Plus 21 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
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? A woman’s son is kidnapped, and she’ll stop at nothing to get him back.
Why see it? Look, this Halle Berry vehicle was gone from theaters faster than you can say something that would take you a week or so to say, but it turns out the damn thing is actually a mostly terrific, nearly real-time ride. It has issues in some dialogue and character choices, but fans of the excellent Breakdown should give it a spin — it’s not up to that film’s league, but it offers some of that same real-world intensity packed into a limited time period. Berry gives a ferocious performance and leads a fairly believable chase whether it be in cars or on foot, and in addition to dodging cliched bullets along the way it leads to a satisfying ending too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Best of Midnight Blue [Blue Underground]
What is it? New York City’s legendary public access show gets an epic highlight reel.
Why see it? As a non-resident of NYC I was unfamiliar with this show, but watching it now for the first time I’ve immediately fallen in love with its attitude, social commentary, and playful depravity. Host Al Goldstein (Screw Magazine) is a bit of a prick, but he doesn’t pretend otherwise, and his show featured a revolving roster of porn stars, “real” stars, and others, and this set collects episodes featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penn & Teller, and a very funny interview with Gilbert Gottfried. One disc focuses on the talents and tales behind Deep Throat including the legal troubles that followed its release, and Goldstein’s clearly infamous “Fuck you!” segments offer their own charm. The show ran from 1975 to 2002, and while the 6-disc collection only explores up into the early 90s it offers plenty of entertainment and leaves viewers wanting more.
[DVD extras: Trivia, interviews, featurettes]
Dawn of the Dead [Scream Factory]
What is it? There’s no more room in hell.
Why see it? Zack Snyder’s reboot of George Romero’s classic seemed like a guaranteed bust for a lot of people, but he proved himself with a movie that remains his best to date. The opening sequence is an all-timer in its blend of suspense and awe, and it’s a fun ride all the way through to the killer ending. As much action as it is horror, the film delivers big, exciting thrills and pairs them with a great cast (Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Ty Burrell, and more) and terrifically grisly gory bits. Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition offers both the theatrical and unrated versions along with a ton of extras new and old.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration of theatrical cut, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
Dawson City: Frozen Time
What is it? Over 500 silent film reels were discovered half a century after being unceremoniously buried in the earth, and now they’re telling the story of the small town above.
Why see it? Filmmaker Bill Morrison crafts something magical here with a documentary that’s as mesmerizing as it is enlightening. Film footage, some lost for decades, shares the screen with period photographs capturing the birth, life, and near deaths of the Yukon town of Dawson City. It’s a meditative watch as history plays out before our eyes. Alex Somers’ haunting score, ambient noises, and the occasional talking head aid in this journey through history that thrills, enrages, and fascinates in equal measure. It’s an amazing experience that serves equally as well as a history of the land and of Hollywood. It may be a doc, but this is one of the year’s best films.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted postscript, interview, selected film reel clips]
The Devil’s Rain [Severin Films]
What is it? Don’t feed devil worshipers after midnight, and definitely, definitely, never get them wet.
Why see it? It may not be a 70s horror classic, but this is a fun flick all the same thanks to more than just its infamously gooey ending. William Shatner, Ida Lupino, and Ernest Borgnine ham things up nicely, Tom Skerritt anchors it with a more serious and heroic turn, and the devlish antics bring both a demon head and some melting Satanists. The bigger joy here is the bevy of extras that Severin has gathered both archival and new. The Skerritt interview is my personal favorite — his discovery that the film hired Anton LaVey as a technical advisor blows his mind — but others including a Church of Satan interview and a featurette with super fan Daniel Roebuck is fun too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]
Down [Blue Underground]
What is it? What goes up will kill you.
Why see it? Dick Maas’ US remake of his own Dutch original (The Lift) belongs in the small group of redos that actually improve upon the source. The core premise remains as a high-rise elevator begins taking people down (ie with murder!) leaving only a journalist and an elevator repairman to stop its reign of terror. The improvement here, though, comes in a far more fully developed embrace of its absurdity and a higher frequency of goofy mayhem. It’s bloody fun, and any movie that features an entertaining dog death is doing something right (because they’re normally painful and lazy). Like Blue Underground’s new Blu of the original, their Down release is restored and paired with some solid extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
Junior Bonner [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A rodeo champ long in the tooth sets his sights on a final blaze of glory.
Why see it? Sam Peckinpah’s filmography is best known for his tales of violence and misogyny, but nestled in among the likes of The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs sits this sweet, calm tale of family and determination. Steve McQueen takes the lead with a warm, playful performance, and he’s joined by the likes of Robert Preston, Joe Don Baker, Ida Lupino, Ben Johnson, and more. There are the expected bar fights, but the film’s action is mostly focused in the rodeo ring. (Ring? Court? I clearly don’t know the terminology here.) The core relationship is one of father and sons, and while there’s friction to boot there’s also an undeniable love for each other and the thrill of the rodeo scene. It’s a good, relaxing movie that leaves you smiling.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Scarecrow [Warner Archive]
What is it? Two drifters on a cross-country trek become friends along the highs and lows of their journey.
Why see it? This is every bit a 70s movie, and with that you get terrific performances and an earnest darkness. Gene Hackman and Al Pacino are both heading towards something while leaving something else behind, and in their bond they find a friendship that’s clearly new to them both. Both men have their issues as well as a real sincerity, and their choices are both heartfelt and heartbreaking. It’s unsurprisingly not a”happy” movie, but there are scenes of joy throughout, and we’re left with characters who feel lived-in which ultimately makes us care all the more.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? A young man inherits his family’s name and wealth but fails stay within the lines of his class.
Why see it? This is an oddly endearing film about a rich kid finding value in people, and its charms are evident in the performances of Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as basically the three leads. Bridges’ down home upper class Craig finds himself enamored with Field’s and Schwarzenegger’s respective hearts, and brawls, fiddles, and bodybuilder riots soon follow. The disc is free of extras, but the film is entertaining enough all on its own.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Age of Kill
What is it? A military sniper is forced to kill six people in six hours to save his own daughter’s life.
Why see it? There’s an interesting puzzle box setup at the start of this little British action picture — would you take a stranger’s life to save someone you love? — but the inherent drama and conflict of the situation isn’t milked nearly as well as you’d hope. Sam jumps pretty quick into killing, and while there’s a mildly intriguing story behind it all it’s difficult to get caught up in it all as the drama, action, and effects underwhelm.
[DVD extras: None]
Beyond the Seventh Door
What is it? Think Raiders of the Lost Ark meets a Croatian acting class.
Why see it? This low budget Canadian thriller isn’t a good movie by most standards — or any, really — but that doesn’t prevent it from being head-scratching fun. The lead comes from the Tommy Wiseau school of “acting” and emoting, and he can’t help but to suck the energy from the suspense of the various traps. For all that, though, the movie is weirdly entertaining in its tale of a wealthy man who not only sets pitfalls to stop thieves but also gives them clues via audio recordings. Madness! It builds to a fun little ending too resulting in 77 minutes well spent for fans of the not quite right.
[DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurette]
Broken Sword Hero
What is it? A boy grows into a man who grows into a legendary war hero.
Why see it? Thai action movies focused on martial arts are almost exclusively Muay Thai- based when it comes to their fighting style, and that’s not a bad thing as it’s a visually stylish and powerful type of combat. This period piece follows suit and delivers some engaging brawls, but it lacks a Tony Jaa-like personality at its core to hold attention when people aren’t fighting. The script and performances don’t help as both feel sloppy in their execution, and while a 90 minute action film might skate by on that action this one runs a full two hours leaving lots of room for dull downtime.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Cannon for Cordoba [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A ragtag group of soldiers set out on an impossible mission during the Mexican Revolution.
Why see it? George Peppard leads the pack here as head of the squad tasked with destroying six cannons before they fall into enemy hands, and as westerns go this is one of the rowdier ones. Elmer Bernstein’s score propels the action as manly men face off, talk trash, and spend some bath time with lovely ladies. It’s a fun romp with lots of gunplay and explosions sending dirt into the sky.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
The Dark Tower
What is it? A gunslinger seeks the man in black and needs the help of a young boy to stop him.
Why see it? Stephen King’s epic multi-book series was never going to work as a movie — an HBO series tackling one book per season would have been nice, though — and after multiple attempts this year finally saw an adaptation hit screens. As a King adaptation it’s hot garbage, but as a YA adventure? It’s actually pretty okay. The action is a mix of 90s style, cg, and slow motion antics, but there’s fun in the script, and both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey do interesting work. The more distance you have from King’s books the better you’ll probably like it unless you can just go in accepting its fate.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, bloopers, featurettes]
Halo – The Complete Video Collection
What is it? The best-selling video game series gave rise to several animated incarnations, and they’re all collected here.
Why see it? The Halo games have been blockbusters as both single-player and multi-player action games, and their intergalactic storyline offers plenty of room for tales about varied species, multiple wars, and numerous outcomes. Four films are collected here along with numerous extras, and they offer a mix of styles in animation and live-action. None of them are dramatic stunners, but fans of the games will enjoy seeing the narratives expanded with deep character dives and epic action.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
Land of the Dead [Scream Factory]
What is it? A walled community meant to keep out the dead crumbles beneath the hubris.
Why see it? George Romero’s fourth “Dead” film is also, not so coincidentally, his fourth best of the six. The fun gore effects are still present along with a slightly one-note social message, but it’s hurt by the use of cg blood far too often. Still, it’s a fun ride as Simon Baker, Asia Argento, and John Leguizamo stand up to the wealthy bastards led by Dennis Hopper. There’s lots of gunplay to go with the zombie chomping, and it’s a fun, satisfying flick all things considered.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K scan of theatrical version, interviews, deleted scenes, featurettes, commentaries]
The Lift [Blue Underground]
What is it? An elevator grows tired of life’s ups and downs and decides to add murder into the mix.
Why see it? Dick Maas’ high concept horror film has fun with a goofy premise, and its heroic pairing of a reporter and an elevator repairman also brings some entertainment of its own. As goofy as the premise is, though, the film doesn’t quite embrace it as well or as much as you’d hope. There’s a lot of downtime here as characters talk about things both related and not, and it leads to some thumb twiddling as we wait for someone else to wander into the elevator and get the shaft. It’s fun enough, though, and inexplicably unavailable on home video, so Blue Underground’s new Blu is a smartly restored gift.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interview, short film, booklet, reversible cover]
The Madness of King George
What is it? King George III is going mad, and it might just bring down a monarchy.
Why see it? This Academy Award nominated (and winner for Best Art Direction) costume drama is heavy on big performances and character drama, and it’s hard to find fault with its cast. Helen Mirren, Rupert Everett, Amanda Donohoe, and Ian Holms headline alongside Nigel Hawthorne as the mad king himself. There are comedic moments throughout, often at the expense of the king’s deteriorating mental health, but there’s a sadness that rears its head too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A day in the life of average New Yorkers, it isn’t.
Why see it? The cast here is appealing with the likes of Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, and Philip Baker Hall appearing throughout this ensemble piece of interwoven stories, but the whole is far less enjoyable. It’s eternally quirky, and while that’s not inherently a bad thing it just falls flat here as the characters seem to be trying so hard to stand out. The laughs suffer as a result, and even normally reliable funny folk like Cera and Jacobson are left feeling more awkward than humorous.
[DVD extras: Interview]
What is it? A rooster finds fame in the big city before realizing it’s the people back home he misses most.
Why see it? Don Bluth made his mark in video games (Dragon’s Lair) and movies (The Land Before Time), and while this Elvis-ish fable isn’t up to par with the latter it’s still a good time for the family. The songs are solid (and sung well by Glen Campbell), and there’s fun and heart in the admittedly familiar story about the grass on the other side of the fence not being as green as you think.
Slaughter High [Vestron Video]
What is it? Years after a high school prank left its victim disfigured those responsible return for a reunion they’ll never forget.
Why see it? As 80s slashers go this is one of the meaner ones as it revels not only in the bullying but also in the violent comeuppance. Bloody set-pieces carry it forward, but its other elements don’t fare as well as rough acting and writing leave something to be desired. The normally reliable Henry Manfredini’s score falls into that latter group as well unfortunately. The film has its big fans, though, and for them this new Blu from Vestron Video is a fantastic release with a remastered picture and some revealing extras.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews, alternate title sequence]
Young Doctors in Love [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? It’s like Airplane!, but on the ground and unfunny.
Why see it? Garry Marshal has gifted the world with numerous funny movies — well, Overboard and Pretty Woman anyway — but this hospital movie spoof goes broad without landing real laughs. The cast is great with the likes of Michael McKean, Sean Young, Dabney Coleman, Harry Dean Stanton, and Marshal stalwart Hector Elizondo. Hardcore fans of the spoof genre will probably enjoy the gags, but if nothing else the new Blu features a fun commentary track with fan Pat Healy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Also out this week:
Hermia & Helena, Scarecrow, Shadow Man, The Vampire’s Ghost, The Voice of the Moon
Related Topics: Home Video