Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for October 20th, 2020 including our pick of the week, The Hit!
This week’s home video selection includes spooky Halloween favorites, new action beats, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Hit [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A mobster makes a plea deal and is targeted by his old friends.
Why see it? Stephen Frears’ mid 80s tale of an informer targeted by the mob remains one of the cooler movies you’re likely to see. Terence Stamp’s Willie isn’t thrilled with what he’s done, but ten years later he’s enjoying life hiding out in rural Spain. That peace is interrupted by a pair of hit men (John Hurt, Tim Roth) tasked with making a lesson of his betrayal, but their journey doesn’t quite work out as expected for anyone. Death hangs in the air, but the dynamic between these three men is constantly alive with tension and wonder. Regret, doubt, and honor all come into play, and it’s just a remarkable film. Criterion’s new Blu-ray is aces.
[Extras: New 2K transfer, commentary, interview]
Back to the Future – The Ultimate Trilogy [4K UaHD]
What is it? A young man and his older friend head to the past, the future, and the past again.
Why see it? Robert Zemeckis delivered pure magic with his mid-80s blockbuster, and while the two sequels that followed vary in quality the trilogy as a whole remains an absolute blast. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are a fantastic pair, and combined with a stellar supporting cast and an incredibly sharp script they help lead the first film into modern classic territory. It’s funny, exciting, and constantly entertaining. The second film manages its own thrills even as it twists itself a bit too tight, but the final entry brings back the warmth and character alongside the laughs and ingenuity. The films are sharp-looking — and made even sharper in 4K — and the discs are loaded with extras new and old.
[Extras: Featurettes, documentary, deleted scenes, commentaries, short film]
Picture Mommy Dead [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A teenager comes home from the hospital after killing her mother.
Why see it? Bert I. Gordon is a director best known for big animal horror, but this nifty little thriller shows his less effects-heavy talents well. Don Ameche plays the girl’s father who marries his daughter’s hot nanny after his wife dies, and when the girl inherits her mother’s wealth and house the new couple step in as guardians. The girl may be mad, the house may be haunted, and/or someone may be playing tricks in the hopes of securing the inheritance. It’s a fun ride.
[Extras: New 4K master, commentary]
What is it? A horror anthology!
Why see it? It’s a broken record message around these parts, but good to great horror anthologies are too hard to come by these days. This compilation is a rare exception, and while it leans heavily towards comedy the horror elements are strong, fun, and plentiful. Quality varies as with all anthologies, but there are no outright stinkers here, and the film does great work tying the tales together into a bigger story complete with payoffs. Its setting in a video store plays perfectly into the tone and mentality as it feels like an 80s blast.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary, deleted segment, bloopers]
The Ape [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Good intentions, and all that.
Why see it? Boris Karloff plays a scientist whose desire to help people leads him down a dark path, and if that isn’t scientists in movies I don’t know what is. The film is marketed as horror, but while there are some unsettling elements it’s actually more of a depressing drama. Not a bad thing, obviously, but it’s not a fun watch.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentaries]
Cut Throat City
What is it? Four friends try to get ahead through illicit means.
Why see it? RZA’s a charismatic guy with musical talents, but his directorial efforts have rarely amounted to much. His latest shows improvement in that area with some engaging sequences, but the script lets the film down throughout. From the friends to the villains to everyone’s motivation, we’ve seen this handled better elsewhere. The themes still land, though, as RZA explores the people left behind after Hurricane Katrina and a city uninterested in helping.
[Extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
The Great – Season One
What is it? Catherine the Great has fun.
Why see it? This Hulu series offers up a fictionalized account of real history, and it has a good time alone the way. Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult take lead, and while both deliver strong comedic performances it’s Hoult who’s having the biggest blast as a guy you love to hate. The show probably won’t teach you much in the way of real history, big strokes aside, but it’s entertaining all the same.
[Extras: Featurettes, gag reel]
The Haunting [Paramount Presents]
What is it? An off-brand, big studio take on Shirley Jackson’s classic novel.
Why see it? Jan De Bont doesn’t seem like the guy you’d put in charge of your big budget adaptation of a classic ghost story, but he makes more sense once you see the film. The movie trades scares and atmosphere for CG and elaborate production design. The CG is underwhelming and never frightening, but the film earns points for the design as the house’s interior is just terrific.
What is it? A group of friends break into a house to burgle it, but they’re not prepared for what they find.
Why see it? Maisie Williams is the headliner here, but while she’s good the film suffers with characters that are wholly unappealing. Not a single one of the young adults are worth rooting for, and the elderly couple who turn the tables on them are no more engaging. The film’s strongest in its first half as the pieces start falling into place, but the execution and payoff never equal the time investment.
What is it? An Uber driver goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Why see it? There are things to be said about the gig economy and fame in this great country of ours, but Spree never manages to say any of them. Instead it fumbles its tone with a murderous white dude offing people for likes, and while Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery does good work with the character the film’s never quite sure what viewers should think of him.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
Sunrise at Campobello [Warner Archive]
What is it? Before he was president, FDR was a man.
Why see it? My synopsis there is silly, but this look at Franklin D Roosevelt’s life and struggles before becoming the most powerful person in the world is that kind of drama. That’s not a knock, either, as the film — and the play it’s based upon — are sincere in their portrayal of the man’s struggle with polio and life with his loving wife. Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson play the couple, and both do fine work.
What is it? A couple’s child disappears while on an RV trip.
Why see it? Thomas Jane and Anne Heche play the couple whose young daughter goes missing, and both do good work. The trouble is a script (from writer/director/actor Peter Facinelli) that tips its hand way too early despite filling the screen with red herrings. Poor Jason Patric shows up as a not so dogged cop, but the script just can’t find its footing. Seeing 9/11 used as a major clue doesn’t help things.
Also out this week:
Fear No Evil / Ritual of Evil [KL Studio Classics], The Gunfighter [Criterion Collection], Killdozer [KL Studio Classics], Outside the Law, Sword of God, Tremors: Shrieker Island, The Untold Story