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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: Ocean’s 8, Universal Classic Monsters, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, My Man Godfrey and more

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – I really loved the first Jurassic World movie. It brought back a franchise that had been incredibly missed, and it did it with such fun and spectacle that you could overlook a lot of the flaws with the film. This sequel is also fun, but it’s harder to ignore the flaws. While I like a lot of it, there’s some magic missing that was present in the first one. The first third of the film on the island is pretty fantastic, but once things leave that setting, there are some slight issues. I don’t know exactly what they are, either, which is incredibly frustrating. Overall, I enjoyed the film quite a bit, and I loved the ending of it, but there’s a middle third that just doesn’t quite come together entirely for some reason, even if I can’t define it. Still, it’s worth watching, and it clearly serves as a middle chapter to a pretty cool trilogy; and maybe that’s the reason it left me wanting; it’s not quite its own film. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is available on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it looks and sounds absolutely stunning in the premium HD format. Imagery is crystal clear, colors are incredibly deep and vivid, and the soundtrack will have you thinking there are dinosaurs in your living room. Fantastic.

Ocean’s 8 – Did the Ocean’s franchise need a new entry? No, not really. The original three Steven Soderbergh films were fun, (at least the first and third ones were) but it’s not like we really needed more than one of those to begin with, either. However, that being said, I’m glad that the filmmakers decided to go in a different direction and give us a female-led cast. And of course, what a cast it is: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. And Rihanna, I guess, although for the life of me I can’t figure out how she keeps getting cast in movies. (I mean, I get that its for her name and not her acting ability, but just stop, please!) Anyway, the film is a fun heist movie with so many great and likable actors that it’s hard to not enjoy it. It’s nothing deep or memorable, but it’s a good way to kill a couple of hours. Ocean’s 8 is available on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it’s a pretty great presentation. While it’s not the most visually immersive film on the block, the vibrant colors and sharp imagery look very nice, and the surround soundtrack give the action a nice buzz.

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection – This monstrous (pardon the pun) 24-disc box set includes every Universal Monster Movie made between 1931 and 1956. It has all the classics; Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, and a lot of lesser-seen films, like The Invisible Man’s Revenge and She-Wolf of London. I love that this set doesn’t just include the big ones, but actually every single film released featuring the original Universal monsters. This set also marks the first time that a few of these movies has been available on Blu-ray, and also the first time all of the movies are available together on Blu-ray. This is some pretty sweet stuff! Here’s the complete list of movies included: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Invisible Agent (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). You also get a nice book that details the films and Universal’s reign of cinematic horror. This is a must-have for fans of great cinema and horror movie history.

Supergirl: The Complete Third Season – Yes, Supergirl has its cheesy moments. But it has one secret ingredient that very few shows have: Melissa Benoist. Benoist is so charming, so delightful, so effervescent, and so beautiful that it seems clear that nobody else could have played Supergirl but her. And while continues to have some kinks to iron out, I have to admit that I still enjoy it, despite the cheesiness at times. If you like superhero TV and don’t mind giving it a few episodes, Supergirl is definitely worth watching.

The Looming Tower – This Hulu exclusive 10-episode series details the days leading up to 9/11 and specifically the breakdown in the communication between the various American intelligence agencies that may have led to the tragedy of that day. The show has a terrific cast including Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard, Tahir Rahim, and Michael Stuhlbarg, and the production values are second to none. The show looks like a feature film, or at least an HBO-level series. So everything is top-notch quality and the show is very well-made. It’s also incredibly dour and serious. Which is obvious, of course, because you wouldn’t expect a show about 9/11 to be full of jokes and laughs. But it’s a heavy, very dramatic show, and while I enjoyed it, you really have to be in the mood for something that’s this grey, both in tone and in visuals.

My Man Godfrey – The Criterion Collection presents a new Blu-ray of My Man Godfrey, a classic comedy starring Carole Lombard and William Powell. Lombard stars as a socialite who hires a down-and-out man to serve as her butler, much to the chagrin of her rich her family. Nominated for every major category Oscar, the film is a masterpiece, with Lombard and Powell playing off each other perfectly and a terrific supporting cast. This new edition from Criterion marks the film’s debut on Blu-ray, and it’s been restored and remastered in terms of audiovisual presentation. It also includes a fair amount of extra features, including outtakes, newsreels, interviews, and more. This is one of my favorite Criterion releases of late, and it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Found Footage 3D – Okay, there are few things I like less than found footage movies. I’m also not a terribly big fan of 3D films. So why did I enjoy Found Footage 3D so much? Well, because it does everything right. The concept is pretty simple; a film crew making a found footage horror movie about a haunted cabin in the woods experiences a haunted cabin in the woods. Simple, right? But the filmmaking aspect solves the problem most found footage films have, namely “Why are you still filming?” Add to that a really strong cast, interesting characters, a good script, and a bunch of self-referential Hollywood in-jokes (internet superstar horror journalist Scott Weinberg even shows up), and the end result is a movie that stands on its own merits, regardless of how many gimmicks they sandwiched in. Ignore the terrible cover art (and I would skip the 3D version and watch it in 2D) and do yourself a favor and check out this really fun film. Honestly it’s probably the second best found footage film ever, after The Blair Witch Project, yet it has a completely different feel. I might even like it better. RECOMMENDED!

Also available this week on home video:

  • Phantasm III & IV – I love the Phantasm movies, but I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the hell happens in these films. Apparently, there’s this tall old man and a bunch of Jawas in this funeral home that’s really a portal to another planet, and there’s these glowing silver balls that fly around and kill people. How the original film spawned four sequels is almost a mystery to me. I say almost because, despite the sheer oddity of it all, the films are very entertaining. The flying silver balls are cool, and clearly they became a much bigger focus in the sequels. Now we have new Blu-ray editions of Phantasm III and IV, which I believe were only available on DVD previously. These are fun sequels, and it’s nice to have them on Blu-ray (especially since the first two films are.) A fu treat for Halloween time!
  • MacGyver: Season 2 – “A MacGyver reboot? That will never work!” Well, it worked well enough to get at least a third season, so I guess I was wrong in my initial assessment of the show. And while Lucas Till is no Richard Dean Anderson, he does have a certain likability, and I was happy to see CSI’s George Eads show up as a TV regular again. It’s a different feeling show, with modern technology giving MacGyver’s craftiness a new spin, and while it doesn’t live up to the classic series for me, it’s enjoyable enough for what it is.
  • Madam Secretary: Season Four – A somewhat surprising hit, Madam Secretary sees Tea Leoni return to the small screen, and I always find her enjoyable. She plays a former CIA analyst who suddenly becomes the Secretary of State, and she has to learn to navigate the world of politics while doing her best to protect the country. Four seasons in, the learning curve is less than it used to be, but the showrunners still find plenty of conflict. It’s a well-done series that skips a lot of the shock and over-the-top story elements of a show like Scandal. This is much more of a West Wing-styled show, and I can see why people like it, even if I don’t go out of my way to watch it.
  • Siberia – I don’t understand why Keanu Reeves — in the middle of something of a career renaissance with the John Wick movies — takes the time to make movies like Siberia. A dour, slow, confusing drama/thriller about an American diamond dealer caught up with criminal elements in Russia, the film is incredibly un-enjoyable. It moves at a glacial pace, the storyline is hard to follow (there are so many Russian names and criminals that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who), and Reeves acts as if he’s sleepwalking through it all. I guess he likes a regular paycheck, but I wish he’d stop with these subpar films.
  • Damsel – What happens if Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikoswka star in a film and no one knows about it? Well, you get Damsel is what. But trying to describe Damsel is no easy task. What looks from the cover art to be a typical western about a man out to rescue his woman from a kidnapper is anything but typical. It is weird, and funny, and violent, and offbeat, and unique, and not quite like any other film in recent memory. Credit goes largely to writer/directors Nathan and David Zellner (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter) who delight in making unusual films, but also to Pattinson and Wasikowska who are both absolutely brilliant in their roles. This won’t be a film for everyone, but it’s certainly worth watching if you have an open mind.
  • The Toy Box – There are some things you should never do: buy a used RV without having it checked for ghosts, go on a family vacation in a haunted RV, and definitely don’t ever pick up people on the side of the road in a haunted RV. Of course, if people followed these rules, we wouldn’t have The Toy Box, a new horror film with Denise Richards and Mischa Barton. Which is, of course, about a family on vacation in a haunted RV who pick up strangers on the side of the road. What you get here is 90 minutes of pretty typical horror fare, replete with creepy kids singing, bloody gore, and poor character decisions. I’ve seen worse, but I’ve also seen better, although the recognizable faces in the cast will probably lure some viewers in.
  • Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge – This six-hour documentary series chronicles some of the history of Rolling Stone magazine and its effect on pop culture, politics, and the world. Now, I’ve been reading Rolling Stone off and on for most of my life, so I was interested in this already, but there are some issues with it. First off, I think I would have preferred just a feature-length documentary that took more of an overview. This series focuses on some specific moments and ideas, and there’s definitely a sense of self-importance that isn’t exactly subtle. (It’s no coincidence that Rolling Stone publisher Jann Winner is a producer on the series.) Overall, it’s interesting stuff, but it might appeal more to die hard fans of the magazine than the general public.
  • Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum – Ironically, this week sees a second found footage movie that is also surprisingly good. This one also sees a film crew going into a haunted location (in this case, an abandoned asylum), which makes the whole found footage conceit easier to swallow. This Korean film is more serious and less self-referential than Found Footage 3D, but in terms of horror films, and especially found footage horror films, it’s pretty solid. This one focuses more on scares and jumps, and it manages to keep things pretty tense, especially towards the end. It’s not as fun as Found Footage 3D, but it’s worth a look.
  • An American Murder Mystery Collection – This three-disc collection features a series of specials form Investigation Discovery network chronicling some of the most infamous and public crimes of the last several decades. We get programs on Casey Anthony, Scott Peterson, JonBenét Ramsey, Jodi Arias, Chandra Levy, and Natalie Wood. While there are other, more in-depth documentaries out there one these cases, this collection offers a nice, affordable way to delve into some true-crime binge watching and revisit some cases that you’ll probably learn a few new things about
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Home For the Holidays – The popular show returns! By now you know that Murdoch Mysteries is a forensic procedural, but it’s set in turn of the century Toronto, right on the cusp of the age of scientific discovery. This time around, as opposed to a full season, we get a holiday special, which sees Murdoch and his wife travel to Victoria, Canada to visit his brother, and of course they end up investigating a murder. It’s a fun and charming holiday-themed mystery and any fan of the show will enjoy this while they wait for the next full season to come out.
  • Masterpiece: The Miniaturist – This three-part Masterpiece film is based on the popular novel by Jessie Burton and stars Romola Garai, Alex Hassell, Hayley Squires, Paapa Essiedu, and Anya Taylor-Joy. It’s a period drama/mystery about a young woman who ends up married to a merchant and brought back to his house with his sister and their servants. When he buys her a huge dollhouse, some mysterious miniatures show up that look like the family themselves. To say more would be to spoil the mystery, but suffice it to say that it’s a pretty solid experience overall, even if it could probably have been made into a two-hour film rather than a three part (and nearly three hour) film.
  • L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Fire and Dew – My knowledge of the actual stories of Anne of Green Gables is surprisingly non-existent. Of course I’ve been aware of the novels (and their many, many filmed adaptations over the years) for as long as I can remember. But I’ve actually never read the books or watched a movie version of any of them until the first entry in this series last year. The title of this adaptation series (stressing the author’s name) seems to indicate that perhaps it strived to stay truer to the source material than some previous adaptations have done (although having not read it, I can’t say if they succeeded). Overall, this sequel is enjoyable enough and I imagine that fans of the books will enjoy it.
  • Ben 10: Omni-Tricked – I always really liked Ben 10, which I got into when my young son discovered it and started watching it regularly. It’s fun to watch young Ben Tennyson change into different heroes to fight off alien bad guys. This latest DVD collection isn’t really anything new, it’s just basically a greatest hits collection, offering up 20 episodes of the series for one low price. In that respect, it’s a great way to get into the show or share it with someone who’s never seen it, but if you already own the original DVDs, you won’t need this one.
  • Television’s Lost Classics: Volume One – This is a new series of lost classic programs from the Golden Age of television, some of which haven’t been seen since they were originally broadcast. Volume One contains two one-hour shows that star John Cassavetes. The first one is Crime in the Streets from ABC’s The Elgin Hour. More notably, it was directed by a young Sidney Lumet! Next up is No Right to Kill from CBS’s Climax Series, which was based on Crime and Punishment. This is a neat historical document, but I don’t know if the episodes themselves are so strong as to be worth garnering their own release. However, I always applaud the release of any classic cinema or television rarities, so I’m happy this release is out there.
  • Warner Archives Releases – The Warner Archives has a number of exceptional new releases out, many of which are appearing on Blu-ray. First up is Supergirl, the original 1984 film starring Helen Slater. This marks the first time the movie has been available on Blu-ray, which should make a lot of comic book fans happy. The film itself is riddled with problems, but it’s nice to be able to have the one Superman-related film omni Blu-ray that’s never been available before. And despite its flaws, Supergirl does have its charms. Next up is Village of the Damned, the original 1960 horror classic. You might be more familiar with the John Carpenter remake from the ‘90s, but the original is well worth watching, as it really is a creepy film, especially considering when it was made. I really like both versions of the film, and I’m glad to have this one on Blu-ray, too. Billy Budd makes its Blu-ray debut, and it also marks the film debut of Terence Stamp. This 1960s adaptation of the Herman Melville novel was written and directed by Peter Ustinov (who also starred) and it’s a lush, high-quality adaptation. Seeing a young Terence Stamp is quite fascinating, but the film stands up on its own as well, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (debuting on Blu-ray) is an all-star western starring Paul Newman alongside Victoria Principal, Roddy McDowall, Anthony Perkins, Ned Beatty, John Huston, and Ava Gardner. Newman is great — of course, and the cast is terrific, and the film is quite enjoyable, if a tad long. This was a fun one to discover as I try and expand my Paul Newman filmography. Home From the Hill (also on Blu-ray) is a Hollywood who’s who of a drama. It stars Robert Mitchum, George Peppard, and George Hamilton, and it’s directed by Vicente Minnelli. The film is a big, sweeping family drama that’s a solid two-and-a-half-hours and is packed with drama (and melodrama) in every scene. But Mitchum smolders, and it’s fun to see such young Georges, Peppard and Hamilton. Finally, Never So Few (making its Blu-ray debut) stars Frank SInatra, Gina Lollobrigida, and a young Steve McQueen in a supporting role. Charles Bronson and Peter Lawford also have supporting roles in this war film directed by John Sturges (The Great Escape), and the end result is a pretty gripping movie that reminds you that Frank Sinatra was a pretty great leading man.

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