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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Cars 3, Westworld, The Glass Castle, Into The Night and more


Cars 3 – I absolutely loved Cars 3. But then, I’m one of the few people who recognizes Cars for the brilliant film that it is. It’s easily my favorite Pixar movie, and I’d put it up with the Toy Story films as among Pixar’s very best. After a detour into so-so-ville with Cars 2, the third (and presumably final) outing in the franchise gets back to racing and pays tribute to the first film, giving Doc Hudson (so memorably played by the late Paul Newman in the original film) a spotlight in spirit and presence, even if his actual on-screen time is limited. It’s a film that really pays tribute to the original film, which is part of why I loved it so much. But it still has plenty of racing, humor, and great characters. My only complaint is that Michael Keaton didn’t return as Chick Hicks, one of my favorite characters from the first one. The film is out on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD, which is an absolutely stunning way to view (and hear) the film. It’s the kind of film that the new 4K Ultra format was made to showcase. Highly recommended!

Westworld: The Complete First Season – I had heard so much about Westworld before I got the chance to watch it that I was worried I wouldn’t like it. The overriding opinion seemed to be that it was a good show but so dense that it was hard to follow. I’m happy to report that that isn’t the case. Yes, it’s a complex, layered show, and yes, it requires some thought while watching, but it’s also a fairly straightforward narrative that isn’t confusing just for the sake of being confusing, but rather just deep and complicated. The original Michael Crichton film from the ‘70s is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I really wanted to like this show, and I’m very pleased to say that I do. Quite a lot. The season one collection is available on DVD Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD, and it looks absolutely stunning. This is an extremely high budget show with a definite visual flair and crisp graphics, and the 4K Ultra format really lets that shine.

The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition – This isn’t the first time The Godfather Trilogy has been packaged as a trilogy (or the second… or the third… or the fourth…) The fact is, if you want to own the Godfather Trilogy in its entirety, there’s no shortage of ways to do it. This latest collection, The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition is the first time, however, that the films have been packaged together into a box set that is really designed as a good gift. The previous collections featured the films and some extra features, but that’s it. This limited-edition box set (only 45,000 copies) includes a booklet, postcards, magnetic poetry, and more which makes it a great gift and a nice addition for hardcore fans. Oh yeah, I guess the films themselves are pretty good, too.

The Glass Castle – Great cast, great acting, solid movie. That pretty much sums up The Glass Castle. It’s one of those films that’s really well put together, features terrific performances, and I can see why critics loved it. For me, it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, but I can’t say I disliked it, either. Woody Harrelson is one of my favorite actors and he is terrific here, while Brie Larson matches him turn for turn. Still, I won’t be surprised to start hearing this movie’s name again a lot more come awards time.

Into the Night – Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer star in this adventure/comedy from 1985 directed by John Landis. It wasn’t a big hit, but for some reason I have always remembered seeing an ad for the film in the pre-movie slideshows that used to play before films. It’s a very clear memory from my youth, even if I have no idea why. Now, some 30 years later, I finally had the chance to watch the film for the first time ever as it makes its Blu-ray debut. The verdict? Well, there’s no doubt that it’s squarely a product of its time (the 1980s), but it is a lot of fun to watch. Goldblum and Pfeiffer are an odd mix, but I like them together, and Landis brings his trademark flair. Not a perfect film, but a fun first-time flashback.

The Crown – This incredibly impressive television series is collected into a season set for viewers who missed it on air. Claire Foy is radiant and amazing as young Queen Victoria II in her mid-twenties. Supported by John Lithgow (as Winston Churchill) and former Doctor Who Matt Smith, this is one of those productions where everything just clicks, especially the performances. With lavish production values, top-notch writing, and flawless performances, this show succeeded in taking a subject matter I really don’t care all that much about (historical drama/biopics have never been my favorite genre) and turning it into must-see television. The second season is supposed to take a leap forward by a decade, so I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Patti Cake$ – I remember seeing the trailer for Patti Cake$ a while back, and while it looked a bit offbeat, I remember being distinctly intrigued. The film tells the story of a plus-sized white girl from the wrong side of the tracks who wants to become a rap superstar… so as you can see, not exactly conventional. And while the story’s trajectory might seem unlikely to some viewers, the film is made with such a street-level view of the world that it’s hard not to get swept up in it. Credit goes to lead actress Danielle Macdonald, who is absolutely stunning in the lead role, and first-time writer/director Geremy Jasper, who really has a keen eye for dialogue and also behind the camera. I liked this movie quite a bit, and I think it’s got a lot of attention/acclaim yet to come.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Home Alone 2 – All right, I’ve never been a big fan of the Home Alone films, even the uber-popular first one. So watching Home Alone 2 – which took a plot from a film that didn’t need to have a sequel – and basically repeating the formula over again (while expanding it a little), didn’t exactly win me over. The movie makes it’s solo Blu-ray debut (it was previously only available as part of a complete collection Blu-ray set), so for those of you who have the first one in high def and want to watch the second one this holiday season, now you can.
  • Overdrive – So this car-heist action/adventure film is clearly an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Fast & Furious But you know what? I’m okay with that. Starring Scott Eastwood and the gorgeous Ana de Armas, the film isn’t anything all that original or innovative, but it’s a pretty fun way to kill 90 minutes, filled with cool car chases, heist/con fun, and a pretty cast. Sure, its derivative, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching it.
  • Gun Shy – Antonio Banderas stars in a different kind of action film as a pampered rock star whose wife gets kidnaped while on vacation. Clueless ad bumbling, he is forced to try and rescue her. As you may have guessed, the film is a comedy, despite the cover art trying REALLY hard to fool people into thinking this is the next installment in the El Mariachi/Desperado The film is enjoyable enough, with a few moments of humor that work really well and a few that work… less so. Banderas is game and he’s been turning in some great performances lately, so helps carry the film, but it’s nothing that’s going to really impress you.
  • The Show – Josh Duhamel and Famke Janssen star in this thriller about a slightly futuristic reality TV show in which players are killed live on-air. What’s funny is that the premise doesn’t really seem that far-fetched anymore. I mean, I expect at some point in my life I’ll probably see this very show on our airwaves. But in the meantime, this direct-to-video flick offers up a relatively good time. I’ve always liked Duhamel, and he does a good job in the lead role here. With Janssen and Giancarlo Esposito supporting him, it’s a fun little movie with an interesting premise. Worth a look if you’ve got nothing better to watch.
  • Ingrid Goes West – I just can’t figure out the whole Aubrey Plaza thing. I’ve seen her in a number of films, and I just don’t get why people think she’s so good. And after watching Ingrid Goes West, I still don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, she turns in a perfectly fine performance, but she’s just not someone I really go out of my way to watch in anything. In this film, she plays a damaged young woman who gloms onto a social media star and tries to insert herself into the young woman’s life because she has no real identity of her own. Obviously, things don’t go as well as she wants, and it goes from there. Elizabeth Olsen (always excellent) stars as the object of her misguided affection, but the film gives us pretty much all unlikable characters and expects us to care about them. For me, it didn’t work, even if there are a few clever moments in the film.
  • The Sissi Collection – I’ll be honest, I was completely unfamiliar with the Sissi films before this box set crossed my desk. Starring Romy Schneider, this collection of five films from the 1950s and on, are a family-film franchise about a European princess and her life in the 19th The five films included are the official Sissi trilogy (Sissi, Sissi: The Young Empress, and Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress). Then you also get Victoria in Dover, which is a similar film (although unrelated, technically), which sees Schneider playing Victoria, the Queen of England. Finally, you get Forever my Love, which is sort of a distillation of the trilogy into a single film. Apparently, these movies were quite popular back in the day, and I have to say that they are pretty enjoyable overall, especially considering their age and the fact that they’re pretty family-friendly. The box set also includes a nice booklet and a few quality extra features.
  • The Limehouse Golem – Bill Nighy and Olivia Cooke star in this film about that other Victorian era serial killer that terrorized Victorian London. No, not Jack the Ripper, but the titular Limehouse Golem. While it’s a dark film, what I liked about it is that it’s very solidly a mystery, eschewing cheap thrills or cheaply-shot action for a story that takes its time and unravels the story piece by piece, doling out bits of information in a very deliberate fashion. It’s not the kind of film that’s going to blow your speakers out, but if you like an engaging, complex mystery, it’s definitely worth tracking down.
  • Age of Kill – A cast of semi-recognizable “Hey it’s that guy!”s delivers the so-called thrills in this been-there-done-that action flick. An MI-6 agent’s daughter has been kidnapped, and if he doesn’t kill six targets in six hours, she’ll die and yadda yadda yadda. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but the film really doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before, it just does it on a low-budget and a serviceable-at-best cast. If you’re a die-hard direct-to-video movie fan you might like it, but it’s nothing I can really recommend.
  • Darkness Rising – Speaking of films we’ve seen before, I’m starting to wonder when people are going to give up on haunted house/spiritual possession movies. Darkness Rising stars mostly unrecognizable actors (you might recognize Katrina Law if you’re an Arrow fan) and they’re playing pretty cookie-cutter characters who are up against malevolent spirits in a childhood home. I mean really, it just checks off all the haunted horror movie clichés, and it doesn’t do it with any real panache. I’ve seen worse, but I’ve definitely seen much better.
  • Killing Ground – Now, here’s an example of a film that takes a story we’ve seen before plenty of times (couple out camping comes across dangerous people who threaten their lives) and does something at least halfway interesting with it. Killing Ground takes the familiar story in a slightly new direction, giving us multiple timelines to try and keep track of the events through, and also skipping over some of the blood and gore that often accompanies these kinds of films and keeping a lot of the violence off-camera, which I like. It’s not a perfect film, but I at least appreciate the fact that the filmmakers tried to do more than just phone it in.
  • 19-2: Season 4 – A Canadian series about a police precinct (and two partners in particular) in Montreal Canada, 19-2 is strong television. It’s not entirely different from something like Chicago Fire (except obviously about cops and not firemen) in that it focuses more on the lives and loves of the policemen and women than just on the crimes, but that’s a good thing in my opinion. It’s more soap opera and less Law & Order, but not in a way that leaves you wincing. There’s still a good amount of police action, it just never overshadows what’s going on in the lives of the characters. Great stuff for someone looking for a new show to binge watch.
  • The Good Karma Hospital: Series 1 – The quote on the front of this DVD/Blu-ray release calls it the “love child of Call the Midwife and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and, well… that’s exactly what it is. Except in this case instead of being a hotel, the setting is a medical center in India, where we follow slightly misplaced Dr. Ruby Walker, who’s come straight from a more upper crust UK setting. The show does what the best TV shows do, delivering a strong mix of unique and interesting characters, a mix of laughter and drama, and good writing to carry the stories through. With a cast of exceptional actors (most of whom are TV regulars in the UK, but less known here in the US), this show is quite enjoyable.
  • The Journey – Admittedly, I know very little about the politics of Europe, and so I wasn’t terribly familiar with the people or events involved in The Journey. But it was certainly an interesting learning experience that was made all the more enjoyable by the involvement of a trio of amazing actors: Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall, and John Hurt. The film details a short period of time in British/Irish history, where Ian Paisley (Spall), a deeply conservative British loyalist and former Irish Republican Army leader Martin McGuinness (Meaney) meet and begin to have an understanding of each other. It’s not meant to be a representation of the whole British/Irish conflict, but it does give us a nice look into a seminal moment in the historical events.
  • Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait – Luminaries such as Bono and Al Pacino show up in this portrait of the artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel, he of the silk pajamas and the man behind the acclaimed films Basquiat and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Over the course pf an hour-and-a-half, we get as close to this enigmatic artist as we probably ever will, hearing from both the artist himself and many of his contemporaries. We trace his journey from Texas to New York and his rise from artist to iconoclast to filmmaker. It’s an interesting biography of an interesting person.
  • M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars – My knowledge of the actual stories of Anne of Green Gables is surprisingly non-existent. As an English major in college, of course I’ve been aware of the novels (and their many, many adaptations over the years) for as long as I can remember. But I’ve actually never read the books or watched a movie version of any of them until the first entry in this series last year. The only known cast member is Martin Sheen who plays Matthew, but the young girl who takes the lead role is quite charming. The title of this adaptation series (stressing the author’s name) seems to indicate that perhaps it strived to stay truer to the source material than some previous adaptations have done (although having not read it, I can’t say if they succeeded.) Overall, this sequel is enjoyable enough and I imagine that fans of the books will enjoy it.
  • Te Ata – Q’orianka Kilcher (cousin of singer Jewel and star of Terence Malick’s The New World) stars in this true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman who went on to become one of the most renowned performers in the history of Native Americans. It’s a fairly straightforward biopic-style film, with supporting turns by Graham Greene, Mackenzie Astin, and Brigid Brannagh. One notable thing about the film: its rated PG, something of a rarity these days, largely because the film doesn’t need to shoehorn in language or nudity for a story that doesn’t need it. Worth a watch.
  • The Weight of Honor – This moving and heartfelt documentary is both an important film and also a heavy one. Focusing on the families and caregivers of soldiers who have been severely wounded in the middle east, the film takes us through a journey of five years and shows us what it’s really like to deal with these hardships. It’s not an easy film to watch, but that’s part of the film’s power. It’s not for everyone, but for people who like real world stories with heart, this is a good one.
  • Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story – Music documentaries are a dime a dozen, and most of them are pretty cheaply-made affairs, usually with interviews from the subject’s third cousin or a fan who met them at a Dairy Queen one. Beside Bowie is a different affair. Featuring narration by David Bowie himself (recorded before he passed away) as well as clips of the musician/arranger Mick Ronson – who the film is about – this feels like an intimate and well-rounded affair. Ronson was a huge part of Bowie’s legacy, and fans of either musician should really enjoy this one.
  • The Shadow Man – Oh boy. This low-grade, low-budget, low-fun horror film gives us a young woman haunted by an inexplicable shadow man. With horror movie clichés everywhere (including an honest-to-goodness cabin in the woods) there’s just not much for this film to offer. With a poor script and mediocre acting, it’s really just hard to find much to like.
  • The Settlers – If you’ve ever wanted a greater insight into the hostilities between Israel and Palestine, then The Settlers is a film for you. The film introduces us to people who helped settle the controversial area as well as people who populate Israel now, and we get to understand their lives and motivations. I’m not the biggest documentary fan in the world and I can’t quite say I understood every single issue that’s covered here, but it does give you a greater understanding into life in that part of the world.
  • Richard Thompson Band: Live at Rockpalast – This massive 5-disc collection (3 music CDs and two live DVDs) is a true gift for Richard Thompson fans. The musician who’s perhaps best known as a member of Fairport Convention is represented by two concerts here, one from late 1983 and one from early 1984, bringing his distinct style of folk rock to the stage. The first concert is the longer one, running almost two full hours (represented on two CDs and one DVD), while the second one runs just over an hour (one CD and one DVD). I can’t say I was overly familiar with Thompson’s output before this, but I like what I heard and this is a great set for fans.

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