Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An epic gets longer, Transformers gets dumber, and July gets colder

Here’s what’s new to DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD this week.

Top pick: Classic

Once Upon A Time In America: Extended Director’s Cut (Warner Bros.)

Sergio Leone’s dense, labyrinthine opium-dream epic—the definitive gangster creation myth—has been available in a number of versions and cuts over the years. At 251 minutes, this one is a full reel longer than the standard director’s cut; most of the new transfer looks lovely, though the added scenes—which were sourced from a grainy positive—stick out like a sore thumb.


Other classic releases

Peter Yates (Bullitt, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle) wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to helm a high fantasy adventure, and the result—the 1983 big-budget flop Krull (Mill Creek)—is fascinating in part because it eschews most of the genre’s visual tropes. With its sci-fi-flavored production design, clean geometric lines, reduced color palette, and intentionally oversized sets, Krull is a far cry from the Beastmasters and Willows of the time.

Though often lumped in with the era’s Jaws rip-offs, Antonio Margheriti’s Killer Fish (Scorpion) doesn’t really qualify as a monster movie; rather, it’s a travelogue-style jewel heist flick with a piranha twist. It has the surface pleasures a viewer would expect from a ’70s Italian B-movie—including an elevator disco score by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis—though genre fans would be better off picking up Domenico Paolella’s fun, fast-paced Stunt Squad (Raro).

Tatsumi Kumashiro’s Yakuza Justice: Erotic Code Of Honor (KimStim) is a perverted underworld flick with pinku eiga elements, distinguished by its off-kilter mix of Buddhist and phallic imagery. (This is the kind of movie where a gun is never just a gun.) This DVD is presumably a reprint of KimStim’s typically sloppy earlier edition.


Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (Criterion) gets a Blu-ray makeover this week, sourced from a cinematographer-approved 4K restoration that looks significantly greener and shadowier than Criterion’s previous bright, warm-toned standard-def release. The film remains the best entry point into Fassbinder’s diverse body of work, recalling, in equal parts, the off-kilter intensity of his low-budget early films and the more florid, Sirk-influenced style of his later productions. Speaking of films that ape the aesthetics of classical melodrama: Wayne Wang’s Jennifer Lopez vehicle Maid In Manhattan (Mill Creek)—which this writer is apparently alone in enjoying—hits Blu-ray this week.

Gremlins (Warner Bros.), Joe Dante’s frenzied subversion of the Spielberg formula, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Time to throw away your 25th-anniversary edition Blu-rays and get new ones!


Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Cohen) is a late, minor Claude Chabrol bourgeois decay flick, which finds the New Wave’s least ostentatious major figure doing an elegant variation on his usual themes—at least for the first hour or so. Those looking for a New Wave-era film without any New Wave in it can do worse than Serge Bourguignon’s maudlin middle-brow favorite Sundays And Cybele (Criterion).

Also out this week: Silver Screen Legends: Hedy Lamarr (Synergy Entertainment), a public-domain set that includes John Cromwell’s Pepe Le Moko remake, Algiers, and the 19th-century-set thriller The Strange Woman, a comparatively upscale production by Edgar G. Ulmer, the quintessential stylist of Old Hollywood’s Poverty Row; and the sublimely titled Ice Cube’d Tripl3 Feature (Mill Creek), which collects Anaconda, the Vin Diesel-less sequel XXX: State Of The Union, and John Carpenter’s severely underrated space Western Ghosts Of Mars on a single, standard-def release that you can proudly display on your mantel.


Top pick: Catch-up


Cold In July (IFC/MPI)

Out of the three John Carpenter-influenced indies that premiered this year (the others being It Follows and The Guest), this one feels the closest to the source, and not just because its credits are set in Carpenter’s signature Albertus typeface. Adapted from a Joe R. Lansdale novel by director/co-writer Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are, Stake Land), the movie shares not only Carpenter’s aesthetic tics, but also his old-fashioned narrative values and penchant for terse characterization.


Other catch-up releases

This writer hasn’t seen Megan Griffiths’ rock-critic drama Lucky Them (MPI), but it seems to have struck a chord (pardon the wordplay) with longtime A.V. Club contributor Mike D’Angelo, who gave it a B+. Another member of the vaunted B+ Club, the high-cost higher-ed doc Ivory Tower (Paramount), hits DVD and Blu-ray this week.


Otherwise, this seems to be the week to catch up with bad-to-awful movies, from Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Paramount)—which has all of the bloat of its predecessors, but little of the pizzazz—to Paul Haggis’ overcooked, portentous ensemble meta-drama Third Person (Sony). Those who prefer their crappiness a little less distinguished can go with Decoding Annie Parker (Entertainment One), a broad, cutesy, decade-spanning breast cancer drama directed by the cinematographer of White Chicks.

On the middling-to-mediocre front, there’s Jon Favreau’s sleeper Chef (Universal), which finds the Iron Man director returning to his low-budget roots; the generic indie coming-of-age drama Hellion (MPI); and Are You Here (Millennium), the ambitious small-town stoner comic drama from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. The latter has its fair share of interesting ideas and complicated roles, but it’s severely undercut by Weiner’s lack of focus and directorial ability.


Unfortunately, the most hotly anticipated release of late summer has gone straight to video: Leprechaun: Origins (Lionsgate)—which will once and for all answer the question of where Leprechauns come from—drops today.

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