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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Despicable Me 3, Twin Peaks, American Assassin and more

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Despicable Me 3 – The Despicable Me train continues its roll to animation domination, making a metric ton of money at the box office. While this third outing offers up plenty of laughs, it’s easily the weakest of the three films. The addition of Gru’s brother doesn’t really feel all that inspired, and the story overall is kind of weak. However, that said, the franchise sees it’s best villain yet with the addition the heavily 80s-themed Balthazar Bratt, a former child TV star, who adds a lot of laughs to the proceedings. Available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, the animation really shines in the high def presentation of the film, and it’s a lot of fun overall, even if it isn’t quite as good as the first two.

Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series – I don’t really know how the original Twin Peaks worked as well as it did. I’ve learned over the years that I really don’t like anything David Lynch has a hand in… except for Twin Peaks. So I was as excited (although cautiously so) as anyone else when Twin Peaks’ return was announced. However, the difference here is that while originally Lynch had to make some mainstream concessions to get onto network TV, those restraints are gone now. So the result is a completely Lynch-ian surreal mess that throws coherence and plot right out the window in favor of atmosphere and weirdness for weirdness’s sake. Sigh. I really wanted to like this new series, but it’s almost completely incomprehensible. On the plus side, the new box set that collects all 18 episodes is a real beauty, with nice packaging and a ton of extra features, although many of them are as oddball as the show itself.

American Assassin – I liked American Assassin, but I really wanted to love it. With Michael Keaton – one of the best actors in the world — on board, a likable lead in Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner movies), and a popular source material (the Vince Flynn novels), I was hoping for the next coming of Jason Bourne or Jack Ryan, which is clearly what the filmmakers were going for. And while the film works pretty well overall and offers up solid action entertainment, there’s something missing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not a film that excited me like I wanted it to. The film is out on 4K Ultra HD (along with Blu-ray and DVD) and it looks spectacular, with incredible sharpness and a booming surround soundtrack. I just wish the film was about 10-20% better than it is.

Silent Night, Deadly Night – This all-new Blu-ray collector’s edition comes from Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint, and it’s everything a fan of slasher films could want. This 1984 cult classic was once considered so extreme that it was notoriously pulled from theaters after just a week in release. And while, sure, a murderous Santa Claus might be considered disturbing, the film isn’t really all that controversial when you watch it through the lens of 30 years of horror films since. But that’s okay, because I love this film. It’s twisted and dark and funny and has that classic slasher film feeling. This new edition is loaded with new extra features, making this the best home video version yet.

One Day at A Time: The Complete Series – Despite its incredible popularity on television (it ran a whopping nine seasons), Norman Lear’s One Day at a Time has only ever seen one season released on DVD. Until now, of course, thanks to the supreme efforts of Shout Factory, who have released the entire series in one massive box set that includes every single episode – over 200 in total. I loved this show back in the day, and watching it again was a great nostalgia trip for me. Better than that, however, is the fact that the show holds up surprisingly well. Of course, the fashions and hairstyles show their age, but the show is still really good. Bonnie Franklin, Valerie Bertinelli, Mackenzie Phillips, and of course, the late, great Pat Harrington as Schneider were a terrific family comedy team, and it’s fun to watch the two younger girls grow up, especially. This giant box set includes the One Day at A Time Reunion, and the “This Is It: The Story of One Day at A Time” documentary. This is a great set, a great show, and will make for a nice gift this holiday season – either for a friend or for yourself!

The Transformers Series 4K Ultra HD – Okay. I know some people hate the Transformers movies. And I totally get why. They’re a bit of a mess. For my money, I really enjoy the first film and the third film. Are they perfect? No. But to me, they’re large-scale, big budget fun. The second, fourth, and fifth films, however… not good. Well, for those people who do love the films, Paramount has now released the first four films on 4K Ultra HD for the first time (The Last Knight was released on 4K when the film hit home video a few months ago.) First off, I really love the cover art for these releases, which feature new art-inspired designs. Then there’s the film’s themselves, which look and sound amazing. These are the kinds of films that 4K Ultra HD is made for, boasting incredible sharpness and literally jaw-dropping colors. The surround soundtracks will literally shake your speakers, so you might want to nail them down. If you don’t like the movies, there’s nothing for you here, but if you’re a fan, these are breathtaking new transfers of the first four films.

South Park: The Complete First Five Seasons (Blu-ray) – Similar to the Transformers release above, these are new editions of existing releases in a new format. South Park has been around so long, the first five seasons came out on home video before Blu-ray was a thing, released only on DVD. Now, CBS/Paramount is allowing fans to complete their Blu-ray collections as the first five seasons are released in individual season sets on Blu-ray. Now, obviously, the show isn’t known for high fidelity graphics, but Blu-ray is always a better option than DVD in terms of color and clarity. Each set includes extra features and are all available at a relatively low price point, so fans can now round out their collections and dump those early DVD releases.

Jerome Bixby’s The Man From Earth: Special Edition – SO, ten years ago, this tiny little movie came out that completely blew me away. It remains an obscure favorite, although it has gained something of a cult following. That film is The Man From Earth. The story is simple, a man calls a group of friends – all scholars and academics – together to reveal that he’s been alive for over a hundred thousand years. And… that’s pretty much it. It’s not a plot heavy film, nor is it an action or adventure movie. It is, however, a thoughtful, fascinating, and engaging movie to watch as this group of characters deals with an idea that none of them consider possible. It’s a truly special little film, and with familiar faces such as William Katt, Tony Todd, and Richard Riehle in the cast, it’s got some nice fan appeal. The film has now been released as a special edition Blu-ray, packed with extra features including a documentary that’s as long as the film itself. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Better Watch Out – I really want to tell you about this movie, but I also don’t want to say a word about it. This is one of those films that really works better when you know less about it. Suffice it to say, however, that it’s about two kids and their babysitter and a possible home invasion. And then sit back and watch the carnage. It’s kind of like Home Alone by way of You’re Next. Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen have supporting roles here, but the stars of the film are young Levi Miller (the best part of Pan), Ed Oxenbould (The Visit, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and Olivia DeJonge (also The Visit). They really carry the movie, and I have to say that it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Check it out.

The White King – The advertising behind this film is pushing it pretty hard as a contemporary of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not a terrible comparison, although obviously the sociopolitical and gender politics are a bit different. This film focuses on a young boy in a dictatorial dystopian society whose father has been labeled a traitor, and how he must come of age in a time when his family has been ostracized and his father is absent. It’s this story which gives comparisons to Handmaid their weight; whereas other films might see the young boy go on a revenge-fueled mission to free his father, this one instead focuses on the characters lives in the aftermath of these events. It’s an intriguing film even if it’s not quite as good as I wanted it to be, mostly due to a somewhat lackluster ending. But overall, I enjoyed t more than not.

Crash Pad – Domnhall Gleason, Christina Applegate and Thomas Haden Church star in this comedy about a young man who meets the (older) woman of his dreams, only to find out that she’s only with him to get revenge on her cheating husband. So he moves in with the husband to get his own revenge and, well, hilarity (or something like it) ensues. What I liked about this film is that it’s light and breezy for the most part, and it doesn’t lose sight of what kind of movie it is. All three of the leads are in fine form, and the chemistry between them all is tangible. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a fun way to kill 90 minutes.

Jumanji – Just in time for the big screen sequel/reboot, Jumanji makes its 4K Ultra HD debut (and also returns to Blu-ray.) Based on the hit books by Chris Van Allsburg (author of The Polar Express), Jumanji has never been one of my favorite Robin Williams films, but I have to admit it was nice to go back and watch it and see him in action again. It’s action-packed and fun and has some great moments in it, even if the effects are a little dated now. Williams is in typical Williams mode, but the idea of a game that comes to life is an intriguing one, and this is a good primer for kids who are excited to see the new Dwayne Johnson vehicle.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume 1 – Not sure what’s up with that title, but this is an interesting one. Daniel MacPherson stars as a father who’s trying to get to his daughter when a dangerous outbreak hits a newly colonized planet. Kellan Lutz and Rachel Griffiths co-star, and while the film clearly has low-budget origins, it overreaches and largely succeeds. It’s not going to win any awards, but I found the film better than I expected it to be and largely able to avoid a lot of low-budget pitfalls. Definitely check this one out if you like science fiction movies and don’t need them to have a hundred-million-dollar budget.
  • The Crucifixion – Xavier Gens (Hitman, The Divide) directs this horror film that treads familiar ground. Despite Gens’ talent with visuals (and a script by the writers of The Conjuring) this movie falls flat. It’s unexciting, not terribly scary, and frankly, we’ve all seen crucifixion movies a hundred times. Why make one if you’re not going to do something different or interesting with it? It’s not unwatchable or unbearable, it’s just dull.
  • Houston Astros 2017 World Series Collector’s Edition & World Series Champions – Are you a Houston Astros fan? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up 2017 World Series Collector’s Edition. There are two versions of this available: one for the casual fan, and one for the die-hard fan. 2017 World Series Champions: The Houston Astros is a one-disc highlights film which gives you the movie-length version of the Astros’ journey to infamy. Then there’s also Houston Astros 2017 World Series Collector’s Edition, which is an eight-disc box set includes every single game of the World Series in its entirety. There’s also an entire bonus disc filled with goodies from extra interviews to audio clips and much more. Either one of these is a must-have for die-hard fans!
  • Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis – I’m not a fan of Eagles of Death Metal. I’m not NOT a fan, either, I just have really never listened to them. But this film isn’t just another music documentary. Instead, it follows the band as they strive to return to the stage after a terrorist attack at one of their concerts took 89 lives in November of 2015 in Paris’ Bataclan theater. This film – directed by Colin Hanks – follows the band as they try to cope with the after effects of the events and their eventual return to the same theater where the attack took place. With interviews with the band as well as luminaries such as Bono, it doesn’t really matter if you like the band’s music or not, this is a powerful and moving film.
  • F.M.A. – This timely revenge thriller sees a girl on a college campus who is sexually assaulted become a vigilante of sorts, taking down a number of male college students guilty of rape. Francesca Eastwood gives a searing performance in the lead role, which requires both an emotional heaviness and physical prowess. It’s a dark film that’s at times hard to watch, but it’s also empowering and visceral in the right ways. I can’t say it’s a Friday-night-popcorn-and-friends kind of movie, but if you’re in the mood for something that will wrap you up and pummel you with intensity for a couple of hours, you’ve found it.
  • Conor McGregor: Notorious – This is a pretty standard biography/documentary about the famous MMA fighter who just recently took on Floyd Mayweather in a traditional boxing match and became even more famous than ever. I’m not really an MMA fan, but I know who McGregor is and I can appreciate him as a fun sports character. This film will really deepen your appreciation of him, however, as his is a true rags-to-riches story. It’s a solid enough film to be enjoyable even if you’re not a fan of sanctioned fighting, but I think it will appeal mostly to MMA enthusiasts.
  • On Wings of Eagles – Joseph Fiennes stars in this somewhat faith-based biopic of Eric Liddell and his life after the 1924 Olympics that made him a star. Don’t know who Eric Liddell is? I bet you do. He was the subject of 1982’s Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire. This film sort of picks up where that one left off, following Liddell, his marriage, and mostly, his imprisonment in China by the invading Japanese on the eve of World War II. Fiennes gives a strong performance, and Lidell’s real life faith is spotlighted here (he famously refused to race in an Olympic race that fell on a Sunday.) It’s a good story and a solid film, even if not 100% my cup of tea.
  • Midsomer Murders: John Barnaby’s First Cases – This very popular, long-running series is based on a series of novels by Caroline Graham. While this is a police procedural, it’s a bit more Murder She Wrote than CSI, as the show eschews gritty visuals for a more down-home feel. It still has some grisly moments, though. This time around, we see John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) take over for his cousin Tom Barnaby, who was the focus of the show for the past dozen or so seasons. This set collects fourteen episodes form Seasons 14 and 15 over seven discs, giving fans of this extremely popular show plenty of time to get used to the new lead actor.
  • Santa Stole Our Dog! – Does Ed Asner do anything other than play Santa Claus these days? I’m not sure, but here’s another case of him taking the role of Jolly St. Nick. In this film, a family’s dog goes missing on Christmas Eve, and they set out for the North Pole to get the dog back from Santa. With original songs by Dolly Parton and John Schneider and Ed Asner doing a role he knows extremely well by now, this family film should please younger viewers and it won’t bore adult viewers, which is always a good combination.
  • Howard Lovecraft And the Undersea Kingdom – A kids’ movie based on H.P. Lovecraft? Erm… okaaayyy. And now a sequel? I guess the first one did well enough to warrant it. Still, with Ron Perlman, Mark Hamill, and Christopher Plummer in the voice cast, the movie isn’t bad. This time around, we see a young H.P. Lovecraft fighting evil and vanquishing monsters. So I guess that’s cool, but it’s an odd thing to aim for. I mean, if your kids are young enough to enjoy this movie, they’re way too young to read Lovecraft. Still, I guess it makes for a kids’ movie that parents can find something enjoyable in, so that’s something.
  • Digimon Adventure Tri.: Confession – I don’t know much about Digimon. I guess I’m getting old, but as soon as I start hearing names like Kuwagamon, Alphamon, and Digimon DigiDestined, I tend to start zoning out. This new release is a feature-length movie, running just over 90 minutes, and I have to say, it’s more emotional than I expected a Digimon movie to be. I can’t say that I understood everything made 100% sense to me, but I was impressed by the emotional heft this movie carries, at least for what it is. The animation is quite good and looks better than what I’m used to seeing from these kinds of shows. This is one of those releases that I’m sure is a big deal to the existing fan base, but I can’t say it’s going to do much to create new viewers, mostly because it seems to be mired in continuity.
  • Ed Wood’s The Violent Years – Ed Wood is largely recognized as one of the worst filmmakers in the history of cinema. And while that’s not an unfair assessment, there’s no denying he had passion for the craft. But that doesn’t make The Violent Years anything more than a curiosity for most folks. Sure, some die-hard cult movie lovers will enjoy this B-movie about a girl gang on the rampage, but it’s really not easy to sit through as anything other than a novelty. But hey, it’s on Blu-ray now, which means students of film can discover it and enjoy it – or something like that.
  • Of Horses and Men – This movie is exactly what the title implies: a collection of storylines that involve, well, horses, and men. Or more accurately, horses and people. The film is beautifully shot, featuring large horses featuring largely in a series of vignettes about people in Iceland. It won a ton of awards in its native Iceland and it’s easy to see why: it’s beautifully shot and features some solid drama. I can’t say it was really my kind of thing, but fans of foreign dramas will like it.
  • Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back – I don’t understand Maurizio Cattelan’s work at all. But then, I’m not really a fine/modern art kind of guy. But I do understand films, and this feature-length documentary explores the world and works of this controversial artist. The best part about the film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; while it could easily be a stuffy art-world documentary, it instead isn’t afraid to take on a more fun, playful tone at times. Worth a watch if you’re interested in art.
  • Bat Pussy – I don’t really know what to make of this “movie.” It’s sort of a soft-core porn Batman parody, but not in a way that’s either titillating or clever. It’s underground filmmaking at its finest and I guess it’s something of a novelty for Batman collectors. Or Porn collectors, I guess. Interestingly, it’s been rejected by Amazon which means you can’t buy it through that retail giant, maybe because it violates their content guidelines? I can’t say this is really a great viewing experience, but it is definitely… an experience.
  • Angry Inuk (Inuit Enfadado) – Most times, when you see a documentary that has to do with animal hunting (think The Cove or Blackfish) it’s an outraged protest film aimed at opening people’s eyes. This film IS meant to open viewers’ eyes, but not in anger. This film is about seal hunting, but more to the point, its about how the Inuit population lives off of these animals and the food and materials they provide, and how protests against seal hunting in Canada are negatively impacting their lives. It’s the kind of film that reinforces the idea that there really are two sides to every story. It’s not an easy watch at times, but it is a fascinating film.

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