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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Valerian, Good Time and more

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Ryan Reynolds and Samuel Jackson teamed up for this action comedy that wasn’t exactly a box office juggernaut, but it was a pretty solid hit. For me, it’s the kind of movie that I really enjoy: it’s fast, funny, and frenetic. IS it one for the ages? Absolutely not. If anything, it’s completely disposable and you’ll probably forget most of it the minute it’s over. But it’s good to see Ryan Reynolds be able to prove that he can open a movie without it having the word Deadpool in the title, and Samuel L. Jackson is obviously part of the reason for that success. While he’s not a box office juggernaut (probably because he makes approximately 86 movies a year), the pairing of two well-liked stars is hard to resist.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – One of the most missed-out-on movies of the summer, Luc Besson’s spiritual (if not actual) sequel to The Fifth Element is bigger, bolder, and funner (I know that’s bad grammar, but I like the way it flows.) It’s a shame that so many people (including myself) missed it on the big screen, because this movie is so visually striking that I can only imagine what it looked like in a cinema (and I’ve heard that it was breathtaking.) The closest you’re going to come now is a nice big HD TV and the film on 4K Ultra HD, which gives us one of the most amazing picture qualities I’ve ever seen on home video. Add in some amazing surround sound, and there’s a clear preferred format for watching this film.

Birth of the Dragon – This film was marketed as if it was somewhat of a biopic of Bruce Lee, and while Lee is clearly a central figure in it, the film isn’t his story, really. Instead, it focuses on a very particular part of Lee’s life, a fight between himself and another martial arts grandmaster that – at this point in time – has become as much legend as it has fact. The film was dead on arrival at the box office, and while I think that mostly comes down to poor marketing and lack of consumer awareness, it also doesn’t help that Bruce Lee himself takes sort of a backseat; he’s not really the main character in the film. Instead, much of the focus is on one of Lee’s students and the girl he’s in love with, giving the film an awkward tone. Bruce Lee is enough of an icon that a film just about him is plenty of an attraction and doesn’t need a white lead to draw in audiences, especially since it clearly didn’t work. Shame.

Good Time – Robert Pattinson continues to prove that he’s one of the most electric actors working today – despite what you may think of him from the Twilight films. Following up a searing turn in The Rover a couple years ago, Pattinson is once again unrecognizable as a low-level criminal who is trying to spring his brother from jail, and we follow him over the course of a night where things go increasingly more and more wrong for him. It’s a frantic, taut film; it’s also extremely uncomfortable to watch. It’s one of those movies that just sets your teeth on edge, but it’s clearly intentional. It’s worth watching, but I wouldn’t say it’s exactly an enjoyable experience.

Jabberwocky – Terry Gilliam made on of my all-time favorite movies with 12 Monkeys. And every other movie he’s ever made… well, let’s just say I’m not a fan. But, I find him interesting as a filmmaker, so I was very curious to watch Jabberwocky, one of Gilliam’s earliest films, now on Blu-ray (and DVD) from the Criterion Collection. Starring Michael Palin, this oddball comedy of sorts is set in Medieval times and deals with a regular guy who accidentally ends up being selected to try and slay a dragon. But this is no epic adventure. In fact, spiritually, it would fit in well right alongside Monty Python and the Holy Grail, even if it’s not as funny. This new Criterion edition features restored and remastered picture and sound, plus a bevy of extra features, making it a great item for fans of Gilliam or even Monty Python.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Series and CSI: Miami – The Complete Series – With the holidays around the corner, CBS has released two massive new box sets for the fan of crime procedurals in your life. The CSI box set includes all 15 seasons of the show that really reinvented the crime procedural, and it makes for some easily digestible, completely binge-able television viewing. I always liked the mothership CSI show the best out of all the spin-offs, and this really is an amazing collection, packed with extra features on top of some 300+ episodes. Meanwhile, CSI: Miami delivers ten seasons of slightly sunnier cop show. David Letterman made a joke a while back about how CSI: Miami was going to shake things up soon David Caruso is going to try a second facial expression. Well, there’s definitely some truth to that joke, and Caruso remains the reason why this was always my least favorite show of the CSI franchise. Without him, you’d have another solid if unremarkable procedural show, but he really detracts from the overall quality for me. Still, for fans of the show, again you get over 200 episodes of the show plus a bevy of extra features, so it’s a fan’s dream come true.

The Fall: Complete Collection – Gillian Anderson stars in this British show about a detective on the hunt for a serial killer, played by Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Jamie Dornan. The first two seasons came out on home video last year, but now it’s been re-released in a complete series collection (which includes the third season) to let fans experience the whole show in one shebang. You can get it on DVD or Blu-ray, and it is an exciting, thrilling series that’s worth binge-watching. Anderson is in top form here and Dornan is suitably creepy as the serial killer, and the show isn’t afraid to go to some dark places. For those having X-Files withdrawal, I highly recommend this equally thrilling series.

Brigsby Bear – Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, and Michaela Watkins star in this offbeat but engaging story about a sheltered man trying to recreate his favorite TV show. That’s a simplistic breakdown of a more complicated plot, but this is one of those movies that I think will surprise people and I don’t want to say too much about it. Obviously, there are a lot of familiar faces in the cast, but SNL’s Kyle Mooney is surprisingly powerful in the lead role. It’s not an easily definable film, and that’s much of what makes it so effective. It’s sweet, funny, sad, and hard not to like.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • The Villainess – With obvious comparisons to Kill Bill abound, this revenge-based Asian action thriller is a lot of fun. It’s not particularly plot-driven (or even possessing of a plot that makes sense at all times) nor does it work to reinvent the genre. What it does do, however, is deliver a kinetic, action-packed thrill ride that includes a swordfight atop moving motorcycles. A. Swordfight. On. A. Moving. Motorcycle. I mean, how do you pass that up? You don’t, that’s how. This one is a lot of fun, an easy way to check your brain at the door for a couple hours and just enjoy a slickly-edited hyperactive movie experience.
  • The Secret World of Arrietty & Porco Rosso – Two more Studio Ghibli re-releases are out courtesy of GKids Studio. The Secret World of Arrietty is probably my favorite film from the Ghibli oeuvre, written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki himself (but not directed by him.) Based on the well-loved book The Borrowers, the film tells the story of a family of mouse-sized people living under a house with a human family in it, including a sickly young boy who befriends the youngest borrower, Arrietty. The story is pretty simple actually, but the film shines in its great characterizations, stunning hand-drawn animation, and a delightful sense of fun and adventure. Sprinkled in throughout the film are messages about bravery, hope, life, and family, and the whole thing is just a charming, engaging little film that fart surpassed my expectations. Meanwhile, Porco Rosso is the story of a pilot who is magically transformed into a pig (although he remains a pilot.) Admittedly there is some charm it, but not enough for me to declare myself a fan, although Michael Keaton providing the lead voice certainly helps make it better.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIX – This latest collection brings us three new riffed-upon movies: Girls Town, The Amazing Transparent Man, and Diabolik. Then there are Satellite Dishes. Since this is probably the last collection for a while (due to movie licensing issues), Satellite Dishes is a collection of host segments from many of the movies they don’t have the licenses for. As always, there really isn’t anything here that you won’t find on many other MST3K releases out there, although I do like these box sets over the single movie releases. You get three (and a half) movies, copious extras, and plenty of laughs. Hard to argue with that. Re-watching these movies in MST3K style is too much fun!
  • Lemon – Hmmm… yeah. I don’t generally like movies that are weird for the sake of being weird. Nor do I generally like movies that are largely pointless, where the film ends and you find yourself wondering, “Why did I just sit through that?” So Lemon was really not to my liking. Despite a somewhat talented cast (Brett Gelman, Michael Cera, Shiri Appleby, Judie Greer, Nia Long), the film is basically just an excuse to watch someone’s life fall apart, which is about as entertaining as you would imagine.
  • My Journey Through French Cinema – I’ll admit that my knowledge of French cinema is somewhat limited, but I feel more educated after watching My Journey Through French Cinema. Created and narrated by French director Bertrand Tavernier, the film takes a look at the last three-quarters century or so of French filmmaking, including up-close-and-personal looks at some of the greats like Jean Pierre Melville and Jean Renoir. The film runs over three hours, but none of it is wasted time, with the film being a mix of personal recollections and more critical observations. It’s not the lightest viewing experience in the world, but it’s an extremely well-made and informative film.
  • From the Land of the Moon – Marion Cotillard seems to adopt a “one for me, one for them” attitude with her film choices. For every big budget Hollywood film she stars in, she seems to next tackle a difficult, emotional role in a small film that will probably never play to large audiences. Her latest effort in the “one for me” column is From the Land of the Moon, where she plays a woman in an arranged marriage who ends up falling for another man. There’s a little more to it than that, but this is a film filled with romance, hardship, societal conventions, and heavy drama. Cotillard is terrific as always, even if the film wasn’t quite my cup of tea.
  • The Film Critic – This charming little French/Spanish film follows a snooty film critic who generally detests most romantic films, and then finds himself involved in a relationship that mirrors the same movies he hates. While the actors are unknown here in the US, both Rafael Spregelburd and Dolores Fonzi give spirited performances. Not everyone goes for films they have to watch with subtitles, but if you don’t mind them, this is a fun little film that’s worth checking out.
  • High School Lover – James Franco makes some odd choices. I mean for every critically acclaimed movie he makes (127 Hours, The Disaster Artist) he shows up in something like High School Lover, which is a Lifetime Channel movie that may as well be called Mother May I Sleep With Danger 2. It basically deals with Franco as a father to a teenage girl who becomes involved with an older celebrity, and of course, said celebrity starts to become dangerous. Now, I happen to like Lifetime movies and their particular brand of cheese, and that’s exactly what you get here. Franco adds a dimension of oddness to it, but it’s perfectly watchable.
  • A Year in Space and Beyond a Year in Space – This DVD release from PBS contains two programs: A Year in Space (the original documentary) and Beyond a Year in Space (a welcomed follow up.) Scott Kelly is a NASA astronaut who spent a year on the International Space Station and the first show documents his journey, which is – not surprisingly – utterly fascinating. The second show focuses on Kelly’s life after returning to earth, and while it isn’t quite as interesting as seeing him in space, it’s also quite engaging in its own way. I tend to be fascinated by most space programs, so this one was a win for me.
  • Saving Christmas – Ed Asner, Patrick Muldoon, and Brooke Langton – all decorated TV-movie/Christmas movie veterans at this point – star in this fun Christmas movie about a group of kids launching an investigation to find Santa, who of course is located right in their hometown. This is one of those movies that checks a lot of Christmas movie boxes, but hey, any flick that gives Santa Clause a social media director is okay by me. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s fun for people who like cheesy Christmas family movies.

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