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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: Arrow Season 6, Avengers: Infinity War, Return of the Living Dead Part II, The Unborn and more

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Avengers: Infinity War – This is one of those films that’s sort of pointless to review. You’ve either already seen it, or you plan to see it. And if you plan to see it, I certainly don’t want to spoil anything here. But I’ll say this about Infinity War: it gets a lot of things right. And the most important thing it gets right is Thanos. Thanos has been one of my favorite comic book villains since 1990, and I’ve religiously read every single comic he’s appeared in for almost three decades. So the biggest worry I had about the film was that Thanos wouldn’t be… well, right. And Infinity War nailed him. His character is exactly the Thanos I know and love, evil and powerful and complex and layered. And that is what I absolutely loved about this movie. Oh, who am I kidding? I loved pretty much everything about this move. And you will too!

Arrow: The Complete Sixth Season – A show I’ve long enjoyed — and admittedly I’m a comic book geek — this show based on DC’s Green Arrow comic books is an action-packed hit. With great action, tons of in-jokes for the comic book crowd, a charismatic leading man, and a few twists and turns along the way, Arrow works on just about every level. Arrow is like Smallville on an adrenaline rush, and I love it. Season Six sees a few new challenges and new characters (including a baby!), and continues to expand the overarching mythology. Another solid season of a terrific superhero series.

SEAL Team: Season One – David Boreanaz returns to TV quickly after the end of the long-running Bones, taking on an action-adventure role in SEAL Team. While I would have liked this show more maybe if it was on a cable network like FX or HBO and a little more gritty, it’s perfectly fine CBS-style television. And while the ensemble cast is quite good, there’s no denying that it’s Boreanaz who carries the show, and he does so effortlessly. There’s a reason he’s been a leading man on TV for most of the last two decades. If he wasn’t in the show, I doubt I’d be as interested in it. As it is, it’s perfectly watchable, occasionally exciting network TV. This collection includes the entire first season just in time to catch up for season two!

Return Of The Living Dead Part II – I love zombie movies, and I have for a long time, even before they were as incredibly popular as they are today. The Return of the Living Dead films, however, are unusual flicks and always have been. Like the first one, Part II an over-the-top comedy-styled zombie movie filled with gore, guts, and glop. And while I’m far from a zombie purist (I love the fast zombies in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), this movie has never really been a favorite. It’s just too ridiculous in places for my tastes. That said, if you’re a fan of the film, Scream Factory’s new two-disc deluxe Blu-ray collector’s edition is a must-have. The film has been remastered and looks better than ever, and the set is literally packed with new and archival extra features that will take you hours to wade through.

Affairs of State – This political thriller stars Adrian Grenier, Thora Birch, David James Elliott, and Mimi Rogers, but the main character is played by an actor named David Corenswet, whom I’d never heard of before this. Luckily, he can carry a movie like this, in which he plays a political intern who gets in over his head very quickly in the intrigue and corruption-filled town that is America’s capitol, Washington DC. The film itself, despite some likable actors, is pretty by-the-numbers, and it’s not that hard to see why it went direct to video.

The Unborn – Brooke Adams stars in this early ‘90s horror thriller that’s sort of an update of Rosemary’s Baby, except this time you have an evil scientist genetically manipulating a couple’s unborn child. There’s not a whole lot noteworthy about the film; it’s your typical sort-of-good, sort-of-bad ‘90s flick with some cheesy moments and some fun moments, some slow parts and some exciting parts. The performances aren’t great but they’re not terrible, either. Basically, everything about this film is middle of the road.

Documentary Now!: Seasons 1 & 2 – Starring Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, produced by Seth Myers, and hosted by Helen Mirren, Documentary Now has an impressive pedigree for a project I’d never even heard of before this disc came across my desk. It turns out there are two seasons of this show, which parodies some of the world’s most famous documentaries. The show has mixed results, although it’s largely quite enjoyable. While I’ve seen many of the documentaries being parodied, there are times when the humor comes more from the contrast with the original film than completely organically. Still, I love Hader, Armisen, and Myers, and Helen Mirren showing up just makes it all the better.

Also available this week on home video:

  • NCIS: New Orleans: The Fourth Season – While I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole NCIS franchise, it’s been a constant presence on the television landscape for almost two decades now. Which leads us to NCIS: New Orleans. Much as I like Scott Bakula, you can probably guess my reaction to this show. Yep, it’s more of the same. Just like I could never get into any of the CSI spin-offs beyond the original, I just can’t get into this show. It’s just a retread of the original show (which is a retread of CSI anyway) with a different cast. Oh well.
  • Van Wilder (4K Ultra HD) – Up until a few moths ago, this 2002 R-rated comedy starring Ryan Reynolds had never been released on Blu-ray. Now we also have it on 4K Ultra HD. I remember watching this film when it came out 16 years ago, and then never watching it again. Rewatching it, I have to say that I enjoyed it way more then I expected to. It really holds up well. There are one or two sequences that go too far and are more disgusting than I care for, but by and large, the film is still pretty darn funny. Plus, there are some great before-they-were-famous appearances by actors who we know and love now, including Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill), Emily Rutherfurd (The New Adventures of Old Christine) and Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory.) This one was a nice surprise. Or re-surprise, I guess. The 4K release is a bit of an upgrade over the Blu-ray, but nothing special. Low-budget comedies from 15 years ago aren’t exactly what the 4K format shows off the best, so aside from some crisp imagery and more saturated colors, there’s not too much to get excited about from an A/V perspective.
  • How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Boy meets girl on the 1970s London punk scene, boy falls in love with girl, girl turns out to be an alien. It’s your typical love story, right? Well, okay, not so much, and under the direction of John Cameron Mitchell, it’s even less so, as the film is infused with odd, quirky moments and general weirdness. None of which makes it bad; it’s a certain amount of fun, even if you have to sort of willingly go along for the ride. Also, Nicole Kidman shows up from time to time, which somehow amplifies the weirdness. Not for fans of linear, conventional storytelling, this film (based on a Neil Gaiman story) seems like a future cult classic for sure.
  • Walking Tall – This new Blu-ray version of the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson remake of the cult 70s film marks the launch of the MVD Marquee Collection. MVD (or Music Video Distributors) usually specialize in music releases (obvs) or low-cost, cult and z-grade movies. Now they’re making a push into Mill Creek territory by releasing a series of new and updated Blu-rays of popular or fan-favorite movies. Of course, it’s not like Walking Tall isn’t still available on Blu-ray from its original release, so I’m not quite sure what the point of it all is; the release includes all of the extra features from the original and new packaging. While this isn’t a signature role for Dwayne Johnson, it’s still a solidly watchable action flick. If you don’t already own the original, this new version should suit you just fine.
  • Six: Season 2 – I really wanted to fall in love with Six, mostly because it counts Walton Goggins (Justified) among its cast members, and I love him in just about everything he’s ever been in. Plus, season two sees Olivia Munn join the cast, another actor I’m a big fan of. And while there’s no doubt the show is well-made and has high production values, this series about an elite military unit just didn’t grab me. There’s a good mix of drama and action, and it looks terrific, but there’s something missing that I just can’t quantify. Plus, there’s another military action TV show out this week that might not be as gritty, but I find more enjoyable.
  • Power Rangers Ninja Steel: The Complete Season – This latest collection of the long-running hit kids show features the current series of the Power Rangers, which wisely takes everyone’s favorite heroes in a ninja direction. And why not? Have ninjas ever NOT been popular? I don’t think so. Obviously this is for kids, but I think as far as entertainment for youngsters go, there’s a lot worse than this. The show is still cheesetastic as all get out, but that’s me saying that with a critical adult eye. Kids should eat it up. This time around, instead of the typical four-episodes-per-disc formula that was the norm for a long time, we get the whole season in one nice package. A treat for kids and fans of the show.
  • The Escape – Sometimes movies come out with actors you really like, but you have no desire to watch them. Such was the case with The Escape, which stars Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper, two actors who I really enjoy. But while the title might imply an action film, this instead a hard drama about a woman escaping her life and trying to find herself. Which is fine, it’s just not the kind of movie I usually go for. But I dutifully watched it, and I can say that while it is extremely well acted, it’s still just not my kind of movie. It’s a perfectly fine film, and people who enjoy more dramatic fare will likely enjoy it.
  • The Yellow Birds – I’m a little over middle-eastern-set war movies, but with a cast that includes Tye Sheridan and Alden Ehrenreich (two young actors I am big fans of) as well as Jack Huston, Toni Collette, and Jennifer Aniston, I figured there had to be something about this film worth watching. And it turns out, I was right. The film is more Jarhead than Saving Private Ryan, dealing with the effects of war and the mental state of the soldiers and survivors of war, rather than an action film, but the performances are terrific across the board, and the film packs an emotional punch. Don’t go in looking for a two-hour adrenaline rush and you’ll probably have a much more fulfilling experience watching it.
  • The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island – This movie is the next release in the animated Boxcar Children series (I believe the first one came out in 2014), and while I know it’s based on a very popular series of books, I honestly have had next to no exposure to them at all. I’ve never read the books, and if I did review the first movie, I can’t say I remember it. This CGI film features the voice talents of Martin Sheen, Dane DeHaan, and J.K. Simmons, and it’s a perfectly fine family adventure film. There’s an old-fashioned quality to these stories that I enjoy, and while I can’t speak to how the film compares to the books, I can say that I think families will enjoy it.
  • Lady Street Fighter – When your main character is described as “a tough-as-nails karate cop on the trail of the ruthless scumbags who murdered her twin sister,” you know you’re in for a good time. American Genre Film Archive continues their monthly releases of the most culty of cult films I’ve ever seen. Or not seen as the case may be. So far, I’ve reviewed a half-dozen AGFA releases and not one of them has been a film I’d ever heard of before the disc crossed my desk. Lady Street Fighter is a fun, cheesy, ridiculous exploitation action flick that brings you the best of what 1981 low-budget fare had to offer. As a special bonus, the Blu-ray release includes Revenge of Lady Street Fighter, the unreleased sequel to the film, as an extra feature. This isn’t a movie that will increase your brain cells, but if you like cheesy cult classics, this should be right up your alley.
  • The Song Of Solomon – So take your typical demonic possession movie, tack on the end of the world, and then for good measure add in tons and tons of blood and gore, and you get The Song of Solomon. The film feature no name actors nut is directed by Stephen Biro, an auteur who has developed a solid reputation in the film crowdfunding world. I can’t say this one is my cup of tea, but for the horror fans that really dig into the gorier movies, this is right up their alley.
  • Suffering of Ninko – Okay, bear with me, because this is a weird one. This Japanese film follows a young buddhist monk who is completely irresistible to both men and women. Maybe I should let the official description take it form here: “After a troubling encounter with a naked masked woman, he sets out on a journey to purify himself of these sexual advances and haunting fantasies. One day, he arrives in a village decimated by a rapacious mountain Goddess, Yama-Onna, who seduces and kills all the men of the valley… whereby Ninko has met his match.” So… yeah. The film is odd; it mixes live action and animation. And not just animation, but multiple different styles of animation. The end result is a slightly schizophrenic film that also meshes together perfectly into a collage of weirdness.
  • Destined to Ride – Another month, another girl-meets-a-horse movie. This time around, the film co-stars Denise Richard and Joey Lawrence, while lesser known Madeline Carrol takes on the lead role. So the story goes a young woman is forced to stay on a ranch she doesn’t want to and yadda yadda yadda and she meets horse with spirit and blah blah blah and they form a bond and so on and so on and they have to save the day. It’s not like it’s a terrible film, but I swear there’s a girl-and-her-horse moviemaking kit out there where you just open the box and add water, and presto, you get this month’s film. It checks all the boxes, so I’m sure there’s an audience out there for it.
  • Steven Universe: Heart of the Crystal Gems – I’ll be the first to admit that I just don’t get most of what Cartoon Network does these days. Maybe I’m old, maybe I’m out of touch, but you can name just about anything that’s been popular on Cartoon Network in the past decade and I’m generally not a fan. Steven Universe is, sadly, no exception to that. It’s not a bad show per se, I just don’t get what people are all excited about. This latest release includes 10 episodes, so if you like magical gem creatures and weird anime-influence characters, then this is the show for you. If you’re already a fan, this release is the perfect way to add the latest episodes on DVD to your collection.
  • Muppet Babies: Time to Play – I was a huge fan of the original Muppet Babies cartoon when I was a kid, so I was actually pretty excited to see out get relaunched for a new generation. And while to me it doesn’t have the charm of the original (which I’m sure has NOTHING to do with nostalgic memories at all!), I think kids will like it quite a bit. Airing on Disney Junior and aimed squarely at the pre-school/kindergarten demographic, the CGI revamp is still a lot of fun for kidlets. It feature baby versions of all of the well-loved Muppet characters and it;’s brought and colorful and funny.
  • Arthur: D.W. and the Beastly Birthday – PBS has a new release of the popular kids’ cartoon Arthur out this month. This collection offers over an hour’s worth of episodes, with the main episode featuring a birthday theme. Of course, this is no ordinary birthday; while D.W. is turning five, she also runs away while Arthur gets transported to the future. (If you’ve watched the show with your kids, this will make a lot more sense. Arthur is a fun little cartoon for the pre-school set, and this latest DVD will be a good way to hold over your kids if they’re tired of the reruns on TV.
  • To Auschwitz And Back: The Joe Engel Story – This documentary tells us the story of Joe Engel, a man who was taken to the infamous Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz at 14, never to see his parents alive again. He (obviously) survived, and in this film, we learn of his story, his life after World War II, and his faith. It’s heavy stuff, but essential viewing for people who want to understand the horrors of World War II. It would also be an exceptional viewing experience for a high school history class.

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