Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for January 9th (and the 2nd too)! This week’s home video selection includes The Holdovers, Varsity Blues in 4K, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
What is it? A bristly professor sees his heart melt just a little bit at Christmas.
Why see it? Paul Giamatti has always been a reliable actor, but he too often settles for the low hanging fruit. His latest film, however, lets him cut loose doing what he does best. He’s a bundle of angry energy and a tightly wound nice guy in hiding, and when he’s stuck on campus over the holiday with only an unruly teen and a sad kitchen lady as company, those competing halves find themselves in conflict more than ever. Alexander Payne’s latest is arguably among his most purely entertaining as a smartly written comedy about people finding each other at just the right time. Giamatti is brilliant, Divine Joy Randolph is fantastic, and Dominic Sessa walks a fine line as an annoying shit who grows on you. If there’s a knock here, it’s that Universal will probably be releasing a 4K UHD later this year.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Odds Against Tomorrow [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Three crooks let racism undercut the score of their lives.
Why see it? The great Robert Wise directs this suspenseful heist film that sees Robert Ryan and Ed Begley team up with Harry Belafonte for a massive robbery, but tempers flare when one of the men’s racial attitude gets in the way. Part crime film, part social commentary, this is a rock solid thriller pairing its heist set-piece with human conflict. Shelley Winters co-stars, and the whole is a beautifully acted powder keg brought to a violent and exciting conclusion. It doesn’t get talked up much on lists of heist films, but it’s absolutely worth a watch to see how that genre element is intertwined with the best and worst of humanity.
[Extras: Commentary, Q&As]
The Facts of Murder [Radiance]
What is it? A detective, a robbery, a murder, a suspect.
Why see it? Pietro Germi directs and stars in the lead role here as a tired detective on the hunt for a thief before being redirected to hunt for a killer. The film plays out like a procedural of sorts as our dogged cops work their way through suspects, evidence, and their own biases. It’s a solid affair that, while it never really rises beyond that, still delivers a compelling watch anchored by Germi’s charismatic performance. The mystery itself is fine, but it’s ultimately the characters and the film’s attractive cinematography that holds the eye. Radiance’s new Blu-ray — also available as part of their World Noir collection — is the beautifully crafted release you’re expecting.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interview, documentary, visual essay]
The Flying Swordsman: Out for Revenge
What is it? A lost treasure brings both heroes and villains together.
Why see it? The Chinese streaming service iQIYI has delivered some real action bangers recently including two that made my list of 2023’s best action movies, but this wuxia isn’t quite on par. It’s an attractive film for the most part with some lush visuals and solid enough action, but both of those plusses hit real snags. On the visual front, it’s an abundance of CG that tempers any real appreciation, and the story is burdened with an unnecessary flashback structure that just gets in the way of real character connection. Worth a spin if you have time to kill I suppose.
Has Anybody Seen My Gal [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A wealthy man determines if another family deserves his fortune.
Why see it? Director Douglas Sirk leaves the melodrama behind for this silly musical about greed, its opposite, and a whole lotta dancing. Rock Hudson headlines alongside Piper Laurie and an uncredited James Dean, and there’s minor fun to be had as a regular family is tested by the millionaire to see if they’re worthy. Chaos, confusion, and catharsis follows. It’s a fine enough film that might just scratch an itch for musical fans looking for ones thay haven’t seen yet.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
The Hell With Heroes [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? World War II veterans plan for a comfortable life back home.
Why see it? Rod Taylor and Pete Duel headline this WWII drama about two pilots doing what they can for the money, but despite some action beats inserted throughout the film it all feels rather tepid. The performances are fine, and it’s always good seeing Taylor, Duel, and Kevin McCarthy, but the whole fails to grab hold. The case is made that the filmmakers, all television veterans, were simply unprepared for a feature production resulting in a movie that feels better suited for the small screen. Still, fans will be happy with Kino’s new Blu-ray giving the film a new restoration and an informative commentary track.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary]
Please, Not Now!
What is it? A romantic comedy with rifles.
Why see it? Roger Vadim directs this mixed bag of a rom-com that sets Brigitte Bardot as a woman scorned who decides revenge is the best plan. So far so good, but the young man who sets his own sights on her brings something a bit ickier to the table. Bardot brings spice, though, so if that’s enough for you the film’s male gaze will satisfy. Those looking for sharp comedy or engaging characters will be out of luck.
The Road to Hong Kong [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and a whole lot of yellow face.
Why see it? The last of Bing Crosby’s and Bob Hope’s seven-film “Road” series is both the wackiest and the most troublesome. There are laughs here as Hope and friends are funny folk, but the yellow face is an unfortunate leftover from cultures past. Accept that and there are good, weird times to be had with guest stars Dorothy Lamour, Peter Sellars, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, David Niven, and more. Don’t make it your first Road movie, but get to it eventually.
S&M Hunter Begins
What is it? The origin story of The Roper!
Why see it? First off, no this is not a Three’s Company prequel. It’s also, despite being advertised as such, a prequel to 1986’s fantastically perverse S&M Hunter. Why? Well, because it was made and released a full year before S&M Hunter meaning that film is a sequel to this one. Confused? Don’t worry, the film still delivers what you’re looking for in its tight forty-minute running time. We learn how The Roper — a master ropesman who uses it to bind and control unruly, bad-tempered women — found his calling and lost his eye. The bondage is alternately mean-spirited and sexy, depending on your own interests, and there’s a bit of wit at play as well. The follow-up magnifies everything making for the superior watch, but pinku fans will be happy.
Varsity Blues [4K UHD]
What is it? The late 90s in moving picture form.
Why see it? Friday Night Lights came five years later and grabbed the critical and commercial attention, but fans of the 90s will stick with this one as it captures the decade’s nuances well. From the soundtrack to the lack of social awareness, it’s an engaging enough time for those interested in the highs, lows, and dramas of high school football. James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Amy Smart, Paul Walker, Scott Caan, Ali Larter, and Jesse Plemons star.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Also out this week:
The Apu Trilogy [4K UHD, Criterion], Blood Simple [4K UHD, Criterion], Everyone Will Burn, Forced Vengeance [Shout Factory], The Marsh King’s Daughter, Old Boy [4K UHD], The Outside Man [KL Studio Classics], Split Image [KL Studio Classics], St. Ives [Shout Factory], Suitable Flesh, Telefon [Shout Factory]
Related Topics: Home Video