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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Girls Trip, American Gods, Superman, The Good Place, Rawhead Rex and more


Girls Trip – Movies geared towards women don’t make money. Movies geared for African American audiences don’t make money. Or so Hollywood pundits would have you believe. Then comes along a movie like Girls Trip, which proves once again that if you make a good movie that people will want to see, they’ll see it no matter what demographic they fit into. Girls Trip — which is about exactly what it sounds like and stars Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina King, and Tiffany Haddish – tapped into a couple of markets that are underserved and walked away a big hit. As for the film itself, it works so well because even if you’re not in one of the “target demographics,” the film is still largely enjoyable, with a winning cast and some great comedy.

American Gods: Season 1American Gods is Starz making a serious bid for a Game of Thrones-like hit for the network. And it has a similar mix of great production values, strong performances, and wildly varied characters. And I know people who really love the show. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Despite being a big fan of author Neil Gaiman (upon whose book the show is based), there’s something in this show that doesn’t work for me. I don’t know if it’s too dark or too strange or maybe both, but I don’t love it. It’s intriguing and it looks great, but I had a hard time getting engaged. Maybe Season Two will grab me more.

Superman: The Movie Double Feature – I love this new Blu-ray release from The Warner Archive print-on-demand service ( There’s been no shortage of Superman movie home video releases, but this one is a great version of the first movie (although I’d like it better if they’d managed to squeeze the theatrical cut on here as well.) What you get on this double feature is the Director’s Cut of Superman (by Richard Donner, with a different ending and more of Donner’s original footage) and the Extended Edition of the film (which runs almost three hours long and includes rarely-seen footage created for the television airing of the film.) It’s a great way to see a couple of the alternate versions of such a beloved film. Neither is quite as good as the final theatrical version, but for Superman fans and completists, it’s great to have both of these versions on Blu-ray.

The Good Place: Season One – Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in one of the most original network comedies in quite some time, and I can’t tell you what it’s about. It’s not because I don’t understand it, but honestly, the less you know about this show going into it, the better. Suffice it to say that it has a metaphysical bent to it, but it manages to deliver everything you want from a sitcom at the same time. Kristen Bell is terrific, and I really love the humor of this show. Check it out and be surprised by it… you’ll have a lot of fun doing so.

Three O’clock High – I love this movie. While never a big hit, it’s one of my favorites from the ‘80s. Casey Siemaszko and Richard Tyson star in this story of an average guy who gets on the wrong side of the school bully and has until three o’clock to get out of a certain beating. It’s one of those ‘80s comedies that isn’t so much a comedy as a dramedy, meaning it’s short on laugh out loud chuckles but long on charm and lighter moments, but it’s still completely charming. I still don’t know why Casey Siemaszko never became a bigger name in Hollywood, as I think he does a great job here carrying an entire film on his shoulders. But this is a great ‘80s flashback and I really enjoyed revisiting this film.

Green Acres: The Complete Series – Man, I loved this show when I was a kid. I watched it in re-runs, and it seemed like it was always on when I was young. Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert were pure magic on screen together, and the story of high society socialite living and working on a farm was always good for comedy gold. It was like the reverse Beverly Hillbillies. Now, the entire series is available in one terrific box set from Shout Factory, delivering all 170 episodes on 24 discs. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’d watched this show, and I was happy to see it’s just as charming now as it was when I watched it in my youth. Another great set that I expect will be a nice holiday gift for many people.

Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle – I’ve always wanted to like Studio Ghibli’s slate of critically acclaimed and well-loved films, but for some reason, they’ve just never done anything for me. I realize these are fantasy movies, but Miyazaki’s worlds are always populated by such oddball creatures and weird concepts that — for me, anyway — it always takes away from the central story. Now, we have brand new re-releases of six of the most important and popular Ghibli films in new editions that are loaded with extra features and featuring top-notch picture and sound. Ponyo is my least favorite Ghibli film, and that hasn’t changed. Kiki’s Delivery Service is admittedly a fun film, if slight. I could never get into Princess Mononoke and its overarching weirdness, but Spirited Away is a solid film. My Neighbor Totoro is also a slightly lighter film, and Howl’s Moving Castle is just another one that’s too strange for me to get into. My opinion of Studio Ghibli remains largely the same, but fans of their work will enjoy these releases.

Rawhead Rex – This is one of those cult ‘80s horror films that I’d always heard about but never gotten to see until now. Featuring a script by Clive Barker (based on one of his short stories from the Books of Blood), the film has just gotten a special edition Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber that’s packed with special features. The film itself is a folk horror tale that features a small town being terrorized by a resurrected creature from the bowels of evil. The creature effects are super-cool (it’s hard to imagine that Goro from Mortal Kombat wasn’t inspired by him) and the film is a pure horror/creature flick in the best way. I really enjoyed it, and I’m glad it lived up to what I had built up in my mind. Highly recommended!

Step – This moving and inspirational documentary follows a group of girls at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women as they try to both get into college and prepare for a huge step-dancing competition. As with most documentaries, the film lives on the strength of the people involved, and the girls here are all engaging and dynamic personalities. The film isn’t overly challenging or original, but it grabs you from the get go and doesn’t let go, delivering strong personal drama alongside some incredible step routines. Definitely worth watching.

Dynasty: The Complete Series – Ahhh, Dynasty. The Colbys and the Carringtons. Joan Collins, Linda Evans, John Forsythe, Heather Locklear, Aaron Spelling… How is it that this show and Dallas managed to stay on the air at the same time for so many years when they’re almost the same show? I don’t know, but I can appreciate the over-the-top soap opera nature of Dynasty. Let’s see, what do we have in Dynasty: The Complete Series? Romance? Check. Intrigue? Check. Death by arson? Check. Revenge? Check. Long lost child? Check. Heart transplant drama? Check. Kidnapping? Check. Cliffhanger endings? Check. Great guest stars? Check. How could you not have a good time with this show? Sure, it’s ridiculous and shallow, but at least it’s fun. Soap fans, prepare yourself for a trip back to Dynasty! This massive box set now collects the entire series in one place for the first time, delivering nine seasons’ worth of episodes on 57 discs. Yikes! I can see this on a few holiday wish lists this year!

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Wes Craven’s Summer of Fear – This 1978 horror film starring Linda Blair marks one of Wes Craven’s earlier films, but also one of his least known, never gaining the cult following of some of his other early movies like Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes, probably because it was a TV movie and has never been readily available on home video before. The story sees a young girl whose cousin moves into her house and is soon suspected of practicing witchcraft, so it’s not exactly groundbreaking. And to be fair, it’s not really the best that Craven had to offer, either. However, it is still an entertaining little semi-horror flick, and I’m happy to see it on Blu-ray for Craven fans to finally get a chance to see it.
  • Ernie Kovacs Take a Good Look: The Definitive Collection – Many people currently only know of Ernie Kovacs by footnote and annotation, but this collection of 50-year-old TV game shows will change that perception for you. This Kovacs’ TV show was a combination of This is Your Life and guest interview special, resulting in 50 episodes of fascinating television, all punctuated by Kovacs’ sharp sense of humor. Had Kovacs not died in an accident at 42, he would possibly have continued as a popular comedian and be better remembered today. However, this 7-disc collection reminds us of how brilliant and creative he could be, and how innovative some of his television really was.
  • Man With A Camera: The Complete Series – Did you know that Charles Bronson headlined a TV show? Because I didn’t know that. Well, apparently he did, and it was Man With a Camera. The show sees Bronson as “a New York City freelance photographer who specializes in getting difficult shots other camera men cannot,” which of course leads him to help solve crimes and get himself into trouble. I’m kind of surprised the show wasn’t a bigger hit (it only lasted a season) because it seems like the kind of thing that would have been successful back in its time. Still, this complete series set gives you a fun show and guest stars like Angie Dickinson, Sebastian Cabot, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Erwin, Tracey Roberts, and Jesse Kirkpatrick, plus it’s available at a low price point so it’s a neat little find.
  • Mary Reilly, Vice Versa, Leonard Part 6 Blu-rays – Mill Creek brings three catalog titles to Blu-ray for the first time this week, all of which are welcome additions even if none of them are all that great as actual movies. Probably the best one is Vice Versa, which is a body switching comedy with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. It’s firmly lodged in the ‘80s, but that’s part of what makes it so great; it’s a terrific throwback. Mary Reilly was certainly an interesting experiment, a take on the Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story as told from the perspective of his assistant, played by Julia Roberts. I kind of like this film, even if it is heavily flawed. Finally, there’s the wacky semi-cult classic Leonard Part 6, starring Bill Cosby. It’s interesting that it’s getting released now, as Cosby isn’t exactly winning over fans lately with the accusations he’s faced in legal matters, but I guess fans will be happy to see it nonetheless.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: The Complete Series – I don’t hate Chris, and I don’t hate Everybody Hates Chris. I don’t love it, either, but it’s a solid show overall. This box set collects all four seasons on 16 discs, and if you liked the show, it’s a great value. Based on the life of comedian/actor Chris Rock, the best part of the show is Tyler James Williams, who was pretty talented as a young actor (and who had a notable role as Noah on The Walking Dead). Over the course of four seasons, the show presented some pretty funny episodes, some pretty average episodes, and a handful of real standout episodes. Now you can revisit them all for a pretty fair price point.
  • Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland – This interesting movie is not a biopic of Michael Jackson. Rather, it’s a dramatization of the last few days of his life, told through the perspective of his two bodyguards. Michael Jackson impersonator Navi takes on the role of Jackson himself, and it’s quite interesting because he really does look and sound like him. Of course, it would be hard to do a film like this with a more established actor, because Jackson’s look was so unique. I can’t say I loved the film, but it was certainly an interesting glimpse behind the curtain, even if you have to take it all with a grain of salt.
  • Lewis Black: Black to the Future – Lewis Black can be funny, but man, do I have a hard time sitting through an entire stand-up set by him. That angry, acerbic humor is great in short doses, but it actually makes my ears hurt to listen to him for an hour straight. That said, this latest stand-up set by Black IS pretty funny, and as a bonus, there’s a whole second set included as a bonus feature. He tackles politics and current events as well as more general topics, and he’s pissed off about all of them! If you like Black, this is him in top form.
  • God of War – It’s no secret that I don’t love these epic period Asian action pieces. I just find that they don’t always keep my interest and they’re often too long. At 129 minutes, God of War isn’t the worst offender (although it’s still a bit too long), and overall I enjoyed it. Starring Vincent Zhao and Sammo Hung, the film features some amazing action set pieces, plus terrific scenery and cinematography. It’s still not a genre I love, but this is a film I can at least appreciate.
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles – I love this movie. It’s a comedy great. John Hughes directing Steve Martin and John Candy? Fantastic. But this film has been released on Blu-ray already (a couple of times, I think) and as far as I can tell, this is just a repackaging of the last edition to capitalize on holiday sales, which feels a little cheap. I can’t recommend buying it unless you still need this movie in your collection.
  • Marcella: Series 1 – Anna Friel headlines this mystery drama that also stars Laura Carmichael and Jamie Bamber. This dark story is about a former detective who rejoins the police force after her marriage ends, and ends up tracking a serial killer. As events unfold, she begins to suspect she may have some involvement on the goings on. To say more than that would be to ruin the fun, but this is an engaging and gripping show. Friel is terrific in the lead role, and the central mystery and drama flow together nicely so you don’t get too much procedural nor too much home drama. Worth a watch.
  • Justice – Nathan Parsons stars in this revenge-based thriller that also stars Stephen Lang, Lesley Anne Down, Jamie Lynn Sigler, and Jackson Rathbone. Unfortunately, despite a winning cast, the film itself is pretty poor. The screenplay is awful, the story is contrived, and the character are completely out of the “How to Write a Cliché-Ridden Western” Handbook. I wish it was a better film because I like a lot of the actors in it, but it’s just not.
  • Lady Macbeth – I didn’t expect much out of this film mostly because period dramas are typically not my scene. However, led by a blisteringly intense performance by young Florence Pugh, the film won me over. The story starts off simply enough, with a young woman in 19th century England being married off to an older man who has no interest in her. Soon, she meets a handsome young man and begins an affair, which quickly becomes a challenge as word about it begins to spread. Like I said, it’s pretty standard period drama fare, but there’s a darkness and intensity to it that grips the viewer. Worth a watch if you like more melodramatic fare.
  • Farewell Ferris Wheel – I’ve always found carnivals and carnies fascinating. It’s an odd nomadic lifestyle, and I’ve often wondered about it. This documentary answered some of my questions as it follows a carnival, the people who run it, and some of the illegal immigrants it employs for a period of six years. Over the course of an hour, you get a glimpse into this ephemeral world and what goes into making it run, and it’s pretty interesting stuff.
  • Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago – This documentary on the music group Chicago is a bit of a mixed bag. For one thing, it’s way too long at almost two hours, and it has some cheesy elements to it, such as photo/video moments that are clearly staged. And while I’m not an expert on the bad, shouldn’t Peter Cetera have been interviewed? Still, if you are a Chicago fan, there are a number of band members represented here, so I’m sure it will be of interest to you.
  • Shopkins World Vacation – I feel like this DVD is about a year too late. I remember a Christmas a year or two ago when I was trying to buy Shopkins toys for my daughter, who was pretty obsessed with them at the time, and every store in town was sold out of them. For a while, they were THE hottest thing going. Now that the cartoon show has finally arrived, it feels like they’re just not as popular as they were. Still, if you have a kid who likes the toys and enjoys similar animated fare like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Littlest Pet Shop, this should be right up their alley.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Complete Miniseries – Yes, this television miniseries stars a much younger Anthony Hopkins under heavy make-up playing Quasimodo, but that’s about the only thing it has going for it. Long on running time, short on production values, this is an interesting curiosity (and a nice little gem for die-hard Hopkins fans), but it’s not exactly the most entertaining viewing experience in the world.
  • Ancient Aliens: Season 10 – For my money, Ancient Aliens is an interesting but flawed show. I’ve been fascinated by UFO’s, aliens, and unsolved mysteries of that variety since I was a kid, so this was naturally of interest to me. This DVD release collects season nine, with the usual focus on Ancient Astronauts and other UFO-related materials. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a theory first posited in a book in the 1970s called Chariots of the Gods that theorizes that aliens visited earth in the distant past, building the pyramids and creating the Nazca lines, and things like that. This show explores everything surrounding the possibility of aliens visiting earth in the past, and while some of it comes off as the theories of crazy people, most of it is approached from an academic point of view. Ancient Aliens is interesting stuff, but as always, the lack of concrete answers can get frustrating, keeping this from being a show I can really enjoy.
  • The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Lost Christmas – I’m running out of things to say about these Carol Burnett Show This Christmas-themed disc includes three holiday-themed episodes of the classic comedy show. As usual, there are some pretty big guest stars, including Barbara Eden, Jonathan Winters, Garry Moore, Steve Lawrence and others. I love this show and it’s fun to revisit, but this is just another re-packaging of classic episodes. Unfortunately, I don’t see the trend ending anytime soon. Still… funny and affordable. Hard to argue with that.
  • Pop Aye – This charming Thai film is about a man who buys an elephant on the street and then takes a cross-country journey with it back to his hometown. I know, I know, that’s not a traditional story set up, but that’s what I like about it. Even though the film is in another language, it’s funny and warm and enjoyable, and the elephant star is really quite a talent (so is the human star, Thaneth Warakulnukroh.) I know this isn’t mainstream fare, but if you like movies that are a little offbeat, check this one out. It’s worth your time.
  • Moka – For years I’ve been saying that France has been producing some of the best thrillers on the movie scene, and they aim to prove it once again with Moka, a film about a mother trying to track down the hit-and-run driver that killed her son. Not an action-packed film (and at times a bit heavy) this film is anchored by a star turn by Emmanuelle Devos that makes the whole film. Add in some twists and turns and some surprises along the way, and while it’s not a mile-a-minute film, it’s certainly tensely enjoyable from start to finish.
  • Jonah: The Musical – Before even watching this, it was easy to see how the story of Jonah (and the whale) would make for good musical theater. And while I’m not in the target Christian demographic, I can at least appreciate this for what it is: a well-produced theater show that’s been captured on home video. The whale sequences are pretty darn impressive, and the show as a whole is pretty good if you like musicals and bible-themed parables. Not my cup of tea per se, but only because I’m not into bible stories, not because it’s a bad production in any way.
  • Peppa Pig: Princess Peppa – The popular British pig family returns in the medieval-themed (sort of) Princess Peppa. Not my favorite kids show, but good enough for the younger ones, it’s cute enough to be endearing, I guess. This latest collection includes about an hour’s worth of episodes, so you get a decent bang for your buck.

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