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US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Ready Player One, Super Troopers 2, Isle of Dogs, In The Mouth of Madness and more

Ready Player One – I read Ready Player One when it first came out, and I’ve spent the past six years telling anyone who would listen that they would love it. Hands down, it’s one of my all-time favorite books. So I was both excited and nervous when the movie version was announced, and while the hiring of Steven Spielberg as director put my mind at ease a little bit, I was still cautiously optimistic at best. Luckily, my fears were put to rest; Ready Player One (the movie) is absolutely fantastic in every way. Yes, it changes a lot from the book, but it had to. That was a certainty from the minute the film was announced. There would just be no way to fit every pop culture reference from the book into the movie. But the film (which is co-written by the book’s author, Ernest Cline) captures the spirit of the book perfectly, and that’s the most important part. I’ve noticed that people who have read the book within the last year seem to be the people who didn’t like the film. You have to let the book go; it’s not an exact, literal translation of the book. Everyone I know who hasn’t read the book recently enough to remember every little detail (such as myself), really loved it. You just can’t get bogged down in the details. Ready Player One comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it might just be one of the best 4K HD discs I’ve seen and heard so far. The colors are insanely vibrant, image clarity is near perfect, and the surround soundtrack is completely immersive. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Isle of Dogs – I’ve never really gotten why people like Wes Anderson films. For the most part, I really don’t like his movies, but then a few years ago, he made The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I absolutely loved. So, I’m stuck watching Wes Anderson films basically forever, all on the odd chance that he’ll make another movie that good. The worst thing about Isle of Dogs is just how incredibly beautiful it looks. This stop-motion movie is truly stunning to look at. It’s too bad then, that the story is so… so… Wes Andersonian. It’s pretty much every other Wes Anderson film rolled into one, except with animated dogs instead of people. I mean, it’s a little different, but the story is so slight and most of the characters never escape the looming shadow of the actors who provide their voices (Edward Norton’s character is a glaring example.) Bottom line: Wes Anderson fans will love it. I did not.

Super Troopers 2 – I’ll admit, I’m not one of those people who’s a die-hard fan of the first Super Troopers. I mean, it’s a fun movie and all, but it’s not like it’s a favorite of mine or anything. And I certainly don’t feel like it needed a sequel. But get a sequel it did, and now we have Super Troopers 2. And it is gloriously… mediocre. The problem with making a sequel to this kind of film is that it was barely a film in the first place, more a series of sketches loosely threaded together. The sequel then has to do the same thing but with new (and some repeated jokes) and they aren’t as fresh or unique as they were the first time around. I suppose fans of the first film will like this one, but I thought it was okay at best.

In the Mouth of Madness – The first of two new John Carpenter Blu-ray releases this week, In The Mouth of Madness is one of the director’s more underappreciated horror gems. Sam Neill shines as an insurance man hired to track down a missing horror writer whose worlds are beginning to come to life. The film is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, but it has its own identity as well. It’s chock full of Carpenter’s signature moments, and Sam Neill gives a truly great performance. The Blu-ray (a new Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory) comes full of extra features including a few new ones; the new audio commentary by Carpenter is a real treat. A great release of a fun cult classic.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man – One of John Carpenter’s few non-horror forays into film, the underrated Memoirs of an Invisible Man was a pretty big bomb at the box office. Now, I’m a huge John Carpenter fan, but I’ve only seen this movie once, and I couldn’t even remember if I liked it or not. So I was pleased to revisit the film with Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release of the cult classic. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the film actually holds up exceptionally well. The special effects are quite solid, and the film is really fun. Chevy Chase actually plays more of a straight role than usual, but he’s terrific here, and the film has a nice blend of action, sci-fi, and humor. The extra features aren’t as plentiful as I’m used to seeing on a Scream Factory release, but this is still a worthwhile purchase for sure.

Beyond Re-Animator & Dagon – Lionsgate’s Vestron Video imprint has two new horror entries this week with Beyond Re-Animator and Dagon. Beyond Re-Animator is the more noteworthy of the two, as it’s the sequel to the extremely popular cult classic Re-Animator. Cult legend Jeffrey Combs returns as Dr. Herbert West, who once again begins experimenting on ways to cheat death, with predictably not-great results. The film isn’t quite as good as the first one, but it’s still a fun horror flick. Dagon is the lesser known film, but it also has its own cult following. Also directed by Stuart Gordon and also based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, but it’s not quite as fun as the Re-Animator movies. Maybe it’s just that it doesn’t have Jeffery Combs in it. Still a fun cult horror movie to watch, but not quite a classic.

Gravity Falls: The Complete Series – I never watched Gravity Falls when it aired on the Disney Channel, but my impression of it was that it was always extremely popular. So I was as surprised as anyone when it was cancelled after just two seasons, especially since I seemed to know as many adults who were into is as kids. So Shout Factory’s new Gravity Falls: The Complete Series box set (on Blu-ray no less!) will be a big deal to the show’s many fans. I didn’t really know what to expect when I sat down to watch it, and my opinion is, well, mixed. On the one hand, I like it better than a lot of what I see on Cartoon Network these days. It at least has a coherent story line, and I like the fact that there’s a sort of story throughline that goes through the seasons, not unlike an X-Files cartoon for kids. That said, I can’t say I really see what all the fuss was about. The show’s okay; nothing more, nothing less. But for fans, the Blu-ray set is the real gem. It includes an extra disc (not included in the retail DVD set) packed with bonus features, including a new documentary and a ton of deleted scenes. You also get audio commentaries on all 40 episodes. This show might not be my favorite, but fans will love this new box set.

Operation Red Sea – This Asian action film directed by genre legend Dante Lam plays like a cross between Black Hawk Down and Sony’s Sniper series. In fact, while the title of the movie is Operation Red Sea and the film’s opening scene is out on the ocean, the majority of the two-hour-plus running time of the film is split between massive battle scenes in a cityscape and massive battle scenes in the desert. If you like a lot of action – and I do mean a lot – then you really can’t pass this movie up. It’s non-stop adrenaline from start to finish. If you like distinguishable characters or memorable bad guys, well, then you’re out of luck.

Also available this week on home video:

  • The Con Is On – Wow. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie with such a great cast that was this bad. Did none of the actors involved bother to read the script or meet the director? Because it’s pretty awful. Despite the presence of Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Sofia Vergara, Alice Eve, Stephen Fry, Parker Posey, Maggie Q, and Crispin Glover, there is nothing to like about this film at all. Every character is a complete degenerate, and none of them has even a slightly redeeming quality. I mean, not even enough to be able to pick someone to root for. Honestly, the film is terrible from the first scene and it never improves. Avoid this one.
  • Love After Love – Chris O’Dowd and Andie McDowell star in this drama about the hole left in a family when its patriarch passes away. The film is well-crafted and beautifully acted (McDowell is especially sublime) but the film is anything but easy to watch. It’s a deep dive into the grief and pain that comes with losing a loved one, and it’s emotionally draining. It’s an impressive film, but it’s not the kind of thing I’m usually in the mood to watch. Go into it knowing what to expect; it can be a real punch to the gut otherwise.
  • Hitler’s Hollywood – This new documentary takes a new approach on the German film landscape during the first half of the 20th A lot of famous filmmakers in America emigrated from Germany before and after World War II, but this film takes a different tack and looks at what the filmmaking landscape was like during the dawn of the Nazis. Was every film steeped in propaganda? Were there actually good movies being made? These are the questions this film attempts to answer, and it’s quite an interesting movie as a result.
  • The Three Way Wedding & You Will Be Mine – Two new erotically charged films are out from Film Movement this week. The first is The Three Way Wedding, a film from 2010 that makes its US DVD debut this week. The story involves a playwright who invites his cast to his country estate, and when said cast includes his ex-wife (and her new lover), well, of course, things get interesting. If there’s a more quintessentially French plot than that, I don’t know what it is. I wish the film were better, but it just didn’t quite click for me. The second film is You Will Be Mine, which treads much more familiar ground, as we see two young students at a music conservatory who become romantically involved, until one of their feelings twists into obsession. This was a much more successful film for me; the suspense is solid and the film is just more entertaining.
  • IMAX: National Parks Adventure & IMAX: Dream Big: Engineering Our World (4K Ultra HD) – These two films that were originally distributed theatrically in IMAX theaters are no less impressive on home video in 4K Ultra HD. National Parks Adventure is narrated by Robert Redford and it showcases the splendor of America’s national parks, which offer up more picturesque views than you might imagine. Dream Big, meanwhile, is narrated by Jeff Bridges, and it looks at some of the most impressive technological marvels such as skyscrapers, bridges, and even the Great Wall of China. Both films are released in 4K Ultra HD, and both look utterly spectacular, capturing the impressive visuals offered in the IMAX format. Colors are deep and vibrant, and the image clarity lets you see every little detail. While each movie only runs about 40 minutes, they’re both extremely awe-inspiring.
  • The Night of The Virgin – This low-budget attempt at a horror-comedy commits the cardinal sin of horror-comedies: it’s neither funny nor scary. I mean, honestly, there’s not much redeeming about this film at all. It looks cheap, it’s badly written, and did I mention it isn’t scary or funny? I really don’t know what else to say about this movie, other than that you should skip it.

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