charming.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes, commentary]
Ghosts of Mars
What is it? A routine prisoner transfer on Mars leads to bloody chaos.
Why see it? Look, I love John Carpenter and easily list him as my favorite director, but he’s made a few clunkers — including this poor man’s riff on Carpenter’s own masterpiece, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The sci-fi/horror spin (and a handful of fun gore beats) doesn’t help overcome the sketchy script, wobbly performances, and low budget. Watch it for Carpenter and the cast, I guess, but it’s one of his rare stinkers and gets no better with age. The commentary included here, though, is an entertaining one.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Godzilla [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Godzilla hits America with a vengeance.
Why see it? Roland Emmerich’s title as king of the disaster movies comes to its natural end here with the king of monsters, and the result is… entertaining? It’s cheesy as hell and more than a little goofy at times, but Emmerich fans know that’s his bread and butter. The effects and action are perfectly okay, though, and fans of the big guy’s numerous adventures have seen both better and worse. This new 4K release offers a sharper look at Godzilla’s nighttime excursions and is worth the upgrade for fans.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, music video]
Link [KL Studio Classic]
What is it? A young woman is terrorized by an abused orangutan.
Why see it? While Shakma (1990) and Monkey Shines (1988) aim a bit more directly at being horror films, this mid 80s romp tries to blend the terror with a slightly lighter tone. The score is playful and humor seems to be a goal throughout, but it doesn’t shy away from the intensity of the animal attacks. The mix of tones doesn’t quite work, but the film still delivers enough reasons to watch (and maybe rewatch) in the form of its animal action and lead Elizabeth Shue. It’s a sad movie, though, as its primate killer feels at times like an empathetic villain.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, interview, theme demo]
What is it? A masked killer attacks a home for wayward teens.
Why see it? Ultra low budget genre films have an uphill battle to fight as they try to deliver thrills on the cheap, but this little indie — shot in 1994 but not “finished” and released until recently — manages some grim and lively fun all the same. Acting is rough but workable, the direction and writing are competent, and we actually get some fairly solid action. Help from real wrestlers helps in the fight department leaving the film an entertaining little effort. Severin’s new Blu-ray rescues it, restores it, and shares it with genre lovers complete with plenty of extras.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, audition tapes, commentary]
What is it? A family finds terror after moving into a funeral home.
Why see it? Tobe Hooper deserves his status as a horror legend for films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Poltergeist (1982), but his talents seemingly disappeared from 1990 onward. This horror romp falls into that bin as the elements never quite come together. We get some gruesome imagery, but the horror action and script both underwhelm.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette]
Saint Bernard [Severin Films]
What is it? A music conductor descends into madness.
Why see it? This is one hell of an oddball film that will most likely leave viewers either loving or hating it. Some of us, though, will land in the middle. The actual narrative, such as it is, doesn’t quite work as its blend of surreal imagery, motionless pacing, and fogginess leaves nothing to attach yourself to as our hero carries the severed head of a dog from one misadventure to the next, but the effects work is ridiculously memorable. Gore effects delight — unsurprising as the film comes from f/x maestro Gabe Bartalos — but even the non-bloody creations capture the imagination. Prosthetic faces, crazy constructions, and more fill the screen. The story might leave something to be desired but the visuals most certainly don’t.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
Valentine: The Dark Avenger
What is it? A young woman becomes the vigilante her city needs.
Why see it? Indonesian action films got a kick in the ass from Gareth Evans’ The Raid and its sequel, and it’s great to see more hitting the screen. That said, this one leans a bit too silly at times while also failing to excite with its action. It’s based on a comic book, which probably explains some of that at least, but there’s not enough here to lift it above the fray outside of a female lead.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Yakuza Law [Arrow Video]
What is it? An anthology of stories detailing the cruelty of the Yakuza through the years.
Why see it? Teruo Ishii is no stranger to crafting films featuring bloody depictions of violence, but where most are featured in linear plots this anthology instead sees them focused on impulses. Three stories through the years see vengeance, revenge, and some other word that means the same thing brought to life life onscreen via cringe-worthy scenes of torture. It’s entertaining (?) for fans of Japanese crime cinema and Ishii himself, and Arrow’s ongoing devotion to this subgenre is appreciated as always.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interview]
Also out this week:
American Exit, The Bedroom Window [KL Studio Classics], Beer League, The Big White, Birds of Passage, The Chosen [Scream Factory], Cold Pursuit, The Devil’s Nightmare, Funny Games [Criterion Collection], House of Games [Criterion Collection], Life Like, Never Grow Old, Never Look Away, Princess Mononoke, The Shape of Now, This Gun for Hire [Shout Select]
Related Topics: Home Video