Plus 16 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
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Pick of the Week
Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism [Arrow Academy]
What is it? The life of an early 20th century anarchist is explored through his relationships and historical context in Eros + Massacre, an engineer recalls his youth spent fighting the system he now supports in Heroic Purgatory, and an ill-fated military coup is explored in Coup d’Etat.
Why see it? Director Kiju Yoshida is far from a recognizable name outside of his native Japan (and France), but that hasn’t stopped Arrow from pulling out all the stops with this release of three (four if you count the director’s cut of the first film) of his mid-career films. They’re dense affairs, the first two in particular, and show the filmmaker’s disinterest in traditional narratives. What is constant throughout the films, in addition to his interest in personalities rebelling against the state, is an eye for visuals and framing choices that confound expectation.
Brain Damage [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young man discovers he’s harboring an educated parasite with a taste for human brains.
Why see it? When it comes to Frank Henenlotter movies my affection always points towards Frankenhooker. He’s probably better known though for his two earlier films, Basket Case and Brain Damage. Both of them share a common theme regarding a hapless protagonist at the whim of a small, monstrous buddy, but this one adds an addiction subtext beneath the absurdity. It’s a goofy romp all around punctuated with plenty of gory attack scenes. While the film itself is merely good fun, Arrow’s new release is worth a pickup for fans as its loaded with love in the form of extra features.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, featurettes, animated short]
What is it? The ups and downs of a family business are brought to life glares and gunshots.
Why see it? Paramount’s re-release of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy doesn’t add anything new on the supplement front, but the price is right for fans who don’t yet own the films or for folks interested in making a blind buy on a classic they have yet to see. This first film remains the best of the three in its presentation of family life and criminal life as separate but intertwined existences. It’s a beautiful film with moments of suspense and action alongside the grand experience and scale of the story, but if you already own it there’s no reason to double dip.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with Francis Ford Coppola]
The Godfather Part II
What is it? Like father like son.
Why see it? It’s generally accepted that Coppola’s sequel to his own classic is the superior film, but I’m not having it. It’s still damn good, obviously, but the split timelines (it moves between Michael’s efforts to lead the family and flashbacks to his father’s youth) and the very nature of a sequel slightly dilute the power and drama we find in the first film. I know, this sounds like madness talking, but I’m saying it all the same. Again, it’s a terrific film, and I particularly love the journey Michael chooses that sees him facing tough decisions with deadly consequences. Like the first film though, this new Blu-ray adds nothing new to the mix.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with Francis Ford Coppola]
Heat – Director’s Definitive Edition
What is it? Bank robbers face off against a determined detective and the consequences of their actions.
Why see it? Michael Mann’s mid ’90s classic is a masterpiece in any format or version, but this new Blu-ray offers up a new restoration of the writer/director’s preferred cut. The entire cast is perfection with Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, and Al Pacino obviously being the main draws here, and the action and dialogue are equally exquisite. The big shootout is now 22 years old but remains one of the best and most epic such scenes in film history. This is essentially a director’s cut, and it remains Mann’s masterpiece.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary by Michael Mann, Q&As, making of, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Serial Mom [Scream Factory]
What is it? A suburban housewife and mother is also something of a serial killer.
Why see it? It’s all about the genius of John Waters. The film offers up some fun black comedy as Kathleen Turner’s murderous suburbanite dispatches those who displease her or her children, but it’s not a film to be taken seriously. The broadly comedic nature of it won’t be for every taste, but those who enjoy Waters’ work will be happy to revisit this one. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray includes two different commentaries featuring the man, and as is often the case they alone are worth the price of admission. Waters is a damn delight to listen to as he shares humorous anecdotes and sharp opinions with wild glee.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurettes, making of, commentaries]
What is it? Documentary that looks at the early days of the company behind the only computers I ever had growing up.
Why see it? This doc is most definitely aimed at those of us who grew up writing “games” for the Commodore Vic-20 and recording the programs onto a cassette tape. Yeah, you read that right. We were a non Apple/Atari household, so we went from the Vic-20 to the Commodore 64 to the Amiga… with a brief foray into the world of the Magnavox Odyssey… and I never regretted a moment of it. The doc explores the life and drive of founder Jack Tramiel and explores the company’s rise alongside competitors like Apple, IBM, and Radio Shack. It’s destined to be a dry watch at times for those of you outside the Commodore family, but for the rest of us there’s real joy and nostalgia to be found here.
[DVD extras: TED Talk]
The Accidental Tourist [Warner Archive]
What is it? A travel writer has tips for everyone else, but he’s the one who needs help.
Why see it? Lawrence Kasdan brings back his Body Heat stars, William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, in a pair of far less steamy roles. They play a restrained couple on the rocks, but it’s Geena Davis who steals the movie as a quirky dog-trainer. There’s some darkness at play here alongside moments of sweetness and levity, and it remains every bit the movie my mom loved back in the late ’80s.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introduction, commentary by Geena Davis, featurette, deleted scenes]
Adios, Sabata [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The legendary gunslinger is double-crossed by fools who don’t know any better.
Why see it? Yul Brynner remains one of the odder stars to find success on the big screen, but he’s at his best as a mysterious and highly capable killer in some variation of the old west. The film is filled with familiar genre beats, and they’re executed well enough to keep things interesting for fans. Characters are the expected mixed bag of ruffians, nobodies, and the anti-hero himself, and the action scenarios are an equal blend of engaging and expected.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Divorce – The Complete First Season
What is it? A husband and wife split up.
Why see it? Sarah Jessica Parker’s return to the HBO family comes in the form of a series trying to be a bit more serious than Sex & the City. It’s a comedy too, and maybe even mainly, but the drama of the couple’s situation is never far off screen. That tonal blend is part of the show’s problem as neither the laughs nor the serious beats land as strongly as they should. Parker and Thomas Haden Church are both fine, but the writing feels too frequently at odds with itself. Worse, it too quickly devolves into mean-spirited yelling and insults. It would probably hit harder with people who’ve experienced a divorce.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries]
Fifty Shades Darker
What is it? A wealthy man finds a new place to store his Ben Wa balls.
Why see it? I’ll be honest. This is a funny movie. Unfortunately for the film though it isn’t trying to be and instead is aiming for more of a romantic, sexy drama. It never achieves its goal though and instead leaves us laughing at ridiculous moments and rolling our eyes at terrible dialogue and plot turns. Dakota Johnson gets naked a lot (while Jamie Dornan mostly just shows his torso), but the pair’s blandness and lack of chemistry leaves things feeling less sexy than they’re presumably hoping to be. Story-wise we’re still stuck with a man who in no way feels real and a woman who talks about being independent while actually being no more than a pawn. It’s not good people, and the promise of a third film makes it even more obnoxious.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Greasy Strangler
What is it? A father and son deal with their antagonistic relationship and the reality that one of them is a gross serial killer.
Why see it? You should really watch the trailer first as it’s a guarantee that more than ninety percent of you will absolutely despise the film. There’s a small number of us though who’ll find enough to enjoy in the film’s crass antics, unique personality, and oddly addictive score. Comparisons to John Waters’ films are off the mark as he paired his ridiculous offenses with a commentary on America, but there’s a still plenty here to leave viewers squirming and flinching with variable degrees of laughter.
[DVD extras: None]
The Loved One [Warner Archive]
What is it? A would-be poet arrives in Los Angeles unprepared for the mortuary job he falls into.
Why see it? Initially billed as a comedy aiming to offend everyone, it’s easy to believe that this mid ’60s film succeeded pretty well upon its release. Robert Morse is the young newcomer, and he’s surrounded by elder talents including James Coburn, Jonathan Winters, Rod Steiger, Milton Berle, John Gielgid, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, and more. It’s a funny romp, and it’s every bit a madcap romp, and while it occasional leaves focus and plot behind in pursuit of oddball laughs it’s entertaining in the end.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Orange Is the New Black – Season Four
What is it? The women of Litchfield prison face challenges new and old.
Why see it? The fourth season of Netflix’s women in prison series continues to walk a fine line between absurd humor and deadly drama this time resulting in the death of one my favorite characters. It’s accomplished beautifully and used to wonderfully dramatic effect. Piper has fully transitioned into a supporting role, but that’s the strength of the show in that everyone is supporting. That said, Piper brings some of the season’s biggest laughs in her bravado and obliviousness. It all builds to a conclusion that sets up some major changes and upheavals in season five.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, featurette, commentaries]
Return of Sabata [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Sabata returns, and he still has an itchy trigger finger.
Why see it? The revolving door of actors portraying the character of Sabata continues, and for my money it lands here on the best of the bunch. Lee Van Cleef takes the reins this time around, and he delivers the kind of aura and attitude Sabata is meant to have. Rather than defending anyone else’s honor, he’s after his own revenge, and the film showcases some fun shootouts and action sequences in his pursuit.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Things to Come
What is it? A woman in the third act of life is set adrift when her husband leaves her for another woman.
Why see it? Director Mia Hansen-Love is no stranger to films about adults dealing with life’s swift injustices, and her Father of My Children remains a heartbreaking work of loss, grief, and survival. Her latest casts Isabelle Huppert as a woman who goes looking for new purpose when her husband leaves her, and she finds it in the people and ideas around her. Like life itself, there are moments here of sadness, joy, and every emotion in between, but by that very nature there are also scenes showing life happening. It’s never dull, but it isn’t always engaging, if that makes sense.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A group of people take refuge in a police station but soon realize the threat outside may pale beside the one locked in with them.
Why see it? The twisted minds at Astron-6 typically deliver genre thrills with a heavy dose of wild comedy, but this latest feature eschews the laughs in favor of dark thrills, monsters, and some truly horrific set-pieces. It hits some bumps with its script, but the visuals including fear-inducing shots of cult-like members approaching from outdoors and interiors straight out of the minds of John Carpenter and Clive Barker keep the whole entertaining and creepy.
[DVD extras: None?]
Also out this week, but unseen by me:
Apprentice, A Fantastic Fear of Everything [Shout Select], Inside Amy Schumer – Season 4, Jeanne Dielman [Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video