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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Heat, Beaches, Serial Mom and more

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Heat – I can honestly say I’ve never been an overly huge fan of Michael Mann’s Heat. I know it was the first onscreen pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I know it has an amazing gunfight. I know it’s an extremely well-loved film. But it’s just never done all that much for me. As it’s been several years since I saw it, I thought this new Director’s Edition of the film would be a great way to re-watch it an see if my opinion has changed. And overall, it hasn’t. I like the film, but I don’t love it. This new Blu-ray has been personally supervised by Michael Mann, but I don’t notice any major differences beyond the picture and sound quality. If he tinkered with the film in any substantial way, I didn’t notice it. If you’re a die-hard Heat fan and also an audio/videophile, this is a great release for you. Otherwise, you’ll probably be fine with the version you already own.

Beaches – Jeez, I don’t know, did we really need to remake Beaches? I mean, was there anything wrong with the original film? I know that’s not why remakes are made, but it feels like a reach to me. This new 2017 version of the film stars Idina Menzel and Nia Long and it’s… well, it’s okay. Admittedly, this made-for-Lifetime movie isn’t exactly something I’m in the prime demographic for, but I think I could have dug it if it improved on the original. Instead, it feels like what it is: a remake. It’s not bad, but I just don’t know that it was necessary.

Serial Mom – I’ve never been a John Waters fan, but I’ve always been curious about Serial Mom, which seems like one of his most mainstream movies (and has just been released on Blu-ray for the first time.) And Kathleen Turner is terrific in her lead role as a mom who just might also be a serial killer. And while I can’t say the film is a slam dunk for me, I enjoyed it overall. I think. It’s definitely got some Waters-ian moments, and while not all the jokes land for me, there are some pretty funny moments as well. This new Scream Factory releases comes with a slew of extra features and has the movie in high definition for the first time, so fans should love it.

Divorce: The Complete First Season – If ever there was a show whose cover art and title turned me off, it was this one. It just sounds bleak and depressing. I don’t really want to watch a show about a couple going through a divorce. And while I like Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church just fine, neither of them are actors I’ll go out of my way to watch. But watch it I did, and… well, it’s kind of exactly what I expected. While ostensibly it’s a comedy, it’s an awfully dark topic to be the focus of a comedy, and as a result, it’s often much more painful than it is funny. It tries to straddle the line between comedy and drama and the end result is that it’s basically a drama. Maybe if this was just a silly, over-the-top sitcom it would have been more fun, but as it is, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • The Resurrection of Gavin StoneAgents of SHIELD’s Brett Dalton stars in this interesting faith-based film alongside a terrific supporting cast that includes Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Neil Flynn, D.B. Sweeney and WWE legend Shawn Michaels. Dalton plays the titular character who pretends to be a religious man to score the role of Jesus in a church play to work off some community service hours he’s been legally saddled with. From there, things get pretty predictable, but Dalton is charming and makes a good leading man, and the faith message isn’t too hit-you-over-the head. Not a bad flick in a genre that is often too cheesy for its own good.
  • Things to Come – Critically acclaimed director Mia Hansen Love teams up with actress Isabelle Huppert to deliver a moving and vibrant drama that foreign film fans will love. While the movie’s synopsis (about a woman whose life begins to fall apart) sounds depressing, the film isn’t a bleak, dark picture. It’s basically a coming-of-age story, but at an age much later than most coming-of-age movies occur. Huppert is – not surprisingly – brilliant, and despite the film being in French, it’s still powerfully effective.
  • Shark Week: Shark N Awe – Available exclusively at Wal-Mart, this huge six-disc collection brings you 32 shark-themed specials from The Discovery Channel’s annual feeding frenzy of shark-themed programming. With episodes focusing on killer sharks, giant megalodons, and strange new species of sharks, it’s hard to not to enjoy the heck out of this great collection. Shark fans and shark-obsessed kids will love it. I’ve reviewed a few of these Shark Week episode collections over the past few years, but this is the biggest one by far!
  • Chicago Cubs: 2016 World Series: The Complete Game 7 – Are you a Chicago Cubs fan? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up this release. While every year there hve been a multi-disc box set and a single-disc highlights film to celebrate the world champions, this year we also get Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series: The Complete Game 7. Whereas the other two releases featured digest-sized versions of each game in the series, this one includes the complete four and-a-half hour game in its entirety, with the rain delay, home runs, and extra inning all included. This is a must-have for die-hard fans, but casual fans will probably want to stick with one of the highlights-themed releases.
  • Rake: Series 1 – I think there was an American remake of this show a season or two ago. I say “I think,” because it was so short-lived, I can’t even remember for sure. This original series stars Richard Roxburgh (best known as the bad guy in Moulin Rouge, but completely unrecognizable as the same actor here) as a “rakish” defense lawyer who defends some of the worst of the worst. He also has to survive his own self-destructive behavior and the fact that most people either love him or hate him. I haven’t seen Roxburgh in any leading roles that I can think of, but he’s utterly terrific here and he carries the show with aplomb. Worth a look if you need a new show to binge on.
  • 8 Bit Generation: Commodore Wars – As somebody who was a child in the era of the Commodore 64 and the Atari 2600, this fascinating documentary resonated with me quite a bit. It explores the home computer explosion of the 1970s and 80s and reveals how important the Commodore was to it. It’s easy to overlook these early days now when everyone carries a full computer in their pocket, but this is a trip back to a time when it was the wild west for home computing. Very interesting stuff.
  • Alpha and Omega: Journey To Bear Kingdom – The inexplicably popular wolf franchise continues with Alpha And Omega: Journey to Bear Kingdom. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of diminishing returns, as the animation is poor, the sound is weak, and the film isn’t even an hour long. In fact, it seems even shorter than ever at just 44 minutes. Younger kids will like it, but it seems like the franchise is trending towards just the really young kids now, where the earliest entries in the franchise were a little more all-ages friendly.
  • Nova: The Origami Revolution, Plants Behaving Badly, As One: The Autism Project, and Breast Milk – There are four new documentary-themed releases this week. In the Nova special The Origami Revolution, we learn all about the ancient paper folding art and how it has experienced a renaissance in this digital age we live in. I’ve been interested in origami since I was a kid, so I have to say that I really enjoyed this one. Despite it’s funny title, Plants Behaving Badly is really a special about completely unique and unusual plants, such as carnivorous plants. It explores a few different species that go against almost everything we think of with regular plant life. Interesting stuff overall. As One: The Autism Project showcases a unique program in the world of Autism Disorder. You wouldn’t think of the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi as being on the cutting edge of Autism awareness, but this documentary follows a group of ten children in the middle east who participate in a program that involves theater, music, and comedy. It’s both enlightening and heartwarming. Finally, Breast Milk is pretty much what it sounds like, a documentary on breastfeeding. More than just a general doc, though, it focuses on the stigma around breastfeeding and why more mothers don’t do it. I’m obviously not the target audience for this film, but it has a lot of good information to offer.
  • PBS Kids: All About Allergies – This PBS release runs just over an hour and features episodes from four popular kids shows from the network: Peg + Cat, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Arthur and WordWorld. Obviously, each episode has a theme that has to do with allergies, making this a good watch for youngsters who might have questions or concerns about allergies and colds. Plus, it’s got a super low price point, making it a nice value for the money.

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