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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: Mile 22, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Scrooged, First Blood and more

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Mile 22 – There’s a really good action movie to be found in Mile 22. Unfortunately, you have to get through about a half an hour of some of the most unlikable characters put to film in the last decade before you get to it. And that’s the fatal flaw with Mile 22: as much as I enjoyed it once the bullets started flying, when the most likeable character in the film is the bad guy you’re trying to protect, you have a problem. The film sees Mark Wahlberg and a team of special operatives (including Lauren Cohan who plays Maggie on The Walking Dead) trying to get Iwo Ukais (who you hopefully remember from The Raid) 22 miles to safe territory when pretty much a whole country is trying to kill him. Not only does Ukais play the most likable character, he also has the best action scenes, using his martial arts skills for some of the most exciting moments of the movie. So, yes, you can enjoy some fierce action in this film, but it’s not one that’s going to stick with you. Also, can we PLEASE stop casting Ronda Rousey in movies? I promise you, she doesn’t make any movie better for her being in it.

2001: A Space Odyssey (4K Ultra HD) – Ok, I’ll admit, I’d never seen 2001 before. It’s one of those movies I’ve always wanted to see and just never quite got around to. Now, with the film’s 50th anniversary upon us, Warner Brothers has re-released the film in newly restored and remastered 4K Ultra HD, and I finally get my chance to watch it. And I’ll say this: most of the film is brilliant. I’ve never been a huge Kubrick fan, but his work on this movie is stunning, especially from a visual perspective. But I’d be lying if I said the ending didn’t somewhat ruin the film for me. It’s such a fascinating movie up until the end, and then you just end up scratching your head, which is a huge disappointment. Still, overall I loved the film, and the fact that it looks as amazing as it does 50 years later is truly remarkable. The 4K Ultra HD restoration is astounding. Usually, older films only get a minor boost from the premium HD format but this film looks simply incredible. Image clarity is insanely detailed, black levels are deep and inky, and colors are vibrant and lifelike. The surround soundtrack has minimal sound to work with, but it represents well. This is an amazing presentation, hands down.

First Blood, Rambo, Rambo III (4K Ultra HD) – As a child of the ‘80s, I have a deep love of the Rambo movies. I mean, for the most part I love all things Sylvester Stallone, but the Rambo movies are some of my favorites. Re-watching the trilogy on 4K Ultra HD (which also includes a Blu-ray and digital copy), I was surprised to see that my favorite film of the three had changed. I always loved Rambo and more appreciated First Blood, thinking of it more as a drama than an action film. But watching it again (admittedly for the first time in many, many years), I realized that First Blood is a near-masterpiece. Rambo is still a great check-your-brains-at-the-door actioner, but First Blood is an amazing mix of action, drama, and suspense, and it’s by far the best of the three. And Rambo III isn’t as bad as its reputation, either, it’s just not as good as the first two films. The three films have been released in the new Premium HD format and they all look exceptionally good. They’re not quite as impressive as brand new movies, but they look crisp and clean with vivid colors and excellent shadow delineation. Plus, I love getting digital copies of these favorite movies!

Scrooged: 30th Anniversary Edition – So, this is less a 30th Anniversary Edition of Scrooged than it is a simple re-release of Scrooged that happens to coincide with the 30th Anniversary edition fo then film. What I mean by that is that there’s literally nothing special about this release other than that it comes with new cover art and it includes a Blu-ray plus DVD and digital copy. There isn’t a single extra feature on the release, which makes the whole “Anniversary Edition” moniker a bit of an oversell. Don’t get me wrong, Scrooged is still a fun and twisted take on a classic Christmas story, with Bill Murray at his most manic and Richard Donner directing. But if you already own the film, there’s literally nothing special about this new version.

Also available on home video this week:

  • Hey Arnold! The Complete Collection – Once again, we get a return to home video for the beloved football-shaped-head-looking kid from the popular ‘90s Nickelodeon cartoon. While I was never a fan of the show (I don’t dislike it, I just never watched it), this new Ultimate Collection has everything the Hey Arnold fan could want. It includes every single episode of the show, both films: (Hey Arnold! The Movie and Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie), and a ton of extra features, including the Pilot episode and several making-of featurettes. The whole shebang comes in an 18-disc box set that’s nicely packaged and really does represent the ultimate release for the Hey Arnold fan. Well, done Nickelodeon and Paramount!
  • Little Italy – It’s good to see Hayden Christiansen still acting. I know he gets a bad rap because of his role as Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, but I know he can actually act because he turned in an amazing performance in Shattered Glass (an underrated film). Little Italy is NOT an underrated film, it’s a rather cheesy one (pun intended) about two estranged childhood friends whose parens run competing pizzerias who reunite and, of course, fall in love. Here’s the thing: Little Italy is not a good film. BUT. If you remember renting direct-to-video VHS rom-coms in the mid-to-late 90s at Blockbuster and enjoying them while eating take-out pizza, then this film has an appeal. If you like Hallmark Christmas movies and comfortable, cliched rom-coms (and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing), then this film has something to offer you. And sometimes, I like a cheesy-like-pizza rom-com, and this one fit the bill.
  • Narcos: Season Three – This Netflix series tells the tale of the rise of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. And it’s one of those shows I hate to review, because there’s no doubt it’s a very well-made show: good writing, great performances, interesting subject matter. But I just couldn’t get into it. Honestly, I’ve never found movies or TV shows about the drug trade to be my kind of thing, so while I can appreciate the quality of the show, it’s just not the kind of thing I can get wrapped up in.r, so good,
  • Fireworks – I really like the concept of this latest anime film, which sees a teenage love triangle take a strange turn when one of the teens involved acquires the ability to rewind time and try things a second time. So far, so good, right? And the film does start off promisingly enough, but it just doesn’t really end up going anywhere. Which is a shame, because it looks gorgeous and the characters — while cliched — are interesting enough to at least go along for the ride. But the film falls flat somewhere along the way, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe the more die-hard anime fans will like its ambiguous nature more, but I found it a bit of a let down.
  • No Offence: Series 2 – There is no shortage of British crime procedurals in the world, but since most of them range from average to excellent, it’s hard to argue with the continued production of them. The latest one to be released on home video is No Offence: Series 2. As the title might imply, this isn’t just a by-the-book mystery show. Yes, it deals with cops and cases, but it also has a vein of dark humor running through it and it also features characters that aren’t all as aboveboard as you might expect. With a terrific cast that includes Elaine Cassidy, Joanna Scanlan, Alexandra Roach, and Colin Salmon, this show really won me over. Check it out.
  • Heavy Trip – You don’t have to be a fan of heavy metal music to enjoy Heavy Trip, but it certainly helps. This comedy from Finland follows a very unsuccessful heavy metal group as they try to make it to a big-break music festival. The usual wackiness ensues that you see in road trip comedies: stolen cars, stolen corpses (okay, that’s less common), cultural misunderstandings, wacky characters, and the like. It’s a funny enough film, if some of the humor will probably be lost on non-metal fans, and the fact that it’s in another language won’t make finding an audience any easier, but it’s kind of fun.
  • PBS: Native America, Ancient Invisible Cities, Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 3 – PBS has three new releases this week, starting with Native America. This four episode, two-disc collection dives deep into the history of Native Americans and their culture, as the title would imply, It goes far back in time and continues well up into the modern era, for a most impressive exploration of Native American history and culture. High school teachers would do well to track this one down for American history classes. Ancient Invisible Cities, meanwhile, is a three-hour program exploring the ancient cities of Athens, Cairo, and Instanbul. What sets this apart from other documentaries about these cities, however, is that they use 3D mapping technology to give us a look at the cities like we’ve never seen before, mapping out foundations, interiors, undergrounds, and much more. It’s pretty cool stuff. Finally, Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 3 is a six-episode series that’s so much more interesting than I expected. I’m not a Shakespeare fan and I never have been, but in each episode of this show, a famous actor who’s working on Shakespeare shares their experiences with The Bard and gives us some history of the work they’re presenting. And when those people include Helen Hunt, F. Murray Abraham, Romola Garai, and Brian Cox, the results are pretty interesting.
  • WB Archive: The Swarm, Bad Ronald, Dracula AD 1972, Looker, Queen of Outer Space, Gold Fever – The WB Archive brings us several new releases this week as well, all of which are available print-on-demand from https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold. First up, we have The Swarm, which is available on Blu-ray or DVD. This classic Irwin Allen disaster flick sees killer bees causing a bunch of big stars some major problems, including Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, Richard Widmark, Katherine Ross, Lee Grant, and Olivia De Haviland. I love these kinds of movies, and I love this one especially. Next up is Bad Ronald, making its Blu-ray debut. This offbeat horror film is a cult classic that was a TV movie in the 1970s and it counts Kim Hunter and Danny Coleman among its supporting players. The story of a young man who becomes a killer is half-suspenseful/half-cheesy, but it’s kind of a fun watch. Dracula AD 1972 (on Blu-ray) sees Christopher Lee in one of his most famous roles, tackling the prince of vampires for Hammer Horror. This time around, Peter Cushing takes on the role of Van Helsing, and watching the two do battle in the swinging ‘70s is quite the sight! Also, cheesy, but fun! Queen of Outer Space is a 1958 sci-fi cult classic starring Zsa Zsa Gabor that debuts on Blu-ray. The story of a group of scientists who end up on a planet of only women (who of course want to destroy earth) is fun, in that 1950s B-movie kind of way. The film’s dated attitudes towards women, however, are much less fun. Finally, Gold Fever is a 1952 film starring largely unknown/forgotten actors like John Calvert, Ralph Morgan, and Ann Cornell. The film is actually a surprisingly good revenge/action/drama flick that — despite its no-name cast — is worth a look.
  • The Weirdest Movie Ever Made – Not a movie, but a book, The Weirdest Movie Ever Made is a neat little oddity of a film book. It explores the legacy of the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film, which you may not know by name, but you’ve definitely seen it. Just think of the most famous Bigfoot footage you’ve ever seen, the one that is parodied in pop culture regularly, and you’ve got it. The book explores how the two men captured the footage, how it was introduced to the world, how real it may or may not be, and more. As someone who’s always had a fascination with cryptozoology, I really enjoyed this book. I still don’t know if I believe in Bigfoot or not, but I always like to read about him and this is an interesting new spin that is less about Bigfoot and more about his most famous sighting. Fun stuff.

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