It’s a pretty slow week for this week in home video release, with just one new notable release and a host of classics from a variety of distributors. Some of these include one of the best Hollywood films ever made, a Hitchcock thriller starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, a Ken Burns documentary, and a sequel to a horror cult classic, and many more.
Let’s start with a major classic release: Howard Hawks’ “Only Angels Have Wings” from Criterion. One of the very best Hollywood films ever made, the film follows a group of pilots of Barranca Airways that carries airmail from Barranca, a fictional South American port, through a high pass in the Andes Mountains. The pilot and manager Geoff Caret (Cary Grant) adopts a pragmatic, fatalistic attitude towards his profession as the inherent danger of the job necessarily requires emotional distance, something Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), a piano-playing entertainer who arrives in Barranca, finds frustrating but nevertheless becomes infatuated with him anyway. Other plots include the arrival of pilot Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) and his wife (and Geoff’s old flame) Judy (Rita Hayworth in her first major role), and the problems it causes with other pilot “Kid” Dabb (Thomas Mitchell), who holds animosity against Bat for abandoning his mechanic brother in a crashing plane years earlier. With its daring flying sequences and portrayal of professionalism, “Only Angels Have Wings” is considered one of Hawks’ finest films, but it’s much more than an auteur treasure. It’s one of the funniest, suspenseful, romantic dramas ever to come out of the studio system, and it’s well worth the time and money to watch the Criterion Collection’s restoration.
The one new release this week is Jason Zada’s supernatural horror film “The Forest,” starring Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones”) and Taylor Kinney (“Chicago Fire”). Set in the Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan known for being a popular destination for suicides, the film follows an American woman Sara (Dormer) who travels to Japan to search for her troubled twin sister who was last seen entering the forest. Along with a reporter (Kinney) and a park guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), Sara enters the forest and discovers not only a host of disturbing specters and spirits, but her own fractured mental state as well. The film has garnered mostly negative reviews that cited its tedious pacing and lack of genuine scares.
There are plenty of classic releases this week. First, Warner Bros. has Alfred Hitchcock’s film noir thriller “Suspicion,” starring Joan Fontaine as a spinster who falls in love with a charming playboy (Cary Grant) only to find out he isn’t what he says he is, and suspects he might murder her. Then, PBS has a Blu-ray of Ken Burns’ “Jackie Robinson” documentary, which concludes its four-hour, two-part run tonight. Arrow has a Blu-ray release of “Bride of Re-Animator,” the sequel to the 1985 horror cult classic “Re-Animator.” Kino Lorber has the Blu-ray of “Shadows in an Empty Room,” which stars Stuart Whitman as a tough cop who tries to find his sister’s killer. Shout! Factory has two Blu-ray releases this week: “Village of the Damned” and a double feature release with two films that feature Anthony Perkins, “Destroyer” and “Edge of Sanity.” Finally, Twilight Time has a bunch of new releases on Blu-ray: Ivan Passer’s “Cutter’s Way,” Michael Cimino’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” Michael Winner’s “Chato’s Land,” Fred Zinneman’s “Julia,” Mike Hodges’ “A Prayer for the Dying,” and Robert Parrish’s “In the French Style.”
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club
The film offers genuine intrigue and excitement — including the pilots’ climactic, death-defying effort to save the airline by demonstrating that they can reliably deliver the mail even in treacherous weather. But its ultimate power derives largely from its unusual ethos, which celebrates pragmatism at the expense of emotional behavior while simultaneously acknowledging just how profound a pragmatist’s emotions can be. In particular, the resolution of Bonnie and Geoff’s relationship (which is also the final scene of the movie) eschews romance in a way that, paradoxically, makes the gesture in question achingly romantic. That’s par for the course in a film that’s built on internal contradictions, repeatedly engineering massive upheavals and then watching the characters blithely pretend that nothing of note has occurred, even as they die inside. One could carp that this represents a warped, toxic notion of masculinity (not an uncommon criticism of Hawks), but that would require ignoring the tenderness in Kid’s voice when he talks to Bonnie about Geoff, or Geoff’s willingness to give Bonnie what she needs from him even as he makes it appear that he’s withholding it (in order to protect himself from a potentially disastrous surge of unaccustomed vulnerability). Read more.
Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine (Vulture)
The Aokigahara “suicide forest” near Mt. Fuji in Japan is a real place where dozens of individuals go to kill themselves every year — the kind of setting that’s probably irresistible to certain authors and artists and filmmakers. But you have to be careful around this sort of thing, as evidenced by Jason Zada’s new horror film “The Forest.” The horror genre gives us kicks out of things that in real life are almost too distressing to complicate: deranged serial killers and monsters from the beyond and what-have-you. Suicide, however, feels less abstract, less otherworldly — closer to home, maybe, a real thing of sadness. For some of its running time, “The Forest” plays with that idea, which unfortunately just serves to make its eventual descent into lame horror histrionics that much more disappointing. Read more.