This is another one of those extremely busy weeks. There is a huge variety of new releases arriving this week on Blu-ray and DVD, with something in just about every genre. So if you can’t make it out to the movies, give one of these titles a try!
Big New Releases!
Absolutely Anything – It took a long time for this British comedy to make it to US theaters, coming some two years after it release elsewhere. The story involves a group of aliens who arrive on Earth. They decide to experiment on humanity by giving an Average Joe incredible powers and then watch what he does with them. While a few found it enjoyably silly, this effort from Terry Jones of the Monty Python troupe didn’t impress most critics. They called it a hit-and-miss effort lacking satirical bite and wasting a great cast. It stars Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Sanjeev Bhasker, Rob Riggle and Eddie Izzard, as well as the voices of Robin Williams, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Eric Idle.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe – This one was released on DVD a few months back but is now making its debut on Blu-ray. The independent horror film is about a father and son team of coroners who get an unusual arrival at the morgue – a perfectly preserved body that is the victim of a brutal and violent murder. As they begin an autopsy to identify her and get to the bottom of what happened, eerie questions are raised which put the team in mortal peril. Reviewers gave this feature (from Trollhunter director Andre Ovredal) high marks. They stated that it effectively created a sense of dread from the very beginning and built the tension to a fever pitch by the climax. It features Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton and Olwen Catherine Kelly.
The Belko Experiment – A group of American businessman working at a high rise in Bogota, Columbia become part of a deadly social experiment in this action/horror picture. They’re locked inside and told to murder each other or they will all be killed. Members of the group all react in different ways as they search for some kind of exit. The movie split the press. Some found it violent, mean and sadistic while others called it nasty, grimly fun dark comedy. Guess it just depends on your taste. The movie comes from director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and writer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). The cast includes John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener and Brent Sexton.
Berlin Syndrome – In this arthouse suspense picture, a young Australian photographer vacationing in Austria meets a charming local and spends the night with him. Her impression of the man changes dramatically when she finds herself locked in his apartment the next morning. Notices were quite strong for the picture. A few didn’t find it engaging, nor did they care for the ending. However, most complimented the film for its creepy tone and for dealing with the scenario in a more detailed and complex manner than expected. The picture stars Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthais Habich and Emma Bading.
CHIPS – This adaptation of the cheesy, late-70s-early-80s cop show becomes a straight-forward comedy featuring two new actors in the roles of Poncho and Jon. Newly paired, the California Highway Patrol members don’t get along and must overcome personal conflicts in order to help take down a sinister group working within their own headquarters. Sadly, reviews were quite poor for this effort. Most complained that the film relied too heavily on crude humor and ultimately wasn’t funny enough to recommend. The cast includes Michael Pena, Dax Shepherd, Vincent D’Onofrio and Rosa Salazar.
Feed the Light – After her daughter goes missing, a woman takes a job as a janitor. She strikes up a friendship with a co-worker who possesses some strange and suspicious character traits. However, she soon encounters an even odder person at her place of employment. This small and eccentric Swedish foreign-language arthouse horror flick was made back in 2014 but is only now just finding its way to this side of the world, debuting on disc. There aren’t any reviews available as of yet, but those who have seen in its homeland seemed to find it interesting. It features Lina Sunden, Martin Jirhamn and Jenny Lampa.
Heli – Here’s another arthouse picture made in 2013 that is finally being released here on video. This Spanish-language feature set in Mexico involves a family who accidentally get themselves in the middle of a brutal drug war. The patriarch must protect them after cocaine ends up in their hands. The drama earned decent reviews during its release. Some found it too glum and nihilistic, but more were impressed by the tense, horrifying and unrelenting events depicted as the clan come under assault by the cartel. It also earned plenty of nods around the festival circuit. The cast includes Armando Espitia, Andrea Vergara, Linda Gonzalez and Juan Edwardo Palacios.
Money – Two businessmen manage to steal $5 million dollars in this independent crime thriller. Unfortunately, an uninvited houseguest arrives and plots to take all the money from them, leading to several kinds of double-crosses and attempts at misdirection. This one is arriving exclusively on DVD and there isn’t any word on it yet. It has played at several festivals and earned some prizes here and there. Online write-ups have suggested that it’s not exactly unique, but is twisty and well put together for a little indie picture. Jess Weixler, Kellan Lutz, Jesse Williams and Jamie Bamber headline the feature.
Power Rangers – The popular children’s series gets a big-budget cinematic adaptation. A group of teenagers discover a strange ship and soon acquire superpowers that they use to help save the world from an enemy who squared off against previous Power Rangers. Notices were mixed, with a few more on the negative side than positive. Those who commended it called it unpretentious fun, while those who disliked the film critiqued it for being a cash-in and having moodily-written heroes that lacked charismatic personalities. Now viewers can make up their own minds. It stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G. Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader.
Sun Choke – This independent horror film involves a young character who undergoes a psychotic break. As part of her treatment, she’s subjected to some very unusual holistic remedies from her odd lifelong nanny and caretaker. The bizarreness of the routine begins to take its toll and the lead finds herself headed towards another violent breakdown. Reviews were strong for this effort. A few didn’t think it hit the mark, but it seems that the majority found the acting exceptional and enjoyed the creepy low-key vibe maintained. The cast includes Sarah Hagen, Sara Malakul Lane and Barbara Crampton.
T2 Trainspotting – Those Scottish heroin addicts are back in this sequel set some 20 years after the original cult classic that helped launch several careers. This time out, the central character Renton returns home from abroad, reuniting with his old friends. Together, they get involved in more trouble. The entire cast, as well as director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later) have reunited and the press appears to have enjoyed their latest adventure. While there were some who didn’t find it to be particularly memorable, far more complimented the onscreen chemistry between the actors and the dark comedy, highlighting the maturity seeping into the character’s lives. It stars Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Kelly MacDonald.
Walk of Fame – In this little comedy, a man decides to join an acting class after falling for an aspiring performer. Unfortunately, the teacher is a bit of a nut and his obsessive exercises and assignments begin to get under the skin of the new recruit. Can he overcome the course’s obstacles and act his way into her heart? Critics didn’t think so. Actually, there were very few who saw it during its limited release and they were largely unimpressed. They called the movie very forced and completely unfunny. Yikes! The cast includes Scott Eastwood, Malcolm McDowell, Chris Kattan, Jamie Kennedy and Laura Ashley Samuels.
Blasts From the Past!
This is one of the busiest weeks in some time for older titles debuting on Blu-ray. Olive Films have a few noteworthy Blu-ray releases. Deja Vu (1985) is a UK drama with Jaclyn Smith about a man and wife who fall for one another. The man soon begins to believe that he was reincarnation and that his new lady is the reincarnation of his fiancée in a previous life. They also have Money From Home (1953), one of many wacky comedies that pairs Dean Martin up with Jerry Lewis.
The Savage Innocents (1960) is an adventure film about an Eskimo who accidentally kills a missionary. He goes on the run from police in the great white wilderness. It stars Anthony Quinn. Set in 1963, Shag (1989) is an ensemble coming-of-age film about a bunch of friends heading to college who head out for a final big beach bash of sorts in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The cast includes Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda, Annabeth Gish and Page Hannah. Read a review of the disc by clicking here. On a different note, Victims! (1985) is another in the company’s Slasher//Video line (like Deadly Prey and Shock ‘Em Dead). It’s about a group of female campers being pursued by not one, but two serial killers. Sourced from a video master, the release includes a director’s audio commentary, interview with the director, trailer and still gallery.
Arrow Video have a Blu-ray/DVD combo of Doberman Cop (1977). This gritty Japanese action picture about a cop working to investigate the murder of a young woman in the nightlife district. It stars Sonny Chiba and comes from director Kinji Fukusaku (Battle Royal). Besides a new high definition transfer, the disc includes new interviews with Chiba and the film’s screenwriter, a video analysis and appreciation of the movie by a Fukusaku biographer, as well as publicity materials.
There’s some fun stuff arriving from Shout! Factory as well. The Angry Red Planet (1959) is about a group of astronauts who end up landing on, you guessed it, Mars and find the planet populated with all sorts of freaky monsters. This image is newly transferred from the interpositive and comes with a still gallery and trailer. The Evictors (1979) is a horror picture about a family who move into an old Louisiana farmhouse and discover that it may be filled with evil spirits. It stars Michael Parks and Jessica Harper and the release includes a new transfer, trailer, radio spot and still gallery. They also have The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) about two brothers trying to stop a family curse that may result in their beheadings.
Trespass (1992) is perhaps the most notable of the Shout! Factory batch. This crime picture involves a pair of firefighters who find a map leading to stolen gold in an abandoned factory building. They arrive to claim the loot, but walk in on a gang deal gone wrong. There’s plenty of action in this effort from Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hrs., Southern Comfort, Streets of Fire) as greed takes over and all of the character vie to do whatever it takes to get the loot. It stars the late Bill Paxton, Ice-T, William Sadler and Ice Cube. It’s another good one if memory serves and release contains interviews with cast and crew members, vintage featurettes, a music video and deleted scenes.
Kino have plenty of Blu-rays as well. They have the notorious musical The Apple (1980). Set in a not-so-pleasant future, two aspiring musicians from Canada who head to the big city to be stars and experience the “dark underside” of the music industry. It’s really, really terrible and certainly has a reputation as being one of those so-bad-it’s-good film experiences. They also have the WWII picture Hell in the Pacific (1968), which stars Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune as an American and Japanese fighter pilots who crash on a deserted island and must work together to survive.
Perhaps the biggest release arriving from Kino is a Blu-ray set called The Pink Panther Film Collection. This contains all of the Peter Sellers features in the series, including The Pink Panther (1963), A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). Personally, I’m a big fan of A Shot in the Dark (The Return of the Pink Panther isn’t bad either). By the first sequel, director Blake Edwards had figured out who the most engaging character was and how to maximize his comedic impact. Those two pictures feature Sellers at his manic best.
Still want more? You can also pick up the non-Sellers efforts which are being made available individually on Blu-ray. In Inspector Clouseau (1968), Alan Arkin takes over the role (as Sellers and director Blake Edwards were too busy filming The Party). After the passing of the series star, Ted Wass was hired to take on the role of an equally inept detective sent to find the missing Clouseau in Curse of the Pink Panther (1983). Finally, Roberto Benigni steps in to take the lead role in Son of the Pink Panther (1993), playing another goofy cop who may actually be the son of the original investigator.
But that’s not all. LionsGate are delivering another in their Vestron genre picture Blu-ray line. The Unholy (1988) features Ben Cross as a troubled priest who face off against the “ultimate evil” in a New Orleans church. It also features Ned Beatty and Hal Holbrook. The Blu-ray offers a boatload of extras, including an audio commentary with director Camilo Vila, isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Roger Bellon, an audio interview with production designer/co-writer Fernando Fonseca, a featurette with star Ben Cross, a make-up feature, the original ending with producer commentary, the original storyboard gallery, as well as publicity materials like trailers, TV spots, radio spots and still gallery.
And there’s still more. Criterion have the old, silent Hitchcock thriller, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927). It’s about a man who arrives at a lodging house at a very bad time; a murderer is killing women nightly in the area. Could he be responsible? The Blu-ray arrives with a new 2K restoration, a second feature from the director made the same year called Downhill, interviews and essays with film critics about the movie, audio interviews with the filmmaker and a radio play adaptation of the story.
Criterion also have a Blu-ray of the Sam Peckinpah disturbing classic, Straw Dogs (1971). It features Dustin Hoffman as a mathematician forced to take a stand against a bunch of intimidating, beer-swilling locals in his village hitting on his wife. There’s some pretty brutal stuff in this picture and it caused quite a stir upon its original release. The disc contains a restored 4K transfer, audio commentary from a film critic, a 2003 documentary about the making of the movie, 1993 doc about Peckinpah himself, a conversation with editor Roger Spottiswoode (who later became a noted director in his own right), a piece addressing the film’s controversies, archival interviews and behind-the-scenes footage and other bonuses. Sounds like a great package.
Blue Underground are releasing a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the effective UK horror picture, Death Line (1972). Also known as Raw Meat, it involves passengers on the underground in London being attacked and eaten by cannibals. Donald Pleasence plays the detective assigned to the case and Christopher Lee makes a brief appearance as well. I recall there being some impressive and tense sequences in this effort as well as a striking long take used. Horror fans might enjoy it. The movie has been restored from the original camera negative with extras that include a director commentary, interviews with the filmmaker as well as crew members and plenty of publicity material.
Finally, Scorpion have the documentary Being Different (1981). The is described as a tribute to those born physically different from the average person and how they’ve achieved success in their lives regardless. It’s narrated by Christopher Plummer.
You Know, For Kids!
There’s lots here for kids as well. Read the highlights among new releases below.
Bunnicula: Season 1, Part 2
Cain: Season 1
Detective Montalbano: Episodes 29 & 30
Home Movies: The Complete Series
Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge: The Complete Series
Sammy & Co: Turtle Paradise
On the Tube!
And here are the week’s TV-themed titles.
Bunnicula: Season 1, Part 2
Midsommer Murders: Series 19, Part 1
Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge: The Complete Series
Prison Break: The Event Series
The Rockford Files: The Complete Series
The Story of China With Michael Wood (PBS)
The Strain: Season 3
Striking Out: Series 1
When Calls the Heart: Heart of Truth (Lifetime)