For regular readers of this column, I’ll be on vacation for the next two weeks, so there will be no new columns. I’ve gone ahead and included the few movies I received early enough from upcoming weeks in this week’s column, and in those cases I’ve denoted the release dates for them. It’s mostly catalogue classics and independent films this week, but there will probably be some big new titles hitting home video while Im away. I’ll report in on them once I’m back. Read on!
Heat (4K Ultra HD) – I’ve never been an overly huge fan of Michael Mann’s Heat. I know it was the first true onscreen pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I know it has an amazing gunfight. I know it’s an extremely well-loved film. But it had just never really done all that much for me. As it’s been several years since I saw it, I thought this 4K Ultra HD debut of the film would be a great way to re-watch it and see if my opinion has changed. And I would say my opinion has definitely improved. It’s still not an all-time favorite for me, but I think I enjoyed the film more this time than I ever have before. This new 4K Ultra HD boasts exceptional picture and sound quality. It’s not like the film looked or sounded anything less than stellar on Blu-ray, but colors are more deeply saturated and image clarity is razor sharp, even though the film is 25 years old. The surround soundtrack will rock your entire body; that climactic gunfight is what you’re going to want to use to show off your home theater system from now on. If you’re a die-hard Heat fan and also an audio/videophile, this is a great release for you.
Child’s Play 1-3 (4K Ultra HD) [August 16] – You know that the Child’s Play franchise has become part of the cultural lexicon when you realize that people who have never seen a single one of the films can still throw around Chucky references without missing a beat. Shout Factory’s always-excellent Scream Factory imprint now brings us the first three films on 4K Ultra HD, and it’s a welcome addition. While I have a real soft spot for the second film, there’s no denying that the first one is a really terrific horror film. The idea of a child’s doll being a killer is pretty creepy, and while it’s been done both before and since Child’s Play, it’s rarely been done this well and with such a great balance of humor and horror. Really, the first two are both outstanding, and the third one is fun as well. The new 4K Ultra HD releases give the films a nice audiovisual upgrade. They were never high-budget epics to begin with and they are going on 30 years old, so it’s not a complete transformation, but they look and sound pretty good overall. Stronger colors, sharper imagery, and more active soundtracks add a nice little oomph to the proceedings. Each new edition includes the film on 4K Ultra HD as well as on Blu-ray, and each one includes a nice collection of archival extra features. These are true collector’s editions for fans.
Event Horizon (4K Ultra HD 25th Anniversary Steelbook Edition) – Event Horizon is such an interesting film. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (of the Resident Evil series fame) and starring Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne, it’s one of the few films I can think of that qualifies both as a science fiction movie but also as a true horror movie. And I know some people who absolutely love this film, which makes this new 4K Ultra HD from Paramount a no-brainer. Personally, I’m of two minds on the film. I like its originality and I think it really is creepy as hell. It’s also a bit too disturbing to feel like I really LOVE it, but it’s worth a watch every handful of years. For fans of the film, though, this new remastered 4K edition looks better than ever. Black levels are deep and inky, details are fine and sharp, and the surround soundtrack works overtime to create a terrifying atmosphere that will inhabit your living room. There’s also a bounty of bonus features, including multiple interview featurettes with cast and crew, an audio commentary, a five-part making-of documentary, and much more. It also comes in a gorgeous Steelbook case, so really, this is the ultimate package for fans.
Hot Seat – This week’s requisite “big name actors in a direct-to-video film” is Hot Seat, starring Kevin Dillon and Mel Gibson. It’s an interesting enough set up for a film: a computer hacker (Dillon) finds himself stuck in an office chair wired to explode, and he’ll be killed unless he does the bidding of an unknown villain. Gibson joins the proceedings as a bomb squad member who tries to help Dillon’s character survive. Unfortunately, the film’s director has been churning out Direct-to-Video movies over the past couple of years; I’ve reviewed most of them and none of them are particularly good. This one goes on way too long, with little actual content of interest enough to keep viewers engaged. Dillon is fine in the lead role and Gibson always adds some acting chops to the show, but the film itself feels like a low-budget slog, largely because that’s what it is.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- Weekend Warriors – Corbin Bernsen and Jason London co-star in this new action film which manages to rise slightly above its low-budget origins. The film sees a brother and sister who go on a camping trip in the woods with their uncle, only to run afoul of a group of ex-con survivalists. When the siblings witness something they shouldn’t, it becomes a run through the woods and a desperate race for survival while being hunted by a superior foe. Now, I love survival thrillers as a genre, so I was inclined to be gentle with this film, and it’s not bad. The kids aren’t great actors, but Jason London and Corbin Bernsen still have their acting chops and add some quality to the proceedings. The action scenes won’t win any awards, but it’s more about the tension of being hunted and on the run, and in that respect, the film manages to work for the most part. It’s nothing worth writing home about, but as a way to kill 90 minutes, it’s decent enough.
- Flying Guillotine Part II – 88 Films has been putting out a huge number of cult classic martial arts films in recent months, most of which come from the famed Shaw Brothers studios that were huge in the 1970s. This week brings us the Blu-ray Collector’s Edition release of Flying Guillotine Part II (also known as Palace Carnage), a 1978 sequel that is getting its first U.S. Blu-ray release. Having watched a number of these movies now on Blu-ray, I’d say this one falls right in the middle, quality-wise. It doesn’t start out great, but it gets better as it goes along. The flying guillotine weapon is very cool, and there’s no shortage of beheadings to be found. The action sequences are — as always — the highlight of the film, but by the end it won me over enough to enjoy it more than not. This new Blu-ray release includes a nice slipcover with gorgeous new cover art, and a new audio commentary track, but it’s a little light on extras otherwise. Still, fans of the genre will want to keep their collection going.
- Baby Assassins [August 16] – I’ll admit that the title of this film had me expecting there worse, with visions of toddlers in diapers taking out contracts for money or baby formula. Luckily, it’s not that and it’s actually a surprisingly good action flick. This Japanese film sees two teenage girls graduate high school, during which time they were trained as assassins. Now, they are forced to room together and get real jobs to establish their cover identities. Unfortunately, things quickly go wrong and the two — who can barely tolerate each other — have to go on the run and trust each other to survive. It’s a classic buddy cop formula, only with assassins instead of cops and teenage girls instead of male action stars. It’s fast paced and action packed, and while it won’t be your new favorite film, it will be an enjoyable viewing experience.
- Apples – What stars out as a pretty neat concept — patients in recovery try to connect and build new identities in a world where sudden onset amnesia is the new pandemic — ends up a bit of a mess of a film for my personal tastes. I was hoping for a dystopic thriller, but what I got was more of an arthouse film. While we do get two characters who seem to make a connection undertaking activities like taking Polaroids of their experiences and trying to create new identities, the film is also languid and dreamlike at times. The film becomes less and less concrete as it goes, and it ends up asking a lot of questions it never ends up answering. It’s not bad at all, I just don’t love these kinds of esoteric films. Arthouse movie fans will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.
- Yellowbrickroad – Originally released as part of a themed collection of horror films curated by Bloody Disgusting, Yellowbrickoad is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a new Blu-ray edition. The film is a low-budget affair that has a found footage vibe without actually being a found footage film. The story is what gets you interested to start with: in 1940, the entire population of a small New England town — some 500 people — waled into the woods and disappeared. Now, 70 years later, a team of explorers is venturing into the same woods to discover what happened. And, well, you can guess how things go from there. The film isn’t fancy or made with a lot of money, but the performances are better than usual and the film is dripping with atmosphere, making it more creepy than genuinely scary, and sometimes that does the trick. This 10th anniversary Blu-ray includes two new making-of featurettes, new interviews with the cast and crew, and an archival audio commentary with the directors. Pretty neat stuff!
- Dr. Lamb – Unearthed Classics brings us a new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition of this 1992 Chinese horror movie. The film is about a psychotic taxi driver who likes to kill women and then take pictures of their bodies. In case you’re wondering if this is a subtle film, let me assure you, it’s not. It’s gory and disturbing, and while I can’t say it runs to my tastes, I know there are a number of horror fans out there who will probably enjoy it. This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray comes loaded with extra features, including a commentary track, multiple featurettes, and a full-color collector’s booklet, all wrapped up in some snazzy packaging. Check it out if you’re into deep cut horror titles.
- The Old Man Movie – I don’t entirely know what to make of this movie. It’s a stop-motion animation film from Estonia, based on a popular series of web shorts from the same country and the same creators. The story follows a farmer and his three grandkids who have to find and milk his escaped prized cow before it explodes — because if you don’t milk cows in time, they blow up. Add in a bad guy who is… I don’t know, partly made of milk(?) and the results are pretty offbeat. The film mixes gross out humor and some surprisingly just plain gross scenes, all rendered in stop motion animation with relatively simple clay models. Here’s what I’ll say about the film: it’s the kind of movie that will appeal to people who like South Park but are looking for something to take it to the next level. It’s not my thing, but I can see scads of college dorm rooms devouring this movie on bored weekend nights and having a blast with it.
- Gulliver Returns – Apparently, one of the people whose ideas contributed to this new CGI animated film was Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who catapulted to world fame as the president of Ukraine when the recent war broke out over there. I assume this was from when he was still a comedian, but I don’t know for sure. And a portion of the proceeds from this film’s sales go to supporting a charity in Ukraine, and that’s great. So I feel a little bad about pointing out how not-good the film is. The story — a sequel of sorts to the classic children’s tale Gulliver’s Travels — is completely ridiculous and there’s little to enjoy in the film’s actions or characters. Maybe really young kids will enjoy it, and maybe you’re tired of Dora or Barney so this might change things up, but anyone old enough to reason will probably find it pretty tough going.
- Samira’s Dream – This interesting documentary from Indiepix films follows the life of a young woman for seven years. Largely footage-based, with just a little bit of narration or exposition, the film documents the life of Samira, a young woman from Nungwi, a small fishing village in the island of Zanzibar. She’s from a rigid muslim society and was forced to marry, but she also wants to become an educated and independent woman. The film follows her through her life and compiles a compelling narrative of her efforts to grow beyond her society’s constraints for her. It feels important and immediate, and while I don’t always love documentaries, I found this one quite compelling.
- Cocoon – Not to be confused with Ron Howard’s 1980s sci-fi favorite, this movie is an LGBTQ+ coming-of-age drama from Germany. It’s not particularly plot-heavy; 14-year-old Nora is kind of floating through life, as teenagers do. She doesn’t have much in common with her sisters and feels a little disconnected to her world. Then she meets Romy, and an instant connection is made. From there, the film is about first love and young romance. Through a variety of filmmaking techniques (including cell phone camera footage and the like), the film gives us a realistic look at teenage love. It’s not a found footage film, it just mixes immediacy into the proceedings with accents of footage other than traditionally film-shot scenes. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a sweet movie and foreign film aficionados will enjoy it.
What’s New on Home Video – August 9th, 2022 – Heat, Child’s Play, Event Horizon, & More!
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