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 July 21st, 2020!
This week brings us a home video selection that includes old Hollywood classics, new thrillers, acclaimed dramas from overseas, and more. We begin with the Criterion release of Marriage Story, which is our pick of the week…
Pick of the Week
Marriage Story [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A love story that begins as the relationship is falling apart, writer/director Noah Baumbach’s beautifully told tale finds one couple’s heart, humor, and humanity even as they’re at their worst.
Why see it? The thought of a movie focused on a couple’s angriest, meanest moments is unappealing on its face, but Baumbach and his cast turn a bad time into a necessary one. What starts as a friendly falling out becomes an explosive affair as lawyers, a system fueled on profits and power, and the welfare of a child caught in the middle all play into the mix. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are both sensational here, and both earn sympathy and scorn in equal measures. The supporting cast is equally strong with fantastic turns from Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, and Laura Dern. It’s a surprisingly funny film too, and while there are tough, ugly beats throughout the film and characters always return to warm, honest humor.
The film is a Netflix production that, like Roma (2018) before it, has now entered the Criterion Collection — so yeah, expect McG’s under-appreciated The Babysitter (2017) to get the Criterion treatment soon. It’s a digipak style that folds open to reveal artwork, a booklet, and reproductions of the letters that the couple writes about each other for their aborted therapy session. The extras include several new interviews and programs surrounding the film’s production that shed light onto the ideas, themes, and struggles required to see the film through. It’s a beautiful release and a must-own for fans of the film.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interviews, featurettes, booklet essay, letter from Nicole and Charlie to each other]
Against All Flags [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Pirates played by people you know and love!
Why see it? Pirate movies were big business back in the 40s and 50s, and this minor gem remains towards the top of the heap. Errol Flynn, Anthony Quinn, and Maureen O’Hara headline in an adventure pairing romance with action spectacle. It’s pretty straightforward for the era and probably what you’re expecting, but the set pieces are big and thrilling, and legit movie stars at the forefront are never less than charismatic.
Airplane! [Paramount Presents]
What is it? A disaster in the streets, a comedy classic in the sheets.
Why see it? It’s easy enough to recall the glut of spoof movies that flooded theaters into the early 2000s, but this is the film that started it all and has arguably never been beat. (I still prefer 1984’s Top Secret, though…) Jim Abrahams and David & Jerry Zucker deliver a legendary comedy here with a non-stop barrage of gags. If one doesn’t work for you another is right behind, and while some are dated by today’s societal norms they’re harmless in their playfulness. Paramount’s new Blu features two new featurettes including a Q&A from a screening earlier this year.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Clueless – 25th Anniversary Edition [Steelbook]
What is it? WTF? A teenage riff on Emma? As if!
Why see it? Amy Heckerling’s 1995 comedy remains a gem from opening frame to closing credits. Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, and more bring this modern adaptation to bright, vibrant, hilarious life. The characters are both of a time thanks to the vocabulary uses and timeless with its tale of young love, friendship, and other high school shenanigans. This 25th anniversary release is loaded with extras and comes in a nifty steelbook case.
Ghost [Paramount Presents]
What is it? A dead man sticks around to help his widow carry on.
Why see it? Jerry Zucker took a big step away from his comfort zone (Airplane, 1980) with this supernatural romantic thriller, but he knocked it out of the park. Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore headline alongside Whoopi Goldberg in a tale that manages exciting thrills, big laughs, and some legitimately romantic moments. It holds up as a fun, affecting ride, and it’s a welcome addition to Paramount’s new Blu-ray line.
[Extras: 4K remaster, featurettes, commentary]
Jett – Season One
What is it? A thief, fresh out of prison, is drawn back into the criminal world.
Why see it? Casting Carla Gugino as your show’s lead is one of the quickest ways to get me to watch, and happily the show’s writing is enough to keep you coming back for more. This is a smart, noir-ish series, that features Gugino as a woman tired of being dicked around by the men in her life — she’s forced into going along with things, but she’s constantly striving to stay one or two steps ahead. It’s a slick show with great performances and real style, and this being a Cinemax series it’s also home to plenty of sexy shenanigans.
The Wild Goose Lake
What is it? A man goes on the run from both the cops and worse guys.
Why see it? Black Coal, Thin Ice is one of 2014’s best films, and the director returns with another stylish, colorful, and engaging tale of violence and fate. There’s a seemingly doomed love story at the core of the story, and it fuels each of the two main characters’ drives in parallel story lines en route to each other. Diao Yinan’s use of landscape and color is often breathtaking, and when stillness explodes into violence it’s all the more startling for it.
[Extras: Featurette, interviews, short film]
You Don’t Nomi
What is it? A love letter of sorts to Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls (1995).
Why see it? Some people try, including some in this doc, to defend Showgirls as a stealth masterpiece fully in control of its tone, intentions, and end result, but that’s nonsense. This is a film that went off the rails fast, and that’s why we love it (minus the heinously brutal assault scene). The doc explores all sides and opinions and offers interesting commentary and interpretations on the film including through some call backs to other Verhoeven movies. It’s a fun companion to the film itself.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The classic tale gets the big-screen treatment.
Why see it? From his life as a child to his young adulthood among a band of thieves, the film follows one man’s journey through criminal acts and bouts of bravery. He’s more than a thief, though, and now he just has to fight to prove it. It’s a big Technicolor affair, complete with the occasional musical number as songs erupt from nowhere, and fans should be pleased with the Blu-ray.
Arabian Nights [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Another big Technicolor production from old Hollywood!
Why see it? Hollywood used to love their epics, and this one fits the bill with an “Arabian” set tale of love, intrigue, and brotherly conflict. It’s a lavish production complete with big sets, intricate costuming, and a good versus evil plot structure. The colors pop in high-definition meaning fans will enjoy its bright visuals, but they’re not enough to distract from the rough acting and writing.
What is it? Stranded sailors face off against a vampire on an otherwise abandoned vessel.
Why see it? Look, this is a fantastic goddamn title for a horror film about vampires at sea, and the movie was never going to live up to it. That said, there’s fun to be had with this little creature feature that’s new to VOD this week. The vampire design is fresh and only a little bit silly, the action and suspense are small but effective, and we can never get enough horror movies set during war-time. It has its issues including a poorly written female character and some drag, but fans of small, focused horror films might find enough to enjoy.
Bloodstone [Arrow Video]
What is it? A stolen gem sees people on the run in India.
Why see it? Director Dwight Little had a brief run helming theatrical releases including Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Marked for Death (1990), and in between those two he delivered this romp. The acting and writing are on the goofy side, but it’s a fun B movie pitting a tough guy on his honeymoon and an opportunist cab driver against all manner of bad guys. Fights, car action, big stunts, and more keep things moving. It’s silly and maybe a bit dumb, but there’s fun to be had.
[Extras: Commentaries, interviews]
Buccaneer’s Girl [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A woman gets mixed up with pirates.
Why see it? Yvonne De Carlo is best known from The Munsters, but she had a long career before settling for monstrous motherhood on TV. Here she plays a young woman displaced by pirates who winds up in a brothel before joining back up with the seafaring hoodlums. It’s light entertainment that’s never as thrilling or fun as it probably needs to be.
Girl Crazy [Warner Archive]
What is it? A horn-dog meets his match.
Why see it? Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney are a memorable pairing, and here they get to sing and dance to George Gershwin tunes. It’s a romantic comedy as the young playboy student is drawn to his dean’s daughter, and teh two bounce back and forth with plenty of banter and antics before recognizing their attraction. It’s casual fun.
[Extras: Introduction, commentary, short film, cartoon, audio outtake]
Life Is a Long Quiet River [Arrow Academy]
What is it? Two disparate families discover that their children were switched at birth.
Why see it? This French comedy of manners introduces two families from dramatically different classes. One is wealthy, the other is broke, and once the error is discovered their children see how the other half lives. The film is set against bigger societal issues throughout the city and country involving immigration and violence, and the humor struggles a bit against the ugliness. Still, fans of low-key humor will enjoy the commentary.
What is it? A couple finds a mysterious room in their house that grants wishes.
Why see it? This entertaining little thriller was Shudder’s most-watched Original film this year, and it’s easy enough to see why. Olga Kurylenko stars, and it has a pretty nifty premise worthy of the Twilight Zone. I’m of the belief that it stretches the idea a bit thin, though, meaning maybe it would have worked better as a TV episode. Still, there are some interesting and thrilling beats here leading up to a pretty crazy third act, so it’s definitely worth a watch.
What is it? A sadistic lord demands an arduous marathon for his samurai guards.
Why see it? Candyman‘s Bernard Rose directs this period piece, and the result is an attractive action/drama envisioning the start of a race still run today in Japan. There’s a class commentary here alongside something of a love story, but the heart of the film is in its beauty and carnage. Philip Glass’ score adds to the former, while sword fights and gun battles infuse the latter. It’s good stuff.
What is it? An origin story about everyone’s favorite teen sleuths.
Why see it? Here’s the deal. Scooby isn’t meant to have full on goddamn conversations like he does here, and it throws a wrench into what could otherwise be a fun animated movie. It doesn’t feel right, and worse, it’s never amusing. Making this early case a huge, supernatural, earth-shaking deal doesn’t help either. The animation is good though.
[Extras: Bloopers, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Son of Ali Baba [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A young man finds adventure and love in ancient Persia.
Why see it? This early 50s Technicolor production has some big visuals and minor action to keep viewers’ attention, but it’s really Tony Curtis that will hold it best. He doesn’t really fit here, but he’s a charismatic guy all the same as he charms women and men alike on his way towards love and power. Piper Laurie co-stars.
Survive the Night
What is it? Two criminals hold a family hostage.
Why see it? Bruce Willis already starred in a film called Hostage (2005) about a home invasion, and it’s far superior to this harmless but uneventful direct to video effort. He’s second fiddle here to Chad Michael Murray, and should probably tell you all you need to know. It’s just never all that engaging, and the effort to demonize one criminal while humanizing the other feels like drag.
[Extras: Featurette, interviews]
The World in His Arms [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A ship captain rides the wives in pursuit of love.
Why see it? Gregory Peck headlines and competes with Anthony Quinn in this seafaring adventure that sees both men pursuing Ann Blyth who’s on the run from an unwieldy engagement. Big, bold cinematography competes with effects shots to convey the ocean life as the film bounces between adventure and hopeful romance. It’s an engaging watch with a charismatic Peck captaining the tale through to the end.
Also out this week:
Capone, Castle Rock – The Complete Second Season, Colonel Real, Confidence, John Wick: Chapters 1-3 [4K UltraHD], Mephisto, Resistance, Spartacus [4K UltraHD], Taste of Cherry [Criterion Collection]