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Pick of the Week
What is it? A man’s last three days of probation are fraught with good times and bad.
Why see it? This is as pitch-perfect and precarious a balance of humor, dread, and truth as you’ll find and an amazing goddamn movie. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal — who co-wrote and co-star — deliver characters and situations that lull viewers in with laughs, personality, and humanity before dropping reminders that the world is one of dangerous circumstances. Its theme hits home again with smarts, heart, and a punch to the gut, and it creates a rarity in being laugh out loud funny, painfully suspenseful, and incredibly affirming. See this movie. Blind buy it. Share it with friends. It’s the best movie of 2018 (as of right now…)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentaries]
What is it? A woman’s thesis about urban legends takes a very personal turn when she meets one in the flesh.
Why see it? Clive Barker’s fiction has given birth to numerous films and at least horror icons — Pinhead, Candyman, and Rawhead Rex. Okay, fine, nobody cares about Rawhead Rex. Candyman, though, is a genre giant, and his first feature appearance is a striking and memorable experience with attractive cinematography, a haunting score by Philip Glass, and two strong lead performances. The story strikes at the heart of race, class, and the terrors we imagine to replace those we know are all too real. Scream Factory’s new release includes both theatrical and unrated cuts, both with new 2K restorations, along with several new interviews, two new commentaries, and older extras.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, interviews]
What is it? A young woman meets her boyfriend’s family in Singapore.
Why see it? This adaptation of the best-selling novel works on two levels — it’s a solid romantic comedy with big heart and laughs, and it’s the rare Hollywood film (the first in decades) to focus exclusively on Asians. It’s important history for the latter reason and a fun watch for the former. Constance Wu is a delight, Henry Golding is a real find (and should be in contention for the next James Bond), Michelle Yeoh is eternally great, and the supporting cast is a parade of fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, gag reel]
Oklahoma Crude [Twilight Time]
What is it? A woman tries to drill for oil against outside pressures.
Why see it? Part western, part underdog tale, this is a fun adventure about scrambling for success against the odds. Faye Dunaway does terrific work as the woman fighting in a man’s world, and you buy her scrappy and emotional energy. She’s paired well with a lively George C. Scott who’s as powerful as we expect but far more playful. There are some serious threads throughout this Stanley Kramer film, not the least of which is a commentary on the power of corporations, but it’s a good time.
What is it? A pair of musicians go on the run from the mob as women.
Why see it? Billy Wilder is as reliable a filmmaker as they come, and this romp headlined by Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe is among his most beloved. It’s a playful, fast-moving comedy filled with mad banter and physical antics. The romantic elements don’t quite hold up as well, but it’s more a fault of the times than of the characters. It’s impossible to get bogged down in that aspect anyway as the comedy train is moving to fast. Criterion’s new Blu-ray looks brilliant and is as stacked as some of the supporting players offering plenty of in depth details on the film’s production.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, featurettes, interviews]
What is it? A killer begins offing college students in ways based on popular urban legends.
Why see it? It may not live up to the specific genre films that inspired/preceded it (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer), but the premise is legit great all the same. It’s a fun American giallo (of sorts) with a strong roster of characters and suspects which works in favor of the mystery. The film has the usual stupidity in some of its character behavior and there are way too many jump scares, but it’s good fun. The thing that bumps this release up from the rest, though, is the new feature-length documentary on the making of film. It’s loaded with new interviews and packed with details on the production, and it’s an immensely entertaining watch for fans. My only complaint on this doc? There’s no “Play All” option meaning you have to individually pick and play all ten parts. Ludicrous.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, feature length documentary, featurettes]
Antony and Cleopatra [Twilight Time]
What is it? A leader fights for his country and his heart.
Why see it? Charlton Heston isn’t exactly the first name you think of when it comes to actors headlining William Shakespeare adaptations, but here he is anyway in one he adapted and directed as well. He’s never been the most emotive performer meaning the romance angle falters, but the big period spectacle comes across well enough. It’s clear money was spent on the production, and it’s there where the play comes best to life.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette]
The Case of the Bloody Iris [UK release]
What is it? A killer begins leaving a trail of naked female corpses in their wake.
Why see it? Edwige Fenech headlines this flesh and blood-filled giallo from director Giuliano Carnimeo, and like the film’s other women she bares her skin throughout. The T&A is only part of the film’s exploitation-happy contents, though, as there’s also plenty of murder happening. It’s actually a pretty solid whodunnit as the roster of suspects fills the screen with red herrings aplenty, and while this new Shameless disc is light on extras it delivers a sharp and clear picture.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
What is it? Dogs bring people together.
Why see it? Ken Marino has made a name for himself as an incredibly funny character actor in films like Wet Hot American Summer, but he also directs! His latest isn’t nearly as humorous as he is, though, and instead focuses more on familiar rom-com tropes and characters of varying levels of appeal. Adam Pally and Vanessa Hudgens are standouts. It’s a harmless movie.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A small group of friends able to reboot their lives see complications come with the changes.
Why see it? This is essentially a young adult sci-fi romance of sorts as one of the teens discovers an orb that can rewind time and tries to use it in his pursuit of a new girl. Time is given to character interaction, and while it’s animated they still feel real enough in their observations and attitudes. The sci-fi element puts an interesting spin on it, but the core of the story remains the coming of age relationships. It’s a sweet tale although the repetition feels a bit more redundant than similar films. The animation is beautiful though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? A troubled teen finds a futuristic weapon that he uses to solve his problems.
Why see it? On the one hand this YA riff on Laserblast (1978) is probably just entertaining enough for young male audiences excited for some wish fulfillment — a sci-fi gun! a strip club! — but on the other it never quite justifies its confirmation that the gun is the ultimate answer. There are some fun beats, and the final ten minutes suggests a sequel I’d much rather watch, but they may not quite be enough for non-kid viewers to latch onto. Also, it’s a crime to cast Carrie Coon for a mere five minutes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, original short film, featurette, commentary]
What is it? A young nun-to-be heads into the woods for a date with Satan.
Why see it? This Argentinian horror film seems simple and familiar in its setup, but it actually takes its ideas in a somewhat new direction by the time the end credits roll. It may or may not be enough of a turn, though, as the bulk of the back half is heavy with possession, some Evil Dead-like shenanigans, and a devilish sex scene that fall under the familiar banner. Possession movies admittedly aren’t my bag — for me they fall in with mind control, hypnosis, etc in that characters without will are boring. That said, the elements that work will appeal to genre fans.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? Three tales of guns, girls, and gangsters.
Why see it? Yes, one of the three movies is Guns, Girls and Gangsters, and the other two are Vice Raid and The Girl in Black Stockings. None of the trio are hidden gems necessarily, and they’re arguably not quite noirs either, but fans of Mamie Van Doren should be thrilled by their restorations and the inclusion of a brand new interview with the star. They’re mild, forgettable fun with The Girl in Black Stockings being something of a standout as a whodunnit with an engaging enough cast of characters.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restorations, interview with Mamie Van Doren]
What is it? A trio of stories about perversion and good times in Japan.
Why see it? Director Teruo Ishii enjoys his topless ladies almost as much as he enjoys abusing them, and this trio of tales sees all manner of naked misbehaving on display. The tales move from the fairly traditional to the far more absurd with the constants being bare breasts, plenty of sex — not always consensual — and epic amounts of bad behavior. The final tale is the strongest for its imagery and visuals alone, but the progression of what comes before adds to its bizarre weight.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
What is it? A teenage girl from Long Island finds New York City skateboarding friends.
Why see it? This rambling life-filled drama is almost a Kids-lite as we meet some young people whose daily lives consist of skateboarding, smoking, screwing, and talking trash. There’s a real life factor at play here bringing both strengths — believability, raw power — and weaknesses — sketchy performances, limited narrative — but its greatest strength is newcomer Rachelle Vinberg. She brings warmth and curiosity to the hard city streets alongside some legit board skills too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? A young couple with a newborn face a new challenge with a cancer diagnosis.
Why see it? This made-for-television movie from the early 70s tore into viewers hearts with its sad, tragic story about young love and a dying mother, but while people loved it the film never made its way to home video. That changed 45 years later with this remastered Blu-ray release from Redwind. It’s an affecting film, especially as the third act winds things down, but there’s some frustration getting there as the young couple spends *a lot* of time yelling at each other. Still, as cancer movies go this is one of the memorable ones. Fans will want to pick this release up, but hopefully Redwind develops some extras for their next release.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
The True Story of Jesse James [Twilight Time]
What is it? Read the title again.
Why see it? The great Nicholas Ray brings the legendary outlaw’s life and death to the screen with Robert Wagner in the title role, and it works as both drama and an action film. The movie follows the James brothers and explores their family life as well as their Robin Hood-like adventures without necessarily excusing their criminal behavior. It’s a solid look at a villain we usually see as a supporting player.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A killer begins offing film school students in ways based on popular urban legends.
Why see it? This follow-up is every bit as good (and bad) as the original despite its lesser reputation, and it once again offers up a solid selection of possible suspects with no clear killer until the reveal. It’s a bit bumpier when it comes to smarts, though, as our lead — the otherwise terrific Jennifer Morrison — makes some incredible dumb choices. Like, a lot. As with the first film, it’s good fun for studio slasher fans.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, gag reel]
Also out this week:
Holy Motors [Shout Select], Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema [Criterion Collection], Little Italy, The Outer Limits – Season Two