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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Cult of Chucky, A Ghost Story, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and more


Cult of Chucky

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Is there a more disappointing franchise than Pirates of the Caribbean? The first film was a massive hit, and for good reason. It was fun, original, fresh, and exciting, unlike anything we’d seen on the big screen in a long time. Johnny Depp was a revelation and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley cemented their star statuses. Then you had the second and third films, which are completely incomprehensible messes, and utterly ruined the franchise. Now, the fourth film, which was a stand-alone story again, I actually enjoyed quite a bit, so I had high hopes for this newest entry in the franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales. And while it’s not as bad as the second and third films, it isn’t nearly as fun as the first and fourth films, either. Depp plays Captain Jack as if he’s completely drunk (instead of just a bit tipsy) through the whole film, and it just never finds that magic again. Available on Blu-ray and DVD but also 4K Ultra HD, the film looks astounding in the newest high-def format. If you have the capability (and the interest in a mediocre film), the 4K version is the one to get here. There are some great visuals in the film and they stand out in the new format.

Cult of Chucky – The Child’s Play franchise has been around for three decades now, and it’s somehow better than ever. This latest entry in the franchise – once again written and directed by Chucky mastermind Don Mancini – is over the top in the best possible way. Pretty much every cast member who survived earlier films shows up in one way or another, and the film is filled with fun kills, Chucky being Chucky, great in-jokes and meta moments. It’s a good horror film in its own right, but fans who have been following the franchise all along will really get a kick out of it. I loved it.

A Ghost Story – A few weeks ago I called Scarlett Johansson’s Rough Night the worst movie I’d ever seen. Well, it didn’t take long for that throne to get unseated. I know there’s critical acclaim for this movie, and that’s exactly why a lot of people think critics are pretentious and useless. This is the single most boring movie I’ve ever seen, and I think there are legitimately six lines of dialogue in the whole film. There is, however, a five-minute scene in which we watch Rooney Mara sit on the floor and eat an entire pie. In real time. Bite by bite. It’s excruciating. Supposedly the film is about grief and loss, and that’s pretty accurate; I grieve the 90 minutes of my life I lost watching this film. Avoid it at all costs.

A Fish Called Wanda – One of the biggest comedies hits of the ‘80s, A Fish Called Wanda was one of the rare comedy films to be a huge box office hit, garner critical acclaim, and even get nominated for (and win) a number of Academy Awards. With a number of former Monty Python all-stars in the cast (John Cleese and Michael Palin) plus Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis, it’s hard to deny what a powerhouse this movie was. Now, it’s been released in a new special edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video, who are really making a strong run at rivalling the Criterion Collection in terms of special edition releases. Highly recommended!

Children of The Corn: Special Edition – A pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton stars in this early Stephen King adaptation about a couple lost in the Midwest who come across a cult of murderous children. The film itself is a fun little horror romp, but of note here is this new special edition Blu-ray. As I mentioned above, Arrow Video is angling to become the Criterion Collection of cult films (or at least the next Scream Factory), with a beautifully-wrapped package and a ridiculous number of extra features offering up tons of new interviews and featurettes. If you’re a fan of the film at all, this is must-have material. I think I like the Blu-ray better than I do the film itself!

iZombie: Season 3 – Easily one of my favorite new shows of the last few years, iZombie is absolutely fantastic. Considering that it comes from Rob Thomas, creator of the similar and similarly excellent Veronica Mars, that’s not really a big surprise. It’s also based on a DC Vertigo Comics series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, but the similarities to that series are almost non-existent. But that doesn’t matter because the show is so much fun. Rose McIver plays a doctor-in-training who becomes a zombie in modern-day Seattle and becomes a coroner’s assistant to feed her need for brains. But feeding on brains gives her flashbacks to the people’s lives, which she uses to help a police detective solve crimes. With a perfect mix of mystery, humor, and overarching storylines, this show is the spiritual successor to Veronica Mars in every possible way, and I love it. Season 3 sees the show go in an all-new direction while still carrying over the mystery-of-the-week storylines that are so much fun. Another slice of TV perfection!

Jackals – Give me a tense horror flick with Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, and Johnathon Schaech in it, and I’m going to give you 90 minutes of my time. (Actually, 80 minutes.) The short running time is actually a boon here, as the film – which is helmed by one of the Saw franchise directors – is a grimy, taut film that is decent but not terrific. That running time keeps things moving and lets it not go stale, since the story itself (a stand-off between a family and a cult) isn’t particularly deep. An easy one to throw in for a quick horror jolt.

The Wizard of Lies – Robert De Niro plays Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer plays his wife in this HBO TV-movie about the man who bilked untold millions of dollars from people whose lives literally depended on that money. HBO has quietly become a powerhouse player in the TV-movie realm, producing a number of them focusing on recent real-world events. This is another one that sheds light on a true story that most people only know the broad strokes of, and De Niro and Pfeiffer are terrific.

The Son: Season 1 – I love Pierce Brosnan, and I’ll watch generally anything he’s in. This new show from AMC is based on the best seller and Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel of the same name, and it’s a hard drama that follows a Texas oil family through 150 years of their dynasty. It could almost be There Will Be Blood: The TV Show, as there are some similarities in the hardness of the lead characters. This is one of those odd shows that is excellently made – with strong writing and terrific performances – but I still don’t love. I think it’s just not quite my cup of tea. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, it’s just not for me. People who like sweeping historical dramas will find lots to like, though.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • 976-EVIL – Robert Englund – Freddy Krueger himself – directs this horror movie that makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Scream Factory. Here’s a hint: don’t dial 976-EVIL after watching this film, unless you want to turn into a psychotic killer. Okay, that probably won’t happen, but it is the premise of this cult classic from 1988. As always, Scream Factory has packed the disc with extra features and the Blu-ray marks the first high def release for this film that a lot of people may not remember, but does have its die-hard fan base. This disc is for them.
  • Justice League: New Frontier Commemorative Edition – One of the best of the DC Animated Universe movies, this Commemorative Edition seems to have been released mostly because the original comic book’s creator, Darwyn Cooke, passed away recently. Upon closer inspection though, I realized that this release also marks the first time the film has been released on Blu-ray, which makes it a pretty worthwhile addition to your collection. It also has a new extra feature, a documentary featurette on Darwyn Cooke, so fans of the original comics or the adaptation will be very pleased with this upgraded version.
  • Home for the Holidays – Jodie Foster directed this 1995 star-studded holiday dramedy that makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Robert Downey Jr., Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Steve Guttenberg, and Claire Danes star as an extended dysfunctional family who get together for the Thanksgiving. As you would expect, severe conflict follows. I’ll be honest, this isn’t my favorite holiday film, but there are some moments I like. The incredible cast goes a long way toward keeping it moving, but it’s not a home run. Solid film, but nothing great.
  • 2 Broke Girls: The Complete Sixth Season – This show could have also been called “Jokes About Vaginas,” because that’s pretty much what it is: Two and a Half Men, just with two female leads and a horse instead of a half of a man. I mean, yes, the premise is slightly different, but basically this is an Odd Couple-styled sitcom that just happens to have polar-opposite roommates who are women instead of men. The show’s humor is very reminiscent of Two and a Half Men, though, with a lot of jokes about sex, relationships, men, and overwrought personalities. There are some chuckles to be had, to be sure, and the characters are likable enough, but the show is ultimately nothing special. 2 Broke Girls is a pretty blue-collar sitcom, and it will appeal to people who want to laugh a little bit without having to think.
  • Warm Bodies 4K Ultra HD Warm Bodies is one of the most fun movies I have seen in quite some time. I love zombie films to begin with, but Warm Bodies isn’t really a zombie film, it’s a straight up romantic comedy. It just happens to have zombies in it. The story is a zombified update of Romeo & Juliet, except in this case, our Romeo happens to be one of the undead, and our Juliet is a living girl. In this universe, though, zombies do maintain some semblance of their personalities, and R (as he comes to be called) has just a bit more than the rest. He actually narrates the film, and it’s from the narration that much of the humor comes. Credit also to Nicholas Hoult, who gives R just the right blend of humanity and zombie-anity, and really does a great job carrying the film, even though he has almost no onscreen dialogue. Really terrific stuff. The 4K Ultra HD update gives the film an extra sheen, with a slight upgrade in the audio and video over the Blu-ray, but it’s not a startling change.
  • Churchill – Not to be mistaken for the upcoming Gary Oldman-starring Churchill film, this movie stars Brian Cox as the titular British prime minister. It’s not a biopic per se as it really just focuses on the days of World War II as opposed to Churchill’s entire life. Cox is terrific, and he has a terrific supporting cast that includes Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, and James Purefoy. It’s not a complete slam dunk, but it’s a pretty good real-life drama overall.
  • The Survivalist – I like dystopian future films and I like survival films, and The Survivalist combines both those genres so it was obvious that I was going to be interested in it. And it’s a pretty good film, but man is it bleak. This is a dark, dark film. There’s barely any dialogue, it takes place in a remote countryside and cabin, and it is relentless from the start to the finish. The performances (by actors largely unknown here in the US) are all very strong, especially considering the limited dialogue. Worth a watch, but be aware that you really need to be in the right mindset; this is not a light viewing experience.
  • It Stains the Sands Red – Brittany Allen anchors this creative and interesting new take on the zombie flick. One woman. One Zombie. In the Las Vegas desert. Sounds simple, right? Well, what do you do when you have no weapons and the zombie just keeps on coming? You can’t stop or rest for too long or it will catch up to you. That’s the premise behind this neat film. Now, I like zombie movies, but I’ve found that about 90% of the ones made these days are pretty bad. So I was excited to discover this one and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
  • Sex in the Comix – A terrific documentary about, well, sex in the comics. More specifically, it’s about the underground and indie comic book scene and the R-and-X-rated comics that shaped the scene. It features interviews with a number of comic book luminaries such as Robert Crumb and Milo Manara, as well as a number of lesser-known (to me, at least) comic book creators. As a die-hard comic book reader for most of my life, I enjoyed this deep dive into a side of comics that I’ve only rarely ventured into. Recommended!
  • The Game Changer – The latest Asian action epic, this high-octane flick sees two escape prisoners join a criminal gang. Seems pretty straightforward, no? Well, of course, that would be too easy and all is not as it seems. This results in a turnaround in the power base, and it’s not long before all hell breaks loose. I enjoyed this flick overall; it’s a bit long at 13 minutes over two hours, but if you’re looking for a solid crime/action/drama film, this will neatly fit the bill.
  • The Best of the Carol Burnett Show – At this point, the Carol Burnett Show releases are mostly just repackages of repackages. I’ll give them credit for at least giving each new release a theme. This time around, it’s the 50th Anniversary of the show. This “highlights” box set distills a selection of episodes from the complete box set that came out from Time Life last year. You get six discs with 16 episodes (12 of which make their home video debut outside that complete series box). On top of that, there are some great new special features. It’s hard to argue with what a great package this is for fans of the show! As I’ve stated before, The Carol Burnett Show is what classic television is all about and this is a great collection if you don’t already have the full series set.
  • Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume 3 – I’ve been a Bruce Lee fan for a really long time, but after you’ve seen all his movies there’s not really too many places left to go. Sure, I’ve seen some documentaries and also read some books about Lee (plus I love the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), but that’s about it. So I was pretty excited when this show came out. A dramatized version of Lee’s life, this show covers Lee’s career and his life. Danny Chan is very good in the lead role and also bears a striking resemblance to Lee, which adds to the authentic feel of the show. I’m sure much of the drama has been fictionalized, but I’d be lying if I said that really mattered to me. The show is fun to watch and is a neat look at (a version of) the life of a movie icon.
  • Loch Ness: Series 1 – Acorn brings us some of the best British, (and Scottish, and Irish, and New Zealander) mystery shows around, and I usually check them out. Once in a while I get excited about one, and Loch Ness certainly piqued my interest. Not only did it seem to have shades of Broadchurch (one of my favorite shows ever) but being set on Loch Ness made me even more intrigued. It is NOT a genre show, but the presence of the Loch Ness Monster does inform the show, just in terms with how the locals interact with the idea of the legend being part of their daily lives. And while the show is solid, it’s not as gripping as something like Broadchurch. I wish it had grabbed me more than it did, but it’s still perfectly serviceable.
  • When Calls the Heart: Year FourWhen Calls The Heart is an extremely popular TV-movie series that stars Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin and Jack Wagner. I’ve said this before, but you don’t see a lot of romances where one of the main characters is a Canadian Mounty. Well, in this case you do. It’s pretty typical Hallmark fare, but I imagine the target audience will enjoy it. This latest collection is kind of what I’ve been waiting for; each TV-movie gets released on its own DVD, and this collection sees the last six movies collected into one fairly-priced set. It’s much more cost effective than buying them individually as they come out.
  • Vincent Price Collection: 5 Frightening Features – Mill Creek’s stock-in-trade is low-priced collections of catalog titles, and this latest one is a great buy. Featuring five Vincent Price films, for well under twenty bucks you get The Bat, The Last Man on Earth, The House on Haunted Hill, The Jackals, and Shock. The first three films are bona fide Vincent Price Classics, and the other two are nice additions of some of his more obscure entries. If you don’t already own the films (most of them have been released in other collections), it’s worth spending a few bones.
  • Friar Alessandro: The Voice from Assisi – This is one of those releases that I can only talk about in a more factual objective. Friar Alessandro is a real person, an actual Franciscan friar, and he also happens to be a successful recording artist as a “crossover tenor.” This performance DVD sees the talented friar share twelve songs with viewers, mostly hymns and arias in Latin. Now, I’m simply just not a fan of this kind of music. There’s no denying that Friar Alessandro is incredibly talented, so if you’re into this kind of music, then check this DVD out.

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