It’s a really busy week once again with some intriguing Blu-ray and DVD releases coming your way. As always, be sure to click on any links to read full-length reviews. So if you can’t get out to the movies this week be sure to give one of these titles a try!
Big New Releases!
6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain – Based on a true account, an ex-hockey player struggling with personal demons decides to go snowboarding alone in the High Sierra mountains. Bad idea! When a snowstorm hits unexpectedly, he becomes lost and struggles to survive incredibly brutal conditions for several days. Reaction to this drama wasn’t particularly overwhelming. While admitting it was an interesting tale, the movie received criticism for being pedestrian and bland in presenting the story, ultimately failing to convey the true horrors experienced. It stars Josh Harnett, Mira Sorvino and Sarah Dumont.
Amityville: The Awakening – Believe it or not, the 1977 book about an evil house tormenting its owners has resulted in a massive franchise of films. In fact, 18 movies (although many of them were made for the direct-to-video market) have been produced. The most recent chapter follows a new family who move in, start to feel a supernatural influence and begin to turn on one another. Critics panned the movie. They stated that while it had a good cast, the movie did nothing to distinguish itself from others in the series and repeated the plot elements in an uninspired manner. Interestingly, it was shot in 2014, but shelved by the distributor. The cast includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Makenna Grace, Cameron Monaghan and Kurtwood Smith.
Aquarius – A 65-year-old widow and retiree in Brazil faces great difficulty when she becomes the last resident at her apartment complex. New developers want to buy her out so that they can develop a new condominium. However, she resists and the group decides to make her life there unbearable until she agrees to sell. It becomes a battle of wills between the two parties. This foreign-language drama earned plenty of praise during its arthouse run late last year. The consensus was that although the movie was a bit lengthy, the lead performance was fantastic, the events compelling and the themes resonant. Sonja Braga plays the lead.
Atomic Blonde – Based on a graphic novel of the same name, this action picture is set in Berlin during the Cold War. An MI6 agent is sent in to investigate the murder of a compatriot, only to find herself double-crossed and under attack. The press were generally positive about the feature. Some believed that the story itself didn’t hold up to much scrutiny and therefore couldn’t recommend it, but more were impressed enough with the spectacular stunt work and action to give it a pass. The movie features Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones and Bill Skarsgard. To read this website’s review, click here.
Brigsby Bear – An adult outcast who lives in the desert spends much of his time watching a children’s show about a large bear. When the program is abruptly cancelled, the surprised and disappointed lead sets out to make his own series finale and provide the character with closure. Weirdness ensues. Critics really liked this oddball comedy. There were a few who didn’t appreciate the seriousness that eventually worked its way into the story, but most found it a low-key and sweet feature that effortlessly charmed. It stars Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes, Matt Walsh and Andy Samberg.
In This Corner of the World – This animated effort from Japan tells is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who gets married and lives a simple life with her family in Hiroshima during WWII. Obviously, the woman is forced to find a way to survive after the war reaches her home and staggering devastation occurs. The movie received excellent notices from reviewers. It has been described as a beautifully animated, emotional and accessable effort that details how ordinary lives are forever altered by events well beyond their control or understanding.
Kedi – Here’s an interesting conceit for a documentary. The city of Istanbul is examined and documented through the eyes of its massive population of stray cats who have resided in the area for centuries. Reportedly, there are thousands upon thousands living in the streets and the citizens have taken it upon themselves to keep them fed and happy. A few thought that it was a nice but otherwise unremarkable doc. However, most members of the press were taken with the numerous cats on display and the movie’s assertion that their presence had a strangely positive effect on the population.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature – This animated sequel reunites the squirrel heroes from the first film as they face a new threat. When the mean town mayor decides to raze the park the animals live in, the residents ban together to save their home. Reaction to the film was very poor, although not as terrible as for the 2014 original. Truthfully, most seemed surprised that a sequel had even been made. They noted that the message was admirable and that it may have been a slight improvement on the previous film, but noted that the writing and events were less-than-dynamic. The voice cast includes Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Jackie Chan and Peter Stormare.
The Secret Scripture – Based on the popular novel, the plot of this drama involves a psychiatrist visiting a mental institution that is about to be torn down. While there, he interviews an elderly resident. She details her past and life in the facility, fascinating the doctor. The resident’s tales didn’t end up impressing critics. A spattering of them enjoyed the performances, but most described it as a melodramatic misfire that didn’t make much narrative sense and worsened as it progressed. Now viewers can make up their own minds. It stars Rooney Mara, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Reynor, Eric Bana and Theo James.
Unlocked – A CIA agent fails to apprehend a terrorist who causes death and disaster during an attack in Paris. Shuffled off behind a desk at a London branch, she finds herself uncovering an even larger plot while interviewing a criminal suspect. The lead tries to redeem herself and stop sinister parties in an attempt to prevent a biological attack. Reviews weren’t overwhelming for this action/thriller. A few thought it was a passable potboiler and liked the female-centered focus, but most called it a predictable and by-the-numbers thriller. It features Noomi Repace, Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, John Malkovich and Michael Douglas.
The Villainess – In this South Korean effort, a young girl is trained to be an unstoppable assassin and is eventually recruited by the government as a special agent. After fulfilling her duties and retiring, she sets out to start a new life. However, strange characters from her past begin to appear and make threats. The lead doesn’t take kindly to their threats. The press were generally positive about this foreign-language action flick. They claimed that while the story and characters weren’t new, the fight sequences were stunningly staged and sure to give viewers a visceral kick. Ok-bin Kim is tasked with beating down the bad guys.
Whose Streets? – This documentary chronicles the Ferguson, Missouri vigils, uprising and protest measures taken after unarmed local Darren Wilson was shot dead by police in August of 2014. It introduces viewers to residents as well as those who felt compelled to make their voices heard and stand together, and also captures the more extreme actions taken by other factions. The movie earned a nearly unanimous approval rating from critics, who commented that it doesn’t shy away from putting viewers right in the middle of the fracas, helping them to get a palpable sense of what occurred and empathize with the participants.
Wind River – A new FBI recruit is sent to investigate the murder of a local Native American woman near a reservation. She teams with an emotionally scarred game tracker to determine what happened to the woman and why it occurred. Of course, the pair’s own lives come into danger during the inquiry. Reaction to this thriller from Taylor Sheridan (Hell of High Water) was positive overall. Most admitted that it wasn’t quite on par with the director’s previous feature and took a few missteps (particularly during the final act). However, they generally felt that it was a well-acted and compelling mystery. It stars Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Julia Jones, Jon Bernthal, Gil Birmingham and Graham Greene.
The Women’s Balcony – This comedy from Israel involves a village family’s trails over two significant events. It starts with a bar mitzvah that suffers from a big mishap and climaxes with a wedding. Based on press notes, it appears that much of the movie involves women of the community squaring off against a rigid and strict rabbi. The movie was a hit in its home country and also earned good reviews in North America. It has been called a very enjoyable, sweet and breezy ensemble film that entertains from beginning to end. The cast includes Evelin Hagoel, Igal Naor and Orna Banai.
Zoology – In this Russian drama, an inwardly drawn middle-aged woman who works in a zoo and lives with her religious mom must endure the daily grind. Day after day, co-workers and the lady’s mother treat her poorly. Things change when the woman suddenly grows a tail. Strangely enough, it emboldens her as she begins to take more control of her life. However, when more physical changes start occurring, it puts the lead at a crossroads. Reaction towards this foreign-language movie has been positive, with reviews concluding that while it may be bizarre, the tale works well as a sharp satire. It features Natalya Pavlenkova and Dmitry Groshev.
Blasts from the Past!
Arrow Video have a Blu-ray/DVD combo box set arriving that will be of great interest to horror fans. George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn includes three of the director’s more difficult-to-locate films that were released between Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). This includes the counterculture romantic comedy, There’s Always Vanilla (1971), which is examined here in an earlier article. The collection also includes the effective and eerie drama, Season of the Witch (1972). This one has been written up here. And finally, buyers will receive the extremely tense and expertly made thriller, The Crazies (1973). You can read a review of that disc here.
All have been given spiffy new restorations from original elements with vastly improved image and sound quality. The set also comes with a wealth of extras. They include film journalist commentaries, interviews with Romero, bits of never-before-seen behind the scenes footage – there’s literally too much to go through right here. It’s a superb release. One thing is for certain, if you’re a fan of the director, this is a great way to catch up with his lesser-known titles and add them to your collection. Let’s hope they can also license the out-of-print Martin (1978) at some point in the future.
There’s plenty of other interesting releases as well. Criterion have a Blu-ray of the well-regarded drama Desert Hearts (1985). This independent film involves a love affair between two women in the 50s. The disc includes a new 4K restoration of the feature, director audio commentary, as well as a conversation between the filmmaker and actress Jane Lynch, interviews with stars Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau, and documentaries on the production.
They also have Le Samouri (1967), French film about a contract killer who models himself after samurai warriors of Japan. I haven’t seen it, but the movie is beloved by crime cinema aficionados and sounds very interesting. The Blu-ray comes with a short documentary on the director, archival interviews with cast and crew as well as a 2005 retrospective discussions.
Shout! Factory have some notable Blu-ray titles as well. Attack of the Puppet People (1958) involves an insane doll-maker who manages to invent a way to shrink people to a height of roughly six inches. This twisted individual starts miniaturizing people (including his secretary) to keep them as pets or playthings. The small but determined group decides to fight back, escape and hopefully figure out a way to instigate a growth spurt. This movie arrives with a new 2K transfer, a film historian commentary and a theatrical trailer. It should provide plenty of B-movie fun for persons in the right mindset.
On a similar tact, they also have a “Collector’s Edition” of The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981). It’s a comedy about a put-upon suburban housewife who ingests a household chemical and begins to get smaller and smaller, perplexing her family. If memory serves, at one point she ends up in lab befriending a gorilla. Lily Tomlin plays the lead role. The disc includes a brand new transfer as well as interviews with Tomlin, director Joel Schumacher as well as the writer/producer, cinematographer and composer. There’s also a deleted scene, trailer and still gallery. This one has been hard-to-find for a long time, so many will be happy to finally be able to pick it up in high-definition.
Shout! also have The Paul Naschy Collection II Blu-ray set, which includes the cheesy B-movies Hunchback of the Morgue (1973), Devil’s Possessed (1974), , Exorcism (1974) aka Lorna the Exorcist, A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1975) and The Werewolf and the Yeti aka Night of the Howling Beast (1975). And yes, it comes with a bevy of extras as well. None of the features are particularly good, but even I must admit that The Werewolf and the Yeti, if nothing else, is a great-sounding title for a movie.
And Kino have several Blu-ray featuring films from various eras, including the film noir, The Man Who Died Twice (1958), the silent feature The Last Laugh (1924) and the modern crime flick, This World, Then the Fireworks (1997).
You Know, For Kids!
Here are some options for the kids.
Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature
On the Tube!
And you’ll find the week’s TV-themed releases listed below.
7th Heaven: The Complete Series
CSI Miami: The Complete Series
D.C. Follies: The Complete Series
Doctor Who: Series 10
The Dukes of Hazard: The Complete Series
Last Tango in Halifax: Season 4
Preacher: Season 2
Rake: Series 4
Simon & Simon: Season 7