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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: All Eyez On Me, Mr Mom, Megan Leavey, The Flash and more


All Eyez On Me – I hate to draw comparisons between movies as a method of reviewing a film, but when a movie seems to have been made directly in response to another film’s success, I think it’s valid. In 2015, Straight Outta Compton – a biopic of rap pioneers N.W.A. — shocked the box office world by becoming a massive financial success. Earlier this year, we got All Eyez On Me, a biopic of Tupac Shakur, which was relatively D.O.A. on arrival at the box office. The difference between the two films – to me, at least – is that there’s something missing from All Eyez on Me. There was an ease and a sense of chaotic fun to Straight Outta Compton that is missing from this newer film. It feels much more forced, and while Demetrius Shipp Jr. gives a good performance in the lead role (and also looks uncannily like Tupac), the film has some moments that work less than others. It’s an enjoyable film overall, but it doesn’t always work and the direction is pretty basic. Worth a watch, but it’s not nearly as good as its box office predecessor.

Mr. Mom – Michael Keaton is famous for a lot of roles — Batman, Birdman, Beetlejuice, and I’m sure a lot of other characters that start with B — but one I will always remember him for is Mr. Mom. Mr. Mom was my first exposure to Keaton and while he’s gone on to become one of my all-time favorite actors, I have a real soft spot for this film. I watched it over and over again as a kid, and I thought it was about the funniest movie in the world. Now, it’s been released for the first time on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory, and while the film’s concept of a stay-at-home dad in way over his head isn’t quite as topical or accurate today as it might have been in the ‘80s, it’s still a lot of fun. With a great supporting cast (Teri Garr, Martin Mull, Ann Jillian, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Tambor), the film is a great ‘80s throwback, and I’m really glad Shout Factory has given it the love it deserves.

Megan Leavey – I’m not sure why Kate Mara isn’t a bigger movie star yet. She’s a terrific actress, she can tackle any kind of role, and she’s part of a family of football magnates (the Giants are owned by her family) and Oscar-nominated actors (sister Rooney Mara). Yet she seems to always remain kind of an unknown name to the general public. In Megan Leavey, Mara once again makes a case for why she should be a bigger star, with a terrific performance as a soldier who has a special bond with her K-9 Unit companion, Rex, and the impact they had on many lives. It’s not the world’s greatest film, although it’s a solid drama with some intense sequences sprinkled throughout. Still, Mara is excellent as always, and the film’s failure at the box office is a shame.

The Flash: The Complete Third Season – I’ve been a huge fan of The Flash’s TV counterpart Arrow since the very first episode. But at times, its moody overtones can get a bit heavy. Then the CW came along and added The Flash to the mix, which is the perfect response to Arrow. Whereas Arrow is dark and gritty, The Flash is fun, lighthearted, and energetic. Grant Gustin is terrific in the lead role, and the show has felt sure-footed from the very first episode. And while it started out very villain-of-the-week at first, by the second half of the first season, the overarching storyline had turned The Flash into one of the most compelling shows on TV — and it doesn’t let up throughout the second season. It’s funny, action-packed, dramatic, complex, and exciting — everything good television should be. I love this show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to. You’ll love it too.

Just Shoot Me! The Complete SeriesJust Shoot Me is the perfect sitcom. Now, before you disagree with me, let me explain what I mean. It’s not as endearing as Modern Family or as smart as Frasier or as timeless as Friends. It didn’t run as long as Cheers nor was it as groundbreaking as MASH. So what makes it perfect? Well, because it’s none of these things. It’s the ultimate stereotypical sitcom. It’s funny, it has a great cast, it’s enjoyable to watch, but it’s not must-watch television or anything that will really change your world. Instead, it’s the perfect thing to throw on when you just want something to watch while you scarf down dinner or as a palate cleanser before bed. You can watch any episode in any order and know what’s going on. It’s exactly what a sitcom should be: a bite-sized morsel of pre-packaged entertainment. Now it’s been released in a Complete Series box set which collects all seven seasons and packages them with a nice complement of extra features, including commentaries, interviews, and featurettes. Definitely a must-have for fans of the show.

Security – Okay, Security is not a great movie, but I enjoyed it anyway. And honestly, it’s probably more due to the fact that I just love this genre of movie so much, I tend to enjoy any entries that fit this category. What genre, you ask? Well, the unarmed-mall-security-guards-trying-to-save-a-girl-from-an-evil-biker-gang genre. Give me a rag-tag group of under-prepared good guys against an overwhelming force of bad guys any day of the week and I’ll be glued to the screen. Here, we get Antonio Banderas as the leader of the security guards and Ben Kingsley in full over-acting mode as the head bad guy, and while there’s nothing about the film that sets it apart from others in the genre, I still had fun with it.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – This HBO film stars Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne, so you know you’re going to get good performances. But who is Henrietta Lacks, the subject of this based-on-true-events story? Well, that’s part of what the film is about, but the short answer is that she was a woman who dies of cancer in 1951, but her cancer cells lived on outside of her body indefinitely, which was a true medicinal miracle which allowed scientists to research and experiment on cancer without having to do so on a living subject. The film follows a young woman who is on a mission to find out who Henrietta was (and wrote the real-life book the film is based on), and it’s a really nice little film. It takes what could be a dull scientific story and turns it into a film about a real person and her impact not just on science but also her family. Good stuff.

The Last Face – The cover art for The Last Face makes the film look like an action flick starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem. Sign me up, right? Unfortunately, this film is something of a dud, following two international aid workers in Africa who fall in love to the backdrop of a war-torn continent. And while there are a few harrowing action sequences, the focus is on an ill-timed relationship and, well, melodrama. Theron and Bardem turn in solid performances, of course, but the film is dreary and dull for large stretches, and just really not something I could get into.

Lowriders – Gabriel Chavarria, Demien Bachir, Eva Longoria and Melissa Benoist star in this drama about escaping from the path set by one’s roots. It’s hard to call a film that grossed $6 million at the box office a hit, but Lowriders was released on limited screens with almost no marketing and managed to crack the Top 10 when it was released, which is pretty impressive. Delving into the Latino gang/car scene, the film touches on an area that we don’t see on-screen very often (except in very broad strokes) and while I can’t say Lowriders blew me away, it’s a solid film with some good performances that was better than I expected.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Supernatural: The Complete Twelfth Season – I’ve been a fan and a champion of Supernatural since the very first episode. For twelve seasons now I’ve been proclaiming my love for what I consider one of the single greatest TV shows of the past couple of decades. It almost gets a little tiresome, actually, continually having to try to convince people what they’re missing out on. But, of course, I don’t give up, because Supernatural is such a great show. With a few major shake-ups to the show and some neat novelty episodes – as well as a huge new character addition — Season Twelve was as sharp as ever. Supernatural remains one of my favorite shows on TV. How many shows can make that claim?
  • Criminal Minds: The Twelfth SeasonCriminal Minds is a show that I really like that I don’t watch during the season anymore because it always seems to conflict with other shows on my DVR schedule. However, I love when it comes time to release on DVD because it really is some exciting television. Sure, the adventures of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are ultimately just another procedural show, but the fact that it focuses on serial killers really gives the show an edge. It’s dark stuff and it’s not always pleasant to watch, but it is extremely addictive. The team has a great chemistry and the show has an easy rhythm; the producers clearly know what they’re doing by this point. Twelve seasons in, even if the show is a little predictable in how the episodes play out, I still find the journeys to finding the killers very rewarding.
  • Hawaii Five-O: The Seventh Season – Remaking iconic television rarely goes well, but in this case, CBS has done a bang-up job, largely thanks to the show’s casting, solid action sequences, and the interplay between Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. The show has lots of humor, solid mysteries, and doesn’t shy away from an expensive action sequence when it’s needed. The Hawaiian scenery adds to the show’s visual charms, and I understand the ladies don’t mind looking at Alex O’Loughlin all that much, either (At least my wife doesn’t seem to.) It’s not a perfect show, and the product placement is a bit out of control, but overall it’s a lot of fun. Season Seven of Hawaii Five-O continued to present some great cop-action-stories of the week, while actually developing a bit of an underlying mythology, kind of like a genre show. It’s fun and has some substance to it, too. Cool.
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Red & Red 2 4K Ultra HD – Co-written and produced by now-household-name Joss Whedon (he made a little film called The Avengers), The Cabin in the Woods is both a send-up of horror films and a horror film in and of itself. There’s no need to go into the plot, because the more you know about the film, the less fun it is. Just know that this is a kick-ass movie with a good cast, some great scares, and some really amazing humor, and go watch it. As for Red & Red 2, I have a soft spot for the first Red, and even though I thought a sequel was completely unnecessary, I certainly wasn’t upset that they made one. It’s not a slam dunk like the first film, and there are a few parts where they seem to be trying too hard, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. There are still some really great action scenes in this film, from a great car chase to an impressive display of martial arts using a glass door as a weapon to some one-on-one fistfights. All three films have now been released in 4K Ultra HD, and two of the three really shine. Both Red movies look and sound impeccable in Ultra high def, with crystal clear picture, solid blacks, strong colors, and a very active soundfield that keeps the action constantly moving. Cabin in the Woods also looks and sounds quite good, but it’s a film with a significantly lower budget than the Red movies, and it’s evident in the Ultra high def format.
  • Narcos: Season 2 – This Netflix series tells the tale of the rise of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. And it’s one of those shows I hate to review, because there’s no doubt it’s a very well-made show: good writing, great performances, interesting subject matter. But I just couldn’t get into it. Honestly, I’ve never found movies or TV shows about the drug trade to be my kind of thing, so while I can appreciate the quality of the show, it’s just not the kind of thing I can get wrapped up in.
  • Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete First Season – I’m not old enough to have watched Laugh-In when it originally aired, but I grew up watching it on Nick at Night repeats as a child. My parents were the perfect age to be fans of the show, so it was a staple in my house and I became a big fan. Laugh-In was basically one of the first sketch comedy shows, and it was filled with an amazing roster of talent including Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Gary Owens, and even a young Robin Williams. Recently released as a Complete Series box set, now you can purchase just the first season for a much more bargain-friendly price. Digging into the show, I found it to still be an incredibly fun time. It’s great to see all the old stars again, and the humor is still right on point. Sure, not every single sketch or bit still works, but the humor is largely timeless, and I had a really good time revisiting what was a huge part of my childhood.
  • Chronically Metropolitan – A good cast (Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Benson, Addison Timlin, Josh Peck, Chris Noth) highlights this dramedy about a young author who returns home after things don’t quite work out for him and tries to win back his ex. It’s a simple plot that’s really built more to highlight characters and relationships than to be filled with constant action or movement. This is one of those movies that I liked but there’s really nothing special about it. It’s a good way to kill 90 minutes, but you’ll forget about it the minute it’s over.
  • First Kill – Hayden Christiansen and Bruce Willis star in this thriller about a family on a trip to their cabin who get mixed up with some criminals on the run, which results in the couple’s young son being kidnapped. And while watching Hayden Christiansen can always be a dicey proposition, he’s actually pretty solid here. The young actor playing his son is quite good for a child actor, and Bruce Willis is a welcome familiarity. It’s a solid thriller, no less, no more, and worth a watch if you’re bored on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Iron Protector – Sometimes you just want a movie that kicks a lot of ass and doesn’t do much else, an if that’s the case, Iron Protector will fit the bill nicely. The plot is pretty basic, the characters are pretty cookie-cutter, and the overall film doesn’t reinvent the genre. But the action sequences, well, they really stand out. Stunts, fights, chases… you name it, this film has it, and it pulls them all off with aplomb. When you want to check your brain at the door and just watch people kick each other’s asses, Iron Protector is the film you want.
  • A Dark Song – This occult horror film involving a murdered young boy, a grieving mother, and an attempt to bring the dead back from the other side means we’re in familiar territory here. But first-time filmmaker Liam Gavin clearly has some talent, which is evidenced in the first half of the film, building up dread and tension slowly but surely. Unfortunately, the second half of the film doesn’t live up to the first half’s promise, but I’ve seen worse horror films overall.
  • Poldark RevealedPoldark is a popular show based on the works of Winston Graham. This new DVD is not a collection of episodes, but is rather an extended DVD extra feature. Coming in with a running time of an hour, this documentary sees the show’s cast and creators discussing how they bring the show to life. Filled with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, it’s a nice release for Poldark fans, but I’d rather have seen it as an extra feature on a regular DVD release rather than a stand-alone release.
  • Endeavour: Season 4 – The Inspector Morse prequel series continues with Endeavour: Series 4, a period mystery piece. With several feature-length movies, this Masterpiece Mystery series delivers the sleuthing goods. I can’t say this is one of my favorite shows, but I do like to pop it in when it comes around on home video. Available on Blu-ray or DVD, it’s a lot of fun. This one also includes the original Pilot episode as a bonus feature, which will be a lot of fun for fans.
  • Maurice – While Hugh Grant is the sole actor featured on the cover of this new Blu-ray release, the lead role in Maurice is actually played by James Wilby. Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves support him ably in this adaptation of E.M Forster’s affecting drama about young homosexual men in Pre-World War I Britain, when homosexuality was outlawed. Period romances can be a tough sell, but this one is extremely well-acted. Released on Blu-ray for the first time in a new edition, it’s a must have for fans of the film.
  • The Wedding Plan – I can’t think of a faith-based film that I’ve seen yet that wasn’t a Christian film. Now we have The Wedding Plan, which is kind of a wedding dramedy, but also a faith-based film from the Jewish faith. Now, I’m not really into faith-based movies, but I like a good romantic dramedy now and then, and the end result is a film that I can appreciate, even if I didn’t fall in love with it. It’s not quite My Big Fat Jewish Wedding as some reviews have called it, but it’s not exactly NOT that, either.
  • The Churchills – Historian David Starkey delivers a two-and-a-half-hour treatise on not just one, but two influential leaders of Britain, Winston Churchill, and his lesser known ancestor John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, who battled a much earlier would-be dictator of Europe, the Sun King Louis XIV of France. Starkey explores both men and their lives, their time as leaders of England, and their impact on each other (well, John’s impact on Winston at least). It can be a bit dry here and there, but largely it’s interesting stuff, especially for history buffs.
  • Down Down the Deep River – Okay, I’m not sure how to make this release make sense. It’s a 30-minute film by a member of a band I’ve ever heard of (Okkervil River) that is largely free of dialogue, and to an extent, also largely free of plot. It’s sort of a visual poem about youthful friendships, so if that sounds appealing to you, check it out. This is definitely an arthouse film release (it was available on Kickstarter a year or two ago, and now gets a traditional release on DVD), so check it out if you’re into really offbeat filmmaking.
  • Paw Patrol: The Great Pirate Rescue – This is the newest DVD release of the popular new series for pre-schoolers. The show features six dogs and their 10-year-old friend who use cool vehicles to save the day and teach lessons about “good citizenship.” It’s a fun show, and the young ones will love it. Of course, as the title implies, this one has a Pirates theme, which is nicely timed to tie in with back to school activities, as Pirates are always a popular theme in elementary schools.
  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: King Daniel for the Day – This latest installment of the popular PBS kids’ show features seven episodes of the popular series, with the usual positivity theme taking the forefront, of course. This time around, the show sees Daniel as King for a day in the lead episode. Other episodes include a birthday celebration, a library trip, and a class pet. This DVD makes for a great treat for the kiddies, and at a nice, low price. Parents of pre-schoolers will find these DVDs endearing and their kids will enjoy them as well.

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