This week’s roundup features the Blu-ray return of “Sex and Lucia,” the 2001 drama which made the magnificent Spanish actress Paz Vega an international star; the 4K/UHD debut of George Romero’s classic zombie flick, “Night of the Living Dead” (1968); and the streaming/in-theater release of the provocative abortion debate documentary, “Battleground.”
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
Sex and Lucia (Music Box Films)
Spanish director Julio Medem’s overtly symbolic and surreal films dive headlong into physical and emotional relationships, and his 2001 feature—which follows the title heroine navigating a world of intense love, heartbreaking sorrow and sexual pleasure—is, along with his preceding “Lovers of the Arctic Circle,” his most erotic expression of his own type of romantic melodrama. Anchoring the two-hour, slightly overlong and repetitious film is Paz Vega, unforgettably vivacious as the charming young woman at its center. The film looks fine on Blu; extras are vintage interviews and on-set featurette along with a new video essay.
Dexter/Dexter: New Blood—The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount)
Television’s most complicated serial killer drama, “Dexter,” which drew to a close in 2013 after its eighth season, returned with a reboot/sequel of sorts, “Dexter: New Blood,” in which everyone’s favorite murderer settles in a small New York State town. Both the original and the reboot have skimpy plotting and motivation, but the performances help hide the flaws, led by Michael C. Hall’s conflicted antihero and the always winning Jennifer Carpenter as his beloved sister. This massive boxed set contains all 106 episodes of both series, and the hi-def images look terrific.
Star Trek: Picard—Complete 2nd Season (CBS/Paramount)
In the second season of the latest “Star Trek” series about the now-retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard from “The Next Generation,” Patrick Stewart gives his usual imposing performance as the former leader who must deal with both his fraility as he ages and the future of the universe. The time-travel aspect—Picard has been injected into an alternate reality, set in Los Angeles in 2024—is cleverly done and there’s a welcome tendency toward character study rather than action, but at times during the season’s 10 episodes, the stories move a bit too slowly. There’s a first-rate hi-def transfer; extras include featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
4K Releases of the Week
Night of the Living Dead (Criterion)
George Romero’s frightening 1968 debut is still the greatest zombie movie, and what’s amazing fifty-four years later is how relevant it still is as an indictment of American society literally tearing itself apart; its grainy look and shoestring budget makes it even scarier than far more gory films, like Romero’s own sequels. The Criterion Collection’s excellent new release features the film in glorious UHD, where the black and white visuals are more vivid than ever, along with two Blu-rays containing the film and many extras, including commentaries, dailies, vintage and more recent featurettes and interviews and even a workprint cut of the film, “Night of Anubis.”
DC League of Superpets (Warner Bros)
In this supremely entertaining animated feature, Superman’s own superdog, Krypto, joins forces with a motley crew of animals from the shelter whose own new superpowers are still uncontrollable as they attempt to rescue the entire Justice League. A super voice cast, led by Dwyane Johnson, Kate McKinnon, Kevin Hart, Vanessa Bayer and Natasha Lyonne, and imaginative touches from director Jared Stern and his crack animation team make this fun for the whole family. The film bright colors look eye-poppingly good in UHD; the accompanying Blu-ray disc includes several featurettes, interviews and deleted scenes.
In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week
This enraging documentary is mainly an evenhanded exploration of both asides of the abortion debate, but director Cynthia Lowen shows the anti-choice forces in far more depth, as the women leaders of several anti-choice organizations are seen as ragingly hypocritical, making the most ridiculous defenses of their positions time and time again, but that’s the unfortunate effect of the “one-issue” dogma. The worst offender may be Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the ironically named Susan B. Anthony List, who twists herself into a pretzel defending Donald Trump even after the January 6 attempted insurrection. Why Lowen sees fit to give her the last word is mindboggling.
Dead for a Dollar (Quiver Distribution)
Veteran Walter Hill returns with a spry if familiar western whose narrative twists—the woman who runs away from her rich husband is given her own agency, from living with her Black lover to wielding a gun of her own—make this satisfying enough. Hill’s an old pro at violent encounters, which are craftily handled, even if the ending is a disappointing shoot-’em-up. Still, it’s forcefully acted by Rachel Brosnahan as the woman, Christoph Waltz as a bounty hunter (far better—and much less hammy—than in his two Oscar-winning portrayals for Quentin Tarantino) and Willem Dafoe as a feisty outlaw.
Hinterland (Film Movement)
For his first film in 15 years, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky has made a strange, puzzling but compelling murder mystery reminiscent of the expressionistic classic “M” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” that was shot on soundstages with green screens, giving the whole film an intentionally disorienting look and feel matching the point of view of Peter, the protagonist (played at a fever-pitch by Murathan Muslu). There’s something amiss in the actual story and accompanying romance, which remain secondary to the onscreen stylishness, but Liv Lisa Fries as Theresa, a forensic doctor Peter falls for, provides the film with a detectable beating heart.
Some Like It Rare (Brainstorm Media)
The clever if blunt English title pretty much sums up the juvenile humor in this one-note black comedy about a butcher and his wife who, after accidentally discovering that the meat of vegans (cue hilarity!) is especially tasty, become serial killers to keep their stock of what they call “Iranian pork” for their satisfied customers. Writer-director Fabrice Éboué, who stars as the butcher, acts better than he directs or writes, but he did have the good sense to cast the great Marina Foïs as his wife: she brings intelligence and subtlety to a part and a subject that don’t call for it, making it all seem more daring and funny than it is.