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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week – Rogue One, Paterson and more

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Nothing seems as pointless as reviewing a Star Wars movie. Because nothing I say about it is going to change your interest in seeing it whatsoever. Star Wars is such a powerful force of nature in the pop culture world, that nothing I could say about it will have any impact whatsoever. It’s a good thing, then, that Rogue One is so damn awesome. Now, that’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its flaws, because it does. The supporting characters are thinly drawn, and the first half hour or so of the movie is a bit of a mess plot-wise, especially on first viewing. But, man, that last hour or so is one great action sequence that really puts the war in Star Wars. And that’s the key to enjoying Rogue One: it’s not really a Star Wars movie. It’s a war movie, set in the Star Wars Universe. And that’s what I loved about it, because it’s a mash-up of two genres I love. If you’re a Star Wars fan, I imagine you’ll love it too.

Office Christmas Party – I was pretty convinced that Office Christmas Party was going to be the worst movie ever made based on the abominable trailer, which was one of the least funny things I saw in the entirety of 2016. Well, I was wrong. It’s not the worst movie ever made. But it sure as hell makes a pretty strong case for trying to be. The film is one of those movies that Jason Bateman seems to specialize in these days: one where no joke is too crass, no bar too low, and no humor anywhere to be found. Bateman plays the same role he’s played in approximately 47 other films, and despite some likable talent on screen, the script is garbage, the jokes aren’t funny (I literally didn’t even chuckle once), and the film as a whole is completely awful.

Medium: The Complete Series – Okay, I’m not the biggest Medium fan in the world. Of course, I’ve only seen sporadic episodes here and there. Getting the chance to dive in a little deeper has given me a little bit of a new appreciation for the show. One thing I do like about it that I never really noticed before was how much it was a mix of genres: psychic medium mystery… and family drama. The family stuff isn’t just an add-on like in so many procedurals, but rather a driving force in the series and that sets it apart quite well from the other shows of its ilk. This massive new box set includes all seven seasons in one nice box, plus it includes a number of extra features like commentaries, featurettes, and deleted scenes. For fans of the show, it’s hard to argue with the value of this set for under $100.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Paterson – Adam Driver plays a driver named Paterson who lives in Paterson in the film called Paterson. And said film is about poetry and relationships. And it’s directed by Jim Jarmusch. Which I feel like kind of tells you everything you ever need to know about Paterson. To be fair, the film has its moments, but I’m not really a huge fan of Jarmusch’s films, and this one is sort of a good example of why. Despite Driver’s likability and the strong supporting performance by Golshifteh Farahani, the film is a bit dull for me.
  • We Don’t Belong Here – This is one of those direct-to-video films that has a terrific cast and is relatively good, but you can also see why it went direct to video. Catherine Keener, Anton Yelchin, Maya Rudolph, Riley Keough, Molly Shannon and Cary Elwes all have roles of varying size in this story of a family whose matriarch is pushed to her limits when her son seemingly disappears. Despite all the talent on the screen, the film never quite 100% gels. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it has some pacing issues and is never quite as engaging as I wanted it to be.
  • Youth in Oregon – Despite the cover art that really, REALLY wants you to watch this movie thinking it’s the spiritual brethren of Little Miss Sunshine, Youth in Oregon has less similarities than the marketers might want you to believe. Yes, there is a road trip in the film, but it’s also about a man driving his father across the country while hoping to talk him out of euthanizing himself. Frank Langella and Billy Crudup are both terrific actors, and it’s their chemistry onscreen together that really keeps the film moving. It’s not a hard drama like my little synopsis makes it seem, but it’s more of a black comedy (or even a black dramedy.) Not a perfect film, but it’s worth a watch.
  • Tank 432 – While acclaimed British director Ben Wheatley does not get behind the camera for Tank 432, he is a producer while his longtime collaborator Nick Gillespie takes the reins. However, Wheatley’s influence is definitely felt. And for some people that might be a good thing, however I have yet to like a Wheatley film. And while I was hoping for a more straightforward action/horror film, Tank 432 is more of a psychological thriller. Or really, it’s more of an arthouse film masquerading as a psychological thriller masquerading as a n action/horror flick. Just not my cup of tea,
  • Three – The three of the title are a cop, a criminal, and a doctor… all of whom get thrown together in a hospital as things are going to hell. Directed by acclaimed action director Johnnie To, Three is one of those movies that is wildly uneven. Middling characters and not much of a script are balanced out by punctuations of explosive violence, some of which are pretty dynamic in their own right. It’s not the kind of movie that’s going to win over viewers who aren’t into Asian action films, but if you like the genre, there’s enough here to make it worth a watch.
  • We Go On – Admittedly I mostly wanted to watch this film because it stars two alums of Smallville (also accomplished actors in their own right): Annette O’Toole and John Glover. But I got sucked into the story about a young man who is terrified of dying and offers a cash reward to anyone who can show him proof of the afterlife, whether that be a ghost, a spirit, or whatnot. Now, anyone who’s ever seen a movie before knows that this isn’t going to go well, but the film is more than just a crappy jump-fest. Instead, it’s more of a horror/drama hybrid that has a measured pacing and relies on atmosphere and mood rather than blood and guts. It’s pretty interesting stuff.
  • Smithsonian: Sports Detectives Season 1 – I had never heard of this show before, but not only did I find the concept fascinating, but the timing of the release is perfect, what with all the hubbub over Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jersey. In this series from The Smithsonian Channel, we go on a journey over the course of six episodes in search of some of the most famous sports memorabilia in history. These aren’t all artifacts that have been stolen (many have just been lost), but we go in search of Muhammad Ali’s Olympic gold medal, Jim Brown’s 1964 Championship Ring, and even Dale Earnhardt’s first race car. It’s part detective work, part archaeology, and all fun. It’s a cool way to enjoy both the search for the artifacts as well as a little sports history along the way.
  • The Best of Tim Conway – This two-and-a-half-hour collection of Tim Conway sketches from The Carol Burnett Show is a great retrospective of what made Conway so funny. I question whether the “never-before-released-episodes” claim that the DVD producers make is accurate at all, seeing as how The Carol Burnett Show has been released to DVD in about 27 different versions over the past couple of years. Still, if you want a best-of that focuses on one of the show’s funniest comedians, this disc fits the bill.
  • Thriller Triple Feature: Wind Chill, Closure, Perfect Stranger – The good news: this is a bargain-priced triple feature that gives you three movies with big-name stars – on Blu-ray no less — for under 10 bucks. Perfect Stranger is probably the best known of the bunch, as it was an actual theatrical release with Halle Berry, although it’s a pretty typical thriller. Closure is a rape-revenge film starring Gillian Anderson, while Wind Chill features a young Emily Blunt in a taut roadside thriller. None of the films is all that great, but none are terrible, either, making this an okay purchase if you just want to kill some time for a low price.
  • Sesame Street: Elmo and Cookie Monster Supersized Fun – I think by this point we all know what you get when you purchase a Sesame Street Parents know it’s one of the most time-honored shows for kids in the history of television. This DVD release focuses on Elmo (as usual) but this time sees him sharing the spotlight with Cookie Monster, which is a nice feature. You get 14 stories over two hours that see Sesame Street-ized versions of things like Godzilla and Pirates of the Caribbean, all while remaining toddler-friendly. Fun!
  • The Talk: Race in America – I don’t see how this release is timely at all! A two-hour film about race in America today between parents and children, covering topics such as what to do if you’re stopped by police? How could that POSSIBLY be relevant in 2017 America? All kidding aside, this is an interesting film that will probably especially resonate with families of color. The film approaches its subject matter in a way that allows it to be a valuable resource for the people who need it the most, even if it’s not exactly a cheerful subject.
  • Dead Reckoning: War, Crime and Justice from WW2 to the War on Terror – This three-hour program is heady stuff; admittedly, some of it was a bit over my head. But it deals with the trials and tribulations of dealing with war criminals and war crimes over the past seven or eight decades. If you like shows about war but want something different than just the usual WWII or Vietnam documentary – or if you are interested in legal procedures that you don’t usually get to see – this one is worth checking out.
  • Lake Eerie – Low-budget indie horror can sometimes be great. And it can sometimes be awful. Sadly, Lake Eerie isn’t one of the great ones. From a hackneyed story (grieving widow moves into secluded house, isn’t alone) to a weak script to a pretty poor lead performance, I wish I could recommend this one but it’s just not very good.

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