The 7 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Neighbors 2,’ ‘Bill & Ted’


It’s an eclectic week here on the new disc beat, even by our standards: we’ve got a summer comedy sequel, a new Blu-ray release of a pair of comedy faves, a ‘70s TV miniseries, the Coen Brothers’ debut film, and three all-time classics getting the Blu-ray special edition treatment. Let’s dig in.


Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising : Two summers back, Neighbors was a pleasant surprise, taking the Apatow-style bro comedy into new waters of marital relationships and parenthood, while still delivering big, bawdy laughs. This summer’s follow-up is, admittedly, pretty thin stuff — it runs barely 90 minutes, and even at that, an awful lot of it feels like padding. But its makers are again moving into territory you wouldn’t expect (this time, campus feminism and rape culture) with surprisingly nimble results. And Rose Byrne is, as everyone should know by now, the secret weapon no movie comedy should go without. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes, and “line-o-rama.”)


Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection : Shout Select returns (after blessing us with Blu-ray upgrades for Midnight Run and Road House ) with these features-heavy upgrades to the twin tales of Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves). 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure remains a clever, time-trotting slacker comedy, given a boost by its winking intelligence and a charming supporting turn by George Carlin. (It also has a plotting gimmick that is unexpectedly echoed in this fall’s Arrival.) Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, released two years later, may have aged even better, thanks to the uproarious inclusion of the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) following an extended Seventh Seal parody. Yes, these dumb movies included Bergman satire. Turns out, they weren’t as dumb as they looked. (Includes new audio commentaries, new featurettes, trailers, interviews, and “air guitar tutorial.”)

Blood Simple : The Coen Brothers have made sleeker movies than their debut feature, and funnier ones, and more heartbreaking ones. But they never again made a movie as deliciously nasty as this Texas-strung film noir riff, about a greasy private detective (the great M. Emmett Walsh), the cuckolded husband who hires him, and the bloody indignities that ensue. Throw in a handful of particularly ingenious set pieces, a fuming Dan Hedaya as the skeezy husband, and Frances McDormand (and future Mrs. Joel Coen) in her film debut, and you’ve got a breakout movie that still jolts. (Includes new conversations and interviews, and theatrical trailer.)

Cat People : When RKO hired Val Lewton to produce low-budget horror movies, they were expecting nothing more than cheap programmers that would fill out the bottom halves of double bills and be promptly forgotten. Little did they know that his debut effort, this 1942 creeper from director Jacques Tourneur (and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, who would later team with him on the quintessential noir Out of the Past), would become one of the most iconic and influential chillers of the era. Moody and mighty, and without a wasted frame in its compact 73 minutes. (Includes audio commentary, new and archival interviews, trailer, and feature-length Lewton documentary from Hitchcock/Truffaut director Kent Jones.)

High Noon : Olive Films is launching its new “Olive Signature” line of bonus-heavy classics with this re-release of 1952 Western from director Fred Zinneman, best remembered for its implicitly anti-blacklist stance and its ingenious construction – it plays out in roughly real time, tick-tocking to the arrival of a vicious killer, culminating with an action-packed shoot-out. But the character beats are what stick; this is a film with much to say about choosing to do the right thing, and is less about the what the characters do than the psychology of why they do it. (Zinneman pointedly chose to de-emphasize the wide open spaces by shooting in tightly composed black-and-white; Olive’s transfer crisply captures its stark simplicity.) It’s far from subtle, thanks to the clanging symbolism and sting-heavy music, but these weren’t subtle times. And frankly, neither are ours. (Includes featurettes and trailers.)

Johnny Guitar : Olive Signature’s other inaugural release is equally delicious, if not more so — and well timed, if you’ve been enjoying You Must Remember This’s “Six Degrees of Joan Crawford” series. It’s the kind of bizarrely subversive movie that could’ve only been made outside the norms of the star system (and sure enough, Crawford took it to second-tier studio Republic herself, bringing along Nicholas Ray from another, aborted project), featuring Crawford as a tough-talking, hard-loving, sharp-shooting saloonkeeper, Sterling Hayden as her former love, and Mercedes McCambridge as her equally nasty rival. Its archness and oddness occasionally approach camp, but it mostly serves as a showcase for the specific gifts of this unique star, and for what she and a gifted director could get away with when nobody was looking. (Includes audio commentary, Martin Scorsese introduction, featurettes, and trailer.)

Salem’s Lot : Three less-appreciated Stephen King adaptations make their Blu-ray debuts today: Cat’s Eye (ingenious, funny, and twisty), It (generally lousy, beloved almost exclusively for the creepiness of Tim Curry’s Pennywise), and this two-part 1979 television version of King’s second novel. Some of the staging and cutting is very “of the period” (which is to say, “corny”), lead David Soul is a bit of a stiff, and it’s frankly more creepy than scary. But creepy goes a long way in the hands of director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), who stuffs the movie with loads of atmosphere, a wonderfully esoteric cast (including a fetching young Bonnie Bedelia and a shirtless Fred Willard), cheerfully over-the-top music, and a genuinely unnerving, Nosferatu-styled vampire monster. (Includes audio commentary and international theatrical trailer.)