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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Suburbicon, 24 Hours to Live, Day of the Dead: Bloodline, Only the Brave and more


Only the Brave

A Bad Moms ChristmasBad Moms was such a big hit, it’s a little surprising that Bad Moms Christmas was a relative disappointment at the box office. But personally, I think Universal rushed it, putting it out just a year after the original, and forcing it into a Christmas theme which smacks of crass commercialism. However, all that said, I quite enjoyed the film. Is it AS good as the first one? No, but I think a lot of that is because the first film was more of a surprise, whereas this one feels a bit familiar the second time around. But Cheryl Hines steals the show as Kristen Bell’s mom, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon also shine, and the film has a lot of laughs to be found. It’s weird to be watching a Christmas movie in February, but it’s a lot of fun.

Only the Brave – I love disaster movies, and while this doesn’t quite qualify as a typical disaster film, it does feature a team of firefighters trying to take down some massive wildfires, so I was interested in watching it. I was even more interested when I found out it was directed by Joseph Kozinski, who also helmed TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, two highly-underrated sci-fi favorites of mine. This based-on-a-true-story film is a solid action/drama, much less of a disaster film than you would expect, much more about the people and characters involved. There’s a lot more emotion than I expected, and although the entire cast is terrific, Miles Teller uses his lead role to prove that he’s one of the best actors working today. Worth a watch, but a heavier film than I expected.

Suburbicon – You’d think a movie starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore and directed by George Clooney wouldn’t have sunk like a stone at the box office. But did anyone watch that trailer and really think, “Boy I can’t wait to see that!”? I kind of doubt it. So, how accurate was that trailer? Sadly, it is. The film is just an odd beast; dark, sometimes slightly comedic, often more just… weird. I like the cast a lot, and honestly, there aren’t really any bad performances in the film. But does it work? It does not. Unless you’re a die-hard completist for Clooney films or Matt Damon/Julianne Moore/Oscar Isaac movie, you can easily skip this one.

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight – I remember reading Gotham by Gaslight as a graphic novel when it came out in 1989. It was the first of DC Comics’s Elseworlds line, which took established superheroes and put them in other times, worlds, and events, and at the time, it was groundbreaking. Now, I haven’t really loved the past couple years of DCU Animated’s films (especially the numerous ones in which they insist on putting Damian Wayne as Robin), but I was pretty excited to see their take on this one. For some reason, though, while it’s technically adept and I like the use of Bruce Greenwood as the voice of Batman, the film just seems to be lacking a spark. It’s watchable, but I can’t say I ever got excited about it. It’s also rated R for some inexplicable reason; a few of the earlier DC animated movies have been R, but this one really seems like it’s barely a PG-13. Go figure.

Day of The Dead: Bloodline – A loose remake of the third chapter in George Romero’s influential Living Dead Trilogy, this film sees a collection of semi-known and also unfamiliar actors taking the story of civilians and soldiers surviving together in cramped quarters after a zombie apocalypse and updating it to the current times. Now, I’m not a hard sell when it comes to zombie films, I just want a decent bit of zombie action and a few good characters. And that’s pretty much what this film serves up. It’s not a classic by any sense of the word, but it’s got enough pf a budget and enough good performances to carry it along and make it an enjoyable enough watch. It won’t challenge the original film for supremacy any time soon, but I’ve seen many much worse zombie flicks.

24 Hours to Live – The title of the films kind of sums up the plot pretty nicely, with Ethan Hawke as a former mercenary with One! Last! Mission! Before! He! Goes! Sure, it’s not all that original, but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for with sheer grit and aesthetic. This is an action film that isn’t afraid to be an action film, offering some pretty kick-ass scenes along the way. Hawke brings a nice intensity to the proceedings, and I’ll admit that I was surprised that what I thought was going to be typical direct-to-video junk was much better than I expected.

Woody Woodpecker – How in the heck did they make a live action Woody Woodpecker film and this is the absolute first I’m hearing of it? Seriously, I had absolutely no idea that somebody had made a Woody Woodpecker movie, much less a live-action movie with a CGI Woody. Weird. So clearly it didn’t have much of a theatrical run, and now it’s been unceremoniously dumped on DVD. So it must be awful, right? Well, sort of. I mean, Psych’s Timothy Omundson gives it his all as the dad who gets wrapped up in Woody’s antics, but the animation of Woody is pretty awful and cartoony and it never looks like he exists in the same world as the human actors. And the humor is pretty lowest-common-denominator. Young kids should like it, but I can’t think anyone else will.

Bosom Buddies: The Complete Series – If you’d asked me how long Bosom Buddies ran for, I would have said at least four or five seasons. I seem to remember it being pretty ever-present when I was a kid. Instead, it ran for all of two seasons, but what a memorable two seasons they were. Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari play two guys who dress as women to live in the only place they can afford: a women-only hotel. It’s a simple concept, and yet it seems like it could have ever only aired when it did in the early 80s. I loved this show when I was a kid, and while it’s clearly showing its age a bit, I still find it and enjoyable flashback. This Complete Series Collection includes both series in their entirety, and it’s a great value for people who remember this show fondly.

War of the Worlds: The Complete Series – Speaking of ‘80s TV shows, one of my favorites was also limited to two seasons, but instead of cross-dressing comedians, it features invading aliens. War of the Worlds was a cult -fan TV show even back when it aired, and I don’t think it’s popularity has grown, but it seems like people (like me) who remember it well continue to have an interest in revisiting it. This new Complete Series collection includes both seasons that ran, the first of which sees a rebel faction of humans fighting against aliens that the world isn’t quite yet aware of, and a second season that turns things 180 degrees and resets the show’s status quo. While this show was always a low-budgeted affair (and the special effects haven’t aged all that well), it always had heart and spirit, and it’s fun to be able to go back and revisit it and fill in some of the gaps from when my VCR forgot to record it back in the day.

Walking Out – While the cover art and marketing does somewhat make this out to look like an action/suspense film, it’s really more of a survival drama involving a father and son trying to connect out in the remote wilderness, and what happens when their situation takes a turn for the worse. Matt Bomer (in a much different role for the actor) and Josh Wiggins give outstanding performances, and the location and scenery is a powerful part of the film. Add in Bill Pullman in a supporting role and the result is a film that is quietly powerful.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • The Guardian: Complete Series – I never really watched this show that ran for three seasons on CBS. Simon Baker – who would later go on to even bigger success in The Mentalist – stars as a hotshot lawyer who gets caught up in the high life, and is sentenced to community service, namely becoming a part-time child advocate. The show then follows Baker as he has to balance his corporate life with the dawning world of children in need, all while dealing with his overbearing father (the always excellent Dabney Coleman). Having plowed through a number of these episodes, its clear to see why the show was popular: good legal cases, heart-tugging cases with the kids, a terrific cast, and no shortage of personal drama amongst the characters. This new box set includes all three seasons in their entirety, which makes for a nice binge watch.
  • Reset – While this film is being heavily marketed as being produced by Jackie Chan (which, to be fair, it is) it doesn’t feel much like a Jackie Chan film. That’s not a dig on it, it’s a cool sci-fi thriller, it’s just not what some people might expect when they see Jackie Chan’s name on a movie. Instead of crazy martial arts using everything from wheelbarrows to pies, instead we get time travel, special effects, families in peril, and some high tension. The story involves a scientist discovering time travel and then setting out to change some things that have quickly gone wrong, and of course, things don’t go as smoothly as she’s like. It’s a cool flick that’s worth checking out.
  • Tales from Earthsea, Pom Poko – I’ve never been a Studio Ghibli fan, despite the critical acclaim they’ve received for movies such as Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises, Spirited Away, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Yet every time I get new discs from the studio, I always try them out, because I keep hoping that someday I’ll see what fans find so enticing about their movies. Sadly, today is not that day. GKids releases two of their lesser known films on Blu-ray this week, and while I can appreciate the gorgeous visuals in each (a Hallmark of Studio Ghibli movies), I just can’t get into them. I had hoped Tales from Earthsea might have been the stand-out because it’s based on the popular novels by Ursula LeGuin, but it was as dull and boring as the rest. Admittedly there is some charm to Pom Poko, but not enough for me to declare myself a fan. At this point, I’ve worked my way through most of the studio’s catalog and I guess their films just aren’t for me.
  • Duckman: The Complete Series – Over the course of 70 episodes and four seasons, Jason Alexander starred as Duckman a “private dick/family duck.” Which kind of tells you everything you need to know about this show. While I think it was ahead of its time (the show ran in the late 90s), I feel like it would be a big hit on Cartoon Network in today’s atmosphere. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the show, but I know there are a lot of people who dug it back in the day and clearly there are still some fans out there. This 10-disc box set includes all 70 episodes, including the never-wrapped-up series finale which maybe we’ll someday get answers to. For fans of the show, this is a nice nostalgia trip.
  • Rugrats: Season Three and Four – If you’re a Rugrats fan, you have GOT to be excited about these two DVD releases. Season One gives you over ten hours of the popular ‘90s NickToon while Season Two offers up almost six hours of Rugrats. Now, personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the show in the world. I don’t dislike it, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I was a tween/teen by the time the show began, and so I never really got all that into it as I wasn’t into kids’ cartoons at that time. Watching it now, I can see why people liked it as it does have its charms, but I don’t have that rabid nostalgia-tinged fan appreciation that a lot of people do. Still, these sets can be found for around ten bucks apiece, which is a ridiculously incredible value. Rugrats fans: get excited!
  • Accident Man – A veritable plethora of B-movie all-stars head up this fun action flick. Scott Adkins takes the lead role, and he’s ably supported by Ashley Greene, Michael Jai White, Ray Park, Ray Stevenson, and David Paymer. Adkins plays an assassin who specializes in making deaths look like accidents who ends up going against his former assassin colleagues. But rather than an overly serious direct-to-video action dirge, this comic book-inspired flick is fun, colorful, and kinetic. It’s still a B-movie in every sense of the word, but it’s enjoyable to watch.
  • Keep Watching – In a world where movies like Insidious get seventeen sequels, how does a horror movie starring Bella Thorne, Ioan Gruffudd, Chandler Riggs (He’s CARL, for god’s sake!), Natalie Martinez, and Leigh Whannell go direct to video with little-to-no fanfare? Sure, the story is solidly in that The Strangers/You’re Next vein, but those movies tend to do well in theaters. Why this didn’t get a January release and go on to make $50 million or so is beyond me. It’s a perfectly fun horror film, and all the recognizable faces make it a good watch.
  • Kill Order – This uneven-but-fun action film sees a group of armed men take over a high school, targeting a student who might be more than he seems. It’s an interesting enough concept for what is ultimately a pretty mindless action/sci-fi flick. The writing and characters and plot are all second-tier players to the action scenes, but the action scenes are pretty damn cool, which goes a long way towards making up for it. Worth a watch on a Friday night when there’s nothing good on TV.
  • Extraordinary Mission – On the surface, there’s nothing extraordinary about this mission. The film follows an undercover cop (and former junkie) out to take down a cartel. But that’s where the surface comparisons stop. Where Extraordinary Mission shines is in its outstanding stunt work and practical effects: it’s a rush of realistic live stunts that will take your breath away, all building more and more towards an explosive climax. Don’t worry too much about plot and characters (although they’re all serviceable), and just get caught up in the rush of it all.
  • Inoperable – Danielle Harris is something of royalty in the horror world, having starred in a number of seminal horror films, most notably a number of Halloween movies. So I get why she keeps coming back to the genre, I just wish she was landing better projects. This genre mash-up takes a hurricane, a time loop, and a “haunted” hospital and throws them all into the mix with little thought to coherent plot or meaningful characters. Harris is great, but even she can’t save this film.
  • Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton – I’ve always been a fan of surfing, even though I’m not a surfer myself. But you give me a movie about surfing, and I’m there. Take Every Wave is a documentary on perhaps the most famous surfer of all time (or at the very least, one of them), Laird Hamilton. One of the pioneers of big wave surfing and an innovator in the sport, this movie is filled with both interviews as well as amazing surf footage, which is a dream come true for me. Highly recommended.
  • Shimmer and Shine: Beyond the Rainbow Falls – My kids have grown out of most of the Nick Jr. shows, so I don’t really get to see any of them anymore, which means now there are starting to be series on the network that I’d never even heard of. Until these DVDs started crossing my desk last year, Shimmer and Shine was one of them. Turns out it’s a really cute little show about a girl named Leah who has two genies-in-training who try to help her out. With emphasis on the “in-training” part, things often go wrong. It’s a fun series that younger kids will definitely enjoy, and this DVD includes 7 episodes.
  • The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb – A few years after The Mummy and its sequel became a massive hit in 1999, we got this TV miniseries which tries to recapture the same magic, but on a television budget and a bloated running time. With Casper Van Dien, Jonathan Hyde, and Leonor Varela in the cast, there are enough familiar faces to keep your attention, but this is pretty typical TV miniseries territory. If it wasn’t for the budget price point on this DVD, there wouldn’t be anything to recommend it beyond to die-hard fans.

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