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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: The Mummy, Rough Night, It Comes At Night, E.T. and more


The Mummy – Okay, let’s get this out of the ay right off the bat: The Mummy isn’t NEARLY as bad as most people made it out to be. I don’t know why people were so down on this film, but critics and audiences tore it apart. Is it a great movie? No. But is it terrible? Also no. It’s a perfectly decent horror/action/thriller that I suspect suffered more because Tom Cruise dared to make a movie outside of the Mission: Impossible franchise, which seems to be the only thing people want to watch him in anymore. The movie had some great action sequences, more humor than I expected, and a villain that I liked. It also had a lot of flaws, the biggest of which was just that the film seemed too dark and too polished; it needed a little less CGI and a little more heart and charm. That said, though, it’s a perfectly fine way to kill a couple hours.

Rough Night – I’ve been reviewing movies professionally since 1999. And for years before that, I was a total movie buff, watching every film I could get my hands on. I’ve never tried to count, but I’d have to imagine I’ve legitimately seen somewhere in the neighborhood of ten to twenty thousand movies. And in all those years, I can’t remember coming across a movie I hated as much as Rough Night. This film is abysmal. It’s literally one of the absolute worst films I’ve ever seen. I can’t even fathom what Scarlett Johansson was thinking when she signed on to his film. Every character in the film is completely unlikable, the humor fails on every level, there isn’t ONE SINGLE SCENE in the film that even remotely resembles anything that could ever happen in reality, and I literally found myself getting angry while watching it at how bad it is. How many great independent movies come and go and never get seen having to fight tooth and nail to get to even a single screen, and crap like this gets a major release? Nuh-uh. Avoid this film at all costs, it’s an affront to the very idea of moviemaking.

It Comes at Night – This is one of those movies that critics loved but audiences were pretty divided on. The film was marketed as a horror movie when it’s really more of a post-virus survival thriller. There are a few horror elements to it, but really it’s a dark, dark drama. I really liked the film, despite some overly forced atmospheric moments, but man is it bleak. Seriously, don’t watch this movie if you’re feeling down or depressed, because it will bring you even further down. On the plus side, Joel Edgerton continues to prove what a fantastic actor he is. A good film, but know what you’re going into at the onset and you’ll enjoy it more.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – Obviously, this isn’t the first time that E.T. has been released on home video. This new 35th Anniversary Edition is mostly a new version that was released to capitalize on the new 4K Ultra HD format. I only received the Blu-ray for review, so I can’t comment on the new format. I can say that this Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific, and it includes a number of extra features that are sure to thrill fans of the film. As for the movie itself, I mean, what do I really need to say about it? It’s a true classic, a great family film, and one of Spielberg’s best works, even after 35 years. This is a nice edition if you don’t already own the film.

Daredevil: The Complete Second Season – The flagship Marvel Netflix show remains the best in season 2. I’m not as crazy about Daredevil (the show) as some people are, but I do enjoy it quite a bit, and I liked the second season even better than the first, partially because it could get right into the action and not need to build up the origin of Matt Murdock. While the original episodes are still available on Netflix (although not for long once Disney launches its own streaming service next year), this Blu-ray/DVD release collects the entire second season, although it comes with absolutely nothing in the way of extra features (unless you count beautiful cover art.) I wish there was more value added to make the purchase more worthwhile.

Jessica Jones: The Complete First Season – Another Marvel Netflix show, Jessica Jones didn’t quite garner as large of an audience as Daredevil did, but I also enjoy this show quite a bit. Krysten Ritter does a nice job of bringing a more obscure Marvel character (albeit one I’m a big fan of) to life. Like Daredevil above, this Blu-ray/DVD set features great cover art but no extra features, which is a bit of a disappointment. Still, if you want a TV show that features a hint of Marvel style but grounded in a slightly less superhero-y world, this is a good show to check out.

Phantasm 5-Movie DVD Collection – I love the Phantasm movies, but I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the hell happens in these films. Apparently, there’s this tall old man and a bunch of Jawas in this funeral home that’s really a portal to another planet, and there’s these glowing silver balls that fly around and kill people. How the original film spawned four sequels is almost a mystery to me. I say almost because, despite the sheer oddity of it all, the films are very entertaining. The flying silver balls are cool, and clearly they became a much bigger focus in the sequels. This new five-film collection includes all five movies on DVD for the first time in one package (there was a limited-edition Blu-ray gift set last year). It’s a real treat for fans of this oddball franchise.

Designated Survivor: The Complete First Season – Kiefer Sutherland returns to television once again in the hit TV show that sees a low-level member of the American government get thrust into an impossible situation overnight when he becomes president after a terrorist bomb takes out the President and his entire cabinet. It’s an intriguing idea for a show, especially in the current political climate, but I can’t think of anybody who would be better suited for it than Kiefer Sutherland. I honestly don’t think the show would work with anyone else in the lead role. I can’t say the show was a complete slam dunk for me, but it’s interesting enough to keep watching for the time being.

DisneyNature: Born in China – The Disney Nature films are never big box office hits, but I think they do pretty well on video. This latest entry in the series follows three animal families: panda bears, snow leopards, and golden monkeys. I like these types of films the best, that don’t just focus on one animal per film. By spreading the narrative through three equally fascinating species and combining it with stunning footage, the result is an extremely interesting, gorgeous, and engaging nature-based film. It looks spectacular in high definition, and kids and adults alike should really enjoy this one.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Dead Again in Tombstone – Danny Trejo stars in this supernatural sequel, alongside Jake Busey. The film plays out a lot like an 1800s version of Machete, except in this, Trejo is a bad-ass bank robber who comes back from the dead in order to get revenge and – ostensibly — justice. But honestly, the film is mostly shooting and fighting and not much else. I mean, it’s perfectly fine for what it is, but you really have to know exactly what kind of movie you’re going into here. Still, I have seen worse films, so I guess that’s something.
  • Variete – I’d never seen Variete before this new Blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber, but it’s a real gem from the silent era. Coming from the heydey of German silent cinema, this story of a circus performer who becomes obsessed with a woman is a surprisingly powerful movie, largely due to some exceptional cinematography. You don’t always think of silent films as being strongly made movies, but a lot of them were, and this is a great example of that. I haven’t seen any previous versions of the film, but reports seem to indicate that there has never been a quality transfer of this film on home video. While the Blu-ray edition obviously shows some age, it looks pretty good overall and I think people waiting for a good version will finally be pleased.
  • Scorpion: Season Three – CBS’s hit procedural about a bunch of societally-challenged geniuses saving the world looked pretty terrible to me when I first saw the promos for it, so I skipped it when it aired. Now that I’ve sat down to watch it on DVD, I can say that… well, it is kind of terrible. I mean, it’s entertainingly terrible, but it’s still pretty terrible. Ultimately it falls in line with a lot of other CBS procedurals. Take NCIS and cross it with Numbers, add in a little extra quirkiness, and you have Scorpion. If you can’t get enough of crime procedurals, this will fit into your schedule just fine, but it’s nothing special.
  • Silicon Valley: The Complete Fourth Season – While Mike Judge has never been able to replicate the success of Office Space, his HBO comedy about life at an upstart in Silicon Valley at least comes close. The IT/tech-based humor is spot-on, but it’s the core characters and actors that are so much fun to watch, and the show is smartly written. It also benefits from short episodes (it’s a half-hour show) and shorter seasons. It’s easy to get through the entire season in one sitting, and now I’m ready to take a break and wait for Season Five.
  • Veep: The Complete Sixth Season – I don’t know why I like so many of HBO’s drama and genre shows and hate so many of their comedies (excepting the aforementioned Silicon Valley, of course), but boy is Veep: The Complete Sixth Season a perfect example of what I don’t like. I’m a pretty big Julia Louis-Dreyfus fan, and I generally find her both very funny and a great actress. Unfortunately, I really don’t like this show at all. And the fault isn’t really Dreyfus’s. She’s absolutely fine in the lead role, but there seriously isn’t one other character in this show who isn’t an obnoxious a-hole. The dialogue is mean-spirited and insulting, and there isn’t a warm or mirthful bone in the show’s body. This is a nasty, ugly show, and to make it worse, it’s just not that funny.
  • The Resurrected – At a glance, The Resurrected could be confused with a film like Re-Animator quite easily (scientist-type uses dead people to try and extend life), but the two films couldn’t be more different. The Resurrected stars Chris Sarandon and is a much more sombre and serious affair than a film like Re-Animator, although it is also loosely based on the works of HP Lovecraft. The film itself is solid if nothing all that great (although I can’t think of a single Lovecraft-inspired film that I’m a huge fan of), but this new Shout Factory special edition is a terrific release, packed with extra features. Fans should love it.
  • Beatriz At Dinner – Something went wrong somewhere along the line with this film. Starring Salma Hayek and John Lithgow, both terrific actors, the film is just too black and white and aimless to really connect. Hayek plays a poor spiritual healer who ends up at a dinner party among rich people, most notably billionaire John Lithgow. Hayek and Lithgow basically play archetypes representative of pure good and pure evil, and the movie is supposed to be a commentary on the rich vs. poor battle going on in our world right now, but it doesn’t really work. The performances are strong, but the film’s ending is weak and the message doesn’t work because of it. Shame.
  • Decline and Fall – This BBC three-part series marks the first adaptation of this particular work by British author Evelyn Waugh, best known for Brideshead Revisited. It stars the likable Jack Whitehall and Eva Longoria (continuing her stretch of roles that are designed to remind people she’s more than just Desperate Housewives). It’s a dramedy that works really well, largely because the cast is winning and the script is terrific. I’m not sure if there’s going to be more of this show, but I hope there is.
  • Rake: Series 3 – I think there was an American remake of this show a season or two ago. I say “I think,” because it was so short-lived, I can’t even remember for sure. This original series stars Richard Roxburgh (best known as the bad guy in Moulin Rouge, but completely unrecognizable as the same actor here) as a “rakish” defense lawyer who defends some of the worst of the worst. He also has to survive his own self-destructive behavior and the fact that most people either love him or hate him. I haven’t seen Roxburgh in any leading roles that I can think of, but he’s utterly terrific here and he carries the show with aplomb. Worth a look if you need a new show to binge on.
  • Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Wanted Bebop & Rocksteady – This latest collection of Nickelodeon’s hit animated series collects four episodes from season five. I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since their early days as a black-and-white comic book aimed at adults, and I’ve never let go of that fandom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the current Nickelodeon show is the best version of the Turtles I’ve seen in over 20 years. It manages to find inspiration in the original comic books, infuse some flavor of the original cartoon, capture some of the feel of the movies, and even give it a bit of a video game flavor. It takes all of the best and various versions of the Turtles and mashes them up into one utterly terrific show, packed with action and filled with humor.
  • Drone Wars – The only reason to watch this SyFy-styled action flick – at least for me – is because Corin Nemec is in the lead role. I’ve been a fan of his ever since Parker Lewis Can’t Lose back in the early 1990s and through to his role on Stargate SG-1. I’ve always just liked him, so I figured I’d check this one out, plus I like alien invasion movies. The film turns out to be completely average in every way. It’s not bad and it’s a fine way to kill 90 minutes, but you will forget it existed the second it’s over. The special effects are okay; I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. And that pretty much sums up the movie as a whole, too.
  • Lego Nexo Knights: Storm Over Knighton: Season Three – With this release, you get two discs of Lego-ey action in the toy company’s latest TV series, Nexo Knights. My son absolutely loves these Lego sets, and he really enjoyed the TV show as well. If you’ve seen Ninjago or any of the Lego Star Wars specials, you know exactly what you’re in for here. Semi-serious storytelling, surprisingly good CGI, and moments of humor that are appropriate for kids. This is a fun show that any Lego fan will probably enjoy.
  • One Week and a Day – This Israeli-made film seems like a somber affair at first (a couple mourns the loss of their adult son) but then you realize that one of the main character’s coping mechanism is to get really, really high, and you realize it’s not quite the drama it seems like at first glance. The film isn’t laugh-out-loud funny (at least, it wasn’t for me), but there are some wry chuckles to be found, and the cast is likeable enough for being completely unknown here in the US. Worth a look for fans of slightly more offbeat fare.
  • Abacus: Small Enough to Jail – While the title is confusing, this documentary focuses on the only bank to have been indicted (or whatever the correct term is) after the financial crash of 2008. It follows the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York, who faced legal action for mortgage fraud, which m any people think happened solely because they were “small enough to jail.” The legal battle that ensued over the next five years gives this doc the meat of its story. It’s a pretty fascinating special, even if the financial stuff is occasionally a bit dense. Worth a watch.
  • Monsieur Le President – Honestly, I didn’t expect much from Monsieur Le President, but it turned out to be a pretty interesting documentary. The film follows a filmmaker in Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. She meets a voodoo priest who becomes something of a local leader and becomes friends with him, but over the next three years, her views of him begin to change. It’s not some major plot twist, but it does approach a subject which is often glossed over in documentary filmmaking: lionizing and editorializing real-life people. The filmmaking is a bit much at times (a lot of shaky camera work I could have done without), but the story itself is strong enough to make it worth watching.
  • PBS Kids: It’s Potty Time – Where was this DVD when my kids were in diapers? Well, if you have a kid of the right age, this is a nice collection of shows that focus on potty training. It’s not a pure instructional DVD, so if that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. Instead, you get three episodes of popular PBS Kids show: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train, and Peg + Cat. Each episode sees potty training or potty-related stories take center stage, so it’s perfect for your toddlers trying to break free of diaper jail.
  • King Duckling: Seize the Day – My kids are a bit too old for this show now (well, a lot too old), but I bet they would have loved it when they were younger. Created by Josh Selig (who’s best known for creating The Wonder Pets) and a slightly more traditionally animated effort than that previous show, this show focuses on three friends: P. King Duckling, Chumpkins, and Wombat, who share a number of fun adventures together. With very clever music (from one of the guys from They Might Be Giants), it’s a fun show that little ones should love.

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