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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Best of Enemies, Escape Plan 3, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Mia and the White Lion and more

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The Best of Enemies – This terrific film features outstanding performances from Taraji P. Henson (who is almost unrecognizable) and Sam Rockwell. The movie is based on the true story of Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, an African-American activist and a KKK leader who found common ground while fighting over school integration. While the film could have used just a little bit of editing (it runs just over two hours), it really is outstanding. Henson and Rockwell are both amazing (I won’t be surprised to see some nominations come awards season) and the story is both a compelling one and an important one, especially in this day and age. The film isn’t all drama, either, there are some nice lighter moments as well, and I made sure to watch this one with my 12-year-old daughter as well, since there are very important lessons to be learned. She enjoyed it just as much as my wife and I did, which I think speaks to the quality of the film.

Escape Plan 3: The Extractors – I love the original Escape Plan with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately, these sequels have gone direct-to-video, which didn’t have to be a bad thing, but Escape Plan 2 was a travesty of a film that took a weird sci-fi twist and was just awful, with no Arnie at all, and Stallone barely in it. Luckily, the ship has been righted somewhat with this newest entry, which veers back to reality and sees Stallone and his team (which includes Dave Bautista) trying to rescue and imprisoned daughter of a business mogul. Stallone is much more present this time around, there are some great action scenes, and the film – while not a masterpiece – is at least a worthy direct-to-video effort. I just hope it isn’t too late after that terrible second film.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – John Cameron Mitchell’s independent musical drama made a huge splash when it was released in 2001, and now it joins the ranks of the Criterion Collection, which releases the film on Blu-ray and DVD. This sparkling new edition sees the film having been completely restored and remastered, and it comes with a plethora of extra features. I had never actually seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch before, but I’ve heard about it for years, so I was excited to get to watch it. It’s an immediate, brash film, and I can see why it’s gained such a fan following and critical acclaim. Even if you own the original DVD release, this Criterion Collection edition is definitely worth the upgrade.

Night of the Creeps – Not a lot of people are familiar with this cult classic horror film from the ‘80s, but I’m a huge fan of it. Written and directed by Fred Dekker, the man who created the brilliant ‘80s comedy The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps is a Body Snatchers-esque comedy-horror involving alien worms that take over people’s bodies. It’s a little-seen cult classic that deserves a bigger audience, and I absolutely adore it. It balances the comedy and the horror impeccably well, which is so hard to do. This new Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory comes with terrific new artwork and a TON of new extra features, making it a treasure for fans of the film and a worthwhile purchase for people who have never seen the film but are looking for a great new favorite throwback film to fall in love with.

Mia and the White Lion – What at first looks like a sappy Girl and Her Lion film, is ultimately revealed to be moving drama with a message… that’s wrapped up in a sweet Girl and Her Lion film. Mia and the White Lion follows a young girl named Mia whose family moves from London to Africa to run a lion farm. When a white lion is born, Mia and the cub (named Charlie) form a strong bond that continues as the lion grows. And then the film takes a more serious turn as Mia discovers a secret that puts Charlie in danger, leading the pair to set out in search of freedom. It’s a good dramatic film, with some really astounding footage of actress Daniah de Villiers interacting with a real white lion in ways that are very impressive. Melanie Laurent also co-stars, adding a little acting prowess and star power to the proceedings. I was sceptical of this film at first but I was ultimately won over by it. Good for families, but be aware that much younger viewers may find some of the concepts a bit upsetting.

Poldark: The Complete Series – This well-loved Masterpiece series has been described as “a British Gone With the Wind,” which is entirely inaccurate. The story of the series focuses on Captain Ross Poldark, a young war hero who returns home to find his true love engaged to another man, his family money gone, and his family estate overrun and unattended. Over the course of five seasons, Captain Poldark rebuilds his life, seeks love, and goes through the trials and tribulations that come with being a man of character in the 18th century. The show is well-acted, well-written, and features terrific production values that will make you feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1700s. This terrific box set includes all five seasons in one nice package, giving you the complete saga without taking up much room on your shelf.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Heroes Shed No Tears – One of John Woo’s first films, Heroes Shed No tears has a complicated history. Woo himself has famously disavowed it, having never even watched it himself (or so the legend goes.) It was also shelved after being made, only seeing release in theaters once Woo hit big with A Better Tomorrow. The film itself is an over-the-top action spectacle following a group of mercenaries being pursued by a drug lord’s forces and other people who are out for blood. As the chase drags on, the mercenaries’ numbers dwindle thanks to, well, copious amounts of killing. While it’s far from Woo’s best work, there are some Woo hallmarks that can be seen and it’s interesting to watch and think about how it fits into his oeuvre, and to see how he developed as a filmmaker. The film is available in the US officially for the first time, on either Blu-ray or DVD.
  • Killing Eve: Season Two – The hot TV series that’s been garnering buzz left and right returns to home video with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Killing Eve: Season Two. Sandra Oh and Jamie Comer star in this story of an MI6 agent and a dangerous assassin, and their weirdly co-dependent relationship. Season Two picks up right after Season 1 ending, with one of the characters missing and the other on a search to find her. I don’t want to say any more than that to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that Season Two continues the intrigue of Season One while also branching out into new directions. Oh and Comer are both excellent in their roles, and I doubt the show would have worked nearly as well without them.
  • 24 Hour Party People – Steve Coogan stars in this based-on-a-true story film about the ‘80s Manchester music scene that gave us popular acts like The Stone Roses, Joy Division, and New Order. Coogan plays Tony Wilson, a TV personality who’s inspired by the Sex Pistols to start a record label. From there, the film offers up exactly what you’d want from this kind of story: sex, drugs, and rock n roll, in a nutshell. The excellent supporting cast includes Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, and Paddy Considine, making this a fun romp with a lot of familiar faces.
  • Okko’s Inn – This sweet new anime film follows a young girl nicknamed Okko that is orphaned and sent to live with her grandmother, who runs an inn. So far, a pretty normal story, but as this is an anime film, of course she is quickly befriended by three ghosts, who inspire her to begin helping to run the inn as a sort of junior proprietor. The film is similar in feel to a Studio Ghibli outing, although less fantastical even with the presence of the three ghosts. It’s a cute little story that will appeal to younger viewers but not in a way that alienates the adults watching along, and it’s a strong enough story that adults without kids can enjoy it too.
  • Crypto – Supposedly a thriller based on the “dark world of cryptocurrency,”Crypto is unfortunately lacking any real thrills (or any other redeeming qualities, really). Despite a cast that includes Kurt Russell (in a small role), Luke Hemsworth, Alexis Bledel, and Vincent Kartheiser, the film suffers from poor writing, an uncharismatic lead actor in Beau Knapp, and just a lack of seeming interest from anyone on the screen or behind the camera. This is one of those direct-to-video films that ended up exactly where it belongs.
  • Dick Cavett Show: Baseball’s Greatest Hits, The PitchersThe Dick Cavett Show has seen a resurgence on DVD in recent years, with numerous themed releases collecting a handful of episodes each, usually with movie stars or politicians. This latest collection features famous baseball pitchers, which means we get half a dozen episodes with Cavett interviewing such baseball luminaries as Whitey Ford, Dizzy Dean, Bob Feller, Denny McLain, and others. What’s nice is that you get the full episodes, so while the baseball players may be the highlight, you get to see each episode in its entirety, resulting in almost six hours of entertainment on three discs. A great pick-up for baseball aficionados or Dick Cavett fans.
  • Indie Spotlight – We’ve got a handful of new Indie releases this week. Dark Side of the Moon is a neat throwback B-movie creature flick from Unearthed Films. Unearthed usually brings us current low-fi, low-budget schlock, but this one comes from their Unearthed Classics line, meaning it’s an older film that’s got a minor cult following. It’s a promising story involving trapped astronauts, possession, killing, and a weird connection to the Bermuda triangle and the devil. It’s cheesy as all get out, but it’s pretty fun if you like a good B-movie. Or maybe a B-minus movie. Hell, call it C+. Next up is Maze, a gripping thriller based on real life events that details a 1983 mass breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from a prison that was near-inescapable. With solid character drama at the heart of it, this brisk film moves quickly and keeps things moving, all while delivering a satisfying story and some very tense moments. Speaking of effective dramatic thrillers, Styx is a German film about a doctor on a solo sailing trip who comes across a damaged boat full of refugees and must decide whether she can – or should – help them. It’s a moral thriller, less action and more emotion, but there are some fine performances from the unknown cast and the story keeps you interested until the end. Of course, we need to have a zombie movie to round out any week’s releases, and this week that film is Deadsight. This one sees a pregnant woman and a blind man trying to survive the onset of a zombie apocalypse, which is at least a little something new in terms of characters. I love good zombie movies and I found Deadsight to be… adequate. It’s not a bad film, which is nice, but it’s not great, either. Even at just 82 minutes, it drags a little in places, and the low budget doesn’t do it any favors. On the plus side, the two lead actors are pretty good and they carry the film well enough. Maybe worth a watch if you’re hard up for zombie content while you wait for The Walking Dead to return. Winter Passing is another star-studded affair that’s all character and very little action. With Ed Harris, Will Ferrell, and Zooey Deschanel, there are definitely some good performances, but the film is that kind of quirky, overwrought dysfunctional family drama that I generally don’t care for. It’s not a bad movie per se, but it’s not the kind of film I generally tend to like. Finally,The Old Man and the Sea marks the home video debut of an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway classic. Starring Anthony Quinn as well as Gary Cole and Patricia Clarkson, the film is actually better than you might think based on the god-awful cover art. Quinn gives a great performance and the film adapts the story well overall.

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