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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Downsizing, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, The ‘Burbs and more

Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleJumanji was an absolute beast at the box office, grossing almost a billion dollars worldwide, which I guess was a surprise to some people. Personally, the minute I first saw the trailer early last year, I knew the movie was going to be a big hit. And audiences really took to it, both kids and adults, which is a large part to the secret of the film’s success. For me, I liked the film quite a bit, but I wish the marketing hadn’t shown all of the funniest parts in the trailer. There are laughs to be found, but there aren’t any moments in the film that are as funny as all the gags that made it into the trailer. Which might leave you feeling a little let-down if you’re going into to it expecting to laugh more than you are. That said, the action scenes are exciting, the cast is likable, and the special effects are good, so it’s hard to knock a film that succeeds on pretty much every level.

Pitch Perfect 3 – I’ve heard a lot of critics slam Pitch Perfect 3, for everything from being a movie that hates its own characters to simply being bad. And I can see why it’s drawn so much criticism, as it is by far the weakest of the three films and a far cry from the greatness of the original. That said, it’s not a bad film at all. It’s still relatively entertaining, provides some good chuckles, and has some really great musical performances. Most of the cast is back, minus – sadly – any of the supporting guy characters from the first two films. Also, there’s way too much emphasis on DJ Khaled being a music superstar. I get that he is one, but I don’t get WHY he is one, and this movie didn’t do anything to illustrate that. Still, overall, it’s more fun than not. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray as usual, as well as 4K Ultra HD, which is an excellent representation of the film. It’s bold and bright and colorful, and that color leaps off the screen in the premiere format, plus the enhanced audio really brings the music to life.

Ferdinand – I liked Ferdinand. While I’m not familiar with the book the film is based on, the movie is a fun and occasionally sweet family film with some nice animation and a solid performance by John Cena in the lead role. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m a little puzzled by why it got nominated for Best Animated Picture at the Oscars, but I think that might have to do with a limited slate of releases last year. Awards notwithstanding, Ferdinand is a fun time that looks great and that kids will enjoy as much as adults.

Downsizing – I loved the trailer for Downsizing. I liked Downsizing. So where’s the disconnect? Well, besides the heavy-handed environmental message (which I’m certainly not opposed to in theory), the film definitely falls into two halves: a more satirical, comedic first half, and a more soul-searching, introspective second half. And I have nothing against a movie that features a character who’s trying to find himself, but when the movie itself seems to be trying to find itself as well, that’s a bit of a problem. Still, overall, I found Downsizing to be extremely enjoyable, just go into it and know that it’s not quite the comedy the trailer made it out to be. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray as usual, as well as 4K Ultra HD, which is quite nice. The imagery is crystal clear and the soundtrack brings the world to life, but it’s not one of those films that’s so visually dazzling that the 4K Ultra release really stands out.

The ‘Burbs – Tom Hanks’s black comedy from 1989 is a film from between two decades. It’s not quite what you get when you think of as an ‘80s comedy, but it isn’t as polished as some of what we got in the ‘90s either. The result is a strange but somehow mesmerizing film. Hanks stars along with Corey Feldman and the late Carrie Fisher, and the film has comedic elements, but it’s also sort of a dark mystery in a way as well. Now, the film has been available on DVD and Blu-ray before, but this newest special edition (from Shout Factory’s Shout Selects imprint) comes replete with a slew of new extra features. If you’re a fan of this film – and it’s easy to be one if you like offbeat movies – this is the definitive version of the film.

Children of the Corn: Runaway – On the one hand, I applaud the studios for keeping low-level horror franchises like Children of the Corn going. Why not give the fans something they might like and make a little money at the same time? On the other hand, it’s also kind of like… just stop. This entry marks the 10th entry in the CotC franchise, and I don’t know that it’s really servicing fans anymore. Directed by John Gulager (whom you might remember from Project Greenlight), the film is a somewhat coherent, mostly typical direct-to-video horror film that gives us a whole lot of been-there-done that. Sure, it’ll kill 90 minutes for you, but it won’t do much more than that.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Ichi the Killer – Takashi Miike is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it director. While he spans various genre, he’s most known for his over-the-top, often blood-filled action films, or his more horror-themed outings such as the notorious Audition. Ichi the Killer is one of his most well-known films and for good reason: it’s intense, action-packed, bloody, and occasionally humorous. Now, I’m not a huge Miike fan, but I certainly respect that the man makes the kind of films he wants to make. So, while this isn’t my favorite film, it might be my favorite film of his. This new Blu-ray edition includes an audio commentary and a stills gallery, but other than that is mostly notable for offering restored and remastered sound and picture, making it a good one for the die-hard fans.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – Available exclusively through the Warner Archive (Warner Bros.’ print-on-demand service) the BEST Batman movie is finally available on Blu-ray. Yes, I said it’s the best. As much as I enjoy Batman Begins and Tim Burton’s 1989 original (with mixed opinions on the rest pf the films), for my money Batman has never been more perfect than in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the movie that was spawned from the hit Batman: The Animated Series. Mixing in a personal back story for Bruce Wayne that humanizes him, and excellent new villain, and Mark Hamill as the Joker, Mask of the Phantasm is quite simply the perfect Batman story. I’ve been waiting for a Blu-ray release for years, and Warner Archive has finally made my dream come true. A must-have for any true Batman fans!
  • Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III – Also from the Warner Archive this week is the little-seen Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, one of the “forgotten” films from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. This third entry from 1990 is from the lowest point in the franchise’s history, when it was basically a horror footnote. In fact, the film is most notable for featuring a young Viggo Mortensen in a supporting role. This release is notable, however, as it marks the first time this film has been available on Blu-ray, and I THINK (but I’m not 100% positive) that it’s the last Texas Chainsaw film to be released in high def. So, fans should be excited to get their hands on this one.
  • The Church – While the Blu-ray case for this release trumpet’s horror maestro Dario Argento’s participation, he only produced the film, while it was instead directed by Michele Soavi. (It does also star Argento’s daughter, Asia Argento, to be fair.) And for those of you who are the craziest die-hard of Star Wars fans, the film also stars Hugh Quarshie, who played Captain Panaka in the Star Wars prequels. I tell you all these facts because The Church is – at the end of the day – simply an okay horror film. When the tagline for a film is, “In the middle of a modern city, an ancient evil is about to awaken!” you know you’re treading on familiar ground. It’s not terrible, it’s just familiar.
  • Chokeslam – Okay, Chokeslam is not a great movie. But there’s a certain charm to it that I enjoyed. Sort of a rom-com set in the professional wrestling world (well, a fictional professional wrestling world), the film follows a guy who tries to win back his high school sweetheart ten years after she’s become a wrestling superstar. The acting is okay, the script is decent, the production values are average. Like I said, it’s not a great film. But it’s fun, and its heart is in the right place, and the film is more fun than not. Worth a look if you’re expectations aren’t too high.
  • Small Town Crime – John Hawkes is always an interesting choice to play a lead role in a movie. However, when said lead role is an alcoholic ex-cop who discovers a dead body and gets sucked into the case in a small town, he’s perfect casting for the role. With Robert Forster (always terrific), Octavia Spencer, Clifton Collins Jr., and Anthony Anderson in supporting roles, this is a film that ended up going direct-to-video but is better than much of what that genre has to offer. It’s quirky, dark, and occasionally comedic, but it’s also engaging and well-acted. Definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of films/shows like Fargo or Come Hell or High Water.
  • Dirt – You don’t see a lot of offroad racing movies these days, but Dirt gives you one. Starring Kevin Dillon (and real-life racing star Carl Renezeder, who I guess is a big deal), the film is your pretty typical sports/racing genre movie, about a guy with a checkered past looking for a second chance – and he may just find it in racing. Now, I can’t say this is the kind of film I usually go for, and I don’t have any real interest in racing, but as far as direct-to-video films go, I’ve seen worse. If you’re into offroad racing, there’s not a lot of other offerings out there for you, so check it out.
  • Daughter of the Nile – This 1987 film has been released on Blu-ray (and home video in America) for the first time. While I’m not familiar with the cast or filmmakers, I was impressed by this film, which is sort of a family drama mixed with traces of a crime-based film. We follow a young woman and her brother as they survive in Taipei, and the calling of the local crime influences are hard to resist. It’s not an action film or a thriller per se, but it does have some intense moments mixed with scenes filled with emotion.
  • PBS Programming – We have several new PBS features out this week to look at. First up is America’s Untold Story. You wouldn’t think there are that many untold stories about the founding of America left, but this interesting Secrets of the Dead special explores a permanent European settlement on American shores some twenty years before the pilgrims. It’s extremely interesting, especially for history buffs. The Very Best of Victor Borge, Volumes 1 & 2 are a treasure trove of comedy. The late, great Borge blended comedy and music like no one before him had done, and these two volumes give us seven Borge specials in each collection, spanning three discs each. I remember being exposed to Borge as a young kid because my dad had an affinity for him, and I was thrilled to get a chance to see more of his work. You won’t be disappointed with these two excellent collections! NOVA: Day the Dinosaurs Died may not offer up anything all that new, but it is a fascinating look into what probably caused the demise of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. At an hour long, it’s the perfect length to stay interesting the whole way through, and kids might even enjoy the science behind it since it has to do with dinosaurs. Best of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood – Recipe for Fun Collection is a double-sized Daniel Tiger collection, offering up over two hours of episodes. This DVD makes for a great treat for the kiddies, and at a nice, low price. Pre-schoolers will find these DVDs endearing and parents will enjoy the positive lessons. Finally, Peg + Cat: The Big Dog Problem is a fun way for your kids to learn. This show has become quite popular with kids, and when you add a big dog to the mix, it’s the perfect disc to keep your kids happy.

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