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Twenty Five Good to Great New Releases on DVD/Blu-ray This Week, Plus Muck

By  · Published on March 24th, 2015

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! We were off last week due to SXSW 2015, so new releases from March 17th *and* March 24th are covered below.

If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.

The Sure Thing

Walter (John Cusack) is only in his first year of college, but he already realizes that he’s flunking at life’s most important subject ‐ love. Well, maybe that’s overstating things a bit, but he is lacking in the romance department, so when a friend on the West coast invites him for a visit with the promise of a sure thing in the form of a hot California girl jonesing to hook up Walter sets off on a cross-country drive. The one catch is the forced presence of Alison (Daphne Zuniga) on the road trip, but Walter’s willing to risk this hellish drive for a shot at female perfection. Surprise!

Rob Reiner’s second feature as director (sandwiched between This Is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me) is a sweet romantic comedy/road trip movie that manages to overcome its ultimate predictability with frequent laughs, real heart and some fun, enthusiastic performances. Yes, that includes Cusack, who in case you’ve forgotten used to display far more personality and vitality than his past decade plus of films would suggest. Like the movie itself he’s filled with energy, wit and a charisma that makes for a smile-inducing watch.

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

Gates of Heaven / Vernon Florida (Criterion)

Gates of Heaven interviews the patrons and owners of two rural Californian pet cemeteries as their plots are about to be evacuated for new entrepreneurial ventures, thus staging a patient examination of the unfixed line between capital and the sacred. Vernon, Florida gives an illustrative glimpse of several locals in a northern Florida small town, painting quirky character studies of small town life. It’s no wonder that Criterion didn’t package Vernon on its own, instead releasing a double feature of Errol Morris’s first two features. While an interesting film beautifully rendered here, the sub-hour-long documentary also displays some of the more superficial areas of focus into studies of eccentricity that would shape Morris’s work from Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control to Tabloid ‐ combined with the rural Southern setting, the film reads today as sub-Les Blank. (A revealing new interview included in the disc explains why Morris didn’t go with his original subject in Vernon, people who sever limbs in order to commit insurance fraud, giving the town the nickname “Nub City.”)

However, this set is worth the purchase for Gates of Heaven alone ‐ a stunning film that subtly examines humanity through its complex relationship with its furry friends ‐ here accompanied by a short documentary extra that features Werner Herzog eating his shoe based on a bet with Morris about the making of film. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Two new interviews with Morris; footage featuring Herzog from the 1980 Telluride Film Festival; Les Blank’s documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe; illustrated booklet with essay]

The Lady from Shanghai

Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles, who also writes and directs) narrates a tale of murder and intrigue recounting his experience working as a deck hand for a wealthy lawyer and his gorgeous femme fatale of a wife (Rita Hayworth). When a man is murdered somewhere along the journey Michael is charged with the crime and defended by his former boss.

This was Welles’ ninth film as director and he was already no stranger to troubled productions (and post-productions), but even with the problems behind the scenes this remains a particularly effective and fresh take on the noir genre. The story features some fine turns, the characters are rich and detailed and Welles has a fine time with his camera and editing decisions. And not for nothing, but Hayworth looks incredible with her much maligned short haircut.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Maude: The Complete Series

Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur) is a special woman, and no one knows it better than her. An outspoken liberal, Maude has opinions on everything and she’s unafraid to ensure they’re heard. Those in her direct line of fire ‐ her husband Walter (Bill Macy) and daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) ‐ have learned to give as good as they get.

Norman Lear spun this hit series from his own All In the Family, and the result is his typical, magical mix of cutting edge comedy and commentary. The focus of course is Arthur’s powerhouse central performance, and she delivers barbed wit at a mile a minute. The show courted controversy in its time touching on issues like racism (generated in part by the addition of Esther Rolle as Maude’s new housekeeper, Florida Evans, who eventually was spun off to her own sitcom, Good Times) and abortion. The latter hot-button topic is tackled in a two-parter that captivated America in the ’70s and remains engaging even today. Regardless of the show’s topicality the take-away here is that the show is still incredibly funny.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Two unaired episodes, featurettes, booklet]

My Girl

Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is only eleven years old, but she already has something of an obsession with the idea of death. Her mother died shortly after giving birth, her father is a small-town mortician and Vada just knows that she’ll probably be dead soon too. Her neighbor, Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin), becomes her constant summer companion, and together they discover a few months of fun, adventure and friendship.

Chlumsky is currently killing it on HBO’s Veep, but even in her debut it was clear she had the goods. She brings real heart to a fantastic little coming-of-age tale alongside solid supporting turns from Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and Culkin. It also works as a litmus test for those you suspect may not actually be human ‐ if they don’t shed some tears during the film’s third act you are probably in the presence of an alien being. Sony’s reissued this funny, sweet and heartbreaking film to Blu-ray with a newly remastered picture and some new special features.

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

The Roommates / A Woman for All Men

A group of friendly young women head to Lake Arrowhead for a relaxing summer, but they find more than they bargained for ‐ well, they expect and find lots of sex, but who knew a knife-wielding, gun-toting killer would be vacationing there too? Film two finds a trophy wife running into trouble when she marries a wealthy old man and crosses his two sons in the process. “Crosses” is a euphemism.

The second film is pretty straight forward, and aside from a cast that includes recognizable faces like Andy Robinson, Keenan Wynn and Alex Rocco it’s a mildly entertaining albeit generic affair. The gem of this double feature though, and the thing that makes it worth picking up, is The Roommates. At its core the movie is a mix of frequently naked/nearly naked young ladies and a mad killer, but the surprise is that the damn thing is incredibly funny. Even better, most of the laughs are intentional! The killer subplot is secondary to the girls’ sexy summer shenanigans, but even there the movie does a good job delivering a series of red herrings to keep things interesting. The killer’s motivation is as generic as they come, but it plays out in an interesting manner. Gorgon Video resurrects these two softcore drive-in flicks from director and exploitation-dabbler Arthur Marks and gives them their first home video release.

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

The Thin Blue Line (Criterion)

Between the popularity of Serial and The Jinx, the legacy of The Thin Blue Line and its examination of a wrongful death sentence in the 1976 murder of a Texas policeman, is more than evident in a culture seemingly hungry for nonfiction whodunits. But Errol Morris’s film isn’t only a great nonfiction true crime drama: it shaped the face of mainstream documentary filmmaking by offering a compelling example about how nonfiction can not only observe reality, but take an active role in shaping it.

Criterion’s release of The Thin Blue Line shows off this accomplished film with a much-needed upgrade while providing useful context around the film with essays, interviews, and archival news footage collectively appreciating its extensive lifetime that resonated well beyond its end credits, ultimately freeing an innocent man from jail as a result. The influence of Morris’s work is evident today in documentary features, series, and podcasts, but very few works come close to this painterly and compelling rendering of filmmaking as advocacy. ‐ Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New interviews with Morris and Act of Killing director Joshua Oppenheimer; 1989 NBC report covering the film’s subject; illustrated booklet with essay]

Best Seller

Dennis Meechum (Brian Dennehy) is a cop turned bestselling thriller writer, but when a mysterious man named Cleve (James Woods) approaches him with a story Dennis realizes he has one hell of a new plot on his hands. Too bad he might not live to see how it ends. This late-’80s thriller from writer Larry Cohen is exactly the kind of mid-range thriller Hollywood rarely releases these days, and it’s a damn shame. Woods and Dennehy are both solid here with strong characters set against a twisting narrative punctuated with frequent acts of violence. It’s a slick, fun movie that sits comfortably on the same shelf as titles like F/X and Narrow Margin, and you better believe that’s a compliment.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]


Florida in the summer is usually associated with happiness, but when war vet Emmett Foley (Gary Oldman) goes on a manic shooting spree and is sent to a mental hospital he discovers life beneath the beating sun can be pure torture too. The institution is a cruel and disgusting place, and while the rest of the inmates accept the treatment Emmett decides to take a stand. This is a true story that led to actual reform, but viewers have to make it through a lot of filth and pain before Emmett’s efforts begin to take shape. It’s worth it though for Oldman’s typically fantastic performance.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]


Horace Robedaux (Lukas Haas) is a young boy with adult responsibilities, and the most pressing is buying a headstone for his father’s grave. He goes to work on an old man’s (Robert Duvall) farm, but what should have been a simple and impersonal ordeal becomes instead a coming of age tale set against the backdrop of early 20th century rural America. This is a fine character drama, but the narrative is nearly as dry as the Texas landscape it takes place upon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing ‐ it just means the film’s origin as a play comes through in the film experience too and we’re left with strong performances and engaging characters that far outweigh anything resembling a story.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Digging Up the Marrow

Adam Green is no stranger to things that go bump in the night, but when he receives a letter from someone claiming to have evidence of monsters roaming free in the real world he excitedly but cautiously explores the man’s claims. It seems Dekker has discovered places in the Earth where the deformed abominations of our species retreat, and one of them happens to be in a nearby cemetery. Green isn’t much of an actor, but he’s an enthusiastic bastard whose giddiness at the prospect of having seen an honest to god monster with his own eyes is surprisingly infectious. Ray Wise is as fantastic as expected and shows off the same wild glint in his eyes that made his turn on Twin Peaks so damn memorable three decades ago. He can turn from playful to menacing lightning quick, and that uncertainty makes for a thrilling guide in the darkness. It’s slight fun to be sure, but it is fun. It’s a quick watch made by and for people entertained by all things monstrous, and that spirit combined with some fresh creature effects make for a creepily amusing good time.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]

The Divine Move

Tae-seok knows the game of GO forwards and backwards, but when he loses a game under unusual pressure it results in the murder of his brother and jail time. He uses that time wisely though, training his mind and body, and when he gets out he puts his revenge plan into motion. This Korean production features some well-choreographed fights, but at nearly two hours the film’s a bit flabby with non-essential scenes ostensibly meant to bolster characters and subplots that don’t quite go anywhere worthwhile. The GO play is featured prominently, but while it looks similar to Othello there appear to be some clear differences that make it seem far more complicated.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

The End of Violence

Mike Max (Bill Pullman) is a big-time Hollywood producer made rich and famous off the box-office of violent hit movies, but when he finds himself in a near-death situation at the wrong end of a gun barrel he views it as a chance to reevaluate his life. Wim Wenders’ exploration of media and consumption might have worked better had it focused solely on Mike’s journey, but it also diverges to follow a mysterious scientist (Gabriel Byrne) spying on the city via satellite and a developing romance between a detective and a stunt woman. Neither of those two are nearly as engaging or emotional as the main thread, and instead they drag the film’s momentum down.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Two powerful men ‐ brothers from other mothers and great friends since childhood ‐ find their relationship tested when the father of one (but guardian to both) makes it known which of the two he prefers. Division, betrayal and mass casualties soon follow as the two former best of friends become the worst of enemies. Marvel’s Thor films tackle this setup with a sense of fun, Shakespearean drama and a believably strained bond between Thor and Loki. Ridley Scott’s equally mythical take on a similar subject is adapted from a slightly older source material than the comics, but the result is something far more ridiculous and far less engaging. Exodus: Gods and Kings aims for an epic feel built on the back of a personal, emotionally-fueled feud, but neither the big nor the small conflicts ever achieve the intended effect and instead leave viewers with a bloated, scattershot and unnecessary take on a familiar tale.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, commentary]

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

With Smaug out of the picture, Bard the handy human and his fellow mortals head up Lonely Mountain to claim their share of the horded gold, but the dwarves ‐ led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) ‐ make a stand saying it all belongs to them. The Elf king, Thranduil (Lee Pace), also arrives with his army in tow, and they’re all soon joined by a legion of dwarves arriving to support Thorin. It’s already a stand-off of Tarantino-esque proportions, but by the time the goblin hordes show up the fight card is filled to the cinematic brim and ready to paint the mountain red. This is the final installment of Peter Jackson’s (arguably unnecessary) trilogy adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, and while it’s neither the best nor the worst of the three films it brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. Mostly because it is a conclusion, but still.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Mark of the Devil

Witches were a real problem once upon a time ‐ they themselves weren’t real of course, but the Catholic Church had no concern for pesky little details like that. Count Christian (Udo Kier, younger than you’ve ever recalled seeing him) is an apprentice to the great Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom), a legendary witch hunter of great renowned, but as he follows in his mentor’s footsteps he comes to realize that witch trials are bogus and people are being victimized. Marketed as the most horrific, violent and grotesque film in existence this blood and boob-filled drama is essentially a costume drama stitched together by torture scenes. They don’t quite have the power to shock anymore, but they remain cringe-worthy and gross. Arrow Video’s first foray into North America won’t be to everyone’s taste, but fans will love the remastered picture and extras.

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

Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean

Socially awkward but completely unaware of the fact, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is something of an acquired taste, and you already know if this particular character is for you. If he is then Shout! Factory’s new release is a must-have as it collects all fourteen original episodes, each brimming with scenes and sketches dropping Bean into all manner of mundane and ridiculous situations. For me this is a character I can only take in short bursts ‐ he’s not marathon material.

[DVD extras: Missing scenes, documentary]


A group of pricks and bitches are being attacked by shirtless guys covered in flour, and most everybody dies. This is a pretty terrible horror film (and film in general) filled with unlikable characters and a flat-out refusal to start or end the story. Instead we’re dropped into the middle of it all ‐ the friends are running, wounded and scared, from something, and when those somethings appear we’re given no idea as to who they are or where they came from, and it all ends with the survivors essentially saying “Oh no what’s this now?” So no story and no characters, but at least the case proudly declares it’s free of CGI (and apologies) ‐ except there’s no practical effects either. It’s bloody, but there’s no real gore effects to be excited about. The killers are poorly designed mutes with sloppy make-up and at least one bald cap. Finally, even if the lack of scares, suspense, story, characters and worthwhile effects weren’t enough to turn you off there’s the matter of the film being little more than an excuse to ogle half naked women (more than one of them being past winners of Miss Cape Cod) ‐ I don’t have a problem with that in theory, but here it’s done at the expense of everything else. Apparently women always strip down to the underwear when they go to the bathroom at bars. Apparently women can’t resist the urge to ogle themselves when they pass by a mirror. Even the opening credits are an excuse to ogle a topless woman who’s clearly fearing for her life. So yeah, Muck sucks.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Son of a Gun

JR (Brenton Thwaites) is new to jail and quickly finds himself under the wing of career criminal Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). The price of that protection is service on the outside ‐ service meaning becoming an accomplice in a daring jail break and an even more dangerous robbery. There’s a heavy predictability at play here, but director Julius Avery keeps things energetic and exciting throughout ‐ the centerpiece gunfight in particular is fantastic. The two leads also give electric performances as substitute father/son to each other, and while elements of other films come to mind throughout they make this story their own for a little while at least.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]

Song One

Startled by her estranged brother’s recent brush with death, Franny (Anne Hathaway) returns to Brooklyn to explore the life he was living and instead finds something new in her own. Love. Love is what she finds in the form of a shy but talented musician. There’s nothing wrong with this film ‐ Hathaway is good, the music is better, the romance is expected ‐ but the story doesn’t fully engage. Last year’s Begin Again told a wholly different romantic tale set against the music scene but managed to do so with more engaging characters.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]

Top Five

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) made the move from successful stand-up comedian to movie star years ago, but after a string of popular comedies he’s been trying to get into more serious roles with little success. On the eve of his latest dramatic premiere he agrees to spend the day with a journalist (Rosario Dawson), and as they walk around the city and share stories he comes to make some difficult decisions. This is a frequently funny film, thanks mostly to several interactions that devolve into comedic exchanges between professional laugh-makers ‐ JB Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Jay Pharoah and others ‐ but the dramatic elements aren’t as successful.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes]

Troop Beverly Hills

Phyllis Nefler (Shelley Long) is in the middle of a cantankerous divorce with a man she still loves, but her priority is her daughter. She volunteers to lead the Beverly Hills Wilderness Girls troop, one that’s been long-derided by the other local chapters, and through her time with the girls everybody learns important lessons. Hooray! This is a beloved ’80s classic to some people, so this newly remastered release is cool for them. It certainly has some charms, and seeing Carla Gugino as a child actress ‐ with the same voice ‐ is really weird, but much of the comedy plays quite broad.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

Turn: Washington’s Spies ‐ The Complete First Season

Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) is little more than a quiet farmer when the Revolutionary War breaks out around him, but he quickly realizes that a side has to be chosen. He goes with America, obviously, and together with some childhood friends works to turn the tide against England. AMC’s historical action/drama is solid television with a capable cast and entertaining action sequences, and the characters/storylines are engaging enough. It’s not a flashy show, as evidenced by the fact that no one’s talking about it, but it’s worth a watch for history buffs/fans in particular.

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


Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was an Olympic athlete before shipping off to fight in World War II, but his greatest challenge comes when his ship is sunk and he’s left afloat at sea on a life raft for six weeks. He’s rescued, but it’s by the Japanese, and his time in a POW camp is enough to have him longing for the uncertainty of the open ocean again. Angelina Jolie directs this true story, and with a powerful lead performance by O’Connell at its center the result is an entertaining and occasionally epic tale of perseverance. It doesn’t have much weight in the end, but it’s an important accomplishment for Jolie’s sophomore effort behind the camera.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]


VICE is a resort where anything goes ‐ guests can fulfill their fantasies no matter how sexual, violent or just plain weird they may be, and it’s all made possible by the presence of synthetic humanoids ready to be screwed, killed or worse for pleasure. Trouble arises when one of the artificial ladies escapes into public setting in motion a face-off between the resort’s CEO (Bruce Willis) and a cop (Thomas Jane) with morals. Director Brian A. Miller delivers a competent but immediately forgettable action/thriller here ‐ it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

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

Vincent & Theo

Vincent van Gogh (Tim Roth) found no success in his lifetime, but that didn’t stop him from creating art until the very end. His final years are explored here as his madness intensifies and his brother Theo (Paul Rhys) struggles to share Vincent’s art with the world. Director Robert Altman tells van Gogh’s story more as art than pure biography as he immerses viewers into the downward spiral of an artistic genius and his brother who knows he’s fighting a losing battle. It’s an attractive, slow-moving experience.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Dexter: Most Shocking Episodes, Diamond Heist, The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown!, Halo: Nightfall, John Ford: Dreaming the Quiet Man, LA Apocalypse, Lonesome Dove: Church, Marvel Knights: Wolverine versus Sabretooth Reborn, Memory Lane, Penguins of Madagascar, Ride the Pink Horse (Criterion), The Soft Skin (Criterion), Something Wicked, Song of the Sea, The Way He Looks, The Wild One

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.