This week’s roundup features an unforgettable classic, 80’s nostalgia and a 25th anniversary edition of a forgotten animated film.
4K/UHD of the Week
The Wizard of Oz (Warner Bros)
One of the all-time classics returns, in its 80th anniversary year, in ultra-high-def: so Dorothy and Toto’s fantastical trip to meet the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Wicked Witch, Munchkins and all the rest, look better than ever, especially when the movie famously switches from B&W Kansas to garishly colored Oz. The bright hues of the land of Oz look spectacular in 4K, and the clarity and grain are even a substantial improvement on the excellent Blu-ray. The many extras include a commentary, The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Wizard of Oz Storybook (with Angela Lansbury), featurettes, audio-only/singalong tracks and a 1950 radio broadcast.
Red Heat (Lionsgate)
This 1988 “odd couple” buddy-cop movie pairs Jim Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Chicago and Russian detectives tracking down a Soviet drug kingpin who also is responsible for the murder of Belushi’s partner. It’s hard to believe Walter Hill directed this; even the chases and gun-fighting sequences have an offhand feel, not reminiscent at all of the hard-hitting Hill of Southern Comfort, 48 Hours and even Johnny Handsome. This was the first Hollywood movie to be shot in Red Square; that verisimilitude doesn’t help, and neither do supporting actors like Laurence Fishburne, Ed O’Ross, Peter Boyle and Gina Gershon. The 4K transfer looks impressive; extras are several featurettes.
Blu-rays of the Week
A Cinderella Story—Christmas Wish (Warner Bros)
This sweet-natured holiday story might lean too heavily on treacle in its depiction of a modern-day young woman with musical aspirations who falls in love with a rich “prince” while her stepmom and stepsisters try and sabotage her life. But the charming leads, Laura Marano and Gregg Sulkin, mitigate the overbearing silliness, and the result is a perfectly harmless, even fresh Christmas movie. It looks fine on Blu; extras are featurettes about the film’s “look” and music.
The Fearless Vampire Killers…or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck (Warner Archive)
In Roman Polanski’s misbegotten 1966 horror movie-cum-spoof, the director himself plays one of two hunters looking for vampires in 19th century Transylvania—which they find, of course. Despite Polanski’s usual precise directing, a varied visual palette and tongue-in-cheek acting from Jack MacGowan, Sharon Tate (Polanski’s future wife) and even Polanski, the movie recycles flimsy scary/comic ideas for 107 minutes to diminishing returns. The film looks sumptuous on Blu; extras are an alternate opening, 10-minute archival featurette and on-set making-of.
The Return of Martin Guerre (Cohen Film Collection)
Daniel Vigne’s 1982 arthouse smash is an old-fashioned and intelligent entertainment based on a true 16th century case of stolen identity, ending with a lengthy, superbly calculated trial sequence. In the leads, Gerard Depardieu and the astonishing Nathalie Baye have never been better, and Vigne—whose lone international success this was—realistically dramatizes a functioning French society in the 1500s, with its patriarchal and religious structure and a crude sense of justice. Cohen’s new hi-def transfer looks strikingly good; lone extra is a new Baye interview.
The Swan Princess—25th Anniversary (Sony)
This 1994 animated film was never as huge as the many Disney films that came out around that time—Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King—but its sappy romance has its adherents, and the bright animation and a handful of tolerable tunes retain our interest throughout. The voice cast—John Cleese, Sandy Duncan, Jack Palance, Steven Wright and Michelle Nicastro (who sadly died in 2010 at age 50)—is also superior, keeping the laughs and romance on target. The film looks lovely on Blu; extras include updated and archival making-of featurettes.
This tone-deaf blackly comic thriller pits its protagonist—a young woman (Amanda Crew) who loses her job and her boyfriend and decides to spend time away from the big city—against a widower (Robert Patrick) from whom she rents a room. Soon, she finds herself in a life-or-death situation when she discovers what he is up to. Writer-director Richard Bates Jr.’s heavyhanded approach is, well, tone-deaf: the result, even with the charming and gifted Crew in the lead, is a forgettable attempt to graft humor and horror. The film looks good on Blu; lone extra is a making-of featurette.
DVD of the Week
Them That Follow (Lionsgate)
This intermittently unsettling but often inert thriller is set in a Pentecostal congregation that uses snake wrangling (!) to prove one’s innocence or guilt, as writers-directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s interesting if unoriginal plot idea—the pastor’s daughter, pregnant and unmarried, centers a love triangle leading to an ugly outcome—is too slender to carry an entire feature. At least there’s a plethora of convincing performances, especially by Alice Englert as the young woman, Walton Goggins as her pastor father and Olivia Colman as the perfectly named church elder Sister Slaughter. Extras are cast interviews.