Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
What is it? An immortal samurai helps a young woman avenge her parents’ murder.
Why see it? How ridiculous is it that this is Takashi Miike’s 100th feature film? He’s always been a quantity over quality kind of filmmaker, but when he hits he hits hard resulting in terrific damn movies like Audition, Visitor Q, The Happiness of the Katakuris, and now… Blade of the Immortal. The action here is spectacular as the titular samurai cuts his way through dozens of villainous killers, but Miike keeps the humor and personality flowing equally strong. It’s immensely entertaining, and even at over two hours there’s not an ounce of fat to be found. Just fun, blood, and a little bit of heart.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interviews]
What is it? A new series exploring the rise of the porn industry in 70s NYC.
Why see it? At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just another excuse for HBO to show naked women beneath a classy banner, but as is often the case there’s a fair amount of depth beneath the skin. The show eases its way into the lives of people in various circumstances who come together to make a better life for themselves, and it just happens to be through the business of pornography. There’s an impressive roster of talent both in front of and behind the camera including Michelle MacLaren, David Simon, George Pelecanos, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Franco, and more. It’s engrossing television about a world long gone.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
What is it? An activist lawyer finds himself tempted by cash money.
Why see it? Dan Gilroy leaves the darkness of Nightcrawler behind to focus his latest film on an idealistic man finally reaching his breaking point in an unfair world. Denzel Washington is terrific in the role, and his journey engages even as it pales beside the arc of a different character all together (played by Colin Farrell). The film never quite follows a conventional plot line and instead focuses on these two men and the life choices they make, and even without a traditional narrative it remains compelling.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? An FBI trainee tracks a serial killer with the help of a serial killer.
Why see it? Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award-winning film remains a tremendously effective thriller from top to bottom with mesmerizing performances from both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, beautiful cinematography by Tak Fujimoto, a fantastic score from Howard Shore, and a script that’s still being copied. It’s a smart suspense film with tension, gory beats, and some still relevant commentary on the sexes. Criterion updates their old DVD release — this is spine #13! — with a sharp as hell restoration, old/new special features, and a booklet.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, featurette]
What is it? A millionaire who dabbles in bank robbery catches the eye of a saucy investigator.
Why see it? Steve McQueen may not have been the obvious choice for the suit and tie wearing businessman, but he holds the screen as well as ever in Norman Jewison’s (In the Heat of the Night) playful thriller about the pursuit of wealth, happiness, and excitement. At the risk of losing my “film twitter’ membership card I do think John McTiernan’s remake is the superior entertainment, but there’s no denying the style here both with the characters and in Jewison’s split-screen approach. It’s a fun film, and both McQueen and Faye Dunaway are clear icons. Kino’s new restoration is beautiful, and the interview with the director adds some interesting details to the film’s production. Consider this a must-own for fans of the film and/or the talents involved.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, interviews, featurette]
What is it? This is what happens after a nuclear strike near one small city in England.
Why see it? This film premiered on BBC2 in the mid 80s, and it’s every bit as affecting and devastating as America’s own The Day After. It’s shorter, though, while still managing the same degree of emotional carnage, and while it’s presented with performers the film features narration adding matter of fact education to its story. It’s bleak on every front, and the factual presentation only makes it darker. The film was a massive hit, especially arriving as it did at the height of Western fears of nuclear war, and the special features on the disc add production details, context, and real insight.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: new 2K scan, commentary, interviews]
What is it? A couple discover a family of dinosaurs in Africa and try to keep them out of the hands of a greedy British man.
Why see it? It may not quite reach Jurassic Park‘s levels of technical brilliance, but there’s charm and fun to be had with this lightweight adventure film. William Katt and Sean Young take the lead while Patrick McGoohan does generic bad guy duty, and the dinosaur effects are an entertaining mix of puppets, people in suits, and miniatures. It works well enough and it all helps make for a family-friendly flick about conservation.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
What is it? An imperial guard searches for the truth behind a conspiracy that’s landed him in hot water.
Why see it? Brotherhood of Blades is a solid-enough wuxia film, and on the story front at least a prequel seems unnecessary. Fans of the sub-genre will still find enough to entertain them, though, as the production design and stylish fights (frequently involving wire work) keep things moving. This one digs deeper character-wise to set up what’s to come in the original film, but again, the action is enough.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? A woman is cursed for doing her job.
Why see it? Sam Raimi’s rare non-franchise genre effort is a loud, colorful, and bodily fluid-filled morality tale that most of you love and I despise. From Alison Lohman’s lead performance to the horrible CG liquids to a script that leaves viewers with no one to root for, it’s just a mess. But I’m in the minority and I know it — I love the very end, so there’s that anyway — so for the rest of you this new Blu-ray is a terrific release. Scream Factory offers new 2K masters of both the theatrical and unrated cuts as well a trio of new interviews. It’s a strong presentation that fans will cherish.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Two cuts of the film, featurette, new interviews]
What is it? An orchestra attempting to work together instead descends into chaos.
Why see it? Federico Fellini’s late 70s television movie is a faux documentary that at first feels run of the mill in its presentation — musicians are simply tuning up while conversing and being berated by the conductor — but the film shifts towards conflicts big and small. It slowly reveals itself to be a satirical and metaphorical look at Italy’s political history through various forms of government both organized and rebellious. It’s slyly entertaining even as it bites, and while it builds to a scene of beauty the underlying weight remains.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, featurette, visual essay, gallery]
What is it? A private eye is drawn into a murder case and tasked with looking after the victim’s daughter.
Why see it? Sara Paretsky’s most famous creation comes to the screen for the first and last time with this dud of an adaptation. Kathleen Turner is a strong lead, but the script — so far removed from the source novel that it’s not even credited to Paretsky’s work — tries in vain to balance thriller elements with comedy but fails miserably. She’s somewhat neutered by the story and supporting characters, and the cliched introduction of a kid for the rough PI to look after doesn’t help.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Also out this week:
Animal Kingdom – The Complete Second Season, Broad City – Season 4, Dealt, Eaten Alive [Severin Films], Games [Scream Factory], The Master – The Complete Series [KL Studio Classics], Night of the Living Dead [Criterion Collection], Night of the Seagulls [Scream Factory], Paradise, Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 1 [Arrow Video], The Sinner – Season One