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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Terminal, Black Lightning, Mission: Impossible Collection and more


Mission: Impossible 5-Film Collection (4K Ultra HD) – Just in time for the new theatrical Mission: Impossible film, Paramount has released all five existing movies on 4K Ultra HD (each sold separately, so you don’t have to buy a box set.) I’ve always loved the Mission: Impossible franchise. With the exception of the weak second movie (directed by then-It Director John Woo), it’s one of the most reliable movie series around. And now, each entry looks and sounds better than ever in the premium 4K format. While each film boasts a noticeable improvement over the existing Blu-rays, it’s the last two films that shine the brightest. Each movie, however, offers up improved image clarity and especially much more vibrant colors. The surround soundtracks – never slouches to begin with – are exceptional, with some really impressive directional effects. Plus, each disc includes every extra feature originally created, ensuring hours of extra value with each movie. I’m not the person who’s going to say you have to go out and upgrade with every new format, but if you’re a fan of these films, this is a fantastic way to own the complete collection.

Black Lightning: The Complete First Season – I think The CW is almost half made up of DC Comics-inspired TV shows. Black Lightning marks the fifth series based on a comic book character from the DC Universe. And what I like most about it is how different it feels from the others. I mean, sure, it has that “DC feel” to it, but this one is set in a much more urban locale, with an almost exclusively African American cast. And while Black Lightning is a superhero, he’s got more of a vigilante edge to him, and he also deals with more personal issues. I’m all about new takes on the superhero genre, and it’s good to see DC and The CW offering up something different.

Terminal – Give me a movie with Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, and Mike Myers, and I’m interested. Unfortunately, that movie is Terminal, which is utterly dreadful. The film wants to be a neo-noir thriller, but it’s one of those films that’s overly bright yet perennially dim, too colorful by half but constantly drab, and filled with dialogue that people only ever speak when they’re reading from a bad script. There isn’t an organic bone in this movie’s body. Robbie is game and Mike Myers does something different from his usual shtick, but I really did not like this movie at all.

Jack Reacher (4K Ultra HD) – While the second Jack Reacher film was available in the premium 4K Ultra HD format upon its release, the first film came out before 4K was a thing. Now Paramount has given fans the opportunity to own the first film in 4K as well. What’s interesting about this film is how inspired it is by ’70s cinema. If you enjoy that decade’s style of filmmaking, you’ll like this movie quite a bit. The characters and script feel like they came out of that decade, but it’s more the direction, pacing, look and feel of the movie that really owe heavily to that darker time in cinema. I like the second film better, but this one is still quite enjoyable. The 4K upgrade is a solid one, if not a transformative one. The film looks razor sharp and the darker scenes look better in Ultra HD, while the more saturated colors give the film a little extra oomph. The surround soundtrack is excellent, but the original release offered that as well.

The Endless – I find cults fascinating, and when you give me a movie about two guys returning to the cult they escaped from and add in a sci-fi/supernatural element, I’m interested. Unfortunately, The Endless is a mixed bag of a film. Written by (and starring in the lead roles) Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, the film often feels just a little too indie and just a little less well-acted than I’d like. It’s not a bad film, but it has slow moments, and it never quite delivers all the answers you want. An interesting indie sci-fi flick, but not entirely successful.

Spinning Man – I really liked this dramatic thriller starring Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, and Minnie Driver. It’s compelling, engaging, intriguing, and well-acted. It’s a shame, then, that the ending is kind of a let down. The story is pretty a simple: a married college professor (Pearce) comes under the scrutiny of a police detective (Brosnan) when a teenage girl with a tentative connection to the professor goes missing. What’s great about the film is that it keeps you guessing as to Pearce’s guilt or innocence up until the very end. Unfortunately, the ending is murkier than I’d like; it’s not completely unsatisfying, but the film leading up to it is so good that the lackluster ending is a disappointment. It’s still worth watching, I just wish it landed better in the last five minutes.

Also available this week on home video:

  • Curse of the Cat PeopleThe Cat People was a hit for Val Lewton back in 1942, and so it didn’t take long for the studio to churn out a sequel. Unfortunately, back in the 40s, most sequels were quick cash-ins rather than meaningful franchise entries. Curse of the Cat People isn’t a terrible film, but it certainly doesn’t recapture the novelty and charm of the original film. With a new cast and a derivative story, the film doesn’t offer the same value as the original. I’m glad to see it on Blu-ray for the fans, but it’s a shame it’s a weaker movie.
  • The Heart Guy: Series 2 – This show feels familiar and different all at the same time. An Australian drama, the series follows an arrogant but gifted heart surgeon who ends up working as a general practitioner in his rural hometown after an incident fueled by drugs and alcohol brings him down. Of course, family and exes abide, and the result is a fish-out-of-water, Doc Hollywood-type story that manages to carve out its own unique take on a story we’ve seen before. It’s enjoyable, although I will admit I don’t tend to watch medically-based shows So I might not be a regular viewer, but not because it’s not well done.
  • Girlfriends: Series 1 – This British drama series (not to be confused with UPN’s long running series of the same name) is a juicy drama with a mystery wrapped up in the center of it. The story focuses on three women who have been friends for decades. As their lives unravel slightly due to normal life stuff, a major event occurs that shakes their lives up in a big way, causing tension, questions, and secrets between the three to surface. A fantastic cast that includes Miranda Richardson, Zoe Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan, Matthew Lewis, and Anthony Head help bring the show to life, and it also benefits from excellent supporting characters, even the ones not played by recognizable actors. It’s a nice six-episode binge watch, perfect for viewers who miss Desperate Housewives or similar fare.
  • China Salesman – Whoo boy. When you see Steven Seagal and Mike Tyson in the same movie, you know you’re in for… well, a pretty bad time, really. Supposedly based on a true story, the film sees a Chinese telecom salesman who basically helps stop an African Civil War – completely by accident, of course. Seagal and Tyson take on supporting roles as warriors on opposite sides of the conflict, and the result is overlong and underwhelming, although there are a few solid action sequences.
  • Frontline: Trump’s Takeover and Frontline: McCain – Two new Frontline specials are out via PBS this week. The first, Trump’s Takeover, is an hour-long documentary all about how Donald Trump has taken over steering the ship of the Republican party. It’s a fairly balanced and non-biased hour-long look at his early presidency, so there is an educational aspect to it. Meanwhile, Frontline: McCain is a pretty by-the-numbers profile of Senator John McCain. It gives an overview of his life of service, from the military to the American government. It’s not a deep dive, but for a broad overview, it does the trick.
  • Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Emerald City Season 1, Volume 2 – This fun little-animated show works as sort of a sequel to the original Wizard of Oz. In it, Dorothy has become the Princess of Emerald City, and she faces off against her new nemesis, the niece of the original Wicked Witch. Along for the ride are The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion, plus of course Toto. Each episode is pretty standard cartoon fare for younger viewers, but the animation is cute and pleasing to the eye, the stories are fun for kids, and the show has a charm that works. This DVD collection gives you almost two hours’ worth of episodes for a low price point, so it’s perfect for the kidlets.
  • Back to Burgundy – If it’s been a while since you’ve enjoyed a wine-themed drama, Back to Burgundy might be right up your alley. This French drama sees a man return to his home country of France and his family’s vineyard when his father becomes ill. Cue the requisite family tensions and mishaps. With a good blend (see what I did there?) of wine-based information and familial drama, the film doesn’t get too bogged down in any one aspect of the story, which I liked. There are some good performances, and a film set in a French vineyard definitely feels more authentic when its in French. Worth a watch for the artier viewer or the wine lover.
  • Sheikh Jackson – This odd Arabic film focuses on a young Islamic man who suffers a crisis of faith due to… wait for it… his obsession with Michael Jackson. As you can see, this isn’t your father’s Arabic film. What seems like the set-up for a quirky dramedy or unusual documentary is instead a pretty subtle character study, lacking energy (and also lacking any actual music or footage of Michael Jackson.) It’s an uneven film, and despite some game lead performances, it didn’t quite work for me.
  • Warner Archive Releases – This week sees several new releases from Warner Bros.’ print-on-demand service, the Warner Archive. First up, we have the Blu-ray release of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I’d never seen this movie before, and while I’m not a big musical fan, it’s too famous of a movie for me to continue having never seen it. Now that I’ve watched it, it does fall right into that 1950s Hollywood musical formula. Enjoyable, but not a favorite for me. Also debuting on Blu-ray is Designing Woman, a stand-out romantic comedy starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, both taking a break from the dramatic roles they’re so well known for. The film won an Oscar for its script, and it’s easy to see why; it’s snappy and fun. A Lost Lady comes to DVD, offering us a Barbara Stanwyck drama about a woman who enters into a loveless marriage (on purpose) and eventually ends up falling for another man. It’s a short watch at just over an hour although it’s nothing overly memorable. The Hot Heiress is another musical with Ben Lyon, Ona Munson, and Walter Pidgeon. It’s another love triangle movie, this one with more songs, and it’s perfectly fine, but it’s better if you like musicals. Taking sort of the opposite track, for those people who are obsessed with the musical Hamilton, now you can watch a non-musical version of the historical figure’s story, with the biopic/drama Alexander Hamilton. Starring George Arliss, this 1931 film is an adaptation of the hit play from the 1920s, which sees Arliss reprising his role from the stage. It’s a staid film, and not as exciting as the modern day take, but it might be interesting for Hamilton aficionados.
  • Ascent of Evil: The Story of Mein Kampf, The Boxer of Auschwitz: Searching for Victor “Young” Perez, Dogs of Democracy – EPF Media has three new documentaries out this week. First up is Ascent of Evil: The Story of Mein Kampf, which focuses not just on Adolf Hitler, but more so on his 700-page book Mein Kampf, which is largely believed to have helped him rise to power. The film is only an hour long, but it’s an interesting subject and its briskly paced. The Boxer of Auschwitz also has a World War II theme, following a young boxer who rose to success in the early 1930s, only to eventually find himself in a Nazi concentration camp, often boxing for the guards. The film profiles Perez and reveals his ultimate fate. This was the most interesting of the three releases for the week for me personally, especially as it’s a story I had never heard of before. Finally, Dogs of Democracy explores the phenomenon of stray dogs in Athens, Greece, and how the people there have begun to take them in and adopt them as a symbol of hope in a country in turmoil. Interesting stuff, and the short running time works to its advantage.

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