With so many movies hitting VOD, streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD, it’s hard to know what to watch next. New On Home Video offers a bi-weekly guide to what’s worth seeking out, with an emphasis on what’s really worth watching, from recent theatrical releases to classics and long-lost gems.
Carrie (Scream Factory)
A classic that’s been overdue for a fresh coat of paint, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie gets the deluxe treatment with this new edition, taken from the film’s original negative. Carrie‘s an undeniable classic, and Scream Factory has gone all out for this edition, which includes everything from new interviews with many members of the cast to a look at the doomed Carrie: The Musical. At heart a story of bullying and the ways in which repression get alchemized into violence, it remains both frightening and timely.
If there’s a consensus start date for the current golden age of television it’s January 10, 1999, when HBO aired the first episode of The Sopranos. But roll back the clock a decade and you’ll find one of the medium’s most extraordinary achievements, the 10-part series Dekalog. Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski for Polish television in 1989, Dekalog consists of 10 hour-long films, each tied — sometimes loosely, sometimes obviously — to one of the 10 Commandments. The installments range from the somber to the harrowing to the hopeful, all united by Kiesklowski’s lyrical filmmaking and his ability to show the persistence of eternal verities in the cinderblock-dominated streets of Poland at the end of the Cold War.
Kieslowksi was about to enter the highest-profile phase of his career, with The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colors trilogy just ahead of him prior to his retirement in 1994 and his 1996 death at the age of 54. Long unseen outside of Europe, Dekalog‘s late arrival in the U.S. at the end of the ’90s confirmed it as a work made to stand next to those masterpieces. This Criterion edition improves on all previous home video releases, presenting beautifully remastered prints of the film alongside extensive interviews with those involved in the films and A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love, feature length expansions of the fifth and sixth entries. This is as essential as it gets.
The Shallows (Columbia)
Or if you just want to watch Blake Lively fight a shark check out The Shallows, a pretty great, economical thriller directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop). Stuck within sight of the beach, Lively’s character has to use her ingenuity and survival skills to avoid being eaten while dealing with a life-threatening leg wound and other factors. If you missed this in the middle of all the summer blockbuster behemoths, now’s a good time to catch up.
Valley of the Dolls (Criterion)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Criterion)
Jacqueline Susann’s scandalous ’60s bestseller served as the inspiration for both a relatively faithful adaptation in 1967 that attempted to marry Hollywood melodrama with a contemporary sensibility and, more importantly, Russ Meyer’s bonkers in-name-only sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Written by film critic Roger Ebert, it’s a piece of eye-searing pop art in which curvaceous Hollywood wannabes brush up against zonked out hippies. It’s a film whose strange charms resist easy description and it’s nice to see it get the deluxe treatment that one-of-a-kind items like it deserve.
X-Men Apocalypse (Fox)
Swiss Army Man (A24)
The Neon Demon (Amazon)
Central Intelligence (Warner Bros.)
The Wailing (Well Go USA)
It was a weird summer at the movies, wasn’t it? And not always a good one. But it wasn’t all bad. Let’s start with Central Intelligence. In many ways a formulaic buddy comedy, it’s also elevated by the fun chemistry of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. It’s the sort of film that should play well on cable for years to come.
Not so The Neon Demon. The latest artful provocation from Nicholas Wending Refn will never be for everyone. But even if it’s hard to shake the sense there’s not as much going on beneath the glossy, repulsive surface as there could be, it’s still a fascinating surface. And while Duncan Jones’ Warcraft verges into incomprehensibility at times, it’s still better than its reputation. And even if the latest X-Men movie, X-Men Apocalypse, disappointed most fans, the summer also produced oddities like Swiss Army Man, aka the Daniel Radcliffe-plays-a-farting-corpse movie. (Still need to catch that one myself.) Or the well-liked Korean horror film The Wailing. (Still need to see that, too. Glad it’s the weekend.)
In other words, the consensus that’s emerging that 2016 has been a disastrous year for movies made up only of lumbering, big budget disappointments isn’t quite right. The bad’s been so awful it’s tended to obscure the more successful, or just unusual, films we’ve seen. Let’s call it the Suicide Squad Distortion Effect. And let’s hope it lifts soon.
Chosen Surivors (KL Studio Classics)
On Dangerous Ground (Warner Archive.)
It’s always great when Blu-ray rescues a film that might otherwise go unseen, be it On Dangerous Ground, a noir starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino from early in Nicholas Ray’s career, or Chosen Survivors, an early ’70s oddity about a group of specially selected nuclear war survivors who have to fight killer bats.
Next: A trilogy of modern horror classics.