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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Batman 4K, A Star is Born Encore, Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and more

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Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – It’s no secret that I’ve been rather let down by DC’s last few direct-to-video animated features. They’ve become very bland and sort of tend to run together, usually giving us a 70-minute film that ends with just 20 minutes of fighting that feels awfully familiar. So I was holding my breath that they’d get Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles right, because I’m a huge TMNT fan and I really wanted to enjoy this film. I’m happy to say that they absolutely nailed it. The film is a full 90 minutes, and it gets every character right. Batman is his usual steely self, while each of the Turtles maintains their personalities that we know and love. The film has plenty of humor (but never out-of-place humor) and the action sequences are terrific. The Batman vs. Shredder showdown rivals some live action movie scenes I’ve seen. In short, it’s absolutely fantastic. Batman Vs. TMNT is available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD. The 4K presentation is stellar, with vibrant colors, inky blacks, and razor-sharp clarity, plus a bombastic surround soundtrack. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman 4K Ultra HD Collection – Also in the world of Batman this week, we have the Batman 4K Ultra HD Collection, which sees the original four Batman films form the ‘80s and 90s make their debut on the premium 4K Ultra HD format. Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin are all now available in 4K, and it’s a welcome addition to any collection. (Luckily, they’re available individually, not as a box set, so if you want to skip the Schumacher entries you can.) In terms of the audiovisual quality, this is the best these movies have looked and sounded yet. Not only is imagery extremely clear, but you get very vibrant colors. Even more importantly, shadow delineation is impeccable, and that’s a real bonus as so much of these films takes place at night. Add to that some incredibly immersive and active surround soundtracks, and the result is outstanding. Then, each disc comes with a plethora of extra features, including a terrific making-of documentary series that spans all four movies across all four discs. While the last two films in the series have their questionable qualities, this really is a terrific collection to have on your shelf. RECOMMENDED!

A Star is Born Encore – This new edition of the smash hit film is a cross between a nice release for fans and a blatant cash grab. The film has 12 minutes of footage edited back in (including longer performance footage) to create an extended edition. And that’s cool and all, but it’s not really worthy of a whole new release, except for to get the die-hard fans to shell out twice for the same movie. I mean, most every other DVD would just add those 12 minutes to the extra features as deleted scenes, or maybe offer a Director’s Cut on the Blu-ray alongside the theatrical cut. But a whole new release? Hmmm… it smacks of milking the fans to me.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season One – The hit Amazon Prime series comes to Blu-ray and DVD this week for those of you who aren’t Prime subscribers. While I enjoyed the Jack Ryan movies, I have to say that the whole world of Tom Clancy fiction generally isn’t my favorite genre. This show features John Krazinski as Jack Ryan, and he’s quite likable in the lead role, but there’s a lot of techno-wizardry, terrorism, and envelope-pushing as the show tries to be timely and gritty. It’s perfectly good television, and it’s extremely well made, I just couldn’t get all that excited about it.

A Madea Family Funeral – While Tyler Perry’s cross-dressed character has never really done much for me, Madea remains popular at the box office as A Madea Family Funeral was a big hit at the box office, grossing more than many of the previous Madea films. I’m not entirely sure why, as it seems like largely more of the same, with Tyler Perry’s Madea showing up occasionally to liven things up as family drama (and occasionally comedy) unfolds. This time around, of course, there’s a funeral, which allows for a slightly different setting than the previous films. I guess if you’ve liked other films in the Madeaverse, you’ll probably like this one as well, but it’s not quite my cup of tea.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie – When the Power Rangers first hit big, I was already a bit too old to get into them, so I was never a big fan. But I thought the original 1990s big screen movie looked pretty good, so I went to the theaters and checked it out, and I actually thought it was pretty great. It was a lot of fun, and the production values made it a much, much better viewing experience than the TV show was. But I haven’t seen it in many, many years, so when Shout Factory announced the film would finally be making its Blu-ray debut, I was excited to go back and revisit it. I’m pretty happy to say that it holds up quite well. Sure, the effects are dated and it’s a little cheesy, but, I mean, doesn’t that just some up the entire Power Rangers experience? Kudos to Shout Factory for finally putting this one out on Blu-ray; fans should be very excited.

The New Scooby Doo Movies: The (Almost) Complete Collection & The Lost Episodes – This might be my holy grail for the week. See, I’m a massive Scooby Doo fan, and I’ve seen every episode of the original 1969 to 1973 run multiple times. But of all the original iterations of Scooby Doo, it was always The New Scooby Doo Movies that were my favorite. Those were the ones that had the famous guest stars like Phyllis Diller, Davy Jones, Batman & Robin, The Harlem Globetrotters, Josie and the Pussycats, Speed Buggy, and others. Now what makes this release so exciting is a couple of things. First of all, it marks the episodes’ first time being released on Blu-ray. But, we also get eight episodes that have never been released on home video before. When the original DVD release of this series came out in 2005, there were eight nine episodes that couldn’t be released due to contract issues with the original guest stars. Now those issues have been cleared up on all but ONE episode (the Addams Family episode, of all things), so we get 23 of the 24 episodes, the most complete collection on home video ever. And for those of you who bought the original DVD set in 2005, there’s a new companion DVD called The Lost Episodes which includes the eight episodes which are being released now but weren’t released back then. All in all, an excellent job overall by Warner Brothers, and a release I’m super excited to have in my collection.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • I’ll Take Your Dead – This no-name horror film is one of the more interesting entries in the genre I’ve seen of late. The story follows a mortuary where the mob drops dead bodies off to be disposed of by the caretaker there, a man named William. But when one of the bodies isn’t quite as dead as it’s supposed to be, William isn’t exactly sure how to handle things. And… well, let’s just say things don’t go all that smoothly. The film blends horror with suspense and some black humor, and it keeps you guessing quite well, so it avoids falling into the cookie cutter clichés that so many other horror films do these days. There are some intense moments, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s an engaging film from the start.
  • J.T. Leroy – Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart star in this based-on-real-life story about author J.T. Leroy, who gained notoriety more for her fraudulent private life than for her writing. As a woman posing as young gay man, she then hired her boyfriend’s sister to portray the fictional persona of J.T Leroy. Of course, when the truth was revealed, it became quite the news sensation. Dern gives a strong performance and Stewart is… well, she kind of does the Kristen Stewart thing, but it’s an interesting story and it’s fun to see it brought to life.
  • London Kills: Series 1 – Acorn Media serves up their usual serving of British crime drama this week with the first season of London Kills, an engaging show that takes the traditional procedural/drama formula and throws a little wrinkle in. In this case, a police detective who’s been on leave following the disappearance of his wife returns to the force and has to work with his replacement, who of course has a very different style than he does. Not surprisingly, the show combines strong mysteries with intriguing characters, and over the course of five episodes (on two discs), it’s hard not to get sucked in. The season ends on a cliffhanger, but rest assured, another season is coming in the near future.
  • Delicious: Series 3 – love Iain Glen (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Jack Taylor) and I’ll generally watch anything he’s in, so this show is an easy watch for me. It focuses on the ex-wife and widow of a Cornwall-based Chef who was known for being a bit of a rogue. Watching these two women have to work together to run the business left behind by their former husband offers up no small amount of scandal, humor, and some genuinely heartfelt moments. Glen plays only a supporting role and the focus is not he two female leads, and that works just great. This is a neat expansion of the story from seasons one and two, and I’m glad they’re not afraid to take chances.
  • The Bostonians – Jessica Tandy, Vanessa Redgrave, Linda Hunt headline and Christopher Reeve star in this adaptation of the Henry James novel, which gets its Blu-ray debut from Cohen Film Group with a new 4K restoration. This tale of women’s suffrage in post-Civil War Boston is a well-acted affair, and I found the story more engaging than I do many period dramas. It’s a Merchant Ivory film, so obviously there’s some good production value to be found here alongside the drama and strong acting.
  • Paw Patrol: Jungle Rescues – This is the newest DVD release of the popular Nickelodeon series for pre-schoolers. The show features six dogs and their 10-year-old friend who use cool vehicles to save the day and teach lessons about “good citizenship.” It’s a fun show, and the young ones will love it. This disc gives you seven full episodes that have a jungle theme (they rescue an elephant!) and runs a little over an hour and a half. This show is immensely popular, and I’m sure parents with Paw Patrol-obsessed kids (and I know there are many out there) will be happy to have a few new episodes to hit heavy rotation on their TV screens.
  • Double Feature Spotlight – Mill Creek gives us four new Blu-ray double features this week, all of which give you two similarly-themed movies for a low price (you can find them for less than $10 on some online retailers.) First up is Mindwarp & Brainscan, two low-grade horror thrillers. Brainscan stars Edward Furlong and deals with a killer video game that comes to life with deadly effect. Mindwarp, meanwhile, will be the one that gets genre fans excited as it has a young Bruce Campbell saving women in a post-apocalyptic world. Neither film is particularly great, but B-movie aficionados will enjoy having them both in one case. Next up is The Trigger Effect & Body Count, which are probably the two films that match up the least. The Trigger Effect is a thriller starring Dermot Mulroney and Elizabeth Shue as parents trying to help their young child during a blackout in which the world starts to panic. Body Count, however, is a more straightforward action heist film starring David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino, Ving Rhames, John Leguizamo, and Forest Whitaker. Both of these are lean, effective flicks that fall shy of greatness but are quite enjoyable to watch. For the more emo-oriented viewers Stepmom & The Deep End of the Ocean offers up two dramas. Stepmom was a moderate hit, starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. It’s a bit weepy, but it’s a well-made film. The Deep End of the Ocean is a bit of a tougher watch, dealing with a missing child, but Michelle Pfeiffer is outstanding in the lead role. Finally, we have two urban-themed comedies with Mo Money & High School High. I’m not a giant fan of Mo’ Money, although I do like Damon Wayans, but Jon Lovitz’s parody of movies like Dangerous Minds and Lean on Me is actually quite funny. Definitely worth a few bucks for some good laughs.
  • I Love the 90s Spotlight – Also from Mill Creek this week, we have a number of ‘90s favorites and cult classics making their way to Blu-ray with new slipcovers and an I Love the ‘90s branding. And as someone who does love the ‘90s, this is a fun collection of films. It might not be the greatest selection of movies the decade had to offer, but they’re good ones to pick up at a bargain price. First up is Jury Duty starring Pauly Shore. I was never a huge Pauly Shore fan, but I actually found something oddly comforting about going back and watching a movie from him in his prime. It’s mildly amusing, as Shore plays a juror who wants to make a trial go on longer than it needs to in order to come into some money. Next up is Excess Baggage starring a young Benicio del Toro and the quintessential ‘90s It girl, Alicia Silverstone. It’s basically a romantic comedy with a fake kidnapping at the center of it, and it’s a pleasantly enjoyable watch, even if it’s nothing all that special. Double Team is probably the best/worst movie on the list. Directed by action master Tsui Hark, this film teamed up Jean Claude Van Damme with basketball player Dennis Rodman, a master of flamboyance. It’s over-the-top, silly, and outrageous, but it’s also goofy fun and has some great action scenes. Finally, Opportunity Knocks sees Dana Carvey play a con man in one of his few leading roles. Like the rest of these films, it’s easily watchable, but it might be the most forgettable of the quartet.
  • Catalog Spotlight – Kino Lorber continues their Blu-ray catalog release dominance with an incredibly strong slate of ‘80s and ‘90s films recent releases in high def. First up is An Innocent Man, a really good late-80s action/drama starring Tom Selleck as a man framed for a crime and sentenced to hard time in prison. The film splits between following this ordinary man trying to survive in prison, and then trying to clear his name once he’s freed. Selleck is terrific and the film is extremely enjoyable, and I was very pleased to see it get a Blu-ray release, especially since it wasn’t a big hit at the time. Next up we have the hockey drama Youngblood, starring Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze. This is a terrific ‘80s throwback that checks all the sports drama boxes, and it’s great to see Lowe and Swayze in their youth. This one gets a big thumbs up from me. Speaking of big stars, Losin’ It marks one of the earliest screen performances (and first starring role) of one Tom Cruise. This early ‘80s comedy is SUCH an early ‘80s comedy, as the plot is literally about two teenagers on a road trip trying to lose their virginity. It’s not high art, but with Cruise alongside Jackie Earl Haley and Shelly Long, it’s a fun flashback. Moving from the ‘80s to the ‘90s, we have Mad Dog and Glory, an oddball romantic comedy starring Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray, and Uma Thurman. DeNiro and Murray play against type and effectively switch roles, with DeNiro playing a mild-mannered cop and Murray playing a slimy gangster. It’s an interesting film; I can’t say I loved it, I can’t say I hated it. It’s watchable, and that about sums it up. Next up, we see Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer star in the heist flick The Real McCoy, which sees Basinger play a thief who gets pulled back in for One. Last. Job. It’s not a particularly memorable film, but Basinger and Kilmer are fun to watch, and the film has some zippy moments. Then there’s 1994’s The Favor, an oddball film featuring a pre-fame Brad Pitt, along with Bill Pullman, Elizabeth McGovern, and Wiseguy’s Ken Wahl. The film follows a woman who is bored with married life, wonders about what would have happened if she’d hooked up with an old flame, and asks her best friend to romance him so she can experience it vicariously without breaking her wedding vows. I wouldn’t say it holds up particularly well, but there’s something oddly enjoyable about it as well, especially with some great cast members along for the ride. Finally, 1996’s Before and After sees Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson together, playing parents whose son is accused of a crime. Wait, wait… Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson co-headlined a movie? How come I don’t remember it? How come nobody remembers it?!? Well, it completely bombed at the box office, and I think it’s one of those films that just completely disappeared from the public consciousness. It’s not a bad movie; it’s a perfectly serviceable mystery/drama, and of course the performances by Streep and Neeson are top notch, but the film itself just doesn’t do anything to make it stand out.

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