Widget Image

Blu-ray Reviews for April 10, 2018

Selections from this week’s Blu-ray releases can be found below in this ongoing weekly summary of reviews. Click on any of the following titles to navigate directly to that review. This week’s releases include: Ridley Scott’s controversy-laden All the Money in the World; the Jason Momoa action flick Braven; the Italian cult horror title The Church; Larry Cohen’s broad werewolf comedy Full Moon High; the surprisingly introspective Lance Henriksen western Gone Are the Days; the quirky Rainn Wilson indie comedy Permanent; Twilight Time’s deluxe release of The Seven-Ups; and Severin Films’ release of the obscure but infamous wartime drama Threads. A list of other titles also available this week can be found at the end.

Distributor: Sony Pictures

All The Money In The World follows the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to pay the ransom. When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.

Ridley Scott is as prolific as he is inconsistent. But unlike similarly prolific directors like, say, Woody Allen, Scott isn’t content to remain in one genre. In the last five years alone he’s done a biblical epic, a comedically sci-fi Robin Crusoe story, the newest entry in the long-running horror/sci-fi Alien franchise, whatever The Counsellor was supposed to be, and now, with All the Money in the World, a true-to-life kidnapping thriller. Scott deserves kudos for constantly trying out new concepts in very different genres, even if they’re not generally a success. In fact, if you were to ask me (you didn’t, but here it comes anyway), Scott hasn’t made a legitimately impressive film since 2007’s American Gangster. With All the Money in the World serving as Scott’s best film since then, it’s not surprising to see that, tonally, it feels very similar to that Denzel Washington vs. Russell Crowe cops and robbers mash-up. It being a period piece helps, and the smoky cinematography (which I would have sworn was shot by Gangster director of photography Harris Savides, who died in 2012) by Dariusz Wolski conjures the same kind of bleak and desperate vibe.

All the Money in the World became infamous for a handful of controversies: the erasing of a post-bombshell Kevin Spacey, replaced with a more suitable Christopher Plummer (ironically, Scott’s original choice for the role), and the public leak of the huge pay discrepancy between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams for those reshoots, and for which the film’s title soon became a punchline. (That Wahlberg is basically a supporting character versus the far more involved character played by Michelle Williams makes the whole situation additionally aggravating.) One wonders if this attention made All the Money in the World more financially successful than it ordinarily would have been. Critically, at least, many were impressed that an Oscar-nominated performance, even if provided by a legendary actor, was the result of last-second reshoots.

Despite its struggles, All the Money in the World is a success, overall. Performances are great — not just with the aforementioned Plummer, but also from Michelle Williams (no surprise), and an understated Mark Wahlberg. Young Charlie Plummer (no relation) as the kidnapped Getty suffers through some pretty intense and uncomfortable scenes, serving pretty much as the thematic antithesis to Christopher Plummer’s loving but oddly detached billionaire. I’m not familiar enough to pick out the fictionalized parts from the real story, but what’s on the screen is appropriately dramatic, harrowing, at times graphic, and expectedly dramatic. A fine ensemble cast and a pretty crushing true story make for the finest film from Ridley Scott for quite some time.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • 8 Deleted Scenes
  • “Ridley Scott: Crafting a Historical Thriller” – Director Ridley Scott and the cast and crew discuss the fast-paced and exciting way he filmed this epic movie.
  • “Hostages to Fortune: The Cast” – A look into the award-winning actors and their connections to their real-world characters.
  • “Recast, Reshot, Reclaimed” – This piece follows the unprecedented recasting of the character J. Paul Getty a little over a month before the film’s theatrical release.

Distributor: Lionsgate

When Joe (Jason Momoa) and his father (Stephen Lang) arrive at their remote hunting cabin, they’re hoping for a quiet weekend. What they find is a stash of heroin, hidden in the cabin by drug traffickers. When the criminals suddenly descend upon the cabin, Joe and his father must make a kill-or-be-killed stand for survival.

Here’s the thing. You have absolutely seen Braven before. Very much made in the Die Hard mold of “wrong place at the wrong time” sort of thing (although the threat this time out are comprised of drug dealers rather than terrorists,) an everyday guy finds himself in a deadly situation where very bad people come gunning for him and his family once he inadvertently comes into possession of a buttload of drugs. In his isolated family cabin, he’s forced to fend off bad guy attacks while trying to keep his ailing father and his young daughter safe from harm.

Like I said, you’ve seen this before. Multiple times. It’s a concept that will live on forever — born during the days of the western and resurrected occasionally throughout the career of John Carpenter, only that time with supernatural or nu-urban flourishes. Still, you could do worse than killing 90 minutes with Braven. Hulking beefcake Jason Momoa at least plays your average Joe who just happens to be physically intimidating as hell, but who actually doesn’t really know how to fight! (I know, what a concept!) This is established somewhat immediately in a bar-set sequence where he engages in fisticuffs with several angry patrons but doesn’t come out anywhere near unscathed. This isn’t a case of flawless Seagalism — he’s just a normal guy trying to get his dementia-suffering father out of a bad spot and ends up splattered on a barroom floor because of it. It’s a nice touch in establishing the hero-to-be as your normal dude — not as some retired Navy Seal or something absurd living a quiet life as a lumberjack.

The film unfolds with the kind of inevitability you’d expect from this kind of show, and again, that’s fine. Garret Dillahunt is a reliable character actor very good at this kind of villainous work, and inBraven he’s the appropriate kind of passive slime his character calls for. Stephen Lang as the ailing father also does fine work. As father and son engage in defending their home (and lives) from the attack, Lang essays a quiet struggle between a mind that he knows is failing and with physical deadly force courtesy of a hunting rifle perched outside a bedroom window. Even if he’s now considered an “elder,” and playing a somewhat weakened character, Lang can still be intimidating as hell.

Braven is Assault on Mountain 13. It’s nothing new — just a familiar concept done in a new kind of setting. If you’re fine with that, you’re likely to at least enjoy the experience, even if it’s not one that lingers long in the mind once the credits roll.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • “The Braven’s Views” Featurette

Distributor: Scorpion Releasing via Music Box Films

In the middle of a modern city, an ancient evil is about to awaken! An elaborate cathedral that was once the site of a medieval massacre by crusading knights becomes a deadly trap for a group of visitors and staff when a sealed crypt is accidentally reopened. The laws of reality soon collapse as a nightmare takes hold and claims the lives of those within one by one, threatening to unleash a supernatural pestilence upon the world! Legendary horror maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera, Deep Red) presents this stylish shocker from director Michele Soavi (The Sect, Dellamorte Dellamore, Stagefright), featuring an avalanche of nightmarish visual effects and a powerful score by Goblin and Keith Emerson. Don’t miss this baroque descent into the occult starring Tomas Arana (Gladiator, The Bodyguard, The Sect), Barbara Cupisti (Stagefright, New York Ripper), and Asia Argento (xXx, Land of the Dead), now in eye-popping, glorious HD!

Scorpion Releasing and Music Box films previously collaborated on another Italian horror release called The Sect. I feel it necessary to recycle a bit of that review for this review of The Church, as the info contained within is still very relevant:

There’s no bad movie like a bad Italian movie (♪ like no bad movie I know ♪). Michele Soavi is proof of this, because he directed one of the all-time greats with StageFright (Deliria), a sort of slasher/sort of giallo/all of a movie where the killer wore a giant owl mask and used a chainsaw. It’s glorious and stupid and one I revisit often. Right around the same time that killer owl was cutting up stage actors, another Italian director named Lamberto Bava was directing a similarly chaotic movie called Demons (Dèmoni) — the gold standard when it comes to terribly amusing Italian horror. And this movie, about a theater audience whose exhibiting horror film about demons inadvertently raises real demons that begin possessing and/or tearing apart cinemagoers, would naturally spawn a “series.” Demons 2 highlights the same level of disaster, this time in a high-rise apartment building, but somehow without the same level of enjoyment. Officially, the Demons series would be done, but unofficially, further sequels would be made. (Italians could make fake sequels like no one else.) Among them would be The Church (aka Demons 3, and The Sect (aka The Devil’s Daughter…aka Demons 4). Now, except for the basic concept of demonism, neither film has anything to do with the Demons series (boo!), but when it comes to the histrionics of poor Italian horror filmmaking, they are all kindred spirits (yay!). (And in case you were desperate to know, there are TWO MORE unofficial Demons 3’s: Bava’s own unrelated television effort, The Ogre, released on video as Demons 3: The Ogre, and Umberto Lenzi’s Black Demons, which is exactly what you think it is, and which I need in my life ASAP.)

When compared to The Sect, The Church is actually pretty competent, adhering to a more broad and typical horror concept. What I mean is that it makes sense. Mostly. The Sect, really, did not. The Church is also more close-knit with the Demons series, in that it’s more overtly about demonic possession and drippy, gooey monsters. Though it features too many characters, some of whom serve absolutely no purpose (sorry, but, I’m looking right at you, Asia Argento), The Church at least embraces a more standard horror experience, even if it does feature a little demon fucking by its ending. And director Michele Soavi is a genuine whizz with the camera, getting to show off a little flare that fell by the wayside in The Sect and his far more entertaining (for all the wrong reasons) StageFright. He even manages a handful of eerie images, mostly having to do either with hallucinations of the devil himself (maybe) or a horde of possessed church personnel watching his second coming (ewww) as the camera rushes by them in the bowels of the church basement. But, except for some moody gothic atmosphere, along with a few gonzo moments of violence (a woman being decapitated in the film’s Crusades-era prologue and her head being kicked around by horses was a goddamn delight), The Church is still a pretty lackluster experience. Typical in Italian horror from this decade, everyone has been redubbed, even if they were speaking English on set to begin with, making every performance awkward and emotion-free.

Like The Sect, there was an excitement for the release of The Church that I never would have anticipated, but hey! Good for you if you wanted this! I’m glad if you’re glad. As usual, Scorpion Releasing have done an incredible amount of work in getting these titles ready for their high-def disc debuts and those who had been waiting literally years to pick them up should be more than satisfied with these releases.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • NEW VIDEO INTERVIEW with Asia Argento
  • NEW VIDEO INTERVIEW with director Michele Soavi
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Language: Original English audio track

Distributor: Scream Factory

The problems of a typical high-school teenager take on monstrous proportions in this comical send up of horror movies! The most important thing to quarterback Tony Walker (Adam Arkin, Halloween H20) is to win the big game against archrival Simpson High. But this plan soon changes when Tony is bitten by a werewolf – and that’s when things really start to get hairy! Now, whenever there’s a full moon, he transforms into a growling beast that hungrily chases down beautiful girls. Cursed to live forever as a teenager with uncontrollable urges, Tony realizes he must find a way to end this cycle of animalistic excess.

New York filmmaker Larry Cohen has been a friend to the genre for a long time, having written not just one but two trilogies (Maniac Cop; It’s Alive!) and wacky, idiosyncratic satires like The Stuff — and this after having contributed one of the all time best blaxploitation titles: Black Caesar. Anyone familiar with the director’s background knows he’s incapable of writing a straight horror experience — and that’s not a slight. There’s always a slight wink beneath his work, whether obvious or not so obvious. Such wackadoo concepts like killer frozen yogurt or a dragon living in the attic of a New York skyscraper kind of call for it.

And then there’s Full Moon High, a mid-career effort that falls much more squarely into broad humor territory, but still while riding a “horror” concept. (I should really mention that this teen-centered comedy about a high school jock becoming a werewolf predates Teen Wolf by a full four years.) Full Moon High is the kind of exhausting comedy where almost every line of dialogue is meant to garner at least a smirk, and star wolf boy Adam Arkin (who would achieve more recognition in his adulthood for his role on Chicago Hope) rattles them off one by one with detectable disdain.

Full Moon High is also the kind of comedy where the humor isn’t terribly subtle, and very broad archetypes are played out with the kind of cringe-inducing manner that comes from gags that were allowed to be funny thirty years ago, but which now would be filed under offensive. (The very broadly gay son of Tony Walker’s high school sweetheart is so on the nose that it nearly qualifies as hate speak.) There’s also an overblown “fear” of communism and Russian culture that is either purposely or satirically curated; either way, the most current Presidential election notwithstanding, it’s not an aspect that has aged well.

In case you missed the news, Shout! Factory recently scored a huge victory in obtaining the entire Roger Corman film library, which will hopefully make releases like Full Moon High a temporary diversion toward bottom-of-the-barrel licensing rather than the last word on a once-great distributor responsible for stellar releases as high profile as Escape from New York and The Thing. To be fair, Full Moon High isn’t a trainwreck, and fans of broader humor will probably find something to enjoy with it.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen, Moderated By King Cohen Filmmaker Steve Mitchell
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Lionsgate

Danny Trejo, Lance Henriksen, and Tom Berenger headline this epic Western saga of a fading gunman’s quest for justice. Seeing his days are growing short, Taylon (Henriksen) rises from his deathbed, puts on his spurs, and hits the trail in search of redemption. He crosses the desert to a gold-rush town, where he finds his estranged daughter working in a brothel. But to earn her freedom, he must confront the town’s vengeful sheriff (Berenger) — who has an old score to settle with Taylon.

You don’t see much of the western anymore, especially in the low budget direct-to-video world. A combination of waning audience interest in the genre and the costs of shooting a period film have mostly to do with this. It’s nice is when the western is still trotted out from time to time, but it’s even nicer when that western comes courtesy of a filmmaker who is clearly trying to do something more than just the usual shoot’em-up that appeals to the lowest common denominator of the genre. In the same way that very good and very bad horror films can enjoy similarly quiet releases, Gone Are the Days proves that the western can suffer the same obscure fate.

What’s readily apparent right off the bat is that Gone Are the Days is borrowing from the Unforgiven mold, arguably Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece as a director — another take on an aging cowboy reckoning with the sins of his past, confronting his mortality, and embarking on one last rescue mission. Gone Are the Days at least adds a twist on this simple formula by borrowing from another, and less likely, source: Martin Scorsese’s little seen 1999 drama Bringing Out the Dead, in which Nicolas Cage plays a frazzled paramedic psychologically haunted by the ghost of a girl he wasn’t able to save, and with whom he occasionally interacts. This offers Gone Are the Days a bit of poignancy and meaning beyond your aging cowboy being a cowboy and doing typical cowboy things. At least as far as the western goes, this small Dickensian slice offers Gone Are the Days a sense of its own identity, even if it’s basing its plot on a well worn concept.

From now until the end of time I will tell anyone who listens that Lance Henriksen is the most undervalued actor alive. The man bleeds talent in every role he has ever committed to, even if the last two decades of his work have been relegated to quiet genre titles no one ever sees (his “alimony movies” as he calls them). To mainstream audiences, he’s belovedly known as Bishop from Aliens and a handful of sequel appearances. To cult audiences, he’s Frank Black from Millennium and Ed Harley from Pumpkinhead. To action audiences, the villain from Van Damme’s Hard Target. This list goes on and on, into every genre there is and with every kind of character played. Regardless of the quality of those films, I’ll guarantee Henriksen’s performance was high-tier in every single one. So as he steps into the William Munny shoes of the aging (and dying) cowboy Taylon, Henriksen not only embodies the character but also pays respect to his entire career. (He played a cowboy three times in 1995 alone: Gunfighter’s Moon, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, and Sam Raimi’s majestically dumb The Quick and the Dead.)  As to be expected, he’s superb here, as he is in everything else.

While the artwork bandies about the likes of Danny Trejo and Tom Berenger, neither of whom are exactly commanding theatrical releases anymore, don’t let that dictate what kind of film you’ll actually be seeing. Without getting into spoiler territory, let’s just say Trejo is used exactly as he should be in this kind of movie, whereas Berenger very comfortably slips into the role of a western lawman doing a fair bit of aging on his own. He doesn’t just play “the villain” because, except for a small role by cult actor Steve Railsback, there really is no villain. Because Gone Are the Days isn’t that kind of film.

The most impressive aspect of Gone Are the Days is its willingness to strive for something more. It’s very philosophical and even haunting in some ways, and it’s also very very old fashioned — from its musical score to its final shot. As a film it’s not a total success, as the plot can become a little wayward at times, but the action is always moving forward, whether that’s noticeable or not. Henriksen, in a rare leading role, sells both Taylon’s weakness and resolve, and Berenger does strong work in his smaller part. In the supplements on the disc, Henriksen recalls reading the script and getting the notion that “we’re onto something here — I think this could be good.” He wasn’t far off track — while, of course, it comes nowhere near the heights of Unforgiven, it’s still a fine and admirable film, one fitting for Henriksen’s storied career, and a nice reminder that small surprises like these can still be found in quiet releases. Gone Are the Days isn’t for everyone, but I would recommend that everyone give it a try, anyway. You might just be surprised, too.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • “Behind the Scenes of Gone Are the Days” Featurette
  • Cast and Crew Interviews

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Bad hair day? Nope!  More like a bad hair life. Set in 1982 in small-town Virginia, PERMANENT centers around 13-year-old Aurelie Dickson (Kira McLean, “Angie Tribeca”) and her parents, Jeanne and Jim (Patricia Arquette, Boyhood and Rainn Wilson, Super). In this hilariously awkward and unique telling, full of wit and wisdom, of a hairstyle gone wrong, the Dicksons are struggling through major life changes together all the while trying desperately to emerge intact on the other side. For the Dicksons family, just getting through the day is a win.

Ever since the unexpected success of Little Miss Sunshine, which was probably bolstered by the obnoxious success of Napoleon Dynamite, the quirky independent movie sub-genre has never really gone away. For years following, filmmakers struck out with their own projects bent on manufacturing quirk, unable to achieve the same kind of mainstream success that those  indie films seldom achieved.

Permanent feels very much in that mold, and about ten years too late. Not a bad film by any stretch, but not necessarily a good one, it easily would have been called a tired and desperate attempt to repeat Little Miss Sunshine’s success had it not been released a dozen years later. After all, both are about a young girl with image issues trying to navigate the pains of growing up while also trying to keep the peace between her domestically stunted parents (a well used Rainn Wilson and Patricia Arquette). Along the way she learns important life lessons about friends, bullies, love, and other puke that the coming-of-age film must very carefully tread without threatening to drown in saccharine and obviously manipulative conflicts.

Permanent attempts the “slice of life” take on storytelling, which means it ironically sacrifices having a cogent story and keeps action moving forward in the form of almost mini-vignettes. Watch as Jim (Wilson) comes to grip with his baldness and fear of swimming; watch as Jeanne comes dangerously close to having an affair with her much older neighbor; watch as Aurelia meets a young girl ostracized because she’s black, and a boy who is pretty mean to her but wants to show her his penis, anyway. None of this ever comes together as something meaningful; it’s more like each character is saddled with their own mini arc to fill up the running time as if Permanent were a 13-episode series instead of the scant 90 minute feature it actually is.

Permanent is easily watchable entertainment, but except for a third-act poetry reading contest, during which young Nena Daniels as Lydia absolutely, positively steals the show (seriously see the film just for this scene), there’s nothing about this latest quirky indie comedy that’s particularly memorable. It may give you a dose of fun, indie quirk moments every so often, but otherwise it’s a rote and unspectacular title destined to live on Netflix for the rest of existence.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes
  • Getting Permanent with Rainn Wilson
  • Virginia Is for Lovers
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Twilight Time (limited to 3,000 units)

In the mode of The French Connection, The Seven-Ups (1973) is directed by the former film’s producer, Philip D’Antoni, and stars Roy Scheider as the leader of a crack squad of NYPD detectives bent on busting culprits whose offenses guarantee seven years or up in prison. The cops are nearly as out of line as the crooks, a dangerous bunch of miscreants connected to the mob. Featuring one of the most famous cinematic car chases ever, designed by the great Bill Hickman (The French Connection, Bullitt).

Gritty cop thrillers from the late ‘60s and ‘70s are among some of my favorite films. The French Connection, Bullitt, Dirty Harry — hell, I’ll even throw a bone to the Dirty Harry-inspired John Wayne flick McQ, even if it’s the weakest of the bunch. Put McQueen or Eastwood in a trench coat, give him a cynical attitude, fast car, and a talkative gun, mix in a little Lalo Schifrin jazz flute, and I’m yours. The Seven-Ups hails from this same school, this time seeing JAWS’ Roy Scheider in the lead role of Buddy Mancino, leader of a secret police force investigating organized crime. It presents with the same kind of gutsy gusto as it predecessors, this time with the novelty of seeing Scheider in a lead role — a rarity for an actor who was usually part of an ensemble, or as director William Friedkin once called him, “a second banana.”

The Seven-Ups was directed by Philip D’Antoni, who had previously produced Friedkin’s classic crime thriller The French Connection, though that’s not the only commonality between the two films. In fact, The Seven-Ups feels like a French Connection spin-off, this time focusing on Popeye Doyle’s partner, also named Buddy. But there’s the New York setting, along with, again, the grittiness of the real New York; the expertly executed car chases choreographed by legendary stunt driver Bill Hickman; the extremely atypical musical score by Don Ellis; and the essential presence of writer/former NYPD detective Sonny Grosso, whose exploits would go on to inspire the aforementioned films.

The Seven-Ups occasionally gets derided by critics for its loosey-goosey plot, which isn’t an unfair judgment; there are many moving parts within the film’s running time, including lots of double-crossing, duplicitousness, and the eeriest car wash you could ever visit, and I can’t say with confidence it all comes together into one streamlined story. But, being that 1968’s Bullitt has an even less sensical plot and is even more celebrated, I’m totally fine with celebrating The Seven-Ups — warts and all. Really what’s most important is that The Seven-Ups is absolutely entertaining as hell, and Roy Scheider excelled in this kind of role, along with the immensely talented and underrated character actor Tony Lo Bianco. In terms of D’Antoni’s presence, The French Connection may be the more well-regarded and more confidently plotted crime classic, but give me The Seven-Ups any night of the week. It’s viscerally thrilling in the same way as its counterparts, aided by a score by Don Ellis that’s so unexpectedly eerie you’d think he were instead scoring a horror film. And the car chase scene — holy shit. If Bill Hickman doesn’t have a lifetime achievement award, posthumously or otherwise, shame on the entire Academy.

If you’re a fan of yesteryear cop thrillers, don’t wait to snap up this sexy release from Twilight Time. As you can see below, this is one of their most packed releases in a while, and it’s for a film that totally deserves it.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Isolated Music Track of the Don Ellis Film Score
  • Isolated Music Track of the Unused Johnny Mandel Score
  • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith
  • Introduction by Director-Producer Philip D’Antoni
  • The Seven-Ups Connection
  • A Tony Lo Bianco Type
  • Real to Reel
  • Cut to the Chase
  • Anatomy of a Chase: Behind the Scenes of the Filming of The Seven-Ups
  • Randy Jurgensen’s Scrapbook
  • Super 8 Version
  • Lobby Cards, Stills and Media Gallery
  • Original Theatrical Trailers

Distributor: Severin Films

In September 1984, it was aired on the BBC and shocked tens of millions of UK viewers. Four months later, it was broadcast in America and became the most watched basic cable program in history. After more than three decades, it remains one of the most acclaimed and shattering made-for-television movies of all time. Reece Dinsdale (Coronation Street), David Brierly (Doctor Who) and Karen Meagher (in a stunning debut performance) star in this “graphic and haunting” (People Magazine) docudrama about the effects of a nuclear attack on the working-class city of Sheffield, England as the fabric of society unravels. Directed by Mick Jackson (THE BODYGUARD, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE) from a screenplay by novelist/playwright Barry Hines (Ken Loach’s KES) and nominated for seven BAFTA Awards, “the most terrifying and honest portrayal of nuclear war ever filmed” (The Guardian) has now been fully restored from a 2K scan for the first time ever.

For the first half of Threads, the audience is given a semi-documentary/semi-narrative look at the life and culture of citizens of the U.K. as they go about their lives, all while war threatens to rage in the world between the U.S. (naturally), Iran, and the Soviet Union. Reminders of this war come in the form of occasional narration as well as news reports that play on televisions in the backgrounds — news reports that, in the face of the unexpected pregnancy of Ruth (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale), for instance, mostly fall by the wayside and go unnoticed. While this isn’t a large part nor even the point of Threads, it is a noticeable addition: war will loom, our media will warn us, but we’ll be too busy wrapped up in our own soap opera lives to actually understand until it’s too late.

And that’s just the first half.

Halfway through Threads, the bomb drops. The U.K. is decimated. Initial estimates say 10-20 million citizens are killed. And we’re there the whole time. We never cut away. We never cut back to a clean room in a clean country that was shielded from the attack. The U.K. is reduced to black and gray; formless and void of anything that once resembled life and culture. Smoldering bodies and body parts are strewn in the streets, buildings are burned out husks or entirely gone, people huddle in cellars hidden beneath mattresses thinking this will save them from the bigger threat from a nuclear bomb: radiation. But of course it doesn’t.

The most surprising thing about Threads is its lineage: it wasn’t some banned Video Nasty from the 1970s and ’80s that’s just now enjoying a controversial video release. This thing was made for television — first broadcast in the U.K. before enjoying an encore presentation in the U.S. You’d have to have seen Threads for yourself to know how shocking a revelation this is, because Threads is a brutal gut punch. It’s dark, bleak, angry, cynical, graphic, bloody — everything that also describes war. It is the closest approximation to what post-nuclear life can look like, and hopefully that’s the closest we will all ever get. Above all, it’s the clever editing that enforces such an illusion. Establishing shots of everyday homes and stores and businesses are married to stock footage of demolitions and explosions, one after the other; a simple shot of a cat playing on grass, when reversed and shown only in brief cuts, now looks like an animal suffocating from poisoned air.  Keep in mind, Threads isn’t exactly a Frankenstein of stock footage — only the bomb drop and immediate post-bomb decimation relies on these different footage sources; otherwise, Threads is entirely new footage, but it manages to match the dark and colorless tone of these destructive sequences. And as for the new footage, and its own sense of horror…look no further than the camera angles shot in an almost purposely pedestrian manner that capture a group of office workers from behind as they slip a deceased co-worker’s body into garbage bags, or a woman we presume to be the mother of the dead baby in her arms as she looks into the camera with dead eyes.

Threads is extremely effective and unnerving. It’s an absolutely harrowing experience — one that left me shell shocked and in a daze. It actually coerced me into leaving my house after watching it and randomly driving to a more populated area just to see and be among people for the reminder that society still existed. It’s probably the most psychologically disturbing non-horror horror film I’ve ever seen — and I never want to see it again.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Mick Jackson Moderated By Film Writer Kier-La Janisse and Severin Films’ David Gregory
  • Audition For The Apocalypse: Interview With Actress Karen Meagher
  • Shooting The Annihilation: Interview With Director Of Photography Andrew Dunn
  • Destruction Designer: Interview With Production Designer Christopher Robilliard
  • Interview With Film Writer Stephen Thrower
  • US Trailer

Also Available This Week:

Distributor: Shout! Factory

This enchanting musical romantic comedy stars Oscar® winner Brie Larson as Dr. Linda Watt, a sheltered young scientist whose company CEO (Oscar® winner Donald Sutherland) orders her to India to sell farmers the GMO rice that she created. There Linda meets Rajit (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a rebellious college student forced to drop out for lack of funds. Through his playful and often infuriating antagonism, Linda learns she has unwittingly aided a destructive plan against the farmers she was supposedly sent to help. A passionate battle erupts and the future rests on whether Linda and Rajit can quit arguing long enough to admit they love each other and save the day.

Pulsing with the vibrant colors and rhythms of India, this captivating film features original songs written by global artists Pearl Jam, Kristian Bush of Sugarland, Sid Khosla of Goldspot, Dave Baerwald, and Sonu Nigam. Boasting a fantastic ensemble cast, Basmati Blues is a love letter to multiple eras of thrilling Bollywood cinema, heart-stirring musicals, and indelible classic Hollywood romantic comedies!

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Dan Baron, Actor Utkarsh Ambudkar, Writer Jeff Dorchen, Producers Monique Caulfield And Jeffrey Soros
  • Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Fraternal twins Kyle and Peter accidentally discover they’ve been living with a lie all their lives. The kindly man in the photo on their mantle isn’t their father after all, but an invention their mother (Glenn Close) concocted to conceal the truth: that she actually doesn’t know who their real father is. See, it was the seventies, and things were crazy, and…well, you know.

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Hilarious Gag Reel

Distributor: IFC / Shout! Factory

A mysterious stranger sends shockwaves through a close-knit community in this nerve-jangling slice of raw suspense. In the wake of a triple murder that leaves the residents of a remote Alaskan outpost on edge, tightly wound drifter Elwood (Christopher Abbott, It Comes At Night) checks into a motel run by Sam (Jon Bernthal, The Punisher), a former rodeo champion whose imposing physical presence conceals a troubled soul. Bound together by their outsider status, the two men strike up an uneasy friendship — a dangerous association that will set off a new wave of violence and unleash Sam’s darkest demons. Driven by tour-de-force performances from Abbott and Bernthal, this well-crafted thriller pulses with an air of quivering dread. Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later) and Rosemarie DeWitt (Poltergeist) also star.

Special Features: None.

Distributor: IFC / Shout! Factory

When teenage Medina (Maika Monroe) moves with her family to the picture-perfect paradise of Palos Verdes, California, they seem headed for a happy new chapter in their lives. But old troubles soon catch up to them, as her parents’ marriage disintegrates, her mother (Jennifer Garner) spirals into an emotional freefall, and her twin brother (Cody Fern) turns to drugs. Caught in the middle of it all, Medina must rely on her inner strength to become the stabilizing force in her family, while finding refuge in a new passion: surfing. Set amidst the sun-kissed beaches and crystal blue waters of the California coast, The Tribes Of Palos Verdes is a stirring look at how life’s greatest challenges forge who we become.

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: MVD Entertainment Group

ANIMAL DESIRES…HUMAN LUST! Matt Farrell (John Ashley) is plucked from the sea while skin-diving and taken to the foreboding fortress of Dr. Gordon. He is to become part of the doctor’s diabolical experiment to create a race of super people. This twisted and maniacal doctor’s experiments have so far only created terrifying and hideous creatures. His human guinea pigs, freed by the doctor’s own daughter, turn the island hideaway into a bloodbath of revenge and terror! Cult Film Queen Pam Grier is featured as “Panther Woman”.

Special Features:

  • Full commentary by film historian Toby Roan
  • Video Interview with the director Eddie Romero
  • Original Theatrical Trailer


Distributor: Paramount Pictures

In UP IN SMOKE Cheech (Cheech Marin) and Chong (Tommy Chong) play wannabe musicians and stoners who unwittingly smuggle a van made of marijuana from Mexico to L.A.  Their drug-laced humor keeps their spirits high as they unknowingly elude the police and meander their way to an outrageous finale at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong plays drums in a red body suit with a Quaalude logo.

The UP IN SMOKE Blu-ray Combo Pack features a brand new short-form documentary entitled “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40,” which chronicles the duo’s comedy history, as well as the origins and impact of the film itself. Capturing a complex and fascinating pop culture odyssey, the documentary incorporates new interviews with Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and producer/director Lou Adler along with archival footage.  The Combo Pack is also loaded with previously released bonus material including deleted scenes, commentary, a music video and more.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by Cheech Marin and director Lou Adler
  • How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40—NEW!
  • Roach Clips with Optional Commentary (deleted scenes)
  • Lighting It Up: A Look Back at Up In Smoke
  • “Earache My Eye” featuring Alice Bowie: Animated Music Video
  • Cheech & Chong’s “The Man Song”
  • Vintage Radio Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer


Share Post
Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

No comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.