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 14, 2020 — which includes a few titles from the past few weeks too!
The week of July 14th, 2020, brings us a home video selection that includes some fantastic foreign cinema, a pair of romantic classics from the Criterion Collection, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
What is it? A young woman grieves over mistakes made and the death of her friend.
Why see it? Writer/director Al White stretches a meager budget to create something truly beautiful. Gorgeous cinematography, entrancing visuals, a pitch-perfect score/soundtrack, and a compelling lead performance work to craft a slow burn wonder. It’s a journey of grief, guilt, and understanding that threatens to come too late, and the presence of monsters and mystery works to hold interest and emotion. Sometimes even the best effort isn’t enough, but the effort is no less important for it. Altered Innocence has put together a sharp Blu-ray release with numerous extras and the soundtrack on CD.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, music videos, introduction]
What is it? A remote Brazilian village finds itself under attack.
Why see it? Part action thriller, part character drama, and part social commentary, this is a fantastic blend of ideas paired with sharp visuals. Sonia Braga and Udo Kier headline on opposite sides of the conflict, and as the story evolves the truth of what’s happening comes clear. Colonialism, invasion, gentrification… take your pick, the sins are evident, but they might not avoid retribution this time around.
[Extras: Deleted scene, documentary, interviews, booklet, short film, commentary]
What is it? A police officer chases a supernatural killer.
Why see it? Possession movies aren’t typically my bag as I find them fairly boring. Characters whose actions are forced is uninteresting to me, and the devil as a threat is even less so. This Mexican gem, though, plays around with the expected formula enough to deliver a fresh, thrilling, and occasionally brutal watch. So many kids bite it! It’s wonderfully dark fun and highly recommended. (This is a release from July 7th.)
What is it? A misguided youth pretends to be a priest.
Why see it? This Polish nominee for Best International Feature Film is an engrossing drama that veers between trauma, humor, and some thought-provoking interactions and observations. It’s far from a comedy, but its humanity can’t help but reveal small absurdities in this community, and Bartosz Bielenia is fairly stunning in the lead. The ending might make or break it for some viewers, but it feels right for the story and character. (This is a release from June 23rd, 2020.)
[Extras: Featurette, short film]
Enter the Fat Dragon
What is it? A supercop loses his job and his lady but gains 100 pounds.
Why see it? Donnie Yen movies are almost always worth seeing for action fans, and his latest fits the bill. A remake in name only of the Sammo Hung classic, Yen’s take on the title riff sees him down on his luck but still kicking major ass despite the weight gain. There are some jokes at his expense, but the film never judges his appearance and instead celebrates it? It’s fun and features some thrilling fight sequences, and it’s recommended.
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find
What is it? A young widowed mother struggles to provide while seeking the truth about her husband’s murder.
Why see it? Director Abner Pastoll previously delivered some atmospheric thrills with 2015’s Road Games, but his latest ups the ante with stronger character and purpose. Sarah Bolger headlines and is fantastic as the put upon woman who refuses to back down, and the film throws all manner of challenges her way from judgmental townspeople and police to murderous gangsters en route to a bloody good time of an ending. Fans of suspenseful revenge romps will want to seek out this one. (This is a release from June 23rd, 2020.)
[Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurette]
Kiss of the Vampire [Scream Factory]
What is it? A young couple falls under the spell of a mysterious family.
Why see it? Hammer’s output through the 60s and 70s includes quite a few vampire films, and while this isn’t among the best known — no Christopher Lee?! — it’s still one of their best. Stylish and attractively shot, the film blends bloodsuckers with a cult-like scenario, and it makes for some thrills and chills as the couple desperately tries to survive the experience.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Lady Eve [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A young man falls for a con woman on a cruise.
Why see it? The great Preston Sturges (The Great McGinty, 1940) writes and directs this fast-moving and faster-talking romantic comedy featuring fantastic lead performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. What starts as a con becomes true love, but when it crumbles the con returns leading to… an even stronger love story? It’s funny, sweet, and whip smart with some highly memorable dialogue. Criterion’s new disc offers up a sharp picture and loads of extras offering up plenty of extra content to explore in between repeat viewings.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, commentary, introduction, interviews, featurettes, radio adaptation]
Mädchen in Uniform
What is it? Two women find love when society says they shouldn’t.
Why see it? This early German effort was something of a game-changer upon release, and it still carries weight nearly a century later. It’s the story of a young woman realizing she’s fallen in love with her female teacher, and it works beautifully as a love story, a coming of age tale, and a very human look at life. It’s co-written and co-directed by women, and it’s a (still) rare entry in gay cinema that forgoes excessive pain and punishment in favor of warmth and love.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire [Criterion Collection]
What is it? An artist paints a portrait of a lady on fire.
Why see it? Director Celine Sciamma crafts something extraordinary here with her love story between two women refusing, even for a moment, to abide by 18th century societal expectations. Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant breath life into the women, one an independent artist and the other on the brink of an arranged marriage, and the film captures their too brief journey with beauty, honesty, and an eye for the truth. (This is a release from June 23rd, 2020.)
[Extras: New 4K master, interviews]
Pride and Prejudice [Warner Archive]
What is it? An early adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel
Why see it? Austen’s acclaimed novel about class, romance, and relationships has spawned numerous adaptations, but this effort from 1940 earned an Oscar win. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier star as Elizabeth and Darcy, and the film delivers all of the expected wit and romance. It obviously adds nothing new to the story — and it’s definitely not looking to subvert or update the tale — but it captures the novel’s strengths well.
The Prince [Artsploitation Films]
What is it? A young man sent to prison finds love with an older inmate.
Why see it? This Chilean drama finds warmth and romance in the darkest of places as a young man named Jaime finds a drunken mistake land him in hell. The prison sequences are stark and straightforward in crafting terror even when nothing terrifying is occurring — the place itself, its cramped quarters, the apathy and rage all combine for an atmosphere of uncertainty. But in that nightmare rests humanity at its worst and best. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
[Extras: Deleted scenes, interviews]
Straight Shooting [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A cowboy stands up for the little guy.
Why see it? The legendary John Ford began his feature directing career with this early western starring Harry Carey as a friend to outlaws and good people alike. It’s a character he would return to, and he gets a strong start here as Ford affords him and the film with action and scenery aplenty. The film’s 103 years old, but the restoration does work — albeit not miraculous work — cleaning up the print and delivering an attractive and thrilling adventure.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, essays, film fragments]
Blood and Money
What is it? An older veteran hunting in the remote forest comes across a bag of money and a load of trouble.
Why see it? This setup has been used before as innocent people cross paths with criminals and are forced to balance greed with survival, but Tom Berenger adds a weightier feel to it. It’s not greed directly, but he’s still taking money that isn’t his — and isn’t theirs — and then running and fighting for his life. There are some solid action beats and thrills here (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
What is it? Cops are under attack from ungrateful citizens and something supernatural.
Why see it? This is a timely thriller with its focus on people being in an uproar over cops killing an unarmed Black man, but it takes the story in a genre direction with the reveal of a vengeful spirit seeking their lives in payment. It skirts a line between exploitation and commentary, and both Mary J. Blige and Nat Wolff are competent in the lead roles. Not every beat works as it heads towards a somewhat unsuccessful conclusion, but it tries.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Nuclear blasts knock the Earth off its axis and closer to the sun.
Why see it? This is a solid little disaster flick placing the blame squarely on humanity’s arms race, and the result is a slow burn emergency. It’s black & white, but the film offers up a yellow tint as the planet moves closer to the sun which adds a visually surreal feel to the overheated, sweaty destruction. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
The Flesh and the Fiends [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Two grave robbers start a lucrative business selling bodies.
Why see it? John Landis made a version of this tale a few years back called Burke & Hare (2010), but this original is more interested in the terror and drama than the dark laughs. Peter Cushing plays a surgeon comfortable with taking the stolen bodies for dissection until word gets out and murders occur, and the film becomes a suspenseful character study of sorts. It’s good, bleak stuff. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary, alternate cut of the film]
Inferno of Torture [Arrow Video]
What is it? An exploitative look at the sadistic violence of Japan’s Edo period.
Why see it? Hoo boy, this is a movie that gets your attention and demands you watch with the blinds closed. Women are beheaded, pierced, torn apart, tattooed, assaulted, and generally treated poorly. There’s a beauty to the photography and artwork, but the mean-spirited antics are a rough watch despite the presence of brief moments of kindness and compassion. It’s people behaving badly for ninety minutes straight highlighted by naked women and intricate tattoo artwork. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
What is it? A scoundrel ruins things with his wife and mistress.
Why see it? An absolutely ripped Giancarlo Giannini stars as a man wanting his cake and eating it too, but when his wife starts cheating too his possessive “love” sees him redirecting his attention her way. Some unexpected turns darken the drama here — seriously, it takes a turn — resulting in a grim, unfortunate love story. It’s beautifully shot and well acted, but it’s lessened some by a trio of characters we never really connect with or care for. Still worth a watch.
[Extras: Video essay, booklet]
What is it? A man’s crumbling mind reveals terrifying secrets.
Why see it? Jess Franco is a filmmaker beloved by money whose stylings and films have never worked for me. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I blame my lack of appreciation on a disinterest in his amateurish abilities and single minded focus. This effort features his usual lack of finesse, but it’s made slightly more interesting for his recycling of mostly old footage into a new tale. The film riffs on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and is engaging enough on that merit alone. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? W.C. Fields stars as W.C. Fields!
Why see it? Fields is a particular personality from the early days of big screen comedy, and for his final role he portrays himself poking fun at himself and Hollywood alike. We get some fun gags here and there and an entertaining car chase, and fans of the comedian will be pleased with his final bow.
[Extras: Commentary, documentary]
The Paleface [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An incompetent dentist gets mixed up with Calamity Jane.
Why see it? Pairing Bob Hope and Jane Russell may seem like a no-brainer to some, its success is in the eye of the beholder. The chemistry isn’t quite there, though, as Russell is a bit flat and Hope plays everything loud and sassy. Fans of his broad comedy will be fine here, but if he doesn’t do it for you the film can feel like a bit of a chore.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Sorry We Missed You
What is it? A family struggles to keep their heads above water.
Why see it? Ken Loach makes good, solid films befitting the working class subjects who continually populate them. His latest continues that trend focused on a family risking it all on a new venture that grows less and less promising. Like many of Loach’s films, it’s a raw look at heartache and struggle. It’s a film I respect more than I enjoy, for whatever that’s worth. (This is a release from July 7th.)
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
South Park – The Complete Twenty-Third Season
What is it? Ten more episodes of the long running cartoon.
Why see it? The brain child of Trey Parker and Matt Stone may have lost some of its cultural impact and relevance over the years, but it’s still as timely as ever in its topics and targets. It’s also still funny more often than not, with episodes ranging in focus from ICE detention centers, anti-vaxxers, marijuana farms, transgender athletes, Disney+, and more. If you’ve never been a fan this latest season won’t win you over, but those who’ve been enjoying the ride will continue to do so here. (This is a release from June 23rd, 2020.)
Spaced Invaders [KL Studio Classics
What is it? An alien invasion goes poorly.
Why see it? A group of aliens crash land on Earth in a messed up attempt at invasion, but it being Halloween night they’re not exactly taken as threats in this slapstick comedy. They’re essentially fish out of water as much of the comedy comes from their attempts at communicating with people. It’s occasionally humorous for fans of basic laughs, but the bigger draw is the practical alien effects which impress. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
What is it? The story of the seventh best superhero team in the world!
Why see it? Craig Mazin and James Gunn are the creative voices here, and it shows in the comedic stylings and dialogue. The budget precludes much in the way of superhero action, but the small indie vibe carries well into the off duty shenanigans and dramas of superheroes. Judy Greer is the highlight, but there’s also fun to be had with Rob Lowe and Thomas Haden Church. It is a bit dry at times, though, as you wait for the next laugh, but there’s enough here to appeal to fans of its creators.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Strike Up the Band [Warner Archive]
What is it? Two musical teens get to music-making.
Why see it? Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney remain one of film history’s more effervescent pairings as they power their way through generic plots with personality and charm. This 1940 effort sees them working towards success as a singer and band leader, respectively, and with mild comedy, slight romance, and big dance numbers by their side the film delivers a good time for fans of musicals and this electric pair. (This is a release from June 23rd, 2020.)
[Extras: Introduction, short film, cartoon, radio broadcasts]
That’ll Be the Day [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A young man comes of age balancing lawlessness and rock and roll.
Why see it? Ringo Starr and Keith Moon are the big draws here as the pair of legendary drummers take on supporting roles, and the film’s soundtrack is equally memorable with a splash of 50s hits. The core story follows David Essex as the young man looking for a focus as 50s rock explodes across the UK. It’s an engaging watch for fans of the period and music. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
Trolls: World Tour
What is it? Trolls think they got talent.
Why see it? Some kids movies really don’t work on adults, and I’d wager this is one of them. The young ones might enjoy the loud, frequent, and colorful music set-pieces, but the film feels like constant marketing aimed at impressionable minds. Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake take lead (vocally), and both are pretty bland? Like I said, not for me, but your kids might find themselves tapping along on re-watches. (This is a release from July 7th, 2020.)
[Extras: Short film, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Two Heads Creek
What is it? Twins go looking for their real mother in rural Australia.
Why see it? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, horror/comedies are possibly the toughest sub-genre to pull off effectively. The ideal unicorn is a film that’s both horrifying and funny — think Return of the Living Dead and Re-Animator — but most are content aiming for funny with splashes of gore and/or killer shenanigans. This Australian effort aims to settle similarly, but there’s not really enough of either element to propel things forward for long. We get some giggles, and while there’s a lot of blood it’s too often CG which underwhelms. Still, fans of Aussie horror will find laughs as it riffs on the country’s outback horror expectations, and the third act does deliver some enjoyable carnage. (This is a release from June 23rd, 2020.)
Also out this week:
Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits [Criterion Collection], Day of the Warrior, Go Go Mania! [KL Studio Classics], Hiroshima [Arrow Academy], Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, The Missing [Shout Select], Mr. No Legs [Massacre Video], Return to Savage Beach, VHYes