Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: American Made, Killing Gunther, The Breakfast Club, Mayhem and more


Killing Gunther

American Made – I don’t know why Tom Cruise can’t open movies anymore, but in the case of American Made, I get it. And it’s not the fault of the film itself. It was the marketing. Honestly, none of the trailers made this film look all that interesting. And part of that comes from the fact that I think most people just don’t care all that much about CIA-sanctioned drug-and-arms smuggling in the 80s. All that said, however, American Made (directed by Doug Liman, helmer of Go, The Bourne Identity, and Edge of Tomorrow) is actually a pretty good film. At the end of the day, I still don’t care all that much about the story being told, but if you like movies like The Wolf of Wall Street or War Dogs, you should enjoy this one.

The Breakfast ClubThe Breakfast Club transcends being a simple teen comedy to rank as one of the most influential films of the 1980s. It might not have had as much of an impact on the next generation of filmmakers as cinematic outings such as Raging Bull or Full Metal Jacket, but I know a generation of kids who wanted to have THAT high school experience. There’s a reason why people my age can still quote the film endlessly to this day. This film represents one of the greatest works of writer/director John Hughes’ career, and this terrific new Criterion Collection Edition pays the movie a heartfelt tribute. It includes pretty much all of the major extra features that have been created for previous home video editions, but it also includes a few new ones, giving fans the greatest collection of materials about the film ever collected in one place. Simply put, this one is a must have.

Mayhem – Joe Lynch is kind of the Ed Wood of our generation. With previous films such as Everly and Knights of Badassdom, Lynch has evidenced that he really loves genre filmmaking and geek genres. With Mayhem (starring The Walking Dead’s erstwhile Glenn, Steven Yuen), Lynch once again dives into genre tropes, but instead of a film that’s even remotely enjoyable or clever, he simply serves up 90 minutes of shear bloodbath. I have no problem with blood and guts in a film, but really, this movie is just one giant scene of chaos set in an office building. The marketing tries to compare it to something like The Belko Experiment, but that film couched its violence in interesting characters and a sense of mystery. This film has no mystery, paper-thin characters, and lots and lots of blood. Lynch seems to mean well, but he keeps making films that are more violent than they need to be and with an underlying darkness that keeps them from being even remotely likable.

Brad’s Status – Ben Stiller stars in this film about a middle-aged man who is basically unhappy in his life, even though he lives a pretty great one, mostly because all of his friends seem to be doing better than him. It’s a terrific performance by Stiller, but it’s also a polarizing one, because on one hand, I think most people can relate to what his character is going through, but on the other hand, you just want to smack him sometimes and tell him to quit his whining. It’s not dissimilar to a film like Greenberg, in which Stiller played a character with some similarities (although in Greenberg he was much more insufferable.) It’s a solid film, but it hits a little to close to real life to be good escapism for me, and I’m not generally a Stiller fan, so it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea.

Killing Gunther – Written and directed by SNL’s Taran Gillam (who also takes the lead role) Killing Gunther is an extremely fun movie about a group of hired assassins teaming up to take down the world’s number one hitman (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.) Killam fills the screen with friends and lovers; former SNL co-star Bobby Moynihan is along for the ride, as is Killam’s wife Cobie Smulders. But as much as I don’t always love the mockumentary style of filmmaking, this one plays out as a cross between mockumentary and narrative film, and it’s really funny. But more than just being a comedy, there’s also a handful of really tight action sequences, which is pretty impressive. I didn’t expect much from this movie, but I have to admit I really had a lot of fun with it.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Hell Night – Shout Factory’s always-excellent Scream Factory imprint delivers another cult classic on Blu-ray for the first time with this release of Hell Night. Starring Linda Blair, the film follows a group of co-eds forced to spend the night in a mansion that was the site of some grisly murders a decade earlier. While the plan is to fool them with pranks, things take a deadly turn when the students start dying for real. This 1981 slasher flick is a lot of fun, although it’s definitely couched in the time period it comes from. It’s relatively tame, but there are some good jump scares and some decent atmosphere, so horror fans should enjoy (re)discovering it.
  • The Stolen – This period action/drama stars Alice Eve, Graham McTavish, and Jack Davenport in the story of a woman in the frontier of New Zealand whose husband is murdered and baby is kidnapped. Well, of course, she’s not going to pay the ransom, so we get a female-led Taken set in the Wild West of Gold Rush-era New Zealand. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate, but it’s also not entirely inaccurate. The film is pretty surface level, without going too deep into the characters’ emotions, but that works in this context, as the film is made to be an action flick. Its watchable and I really like Alice Eve and Graham McTavish, but it’s not one that you’ll particularly remember once it’s over.
  • Cadillac Man – Kino Lorber has quietly turned into one of the most reliable and welcome distributors of lesser-known and cult classic films on Blu-ray. This week, they drop Cadillac Man, which may not be one of Robin Williams’ best films, but hey, it’s a Robin Williams film, which means it’s at least interesting enough to watch, especially now that he’s no longer with us. This comedy also stars Tim Robbins, Fran Drescher, Lori Petty, and Annabella Sciorra, and it was directed by Roger Donaldson, who would carve out a successful career as an action director. That flair is on display here as – even though it’s a comedy – the film has a dark side and even some scenes of violence. I like this movie; like I said, it’s not a classic but it’s certainly a worthy entry in Williams’ canon.
  • The Adventurers – While it sounds like some sort of animated kids’ film, this Asian action/adventure film stars superstar Andy Lau alongside Yo Yang and Shu Qi as three of the world’s best thieves trying to pull off a huge heist. SO far, so good, right? But wait! Who is chasing them but French detective Jean Reno! Now you’re interested, right? I have to admit, this is a fun movie that isn’t afraid to go over the top when needed. Heist films are always fun, and this one definitely checks all the heist-movie boxes, making it a crowd pleaser as long as you don’t mind subtitles. But come on, it’s worth watching even with subtitles.
  • Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season – I’m not old enough to have watched Laugh-In when it originally aired, but I grew up watching it on Nick at Night repeats as a child. My parents were the perfect age to be fans of the show, so it was a staple in my house and I became a big fan. Laugh-In was basically one of the first sketchy comedy shows, and it was filled with an amazing roster of talent including Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Gary Owens, and many other comedy greats. Digging into the show, I found it to still be an incredibly fun time. It’s great to see all the old stars again, and the humor is still right on point. Sure, not every single sketch or bit still works, but the humor is largely timeless, and I had a really good time revisiting what was a huge part of my childhood.
  • The Houses October Built 2 – So… you survived a traumatic murderfest in a haunted house attraction. And your next move is to… go out and do it all over again? Okay, sure. This sequel (to a film that many people have never heard of in the first place) isn’t a bad horror film, but it’s kind of a repeat of the first flick. A group of horror movie survivors decide that in order to get over their trauma they need to go out and face their fears. Well, of course, their fears come true all over again, calling their original decision into serious question. That said, there are some fun horror movie moments to be found here, but it’s certainly not essential viewing.
  • Shock Wave – Andy Lau makes his second appearance on the list this week as an expert on the Explosives Ordnance Disposal Unit. Or for short, the bomb squad. Part Daylight, part Speed, part Blown Away, the film is a tense and exciting suspense actioner that deals with revenge, heroism, and – trust me – plenty of explosions. I love these kinds of movies, and this one is top notch. It has relatively strong characters for a film that’s more about the action, and said action scenes will often find you on the edge of your seat. It’s a great-looking film with some great set pieces, and if you can get past the subtitles (which you definitely should) you’ll really enjoy it.
  • The Teacher – This intense Slovak-language film by acclaimed Czech director Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky is set in Bratislava in 1983, when Czechoslovakia was still under Communist control. The film sees a new teacher, expertly played by Zuzana Maurery, who is the head of the local communist chapter and uses that power to blackmail her students and their parents. Through the course of the film, we see parents and school officials trying to come to agreement on how to handle her, and the result is pretty fascinating stuff. It’s a bit too long, and it is in a language unfamiliar to most of is, but it’s an intense film that shows what life was likely like for people in a Communist country in the 80s, something most Americans have literally zero experience with. Worth a watch.
  • Lucky – I never really understood the cult fascination/hero worship that Harry Dean Stanton received in his lengthy career. I have nothing against him as an actor (or a person), I just never found myself excited by the idea of HDS appearing in a film I was watching. This film sees Stanton in a rare starring role, in one of his last performances before his death last year. Also starring Ron Livingston and David Lynch (who was clearly an influence on the director, well-known character actor John Carroll Lynch), the film is less plot-driven and more an atmospheric tribute to Stanton himself. I can’t say I loved it, but it’s certainly interesting. If you like Stanton, however, you’ll enjoy this flick.
  • Shadowman – You might be expecting a horror movie with a title like Shadowman (and the cover art doesn’t exactly steer you away from that), but instead the film is a documentary about a pre-Banksy Banksy-esque graffiti artist named Richard Hambleton. Famed for his shadow people, he gained notoriety and then fell into hard drug use and disappeared from pretty much the entire world. The film tells the artist’s tale as well at his chance at rediscovery and redemption some two decades down the road. It’s an interesting film with a story I was completely unfamiliar with, and the 80-minute running time keeps it right where it needs to be to keep viewers along for the ride.
  • Chavela – Speaking of documentaries about artists, Chavela tells the story of a singer I’ve never heard of before. Chavela Vargas herself was a pioneering Mexican singer who was born in the early 1900s and lived to be almost a hundred years old. Famous for her voice and her personality, she also became an icon in the LGBTQ community for being homosexual in a notoriously homophobic culture. Centering around an interview from the 1990s but touching on her entire life, it’s a solid documentary, if a bit unspectacular. It could have been a bit shorter and a bit more coherent for my tastes, but I did like learning about an artist I was completely unfamiliar with.

Next PostPrevious Post

Amazon Prime Free Trial