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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week – Passengers, Sing, Ghost In The Shell and more

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Passengers – I saw a lot of people complaining about Passengers when it came out, and one of the comments I saw most often was that the film that was marketed in the trailer was different from the film that made it into theaters. I don’t know, personally I got exactly what I was expecting and what I was hoping for: a great science fiction thriller with a healthy dose of romance thrown in for good measure. I don’t want to say too much about the story so as not to give anything away, but I loved seeing Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence together on screen and the film’s combination of romance, thrills, and beautiful special effects really won me over. It reminded me of a science fiction version of The Adjustment Bureau, a film I really love. I’m not sure if you’ll get what you’re expecting out of this film, but I think I know what you’ll get: a really cool film that you’ll enjoy quite a bit.

Sing – I liked Sing. It’s a fun movie with some good voice talents and some really terrific music. The music is really the best part, actually. I say this because while I enjoyed the film, I didn’t LOVE it. Kids will love it: it’s bright, it’s loud, it’s amusing. But in a year that also gave us movies as great as Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Zootopia, I felt like Sing is just okay. Mostly because the script is really nothing special. There are so many great opportunities for cleverness, and instead the film just never seems to reach beyond being merely adequate. It’s a fun film that I doubt many people will dislike, but I just think it honestly could have been better.

Ghost in the Shell – Released just in time for the live action Ghost in the Shell movie starring Scarlett Johanssen, the original Anime film has been re-released on Blu-ray in a special 25th Anniversary Edition. I remember watching the movie when it came out and not really being a huge fan of it. It’s certainly a beautiful film, but like so much anime it’s also largely inscrutable and oftentimes indecipherable. But I figured watching it again, maybe I’d gain a new perspective on the film. Unfortunately, my takeaway this time around was much as it was the first time. It’s still a gorgeous film, but I just can’t get into it. However, this new edition comes with beautiful packaging, the film in high def, and some nice extra features, making it a must-have for fans.

Being There – This is such a 1970s film. I honestly think that Being There, starring Peter Sellers and directed by Hal Ashby, wouldn’t have worked in any other decade. In a nutshell, it’s about a simple gardener whose rich employer dies, leaving him shocked by the real world. When he meets up with another rich man who takes him in, the man sees the gardener’s simple proclamations as sort of zen philosophy nuggets of brilliance. It’s hard to capture the feel of the film in a sentence, but suffice it to say that it’s a truly enjoyable movie with a stellar performance by Sellers. And of course, as released on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection, the film has been restored and remastered and features some terrific extra features. A great package all around.

Robocop 2 & 3 – While the original Robocop has been released on home video approximately 2,417 times, the two lesser-seen sequels have had a more limited presence on video. Robocop 2 and Robocop 3 now get their first stand-alone Blu-ray releases courtesy of Shout Factory, and they come not only in high def but with great new extra features as well. As for the movies themselves, well, they’re not great. The third one is cheesier but somehow better than the second one; or at least it is in my opinion. A lot of people may not feel the same. Still, if you’re a die-hard Robocop completionist, these will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • The WB Archive: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Yakuza, The Boy Friend – Warner Brothers brings three great new titles to Blu-ray via their print-on-demand service, the Warner Archive (http://www.wbshop.com/category/wbshop_brands/warner+archive+wac.do). First up, we have When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a stop=motion dino flick made in the wake of the success of Raquel Welch’s iconic One Million Years BC. It’s a cheesy knock-off, but the stop=motion effects are nostalgia-inducing, and the no-name cast does the best they can. Plus, the cover art (based on the original poster) is simply gorgeous. Next up is a really great action thriller from the 70s, The Yakuza, starring screen great Robert Mitchum and Japanese actor Takakura Ken. As directed by the great Sydney Pollack (from a script by Taxi Driver’s Paul Schrader and Chinatown’s Robert Towne), the film is a taut, tense throwback that is really enjoyable. Finally, The Boy Friend is a musical dramedy directed by cinematic favorite Ken Russell and starring fashion icon Twiggy. While Twiggy isn’t a naturally great actress, she steps up and does a solid job here, and the film itself is a certain amount of fun. It’s not entirely my cup of tea, but it’s an interesting film to say the least.
  • Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Super Shredder – This latest collection of Nickelodeon’s hit animated series collects 11 episodes that make up the end of season four and the beginning of season five. I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since their early days as a black-and-white comic book aimed at adults, and I’ve never let go of that fandom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the current Nickelodeon show is the best version of the Turtles I’ve seen in over 20 years. It manages to find inspiration in the original comic books, infuse some flavor of the original cartoon, capture some of the feel of the movies, and even give it a bit of a video game flavor. It takes all of the best and various versions of the Turtles and mashes them up into one utterly terrific show, packed with action and filled with humor.
  • Brokenwood Mysteries: Season 3 – Nobody does mysteries like the Brits, and Brokenwood Mysteries is a prime example of what they do well. Even if it is a little bit formulaic in its approach (big city detective relocates to small town, doesn’t quite get along with new partner), the show still works because the mysteries are engaging, the cast is terrific, and the characters are interesting enough to draw you in. This release features a few feature-length movies (or episodes, technically), and you’ll definitely find yourself sucked in by the end.
  • Insecure: The Complete First Season – Co-created by Larry Wilmore from The Daily Show, Insecure is a comedy about being a young black woman in modern America. Now, I’m not a young black woman, so my ability to relate is limited, but the show does a good job of showing what lead characters Issa and Molly go through without alienating viewers who don’t happen to also be young, black women. I can’t say the show was really something I got all that into, but I recognize that I’m not the target audience. Younger viewers will probably enjoy it a lot more than I do.
  • Exodus – This timely release comes from Frontline, and it explores the real story of migrants and refugees journeying to America. What makes it stand out is that it actually includes cell=phone video from real people on their journeys, which offers a truly unique perspective on the story. This is obviously a story with a lot of importance right now, and I think it’s a good watch for anyone interested in what’s going on in our world right now.
  • When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Faith – How many books has Janette Oke written? Because I can count at least a dozen DVD releases in this series based on them. Is it a TV show? A series of movies? Both? I think the answer is all of the above. When Calls The Heart: The Heart of Faith is the latest in the series, and it stars Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin and Jack Wagner. I’ve said this before, but you don’t see a lot of romances where one of the main characters is a Canadian Mounty. Well, in this case you do. It’s pretty typical Hallmark fare, but I imagine the target audience will enjoy it.
  • Kate & Mim-Mim: Musical Mimiloo – Another fun and charming show for pre-schoolers, Kate & Mim-Mim probably leans towards girls more than boys, but I think any young kids will enjoy it. This DVD includes over an hour’s worth of episodes and of course the lead episode has a musical theme to it. It’s fun and cute and kids will have fun with it.

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One Comment

  1. Nobody does mysteries like the Brits, I didn’t realize New Zealand was considered British television. I see you still don’t watch anything, but mainstream releases and somehow still have a job.

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