‘A Ghost Story’ Offers a Healing Salve for a Grieving World

Plus 17 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

A Ghost Story

A Ghost StoryWhat is it? A man dies but returns as a ghost to witness what comes next and what came before.

Why see it? I’ve avoided this one since its Sundance premiere because I’m not fan of the last David Lowery/Casey Affleck/Rooney Mara film *and* because the internet wouldn’t shut up about Mara’s thirty minute pie-eating scene. That was my loss as having finally watched it the film has revealed itself to be among the best of the year. It’s quiet and meditative, but it’s also a stunningly beautiful look at life, love, death, grief, and the necessary importance of the passage of time. Affecting imagery, a compelling score, and an ending guaranteed to leave you wrecked (provided you’ve been paying attention) all come together for a fantastic film and message that’s sadly an important one in today’s world.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scene, commentary]


The Best

A Fish Called Wanda [Arrow Video]

A Fish Called WandaWhat is it? A bumbling barrister crosses paths with a criminal quartet.

Why see it? Kevin Kline is a god among men and earns his Academy Award win with every second of his performance here as an off-kilter American thug. Yes, the jokes about Michael Palin’s stuttering are excessive, but Kline’s bristling ass of a character is the one we’re laughing at. He’s gives a tremendously physical performance that finds laughs in gestures big and small. John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis round out the fun with both of them bringing big laughs as a good guy and a sexy con artist, respectively. Arrow’s new Blu is beautiful and loaded with extras.

[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary with John Cleese, making of, documentaries, interviews, deleted scenes]

The Hidden [Warner Archive]

The HiddenWhat is it? An alien parasite capable of turning innocent people into killers wreaks havoc across Los Angeles.

Why see it? This late 80s slice of action/sci-fi mayhem remains a highly entertaining ride filled with gun play, fast cars, and slimy creature effects. Michael Nouri gets his best role as a cop forced to accept the wacky truth behind the crimes, but it’s a young Kyle MacLachlan who stands out as an FBI agent with a secret of his own. Roger Ebert called it “a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Terminator,” and he’s not wrong. It’s fun, thrilling, and loaded with cinematic violence. Fans will love the new Blu — director Jack Sholder’s commentary is a solid listen with details and anecdotes a plenty — and genre lovers should consider it a blind buy.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette]

Kick-Ass (4K UltraHD)

Kick AssWhat is it? A teenager decides to become a superhero.

Why see it? The sequel may have been a loud, unexciting mess, but Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 original is still a thrilling and very funny hero yarn that goes out of its way to earn its R-rating. Harsh language, bloody kills, and an ass-kicking pre-teen add darker tones, but the sharp script keeps things breezy and fun more often than not. The film plays with the genre’s conventions a bit along the way too making for the most unconventional superhero movie since Hancock. Not every film is worth a 4K upgrade, but this one delivers with bright colors and an incredibly sharp picture which brings the film vibrantly to life.

[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentary]

Popcorn [Synapse Films]

PopcornWhat is it? An all-night horror movie marathon takes a dark turn when a real killer begins stalking the theater.

Why see it? The core premise here is that of a slasher, but that central narrative is draped across a loving ode to genre cinema and events of days gone by. Old-school 50s schlock plays on the big screen as the slasher shenanigans go down, and the film infuses the murders with gags and humorous dialogue as viewers try to stay a step ahead of the killer’s game. It’s a good, fun movie, but it’s Synapse’s extra features that make it an even more entertaining release with both an entertaining commentary and a brand new documentary exploring the film’s production. Interviews and anecdotes reveal what happen to the original lead, why they shot in Jamaica, and more.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, interview]

Superman: The Movie

SupermanWhat is it? An alien comes to earth as a child and grows up to be a super man.

Why see it? Richard Donner’s late 70s comic book movie remains among the best at capturing a hero’s character, and the late Christopher Reeve’s performance seals the deal. It’s a classic in its structure and execution, and Gene Hackman still has yet to be beat as an over the top super villain. The film’s worth owning period, but WB’s new Blu steps up its value with two versions — Donner’s 151 minute director’s cut, and the extended TV cut that runs a whopping 188 minutes. Each cut is on its own Blu-ray, and we also get a wealth of supplements detailing the film’s production.

[Blu-ray extras: Extended cut and special edition, commentary, documentaries, deleted scenes]

The Survivalist

The SurvivalistWhat is it? A man lives on the edge of a post-apocalyptic nightmare where savagery has replaced decency.

Why see it? There’s a beauty here despite the ugliness constantly butting up against it. The landscape is gorgeous, especially when devoid of humanity, and the survivalist’s isolated lifestyle contains a stark attraction. It’s the contrast though that stands this film apart from many of its post-apocalyptic peers. There’s nothing stylish or cool about these characters or their wardrobe. There’s nothing enviable in their daily conflicts. Instead they’re dirty, tired, and struggling each day to ensure they see the next. Is it truly surviving if it’s a life spent fearful, miserable, and alone?

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, short films]


The Rest

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EvilWhat is it? A bullied boy gains devilish powers after calling a number for his “horroscope.”

Why see it? Robert Englund’s first directorial feature — that’s right, he went on to make a second one called Killer Pad (?) — shares some traits with his acting style in that it’s loud and somewhat over the top. This isn’t necessarily a criticism as they fit with the film’s trashy, bloody aesthetic. The bigger issue is Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night) in the lead role. He can’t quite manage the necessary empathy while he’s bullied, and we don’t buy him as a threat once he turns evil. Still, there’s messy fun to be had here, and the brand new commentary offers some interesting thoughts from Englund. It’s a solid release from Sony’s Columbia Pictures label, and hopefully it’s the start of more horror titles to come.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, alternate home video version]

The Book of Henry

The Book Of HenryWhat is it? A precocious boy suspects his neighbor is being abused by her father, and he puts a plan in motion to stop it.

Why see it? Colin Trevorrow’s post-Jurassic World drama is the closest we’ve seen to a repeat of the utter lunacy of 2014’s Winter’s Tale. That’s a good thing. The plot is bonkers in the directions it heads and the turns it takes, and while not a single character is realistic there’s entertainment in their ridiculousness. It’s occasionally jaw-dropping, but that doesn’t stop the film from thinking it’s also a heartfelt tale of love — because it’s not. It’s too unintentionally silly to manage anything remotely emotional. Side note, after losing him in Shut In and ignoring him here I think little Jacob Tremblay should really consider a restraining order against Naomi Watts.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Churchill

ChurchillWhat is it? The days before the Allied invasion at Normandy challenge Winston Churchill like few things had before.

Why see it? Brian Cox in a rare lead role is reason enough to seek out this historical drama focused on a very specific time in the great leader’s life, and in any other year — specifically one in which Gary Oldman wasn’t also starring in a biopic on CHurchill — it might have caught some award buzz. The film itself is good with plenty of strong character work as Churchill debates the war with himself and others. The film’s ultimately a nod to trusting those you love and respect with his wife (Miranda Richardson) being a powerful voice of reason for the man.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

Cult of Chucky

Cult Of ChuckyWhat is it? Chucky returns to clean up loose ends in an asylum where his previous near-victim is holed up.

Why see it? The seventh film in the nearly thirty year old franchise is a good enough return for Chucky as his size 3 sneakers. He’s once again brought to life mostly through puppets and animatronic creations, and the effect works well compared to films that rely on cg. It’s still hard for me to take him seriously as a threat of course as I’m confident I could take him, but he catches most of his prey off guard to deliver some bloody deaths along the way. The best bits in the film land in the third act, but one of the disc’s high points is a short doc made by Tony Gardner’s college-aged daughter celebrating how the franchise has given birth to a family of friends and filmmakers over the years.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary, unrated/R-rated versions]

The Game Changer

The Game ChangerWhat is it? Two ex-cons join a gang, but someone’s lying about their street cred.

Why see it? There are some very familiar threads running through this narrative, but their generic nature never get in the way of what counts — the action. Gun play, car chases, some fisticuffs… the film is heavy on the action. It’s set-piece action though meaning it’s never content being simple and straightforward. Everything becomes something bigger which in this case translates into lots of cg assists. It’s still fun of course — a horse-drawn cart jumps from a second floor to the street below, so yeah, goofy but fun.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Home for the Holidays [Shout Select]

Home For The HolidaysWhat is it? A woman heads home for Thanksgiving after being fired only to find that the holiday can always get worse.

Why see it? Jodie Foster’s second feature as director (and first where she doesn’t appear onscreen at all) captures the chaos of holidays with the family quite well. She stacks the comedy/drama with heavy hitters like Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, and more, and their chemistry is is terrific throughout with beats both comedic and emotional landing well. You know where the story’s going to end up

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with Jodie Foster]

Jackals [Scream Factory]

JackalsWhat is it? A family liberates their grown son from a cult and tries to free his mind with the help of a professional deprogrammer, but the cult members aren’t letting go that easy.

Why see it? This is two-thirds of a slick, smart, and fun little home invasion thriller with a strong cast including Johnathon Schaech and Stephen Dorff. There are some unexpected turns and smarter than usual character behaviors that build suspense and momentum — and then it all just stops. The script gives up, the characters follow suit, and the audience isn’t far behind. It’s a shame as until then the film shows real style and grit.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]

Justice League: The New Frontier – Commemorative Edition

Jl New FrontierWhat is it? A threat from outer space forces disparate superheroes to combine forces and work together to stop it.

Why see it? This feature length adventure, based on Darwyn Cooke’s popular graphic novel, crafts a Cold War-set tale that sees heroes under government watch and a suspicious populace wary of people who are different. The scenario sadly speaks to truth about people that sometimes leaves others unsure if they’re worth the trouble of helping. As heavy as that sounds, the main thrust here is big fun against an alien threat, and it delivers action and thrills on the way towards the forming of the Justice League.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries]

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Pirates Dead Man Tell No TalesWhat is it? A ghostly sea captain sets sail on a quest for revenge against Jack Sparrow.

Why see it? The fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie feels like the twenty-fifth and is a big, loud slog that fails to muster the energy necessary to carry it across its 129-minute running time. There’s little distinguish one moment from the next, one ship to the next, etc, and a Moses-like parting of the sea aside the sea-based antics blend together into a dull, ultramarine-tinted stew of sameness. Supporting players do competent work, but four of the five leads do more damage than anything else here. Johnny Depp is doing his late-career Depp shtick, Javier Bardem is trying desperately to ham it up from behind prosthetics to little effect, and our supposed romantic leads exude not even an ounce of chemistry between them. It’s a slog. (Also available on 4K UltraHD)

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, bloopers, deleted scenes]

The Suspicious Death of a Minor [Arrow Video]

The Suspicious DeathWhat is it? A child prostitute is murdered, and one cop isn’t about to let it go unpunished.

Why see it? Sergio Martino’s made both pure giallos and straight “poliziotteschi” thrillers (cop movies), but this 1975 feature mashed the two together with a heavier lean toward the latter. A killer roams the streets while our cop chases down powerful men, and all the threads come together by the end. It’s traditional in a lot of ways, but it delivers some solid thrills throughout. Arrow’s new Blu-ray looks fantastic and features a typically comprehensive commentary from Troy Howarth.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interview]

The Wizard of Lies [HBO]

The Wizard Of LiesWhat is it? The most elaborate and infamous Ponzi scheme yet discovered collapses around its creator, Bernie Madoff.

Why see it? Barry Levinson directs this HBO movie about a financial scam without peer, and while there are turns here both fascinating and depressing the film’s power sits with its two lead performances. Michelle Pfeiffer is terrific as Madoff’s beleaguered wife whose suffering begins anew after his conviction, and after years of lame comedies and lazy riffs Robert De Niro decides it’s time to show he can still act with an aggressive turn as the man who stole billions from Americans.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]


Also out this week:

AHS: Roanoke, Children of the Corn [Arrow Video], Don’t Torture a Duckling [Arrow Video], Haunters: The Art of the Scare, iZombie – The Complete Third Season, Legend of Bruce Lee – Volume Three, The Ornithologist, Sniper: Ultimate Kill, The Son – The Complete First Season, Vampyr [Criterion Collection], Vikings – Season 4 Volume 2