Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
Army of Shadows [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A year in the life and death of French Resistance fighters.
Why see it? Jean-Pierre Melville’s sober look at the struggle of French Resistance members during World War II is a stark reminder that the fight was about more than thrilling battles and elaborate missions. Most movies focus on that side of things, but here we’re shown a more realistic look at the pain, the harrowing decisions, and the real trauma of it all. It’s a beautiful film despite the darkness, and its human focus is periodically interrupted with some thrilling suspense beats. Seriously, it’s a stunner, and Criterion’s new Blu-ray is packed with informative extras.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, documentary]
Beyond the Door [Arrow Video]
What is it? A woman is possessed by a gross demon.
Why see it? Possession horror isn’t really my jam with only a few exceptions, and while I don’t love this Italian knock-off there are charms throughout its slow burn terrors punctuated by vomit and weirdness. The film alone would have landed below with The Rest, but Arrow’s new release is so beautifully produced that I had to bump it up. It’s a limited release that includes restored versions of two cuts, tons of extras, postcards, and more.
[Extras: New 2K restorations of US theatrical and extended uncut versions, commentaries, interviews, featurettes, documentary]
What is it? Another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.
Why see it? Greta Gerwig’s take on the classic keeps the period setting and shows great respect for the text while updating aspects at the same time for a more contemporary approach. I’m not the biggest fan of the jumbled edit, but I’m in the minority on that one and still respect most of what it’s doing. The cast is an equally big draw with Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep giving strong, personable performances.
What is it? Robot battles in future Japan!
Why see it? Before we get to the movie itself, it should be noted that the DVD offers no subtitles meaning the only option is Japanese audio without translation or a mediocre English dub. Not cool! That said, the film is equally mediocre (at least with the dub) as dialogue and plot are something of a mess, and the action/effects do little to lift spirits. It’s a lot of sketchy CG.
What is it? An abomination or a sexy laugh riot, you decide.
Why see it? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is a terrible stage show with some memorable music, and now it’s made the leap to the big screen with basically the same results. Well, it’s actually a bit worse as while the stage allows for a suspension of disbelief the film should have worked to create a living world. Instead we got known actors singing poorly in CG fur. It just doesn’t work.
What is it? A sad man talks to animals.
Why see it? Look, Robert Downey Jr. is always fun (despite another sketchy accent which challenges that notion), but this redo mistakes excessive CG and celebrity voices for charm and entertainment. It’s a busy movie with laughs that don’t land and action that doesn’t impress, and while the obvious intent is big animal entertainment it forgets the human element of those watching. It feels far longer than it is too, and that’s never a good thing. And for a movie that ends on a spoken note about Dolittle reopening the gates of his compound and rejoining the world, it’s an odd choice to literally end with a shot of the gates closing.
Madam Secretary – The Complete Season
What is it? A woman, in the White House, in this economy?
Why see it? Tea Leoni takes the title role and does great work as a powerful woman in difficult circumstances. The show never reaches the heights of The West Wing, but it still finds plenty of worthwhile interactions ranging from the dramatic to the engaging. The supporting cast is solid too with Tim Daly, Bebe Neuwirth, Zeljko Ivanek, Keith Carradine, and more brightening the screen. The show handles one-off story lines well, but its strength is in the ongoing character played by Leoni as she navigates issues both domestic and international.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
The Night Clerk
What is it? A hotel clerk with issues witnesses a murder.
Why see it? Ana de Armas is almost reason enough to watch just about anything, but she’s a supporting player in this low-key thriller alongside Helen Hunt, John Leguizamo, and Johnathon Schaech. It’s Tye Sheridan who takes the lead as the clerk with Asperger’s, and it’s not a performance destined for acclaim. The story isn’t much better as pieces just don’t add up leading to an ending that just hangs limply.
What is it? A group of veterans find their bar under siege by hopped up hooligans.
Why see it? Joe Begos’ latest is a fun little riff on John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, and while it can’t touch the classic it finds style and entertainment of its own. The cast is a big part of the charm with charismatic turns by the likes of Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Fred Williamson, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly, and George Wendt. A solid synth score and some bloodletting add to the fun.
Also out this week:
Angel [KL Studio Classics], Beau Geste [KL Studio Classics], Camp Cold Brook [Scream Factory], Escape from Pretoria, The General Died at Dawn [KL Studio Classics], Knives and Skin [Scream Factory], Murder He Says [KL Studio Classics], Supernatural [KL Studio Classics]