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Pick of the Week
Jackie Chan’s Project A / Project A Part II [UK]
What is it? Jackie Chan fights pirates and we all win.
Why see it? Chan’s filmography remains a gift for fans of fun, thrilling action, and while many of his later period films are lesser affairs this two-part is absolute aces. It’s essentially Police Story transplanted into Hong Kong’s colonial times, and in addition to some absolute stunners when it comes to action, fight, and stunt set-pieces Chan’s humor and personality shines through every frame. The films are just masterclasses in the action genre, and Eureka!’s new Blu-ray set matches their perfection with gorgeous presentations and a wealth of extras. [This is a UK release available from AmazonUK.]
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restorations, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A man from the future searches for the cure to what ails the world.
Why see it? The Fisher King remains Terry Gilliam’s best film, but this sci-fi gem is a close second. Bruce Willis headlines and gives a sympathetic performance as a man struggling to save what’s left of the future, Madeleine Stowe is the woman who slowly comes to believe his story, and Brad Pitt shines with a supporting turn as a truly crazy guy. It’s a thrilling tale with smart story turns, surprises,and a terrifically cynical view of our present and future.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K scan, commentary, documentary, interview, appreciation, featurette]
What is it? Siri’s great-grandfather gets uppity.
Why see it? Stanley Kubrick’s foray into science fiction is a revered classic despite not being for everyone, but even those don’t appreciate its fractured narrative, methodical pacing, and nearly two and a half hour length should find value in its visuals, score, and introduction of homicidal A.I. It’s alternately captivating and meandering, but even in its drawn out stretches there’s purpose. It’s something of a stunner in its production design and effects, and the new 4K upgrade only enhances their sharpness and beauty. The film’s engrossing, but even if you’re only half paying attention it’s a beautiful damn screensaver.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, documentary, featurettes, interview]
What is it? Graduation day is filled with laughs, heartache, and romance.
Why see it? There are hundreds of movies about teenagers, and while some may be more realistic few are as utterly and effortlessly entertaining as this late 90s gem. Smart writing, lively direction, and a stellar period cast including Ethan Embry, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose, and more help pull viewers into a fun and engaging coming of age tale. We’ve all been there to some degree, and there’s a character here guaranteed to remind us of our own teen years for both better and worse.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, music video]
What is it? Newly divorced parents at odds are given joint custody of their son.
Why see it? This French film is labeled as a drama, but it’s every bit as suspenseful and tense as a more traditional thriller. The parents each plead their case in a long, static opening to a judge who makes the joint custody call, and like her, viewers are left unsure who if anyone to trust. Is this just a spiteful separation, or is there truth to the wife’s complaint of violence? Settle in for one of the year’s most harrowing third acts.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, featurette, short film]
What is it? A man seeks vengeance on the cult who killed his lady.
Why see it? Nicolas Cage is the main reason to watch as he turns his Cage-osity all the way to 11. Seriously, the tighty-whitey scene is one for the ages, but while he entertains with his outbursts there’s a rare sense of real anguish and pain in his performance too. Director Panos Cosmatos crafts something of an experience here, and it’s worth noting that while the back half features plenty of mayhem and madness the film’s first hour-plus is a slow-moving look at one couple’s emotion and devotion. It’s an atmospheric and memorable descent into one man’s hell.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
What is it? A cop heads up an investigation that points directly to him.
Why see it? One of the many things I love about 1987’s No Way Out is the elaborate lengths Kevin Costner’s character goes to redirect evidence away from him, and Denzel Washington gets to play the same game here with terrifically entertaining results. It’s a twisty ride of a thriller that sees him struggling to stay a step ahead of everyone including his ex, a cop played by a crazy good Eva Mendes. It’s a fun movie with a damn fine foot chase through a hotel and some solid suspense beats along the way, and while it may not carry the dramatic weight of that earlier film it’s still plenty entertaining.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, outtakes]
What is it? An animated series about Batman, duh.
Why see it? The Caped Crusader has reached the screen in various incarnations, but for many people the four seasons of this series represent the best. They afford the hero time for growth, character, and a ton of side characters fighting against him and alongside him.The animation is sharp, and while the episodes offer up plenty of action there’s real personality to be found in the characters too. Humor and personality are a big part of its appeal. The new release adds in newly remastered versions of the show, two animated features, and more.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
What is it? A cop pursuers a legendary gangster with the help of a lowly turncoat.
Why see it? This South Korean thriller packs a lot into its two hour running time as it revamps Johnnie To’s Drug War for its own purposes. There are really only a few action beats here — one in the back half delights with gun play and a pair of brutal fights — as the majority of the film takes a methodical approach to an investigation trying to nab a big fish. It’s a fairly suspenseful ride leading to a stellar ending.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? Three sisters discover powers within and use them to fight evil.
Why see it? More than a few supernatural dramas have crossed the airwaves, but not very many of them went eight seasons with female leads. Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, and Shannon Doherty (who was replaced a few seasons in by Rose McGowan) were all already TV veterans before joining forces here, and they’re a good match for each other. It’s an engaging series, and while it doesn’t quite reach the fx-heavy high of Supernatural it enjoys some similar themes with a feminine edge.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A virus kills off most kids and leaves the survivors changed.
Why see it? The latest YA adventure franchise — in theory seeing as this first film didn’t too well and there won’t be a second — has a couple things helping it stand apart from the pack starting with its black lead, but it’s for the most part more of the same. Special kids, a fascist government, powers, etc. It’s done well enough, the teen performers are all solid, and the action sequences are engaging fare, but it’s ultimately very familiar. Fans of the sub-genre should still give it a spin, though, as it does the familiar well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel, commentary]
What is it? A pair of mismatched cops fight crime in Los Angeles.
Why see it? This feature redo of the classic TV series only plays it partially straight — the Dan Aykroyd parts — while the rest is goofy fun highlighted by one-liners and some mild action. Aykroyd plays the nephew of Joe Friday while Tom Hanks brings fresh blood as the more casual partner. It’s silly, but the cast, which also includes Dabney Coleman and Christopher Plummer helps make it an entertaining enough watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, commentary, featurette]
What is it? A future society struggles with the increased use of robots.
Why see it? Osamu Tezuka’s comic comes to life from the writer of Akira, and the result is an engaging blend of soft animation and hard action. Character faces are rounded, but the gun play leaves blood and oil splashing with abandon. There’s some familiarity to the tale as humans and robot begin at odds in their quests, but it’s an exciting enough watch that carries viewers along with its story and characters. The new steelcase highlights sharp cover art with its mostly clear sleeve.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interviews]
What is it? Two teenaged friends want to go to the beach, but life seems to have other plans.
Why see it? This is the kind of raunchy-lite comedy you typically see featuring male leads, so the presence of two young woman are already enough of a reason to give it a spin. Happily it’s also funny and maybe a little heartfelt, and it’s anchored by two lively and fun performances from Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone. They’re ridiculous in their pursuit of the beach, but they’re their own worst enemies when it comes to their woeful irresponsibility.
[DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scene, bloopers]
What is it? A retired judge heads to Colombia in search of justice.
Why see it? Things aren’t quite what they seem in this small thriller, and while the stakes don’t seem heavy early on they grow through events and truths. It’s a good, solid tale,but the bigger draw then the narrative is the cast. A grizzled Nick Nolte (as if there’s any other kind) is paired with a scrappy Luiz Guzman in his pursuit of Tim Roth, and while a young teen becomes the connective tissue it’s Nolte and Roth who show once again why they’re such reliable performers.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A couple struggles with raising their son, and it only grows more complicated when the young man falls for the dad’s mistress.
Why see it? This late 40s French drama covers a lot of ground in its 100 minute running time as it explores the dynamic between a couple and their nearly adult son with detail given to how each parent treats and responds to the young man. Things are heightened when the mother struggles with his new love and the father realizes who the young woman is, but while it teases soap opera-like plot turns it’s more in line with well-acted melodrama. Even 70 years on the characters and their particular pains strike deep.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, camera tests]
What is it? A woman discovers her ex-boyfriend was a spy and finds herself caught up in his world.
Why see it? Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon make for an appealing pair in this action comedy, and that’s to be expected. Surprisingly, though, it’s the action that excels while the comedy falters. Too many of the laughs are limp or obvious, and neither performer shows the chops they’ve showed previously, but the action? There are some surprisingly great and fun action beats here from gun play to car chases and more.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes]
What is it? A young superhero team has dreams of stardom.
Why see it? This animated flick is almost a PG-rated Deadpool in disguise as absurdity rules the day while a traditional comic book plot unfolds. It’s the kind of movie where something’s always happening either visually or via dialogue, and while there are laughs for newcomers it’s the regular fans who’ll enjoy this one most. In jokes, comic/movie references, and character traits offer a steady stream beats for those in the know.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Music videos, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A masked killer is stalking co-eds!
Why see it? Sergio Martino’s no stranger to the giallo, but while films like The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail are more traditional in their structure this bloody tale is closer to a slasher. That’s not a bad thing, but in exchange for elaborate set-pieces we get bloody kills,lots of naked women, and geometric scarves. Okay, that last one is maybe more giallo than slasher. It’s a solid flick regardless, and Arrow’s new Blu-ray brings it home in style.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews]
Also out this week:
Blood Harvest [Vinegar Syndrome], Death of a Nation, Def By Temptation [Vinegar Syndrome], Incubus [Vinegar Syndrome], The Killing Kind [Vinegar Syndrome], The Matrix Trilogy [4K UltraHD], Our House, The Princess Bride [Criterion Collection], Valley Girl [Shout Select]