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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: 47 Meters Down, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more


47 Meters Down

Transformers: The Last Knight – I’m not a Transformers hater. I’m a longtime fan of the franchise from my childhood, and I actually liked a couple of Michael Bay’s films, specifically the first and the third. But now, not only are they getting redundant, but they’re getting terrible. This last one is honestly one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. There’s exactly one good scene in the film, and it’s a battle towards the end of the movie between Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Other than that, it’s bad dialogue, insipid plotlines, and weird moments (what is Anthony Hopkins doing here?) that just doesn’t work at all. Plus, it’s boring. Let’s let this franchise mercifully come to an end until its inevitable robot reboot.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – It’s amazing to me that Close Encounters came out in 1977, the same year as Star Wars. While the two films couldn’t be more different, they cemented 1977 as science fiction’s greatest year. This newest edition of Close Encounters once again sees all three versions of the film (theatrical version, extended edition, and Director’s Cut) into one set, with the film in high definition and a number of great extra features, including a couple of new ones. Many people probably own the film already but if you don’t have it in high def, there’s really no reason to wait anymore.

47 Meters Down – I actually reviewed this movie once before. I got an advanced screening copy on DVD earlier this year, as it was originally intended to go direct-to-video, but then that release was yanked and it was released theatrically. And honestly, I can see why they did it. Between the success of last year’s The Shallows, Mandy Moore’s increased popularity thanks to the success of This Is Us, and the fact that this movie is actually really good, I’m glad it got more attention. Think The Descent with sharks, and you have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for here. There are some amazing sequences too, where it really seems like the actresses are swimming with real sharks. It’s a great thriller, one of the best I’ve seen in this genre in a while.

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars – The Starship Troopers franchise has — despite the best efforts of Sony to dilute it — managed to retain a pretty fervent fan base since the original movie was released in 1997. A couple of direct-to-video live action sequels didn’t really do all that much to further the franchise, while the animated series spawned by the movies was an underrated gem that didn’t really fare all that well. Now we have Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, the newest all-CGI feature-length film that’s in the mold of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within or Resident Evil: Degeneration, a lifelike CGI motion picture. And I will say, it’s pretty damn good. Bringing back the characters from the film, Johnny Rico and Dizzy (voiced by Casper Van Dien and Dina Meyer, yay!) is a good start. Overall, the film is extremely cool, and it’s the best Starship Troopers movie I’ve seen since the original.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – What an odd slice of 1970s this film is. Based on the concept behind the concept album that was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this film follows fictional singer Billy Shears (Peter Frampton?) and his friends the Hendersons (The Bee Gees?!?) as they go on a journey towards stardom. The film is filled with references to the Beatles’ last couple albums (Mean Mr. Mustard shows up, and he wasn’t even on the Sgt. Pepper’s album), and the film features music and appearances by a slew of notable ‘70s music luminaries (such as Aerosmith). It’s obviously very dated and more than a bit cheesy, but it’s also rather hypnotic. A cool, fun throwback.

Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series – One of the best television shows of the last decade makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment. So, is Friday Night Lights as good as they say? The answer is a resounding YES! The show’s characters are what make it. Not only do you have the coach under monumental amounts of pressure, but you also have his family. Anyone who is married or has ever been married will instantly recognize that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are, without question, the single best portrayal of a married couple on television. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re probably the best married TV couple of the past two decades; they’re just that good. Surround these two amazing characters with the small-town businessmen, the quarterback in a wheelchair, the emotionally vulnerable cheerleaders, the brash running backs, the shy superstars in the making, and plenty of other interesting characters and you have a town populated with real people who are always fascinating to watch. This box set is the reason why binge-watching was invented.

Hype! – What The Decline of Western Civilization was for punk music, Hype! Is for the grunge era of the early ‘90s. Featuring footage of seminal acts such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Posies, Mudhoney, and more, this terrific documentary takes us back to the ‘90s and explores how grunge became the defining sound in American music – for a couple of years. Loaded with killer music (and the Blu-ray includes a ton of extra features) this is a must have for people who love the grunge era or who simply love a good slice of music history.

Taken: Season 1 – This show is a perfect example of what’s wrong with Hollywood these days. No, it’s not that it’s a terrible show. It’s a perfectly serviceable action-procedural with spies and spooks and revenge. But this prequel to the hit film series is completely unnecessary. Heck, the second and third films were unnecessary. The original movie was a big hit, but Hollywood can’t ever just have a hit movie and be happy with that. They had to make two more movies which were also moderately successful. And when they couldn’t pull off any more movies, well, sure, why not a TV show? Just let it die, Fox. It’s not a great enough show to really justify continuing the brand.

Flatliners – Mill Creek, a home video studio that mostly focuses on low-priced movie collections and catalog releases, gives us the first ever Blu-ray of Flatliners, a quintessentially ‘90s film. I feel like Flatliners is one of those movies that everyone thinks they love, but isn’t actually all that good. I’m not saying it’s a terrible film, but I don’t think it holds up very well and I don’t think it’s as good as people have built it up in their minds to be. Mill Creek’s steelbook packaging is absolutely gorgeous and I love it; it’s just a shame that they couldn’t muster up a single extra feature to go on the disc.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Mune: Guardian of the Moon – A cadre of comedians lend their voices to this acclaimed animated film, including Patton Oswalt, Ed Helms, and Jeff Dunham (along with lead actors Rob Lowe and Christian Slater). While it didn’t get much of a theatrical release her in the US, I think it will find an audience. It’s a fun story with a guardian of the moon in a fantastic far away land searching for the missing sun. It’s a bit long for younger audiences, but the great animation and familiar/talented voices will keep slightly older kids engaged. A fun one to discover.
  • Shameless: The Complete Seventh Season – William H. Macy’s hit Showtime series continues to chug along. Unfortunately, I missed the first few seasons of this show, so I’ve felt like I’m playing catch up since I started watching it on DVD. I haven’t watched too much of this show, but it doesn’t really grab me all that much. The humor isn’t as sharp and the characters aren’t as engaging as I like in my comedies. Again, I might be missing something because I came into the show so late, so I’m sure fans of the show will be happy to have Season 7 in their collections.
  • Ned and Stacey: The Complete Series – Remember when Thomas Haden Church and Debra Messing starred in a sitcom together? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. It’s funny, I don’t think I ever watched a single episode of Ned and Stacey, but it’s completely familiar to me as a show. I was surprised then to get this Complete Series set and realize it only lasted a single season. I could’ve sworn this show was on for at least a few seasons. Regardless, it hasn’t aged all that well, but there are definitely some funny moments with two terrific talents, so I’m sure there are fans who will be happy to have it on DVD for the first time.
  • Coach: The Complete Series – I was never the biggest fan of Coach in the world, but I also never really watched it all that often. It was really a show I was more cursorily aware of than actually engaged with. Now, Mill Creek has collected the entire series into one fairly-priced box set, and having the chance to go back and watch it, I can definitely appreciate it more than I did before. Craig T. Nelson is terrific, and his supporting cast earns a lot of laughs. The show is very rooted in the ‘90s, and I don’t know that it would win over a brand-new audience these days, but I can say that I like the show more than I ever have before. For fans of the show, this low-priced set is a real treat.
  • David Lynch: The Art Life – I’m not a huge David Lynch fan. In fact, I don’t really like his films at all. But I can appreciate this documentary about Lynch (which includes input and appearances by Lynch himself.) In part, that’s because it’s a well-crafted movie. But it also focuses more on his early life and journey to becoming a filmmaker, and not just a play-by-play of the movies he’s made. In fact, it barely delves into his film career. Which, of course, is perfectly Lynch-ian. While I’m not a fan of the film’s subject, the film itself is an accomplishment.
  • 2:22 – This is one of those films that isn’t really all that great, but I enjoyed it anyway. When an air traffic controller is paralyzed for a few seconds by a bright light, two planes almost collide. In the following days, strange events start happening to him, always at 2:22 the time of the flash. It’s that kind of intriguing premise that draws me in to these lower-budgeted sci-fi flicks, and it’s an easy watch. It’s nothing special or over-achieving, but I like lead actress Theresa Palmer and the story was interesting enough to keep me engaged. Worth a watch when you’ve got nothing else on the DVR.
  • Longmire: The Complete Fifth Season – I didn’t watch Longmire when it originally aired because it looked like too much of a Justified rip off, but it does sort of manage to establish its own identity, even if it’s clearly influenced by Justified. The show kind of seems like the adventures of Raylan Givens after he retires and moves out to Montana. I guess the show has its audience as it’s lasted five seasons, but I could just never get into it. If you’re a fan, you’ll be pleased, but I feel like this is a show that isn’t drawing new viewers in any more.
  • The Devil’s Candy – A demonic/haunted/past events house story? Yawn. These are a dime a dozen today. Oh, wait a minute… this one stars Ethan Embry and Shiri Appleby? Oh, well, okay, now you’ve got my attention. And while ultimately The Devil’s Candy doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does have a few twists in it that separate it a bit from what this genre usually offers. Add to that the fact that it’s a brisk hour and 15 minutes, and this is an easy horror flick to breeze through with a likable cast.
  • Channel Zero: Candle Cove – Everyone seems to know what this show is, but I had never heard of it before this DVD crossed my desk. Turns out that it’s based on a popular creepypasta. Now, I didn’t know what that was either, so I had to do some research, but apparently it’s the name for horror stories that are open on the internet, stories that people can just add and build onto at will (think the Slenderman legend.) This six-episode first season sees a man investigating a TV show from his childhood in the 1980s that seems to be related to a number of terrible happenings in his own life. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s an intriguing and sometimes creepy show. I dug it, especially since it’s only six episodes, not drawn out over a long season or two.
  • Suspect – Mill Creek makes another appearance in this week’s column with another Blu-ray debut. This time, it’s for a less famous movie than Flatliners, the crime thriller Suspect starring Cher and Dennis Quaid. Despite the fact that I devoured every movie on the planet in the 1980s, I had never seen this one before now. I know it’s easy to chalk up a movie with Cher as dismissible, but she and Dennis Quaid are both quite good here. The film is a mix of mystery and legal thriller, and it works pretty well overall.
  • Big Pacific – This PBS documentary series (five hours of content!) focuses on exactly what the title implies: The Pacific Ocean, which is pretty darned big. Filled with amazing imagery of sea life and landscapes, this film is breathtaking, even more so in Blu-ray. The cover image is simple, but the program itself is lush and gorgeous, and also quite fascinating. And it’s not just underwater footage, either. The show takes you to coastlines and islands, and follows divers and explorers as well. It’s definitely worth a watch.
  • Line of Duty: Series 4 – Thandie Newton takes over the lead role in Line of Duty: Series 4, a critically acclaimed British series about police corruption. Dark, intense, and well-acted, this is one to check out for sure. This season takes the show in a new direction with new characters, but it stays true to what made the show popular in the first place. British police dramas are second to none, and this one will be sure to keep any fans of crime-drama satisfied.
  • Janet King: Series 3 – This is a British courtroom drama featuring “senior crown prosecutor” Janet King. With eight hours of episodes, this is an easy show to get engrossed in, as it’s fantastic. Marta Dusseldorp is terrific in the lead role, and the show is engaging from the start, with the perfect mix of crime and court as well as personal matters that drive the characters and inform their actions. It’s not the kind of show I usually don’t go for, but in this case, I was impressed.
  • 3 Idiotas – This 2017 film is a remake of a 2009 film of the same name, only this time it’s by Mexican filmmakers instead of middle eastern. The story follows a couple of friends who try to reunite one of their college buddies with a girl he was in love with. It’s not an original story or anything, and the English subtitles (the film is in Spanish) will turn off some viewers, but it’s a light breezy comedy that I found rather enjoyable. A good one to throw on and have a little fun with.
  • Girl in the Box – This was a tough one. This film is based on the real-life story of a young woman who was abducted and kept in a coffin-sized box by a husband-and-wife for seven years. It’s a well-made film with excellent performances. The main problem is that the crime involved is just so terrifying and horrific that it’s hard to watch. Between her being kept in the box and the sexual slavery she suffers, it will turn your stomach. The film presents the events in measured tones, not reveling in the unpleasantness, but it’s still a hard film to watch, although a good one. Best for true crime aficionados.
  • All the Sins of Sodom / Vibrations – This Blu-ray double feature brings us two films from erotica – or sexploitation — pioneer Joseph Sarno. I have to admit, I don’t know much about Sarno, so this set served as an introduction to me. The films aren’t particularly subtle but they aren’t quite hardcore, either – although they certainly border on it at times. All the Sins of Sodom is set in the fashion industry, while Vibrations deals with a woman coping with her own sexual repression. These 1960s-made films are interesting flashbacks and certainly good for students of cinema, but I don’t know if they’re the kind of thing you just throw in on a Friday night. Or maybe they are!
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series and Johnny and Friends – There are two new Tonight Show classic collections out for fans to enjoy. Johnny and Friends: The Complete Collection is a 10-disc set which features sic discs of previously released Johnny and Friends (featuring 28 episodes of The Tonight Show in their entirety!), plus three exclusive discs (Best of 60s and 70s, Best of 70s and 80s, and Best of ‘80s and ‘90s) as well as three Christmas episodes. Meanwhile, The Vault Series is a six-disc collection that features 12 episodes in their entirety, including the 10th and 11th Anniversary episodes, Johnny’s birthday episodes, and a few others from the mid-70s (every episode in this set is from the 1970s). Both collections come with a ton of extra features, and they’re a great flashback to the greatest late-night host in history.
  • Ruby – Piper Laurie stars in the B-horror movie from 1977 is firmly from the era that brought us films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not so much scary as it is squirm-inducing, and it will make you feel uncomfortable and on edge from the very start. I can’t say it was really my cup of tea, but I am happy to see a cult film like this get a proper Blu-ray review with high def picture and even a host of extra features.
  • The Dead Next Door – Speaking of squeamish horror movies getting nice Blu-ray editions, The Dead Next Door is even more of an unknown cult movie than Ruby is. It’s an ultra-low-budget zombie flick from about 20 years ago, and I’m actually not quite sure why it earned such a lavish special edition. With hours of extra features, it’s a great release for fans of director/producer J.R. Bookwalter, who is one of the most prolific low-budget horror producers of the last two decades. If you don’t fall into that camp, this movie doesn’t have a lot to offer, although the Blu-ray itself does.
  • Documented, Sign Painters, Bite Size, In Country – Film movement presents four new documentaries this week, all in nice cardboard book-style packaging. Documented is a film by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas who declared himself as an illegal immigrant and traces his journey here as he shares his story. It’s a pretty powerful piece, and Vargas is an impressive talent. Sign Painters is about exactly what it sounds like: people who hand-paint signs, from names on glass office doors to much bigger art projects, who are the people that make their living painting signs? It’s a surprisingly interesting film. Bite Size is a tough but important doc focusing on childhood obesity and the epidemic it’s become n our country over the past few decades. It’s not an easy watch, especially for parents, but it delivers a powerful message. Finally, In Country is a film that documents something I didn’t even know existed: Vietnam War reenactments. I knew that there were people who did Revolutionary and Civil War reenactments, but I had no idea people were doing the same thing with the Vietnam War. The film delves into some deeper issues at well, and it was certainly different than what I expected.

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