Sheila’s last [Warner Archive]
What is that? A millionaire invites six friends a year after his wife is mysteriously murdered.
Why see it? Hell, the seventies were the best. This cast – Richard Benjamin, James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Ian McShane and Joan Hackett – gathered on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean for a week of fun and games. They were all there the night Sheila died, and now her husband has something in store. Director Herbert Ross and writer Anthony Perkins – yes, that Anthony Perkins – created a clever little thriller in Sheila’s last with charisma to sell. It’s about friendship, Hollywood, and the mysteries themselves, and while it rarely makes you laugh out loud in a funny way, it’s never less than funny. Its central genius is the strength and brilliance of the cast as each carries their own weight to the story and mystery at their fingertips. The writing is also crisp enough to leave viewers both confident in the identity of the killer and completely unsure. It is very good indeed.
Coming home in the dark
What is that? A traveling family is terrified of a couple of murderers.
Why see it? Australian thrillers are known to be a little bit nastier than most (aside from the South Korean ones, of course), and this recent gem continues that trend. There are some actions / lines that fall flat, but most of the film offers a tense and increasingly somber ride. Daniel Gillies is the big draw here as his turn as the main assassin becomes a heartbreaking watch. He is eternally tense, as inclined to offer dark comments as he is to inflict cruel pain, and he manages to dial in the suspense and terror.
The hills Have Eyes [4K Ultra HD, Arrow Video limited edition]
What is that? A family is tormented in the desert by cannibals.
Why see it? As with Wes Craven’s debut, The last house on the left, actually I prefer the remake of his second feature film (not for adults). However, this is an improvement over last house as raw cruelty comes with better performances, settings and situations. It’s a brutal survival story with familiar faces like Dee Wallace and Michael Berryman, and it’s actually a petty little thriller. The new 4K version of Arrow is a visual / auditory step up from their already powerful Blu-ray, and this new one takes beyond that version’s bevy of extras by offering plenty to delve into regarding the film’s production and legacy.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, postcards, poster, 40-page booklet, commentaries, documentary, interviews]
What is that? City of Angels helps a bored weatherman find love.
Why see it? This early ’90s comedy is a real gem of a movie (and love it Sheila’s last, long overdue for HD home video), and now, thirty years later, it’s finally available on Blu-ray. Steve Martin stars (and even wrote the script) as a Los Angeles meteorologist who is as bored with life as he is with the city’s monotonous and enchanting climate. Things take a turn when a freeway sign begins communicating with him, and he soon discovers that Los Angeles still has surprises in store for him. Sarah Jessica Parker brings some fun as a free spirit that grabs her attention, but it’s her romance with her (at the time) real-life partner Victoria Tennant that holds the film together with heart and wonder. It’s also pretty damn fun whether you’re familiar with the city or not.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Emily in Paris – Season 1
What is that? A young woman gets a free ride to Paris.
Why see it? Darren Star Shows (Sex in the city, Minor) it was never about realism or character dignity, so the backlash to this silly little CW-like “drama” seems somewhat misleading. The show is still not very good even beyond the antics of the main character, but it is also exactly what you should have expected. We have a little humor here and there, but for most of Emily’s various encounters and situations they seem like uninteresting fantasies.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
Human Animals [Mondo Macabro]
What is that? The apocalypse leaves three survivors in heat.
Why see it? This Spanish production is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Three people wake up in an isolated landscape after an apocalyptic event and immediately start trying to survive. Both men are fiery for the woman, and she sometimes reciprocates, but the arrival of a dog offers a new direction and a chance for survival … until the dog reveals that it’s hot for her too. Yes, the movie goes there. And did I mention that there is no dialogue? Just grunts, moans and the occasional scream. Add sex, violence, and * a lot * of nudity, and you’ve got a film that almost feels like an allegory of humanity itself. People descend into animalistic ferocity, and while it’s strangely funny, it’s not captivating enough.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interview]
Killer of manias [Full Moon Pictures]
What is that? Oddities in a small town!
Why see it? Sometimes a movie is pulled out of obscurity to turn out to be a lost classic – he thinks Sheila’s last above which, while not obscure, it is far from known. Other times they are movies like Killer of manias (called Maniac killer in the title screen) which offers little or nothing for fans of just about anything. We have some familiar B-movie faces in Bo Svenson, Chuck Connors, and Robert Ginty, but all three are clearly only here for their $ 200 stipend and can’t raise much in the way of their usual charisma. It also appears that a couple of different stories were mixed together with no worries or care. Gore is minimal, the salacious chills are anything but, and then it ends.
The Resonator: Miskatonic U [Full Moon Pictures]
What is that? A sequel to Stuart Gordon’s From beyond, guy.
Why see it? From beyond is an under-appreciated entry in Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft-related filmography – I even put her in a position above Resuscitator – so fans like me are theoretically in the bag for follow up. Unfortunately, this web series turned into a sixty-minute film lacks nearly all of the charm of the late Gordon movie. We get some interdimensional fish (via weaker effects than the thirty-five-year-old movie), some cheeky, and some college cheating, but it feels so restrained that it ultimately feels like a setup rather than a full story. But hey, a young Herbert West shows up eventually, so that’s cool, I guess.
What is that? The rise of Aretha Franklin.
Why see it? As far as biopic films go, this is pretty standard: the expected rhythms are here and there are no real surprises in either the narrative or the execution. What there is, though, is a strong starring performance by Jennifer Hudson whose singing is just as powerful and compelling as it should be. She is ultimately the main (and probably the only) reason to watch, but sometimes a fantastic artist is more than enough.
Younger – The Complete Series
What is that? A woman in her forties convinces the world that she is twenty years younger.
Why see it? As previously mentioned with another Darren Star series, his creations have no interest in feeling rooted in something that resembles reality. To that end, Sutton Foster – who is charismatic and funny – looks in no way like a woman in her twenties. Everyone on the screen pretends otherwise, of course, and that’s silly. Aside from that, the show is quite entertaining with the expected sitcom cheating.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, bloopers, featurettes]
Also out this week:
Batman: Year One, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 6, Old Henry, The Outsiders: The Complete Novel [4K Ultra HD], Reminiscence, Snowpiercer – Second season