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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Snatched, The Wall, Riverdale and more


The Wall

Snatched – I’ll admit that I’m not generally a huge Amy Schumer fan. I thought Trainwreck was just okay, and Inside Amy Schumer has as many funny sketches as it has completely un-funny sketches (like most sketch shows, to be fair.) But Snatched is probably the low point for Schumer as far as I see it. Her character is a completely shallow and self-obsessed woman who is pretty much completely unlikable. And while I really didn’t find the film funny at all, the one thing that made it bearable was Goldie Hawn, who shines as Schumer’s paranoid, scared-of-life mother. It’s a shame that Hawn has such a terrific role in such a shoddy movie, but it was really great to see her in top form again.

The Wall – Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena star in this taut film that sees director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) working on a smaller scale than usual. Johnson turns in a hell of a performance as a soldier trapped behind a rickety wall in the middle of the desert by an enemy sniper. I typically like movies like this, where one character is trapped in a single location for much of the film – when it’s done well. Luckily, The Wall is a solid film, and it manages to keep the suspense and tension throughout much of the film. Worth a watch.

Riverdale: The Complete First Season – I’ve been a fan of Archie comic books literally since I could read. I’ve always loved the world of Riverdale, and I was excited to see it come to the small screen. When the ads first started coming out, the show looked like a mix of Twin Peaks and the Archie comics. And while it’s not quite as weird or confusing as Twin Peaks, it definitely has a very dark tone to it. Sometimes it’s a little too dark (I feel like the show could use a little more humor), but overall I really enjoyed it. The season’s central mystery is perplexing, and it is solved by the end of the season (although, of course, there’s another mystery right behind) and by the end of season one, I’ve become a huge fan.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – I like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, and my kids enjoy them as well (which I guess is more important!) But with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, we have a whole different kind of movie. What that means is that we have a completely new cast (mostly due to the original cast aging out of their roles) and this time around, the film is a road trip movie. The result is that we see very little of some of the supporting characters we’ve come to know and love (think Rowley and Fregley) and instead we get a lot of the main characters but with different actors. I’ll be honest, it’s not terrible, but it definitely isn’t the same as the original films. I do like seeing Tom Everett Scott as the dad, though!

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season – This spin-off from The Flash (and Arrow, technically) is almost as much fun as The Flash, although in a different way. With a full ensemble team of super-powered characters, this mish-mash of DC Universe heroes has managed to find its identity in relatively short time. With a number of familiar faces from The Flash and Arrow (The Atom, Hawkgirl, Mr. Freeze, etc.) the show does a lot with a limited budget and pulls off the time travel conceit at its core better than you’d expect. Another hit superhero- show for The CW.

Once Upon a Time: The Complete Sixth Season – One thing I love about this show is their willingness to change the status quo. It’s a completely different series than it was in Season One. I don’t know if it’s still the hit it once was, but for people who have stuck with it, this show has become very rewarding in that it takes chances and pushes the story forward whenever it wants to. You get the sense that the show runners are actually in charge here and not the network. If you’re a fan or if you’re looking to catch up, you should definitely pick this release up.

Kung Fu Yoga – Despite the silly name, Kung Fu Yoga is a fun romp for Jackie Chan that sees him taking on a sort of Indiana Jones-type role, which is a natural fit for the stunt master. He has the light-hearted touch needed for a role like that. The film isn’t perfect, and obviously Chan isn’t as spry as he used to be, but I still enjoy watching him and this is a fun outing.

Chuck – Did you know the character of Rocky Balboa was based on a real person? Neither did I. And to be fair, Chuck isn’t really the full-on basis for Rocky, more so, it’s about the person whose unlikely bout with Muhammad Ali inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the screenplay for Rocky. This film was co-written by Live Schreiber, who stars as the titular pugilist whose real-life nickname was The Bayonne Bleeder. It’s a solid boxing biopic, and it ticks all the right boxes. Not a film for the ages, but a good way to kill a couple of hours.

Descendants 2 – The Disney Channel’s 2015 original film The Descendants was a huge hit, as it followed the adventures of the scions of a number of Disney Villains (such as Maleficent the Evil Queen, Jafar and Cruella De Vil) in high school. So it was inevitable that we’d see a sequel and here it is in the form of Descendants 2. This time around we get a new character in the form of Uma, the daughter of Ursula (from The Little Mermaid). Like the original movie, this film is a mix of fun, melodrama, and cheese, which is kind of what you expect from a Disney Channel TV movie. I liked it, and the target audience of kids and tweens should love it.

Hickok – Luke Hemsworth (that other Hemsworth brother) takes the lead role alongside supporting actors Trace Adkins, Kris Kristofferson, and Bruce Dern in this western that tells a stylized version of events in the life of real-life figure Wild Bill Hickok. I’m no expert on Hickok’s life, but this definitely seems like one of those movies that seems pretty highly fictionalized. The film has its ups and downs. On the plus side, Luke Hemsworth is charismatic and carries the lead role well. The film also looks pretty good overall despite its low budget. On the minus side, the dialogue is often clunky and the film doesn’t really do anything all that original. The 4K Ultra format release that this film is available in (along with Blu-ray and DVD) is a bit of a head-scratcher, partially because of the low budget but also because it really doesn’t look all that much better than the Blu-ray. Still, if you like westerns, I’ve seen worse films.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Hopscotch – Walter Matthau stars in this classic comedy alongside Glenda Jackson, who I have to admit I’m not as familiar with. Matthau plays a bored CIA agent who decides to possibly publish his memoirs, which ruffles some feathers on the intelligence community. I wasn’t familiar with this film before this new Criterion Collection release, and while I can’t say I flat-out loved the film, I can say that Walter Matthau is a genius and watching him carry a movie is a lot of fun. This Blu-ray debut for the film includes a number of great extra features and restored and remastered sound and picture.
  • Once Upon a Time in Venice – Okay, see if this sounds familiar: an aging action star plays a tough guy whose dog gets kidnapped, igniting a shoot-em-up to get him back. If you think I’m talking about John Wick, well, you’d be right, but I’m also talking about Once Upon a Time in Venice. The film features a terrific cast that includes Bruce Willis, Jason Momoa, John Goodman, Famke Janssen, Kal Penn, and Thomas Middleditch. And it’s the cast that carries the film, which is much less serious (and less action-packed) than John Wick. This film is ostensibly an action-comedy, although the laughs are few and far between. Still, there’s a lot of likable talent and Bruce Willis looks like he’s actually enjoying being in a film again, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen that.
  • How to Be a Latin Lover – Eugenio Derbez, star of the surprise Latin hit Instructions Not Included takes lead in this comedy that also stars Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, and Kristen Bell. The film is pretty standard rom-com fare, with an aging lothario having to learn the True Meaning of Love. It’s also a little on the long side, coming in at just shy of two hours. But Derbez is a likable screen presence, Hayek is always welcome, and Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell add some familiar faces and comedic talent to the proceedings. Not a slam dunk, but enjoyable enough.
  • John Wayne: Rio Lobo & Big Jake – This Blu-ray double feature sees John Wayne in two films from later on in his career. 1970’s Rio Lobo sees The Duke in familiar form as a Civil War soldier on the hunt for the man who caused the death of one of his best friends. Big Jake, from just one year later in 1971, sees Wayne looking for his kidnapped grandson and is famous for featuring other members of the Wayne family (sons Patrick Wayne and Ethan Wayne). I don’t know that either film captures full iconic John Wayne status for me, but both are good films and it’s great to see both films on Blu-ray.
  • NCIS New Orleans: The Third Season – While I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole NCIS franchise, it’s been a constant presence on the television landscape for over a decade now. Which leads us to NCIS: New Orleans. Much as I like Scott Beula, you can probably guess my reaction to this show. Yep, it’s more of the same. Just like I could never get into any of the CSI spin-offs beyond the original, I just can’t get into this show. It’s just a retread of the original show (which is a retread of CSI anyway) with a different cast. Oh well.
  • Bull: Season One – I’ll be honest, I’ve sort of come to hate Michael Wetherly after seeing him in NCIS over the years. His character in that show is one of my least favorite characters in the history of television. Unfortunately, this time he plays a variation on that character but since he’s in charge of the team of trial analysts he heads up, he’s somehow even more obnoxious. I know the show was a ratings hit, but I just really don’t like it.
  • Billions: Season Two – Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, and Malin Akerman return in this hit Showtime series about drama and high stakes manipulation in the world of high finance. This is one of those shows that I can appreciate more than I like. The production values are terrific and the actors are all firing on all cylinders, but I just can’t get into it. I don’t generally love stories set in the financial world, and while there are some good stories here, it’s just not quite my cup of tea.
  • Britney Ever After – I’ll admit it: I watch Lifetime movies sometimes. More than that, I often enjoy them. But this Britney Spears biopic, while a good idea on paper, doesn’t work in execution. It’s clearly more interested in being sensational and glossy rather than deep or interesting, and the cast of semi-lookalikes certainly doesn’t feature any powerhouse performances. Maybe a fun way to kill 90 minutes with a couchful of snacks on a bored Friday night, but otherwise skip this one.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer 4K Ultra HD – For me, The Lincoln Lawyer was the film that sort of kickstarted the “McConaissance,” or Matthew McConaughey’s career rejuvenation that saw him becoming a true Hollywood star and winning an Oscar after a stretch of movies that were nothing more than predictable rom-coms. This taut thriller, based on a Michael Connelly novel, was a stark reminder that McConaughey is a really gifted actor, and it was the film that made me start paying attention to him again. Now available in 4K Ultra HD, the movie looks and sounds better than ever, although I don’t know if this is the kind of film that really needs a 4K upgrade.
  • 1944 – There’s no shortage of World War II films out there, but I do like when I watch one that tells a story I didn’t know about. 1944 is a film made and set in Estonia, a tiny nation that saw over 120,000 young men conscripted for the Russian and German armies. The result of that action was that brother often ended up fighting brother in a deadly conflict. That’s the story this film dramatizes, and it does so to strong effect. There are some impressive battle scenes, but there are also many character moments that humanize the soldiers and really let you see the devastation the war wrought. An impressive film that is also the highest grossing movie in Estonian history, which I thought was a neat bit of trivia.
  • Cezanne Et Moi – This movie is a dramatization that tells of the friendship between French writer Emile Zola and the French painter Paul Cezanne, only one of whom I’d heard of before this movie. I wish I could gush over this French film, but ultimately, I think I’m not just the target audience for it. It does have some nice moments and some strong performances, but I never got too wrapped up in it. I do love however, that the film was directed by a 70-something female director; Hollywood could learn something from that.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Season 10Murdoch Mysteries is a forensic procedural (think CSI or Bones), but it’s set in 1890’s Toronto, right on the cusp of the age of scientific discovery. Detective Murdoch is basically the Fox Mulder/Gus Grissom of the show, and he’s a charming, intelligent fellow. Of course, he has a semi-romantic counterpart, and as is so popular with these shows, there’s unrequited sexual/romantic tension between them. It’s a bit cliched, but it works so well, it’s a welcome cliché. The show is fun and endearing, filled with good mysteries, excellent acting, great guest stars, and amazing period-era production values.
  • Digimon Adventure Tri.: Determination – I don’t know much about Digimon. I guess I’m getting old, but as soon as I start hearing names like Kuwagamon, Alphamon, and Digimon DigiDestined, I tend to start zoning out. This new release is a feature-length movie, running just over 90 minutes, and apparently it’s the first of a trilogy. While the story didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me, I will say that the animation is quite good and looks better than what I’m used to seeing from these kinds of shows. This is one of those releases that I’m sure is a big deal to the existing fan base, but I can’t say it’s going to do much to create new viewers.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The Last Donnycorn – This second volume collection of episodes from the new Powerpuff Girls cartoon includes over two hours of episodes, including a half-hour special that takes aim at another very popular cartoon that features little horses, or something like that. My daughter has gotten into the Powerpuff Girls quite a bit in recent years, so she enjoyed watching these new episodes.
  • Mickey and The Roadster Racers: Start Your Engines – 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.
  • Sheena: Queen of the Jungle Collection – The Original Movie and Complete Series – This fun collection from Mill Creek Entertainment includes not just the 1980s classic cheese-fest Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (starring Tanya Roberts), but it also includes the entire Sheena TV series from 2000 starring Baywatch’s Gena Lee Nolin. Now, this is a lot of cheese in one place, but as someone who loves B-movies, there’s a lot of fun to be found here. You get the movie, all 35 episodes of the TV show, and then as a bonus, you also get five episodes of the classic 1950s cult classic Sheena TV series, all over six discs. And you can get the collection for under $15 pretty easily. What’s not to love?
  • Shakes the Clown – What if Bobcat Goldthwait made a movie about warring clowns and nobody came? Well, that may be what happened in 1991, but over the years Shakes the Clown (written & directed by Goldthwait) has become a bona fide cult classic. Now it makes its debut on Blu-ray, and I finally got the chance to watch it. It’s darkly funny, poorly acted, and distinctly unique, but overall I kind of dug it. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must have.
  • Obit – Who writes obituaries? It’s not something a lot of people think about, but at the New York Times, it’s an actual career. This interesting documentary could be depressing or boring, but instead it is engaging, moving, and often humorous. These writers take pride in their jobs and the film paints a surprisingly nuanced portrait of the writers and their jobs. Check it out.
  • The Poseidon Adventure and Blackbeard – Two 2000s-era TV miniseries make their Blu-ray debuts courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment. Right up the bat, I’ll tell you that these are both bargain titles, meaning if you’re interested in them, they’re quite affordable. I enjoyed The Poseidon Adventure solely because I love the original movie so much (plus it stars Adam Baldwin, Rutger Hauer, Peter Weller, and Steve Guttenberg) and I’m always a sucker for disaster films. Blackbeard is a less successful miniseries for me, but it is noteworthy for featuring a pre-famous Jessica Chastain in a leading role (which is probably a large part of why it’s been re-released.) I love TV miniseries (miniseries-es?), so it’s fun to see these being released in high def. Thanks, Mill Creek!
  • Night School – This moving documentary is about three adult learners trying to finally earn their high school degrees in Indianapolis, an area of the country that has amongst the lowest graduation rates in the country. Coming in at a lean 85 minutes (which is just what’s needed), the film gives us the broad strokes but also focuses on the personal stories of the three subjects, giving viewers a good anchor. It’s not a cheerful film, but there is some hope and an uplifting message to be found.
  • Union FurnaceUnion Furnace is surprisingly effective horror thriller about eight strangers competing for a huge bundle of cash… and their lives. (Of course their lives, it’s a horror movie!) From simple games like musical chairs to increasingly more dangerous and complex games, each round sees one loser eliminated (and I do mean eliminated!) With better acting from the cast of unknowns (save a role by Keith David) than you usually see in these types of films, this one was a nice surprise.
  • Treasure Hounds – What do you do when you move into your late grandfather’s dog only to find out that his dog Skipper can talk? Well, you go on a treasure hunt, of course! That’s the basic premise of Treasure Hounds (there is more to it than that, of course), which stars Norm MacDonald as the talking dog. This family movie is actually pretty enjoyable for what it is; it’s clearly aimed at young viewers and not adults, but as far as kid-friendly live-action movies go, I’ve seen much, much worse. Good for the youngsters.
  • Eva Hesse – This is one of those documentaries where I have to confess that I knew nothing at all about the subject before watching. Eva Hesse was apparently a postwar sculptor who died at age 34, leaving behind a well-renowned body of work. It’s an interesting film, although I feel like it could have been trimmed down a bit. Twenty minutes or so less of the film would have made it a more streamlined and engaging watch. Still, it’s a nice portrait of a powerful artist, so fans especially should check it out.
  • Mouton – Ostensibly, this is a film about a French teenager living in a small coastal town, an act of violence perpetrated against him, and the lives that the rest of the townspeople go on with after the event. But none of that really describes this film, which is like a painting of a seaside village brought to life. It’s atmospheric, unconventional, and not altogether linear, and it definitely will appeal to lovers of arthouse fare.

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