Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Fifty Shades Freed, Saving Private Ryan, Batman Ninja, Please Stand By and more


Fifty Shades Freed – The final chapter in the blockbuster trilogy has arrived and it’s… much like the first two. Fun, sexy, not a great film, but not as terrible as film critics want you to believe. I’ve never had a problem with these movies; I understand that they’re made for a certain target audience and I’m perfectly okay with that. In this last chapter, there’s still plenty of sex, as well as some suspense/intrigue to keep things moving, even if it’s all a bit predictable. Great soundtrack, too. The film is out on Blu-ray and DVD but also on 4K Ultra HD, which gives the film an extra sheen of A/V gloss. It’s not a huge difference as these aren’t films known for their visuals or surround soundtracks, but there’s a little more color and a touch of extra oomph in the rear speakers.

Batman Ninja – The completely unimaginatively-named Batman Ninja is an interesting new take on the Batman Mythos. Created by some major superstars in the world of Japanese animated cinema, the film was basically created in Japan and then voiced here in the U.S. I haven’t really loved DC’s animated movies over the past few years, and while this one stars out promising, it quickly falters. I will say that it looks absolutely gorgeous, with some truly breathtaking animation. But I really hated the voice actor portraying The Joker, and about halfway through the film, it turns into a sort of Transformers/Robotech hybrid that really lost me. Some Batman fans will love this, some will hate it. I fell somewhere in between.

Saving Private Ryan – While there’s no shortage of home video releases for Saving Private Ryan, this release marks its debut on the premium 4K Ultra HD format. So, sure, you may already own Saving Private Ryan on DVD or Blu-ray, but if you have the capability, I recommend the upgrade. Why? Because this is not only one of the single greatest war movies of all time, but it’s also one of the greatest movies of all time, period. So why wouldn’t you want to own it in the best format possible? While the deep color saturation that marks most 4K releases isn’t in full effect here (as the film has desaturated overtones), but the imagery is razor sharp and the surround soundtrack has been added to make it seem like you’re literally in the middle of the action. This one is a must-have, especially for A/V aficionados.

Deep Blue Sea 2Deep Blue Sea is one of the greatest shark-movie cult classics of all time. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love it. So, of course, I suppose it was inevitable that eventually a direct-to-video sequel would come along. And now we have it, and it’s… okay. I mean, I’ve seen worse shark movies, but this one is clearly right out of the SyFy TV-movie playbook. There’s a cast of decent actors, a script that’s at least not embarrassing, and a couple of solidly fun special effects sequences. But, I mean, it’s not Deep Blue Sea. In fact, there’s really no reference to the film at all except for the fact that we’re dealing with genetically modified intelligent sharks. But the packaging and all the extra features really try to tie it into the first film as much as possible. It’s a fun enough way to kill 90 minutes, but nothing more.

Please Stand By – Dakota Fanning plays a young woman with autism, who runs away from her group home in order to submit her Star Trek movie script to a contest before the deadline in this charming dramedy. The film does a good job of having Star Trek set the backdrop for the film without actually being about Star Trek, meaning you can enjoy it even if you don’t know your Spock from your Tribble. Dakota Fanning turns in an excellent performance, as do Toni Collette and Alice Eve in supporting roles. The film has some nicely funny moments, but also moments that will bring a tear to your eye. There are a few slow moments in the middle, but by and large I quite enjoyed this film and I recommend it.

In the Fade – Diane Kruger takes on her first German-speaking role in this heavy drama (with thriller overtones) about a woman dealing with the aftermath of the deaths of her son and husband in a terrorist bombing. The film isn’t just a melodrama, though, as we see Kruger try to piece together the events and find out who is responsible for her life falling apart. Kruger won Best Actress at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and it’s deserved. Her performance is a powerhouse. The movie also won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, and while it’s not an easy watch, I can see why it got the award. You’ll have to prepare yourself for this one, but it’s worth watching.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Source Code – This excellent 2008 thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal gets the 4K Ultra HD treatment this week. This is one of those movies that was neither overlooked nor an out-and-out hit when it debuted. It was a medium-sized hit, was well liked, and then sort of faded from view. But it’s held up as a well-regarded film and brought its director, Duncan Jones, a lot of attention (he went on to direct the Warcraft movie, among other things.) This premium version of the film looks and sounds great, with deeper colors, higher resolution, and a really responsive soundtrack. What better time to revisit this great sci-fi thriller?
  • Paradox – Asian action superstars Tony Jaa and Louis Koo team up in this action-packed flick from director Wilson Yip (the Ip Man Trilogy.) Koo plays a Hong Kong policeman whose teenage daughter goes missing in Thailand. So, he teams up with a Chinese detective Chui Kit (Wu Yue) and a Thai policeman (played by Tony Jaa) to find her. The end result is right out of the buddy-cop movie playbook, except absent the cheesy humor that often accompanies films in that genre. I’ll watch pretty much anything Tony Jaa stars in, I just wish he had been in the film longer, but the film is pretty damn good. The cinematography shines, the action scenes are terrific, and the film has a solid emotional center to it. Definitely worth a watch.
  • Dear White People: Season 1 – I absolutely hated Dear White People, the film upon which this Netflix show is based. I know, I know, I’m white. Which makes it tricky to hate a movie called Dear White People that is largely about African-American People. But I can’t pretend I like a movie I didn’t. And so I was hesitant going into this series, as it’s by the same creator of the film. However, maybe what the stories needed were the television format, because Dear White People, the television series, is a much better effort. The characters feel more like real people with real voices and not just lectures disguised as dialogue (as the movie did), and the storylines are allowed more time to develop. It’s not my favorite show or anything, but it’s a much better product in my eyes.
  • Midsomer Murders: County Case Files – This unendingly popular mystery show from across the pond, proves why British television does some of the best mystery shows on TV. Now in its 19th season, the show is a police procedural, but there’s a personal side to it as well, as the Barnaby family sometimes get involved in solving crimes. In fact, the show even survived a lead change that saw one character (and actor) take over for another without missing a beat. The show is still as popular as ever, and for those of you who haven’t been buying each season as they come out, this new set is for you. Collecting the 16th, 17th, and 18th seasons onto eight discs, which includes the landmark 100th A terrific collection of a terrific show!
  • The House That Dripped Blood – Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the same horror film? Sign me up! Throw in former Doctor Who Jon Pertwee and Indiana Jones regular Denholm Elliott and that’s just a bonus! Of course, turns out none of them share screen time as this is a horror anthology that features five separate stories (none of which really have any blood in them, believe it or not.) Anthologies can be hit or miss, and while not every one of these tales is a hit, by and large they’re a good bit of fun. Despite the presence of Lee and Cushing, it’s Pertwee’s chapter that’s the most fun and my favorite. A fun throwback to another era.
  • Ackley Bridge: Series 1 – This timely dramatic series from across the pond sees a small town high school dealing with de-segregation for the first time, which results in white high school students mixing with Pakistani high school students for effectively the first time. Which results in – not surprisingly – a lot of tension. Racial tension, romantic tension, you name it, this school has it. Now, this is a show that’s got some pretty solid drama in it, but it’s carried by a top-notch cast (of mostly unknowns, at least in the US) and there are occasional bouts of mild humor to break things up. But it’s drama that drives this show, so be prepared for some serious storylines.
  • Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Fourth Season – I’m not old enough to have watched Laugh-In when it originally aired, but I grew up watching it on Nick at Night repeats as a child. My parents were the perfect age to be fans of the show, so it was a staple in my house and I became a big fan. Laugh-In was basically one of the first sketchy comedy shows, and it was filled with an amazing roster of talent including Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Gary Owens, and many other comedy greats. Digging into the show, I found it to still be an incredibly fun time. It’s great to see all the old stars again, and the humor is still right on point. Sure, not every single sketch or bit still works, but the humor is largely timeless, and I had a really good time revisiting what was a huge part of my childhood.
  • La Belle Noiseuse (The Beautiful Troublemaker) – So admittedly, I’m always looking to expand my knowledge of the French New Wave, and while this 1991 film is sort of a neo-New Wave effort, it comes from a notable director in the genre, Jacques Rivette. Add to that the fact that this sexually-charged character study stars the luminescent and beautiful Emmanuel Beart, and there’s a lot to like. But. There’s always a but, and this is a big one. (Not a big butt. A big But.) But… the film is four hours long. Four. Hours. Long. I’m not the most patient guy in the world to begin with, but if you give me a movie that’s four hours long, it better be pretty damn special. And ultimately, I wish this movie was just two hours long, because there are some good parts to it. But – simply put – it’s too late.
  • Bubble Guppies: Bubble Puppy’s Awesome AdventuresBubble Guppies is a fun Nickelodeon cartoon that my kids used to absolutely adore when they were younger, and I think it’s pretty clever, too. From the creators of The Backyardigans — which is one of my favorite kids shows from when my kids were younger — Bubble Guppies is basically like The Backyardigans It’s a good show with a good mix of lessons for the little ones. This disc includes a good number of episodes, that feature Bubble Puppy in a lead role, which I’m sure kids will go nuts over. It’s cute on top of cute!

Next PostPrevious Post

Amazon Prime Free Trial