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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Hustlers, Ready or Not, The Fly Collection, Lucky Day, Until the End of the World and more


Ready or Not

Hustlers – Jennifer Lopez has garnered a lot of buzz for her performance in Hustlers. And while she’s the biggest star in the film, it’s really an ensemble piece with a terrific cast that also includes Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, and even singers Cardi B and Lizzo. The film is based on a true story, and it follows a group of exotic dancers who have to turn the tables on corporate America when the 2008 recession sets in, and they do so in… let’s say less than fully legal ways. The film was a hit and it’s easy to see why; the cast is likable, the story is solid, and the film as a whole is very enjoyable. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a good way to kill 90 minutes. Hustlers comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD). The premium format serves the film well, with the deep color saturation bringing the sparkly world to life, and razor sharp imagery. The surround soundtrack doesn’t stack up to, say, a James Bond film, but it does keep things active and lets the music fill in the gaps. A solid A/V presentation.

Ready or Not – One of the best movies I’ve seen in months, Ready or Not was a mild hit at the box office, and if you didn’t catch it in theaters, I highly recommend you track it down now. Samara Weaving (the young ghost girl from The Ring, all grown up now), plays a new bride who finds out on her wedding night that she has to play a game with her new husband’s eccentric family. Unfortunately, that game is hide and seek, and she’s the prey. The bad news? This game is for keeps; if the family doesn’t kill her by midnight, they think they’ll all die to a deal with the devil made by the family’s predecessor. What follows is an incredibly fun game of cat and mouse, filled with surprises, humor, no small amount of gore, and some great twists and turns. It’s an R-rated film (and for good reason; there’s a lot of blood), but anybody who loves a good thriller/horror film should have a really good time with this one. It might even make my Top 10 of the year. RECOMMENDED!

Until the End of the World – If ever there was a film fit for inclusion in the Criterion Collection, Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World is it. Described in the marketing materials as a “world-spanning sci-fi fever dream,” it’s hard to find a better way to describe this film. It’s been out since 1991 and it’s probably Wenders’ most well-known film, so you might have already seen it, but that’s where the Criterion Collection steps in. This is not just a reissue of the movie, but rather it’s the director’s cut. Now, usually that entails a few extra scenes here or there or a slightly longer running time. Not in this case. No, this director’s cut is a whopping 4 hours and 47 minutes long! Holy cow! Now, I don’t usually complain about Criterion releases, but I wish they had included the original cut of the film here as well. Because, as interesting as the longer cut is (in places), it’s really, REALLY long. I’m sorry, but I don’t think any film needs to be almost five hours long. I wish I could have this cut as well as the original film in one set, rather than having to own two copies of the film. Still, if you’re a Wenders fan, this is like getting a whole extra film for free.

The Anne Bancroft Collection – I love that Shout Factory made this box set. Anne Bancroft might not be the first person you think of when you thin of actors in need of a box set of their films. But then you look at the movies in this collection: The Graduate. The Miracle Worker. Agnes of God. 84 Charing Cross Road. Fatso. To Be or Not To Be. The Pumpkin Eater. Sure, there’s a couple lesser known films in there, but there’s also some real heavyweights, and you can’t deny Bancroft’s performances in them are outstanding. In addition to the eight films listed above, this set also comes with a wealth of bonus features and a nice 20-page booklet. And while this is a Blu-ray set, Shout factory has wisely kept the price point nicely affordable, meaning any classic Hollywood fan who wants a terrific collection of some of the films you don’t usually see in these “best of” sets are in for a real treat.

The Fly Collection – Speaking of great collections from Shout factory, their excellent Scream Factory imprint delivers us a new box set of all of The Fly films, which includes the original classic trilogy from the ‘50s and the two remake films from the ‘80s. So, in order, you get: The Fly (starring Vincent Price), The Return of the Fly, The Curse of the Fly, The Fly (starring Jeff Goldblum) and The Fly II (Starring Eric Stoltz.) On top of that, you get hours of special features in the form of documentaries, audio commentaries, and more, and the whole thing is wrapped up in a gorgeous box. Now, while the films are of varying quality, I think the original The Fly is a masterpiece, and the ‘80s remake is a David Cronenberg-fueled body horror that had a huge impact on the genre. I also have a soft spot for 1989’s The Fly II. It’s a lesser film, but it’s kind of a fun splatter-horror entry and I saw it in theaters, so I have fond memories of it. Once again, Scream Factory delivers a terrific box set collection.

The Loudest Voice – This seven-episode Showtime miniseries tells the story of Roger Ailes, one of the driving forces behind the creation and eventual domination of Fox News. He’s also the man who exited the company in a storm of controversy, caught up in the #metoo movement as one of the worst offenders. Russell Crowe, under heavy make-up and nearly unrecognizable, stars as Ailes, and he’s surrounded by a terrific ensemble cast, including Sienna Miller, Seth MacFarlane, Naomi Watts, and Anabelle Wallis. Now, the cast is easily the best part of the show. It’s not that it’s bad per se, but I don’t know that I wanted to spend seven hours in the company of a man as thoroughly disgusting as Roger Ailes. I wonder if this might not have succeeded better as a two-hour movie, along the lines of HBO’s excellent line of movies such as Game Change and Recount. It’s interesting enough, but it might be a bit too much.

Lucky Day – The marketing and packaging for Luckyday really wants you to know that Lucky Day was written and directed by Roger Avary, who was the co-writer of Pulp Fiction. But here’s the thing: I didn’t need you to tell me that, because it is SO. INCREDIBLY. OBVIOUS. that this movie wants to be Pulp Fiction in the worst way. It’s not the story or structure so much, but the vibe if the film and the style of dialogue; they try so hard to be Pulp Fiction that it works against the film. There just isn’t a natural bone in the film’s body, from the little girl who only speaks French to the lecherous art gallery owner to the crazy hit man to the soundtrack which is ripped from Pulp Fiction 101, the film just tries too hard on every level, and it rarely works. I get that Mr. Avary wants to replicate his past successes, but Lucky Day is definitely not the film that’s going to do it for him.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:

  • Tunes of Glory – Another terrific Criterion release this week, Tunes of Glory was a nice surprise for me because it’s a film I was completely unfamiliar with before getting this release. Now, that’s not entirely unusual with Criterion releases, but I try to stay pretty sine-literate, so it’s always nice when I can discover a new film. In this case, Tunes of Glory is a military drama starring Alec Guinness and John Mills as two military commanders, one of whom is surrendering command to the new commander. Unfortunately, they have very different philosophies, and the clash that follows makes up the films throughline. I’ll be honest, this isn’t the kind of film I usually get too into, but this one really works. The performances are terrific, the storyline is compelling, and I found it a great example of classic Hollywood. As with most Criterion releases, the film has been restored and remastered and also includes a collection of extra features (although, admittedly, it’s a smaller cache than the typical Criterion release.) Still, this is one that’s worth a watch.
  • Joan the Maid – This is the week for period foreign films that run over five hours, apparently. In addition to the movie I talked about above, we also get the Blu-ray review of Joan the Maid, French filmmaker Jacques Rivette’s two-part biopic of Jon of Arc. The first part, Joan the Maid: The Battles runs 2 hours and 40 minutes and focuses on the earlier part of Joan of Arc’s life and her time leading the war effort against England. The second film, Joan the Maid: The Prisons, runs just a few minutes under three hours, and focuses on the later part of Joan’s short life, including her eventual imprisonment and execution. To be honest, it’s a lot to take in. The films are well made and feature strong performances, but neither of them moves quickly and they can a little bit of an endurance test to get through. Fans of foreign cinema and historical dramas will really enjoy how in-depth and layered the films are, but for me, it was just a bit too much.
  • Millennium Actress – Not long ago, I reviewed the anniversary edition of director Satoshi Kon’s anime film Perfect Blue, one of his most well-loved works. Now, we get a new 30th anniversary edition of probably his other most seminal film, Millennium Actress, also an anime. This one is a less cohesive tale, following an actress and the film crew that gets sucked into her memories and discovers some of the mysterious secrets of her past. Like with many anime films of the time period, Millennium Actress is a gorgeous looking film but the story left me cold. Admittedly, I am decidedly not a fan of dream sequences in any form, and this whole film has that sort of quality to it, so I might not be the best judge. Fans of more esoteric anime works might find a lot to like here.
  • UltraSeven: The Complete Series – Mill Creek continues their excellent line of Ultraman-related series releases with this newest collection. UltraSeven is apparently one of the more popular shows from the massive UltraMan series, and this set comprises almost 50 episodes across six Blu-rays. The show follows the Ultra Guard, a protectorate force in the near future, and it focuses heavily on the character of Dan Moroboshi, a new team member who was created by Ultra Seven himself (an alien) and who joins the team just in time to help them fight giant monsters every week. As with most of the other series in the franchise, it’s a good mix of cheesy kanji action and good, plain fun, and I can see why the show is so popular. This newest release is available, once again, in a standard version and a Steelbook version, which comes in a beautiful case, and it includes digital copies via Mill Creek’s digital locker service. Another terrific Ultra release for Mill Creek!
  • 2019 World Series Champions: Washington Nationals – Are you a Washington Nationals fan? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up this new 2019 World Series releases. 2019 World Series Champions: Washington Nationals is a 90-minute highlights film which gives you the movie-length version of the Nationals’ journey to their first ever championship. It recaps the entire series and includes all of the biggest plays and most exciting scores. Then there are even a few bonus features, including highlights of the playoff games and even footage from their celebratory parade. This is a must-have for die-hard fans!
  • Fritz Lang’s The Tiger of Eschnapur/The Indian Tomb – Fritz Lang is best known for his groundbreaking science fiction film Metropolis, but he actually made a wide range of different genres and styles of movies. He was heavily involved in the film noir movement in the 1950s, and he was never afraid to branch out into new territory. And so, we have the new two-film release, The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb, collectively known as Lang’s Indian Epic. The films are a two-part feature based on a silent film from 1921 that Lang was originally scheduled to direct (but didn’t) and that he wrote. So this was a return to his roots, and the result is a three hour, two-film epic that sees royal drama, murder, intrigue, plots, and exotic locales. This new release from Film Movement Classics features both films on Blu-ray for the first time (in fact, it’s hard to find even a decent DVD release of the films), making this a real treasure for Lang aficionados and fans of opulent classic cinema.
  • Hard Night Falling – Dolph Lundgren must make ten movies a year because I swear I review a new film of his every month or two. His latest is Hard Night Falling, which sees the B-movie action king in a familiar role, this time as an Interpol agent. In this go-around, he’s trying to reconnect with his family in an Italian village, only to find that same village under siege by bad guys searching for gold. Darn the luck! What follows is a pretty typical direct-to-video actioner, with Lundgren his usual oddly-charming-while-still-gruff-and-tough persona. It’s not a movie I can recommend per se, but it f you’re like me and you’re a fan of Lundgren’s and you tend to watch his films regardless, this one isn’t worse than any of the others.
  • Indie Spotlight – We have a few indie releases this week, all of the non-fiction variety, and all a little esoteric. First up, we have The Dick Cavett Show: Pioneers Of New York Radio. These Dick Cavett Show releases are terrific, giving us complete episodes of the legendary host’s eponymous show. This collection focuses on legends of New York’s radio scene, including Howard Stern and Don Imus (both MUCH younger than you’re used to seeing them) as well as Bob and Ray, a popular radio duo. You get over four hours of material on two discs, and it’s hard to argue with that. Next up is David Susskind Archive: Interview With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which features a historic interview with the late civil rights leader from June of 1963. Apparently, a New York television station reneged on their agreement to have Dr. King on air, so Susskind and his network jumped on the chance, and the result is a nearly two-hour interview with MLK. For a man, we’ve all heard so much about, it’s rare to come across such an in-depth and lengthy interview on video, making this release a true historical record. Finally, we have Barbara Rubin And The Exploding NY Underground, a documentary about Barbara Rubin, an experimental filmmaker and artist in New York in the 1960s who died relatively young. This film focuses on her life and her work and her influence on the art and film scene in her wake. I can’t say her work really speaks to me, but the film runs just 78 minutes which keeps things moving nicely and makes for a solid movie overall.
  • Music Spotlight – Finally, this week we have a surprising number of music-related releases, more so than in any other single week I can remember. First up we have Kenny Rogers: The Gambler’s Last Deal, a two-disc set from Kenny’s final tour. Featuring both a CD and DVD of the concert (and featuring special guests), Kenny might not still have the voice he once had, but he rips through a set of hits and well-loved album cuts with vim and vigor. I’m actually a huge Kenny Rogers fan, and while this set doesn’t show him at his prime, it’s still great to get a new Kenny release. Next up, we have a pair of documentaries that looks at the shape of music and music journalism. Melody Makers: The Bible of Rock N’ Roll, which is a terrific look at Melody Maker, one of the most seminal music publications of the 20th century. Featuring interviews with Ian Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Eric Burdon, among others, the film gives you a good look at the history of the magazine and features some amazing photograph’s from melody maker’s pages featuring some true rock icons. Come on Feel The Noize: The Story of How Rock Became Metal focuses on the transition from the ‘50s and 60’s rock and roll into the advent of heavy metal in the ‘70s and ‘80s. This feature-length doc does boast interviews with some impressive names form the rock and metal scene, including Ozzy Osbourne, Jimmy Page, Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, and James Hetfield. Heavy metal fans should find a lot to like here. Next up is the documentary Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives. I’ll admit, I’d never heard of Holly Near before this, but this one-hour documentary makes a strong case for the impact she had while making music about Women’s rights, gay rights, peace, feminism, LGBTQ equality, and human rights. The film features interviews with Jane Fonda, Kevin Bacon, and Gloria Steinem, and adds bonus features that include a couple of Holly Near live performances. A must for fans, and a good social doc for those who are unfamiliar with her. Next we have I’ll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours Of Lynyrd Skynyrd, which crams a lot into its 67-minute running time. The film focuses on interviews with three survivors of the crash that killed several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (including lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt): security guard Gene Odom, lead backup singer Leslie Hawkins and guitar tech Craig Reed. Then, the film adds in dramatic reenactments and even a CGI recreation of the plane crash. All of which adds up to a somewhat odd, slightly disjointed experience. Still, fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd will appreciate that this doc digs more into the las three days of the band (and the aftermath of the crash) than most programs do. Finally, That Pärt Feeling – The Universe of Arvo Pärt, a portrait of Arvo Part, who is apparently “the most performed living composer in the world.” He’s also something of a recluse, which means if you’re a fan of the composer (and his fans include Michael Stipe and Bjork, among others), you’ll probably be very interested in this 78-minute documentary. This film features interviews with musicians, composers, and filmmakers who try to put into words what makes Part’s work so special. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea, but fans should enjoy it quite a bit.

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