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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Baywatch, Star Wars Rebels, My Cousin Rachel, Batman & Harley Quinn and more


Baywatch – Sometimes good movies bomb. And sometimes bad movies do inexplicably well. But sometimes, if we’re really lucky, a movie gets exactly what it deserves. And Baywatch is one of those movies. Expected to be one of the summer’s biggest hits, Baywatch instead arrived DOA at the box office. And honestly, it’s completely deserved. The movie is awful. Even Dwayne Johnson – one of my favorite people to watch on the big screen – can’t save this disaster. First off, by ten minutes into the movie, I already hated every character in the film. Then you have the fact that none of the jokes are funny and that there’s excessive swearing that’s completely unnecessary (this could easily have been a more accessible PG-13 movie). Add to that the really, REALLY poor writing (Zac Efron’s character doesn’t know if he’s a complete moron or a super-sleuth, or whether he’s a hero or a coward), and the result is just a giant mess. Don’t even bother with this one.

Batman & Harley Quinn – This latest DC Animated Universe original movie is the best one in a while, although it’s not a complete home run. Taking inspiration from the original Batman: The Animated Series in the early ‘90s, this film sees Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy, voice in BTAS) and Nightwing (Loren Lester, again from BTAS) teaming up with a somewhat reformed Harley Quinn (new to the voice actor Melissa Rauch, best known for playing Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory) to stop Poison Ivy and The Floronic Man, who might be placing the whole planet in jeopardy. I like that they tried to hearken back to the best superhero animated show in history, but I wish they’d gone all the way and done it fully in that animation style, rather than using their staple animation style with a BTAS flavor to it. That said, it’s more entertaining than the last couple DC animated movies have been, so that’s good.

My Cousin Rachel – I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. Starring Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, and Iain Glen, the film is the second adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel. The original 1950s film had Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. It’s a period drama, but there’s a suspenseful edge as we try to decide whether or not Rachel Weisz’s titular character killed her husband or not. Weisz is terrific, but the film overall could have been stronger. It’s slow moving and quiet, and while it gets interesting towards the end, it takes a while to get there.

Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Third Season – I love this show. Love it, love it, love it. Now, admittedly I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but I think it’s pretty clear that the show is catered to kids who like Star Wars as well as adult Star Wars fans, and it works so well. The first season was solid and enjoyable; the second season upped the ante and the third season is utterly fantastic. There are more and more ties to the films (the show takes place before A New Hope) and the cast of main characters is terrific (plus some more familiar faces begin to become semi-regular characters!) Add in sound effects straight from the movies that really transport you to the Star Wars Universe. Star Wars fans of all ages should love this show!

The Lion King – I usually ding Disney for releasing and re-releasing many of their biggest hits, so that there are seemingly dozens of editions of the same movie out on disc. And while that’s not entirely untrue in this case, I realized that it has been over six years since the last Blu-ray release of The Lion King, which in Disney years is an eternity. This new Signature edition includes the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy, and it also includes a slew of extra features. As for the film itself, well, I mean, it’s The Lion King. It’s my favorite Disney animated film. If you love The Lion King and somehow don’t own it (or don’t have it on Blu-ray yet), then this is the version you need to get.

Bring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack – Despite having the worst movie title of all time (yes, it really is called Bring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack), the newest entry in the Bring It On franchise will likely appeal to its target audience because of the social media essence that pervades it. In 2017 cheerleading, the sport is dominated by videos and live performances online by popular cheer squads. When The Rebels get hacked by The Truth, their world starts to fall apart. Of course, ultimately there’s a cheer off, and everything is pretty predictable from there. This is a much more modern (woke?) take on the franchise and tweens will probably enjoy it, but it’s a bit soulless.

NCIS: The Fourteenth Season – I’ll be honest, I never thought NCIS was going to last a full season, let alone fourteen seasons. To me, it just seemed like such a blatant rip-off of the then-scorching hot CSI franchise that I figured viewers would reject it in favor of the original forensics investigators. Shows what I know; NCIS has been a constant presence on the television landscape for well over a decade now. So I get that NCIS is an incredibly popular show. What I can’t figure out is why; the show is terrible. I should clarify; it’s crap, but it’s entertaining crap. I mean, it’s a watchable show, it’s zippy, and there are some halfway interesting crimes to be solved, but the whole thing is just completely lightweight, with no emotional heft whatsoever. Mark Harmon seems to have disappeared now; his entire role mainly consists of walking on set, saying, “Come on, let’s go,” to the team, and walking right back out again. Pass.

Gotham: The Complete Third Season – In its third season, Gotham continues to be the best worst show on TV. In theory, the show’s concept is fantastic: a prequel to the Batman mythos, the storyline focuses on a young Lieutenant Jim Gordon (eventually to become Commissioner Gordon) in the time after Batman’s parents were murdered, as he tries to bring justice to a lawless city. The show incorporates future villains like The Penguin (one of the show’s breakout characters), Catwoman, The Riddler and several others, all in pre-super villain guise. But the show has a LOT of flaws; it doesn’t quite capture the world of Batman the way I think a lot of fans see it, but it gets better as it goes along and is a fun new take on a familiar legend. It’s terrible but awesome at the same time; I don’t get it, but I do keep watching.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

    • Elementary: The Fifth Season – I’ve always been underwhelmed by this show, but it turned out to be a big hit for CBS. And there’s no denying that it’s gotten better as the seasons went on, but the main problem I have with it is Sherlock. See, the show is based on the BBC’s modern-day updating of Sherlock Holmes, and that show is just so incredibly good. So every time I watch Elementary, I can’t help but think that I’d rather be watching Sherlock. That said, it’s an enjoyable-enough show to watch, especially for mystery fans. Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu play off each other well, and their rapid-fire back-and-forth is evocative of Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Sherlock Holmes, which isn’t a bad thing. I can see why people like this show, I just wish I was more into it. I love mysteries, and I love Sherlock Holmes, but I only like this show. Too bad.
    • Never Let Go – If you ever wanted to see Taken but minus Liam Neeson or any other recognizable actors, then Never Let Go is the movie for you. In this film, it’s a mother (who is a former FBI agent on vacation) out to rescue her kidnapped child in Morocco. Along the way, she kicks some ass and takes some names. And despite the lack of any behind-the-scenes or on-camera names in the film, it’s surprisingly not bad. The action scenes have some verve to them and lead actress Angela Dixon does a formidable job with a script that came directly from the cliché-action-movie-handbook. Not bad overall.
    • Black Sails: Season 4 – Starz’s hit pirate series returns home video, and this time it’s the last, which I’m okay with. With Michael Bay producing, the production values on this show are amazing, but I could never get all that into it, despite a terrific cast. Starz was clearly trying to create a Game-of-Thrones-with-pirates show, but I think they never quite pulled it off. The cast is strong and the action sequences are outstanding, but I could just never get engaged. If you like the show, this is a must-have for your collection so you can wrap up the show in style, but for me, I won’t really miss Black Sails.
    • The Originals: The Complete Fourth Season – In its fourth season now and with The Vampire Diaries having come to an end, this show remains the only way to get your fix from that particular universe. While I’m not a regular viewer, what I’ve always liked about this show is that it feels like part of the Vampire Diaries world, yet it has its own distinctive flavor as well. You don’t need to watch Vampire Diaries in order to watch this show. Once you’re enmeshed in the world of The Originals, you can watch it as a stand-alone show or as a companion to TVD. This season seems like more of the same, which I guess is a good thing if you’re a fan of the series.
    • Peanuts: School Days – I love this DVD. I’ve always been a huge Peanuts fan, and I’ve seen pretty much every Peanuts special that ever came out. This new collection of animated shorts includes 20 shorts that run about three hours total. What’s nice is that with such a breadth of short films you see a lot of the Peanuts characters getting the limelight, so you see a lot of familiar faces beyond just Charlie Brown and Snoopy. It’s a lot of fun, and kids and adults alike will enjoy it equally. Of course, this time around there’s a school theme, but it’s not like it’s suddenly educational or only school-based vignettes, more of an overarching theme. Fun!
    • Killing Hasselhoff – David Hasselhoff has made a nice second career for himself by playing… well, himself. He’s cameoed in everything from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to Piranha 3DD to the Baywatch movie, and here he takes on a supporting role as himself once again. Ken Jeong plays a man in over his head who has to kill Hasselhoff to win half a million dollars in a celebrity death pool and pay off a mobster. With a ton of celebrity cameos and co-stars like Jim Jeffries and the always-funny Rhys Darby, the film is okay. It’s not as terrible as it could be, as there are actually some funny moments here and there. But it’s not great, either. Running under an hour and a half, it’s a quick watch and fun enough if you’re bored.
    • Inconceivable – Earlier this year, I made a New Year’s movie resolution to stop watching these kinds of thrillers. You know, the one where a man/woman becomes obsessed with their employer/ex/nanny/mistress/new love. Because they’re all the same. This one has Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon, and Nicky Whelan, but I was pretty sure I knew what I was in for. And while there are no boiled bunnies in this one, it really doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. Ultimately, we’ve all seen this film before. Too many times now.
    • Dean – Demetri Martin is one of my absolute favorite stand-up comedians, and with Dean he tries his hand at filmmaking, which he writes, directs, and stars in. Starring Martin, Kevin Kline, Gillian Jacobs, Rory Scovel, and Mary Steenburgen, the film is more of a dramedy than a straight up comedy, and I’m okay with that. Martin and Kline play a father and son who lose their mother/wife respectively and dal with the grief in different ways. Martin shows a nice handle on blending comedy and drama, and while the film isn’t a high octane laugh-fest or dramatic powerhouse, it is a nice, sweet, enjoyable film.
    • Heal the Living – This moving French film is one of those movies that takes three seemingly unrelated stories and slowly but surely reveals how they are connected. Starring Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Anne Dorval, the three stories follow a group of young surfers, a woman with a failing heart, and a group of medical professionals. How it all ties together isn’t apparent readily, but as you make your way through the film it all starts to gel. There are some great performances to be found here and the story is an intriguing one. It’s not for everyone, but if you like slightly artsier fare, check this one out.
    • Delicious: Series 1 – I love Iain Glen (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Jack Taylor) and I’ll generally watch anything he’s in, so this was an easy watch for me. This show (four episodes so far, more to come in Season 2) focuses on the ex-wife and current wife of a Cornwall-based Chef who is known for being a bit of a rogue. When the current wife suspects that Glen is cheating on her, she approaches the first wife (whom he cheated on with the second wife!) for clues as to what to look for to confirm her suspicions. From there, things get juicy, and the show is packed with scandal, humor, and some genuinely heartfelt moments. A great first season, I’m looking forward to seeing more in Season 2.
    • Sesame Street: Trick or Treat on Sesame Street – I think by this point we all know what you get when you purchase a Sesame Street DVD, and that’s a good thing. Parents know it’s one of the most time-honored shows for kids in the history of television. This DVD release focuses on Halloween, and kids should love the Halloween theme that is anything but spooky, so you don’t have to worry about nightmares or anything like that. And of course, there’s plenty of Elmo!
    • Ireland’s Wild Coast – Ireland is well known for its culture and people, but it’s also an amazing and beautiful country as well. This terrific documentary spends two hours discovering the wild coast of Ireland: beautiful landscapes, wild animals (humpback whales, eagles, deer), and a side of Ireland we don’t usually see. Running two hours, the film features some amazing visuals (I highly recommend the Blu-ray over the DVD in this case) and it will give you a whole new appreciation for a country that you might not know as much about.
    • Visions of the Great Cities of Europe – Sure, I’d love to take a tour of Europe, but I can’t afford it. However, this hour-long DVD is a nice substitute for the time being. Giving us aerial and panoramic views of a number of European hotspots, this program lets us see Vienna, the Cote d Azur, Rome, London, Amsterdam, Prague, and more. We go from sky to street and – with some informative narration along the way – we get a nice quick trip into the heart of Europe. Excellent for fans of travel documentaries.

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