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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week – Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes and more


Spider-Man: Homecoming – Spoiler alert (but not really)! When I publish my Top 10 films of 2017 at the end of the year, there’s a good chance this will be my number one film. (Well, maybe number 2 because Star Wars has yet to come out.) I absolutely loved Spider-Man: Homecoming. As someone who goes against the grain with most Spidey fans (not really a fan of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, but love the Andrew Garfield films), I think this one managed to get everything right in a way that will please people who like either of those two filmmakers’ versions. Tom Holland is terrific as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and it’s great to see him as a high school character once again. The blending with the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Tony Stark/Iron Man is seamless, and Michael Keaton continues to prove he’s the best actor working today by turning a second-tier villain like The Vulture into one of the most interesting and nuanced villains in just about any Marvel movie yet. Can’t recommend this one highly enough.

War for the Planet of the Apes – This one is an odd one for me. Critics loved it, and all of my friends who are movie fans loved it too. I heard many people proclaim it the best of the trilogy. But it was the lowest grossing of the trilogy, and for my money, I can see why. The film is exceptionally well made, with terrific performances and amazing visuals. But the movie was entirely too dark for me and watching it felt a little bit like getting beat up. I was exhausted after watching it. I really wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t get into it. It’s a shame, too, because I really liked the first two films. The 4K Ultra HD release is pretty astounding, capturing the visuals in a way that really shows off everything the format can do. If you have the capability, that’s definitely the version to pick up.

Batman vs. Two Face – I generally like DC’s Animated Universe movies, but the last handful of them haven’t done too much for me, until last year’s super-fun Return of the Caped Crusaders, which saw Adam West and Burt Ward return as Batman & Robin. This second (and sadly, last) film in the series is basically an animated version of the 1966 Batman TV series, and it’s magical. With William Shatner (check out our interview with him) along this time as Two-face, the film is just a blast. It really captures the feel of the original show and it is so much more enjoyable than just another animated film of Batman beating people up with no heart and no plot. Definitely check this one out.

Dawn of The Dead – Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of the George Romero classic remains (along with 300) his greatest film. It’s fascinating to me that Snyder could take a film about the living dead and fill it with such vibrant, interesting, and engaging characters, yet give him a superhero film and he takes characters with rich tapestries and back stories and turns them into the living dead. I don’t get it. But this film remains a zombie masterpiece. I know some purists think that fast zombies are an abomination, but I think they’re uber-scary, and this film is both a great horror flick, a secret action flick, and a pretty solid character study and drama at the same time. This is such a great flick, and this new Blu-ray from Scream Factory is absolutely loaded with extra features. Highly recommended!

Personal Shopper – Kristen Stewart got rave critical reviews for her turn in this film by acclaimed filmmaker Oliver Assayas. While ostensibly it’s a dramatic supernatural thriller, it’s also pretty heavily a drama, dealing with loss and grief. While I can’t say it’s my favorite film, I can certainly appreciate that it’s well-made, and there’s no denying that Stewart’s performance is top-notch. As a Criterion Collection release, the film is presented with restored and remastered sound and picture, plus a bevy of extra features. A worthwhile purchase for those who like slightly heavier fare.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – I really liked the first film from Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth. While sobering, it was also engaging and humorous, and it presented bad news in a way that didn’t make you want to throw yourself off a bridge. This follow-up film does flirt with that “all is lost” feeling, but as with the first one, it does so in a way that keeps you entertained the whole way through, even while you learn about how bad of shape our planet is really in. An important film, but not one that feels like you’re stuck sitting through a science class.

Bushwick – There’s so much to like about this film, but I wish the ending was better. An action film about two strangers who help each other survive when America is invaded (I won’t say by whom), it’s a really interesting film. The movie is shot to look like it’s done in one continuous take from pretty much start to finish (I only counted two instances in the whole running time where there were deliberate transitions to new scenes.) Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista play the mismatched pair, and they’re both terrific, plus their chemistry on screen really works. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like the way the film ends, which soured what had been a really cool movie experience up until then. Still, it’s worth checking out.

Three Stooges: Big Box of Nyuks – Okay, so I’ve never been the biggest Three Stooges fan in the world, but I can still appreciate a terrific product. This 10-disc box set isn’t a complete collection of works by the Three Stooges by any stretch, but it’s a nice cross-section of their career at an affordable price point, which makes it a winner in my book. First up, you get six complete feature films: Time Out for Rhythm (1941), Rockin’ in the Rockies (1945), Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959), Three Stooges Go Around the World in A Daze (1963), The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962), and The Outlaws Is Coming (1965). Then you get The Complete Animated Series, which presents all 165 episodes of the 1965 cartoon series, which is a great rarity for fans. Then you get two films about the Three Stooges: the documentary The Three Stooges: Hey Moe, Hey Dad! (made by Moe Howard’s son Paul), and The Three Stooges, a 2000 television-movie biopic starring Michael Chiklis, Paul Ben-Victor, and Evan Handler. Finally, you get a ton of miscellaneous short films, cartoons, TV pilots, and bonus features. It’s really a great box set for fans of this classic comedy troupe.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Samurai Jack: Season 5 – I’ve always wanted to love Samurai Jack more than I actually do. The Cartoon Network series about a time-displaced samurai has always been incredibly visually stunning, and I absolutely love the look and design of it. The problem for me was that I could never get into the characters and story. This latest season, which sees the show return after a several-year hiatus, takes the show in a somewhat new direction, with Jack trapped in the future, unable to age, and up against a horde of villains. I liked this more than I have the show in the past, perhaps because as a ten-episode series, it had more of a finite plot, rather than just continuing on indefinitely. And it still looks absolutely amazing. Fans should love it.
  • Vera: Set 7Vera is a terrific series of cop/mystery dramas starring the excellent Brenda Blethyn in the lead role. While the show doesn’t really offer up anything new (gruff but effective police detective solves crimes), it does benefit from Blethyn’s performance and the show having a strong sense of identity. Inspired by Ann Cleeves’s bestselling mysteries, Vera is set in the Northumberland of the original books. It gives the show a different feel from a lot of the more urban set BBC dramas, and there is a consistent mood and tone throughout the series that is very refreshing to see. And it showcases the characteristics of a lot of the best qualities of similar shows: great acting, strong scripts, and compelling mysteries, and that adds up to some quality mystery television viewing.
  • Mind Blown – This low-budget sci-fi flick stars mostly unknown actors (B-movie stalwart Luke Goss shows up) and is a decent little sci-fi romp, even if it’s not all that great. The story involves a group of telekinetics using their powers to help the world… until it turns out that someone may be manipulating them to do harm. Then one of them goes on their own to try and stop the damage and bring down the conspiracy. It’s pretty typical sci-fi fare and the acting is average at best, but it’s a certain amount of fun.
  • Rumble – This music documentary spotlights a number of Native Americans (and people of Native American descent) who have had an impact in the world of music. That includes a number of familiar names such as Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Charley Patton, and Randy Castillo. At over an hour and a half, the film is a full-fledged movie, and it feels like it, rather than a cheap direct-to-DVD flick. It’s pretty in-depth, and while it might be a little congratulatory to its subjects, it’s a pretty interesting film overall.
  • Where’s the Money – I really like the concept of this film, even if it’s not aiming for highbrow entertainment. The story follows an African-American who pledges an all-white fraternity to make his way to a stash of money. I’m not saying it’s the last bastion of originality, but I also don’t remember ever seeing that exact plot before, which is fun. The cast – which includes Andrew Bachelor, Mike Epps, Method Man, Logan Paul, and Terry Crews – is talented and funny, and the film is actually pretty funny. It has some cheesy moments, but I had more fun than I expected to.
  • Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu Season 2 – Based on a series of popular novels, this show follows a family that leaves England in the 1930s and relocates to the sunny coast of Greece. What follows is a charming, enjoyable drama about a mom and her four kids who are all in the classic fish out of water mode. The show is really well balanced; the characters’ natural quirkiness lends some humor and charm to what is essentially a drama, and there are some more serious moments but the levity keeps things from becoming dreary. I won’t say this is a show for everyone, but I think if you like most of what Masterpiece has to offer, you’ll probably enjoy this one quite a bit.
  • WB Archive: The Sea Wolf, The Green Slime, The Hidden, Brigadoon, Waiting for Guffman, The Illustrated Man, Innocent Blood – The Warner Brothers print-on-demand service Warner archive has a slew of new Blu-ray releases out this week, and there are some real gems to be found here. First up is The Sea Wolf, a terrific maritime action/drama starring the great Edward G. Robinson and based on the Jack London Novel of the same name. Robinson was one of the greats, and this film is engaging from start to finish. It also looks great on Blu-ray. On the other end of the spectrum, The Green Slime is the best kind of awful sci-fi flick, a B-movie all the way. And while it’s awful, it’s one of those so-bad-its-good movies, a classic throwback cheesy monster movie. Love it! Then we have The Hidden, a terrific cult classic sci-fi/horror film from the late ‘80s starring Kyle MacLachlan. This is one I’ve been looking forward to on Blu-ray for a long time, as I know a lot of other people have as well, as it’s one of those films with a devoted fan following. I hope this new release sparks renewed interest in this super-cool film. Continuing to spread the genres around, Brigadoon is a musical starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. Now, I don’t usually go for musicals, but this one has a unique story about two Americans who discover a magical Scottish town which only appears once every hundred years. Of course, when romance blooms, they have to decide whether to stay or return to their own lives. It’s a neat concept and the music is solid, making this one a hit for me. Waiting for Guffman is a more recent film, from the great satirist Christopher Guest. This time around he tackles local theater, and it’s one of his sharpest comedies, in my opinion. It might not be quite to the level of his apex, Best in Show, but it’s a funny movie and it’s more than welcome to have it in high def. The Illustrated Man is a science fiction anthology film from the 1960s starring Rod Steiger and based on the classic story collection by Ray Bradbury. An anthology film with several short vignettes (most of which feature a twist or a high concept story idea), it definitely shows its age, but it’s also a lot of fun, and it features some really intriguing ideas. Perfect for fans of fare like The Twilight Zone. Finally, Innocent Blood will make for good Halloween viewing. It’s a fun vampire romp that is basically summed up like this: vampire hit girl and her cop boyfriend take on a newly-turned vampire mob boss. How can you go wrong with that? Starring Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia, and Anthony LaPaglia, this is a great film that deserves to be discovered.
  • Horror Hall of Fame Gift Set – This 9-disc set collects five previously-released horror collections. Budget priced from Mill Creek, you get two performer-centric collections (Vincent Price and Boris Karloff), two Hammer Horror collections, and one more generic classic horror collection. Now, I use the term “classic” with care, as most of the films in this collection (with the exception of a few of the Vincent Price ones such as The Last Man on Earth and The House on Haunted Hill) are more from the classic era of Hollywood than actual “classics.” None of the big-name horror films are collected (Karloff’s Universal Monsters films are obviously absent), but it’s hard to argue with getting 26 movies for under 30 bucks.
  • The Midwife – Two French Catherines – one legendary (Catherine Deneuve) and one less so, at least on this side of the Atlantic (Catherine Frot) – star in this drama about a budding and unique friendship between an uptight midwife and her late father’s free-spirit mistress. This French-language film runs a touch too long at almost two hours, but it’s a rather engaging and moving film, punctuated by moments of humor. Both Catherines turn in excellent performances, and movie fans who like dramatic or foreign fare should enjoy it quite a bit.
  • Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & the Quest for Meaning – While a documentary about Narnia author C.S. Lewis’s journey into the realm of faith and how it began at a meeting with Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien sounds like fanboy heaven, it’s actually a much more straightforward, intellectual – and somewhat dry – affair. This hour-long special shares ideas on myths and religion, and it’s not the Hobbit/Narnia fanfest some viewers might be interested in. It’s not a bad program, but it’s definitely geared more for viewers who want to explore their more intellectual side.
  • PAW Patrol: The Great Snow 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 winter theme, which is nicely timed to tie in with the upcoming season. This show is immensely popular, and I’m sure parents with Paw Patrol-obsessed kids (and I know there are many out there) will be happy to have a few new episodes to hit heavy rotation on their TV screens.
  • 8 Assassins – I’ve seen this Moroccan film referred to in a few places as being akin to a spaghetti western, and that’s pretty accurate. It’s cheesy and low-budget, but it does have a certain charm to it. The story deals with a bank robber on the run and the forces he comes up against, which are a bit unusual, but the story is secondary to the atmosphere and the action. It’s not a great film, but if you like a certain kind of B-movie, you might enjoy it.

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