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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: Tully, Counterpart, Dark Crimes and more


Tully – I wasn’t really expecting much from Tully. While it’s written and directed by Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman who wrote and directed Juno, respectively, I’m actually not a huge fan of Juno. I also thought the trailers for Tully were extremely underwhelming. So I was pretty surprised when I really, really liked the film. Charlize Theron is outstanding in the lead role, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an honest and realistic portrayal of parenting in a movie. Its both funny and dramatic, and the film’s ending is as surprising as it is rewarding. Don’t be fooled by the poor marketing efforts for this film; check out Tully and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Counterpart: Season 1 – The marketing for Counterpart did a really good job of selling it as a spy thriller. Which would be great, if that’s all it was. Instead, it’s a spy thriller with Fringe-esque overtones where our main character (played by J.K. Simmons) learns that there’s an alternate earth just like ours, but with possibly more nefarious plans for our side of the rift. THAT would have been helpful information to convey in the original commercials for the show. That said, once I sat down to watch the show and understood what it was actually about, I found it more interesting. J.K. Simmons is – of course – absolutely fantastic in the lead role, but I’ll admit that I do find the episodes a bit on the slow side. It’s a deliberately-paced show, with a color palette that seems to include, grey, light grey, and dark grey. It’s an interesting show with some cool moments, but it’s not a complete slam dunk for me.

Dark Crimes – Jim Carrey turns in his most dramatic and darkest role in Dark Crimes, in which he plays a Polish police detective (complete with accent and all) in a mystery story that clearly takes cues from the books by Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. This one is based on an article about a true crime, but sadly that doesn’t mean much. While Carrey is understated in the role, the problem is that the entire film is understated. So much so, that it’s bleak, dark, depressing, and – worst of all – dull. The crimes involved are shocking, sure, but the movie is so grey and monotone that it never even gets your heart rate moving. This one was a definite disappointment.

LEGO DC Super Heroes Aquaman: Rage of Atlantis – The LEGO DC and Star Wars movies have always been a lot of fun, and LEGO Aquaman: Rage of Atlantis is no exception to that. Featuring a more traditional Aquaman than the Jason Momoa version from the Justice League movie and the upcoming Aquaman film, this adventure sees Aquaman as a fish out of water as he teams up with Superman, Batman, and new Green Lantern Jessica Cruz on a mission that takes him to battle the nefarious Red Lanterns. As usual, it manages to steep the movie in DC Comics lore while being completely accessible to people who have never read a comic book in their life. There’s plenty of humor, but the action and adventure are real. I’ve always liked Aquaman, so it’s great to see him take the spotlight here.

Piranha II: The Spawning – James Cameron’s first film comes to Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Scream Factory, and it’s a fun look back on his early career, but it’s not necessarily a must-have for Cameron fans. A sequel to the low budget creature feature Piranha (itself directed by Joe Dante), this offering sees the fish mutated to have wings, which allows them to fly for short distances. The film is pretty formulaic post-Jaws fare, notable mostly for Lance Henriksen having a lead role amongst a bunch of unknowns. The acting and script are bad, and it’s hard to find signs of the Cameron legacy to come. Ultimately, it’s a fun B-movie romp but not much more.

Also available this week on home video:

  • Kings – When you get a movie released with Halle Berry and Daniel Craig and not only does it go direct to home video, but it also only comes on DVD with no Blu-ray release anywhere in sight, that’s not a great sign. That said, this drama set during the Rodney King riots of the early ‘90s isn’t the trainwreck I expected it to be. It’s… solid. The performances by Craig and Berry are both terrific, even if the story is a little hackneyed (the romance is both not a surprise and a little forced). It’s not a stellar film, but it’s a decent watch, which is more than I thought I was in for when I sat down to watch it.
  • Final Portrait – This interesting film (directed by Stanley Tucci) stars Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer as American writer and art-lover James Lord (Hammer) and world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti (Rush). Both Rush and Hammer shine in their roles, which is good, because the film doesn’t have much else going for it. No offense meant to Mr. Tucci, but I wish he’d picked a more interesting project to direct. This one is almost exclusively dialogue, none of which is all that interesting, and while the film isn’t that long, it sure feels like it is. Maybe art lovers or pure acting fans will enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Series 11 – The popular show returns! By now you know that Murdoch Mysteries is a forensic procedural, but it’s set in turn of the century Toronto, right on the cusp of the age of scientific discovery. This setting gives it a feel that’s different from your typical NCIS or Criminal Minds show, plus the fact that it’s British gives it a unique charm of its own. This season kicks off in high gear, with Inspector Murdoch in jail for murder! Did he do it?!? Well, you can probably figure that out, but it’s fun to watch his team work to prove his innocence. The show is fun and endearing, filled with good mysteries, excellent acting, great guest stars (this season sees roles by Tamzin Outhwaite, Colin Mochrie, David Hewlett, and WWE star Jay “Christian” Reso), and amazing period-era production values.
  • The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen – Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (likely inspired by his turn in The Revenant), this newest installment of The Men Who Built America franchise takes us into the world of the men who tamed the wilderness of America in the early years of the country. This History Channel miniseries includes four episodes over nearly eight hours that give us a glimpse into the lives and actions of pioneers such as Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Crockett, Tecumseh, and Andrew Jackson. It’s pretty interesting stuff overall, although history buffs will probably get the most out of it.
  • 1/1 – This deep drama follows a twenty-year-old girl who has a bit of a history of making bad decisions as she awaits the results of a pregnancy test. She’s spiralling into depression, and her life is getting worse, not better. If that sounds like a heavy load, well, that’s because it is. Lindsey Shaw gives a strong performance in the lead role, and Judd Nelson is a welcome addition to the cast as her father. However, the film is almost clinical at times, and I can’t say I found myself particularly emotionally invested in it. It looks at some important issues, but it isn’t the encompassing emotional journey it needs to be to fully succeed.
  • American Masters: Ted Williams, Nova Wonders, The World’s Most Wanted Animal, Nature: Shark Mountain, Myanmar’s Killing Fields – PBS has a number of new releases out this week. First up is American Masters: Ted Williams, which is a nice, concise biography of the baseball legend. Narrated by Jon Hamm and featuring interviews with Wade Boggs and Bob Costas (among others), it’s a great look at a true sports icon. Nova Wonders, The World’s Most Wanted Animal is a fascinating new special about an animal I’d never even heard of before: the pangolin. Looking like a cross between an armadillo and an anteater, these endangered animals are in danger of going extinct, but here we see conservationists team up with a Chinese pop star (of all people) to help save them. It’s a very cool show and I am utterly captivated by these creatures! Nature: Shark Mountain is an equally interesting program that takes us to the volcanic reefs of Cocos Island (also known as, well, Shark Mountain). There’s a whole ecosystem here unlike anything else in the world, and of course, there’s a lot of sharks. This show is filled with some amazing imagery and – having never heard of Cocos Island before – I found it quite engaging. Finally, on a more sombre note, we have Myanmar’s Killing Fields. This serious program details the Myanmar military’s years-long campaign to kill or expel Rohingya Muslims from the country. We hear from survivors of the purges, former military men, and more, and it’s not an easy show to watch at times, but it’s important, especially in this day and age.
  • Rusty Rivets – Think of Rusty Rivets as Bob the Builder or Handy Manny, but Version 2.0. This new kids’ show follows Rusty and Ruby as they explore the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.) With the help of some robot friends and tools, the pair solve problems, fix things, and tackle issues that need addressing, all while exploring the math and science aspects, yet never going above the heads of younger viewers. It’s a fun little show that I think younger kids will definitely enjoy, and parents will like the educational aspects of it, especially considering its not just the usual words and numbers concepts that so many shows already cover.

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