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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Brawl in Cell Block 99, Luke Cage, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and more


Kingsman: The Golden Circle – The first Kingsman, based on the hit comic series by Mark Millar, was a box office hit, but more importantly, it was a hell of a lot of fun. Sort of James Bond, Jr.-type of story, it told the story of The Kingsman, a secret agent service that helped save the world from insidious bad guys and technology. Now, the sequel has arrived, and it’s upped the ante considerably, adding in major star power in the form of Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, and Halle Berry. Is it a better film? No. Is it almost every bit as fun as the original? Absolutely. There’s a bit too much greenscreen and the violence ante has been upped considerably, plus there are a few unnecessarily nasty bits, but overall, I had a lot of fun with this film. Key to that is young Taron Egerton in the lead role, who is just such an incredibly likable and charismatic young man that he makes the film better than it is. It’s not a perfect sequel, but it is a heck of a lot of fun. The film is available on Blu-ray and DVD of course, but also 4K Ultra HD, which really delivers incredibly impressive visuals and a nice soundtrack.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 – This action/thriller starring Vince Vaughn comes from the director of the revered Bone Tomahawk, and he’s turned in another suitably intense film. This one sees a former boxer get wrapped up in crime and end up in jail, where things go south quickly. It’s a pretty brutal film (with a few moments that are a bit much for the casual viewer) but Vince Vaughn turns in a savage, bare-knuckled performance that’s unlike what we’ve seen from him before. Honestly, while it’s a good film overall, it’s Vaughn’s performance that puts this one into the must-watch category.

Luke Cage: The Complete First Season – While Marvel’s films focus on the larger-than-life super heroes, their Netflix TV shows focus on the more down-to-earth heroes. So, while Luke Cage might have super strength and invulnerable skin, he’s not going up against aliens or Galactus, but rather a more traditional criminal element. None of which is a complaint, though, as Marvel scores another hit with Luke Cage: The Complete First Season. With a great lead performance by Mike Colter and a stellar supporting turn by the always-excellent Mahershala Ali, this is one of the more dramatic Marvel series for me, but it has plenty of action. Marvel doesn’t get many film/TV properties wrong, and they didn’t break that streak here, producing another winner for Netflix.

Acceptable Risk: Series 1 – This complex and labyrinthine mystery series from Acorn Media is another successful outing from British/Irish television. While none of the stars (Elaine Cassidy and Angeline Ball take the leads) are well-known here in the US, the acting quality is top notch. The story follows a woman whose husband is murdered and the police detective whose own husband’s death may be related. That’s the launching point for a six-episode, five-hour mystery that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day 4K Ultra HD – I’m pretty sure I don’t really have to expound much on Terminator 2: Judgment Day as a movie. Its one of the most popular movies of all time, the high point of a popular franchise (which has yet to reach the heights achieved here since), and it’s a James Cameron action masterpiece. I think most people know that by now. And sure, it’s been released on home video approximately 137 times before. But now it makes its debut on 4K Ultra HD, and the result is a pretty stellar presentation of the beloved film. The image clarity is fantastic and the colors pop like I haven’t seen them before, plus the soundtrack is ridiculously immersive. It’s not like the Blu-ray version of this film was a slouch, but the 4K Ultra HD is just a little bit better. And who doesn’t want the best possible version of this movie?
  • South Park: The Complete Sixth through Eleventh Seasons (Blu-ray) – These are new editions of existing releases in a new format. South Park has been around so long, the first dozen or so seasons came out on home video before Blu-ray was really a thing, so they were released only on DVD. Now, CBS/Paramount is allowing fans to complete their Blu-ray collections as seasons Six through Eleven are released in individual season sets on Blu-ray. Now, obviously, the show isn’t known for high fidelity graphics, but Blu-ray is always a better option than DVD in terms of color and clarity. Each set includes extra features and are all available at a relatively low price point, so fans can now round out their collections and dump those early DVD releases.
  • The Whales of August – Acting as spiritual brethren to On Golden Pond, this star-studded film features Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Vincent Price (all later in life). Davis and Gish play octogenarian sisters who suffer a rift when one of them potentially finds romance with Vincent Price. I have to admit, I wasn’t familiar with this film before this new release on Blu-ray, which acts as a 30th Anniversary Edition for the film. It’s a nice little drama with some lighter moments and – of course – amazing performance by three screen legends. I don’t think it’s quite as engaging as On Golden Pond, but it’s still an endearing film that I’m glad I discovered.
  • The Apartment – Billy Wilder. Jack Lemmon. Shirley MacLaine. What more do you need to know about one of the best films of the 1960s? What you DO need to know is that this new Limited Edition Blu-ray (only 3000 copies) from Arrow Video is a Criterion-like experience, which presents the film in high definition along a slew of extra features, including several new ones. There are hours of extra features to help you go deeper into this masterpiece, which is the real attraction here. You probably already own some version of this film if you’re a fan; but this one is easily the best yet.
  • Ducktales: Woo-Oo! – I am of the age that thinks that the original DuckTales is one of the greatest animated series of all time. Add to that the fact that I’m a lifelong Uncle Scrooge fan, and I was pretty excited to see the show rebooted for a new generation. Unfortunately, that excitement was tempered once I watched the show. I’ll say this: it’s not a bad show. And I recognize that I’m being a bit of a grump about it, because I wanted to see MY DuckTales back on the screen and that’s not what I get. But this new show is geared for today’s kids, and they clearly like things that I don’t. And as much as I love David Tennant, I just can’t get into him as Uncle Scrooge. He just doesn’t fit in my head with how I hear Uncle Scrooge. Again, I’m filtering all of my opinions through my own personal filter, so take all of this with a grain of salt. Kids should love it, even if I don’t.
  • Tangled: The Series: Queen for A Day – I seriously love Tangled. It’s one of my favorites of the past decade, and it easily goes above and beyond almost any Pixar film for my money. So when I heard they were doing an animated series, I was pretty excited. When I heard that Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were coming back to reprise their roles as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, I was even more excited. I’m happy to report that this show is a heck of a lot of fun, and while the style of animation is different from the feature film, I love this world too much to care. Recommended for kids AND adults.
  • England Is Mine: On Becoming Morrissey – This biopic of Morrissey is not a career-spanning look at his entire life. Instead, it focuses exclusively on his younger, formative years when he was just becoming successful and finding his way, musically and personally. With a strong performance from Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) as the somber singer as well as a great supporting role by Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), the acting is on point, but the film is less engaging than I would want it to be. Admittedly, I’m not a Morrissey or a Smiths fan, so my interest in the film isn’t as great as a fan’s might be, but I don’t think the film is good enough to really get anyone all that excited.
  • Nova: Killer Volcanoes – I love any documentaries dealing with natural disasters, as I find them completely fascinating. Killer Volcanoes is more than just a collection of footage of eruptions and lava, however. This hour-long documentary is almost a mystery, with a team of researchers trying to discover a previously undiscovered volcano that might have been responsible for some catastrophes of the middle ages. Don’t worry, there’s still some great volcano footage, but there’s more to it than that and the end result is quite interesting.
  • Camelot – Richard Harris stars in this musical adaptation of the legend of King Arthur. Videotaped on Broadway and broadcast on HBO in the 1980s, this is more of a curiosity than a truly satisfying viewing experience. It is very much a video of a live performance, which is always an odd experience for me, and as I’m not a huge fan of musicals, I can’t say I loved it.
  • Santoalla – This is one of those documentaries that’s hard to explain both because it’s a complex story and also because to give away too much would spoil the film’s secrets. Suffice it to say that it involves a couple in a town far from home and a mysterious disappearance. It’s a unique true crime story, and as a fan of the genre, I found it quite fascinating. The film is well made, telling the story in a way that takes a set of unusual circumstances and makes a narrative that works out of it all. Check it out if you like true crime stories.
  • D.O.A.: A Right of Passage, Magnus, National Bird, The Bad Kids, Frank Zappa: Summer ’82, When Zappa Came to Sicily – MVD Visual has a slew of new documentary releases, with the most high profile one being O.A.: A Right of Passage. This top-notch look at the punk music scene of the 1970s is filled with rare footage from the Sex Pistols’ only US tour, making it something of a holy grail for punk music fans. There’s also music and performances from The Dead Boys, Generation X (with Billy Idol), The Clash and Iggy Pop. This new release is a two-disc special edition replete with a ton of extra features, and it’s a must-have for music fans. Magnus tells the story of young Magnus Carlsen, a shy and withdrawn young boy whose talents led him to become a chess master at a young age. I love chess, so I found this documentary rather interesting, and the brisk 75-minute running time will keep it interesting for general audiences as well. National Bird is produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris, two acclaimed filmmakers in their own right, and it explores not just the use of drones in military operations, but the personal cost involved in doing so. Several former drone operators are interviewed, and they discuss their guilt and feelings over the use of the faceless technology. Interesting stuff, if a bit heavy. Speaking of heavy watches, The Bad Kids focuses on a school in California that deals with some of the most at-risk and troubled students in the state. The school is basically a last chance/last hope for these wayward teens, many of whom are dealing with circumstances beyond their control. It’s a moving film, but it’s a tough watch from an emotional standpoint. Finally, Frank Zappa: Summer ’82, When Zappa Came to Sicily is largely a concert video, with other footage thrown in as well. Obviously, the concert is from 1982 in Italy (gotta love truth in advertising in DVD titles!) and if you’re a Zappa fan, apparently this is something of a holy grail for you from what I’ve seen online. I’m not a Zappa fan personally, so this isn’t a disc I got too excited about, but fans should be thrilled.

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