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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Logan, Fist Fight, Before I Fall and more

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Logan – This will be an unpopular opinion, as many people have been proclaiming Logan the best X-Men movie ever made, but I really didn’t like the film at all. Yes, it’s well made, but it suffers from some big problems. First off, seeing Professor X as a feeble old man did absolutely nothing for me. But more importantly, the film suffers the most from its R-rating, the first for an X-Men film. Why is that a bad thing, you ask? Well, because basically it turns the film into, “Hey kids! Look! Violence!” Just because Wolverine can now stab every single bad guy in the head doesn’t mean that he should. The film basically decided that now that it has license to show blood and gore that it needed to do so at every opportunity. That doesn’t make a better film, just a bloodier one. The one bright spot for me was Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, who made for one of the most charismatic film villains in recent memory. But aside from that, there was very little to like about the film for me. That said, this release also includes the Black & White version of the film, which certainly adds some moodiness, although I can’t say it made the film better for me.

Fist Fight – Charlie Day and Ice Cube as teachers having a fist fight after school? Well, how could that be anything but brilliant? Sarcasm aside, this is one of those movies that doesn’t even sound that good on paper, and there’s a reason for that: because it’s not very good. Charlie Day – who I sometimes like, sometimes don’t – is in full-on screech owl mode here, with his voice often reaching octaves that could shatter glass. Much like Kevin Hart, when Charlie Day gets to shrill, he drives me nuts. Worse than that, though, there just aren’t any laughs in this supposed comedy, and that’s inexcusable. This one gets a failing grade.

Before I Fall – I really liked Before I Fall, which is sort of like a dramatic Groundhog Day for teenagers. I liked it, that is, up until the final scene, which I absolutely hated. Honestly, this is a really good drama/sci-fi-ish type flick, but I absolutely hated the ending. Does that mean it’s not worth watching? Absolutely not. Heck, I’m sure some people will love the ending, I’m just not one of them. But it’s a cool look at being a teenager, partying, bullying, sexuality, and more, all told through a Groundhog Day-esque lens. Zoey Deutsch is terrific in the lead role, and this film portrays the way teenage girls interact more honestly than any other movie in recent memory. It’s a neat little flick, I just wish the ending hadn’t ruined it all for me.

Collide – Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, and Ben Kingsley. What do these four actors have in common? Clearly, they all like a paycheck. I’m not sure why else any of them felt the need to star in Collide. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually a decent, fun little car chase movie, with a bit of a romance at the heart of it. But ultimately, it does absolutely nothing we haven’t seen before, and I can’t really see that any of these actors were dying to do a film that’s largely a bunch of car chases to further their careers or take on a challenging role. Still, the movie is an easy way to kill 90 minutes, and I’ve definitely seen worse. Plus, I’d be lying if I said that the stellar cast doesn’t elevate it above the usual fare in this genre. So check it out if you want an easy-breezy action flick.

The Shack – Okay, I generally try to avoid movies where bad things happen to kids. Like, really bad things, like kids being killed or kidnapped. On top of that, I’m not a particularly religious person. So a faith-based drama about a father whose life is shattered when his young daughter disappears is really an uphill battle for me. I’ll say this about The Shack: it’s a well-made film with a great central performance by Sam Worthington, whom I like a lot. That said, this film was a tough watch for me, and it’s not the kind of thing I would have watched if it weren’t for review purposes.

Ghost World – It’s funny, when Ghost World came out in 2001, the undisputed lead actress was Thora Birch, then hot off her performance in American Beauty. I remember being wowed by her red-headed friend, who of course turned out to be a then-unknown Scarlett Johansson. Ghost World is one of those cool little movies that flew under the radar (but garnered some critical acclaim) on its release, and while it’s kind of disappeared from the pop culture radar, I’ve always enjoyed it. Now it’s been given the Criterion Collection treatment, featuring restored and remastered sound and picture as well as a bevy of extra features. If you’ve never seen this film, I definitely recommend it, and this is the best version of the movie on home video to date.

Hart to Hart: The Complete Series – Sometimes it can be hard to talk about shows from the 80’s without discussing how well they’ve aged. Take Hart to Hart: The Complete Series, for example. It was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid, but it just doesn’t quite seem to grip me the same way it did back then. Sure, some of the murder mysteries still hold up, but I can’t say I’m that engrossed by the show anymore. It’s not that it’s bad, it just seems to lack that ‘oomph’ it had back in the day. On the plus side, there are a few things I still enjoy about the show. Robert Wagner has long been a television favorite of mine, and I still enjoy his performances here. I also like how the Harts were a super-rich couple who solved crimes; it’s a nice break from the rough-and-tumble private eye or undercover cops that were so prevalent in the 80’s. The show was kitschy, but it knew it and that was part of the charm. This huge box set includes all five seasons but unfortunately doesn’t include any extra features, making it a bit pricey for a series that’s already been available on DVD in individual seasons.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • XX – Horror anthologies seem more popular than ever lately, as I’ve seen more of them come out in the last five years than I remember in the 20 years before that. But are people really enjoying them? Because it’s been my experience that more often than not, they’re such a mixed bag that the overall effect is less than impressive. Now we have XX, a foursome of stories that stand apart because they’re all from female directors. In this case we see Annie Clark make her directorial debut with The Birthday Party; Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) presents Her Only Living Son; Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound) presents Don’t Fall; and Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird) gives us The Box. Her Only Living Son and The Box were my favorites of the bunch, but the film overall just isn’t that great. It’s not terrible, but basically this is a collection of mediocre short horror films.
  • Major Crimes: The Complete Fifth Season – I was never a huge fan of The Closer, which this show is a spin-off of, but I can see the appeal of this show. While the always-excellent Mary McDonnell takes the lead role, Major Crimes has a true ensemble feel to it as we follow a team of investigators and lawyers as they try to get convictions for, well, major crimes. At times, the characters seem a bit cookie-cutter (or the opposite, quirky just for the sake of being quirky), but overall, you get an enjoyable crime drama out of it all. If you like this genre, you’ll enjoy the show. If you don’t, well, it might be enough to win you over, it might not.
  • I Am Heath Ledger – I’m a little surprised it took someone this long to make a film about Heath Ledger, but someone finally did. This feature-length documentary is part of Spike TV’s series of documentaries about stars who dies young, and it pays nice tribute to Ledger. It not only includes a look at his life and films in the typical way, but it also features a decent amount of footage shot by Ledger himself. In addition, a lot of familiar faces are interviewed, including Ang Lee, Catherine Hardwicke, Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Harper. Definitely worth watching.
  • Kiss Me Kate & Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! – Shout Factory gives us two musicals on Blu-ray this week. Oklahoma will probably be of more interest to the casual filmgoer as it stars one Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine aka Logan, which ties in nicely to another movie that’s just hit home video. Kiss Me Kate meanwhile, stars Brent Barrett and Rachel York. Both of these are filmed versions of the stage plays as opposed to movie adaptations, which gives them a different feel from some of the previous versions available on home video. It’s especially fun to see Wolverine up on stage singing and dancing, which of course he was very successful at before he became an X-Man. Good releases for fans of stage musicals.
  • Code of a Killer – It’s hard to turn a science story into a thriller, but Code of a Killer gives it a good go. This dramatization follows two men who pioneered how to use DNA to identify people and suspects in crime cases: a driven detective and the scientist who made the breakthrough. It’s a compelling story, and while lead actors John Simms and David Threfall won’t be recognizable to many American viewers, they are staples of British television productions, and both are terrific here.
  • Golden Years – Another production packed to the gills with recognizable British thespians, Golden Years tells the story of a bunch of pensioners who find their funds dried up that decide to turn to crime (mostly bank robberies and such) to help pay the bills. Of course, things escalate from there. While I didn’t recognize most of the faces myself, I found the cast charming, and the film is kind of like The Best Exotic Marigold Hold-Up. It’s fun and enjoyable, and it’s worth a watch.
  • Frontline: Iraq Uncovered – Okay, I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit for yet another documentary program on Iraq. It does seem like bread-and-butter material for PBS and Frontline, however, which I guess makes sense. This hour-long program focuses on the current military situation, victories over ISIS, and the effect of all this on families in Iraq. As usual, it’s serious stuff, but it does fill you in on what things are like over there which is important.
  • Victorian Slum House – I don’t know where you find families who are willing to move into a Victorian-era house and live as the poor people of the time did, but this show managed to do it. Over the course of five hours, we see modern families try to cope with the living conditions of poor people from two centuries ago, and let’s just say, they are NOT great. It’s fascinating to see both what things were like back in those days as well as with how people with modern sensibilities react to such a radical change in their day-to-day existence. Very interesting stuff!

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