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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Big Trouble in Little China, Game of Thrones, City on the Hill, Semper Fi, Savage, The Fare and more

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Big Trouble in Little China: Collector’s Edition – One of the greatest movies of all time gets a new Collector’s Edition courtesy of Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint. There are a few limited edition packages of this available through Shout Factory’s website that include things like a steelbook case, a vinyl soundtrack, and a poster, but for the purposes of this review, I’m just looking at the regular old Blu-ray release, which is still a heck of a thing. To me, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who love Big Trouble in Little China, and those who have just never seen it. If you’ve seen it, you know, and Shout Factory obviously gets it, because this new double-disc edition comes wrapped up in terrific new cover art, but it’s got the goods under the sleeve. Admittedly, the new extra features are mostly made up of new interviews with the cast and crew. But the set also includes pretty much every extra feature from previous releases, so you get an audio commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, audio interviews, and much more. Big Trouble in Little China is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time, so this one is – not surprisingly – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Game of Thrones: The Complete Eighth SeasonGame of Thrones is kind of like – if you’ll excuse the football analogy – the 2007 Patriots. They went 18-0 through the regular season and the playoffs, then dropped the ball in the Super Bowl and lost it all. Well, I see a clear parallel with Game of Thrones. One of the most successful and well-loved shows of all time, fans had to wait two years after the end of Season 7, by which point most people considered this pretty much the best show in the history of television. Then Season 8 shows up and – what happens? Pretty much everybody hated it. I don’t know how the show can feel so rushed since they had two years to get it right, but there are a lot of issues with Season 8. I don’t want to say that everybody is going to hate it, because I’m sure there are people who have been waiting to watch it on home video and I don’t want to set you up not to like it. Just be aware that it might not live up to what you’ve come to expect. That said, the Blu-ray (and DVD) release doesn’t disappoint, loaded with extra features and coming packaged with a collectible 3D magnet. If you’re a die-hard fan, you need this set to complete your collection.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Director Richard Linklater has always been a bit hit or miss for me, and while I haven’t seen all of his films, he tends to land more in the “miss” column for me than he does the “hit” column. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, based on the hit book of the same name, isn’t a miss by any stretch, but it’s not quite a hit, either. The story focuses on Cate Blanchett as the title character, a mom who decides to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sublimating her personal drive to be a mom and a wife. So she up and disappears and goes on a journey of sorts. There are shades of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty here (it reminded me a lot of the Ben Stiller remake from a few years back), although it’s not quite as good as that underrated film. Blanchett’s performance is fantastic, and the supporting cast (which includes Billy Crudup) is also in fine form, but as with many of Linklater’s films, it falls just a little short for me.

City on a Hill: Season One – Kevin bacon returns to TV alongside Aldis Hodge in this law enforcement drama from Showtime. The show is executive produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, so you can guess exactly which city on a hill the show’s title is referring to (Hint: It’s Boston), and there’s no mistaking that the city is a character in the show. To the point, in fact, where it sometimes overshadows the characters. The show sees Kevin bacon as an FBI agent and Aldis Hodge as an Assistant District Attorney – and an honest man in a city rife with corruption. And as much as I like Bacon, it’s Hodge who steals the show here, giving a truly outstanding performance. It’s a shame that the show as a whole doesn’t live up to what Hodge is doing; if it did, I’d probably be raving about it. As it is, it feels a little familiar, a little overdone, and not fresh or exciting enough to really win me over.

Jawbreaker: 20th Anniversary Edition – If ever there was a film that I expected to fade into obscurity, Jawbreaker would be it. Color me surprised then, that we’re getting a 20th Anniversary Blu-ray from Sony. This late ‘90s comedy tried to ride the wave of hit teen comedies like 10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie, and Can’t Hardly Wait, but it was something of a flop, largely because it’s an incredibly dark film filled with unlikable characters. I remember absolutely hating it when it came out, so I was curious to see if my opinions had softened after two decades. And while it’s good to see a much younger Rose McGowan, Julie Benz, and Rebecca Gayheart in the lead roles, the film still doesn’t do a whole lot for me. I’ll admit, my reaction wasn’t nearly as visceral this time around; I merely found it subpar, rather than unwatchable, but I’m still puzzled as to who exactly was clamoring for a new edition of this film.

Semper Fi – Jai Courtney, Nat Wolff, and Leighton Meester star in this new drama that features cover art that really wants you to think this is an action movie. And in truth, it’s something of a hybrid, but it’s not all-out action like some of the marketing might want you to think. The story focuses on Cal (Courtney) a cop and US Marine Reservist. His younger brother Oyster (Wolff) is a handful of trouble and ends up in jail for 25 years. Cal decides he needs to break Oyster out of jail to keep him from getting killed, and that’s when the movie gets to some of the action. The film is half-successful, half not. The performances are good across the board, but some of the characters are underused. The jailbreak is interesting, but you wonder if a bunch of Marines should be using their skills to commit a crime. I’ve definitely seen worse films, but I’ve also seen better. This one falls solidly into the “ok” category.

Battle of Leningrad – This Russian war film has a lot to like. First of all, it tells the story of the battle of Leningrad from a different perspective, through the eyes of two lovers trying to escape Leningrad on a damaged ship that comes under attack by enemy forces. It also has a concise running time: 98 minutes. So many war epics feel the need to be two-and-a-half hours long, so I appreciate it when one can just tell its story and get out. Also, the special effects are pretty darn impressive, and some of the action scenes are quite harrowing. It’s not a perfect film (and it is in Russian, so be ready for subtitles), but it’s a good watch and I enjoyed it.

The Fare – This week’s “Surprisingly Interesting Movie” Award goes to The Fare, a trippy, mysterious romance with just two unknown actors and a perfect 82 minute running time. The action starts when world-weary cab driver Harris picks up the beautiful Penny in his cab… only to have her completely vanish a short time later. Things get even weirder when he picks her up again and the events start to play out all over again. To say any more would be to ruin the surprises, but suffice it to say that as the story unfolds, you get more and more sucked into this unusual film. With scenes in black-and-white and scenes in color, and a story that manages to unfold somehow slowly and quickly at the same time, I was intrigued by this movie and I got wrapped up in it more than I expected to. It’s a fun little indie ride that could be a future cult classic.

Savage – This Chinese action film is right up my alley. I love disaster movies, and so when you give me a “good guys and bad guys at odds while trying to survive the elements” story, I’m in. All you have to do is deliver even a little bit, and I’ll be a fan. And Savage delivers in spades. The story follows a policeman at the top of a mountain and the three criminals who find his remote outpost in search of shelter. And then, what could be a standard riff on Cliffhanger becomes an intense clashing of enemies while trying to survive some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. The cast is unknown here in the U.S. and the film is in Mandarin (so there are subtitles), but it’s a really fun ride.

Funan – When you think of anime films, it usually involves either mech robots or pixies and faeries, or wide eyed children going on fantastic adventures. And to be fair, a lot of anime does feature those things, but there’s a subset of the genre that deals with real life subjects, and oftentimes they are quite serious topics. Such is the case with Funan, a dark drama about a Cambodian woman living under the brutal and terrifying Khmer Rouge regime who has been separated from her husband and four-year-old son. She’d determined to reunite with them, and as you can imagine, that isn’t going to be easy. I won’t go into the plot anymore, but suffice it to say that it’s not a lighthearted film. This is a harrowing drama and it tackles some deep subject matter, and there’s an emotional core to it that rivals many live-action movies. It might be a bit too much for some for people, but it’s a powerful film.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Turtle Odyssey: Bunji’s Big Adventure – When I think of famous actors who I would expect to narrate an IMAX film about turtles, the first person who comes to mind is obviously… Russell Crowe?!? Okay, maybe not, but he does narrate this extremely enjoyable nature film about a turtles journey through early life. The film follows a baby sea turtle named Bunji through her young life and into adulthood, and it’s a pretty fascinating journey. Like most IMAX films, it’s only 45 minutes long, but it features a solid narrative and some of the most stunning underwater footage you’ll see anywhere. Turtle Odyssey has been released on 4K Ultra HD and it looks and sounds utterly fantastic. The imagery is razor sharp, and the deeper color saturation is astounding, especially considering how colorful the underwater world is. The surround sound also gives a nice atmosphere, letting you feel like you’re under the water with Bunji. It’s a terrific presentation and a fun little film.
  • Killerman – Liam Hemsworth stars in this low-budget action thriller, about a money launderer who wakes up with no memory, a sackful of cash, and a crew of bad guys hunting him down. So far, so good, right? Well, it turns out those bad guys are crooked cops, which makes things even harder for Mr. Hemsworth. From there, it’s a mad scramble for survival (while trying to recover his memories) and the film moves quickly from there. This isn’t a crim masterpiece, but it is a solid little action flick that does keep you guessing a bit and has some moments of tension that might leave your fingernails a little shorter. It’s a quick and dirty little film, but it’s an enjoyable way to kill an hour and a half.
  • Buttons: A Christmas Tale – I’m not sure how I’ve never heard of this Christmas film considering the star-studded cast it boasts. The film features no less than Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke, Ioan Gruffud, Jane Seymour, Roma Downey, John De Lancie, and Abigail Spencer, and just to top it off, it’s narrated by Kate Winslet and Robert Redford. Wow! The film has a bit of complicated story, but ultimately it’s about two young orphan girls who really just want a home for Christmas, and the guardian angels (Van Dyke and Lansbury) who help them. It’s a solid Christmas story (if a bit dark on occasion) and the cast is – obviously – outstanding. I don’t know if this will be a watch-it-every-year classic like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but it’s worth at least an initial watch.
  • The Miracle of the Little Prince – This documentary illuminates what a phenomenon the children’s book The Little Prince is. Yes, the beloved book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been translated into something like 300 languages the world over, and as a result is one of the most well-read books in the world. This film focuses not only on the book’s translations in other countries, but also some of the languages that are dying out and how this book is being used to keep them alive. It’s an interesting film overall, even if I think the 90-minute running time might give us just a little more than we need. Fans of literature and languages will enjoy this one.

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