Young Hollywood Returns from the Dead in Our Pick of the Week

Flatliners [4K UHD, Arrow Video]

What is it? Five medical school students experiment with death.

Why see it? Joel Schumacher’s filmography features more than a few descents into darkness, and while this one is often literal darkness — the lighting and production design are insanely stylized — it’s also an entertaining and star-studded one. Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and Billy Baldwin play the students who tease death only to bring back guilty secrets from the other side. It’s a ridiculously insular film as the bulk of the film plays out like there’s no one else in the city let alone at this school, but the style works and helps deliver some thrills and emotional beats. Arrow’s new 4K UHD is a beauty.

[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews]

The Best

Catch The HeatCatch the Heat [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A slice of 80s action you’ve never heard of.

Why see it? Well, you may have heard of it, but Catch the Heat is a new one to me, and that’s nuts! An 80s action movie with a female Asian-American lead! And Tiana Alexandra, who trained under Bruce Lee as a teenager, also became the first Vietnamese woman to join SAG! And it’s written by In the Heat of the Night‘s Stirling Silliphant! All of that said, I’d be lying if I said it was great, so consider this a recommendation based more on the film’s cache and its overdue arrival to Blu-ray. It’s still a solid enough action picture, though, so let’s just agree this recommendation is for 80s action aficionados only.

[Extras: None]

A Force Of OneA Force of One [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A karate expert helps stop a cop killer.

Why see it? The 80s would see Chuck Norris go into overdrive when it came to killing baddies, but for this late 70s thriller he’s more content only killing one. The film’s no less entertaining for it, though, as that baddie is racking up quite a body count of his own, and they’re mostly cops. Jennifer O’Neill co-stars (and gets top billing!) as one of the cops hoping to learn a few moves from the champ in the hopes of fighting crime and fending off the neck-breaking murderer. We get some solid, kick-happy fights, a mean villain, and even a Clu Gulager! Kino’s new master also looks nice and bright.

[Extras: New 2K master, commentaries, featurette]

The OctagonThe Octagon [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? Terrorists using ninjas?! In this economy?

Why see it? This 1980 action gem has always been a bit divisive for genre fans as its cool elements are balanced out with some silly cheese. Chuck Norris’ low whisper voiceover work is goofy at times, and too many of these ninjas are the opposite of cool and highly skilled. Accept those things, though, and it’s an undeniably entertaining movie pitting Norris against ninjas, terrorists, and a menacing Richard Norton. The action builds to a full-on beat down in the title arena, and the addition of Lee Van Cleef and Art Hindle certainly doesn’t hurt.

[Extras: New 2K master, commentaries, featurette]

The Rest

Good Guys Wear Black [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? Members of an elite military squad are being assassinated!

Why see it? This 1978 feature made Chuck Norris a star, but as great as the title is the movie itself is something of a middling effort. Norris plays a commando who goes looking for answers when his old team members wind up dead. It seems the government has some unfinished business. Yes, this does sound like the basis of the recent Prime series The Terminal List, but it’s a bit less exciting. The fights are minimal and arguably a bit comical? There’s also way too much down time. Kino’s new disc looks great, though, and fans will still want to pick it up.

[Extras: New 2K master, commentary, featurette, interview]

High Desert Kill [Scorpion Films]

What is it? Three friends go hunting in the desert and find an alien threat.

Why see it? The premise here is enough to suggest a lower budgeted take on Predator (1987), but the script isn’t really interested in such visceral action beats. Instead we get a mostly invisible alien that messes with their minds. We still get some minor entertainment here, and Marc Singer is always fun in genre fare, but the psychological angel can’t quite find the necessary thrills to maintain the momentum and interest. It also stars Chuck Connors and Anthony Geary.

[Extras: New 2K master, both 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 versions]

White Elephant

What is it? Killers come calling to eliminate a cop witness.

Why see it? Director Jesse V. Johnson has delivered some fun action films over the years — 2019’s one-two punch of Triple Threat and Avengement being a particular highlight — but his latest is a star-filled dud. Michael Rooker and Olga Kurylenko are the ostensible leads while Bruce Willis and John Malkovich are minor supporting players. The action is pretty standard, but too much of the dialogue feels flat and sounds like it was delivered via ADR or by actors not in the same room or on the same day. It’s just an inert experience when it should thrill.

[Extras: None]

Also out this week:

Apples, Cow, Last Days in the Desert [Shout Select], Tenebrae [4K UHD, Synapse Films], Waiting: The Van Duren Story

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