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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: The Greatest Showman, Proud Mary, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Knowing and more


The Greatest Showman – Also known as The Little Movie That Could, The Greatest Showman has become so popular that it’s basically a household name now. With a middling opening weekend, the film seemed destined to just become another musical misfire. But then a funny thing happened: the film kept pulling in audiences. Weekend after weekend, the film pulled in new audience thanks to word of mouth and repeat viewings. By the end of the run, the movie was a bona fide smash hit. And it’s not hard to see why; the film is spectacular. Loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum and starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Rebecca Ferguson (Swoon!), it’s an unapologetic musical, but the music is so good and the dance sequences are so exciting that even if you don’t like musicals, you’ll get sucked in. Especially once Zac Efron shows up (yes, really), and has a spectacular duet in a bar with Hugh Jackman. It’s a fun, exciting, vivid, moving film, and I loved it. The Greatest Showman is released on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as 4K Ultra HD, which is a format that this movie was made to showcase. The colors almost leap off the screen, and the music sounds rich and full to make you feel like you’re part of the scenery. If you have a 4K player, this is definitely one to get in the premium format.

Proud Mary – I really wanted to love Proud Mary, but in the end, I just mostly liked it. Starring Taraji P. Henson (who is terrific in the lead role), the most disappointing part of it is that the film didn’t do well enough to get Henson a follow-up, as I really like her as an action hero. The film follows a drug cartel’s assassin who kills a man and then discovers he has a son, whom she takes in. Of course, things quickly go wrong and she soon end up going against an army of bad guys. And while there are good parts of the film and some strong action sequences, it just doesn’t do anything to set it apart from all the other action films out there, with the exception of a female lead. It’s an entertaining enough way to kill 90 minutes, but it won’t stick with you once the end credits roll.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Season Eleven – I’ve always loved Mystery Theater Science 3000, and unlike many relaunches, I wasn’t very worried when I heard this one was coming back. I mean, it’s not exactly a high concept show. Can you still make fun of bad movies? Yes? Well, then this reboot should work just fine. And it does. Sure, there are new cast members (including Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt) and Joel Hodgson stays behind the scenes as a director, but these are still really, really funny. This eight-disc box set includes all 14 episodes that originally aired on Netflix (and were paid for through Kickstarter.) And they found some real gems for this go around, including Reptilicus, Avalanche, The Land That Time Forgot, Cry Wilderness, and The Time Travelers. With monsters, time travel, bigfoot, natural disasters, space travel, dinosaurs and so much more, there’s plenty of material to mine for laughs, of which there are plenty. So much fun!

Knowing (4K Ultra HD) – Lionsgate continues releasing a great slate of 4K Ultra HD catalog releases with Knowing, one of Nicolas Cage’s last good films. Also starring Rose Byrne and directed by Alex Proyas (who brought us Dark City, The Crow, and I Robot), the film follows the father of a boy with special needs whose number scribbling begins to predict the future. It’s a shame the film wasn’t a bigger hit, because it’s a good deal of fun, and I could definitely see a sequel expanding on the events at the film’s climax. The 4K Ultra HD release isn’t quite reference grade, as the film has a couple of years on it, but it does look and sound quite terrific in the premium format. Colors are deep and vibrant, and the number of dark scenes are aided by the higher clarity, allowing you to see the action better. The surround soundtrack is also quite active and impressive. This is a fun movie and a solid 4K release. I don’t know that you NEED to upgrade if you already own it on Blu-ray, but if not, it’s worth picking up.

Braven – Jason Momoa stars in the tense direct-to-video thriller that is a cross between Die Hard and Cliffhanger. Except, it’s not, you know, quite as good as either of those films. It is, however, a good slice of B-movie fun, and Momoa proves he can carry an action film on his own shoulders. Stephen Lang co-stars as Momoa’s dad, and Garret Dillahunt is in fine form as the bad guy. Despite the terrible name of the movie (it’s the main character’s last name), I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It’s a little slow to get going, but once the action kicks in, it’s a lot of fun.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Claws: Season 1Claws is a show about a nail salon in the same way that Titanic is a movie about a boat. Granted, the comparisons end there, but there’s so much more going on in this series than just the trials and tribulations of a handful of girls who do nails for a living. It’s a mash-up of genres and tones, resulting in an over-the-top chaotic chic character study crime dramedy. Or something like that. With a terrific cast that includes Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Harold Perrineau, and Judy Reyes, the show has a little something for everyone (except kids; definitely not for kids) and while I don’t know that I’m the target audience for the show, I can definitely appreciate its offbeat sensibilities.
  • Aloha, Bobby and Rose – If Bonny and Clyde were non-violent dreamers, they might be Bobby and Rose. This ‘70s-era road trip/romance movie is an interesting curiosity. I’m not generally a fan of ‘70s cinema, but there is a definite charm here. The film makes its Blu-ray review, which is nice for fans. Starring Paul Le Mat, Dianne Hull, Robert Carradine, and Edward James Olmos and featuring songs by Elton John, Bob Dylan, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and The Temptations, the film has a great feel to it, even if it’s not a cinematic work of art.
  • Mohawk – What seems like a film that wants to be Apocalypto or The Revenant, sadly falls far, far short of either film. And sure, those are great films, so it’s not like I was expecting this film to match them, but it unfortunately isn’t even that good of a film in its own right. The film follows a young female Native American on the run from ruthless soldiers during the War of 1812, and what I was hoping would be a lean, tense action thriller is instead a low-budget, unimpressive affair. I’ve seen worse movies, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it.
  • Straight Talk – Kino Lorber continues to release cult classic and underappreciated films on Blu-ray. Straight Talk, with Dolly Parton in the lead role, benefits from Parton’s winning screen presence and a cast list that is filled with talented and familiar faces: James Woods, Michael Madsen, Teri Hatcher, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Garlin, and Griffin Dunne. It’s fairly standard rom-com fare, although it’s not quite the meet-cute twentysomething couple we usually get, which gives the film a fun twist. This is ‘90s cinema through and through, and since I’m a fan of that decade, I enjoyed this catalog gem.
  • The Accident – This French limited series follows a man whose wife is killed in a car crash that is ruled an accident, but he doesn’t believe it and sets out to find the truth. From there, of course, things rapidly prove that the death was anything but. Now, I’m a big fan of the French thrillers that have been coming out of their cinemas for the past decade or so, but this one doesn’t seem to work as well for me. The show is filled with mostly unlikable characters, and while there are plenty of tense moments, the overarching mystery is more about building surprises than building a solid story. It’s not bad, not great.
  • Enigma Rosso – Sometimes a DVD case can sum up the essence of a film easier than I can, so from the back of the Blu-ray release of Enigma Rosso, “A prime slice of sordid shocks from the golden age of the Italian giallo, this is the final film in the cycle of schoolgirl thrillers following What Have You Done to Solange? and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?” I’m familiar with giallo films (a particular slice of horror cinema from Italy), but I never really knew there was a “cycle of schoolgirl thrillers.” This film is a solid horror thriller, with all of the giallo elements: plenty of blood, lots of curvaceous girls, and a strong sense of the macabre. It’s also a little cheesy in places, and the Italian language/English subtitles might turn off some less patient viewers. For me, it was a fun B-movie, but not much more.
  • Honor Up – Produced by Kanye West and starring Damon Dash, Cam’ron, Stacey Dash, Michael Rispoli, and Nicholas Turturro, Honor Up is an extremely typical direct-to-video crime thriller. Unfortunately, not only is it something we’ve seen a million times before, but it’s also just not that good. The cast isn’t terribly talented, the writing is substandard, and the film as a whole is just not all that great.
  • Killing for Love – Imogen Poots and Daniel Bruhl lend their voices to this documentary about a young girl and her boyfriend who were accused of murdering her parents. The original case from 1985 had a slightly Natural Born Killers-esque vibe to it, and so there are a lot of questions about it. This film explores the events of the murder, the accusation of the young lovers, and the outcome of the case. I don’t want to give away any details, because I imagine most people are – like me – unfamiliar with the case. Having Bruhl and Poots lend their voices (they read love letters written by the young couple) gives the film an emotional punch, and I found it quite fascinating, even if it’s a bit overwhelming at times. Granted, I’m a big fan of true crime stories anyway, but this one is a good one.
  • A Taxi Driver – Not to be confused with the seminal Robert DeNiro film, A Taxi Driver is a Korean film about a down-on-his-luck taxi driver who gets hired to take a journalist into the town of Gwangju, the site of an uprising by the people who are demanding freedom. And while his first instinct is to get out of dodge, the events of the uprising begin to affect him. Now, I don’t know much of the history behind the events of the film, but it’s still an engaging and endearing story. I found it a bit long at over two hours and 15 minutes, but it works pretty well on multiple levels. And in these times when political upheaval seems to be the norm, it’s also quite a timely film.
  • Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey – The best kind of Hollywood documentary, Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey is an in-depth and love-filled journey through the iconic actress’s life and career. With Doris Day herself present for much of the discussion, she’s joined by a number of friends and fellow famous people (from Betty White to Clint Eastwood) who discuss her career and impact on the cinema of the time. Running two-and-a-half hours, the film flies by and reminds you what a great screen presence Day really was.

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