It’s another busy edition, jam-packed with a wide variety of new releases on Blu-ray and DVD. As always, we have all the highlights for you below. And you can click on any links you find to read full reviews of features. So if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try!
Big New Releases!
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail – This documentary follows the owners of the small Abacus financial investment company in New York. This little firm, built by a Chinese immigrant family and serving a locals in their community, were the only institute that faced criminal charges after the devastating financial crisis of 2008. Forced to defend themselves with little assistance, the movie argues that this company was chosen as the fall guy for corporate America. Reviews for the film were excellent. They stated that it managed to create tension out of what would normally be a dry financial trail… and that may be the only movie in history to make a viewer sympathize with a bank.
Beatriz at Dinner – A Mexican immigrant and health care practitioner is invited to a client’s dinner party, where she butts heads with another guest in the form of a ruthless corporate shark and billionaire. Reportedly, unexpected twists and turns result as the evening progresses. Notices were generally solid for this independent comedy/drama. A few thought the movie could have used more subtlety with some of its characters, but the majority called it an effective class-warfare story that raises plenty of interesting points between chuckles. It was written by Mike White and features Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass and Chloe Sevigny.
Buena Vista Social Club: Adios – The 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club was a documentary that introduced viewers to some extraordinarily talented musicians in Cuba. Some 18 years later, a new director and crew return to update and revisit this group of performers as they reminisce on the impact of the original film and the music that they made together. The press enjoyed the feature, although they weren’t as enthusiastic about it as they were for its Oscar-nominated predecessor. It was suggested that the film would be sweet and enjoyable to fans of the original, but that it lacked the zip and passion of the previous entry.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie – This animated feature is an adaptation of the popular children’s book series. The story chronicles a pair of school kids who pull a prank and manage to hypnotize their teacher, making him believe that he is the titular (and slow-witted) superhero. To the children’s surprise, they must help their teacher to battle a very real and sinister villain. Reaction was quite good for this family flick. A scant few thought it didn’t have much to say, but almost all found the tale well animated, funny and full of entertaining slapstick. The voices cast includes Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal and Brian Posehn.
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City – Artist, writer and activist Jane Jacobs is chronicled in this documentary. It shows her attempts to stop big corporations from destructive developing projects across urban communities in New York. Specifically, it details her battles with a real estate developer who threatened to raze an entire neighborhood in lower Manhattan during the 1960s. Critics once again liked this non-fiction story. They complimented the movie as an earnest, straight-forward, tense and involving piece that depicts a huge battle between citizens and corporations; one that still plays as extremely relevant in today’s world.
Dead Again in Tombstone – Made for the direct-to-DVD market, this supernatural western examines the tale of a gunslinger who is resurrected from the dead in order to protect an ancient and powerful relic. He discovers that a group of nasty soldiers plan to steal and use to open a gateway to Hell and decides to stop them. No one has seen this title yet and there aren’t any reviews available, so we’ll just have to hope that it brings some level of B-movie thrills and fun to viewers. At least it has Danny Trejo riding a buffalo… that’s something you don’t see every day. Elysia Rotaru, Jake Busey, Nathaniel Arcand and Dean McDermott are also featured.
Fun Mom Dinner – Following on the heels of the hit comedy Bad Moms, this indie picture showcases four mothers who head out for a group dinner. After ingesting vast quantities of alcohol and narcotics, the evening takes a series of wild and unexpected turns. Notices were muted for the feature. Many were impressed by all the familiar faces in the cast and found that they earned a laugh here and there. However, they still referred to the end result as derivative, by-the-numbers, predictable… and ultimately not funny enough to recommend. It stars Toni Collette, Katie Aselton, Briget Everett, Molly Shannon, Adam Scott, Rob Huebel, Adam Levine, Paul Rust and Paul Rudd.
The Hatred – Here’s another out-of-the-blue horror/thriller that is making its debut on disc. The story involves four college students who decide to visit one of their professors at a remote country house that may contain a malevolent force (who are we kidding, there’s definitely something sinister on the premises). Ultimately, the girls must fight to survive. This one has been kept under wraps and has yet to be seen by any critics, so one should be weary. The cast includes Sarah Davenport, Andrew Divoff, Darby Walker and also features appearances by horror vets David Naughton and Amanda Wyss.
I Love You Both – This independent comedy/drama involves adult twins. Specifically, a codependent brother and sister who are still living together. When they begin dating the same man, tension begins to build and the established bond between the siblings is forced to change and evolve. This got a limited release a couple of months back, but not many reviews. The ones that have popped up were a little more positive than negative. Some thought there wasn’t enough material to sustain a feature, but more enjoyed it as an eccentric and low-key take on family relationships. It features Lucas Neff, Doug Archibald and Kristin Archibald.
It Comes At Night – A tightly wound family man takes refuge with his family in the woods to try and escape an end-of-the-world threat. However, the patriarch’s controlling behavior begins to cause just as much friction and terror for the family as what they were escaping. This little horror picture garnered a lot of attention and earned accolades from scare fans earlier in the year. A naysayer or two thought that it didn’t answer enough of the questions it raised, but many more complimented this character-based chiller as extremely well acted and psychologically disturbing. It stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough and Kelvin Harrison, Jr..
The Mummy – The famous Universal monster gets an update in this new take on the bandaged beast. And plenty of changes made have been made. The lead is a fortune hunter who finds a lost tomb and accidentally releases a vindictive princess from beyond the grave. Cursed with similar powers to the villain, the protagonist sets out to stop her before she destroys the world. Reaction wasn’t good for this first installment in a proposed multi-verse series featuring all of the studio’s monsters. There were criticisms directed at the writing and less-than-engaging characters, with the majority complaining that it lacked the sense of fun and adventure the previous series possessed. It features Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson and Courtney B. Vance. To read the site’s review of the feature, click here.
The Music of Strangers – This documentary follows world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his efforts to build and maintain a international collective of musicians. The feature introduces viewers to all of the participants and their approach to creating and collaborating in order to make great music. Journalists generally enjoyed the film. There were detractors who thought that it was too revelatory towards its subjects and could have revealed more personal details about them, but most admired the attempts at promoting world music to a broader audience and appreciated the talent on display.
Slack Bay – A pair of bumbling detectives are tasked with solving a series of mysterious disappearances near a beaches on the French Channel in this foreign-language comedy. As the investigation progresses, the pair are led to the home of an obscenely wealthy and bizarre upper-class family; they may have something to do with the strange events. Response in North America was all over the place for this effort, though it had more admirers than detractors. Some didn’t enjoy the Gallic-centric humor and tired of the physical comedy, but more laughed and were charmed by the goofy onscreen shenanigans. The cast includes Fabrice Luchini, Juliette Binoche, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Cyril Rigaux and Didier Despres.
Swallows and Amazons – Based on the children’s book of the same name published in 1930, this British family flick tells the tale of a small group of kids on vacation who sail to a mysterious island. After landing, they decide to take it for themselves, battling rival kids over control. However, another arrival threatens all the children, who must eventually team up to stop the threat. This movie may not have gotten much press on this side of the pond, but it did receive exceptional notices. It has been described as an endearingly old-fashioned family flick that will charm most audiences. The movie stars Kelly Macdonald, Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall, Jessica Hynes and Elizabeth Berrington.
Blasts From the Past!
And that’s only the beginning. There are a ton of older features arriving on Blu-ray as well. Synapse have a couple of cult titles coming your way. The first is a double feature of the so-bad-it’s-good horror pic, The Creeping Terror (1964). This one is about an alien menace that arrives on Earth in a small town and proceeds to eat locals. The movie has been paired, appropriately enough, with The Creep Behind the Camera (2014), a feature-length documentary that details the movie’s production with wild behind-the-scenes stories.
They also have an elaborate release of the horror film Phenomena (1985) from director Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria). This is a beautifully shot guilty pleasure about a lonely teenage American girl with a sleepwalking disorder (played by a young Jennifer Connelly) living at a Swiss boarding school. She learns that she has the power to communicate with insects, and uses her skills to help a Scottish entomologist (Donald Pleasance) and his pet chimpanzee try to catch a deranged serial killer. Yep, that’s the plot. It’s bizarre beyond words and completely ridiculous, but slasher fans will find it a lot of fun to watch and enjoy the impressively stylized set-pieces, as well as a few memorably graphic moments. This 2 disc release includes three cuts of the film (the 82 minute US Creepers release, the 110 minute European version and an extended 116 minute edition), all presented in high definition. There’s also a lengthy documentary on Argento as well as other bonuses.
Shout! Factory have an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation in the form of The Resurrected (1991). Directed by Dan O’Bannon (The Return of the Living Dead), this chiller didn’t get much of a theatrical release during its original run, but it has found an audience over the years thanks to home video. Many think it’s deserving of a reappraisal. I suppose interested parties can now have their chance with the new Blu-ray. Besides a 2K transfer from the original vault elements, it comes loaded with extras like an audio commentary, interviews with cast and crew, deleted scenes and other bonuses.
For anyone wanting to add a notorious, big-budget flop to their collection, Mill Creek are putting out the Bill Cosby sci-fi comedy bomb, Leonard Part 6 (1987). They also have the Cher/Dennis Quaid thriller, Suspect (1987). It arrives in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Don’t know if there are any extras, but this is the first time either of the films have been released on Blu-ray.
As always, Kino have a bunch of releases as well. The Blu-ray titles this week include Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Custer of the West (1967) and the very cheesy disaster flick, Krakatoa, East of Java (1968). In all honesty, it’s probably most notable for its geographically challenged title (Krakatoa is actually west of Java). They also have the amusing B-movie Tobor the Great (1954), which features a big robot that befriends its inventor’s grandson and helps the boy put a stop to the nefarious efforts of some enemy spies.
And that’s not all. Paramount are re-releasing some older titles on Blu-ray. There isn’t much of a general theme here, but one can now pick up features like El Dorado (1967), Escape From Alcatraz (1979), Fun Size (2012), The Great Gatsby (1974), Hatari! (1962) and Love Story (1970). I think that Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood and Patrick McGoohan might be the highlight of the group, at least for me.
But that’s not all. Warner Archive have the well-regarded Richard Widmark western, The Law and Jake Wade (1958) on Blu-ray.
Criterion have an elaborate Blu-ray package for the documentary, Festival (1967). This feature collects performances from some incredible musicians who performed at the Newport Folk Festival between 1965 and 1966. The movie has been restored and the soundtrack has been cleaned up; it also comes with outtake performances that weren’t used in the original cut. You’ll be able to see Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Lee Hooker, Pete Seeger and many others presented with crystal clean image and sound. Great stuff for fans of their music.
Finally, Mondo Macabro have The Fox With a Velvet Tail (1971) hitting store shelves in high definition. This is a very early Italian Giallo effort where threatening events befall its vacationing lead characters. Haven’t seen this one, so I can’t comment on it personally.
You Know, For Kids!
Kids should be interested in the new releases listed below.
Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie
Floogals: Mission Complete!
LEGO Nexo Knights: Season 3
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Fluttershy
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Wanted: Bebop & Rocksteady
On the Tube!
And here are the TV-themed titles coming your way…
The Astronaut Wives Club: The Complete Series
The Big Bang Theory: Season 10
Broadchurch: Season 3
Chicago Justice: Season 1
Chicago P.D.: Season 4
Coach: The Complete Series
Decline and Fall
Empire: Season 3
Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series
The Goldbergs: Season 4
LEGO Nexo Knights: Season 3
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Fluttershy
Orphan Black: Season 5
People of Earth: Season 1 (Warner Archive)
Rake: Series 3
Scorpion: Season 3
Secrets and Lies: Season 1
Silicon Valley: Season 4
This is Us: Season 1
Veep: Season 6
Word of warning here, this trailer has some graphic violence in it.