Pick of the Week
What is it? A man tries to escape his European homeland to America before fascist soldiers arrive.
Why see it? Christian Petzold’s latest film tackles themes familiar to his past work, most notably his brilliant Phoenix (2014), but where that film remains firmly grounded in its period Transit takes the bold step of becoming timeless. As much a tale out of World War II Europe as it is today, the film blends suspense, romance, and a sharp commentary on our collective response to ongoing atrocities. It wouldn’t take much for any of us to be labeled a refugee, and the film explores the reality faced by such people every day in beautiful and devastating ways.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interviews, Q&A]
What is it? The adventures of two best friends in New York City.
Why see it? There are numerous comedy shows about people living in the Big Apple, but few (if any) managed to be as honest as this collaboration between Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Both young women are comedic dynamos displaying wit, creativity, and a willingness to portray characters who challenge preconceptions every minute of the day. The episodes are fast and funny watches as we follow them through relationships, jobs, dreams, and daily tribulations, and the set includes all kinds of behind the scenes extras to extend our time with them.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? An anthology of five supernatural tales.
Why see it? The beauty of a horror anthology is that if you don’t like an entry you just need to wait twenty minutes for the next, but happily this 1940s gem doesn’t really include a stinker. The highlight for many is the final tale involving a creepy-ass ventriloquist dummy, but the others are good spooky fun. In addition to a restored picture, the new Blu-ray includes a look back at the film’s relevance and the typically informative commentary by Tim Lucas.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras:New 4K restoration, commentary, documentary]
What is it? A giant moth does its thing.
Why see it? Godzilla gets all the glory and sequels, but 1961’s Mothra stands apart for its creature’s colorful beauty and transformative presence. From egg to caterpillar to moth, this beast is something different, and its mythology is equally unique with the tiny twin fairies who communicate with it. This new Blu comes in a slick steelbook with clear plastic sleeve (with additional artwork), two versions of the film, and a detailed commentary. It’s a great pickup for fans.
[Blu-ray extras:Japanese and US versions, commentary]
What is it? A magical boy introduces some children to adventure and danger in Neverland.
Why see it? JM Barrie’s classic tale has come to the screen multiple times over the years, but this silent effort from 1924 was the first feature adaptation. It was a big hit, too, and it’s easy to see why as the popular book and stage production becomes more magical with movie magic. The story is exactly how you remember it, but there’s a bit of a thrill seeing these youthful performers — now long dead — bring this fantastical tale to life with more wonder and visual splendor than the stage could offer. Kino’s new Blu is (as expected) a joy, and while the film falls out of copyright next year this is the release you want to own.
[Blu-ray extras:New 2K restoration, commentary, interview]
What is it? A woman enters a mysterious town in search of her missing daughter.
Why see it? Christophe Gans’ film remains one of the best video game adaptations going in large part because it embraces the source material’s dream-like atmosphere and very specific — and beautifully nightmarish — visuals. The story comes down to one involving monsters, a cult, and a devilish child, but the core is one about family, and it’s not afraid to pack bleak reveals alongside the gory goods. Toss in genre queen Radha Mitchell and you have a fun and weird time at the movies. What lifts this release above the fray, though, is the collection of extras that Scream Factory includes here including a new commentary and some new interviews.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes]
What is it? An agent investigating a missing person finds a far away city in distress.
Why see it? Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 feature is considered a classic by many, but at the risk of having to turn in my Film Twitter membership card, this is a film that does nothing for me. It intentionally distances itself from viewers with an artistic intent and abhorrence of convention ensuring that moviegoers interested in plot and character will find little of either here. To be clear, I expect I’m in the minority here, but my tastes simply don’t align with the experimental nature of the film. Kino’s new Blu-ray is a sharp affair, though, with some engaging extras sharing space with its newly restored picture.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interview, introduction]
What is it? A wealthy man comes to suspect he’s a murderer.
Why see it? The great Claude Chabrol dabbles in Hitchcockian fun with this swinging 60s thriller, and it works more often than it doesn’t. Anthony Perkins stars as a friend who may or may not have a hand in the killings, and the film keeps viewers guessing throughout in part by making the lead a fairly unlikable guy. Crazy parties, widescreen locales, and murder… what more could you want? Okay fine, it is a bit dry and occasionally convoluted in its goals, but it’s still an entertaining watch.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A 13th century vampire living in modern times turns over a new leaf as a Canadian police detective.
Why see it? Vampires are no strangers to television, but while most series focus on the vamps in traditional scenarios or as the villains this Canadian production’s genre-crossing angle breathes new life into character type. It’s a pretty solid show, too, as the the stories involve elements both cop-oriented and more supernatural while the constant thread involves his search for a way to become human again. Limitations of the decade (the 90s) and syndicated television are evident, but genre fans have swallowed far worse.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Bruce Wayne’s journey into becoming Batman required some groundwork laid by Commissioner Jim Gordon.
Why see it? Five seasons, one hundred episodes — that’s how much this series got out of a premise I wouldn’t have expected to last half a season. That’s an impressive feat, and it comes down to some smart, creative writing, the inclusion of familiar villainous faces, and the slowburn wind up towards the Batman we all already know. Ben McKenzie makes a a solid Gordon, and while it takes some used to accepting him as the lead character he quickly becomes the heart of it all. Overall, it’s a well-done series that focuses as much on character and story as it does costume and shenanigans. The complete set includes each of the seasons in their own case.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? Four CG-heavy heavy movies come to DVD on two discs.
Why see it? All four of these films are Syfy-level productions, so you already know if they’re for you. Tornado Warning (aka Alien Storm) sees director Jeff Burr taking a few steps down from his 80s (From a Whisper to a Scream, 1987) and 90s output with a tale about aliens that look like tornadoes. Judgement Day (aka Quantum Apocalypse) pits brilliant rock stars against an impending comet strike. A biker gang led by Stacey “Eww” Dash fights androids in Louisiana in Chrome Angels. And finally, Ghouls is the only of the four films to feature an MPAA rating — an R for some reason — and it’s about a young woman who discovers her family lineage and its relationship to an ongoing battle with evil spirits.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Members of a motorcycle gang find trouble in a small town.
Why see it? There’s a 50s feel to this leather and smoke drama, and that’s due as much to being set in that decade as it is to the work done by cast (Willem Dafoe) and crew (co-director Kathryn Bigelow). Angry youth, outraged adults, and a forbidden romance lead to trouble, but while there’s artistry and young talent here the film doesn’t exactly scream for a rewatch. Arrow’s new Blu is a gift for fans, though, as it cleans up the picture and offers some engaging extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras:New 2K restoration, commentary, featurettes]
What is it? A family visits a graveyard, and shenanigans ensue.
Why see it? Stephen King’s novel remains among his very best for its horrifying portrait of grief and terror, and while the 1989 adaptation has its faults — namely both lead actors — it still nails that aspect of the tale. This new adaptation steps up the game with its cinematography and performances, but it wholly drops the ball on the themes that twist and tear through King’s novel. Gone is the father forced to grieve twice over his son’s death, gone is the cautionary tale of Timmy Baterman, gone is the tragic creepiness of an undead toddler — and in their place are generic choices, wisecracks, and lacking terror. And woof to that ending.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? A
Why see it? While 1979’s Seven is equally worth seeing and praising, Andy Sidaris’ career truly took off in 1985 with Malibu Express. The blend of T&A, action, and surprisingly cheesy shenanigans makes for an all-timer, and he followed it with another winner in 1987’s Hard Ticket to Hawaii. This is his next entry, and while it can’t live up to the glorious highs of those two it entertains with Sidaris’ patented mix of genre fun and sexy “thrills.” It’s a fun watch.
[Blu-ray extras:New 4K restoration, introduction, commentary, featurettes]
What is it? Stolen gold dating back to the second World War draws the attention of sexy agents, regular agents, and vicious bad guys.
Why see it? The follow-up to Picasso Trigger is another mild effort kept afloat by fake boobs, silliness, and Sidaris’ eye for attractive locales and goofy dialogue. Everyone involved knows exactly what they’re making, and they’re having a ball. That fun is infectious and carries over to viewers’ enjoyment of cost-cutting model work, stunts, action, and more. The exchanges between these characters are highly quotable in their embrace of innuendo and utter stupidity. It’s a gain a fun watch.
[Blu-ray extras:New 4K restoration, introduction, commentary, featurettes]
What is it? Six killer shark films!
Why see it? Granted, it’s more like six killer chum films, but the movies collected here should all appeal to fans of films like Sharknado and Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre — ie not good films, but the kind that pit poor acting/writing/direction against CG sharks. The titles here tell the tale with gems like Santa Jaws, Zombie Shark, and Ghost Shark ready to lull you into submission. You already know if you’re a fan. The set does include a bonus in the form of a digital code for a 7th shark film that’s not a shark film and is instead Alligator Alley.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? A true crime writer discovers her friend is a serial killer.
Why see it? Ann Rule was a bestselling writer of true crime books detailing the worst among us, and one of her big hits was the story of how she worked and was friends with a man named Ted Bundy. This TV movie adaptation of her book captures the friendship and the suspicion as she (Barbara Hershey) comes to suspect he’s (Billy Campbell) actually a killer. It’s a solid tale made more engaging by its reality.
What is it? Aliens hatch a plan to invade Earth, but some Americans are having none of it.
Why see it? Sci-fi films from the 50s often involved monsters rising up from the depths or aliens arriving from above, and this fun little flick falls into the latter camp. The film wisely makes an effort to stand out, though, by moving the action off of Earth all together for the back half. We get some interesting visuals and production design for the alien locales as well as some fun creature feature action. The big draw here is Scream Factory’s fantastic disc which includes a new 4K scan and plenty of new and old extras offering great insight and appreciation into the film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interviews, documentary]
What is it? The new kid in town finds danger and romance.
Why see it? James Spader plays a new arrival to town trying to fit in with the other “teens” at high school, but while he befriends one (Robert Downey Jr. — Age of Ultron reunion!) he finds nothing but trouble with the others. Curiously, Spader also starred in The New Kids this same year, and in that film he plays the bully. The other difference? While that movie is a straight thriller, this one mixes in some more comedic elements along the way including a ridiculous but enjoyable dance sequence.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, commentary]
Also out this week:
After, The BRD Trilogy [Criterion Collection], Europa Europa [Criterion Collection], The Great Northfield Missouri Raid [Shout Select], High Life, Little, Mojin: The Worm Valley, The Professor, Space Station IMAX, The Tough Ones [Grindhouse Releasing]