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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: The Sandlot, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, 13 Reasons Why and more

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi – I always feel like reviewing a Star Wars movie is rather pointless. I mean, it’s Star Wars. It’s going to sell a kabillion copies no matter what I say. But I will say this: if you’re one of the seemingly many people who were disappointed by Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters, now’s your chance to give it a second chance. And while it is still a terribly flawed movie, it’s much, MUCH better on second viewing. Now, on to the disc itself. The film is available on Blu-ray and DVD, as usual, but also 4K Ultra HD, which is definitely the way to go if you have the capability. This is the kind of film that the premium format was made to showcase, in terms of both sound and picture. Add to that a bevy of extra features, and despite the film’s issues, the home video package is pretty darn spectacular.

The Sandlot: 25th Anniversary Edition – The beloved family favorite film turns 25 years old this year, and Fox has celebrated by releasing it on Blu-ray for the second time. I love this film, and I know a lot of other people who do, too. How can you not, really? Kids love it, adults love it… it’s one of those rare films that actually is a “family” film, as in GOOD for the whole family and not just appropriate. Plus, you know… “You’re killing me, Smalls!” Classic. This new edition doesn’t offer up a ton of new material, but it does include some physical goodies in the form of a set of baseball cards of the film’s characters and a full-color mini-book. So if you don’t already own the film, now’s the time to add it to your collection.

13 Reasons Why: Season One – Netflix’s much-buzzed about series about a teenager who commits suicide has come to DVD to allow all those non-subscribers out there to finally experience it. (Side note: are there still people without Netflix subscriptions?) Here’s what I’ll say about this show: it’s extremely well done. I don’t know that it’s the kind of thing I would have chanced upon without all the buzz about it, but it’s extremely well written, strongly acted, and currently topical. Yes, it’s hard to watch, but it’s also not a complete downer from start to finish. Worth a watch, but be careful with sensitive audiences.

Ballers: The Complete Third Season – Dwayne Johnson stars as an ex-football player turned wannabe financial advisor to the stars in this terrific HBO series. It’s a half-hour show that is ostensibly a comedy, but it’s very much in the vein of something like Entourage, sort of a dramedy more than anything else. There are serious story lines at play here, but there is a lot of humor to be found as well. Dwayne Johnson is charismatic as hell — as always — in the lead role, and the fact that the show is littered with real NFL stars and coaches playing themselves adds to the authenticity. I love this show!

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Sweet Virginia – Jon Bernthal and Christopher Abbot star in this tense thriller which is a bit hard to explain. The basic set up involves two men, one of whom is unaware that the other is a contract killer. Not quite an action film, not quite a drama, this is more of a semi-psychological thriller. On the plus side, the performances by Bernthal and Abbott, and supporting actors Imogen Poots and Rosemarie DeWitt bring their usual strong talents to the proceedings. On the minus side, the film is certainly watchable, but I don’t know that it’s all that memorable. It’ll kill 90 minutes easy, but I don’t know that it will stick with you much past that.
  • Permanent – Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson star in this extremely awkward comedy film. Now, note that I use awkward not as a judgmental term, but rather to point out that the filmmakers clearly set out to make the kind of awkward, cringe-inducing film that some people seem to love. I’m not typically one of those people. Set in 1982 in small town Virginia (which, ironically, the abovementioned Sweet Virginia does not), the film kicks off with a disastrous hairdo, and eventually morphs into a sort-of coming-of-age story, filled with quirky characters, not all of whom are all that likable. I can definitely see an audience for this film (fans of The Office and similar ilk), but I don’t think I’m a part of it.
  • The Governor: The Complete Collection – This two-season collection gives us 12 episodes of a strong dramatic series, in which we follow the trials and tribulations of a female prison warden, known, obviously, as The Governor. British television stalwart Janet McTeer takes on the titular role, and she is predictably fantastic. Each season is just six episodes, meaning the show is taut, tight, and just the right length. The supporting/guest casts include a number of familiar faces, including Sophie Okonedo, Eamonn Walker (who I loved on another prison show, OZ), and even Idris Elba. Definitely worth a watch.
  • A Place to Call Home: Season 5 – The sweeping Australian drama continues with A Place to Call Home: Season 5. Imagine an Australian version of Downton Abbey set in the 1950s and you have some idea what this show is like. While that’s not a perfect comparison, it does set the tone. The acting is uniformly terrific, the characters are engaging, and the show is — like Downton — more addictive than you would think.
  • My Father the Hero – A young Katherine Heigl stars along Gerard Depardieu in this 1990s comedy that is making its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Kino Lorber. The film is directed by Steve Miner, a genre director who I really like. He strays from his usual action/horror fare (Lake Placid, Halloween H20, Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3) into comedy, and the result is a film that isn’t outstanding, but is better than it should be. I can’t quite get into Gerard Depardieu as a lead actor, but with Heigl causing trouble and Lauren Hutton and Stephen Tobolowsky along for the ride, the film is fun enough to be worth watching.
  • Twilight People – Huh. Now, I love cult classics as much as the next guy, but some movies are less cult CLASSICS, and more just cult movies. And Twilight People is definitely one of those films. A low-budget creepfest from 1972, the only notable cast member is Pam Grier as a panther woman. Yep, you read that correctly. Loosely based on The Island of Dr. Moreau and with a budget of about, oh, I’d say ninety-five cents, you really have to love B-movies to get into this one. At least it’s available on Blu-ray, which will make collectors happy.
  • The Railway Children – I have to admit, I’d never heard of The Railway Children before this DVD crossed my desk. Apparently, I’m in the minority, however, as there are several different versions of this story available on home video. This newest release is a filmed version of a theatrical stage production. The cast is largely unknown (at least in the film world) but there’s no denying that it’s an impressive stage show with an endearing young cast. I can’t say I got all that caught up in the story and I don’t really love watching recordings of live theater, but if you’re a fan of any of the previous versions of The Railway Children, this one is interesting enough to check out.

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