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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Teen Wolf, The Belko Experiment, Fargo and more


Teen Wolf & Teen Wolf Too – The Teen Wolf movies (at least the first one) are fairly beloved throwbacks to the 1980s. The first film stars Michael J. Fox as a high school basketball player who learns he’s a werewolf. The second film lacks fox, but sees Jason Bateman playing his cousin. Lots of people – including myself – really have fond memories of watching these films, and I did too. Until I re-watched them on these new Scream Factory Special Edition Blu-rays. The films have aged pretty badly. First of all, I don’t know what’s going on, but Teen Wolf is the sweatiest movie I’ve ever seen. Every character seems to be drenched in sweat in every single scene. It’s also just not that funny of a movie, and… well, it’s weird. Everyone just accepts that he’s a werewolf and nobody has a problem with a werewolf playing basketball and suddenly winning games left and right. The sequel is, sadly, even worse. I know people love these movies and I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, especially since both discs are very nice special editions with tons of extra features. Just be prepared for the movies not to live up to your memories of them.

The Belko Experiment – This film is kind of like the 2017 version of Cabin in the Woods. For those of you not familiar, Cabin was a 2012 film written by Joss Whedon but directed by his friend Drew Goddard. The Belko Experiment was written by Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn but directed by his friend Greg McLean. Both are horror films with a twist, and both are exceptionally fun. The Belko Experiment is about a mysterious corporation in Colombia. One day, the building seals up completely and a mysterious voice tells the employees that the only way for them to survive is to start killing each other. What happens from there is… well, bloody. With Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Sean Gunn, and a bunch of unknowns in the cast, it’s a really neat black thriller with some good comedic moments. Check it out for sure!

Going in Style – It’s easy to dismiss this aging-retirees-decide-to-rob-a-bank comedy as just another in a long line of movies made solely to appeal to a demographic of older audiences, what’s interesting is that the film is directed by Zach Braff. And it’s not like Zach Braff is some second-coming of directors, but he certainly knows how to make a film, and he knows how to make a film with a fun sensibility that appeals to all age groups, not just seniors. Of course, it helps when your cast is made up of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. Going in Style isn’t a slam dunk, but it’s quite enjoyable.

Fargo: 20th Anniversary Edition – As it’s obviously been 20 years since Fargo came out, you’ve probably had enough time to decide if you like the film or not. Personally, I do like it, but I stop short of loving it. It’s a perfectly good film, and there are parts I love, but I generally don’t love most Coen Brothers films, and while this is one of their better ones, it’s not a movie I hold in overly high esteem. However, this new Steelbook-packaged anniversary edition not only looks beautiful, but it is limited to 10,000 copies and has a nice collection of extra features. If you are a Fargo fan or a Coen Brothers completist, snag this one before they’re gone.

Blindspot: The Complete Second Season – A big hit for NBC, this show that is sort of a spiritual brethren to The Blacklist is an intriguing series. When a woman is dropped in Times Square naked and covered and tattoos (including the name of an FBI agent in ink), she has to try to solve the mystery of her identity and the mysterious tattoos. I really like Sullivan Stapleton in the co-lead role, and Jaime Alexander has finally found a role that suits her. The story keeps you guessing but reveals little pieces as it goes so you don’t get to frustrated. It’s worth a watch and I’m curious to see where Season 3 takes us.

The Hunter’s Prayer – Sam Worthington seems to have gotten a bad rap as an actor. It seems like people think he’s not a very good one. I’ve always thought he was a pretty good actor, especially in Avatar and Terminator: Salvation. Here in The Hunter’s Prayer, it’s hard to give him much credit for his lackluster performance, but it’s also just not a very good film, so I’m not sure where the fault lies. The film follows an assassin who decides to protect a teenage girl who’s been marked for death. I generally like movies like these, but it’s just not great. The beginning is awfully slow, and Worthington plays his character so reserved that it’s hard to get invested in him. I will say that newcomer Odeya Rush is quite good in a thankless role as the teenage girl, but the film just does nothing new or interesting.

The Breaking Point – The Criterion Collection releases this lesser known adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s classic tale, To Have and Have Not. While the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall version is the more well-known film version of the story, but supposedly The Breaking Point is more faithful to the source material. Now, I haven’t read the book so I can’t say for sure, but this John Garfield-starrer sure feels different from the Bogey version. Directed by Michael Curtiz (who directed Casablanca), the film feels tense and taut throughout, and Garfield gives a quietly powerful performance. As this is a Criterion release, the disc comes with restored and remastered sound and picture and a bevy of extra features. Not quite a masterpiece, but definitely a worthy addition to any film buff’s collection.

LEGO DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain – My daughter and I have really been enjoying the DC Super Hero Girls comics and cartoons, and she’s also gotten a few of the LEGO sets they’ve put out. Now, DC has combined all of the above with a LEGO movie based on the DC Super Hero Girls. With the signature humor of the LEGO films (although not as much as the big-screen outings) plus the character stylings of the DC Super Hero Girls materials, this full-length movie is quite a bit of fun.

The Exception – This intriguing dramatic thriller (or perhaps it’s a thrilling drama) stars Christopher Plummer, Lily James, and Jai Courtney. The film takes place during World War II and it involves a count, a maid, and a German officer whose lives become entangled. It also involves romance, deceit, and spying. I like Lily James and Jai Courtney quite a bit, but of course Christopher Plummer steals the show here, as he’s in top form (when isn’t he?) The movie has a few slower moments here and there, but by and large, it’s an engaging film that will keep you interested until the end.

The Dinner – If you tell me you have a movie with Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, and Rebecca Hall, I’m going to be interested. If you tell me it’s directed by Oren Moverman, Oscar-nominated director of Rampart, I’m going to be doubly interested. Unfortunately, despite all the great ingredients, this dinner isn’t a gourmet meal. All of the cast give terrific performances, but the film — which follows two couples having a conversation about a terrible incident involving their teenage sons – gives us mostly unlikable people to invest our time in. Performances can only carry a film so far, and I wish this one had softened its approach just a bit. Interesting movie, but not entirely my cup of tea.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Wolves – Michael Shannon and Carla Gugino star in this story of a young basketball star dealing with an unbearably overwhelming father (who also has a gambling problem). And while it’s tempting to say that this particular film isn’t exactly a slam dunk, sadly, I’ve already used that metaphor, plus it’s a bit too on the nose for a basketball movie. But the fact remains that this is a movie with great performances but a story we’ve seen too many times before. There are parts that are enjoyable and parts that are just uncomfortable. Worth a watch if you like sports dramas, but it’s not a championship-level one.
  • Cinematic Titanic: The Complete Collection – Calling all MST3K fans! Cinematic Titanic has arrived on DVD! Yay! For the uninitiated, after MST3K ended in 2007, several of the original cast and writers of the show, including Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu created Cinematic Titanic, which was basically a live version of MST3K. This six-disc set includes all 12 movies that the crew riffed on: The Oozing Skull, Doomsday Machine, The Wasp Woman, Legacy of Blood, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks, Blood of The Vampires, East Meets Watts, The Alien Factor, Danger on Tiki Island, War of The Insects, and Rattlers. It’s hard to argue with the value of this set, which gives you hours and hours of MST3K-styled laughs. I love it!
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Magical Movie Night – I don’t really get too into My Little Pony, but my daughter loved these movies when she was younger. Magical Movie Night is the newest entry Equestria Girls series, in which we are transported to a world which is populated by what are basically human teen versions of the My Little Ponies. These stories are light, bright, fast-paced, and familiar-yet-different. This one is less a full-fledged film as it is a collection of three 22-minute episodes, but kids who like the Equestria world will probably not care all that much.
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack: The Complete Series – This is one of those shows that debuted when I was already a little too old for it, so unlike many viewers, this one doesn’t take me back to my childhood. So I had to go into it cold as a grown-up, which can sometimes be tricky. Luckily, The Secret World of Alex Mack, which follows a young teenager who gains super powers, is still a good amount of fun. Sure, it’s got its cheesy moments that haven’t aged well, but Larisa Oleynik (best known to ME as one of the leads in the classic 10 Things I Hate About You) is charming in the lead role and she carries a lot of the show. This is the first time the show has been collected into a complete series DVD release, so fans should be thrilled to have it.
  • Pure Country: Pure Heart – These country-themed family movies have become quite trendy lately, and this latest entry features appearances by none other than Willie Nelson, WWE superstar Shawn Michaels, and Ronny Cox. The film’s story is about teenage sisters who want to get to know their deceased dad through his music, and it’s pretty tame stuff from start to finish. It’s a sweet film for family audiences, so if your family likes country-tinged drama, this will fit the bill.
  • Sesame Street: Elmo’s Wonderful World – Obviously aimed at the preschool set, Elmo’s World: Elmo’s Wonderful World is the latest collection of Elmo-centric Sesame Street Elmo’s World This themed collection sees Elmo doing what Elmo does best: being cute and learning things. With two hours of content, it’s hard to find anything to fault about this collection for parents or kids.
  • The Black Room – Despite a better-than-usual cast for a low-grade horror flick (Natasha Henstridge, Lin Shaye, and Dominique Swain), The Black Room offers up very little in the way of interesting filmmaking. The story is pretty typical haunted house/demonic possession territory, and it never breaks out of the clichés. I’ve seen worse if I’m being honest, but I just could never get into this film.
  • Diamond Cartel – This is an odd film. Okay, a straight-to-video actioner with Armand Assante, Michael Madsen, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa? Sure, that all checks out. Oh wait, it also features… Peter O’Toole?!? Yep, the late, great O’Toole makes his last performance in this weak action film set (and shot) in Kazakhstan. That includes many actors who clearly don’t speak English, so their lines are overdubbed in almost comical fashion. It’s a shame to see O’Toole show up in this film, which would otherwise be completely un-noteworthy.

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