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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Slither, Colossal, The Boss Baby and more


The Boss Baby – Like most kids’ films these days, The Boss Baby was a pretty decent-sized hit in theaters. And like many other kids’ films these days, it’s a pretty enjoyable film, even if it’s nothing all that memorable. I think we all know the basic premise at this point, but what helps the movie work is both Alec Baldwin (a perfect casting choice for the role) and the fact that kids will like the silly humor while adults can relate to the baby-centric humor. There are a lot of jokes that work if you’ve raised children, which, obviously, most parents watching this with their kids has already done. It’s not a complete slam dunk and I don’t know that it’s a true classic, but it’s enjoyable enough.

The Circle – I really enjoyed this dramatic thriller starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, and the late, great Bill Paxton. Honestly, it’s basically an update of the ‘90s thriller Antitrust with Ryan Phillippe, but I always liked that film. This time around, the company that may or may not be up to nefarious things is The Circle, a hybrid of Apple, Facebook, and Google that has questionable definitions of privacy. What I liked about this film – besides the excellent performance by Tom Hanks and generally good performances by everyone else – is the sure-handed direction by James Ponsolt. The film looks exactly the way film like this should. It feels very modern yet has a touch of throwback to the conspiracy thrillers of the ‘70s to it as well. It’s not a barnstormer, and I wish the ending was just a bit stronger, but I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Colossal – Director Nacho Vigalondo has a small but devoted following here in the US after his early films like Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial. This latest effort from the director continues his trend of making films that I really want to like, but just don’t gel 100% for me. In this case, the film tells the story of a falling-apart woman (Anne Hathaway) who realizes that a giant monster that’s attacking Korea seems to be connected to her. It’s an intriguing story, but there’s a huge tonal shift halfway through the story (and a character who completely changes their stripes) and it all happens so quickly that it’s jarring. I liked the film but – as usual – I didn’t love it. Worth a look, but I wish I liked it more than I did.

Big Little Lies – Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley walk into an HBO Miniseries… okay, maybe it doesn’t make for a great joke, but it does make for a terrific miniseries filled with drama, murder, and more drama. Nominated for a ton of Emmy Awards, this seven-episode thriller is based on the hit book of the same name, and it’s not hard to see why. I won’t go into the plot much as I don’t want to give anything away, but I love the fact that HBO knows when to make a show a seven-episode event and doesn’t feel the need to turn it into a six-season TV series when it doesn’t need to be. You get in, get invested, and get out. Check this one out!

Slither – I’ll be honest, with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, I’ve never really been a huge fan of James Gunn’s films. Slither was one I wanted to revisit, however, as it was one of his earliest and also it stars Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks. But there’s always something about his movies – a darkness, perhaps – that keeps me from really loving them. Upon revisiting Slither with Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray, I wish I could say that I’ve completely come around and now love the film. But I don’t. I do enjoy it, but it’s just not quite the cult classic it is for me that it is for some people. Still, this new Blu-ray edition is loaded with great extra features and is a must-have for fans.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Wakefield – When you take a brilliant actor like Bryan Cranston and you pair him with Jennifer Garner (admittedly an okay actress, but one I just really don’t like), the end result is a mixed effort. And while a good film can overcome an actor you don’t love, this movie is sort of an odd meanderer. Cranston plays a man in an unhappy life who sort of hides from his family and watches how their lives unspool without him. And while there may be some interesting material there, the film runs out of steam three-fourths of the way through and the end result is a film that just didn’t do it for me.
  • Crashing: The Complete First Season – I like Pete Holmes’ stand-up comedy and I’ve listened to his podcast quite a bit. He’s an interesting guy with interesting takes on things like spirituality and comedy. Now he’s starring in a new comedy for HBO called Crashing, which is one of those shows that sort of blurs the line between fiction and real life. Holmes plays an aspiring comedian who ends up crashing on various friends’ couches, as well as getting comedy lessons from such famous comedians as TJ Miller, Sarah Silverman, and Artie Lange, among others. It’s not always laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s often quite amusing and Holmes is a likable lead. I think this show has potential.
  • The Lovers – Debra Winger and character actor Tracey Letts star in this dramedy about a couple. And usually I’d say, “About a couple who do this and that or have such and such happen to them,” but what makes this film unique is that it’s really about a couple at a certain point in their marriage and the mundanity that entails. Which could make for a boring movie, but it’s not, especially with the performances by Winger (whose received no small amount of critical acclaim for her role) and Letts (who’s a real standout). This might not be a movie for anyone, but if you like films that put characters first, check it out.
  • Fortitude: Complete Second Season – When you put together a mystery show set in an exotic location and populate it with terrific actors, you would naturally expect the results to be pretty stellar. And I’m sure there are people out there who thing Fortitude is just that, but for me, it couldn’t have been more of a misfire. The show is a mystery series set in the Arctic Circle whose community is rocked to the core by strange events. Unfortunately, despite some excellent performances (especially by newcomers to the show Dennis Quaid and Parminder Nagra), I found the show as cold as its arctic setting. The characters are often uninteresting or unlikable, the pacing is glacial, and I just couldn’t get into it. I really wanted to like it, but getting through it was just a chore, and that’s not what good television should be.
  • Sleight – There’s a lot of story packed into Sleight, a movie starring mostly unknown actors (alongside a searing turn by Dule Hill, playing against type as a nasty drug dealer.) To sum it up succinctly, though, the film is basically street magic versus criminals. Which is an enticing concept to be sure, and the resulting film is pretty solid. It mixes in drama with suspense and even some action, plus – of course – magic. The film is by first-time director J.D. Dillard, and he’s definitely got some potential behind the camera. Worth a watch, even if it’s not a complete slam dunk.
  • The Ottoman Lieutenant – Ben Kingsley and Josh Hartnett co-star with some lesser known actors in this heavy romantic drama, which marks the second period romance released on video in the past few weeks dealing with a similar topic (The Promise and this film could be cinematic siblings.) I’m not the biggest fan of love triangle stories to begin with, and this one being set upon the backdrop of World War I doesn’t really help it much. It’s okay, but I didn’t love it.
  • Cop and a Half: New Recruit – Hey, you know what we need? A sequel to a Burt Reynolds movie from almost 20 years ago that nobody remembers! Okay, calling it a “sequel” isn’t really accurate, but Cop and a Half: New Recruit is an attempt to cash in on the name of an existing movie that I can’t imagine has much cache anymore. This time around, Lou Diamond Phillips plays a cop who gets partnered with a child (just go with it). Now, as an adult, obviously this doesn’t sound like an adult’s go-to film, but obviously it’s made for kids, and I think most kids will enjoy it, if they’re of a certain age. I’d put this as appropriate mostly for 10-13-year-olds, but it’s relatively tame overall.
  • S.W.A.T.: Under Siege – I love movies like these. S.W.A.T.: Under Siege is basically a low-budget remake (of sorts) of Assault on Precinct 13, but that’s a cliched movie plot that I love. Give me a movie with a couple of good guys trapped and up against seemingly overwhelming odds, and I’m there. And while I wish S.W.A.T.: Under Siege was a better film, I can’t say I didn’t have any fun watching it. I like female lead Adrienne Palicki a lot, and Michael Jai White is always a welcome presence in an action film. It’s an easy way to kill 90 minutes, even if you’ll forget it the moment it’s over.
  • Mickey and The Roadster Racers: Minnie’s Happy Helpers – This newest iteration of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse sees Mickey and the gang racing in roadsters at Hot Dog Hill, where they run a super-cool garage. My kids loved MMC when they were young, and I’m sure if they were age-appropriate, they’d have fun with this one, too. Combining the classic Disney characters with positive messages, lessons, and, well, race cars, makes it a show that’s lots of fun. Typically high quality pre-school programming from Disney. This latest disc release puts Minnie and Daisy front and center and sees them helping their friends more than racing. Which I guess is okay, unless you were looking for the racing. It’s still there, of course, but it takes a little bit of a back seat.
  • Remember Me – Michael Palin and Mark Addy star in this British mystery/supernatural miniseries, which is a neat turn on a traditional ghost story. Told in three parts, the story sees a man who fakes an accident to try and escape a ghost that’s haunting him. To say more would give away more of the story than I’m comfortable with, but it’s a slow-burning thriller that ratchets in intensity as it goes. This is more of a relationship story of sorts with supernatural elements than a horror series, so be aware going into it that it’s not your everyday ghost story. But it is a rewarding viewing experience with terrific performances.
  • The Carol Burnett Show: The Best of Harvey Korman – At this point, the Carol Burnett Show releases are mostly just repackages of repackages. I’ll give them credit for at least giving each new release a theme. This time around, it’s the best of Harvey Korman. Now, I watched this show religiously as a kid (in reruns) and Harvey Korman was always one of my favorite parts of it, so I can certainly enjoy this release. You get four episodes in their entirety, running almost three hours total, so for the low price it’s offered at, this is a good buy if you don’t already have the complete series release of The Carol Burnett Show.
  • PBS Documentaries – As usual, PBS has a number of great documentary specials out this week. Frontline: Second Chance Kids deals with a heavy subject: what happens to minors who are convicted of murder. Over the course of an hour, Frontline investigates and digs into this complicated subject. Weekend in Havana is much lighter, with Travel host Geoffrey Baer as he travels the streets of Havana, teaching us about the culture, landscape, and music of the capital of Cuba. Great Yellowstone Thaw: How Nature Survives is one of those specials that teaches me something amazing that somehow I had no idea about. For example, did you know that in Yellowstone National Park, the temperature ranges from 40 degrees below zero in the winter to over 100 degrees in the summer? How does the wildlife that resides there handle a temperature swing of 140 degrees? This special will tell you. Loved it! Frontline: Poverty, Politics and Profit is a return to the hard-hitting questions that Frontline specializes in, taking a look at the billions of dollars spent every year on helping the poor, and why it seems to be having no effect. Sobering stuff, but incredibly informative. Finally, Nature’s Great Race isn’t really about a race, but rather an hour-long special about the migrations of caribou, elephants, and zebra. These are journeys that take several thousands of miles, and it’s interesting to see what each species faces on their trips.
  • Who’s Crazy? – There are some times when reviewing a movie is a little beyond me. Such is the case with Who’s Crazy?, a 1966 film that was thought to be lost until just recently. Here’s the official synopsis: “A wild, free-form burst of 1960s experimentalism, accompanied by an ecstatic original soundtrack by the great Ornette Coleman, and starring actors from The Living Theatre, Who’s Crazy? follows a group of mental patients who hole up in a deserted Belgian farmhouse, where they cook large quantities of eggs and condemn one of their own in an impromptu court. The actors don’t have much need for words when they can dance around, light things on fire, and drip hot wax on each other instead.” I thought maybe it would make more sense when I actually watched it, but it’s clearly meant to be more of an art project than a narrative film. Great for people who like that kind of thing, but I’m not typically one of them.
  • I Am the Blues – I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of any of the musicians profiled in this engaging documentary about the legendary blues musicians who played deep in the American south in the heyday of Blues music, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating their musical talent or the legacy they are leaving behind. With names like Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, RL Boyce, LC Ulmer, and Lil’ Buck Sinegal, this film acts as a primer in Blues music. It’s more enjoyable than I expected it to be.

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