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
What is it? The true story of a black policeman who went undercover with the KKK.
Why see it? Spike Lee’s latest ranks easily among his best as it tackles the still-relevant issue of racism in America with humanity, humor, and a fierce rage. It walks a fine line celebrating the absurdity of it all while still condemning hate with as sharp a razor as the screen can hold. It almost lulls you in with some Coen-esque ridiculousness while never failing to remind you that people like David Duke, while morons, are still dangerous. It’s a very funny movie that also features some incredibly tense scenes and an end reminder that this all too real.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? An American president fights terror with his fists.
Why see it? This Harrison Ford-led action gem was pure escapism even before a certain dipshit-in-chief took office in 2017 and proceeded to embarrass and damage the hell out of our country, but these days it’s even more cathartic of a watch. It’s a solid action movie regardless thanks to Ford’s commanding presence, a strong supporting cast that includes Gary Oldman, William H. Macy, and Wolfgang Petersen’s energetic direction. It’s a good film to have in your action library, and this new 4K upgrade offers a sharp and vibrant image as it all goes down.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? An idealistic art school student finds romance, madness, and a serial killer in his pursuit of greatness.
Why see it? Terry Zwigoff found greater success with Ghost World and Bad Santa, but this smart and funny dissection of ambition, arrogance, and the art world is every bit as funny and satisfying. Max Minghella takes the lead supported by John Malkovich, Anjelica Huston, Jim Broadbent, and more, and it’s just a fast-moving comedy with both dialogue zingers and grander stabs at institutions. MVD’s new Blu-ray includes some fun special features, but the film itself is more than enough reason to watch.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, blooper reel]
The Chain Reaction [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A stranger’s arrival signifies the dangerous arrival of a Australia’s own Three Mile Island.
Why see it? The core plot of this Aussie classic is a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear accidents, but as should be expected it’s far from some dry and stuffy affair. Government agents arrive to harass the locals, scientists devalue human life, and our hero engages in some subterfuge and gnarly road action with his souped up muscle car. It’s a fun thriller with serious consequences, and more power to it for treating full frontal nudity as a “good for the goose, good for the gander” situation. [Note: This release is region free.]
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes, early cut of film]
Day of the Dead [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? The zombie apocalypse continues, and not even the might of the US military stands a chance.
Why see it? George Romero’s Living Dead films feature some highs and some later lows, but while both Night and Dawn are revered as deserving classics Day doesn’t get quite the same love. Blame the lack of an easily quantified social theme, but whatever the cause it needs to end — Day is the most purely entertaining of the bunch. Strong characters (both good and evil), terrific gore set-pieces courtesy of Tom Savini, and a nearly socialized zombie named Bub make this an all-timer and my favorite of the franchise for re-watch. It’s a hard one to find on Blu-ray here in the US, but happily Umbrella’s Blu-ray is loaded with detailed extras in addition to the modern classic of a zombie flick. [Note: This release is region free.]
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, interview]
What is it? Two strangers meet en route to a mutual’s wedding and banter-filled romance follows.
Why see it? The casting of Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves in the lead roles for this romantic comedy is reason enough to give it a watch, but as a bonus the film’s actually pretty damn great. Sure it’s still a rom-com, and yes the stays mostly with these two regardless of what’s happening around them, but their chemistry is ridiculously good and their dialogue is deserving of their presence. It’s funny, smart, and witty banter passing between them that grows into something more, and it’s a damn delight.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A man on the run finds nothing but trouble.
Why see it? This mid 50s western features one hell of an opening as our antihero (Ray Milland, who also directs) comes across a stagecoach that’s been ransacked and all of its occupants left for dead including a young girl. His luck goes from bad to worse once he reaches town, and from there we’re treated to an engaging western tale highlighting the dangers of mob mentality. We also get an unfortunate detour into romance — Milland is four years older than the father of the girl he woos here — but it’s a small dip in an otherwise strong entry in the western canon.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A young skeptic looks into alien abductions.
Why see it? There’s some genre fun to be had here, but it takes faith as the film’s first half fights its generic trappings every frame of the way. It threatens more than once to become found footage but thankfully resists. It doesn’t really find its way, though, until its back half when things take a turn for the fantastic. The story turns are paired with some attractive visuals too involving spaceship interiors and the aliens themselves. Give it a shot, you may dig it.
[DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? A suitcase and its contents cause mayhem in Miami.
Why see it? It’s almost impossible to find fault with this Barry Sonnenfeld flick’s cast which includes Rene Russo, Dennis Farina, Ben Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Patrick Warburton, Zooey Deschanel, Omar Epps, Andy Richter, and more, but while they rock the script just tries way too hard to find the funny. Worse, it usually fails. It feels every bit like Sonnenfeld hoping to recreate the beautiful chaos of Get Shorty, but while Dave Barry’s source novel is a solid start the pieces just don’t come together on the screen. Tim Allen in the lead doesn’t help or hurt.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? An anthology of action-heavy genre shorts.
Why see it? The best action movies are typically those with terrific fight choreography as it’s always more impressive than CG explosions and the like. The nine shorts here all know this, and while they don’t all impress equally, there are four or five guaranteed to leave action junkies smiling. This is less of a feature film than a collection of shorts, though, and that’s probably its biggest downfall. A cohesive feel, maybe via a steady through-line of connective tissue between the shorts, is sorely missing here. Still, it’s hard to argue with some of the action/fight sequences here.
[DVD extras: None]
Emmanuelle & Emmanuelle 2 [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A young woman finds love and then more of it.
Why see it? The first film remains something of a milestone in softcore cinema for being an enormous blockbuster, and its sequel continued that trend. Sylvia Kristel takes the lead in both films — later entries in the franchise would see her transform into younger, even more European models — and sees Emmanuelle exploring her body as well as others around the world. The story is minimal — she’s horny! — but the films are well-shot, sexy, and double as adults only travelogues. [Note: This release is region free.]
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? Three friends enjoying a bachelorette trip find danger, adventure, and Mike Tyson along the way.
Why see it? Fans of goofy, mindless comedies may find some enjoyment here, but as Hangover riffs go this is awfully mediocre. The laughs are minimal (if not absent), the action relies too often on rough CG effects, and while it’s bad enough seeing Mike Tyson act and emote it’s just disturbing seeing him as a finger-sucking love interest. It’s a harmless movie that just wants to have fun, but viewers seeking the same will most likely leave unsatisfied.
[DVD extras: Interview]
Heaven’s Burning [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A reluctant getaway driver and a runaway bride from Japan cross paths and find adventure.
Why see it? Russell Crowe and Youki Kudoh headline this criminally minded road romance as strangers who become close while on the run together, and both do strong work selling characters who aren’t quite sure of their place in life. There’s mild action here, but it’s more of a character piece set against a shifting landscape as the pair elude both some bad guys and responsibility. [Note: This release is region free.]
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K transfer, commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, ]
What is it? A journalist interviews a man who claims to be God.
Why see it? Movies made specifically for Christian audiences get a bad rap, and for the most part it’s an earned reputation. They’re typically poorly written, poorly directed affairs that preach to the choir with simplicity. This latest stab at the sub-genre is a couple steps up from that, though, in large part due to the presence of David Strathairn as God. He’s just that damn good, and while the script still gets a bit obnoxious in its avoidance of real questions — and loses points for the generic representation of God as an old white dude — the back and forth between them offers some mildly engaging philosophical and personal banter.
[DVD extras: Featurette, interviews]
What is it? A man seeks revenge on those who killed his family and the people who failed to make them pay.
Why see it? This F. Gary Gray flick doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves for being a thrilling, fun, and cathartic slice of exploitation cinema. It has a pair of engaging leads in Gerard Butler (he’s good here, I swear!) and Jamie Foxx, and the script does great work with its locked-room mystery. It’s an entertaining ride. The 4K upgrade might not be enough to warrant a double dip, though, as the extras are all ported over from the previous Blu-ray and the picture, while vibrant and sharp only makes a good-looking movie a bit better.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentary, two versions]
What is it? A criminal seems to determined to be a free man.
Why see it? 1973’s Papillon is a fantastic character study, and while it’s a bit overlong the onscreen charisma and talents of Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman make it a compelling watch. The only hope a remake has of improving on the original comes in the area of running time, and on that front at least, this new version is a success. Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are both fine, but there’s ultimately little reason to watch this over the original (outside of time constraints).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
What is it? A mother and son pair of feline vampire-like creatures hide in a small town.
Why see it? Stephen King wrote this directly for the screen, but while there are more than a few things to like here — cameo cast, some gory beats, some solid direction from Mick Garris — King’s script just drags it all down. It’s so dumb. CG morphing effects that were super new at the time now feel super dated, the tone is a mess, the dialogue is lame, and the script never gels its horror with its absurdity. I saw it first on opening weekend, and as the end credits rolled my friend broke our disappointed silence to say only this: “Stephen King has put better things to paper when he wipes his ass.” It’s a harsh criticism, but it’s also an understandable one.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews, featurette]
What is it? You will believe a man can fly in 4K.
Why see it? Richard Donner’s 1978 classic remains one of the best superhero films ever made. It’s a fresh, vibrant, and fun movie, and Christopher Reeve shines in the role. Toss in Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, and plenty of thrills, and you have a memorable comic book movie with staying power. The film recently re-released to Blu-ray paired with an alternate cut, but this 4K upgrade sticks with the theatrical. It makes a double dip wholly reliant on your interest in the 4K aspect, and that’s something of a mixed bag. The colors pop and cleanup is evident, but some purists may find its image too scrubbed in regard to grain. Like I said, mixed bag, but I think the improvements outweigh the drawbacks especially if you don’t already own another Blu of the film.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of TV special]
What is it? A soldier is tasked with protecting a young Navajo during World War II.
Why see it? John Woo’s career has seen numerous ups and downs since his arrival in Hollywood, and while his greatest films are all pre-2000 some gems remain in the new millennium. This WWII action/drama is one of them as it pairs some strong action sequences with an engaging tale of friendship, loyalty, and our endless penchant for racist behavior. The Blu-ray includes both the theatrical and director’s cuts along with numerous extras including three commentary tracks — one with Woo and another with both Nicolas Cage and Christian Bale. It’s no The Killer or Face/Off, but it’s solid.
[Blu-ray extras: Two cuts of the film, commentaries, featurettes]
Also out this week:
Armed, Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story, Claire’s Camera, The Heretics, Incredibles 2, Krampus Origins, Midaq Alley, Sound of Music Live!, Succession – The Complete First Season, Transformers: The Ultimate Five-Movie Collection [4K UltraHD]