by Bryan Theiss
In this week’s new arrivals we have two surreal Ethiopian sci-fi freakouts, two movies about standup comics and murder sprees, two Telly Savalas vehicles, two Bob Hope/Paulette Goddard haunted house comedies, two movies starring and directed by Ray Milland, three Cary Grant movies, but only one violent home invasion thriller about a little girl fighting off neo-Nazi Kevin James. Also look out for a French mini-series about gay rights, some British shows, Claire Denis from Criterion, Howie Mandel as a funny monster, Jeremy Renner as a real life monster, David Cronenberg’s first feature, a new one from Abel Ferrara, and much more.
AGATHA RAISIN: SERIES 3 (2016)
London PR flack turned murder suspect and amateur mystery solver Agatha (Ashley Jensen) goes ahead and opens a private detective agency in this season of the British comedy mystery series.
BEAU TRAVAIL (1999) (CRITERION)
Criterion brings their definitive treatment to this long out of print film from director Claire Denis (Trouble Every Day, Let the Sunshine In, High Life). A loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, it involves a French Foreign Legion officer obsessed with a new recruit while leading troops in Djibouti. The all new supplements included with this 4K restoration supervised by director of photography Agnes Godard include a conversation between Denis and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, selected scene commentary with Godard, interviews with stars Denis Lavant and Gregoire Colin, and a video essay by film scholar Judith Mayne.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
BEAUTIFUL BOY (2018)
Steve Carrell plays a father struggling to help his son (Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name) recover from meth addiction. Based on the best-selling memoir.
The King of Queens Kevin James takes his turn at playing a serious villain in this thriller about a thirteen-year-old girl (Lulu Wilson from The Haunting of Hill House, also Riker’s daughter on Picard) forced to defend her family from a home invasion by neo-Nazi prison escapees. Her dad is played by former Almost Live!er Joel McHale. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion previously did Cooties and a Dave Bautista real time thriller called Bushwick that a few of us here are fond of. Critic Brent McKnight writes, “An angsty tween absolutely eviscerating a gang of hateful Nazis, including one played by Kevin James, is always welcome. Feel-good movie of the summer so far.“
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
BIG BROWN EYES (1936)
Manicurist turned New York crime reporter Joan Bennett helps her police detective boyfriend Cary Grant bust a gang of jewel thieves. Directed by Raoul Walsh (White Heat). This disc from Kino Lorber’s Cary Grant Collection includes commentary by critic Nick Pinkerton.
THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939)
Bob Hope stars as a timid guy who promises to protect Paulette Goddard as she attempts to spend the night in her late uncle’s haunted mansion without going insane so she can inherit his fortune in this horror-comedy classic. With commentary by author/film historian Lee Gambin.
THE COMIC (1985)
Arrow have dug up another cult oddity for our consideration, this one about an aspiring comedian murdering his rivals in a weird dystopian police state. They’ve provided a 2K restoration from the original negative, and included a new intro and interview with actor Steve Munroe.
Surreal Spanish-Ethiopian production about a man traveling across post-apocalyptic Ethiopia towards a spaceship, plagued by his fear of witches, Nazis and Santa Claus. Anton Bitel of Sight and Sound calls it “an odd Afrofuturist odyssey that rebuilds the family of tomorrow from the discarded crumbs of today.”
CULT OF THE DAMNED (1969)
“Part horror, part pop musical, part black comedy” from the writer of Death Race 2000 stars folk singer Holly Near as a debutante who comes under the influence of a rock ’n roll band that includes Jordan Christopher, Roddy McDowall and Lou Rawls! With commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer.
Six years before he broke out in The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner was already impressive in this (obviously) disturbing biography of the notorious serial killer. This blu-ray release includes a new transfer, commentary with director David Jacobson and stars Renner and Artel Kayaru, making of featurette and storyboards.
DEF-CON 4 (1985)
Astronauts return to earth after a nuclear war and have to fight off mutant cannibals and make it to the radiation-free zone before a malfunctioning warhead goes off. The way things are going it couldn’t hurt to watch this and take notes in case we need tips for this sort of situation in the near future. Includes a new interview with composer Christopher Young.
DISPUTED PASSAGE (1939)
A medical student (John Howard) falls in love with a Chinese-American woman (uh, Dorothy Lamour) and follows her to China. Directed by Frank Borzage (A Farewell to Arms). With commentary by critic Nick Pinkerton
DURRELLS IN CORFU: SEASON 4
The eccentric Durrell family try to open the family villa as a guest house in the final season of this Masterpiece series.
Director Nikkolaus Geyrhalter follows miners and construction workers involved in large-scale projects at seven mines, quarries and construction sites around the world as they bore tunnels, move mountains, and sometimes destroy indigenous lands. Kenneth Turan called it a “completely fascinating, unexpectedly compelling documentary,” and Manohla Dargis called it “as mesmerizing to watch as it is appalling to think about.” (DVD)
An ER nurse (Darlanne Fluegel), a talk radio host (Richard Belzer) and “a stranger with a dark secret” (James Russo) team up to stop a Bible-quoting madman (Billy Drago) shooting people on L.A. freeways. Includes interview with director Francis Delia.
THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940)
Bob Hope stars as a New York radio commentator who teams up with an heiress (Paulette Goddard) and his valet (Willie Best) to investigate a haunted castle in Cuba. Later remade by the same director as Scared Stiff with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. This remastered version includes commentary by film historian Lee Gambin and a Trailers From Hell commentary by Ed Wood writer Larry Karaszewski.
GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL: SERIES 3 (2017)
More medical drama with Dr. Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia), who left the UK to work at a small hospital in South India.
I’VE GOT ISSUES (2019)
“A comedy about despair and what to do with it” starring Macon Blair (Blue Ruin) and Maria Thayer (Night of the Living Deb) and narrated by Jim Gaffigan.
JESUS SHOWS YOU THE WAY TO THE HIGHWAY (2019)
In a strange 2035, a CIA agent battles a virus and gets trapped in virtual reality as it escapes into the real world. Critic Brent McKnight calls it “A surreal, VR, sci-fi spy thriller with Batman as the cocaine-addled Ethiopian president, a computer virus Stalin, kung fu masters named Spaghetti and Ravioli, and rock and roll Jesus in a fly costume taking hallucinogens.” Arrow’s edition includes a commentary by critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Anton Bitel among its extras. (We also got in Crumbs, an earlier film by the same writer/director.)
KILLER FORCE (1976)
Peter Fonda leads a crew of Christopher Lee, Hugh O’Brian, O.J. Simpson and Maud Adams in a heist against Telly Savalas, his ruthless boss at a South African diamond mine. Directed by Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment). Includes an alternate ending.
KILLING EVE: SEASON 3 (2018)
The Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus calls the third season “still a fiendishly delightful showcase for Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh’s killer chemistry.” They play a British agent and an assassin who are obsessed with each other.
LADIES SHOULD LISTEN (1934)
Switchboard operator Frances Drake crushes on businessman Cary Grant over the phone, and then discovers that his girlfriend is scheming to steal mineral rights from him. So she tries to expose the scheme to win his heart in this romantic farce from Frank Tuttle, the director of The Glass Key. From Kino Lorber’s Cary Grant Collection.
THE LAST LAUGH (2020)
A standup comedian discovers that a masked killer is stalking the old theater where he’s about to have his big break. From local writer/director Jeremy Berg (The Invoking, The Device, Holiday Hell).
Ray Milland directs and stars in this story of a black market smuggler hired to sneak an American prisoner out of communist territory. Also starring Maureen O’Hara. With commentary by film historian Toby Roan.
LITTLE MONSTERS (1989)
Don’t ever say that dreams don’t come true – the movie where Howie Mandel plays a blue, horned monster who leads Fred Savage to a secret monster world under his bed now has an extras-packed blu-ray from the Vestron Collector’s Series. Includes commentary with Cult of Monster editor Jarret Gahan, isolated score selections and interview with composer David Newman, interviews with Mandel, producer Andrew Licht, makeup FX creator Robert Short, plus vintage, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, makeup transformation, EPK and VHS promos.
LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL (2019)
Colombian “folk fantasy western/horror” about the leader of a small cult in the mountains whose three daughters turn on him when he comes back with a supposed child messiah who brings bad luck to the community. Comes with two different almost-hour-long documentaries.
A MAN ALONE (1955)
Ray Milland directs and stars as a gunman who discovers the carnage left over from a stagecoach robbery and then gets framed for it. Co-starring Ward Bond, Raymond Burr, Lee Van Cleef and Alan Hale Jr. (the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island). With commentary by film historian Toby Roan.
NOVA: CAT AND DOG TALES (2020)
Scientific investigation of the relationships between humans and their pets. It’s worth noting that Nova spells “tales” correctly and doesn’t go for the cheap pun, signaling that they mean business.
OUTLANDER: SEASON 5 (2014)
“A continuation of Claire and Jamie’s fight to protect those they love, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of life in colonial America.”
PRIVATE PARTS (1997)
It may be even harder to believe now than it was then, but the movie starring then-controversial so-called shock jock Howard Stern in his life story was well-reviewed as a feel-good (if at times lowbrow) comedy from director Betty Thomas (The Brady Bunch Movie). And don’t forget, the uptight boss “Pig Vomit” was the breakout role for Paul Giamatti.
PROUD (2018) (COMPLETE MINISERIES)
This French mini-series from director Philippe Faucon (Fatima) follows three generations of a family in episodes set in 1981, 1999 and 2013, dates that coincide with crucial moments for gay rights in France.
Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton made his directorial debut with this made-for-TV thriller about a political extremist (E.G. Marshall) trying to release nerve gas in San Diego during a political convention. Ben Gazzara and Martin Sheen are among the agents trying to stop him.
A REASON TO LIVE, A REASON TO DIE (1972)
James Coburn plays a Union Colonel who leads seven condemned soldiers (including Bud Spencer) on a suicide (and revenge) mission to overtake a strategic Confederate stronghold from an insane Confederate major played by Telly Savalas. From the director of My Name is Nobody.
ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953)
Somehow this is the first blu-ray release of the Gregory Peck/Audrey Hepburn classic. The Paramount Presents edition is a new 4K transfer with a new Leonard Maltin “Filmmaker Focus,” plus featurettes on the costumes, Hepburn’s Paramount years, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and more.
David Cronenberg’s debut feature is about a high-rise apartment building plagued by an infection that sends people into uncontrollable sex-mania. This Vestron Collector’s Series edition includes a new commentary with Cronenberg and co-producer Don Carmody, plus new interviews with Cronenberg, actress Lynn Lowry, makeup FX creator Joe Blasco and producer Greg Dunning, plus an archival 1998 Cronenberg interview, still gallery and audio interview with executive producer John Dunning.
SPAWN OF THE NORTH (1938)
George Raft, Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamour, Akim Tamiroff and John Barrymore star in an epic about rival fishermen in Alaska, directed by Henry Hathaway (True Grit). With commentary by film historians Lee Gambin and Rutanya Alda.
STRAIGHT UP (2019)
An obsessive compulsive gay twentysomething (writer/director James Sweeney) starts thinking he might actually be straight, and hooks up with an equally insecure struggling actress (Katie Findlay, The Killing) to “forge a relationship that’s all talk, no sex.” San Francisco Chronicle critic David Lewis says, “On the surface, Sweeney’s film is a playful examination of sexual fluidity, but underneath the gags, it’s really a universal, sweet movie about the modern complexities of finding a soulmate.”
SUCCESSION: SEASON 2 (2018)
The great cast of Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook Kieran Culkin and Alan Ruck return to continue the scheming misadventures of a media tycoon and his family.
Director Abel Ferrara continues his decades of collaboration with actor Willem Dafoe that includes New Rose Hotel, 4:44 Last Day on Earth and Pasolini. Dafoe plays an American director living in Rome with his young wife and daughter and losing grip on reality in what is said to be a very personal film for Ferrara. Includes interviews with Dafoe and Ferrara (the latter by The Florida Project director Sean Baker).
UNCOMMON VALOR (1983)
This is the first time on blu-ray for this under-the-radar ‘80s action gem starring Gene Hackman as a former Marine colonel who believes his M.I.A. son is being held prisoner in Vietnam, but can’t get the government to take him seriously, so he recruits his own elite team of mercenaries – including Fred Ward, Reb Brown, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Tim Thomerson and a young Patrick Swayze! – and trains them to attempt a rescue. This men-on-a-mission movie preceded the similarly premised Rambo: First Blood Part II and comes from original First Blood director Ted Kotcheff, based on a script by (uncredited) Wings Hauser, and produced by John Milius (Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn).
WEATHERING WITH YOU (2019)
Makoto Shinkai, director of The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters Per Second and Your Name, brings us an animated romantic drama about a high school kid who runs away from a small village to Tokyo, and finds the experience very gloomy until he meets a girl with the power to literally stop the rain. Featurettes include a talk show appearance by Shinkai and an exploration of his filmography. You can watch it in the original Japanese with English subtitles or in an English dub featuring Lee Pace, Alison Brie and Riz Ahmed.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
WEDDING PRESENT (1936)
When goofball reporter Cary Grant is promoted to editor he turns into a jerk and loses his girlfriend (Joan Bennett). Hearing that she’s engaged, he quits and tries to win her back. This disc from Kino Lorber’s Cary Grant Collection includes commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger.
A WOMAN’S DEVOTION (1956)
Ralph Meeker plays a painter and WWII hero who’s accused of a series of murders and worries he may be guilty, due to bouts of PTSD-related amnesia. Director Paul Henreid (Dead Ringer) also co-stars as the police captain investigating the killings.
We also have two late-arriving Warner Archive blu-rays we expect to come in later this week:
THE FLYING LEATHERNECKS (1951)
John Wayne and Robert Ryan star in this story of the Battle of Guadalcanal from director Nicholas Ray (On Dangerous Ground, Rebel Without a Cause).
KENTUCKY KERNELS (1934)
Out of work magicians played by the comedy team of Wheeler & Woolsey get stuck taking care of a kid (Spanky from The Little Rascals!) who subsequently inherits a fortune. So they head home to Kentucky with him and get mixed up in a family feud.