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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: Ant-Man and The Wasp, The Evil Dead 4K, City Slickers, Whitney, Constantine: City of Demons and more


Ant Man and The Wasp – The Ant-Man movies remain somewhat on the lower tier of the Marvel Universe (in that they gross significantly less than the main Avengers films do), but they remain the most fun movies in the franchise. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that Ant-Man and The Wasp is better than the first movie, but it sure gives it a strong run for its money. This sequel has less origin story and more action and humor, so it’s hard to argue with the results. And let me just say that post-credits scene…? One of the best ones Marvel has done yet! Although I do STRONGLY recommend that you see Avengers: Infinity War before watching it. Trust me, this is the most fun you’ll have watching a movie in a long time!

Constantine: City of Demons – For the past twenty years or so, if you asked me if I was a fan of John Constantine: Hellblazer (a DC comic book as well as a movie with Keanu Reeves once upon a time), I would have said yes. But watching Constantine: City of Demons, something occurred to me: I’m not really a Constantine fan at all. Instead, I realized I’m a fan of writer Garth Ennis’s run on Constantine. That’s one of my favorite comic book runs ever, but everything else I’ve ever read or watched with Constantine in it; this movie included, has left me unsatisfied. So I’ll say that this film is probably good if you’re a fan of the character, but it turns out I’m not one. Constantine: City of Demons has been released on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the animated feature does well in the premium format. Colors are bright, blacks are solid, and the soundtrack is constantly active.

Unfriended: Dark Web – Well, every week needs at least one sequel that nobody asked for, and this week that movie is Unfriended: Dark Web. The first Unfriended film was a solid if not-terribly-inspiring horror flick about a malevolent spirit attacking teenagers through the interwebs. The sequel is, well, pretty much the same, only this time it involves the “dark web” that the credit report companies like to warn you about in their TV commercials. The cast is mostly unknown, and the film relies largely on jump scares and music cues to ratchet up the tension and distract you from the fact that you’re watching a bunch of teenagers Skype-ing with each other. Meh.

City Slickers – While City Slickers has been available on Blu-ray for some time, it’s now been released as a special Collector’s Edition from Shout Factory, and it’s a really worthwhile purchase if you’re a fan of the movie (and how could you not be?) With a nice new slipcover and a ton of extra features, this edition celebrates a movie that was a huge hit in its day and holds up extremely well to this day as a comedy classic. Billy Crystal has never been better, Jack Palance earned an Oscar for his supporting role, and the whole cast (which includes Daniel Stern and the late Bruno Kirby) is terrific. This one’s a winner!

Whitney – While director Kevin MacDonald might be better known for his films like The Last King of Scotland, he’s no stranger to music documentaries, having previously made ones about Bob Marley and Mick Jagger. This time, he turns the lens to the late Whitney Houston, and this documentary/biography gives us a pretty revealing look at the life and — ultimately — the death of Whitney, including her descent into drug use. MacDonald has access to unseen home video footage, and he also interviews the people who were around Whitney the most, giving us a pretty unfettered look into her life. It’s a powerful film that fans will both appreciate and be saddened by.

The Evil Dead (4K Ultra HD) – Just when you thought they’d run out of ways to repackage Sam Raimi’s original horror cult classic, along comes the 4K Ultra HD format, giving us one more chance to have a new home video version of The Evil Dead. Now, the 4K Ultra HD format is known for giving us the best possible picture and sound quality, but you’re talking about a ridiculously low-budget movie that was released 35 years ago, so how does it fare? Well, it’s probably the best the film has ever looked on home video, but take that with a grain of salt. Some scenes are sharper than before, and the film seems a little brighter, easier to see in some of the dark scenes, without losing the inkiness of the blacks. But the film still looks old and low-budget; no format upgrade is going to change that. Still, for die-hard fans who are completists, this is the best I’ve seen the film look yet.

Ash Vs. Evil Dead: The Complete Collection – Speaking of the Evil Dead, while sadly this Blu-ray collection represents the last we’ll see of the show, Ash Vs. Evil Dead was always pretty terrific. The first season was a ridiculous amount of fun, and the second and third seasons continued the mix of overarching mythology, pure silliness, over-the-top cartoon gore, and, of course, Bruce Campbell. He slips into the character of Ash so easily and effortlessly that you can’t help but grin while watching it, no matter how much blood is flying. It looks like this might finally be the end of the Evil Dead franchise, but at least you can revisit it as often as you want with three seasons on home video. You get the complete series on Blu-ray (with digital copies) and all of the original extra features, making this an affordable way to get as much Evil Dead in one spot as you can.

Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series – I’ll be honest, I was never a Fraggle Rock fan. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I could never watch it. As I recall, Fraggle Rock aired originally on HBO or one of the pay channels that we didn’t have, so I never saw it as a kid. Revisiting as an adult without the sheen of nostalgia doesn’t really work, so I’m at best a casual observer of the show. That said, I can appreciate the high quality of the show’s debut on Blu-ray. This beautifully-packaged box set includes the entire series in high def for the first time, and it also includes a metric ton of special features (including several ones that are new and exclusive to this release) as well as a full-color retrospective book. It’s the real deal for fans, the best packaging of the show so far. If you love singing muppets that aren’t Kermit and Fozzie, this is a must have set for you.

Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot – Gus Van Sant’s latest film went under the radar and barely made a dent at the box office, but it’s a pretty good film. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black, the film tells the true story of a wheelchair-bound man who discovers the power of art after his accident, creating cartoons that give him purpose but also cause controversy. It’s not a particularly high-concept film, but that’s part of its charm, as Van Sant lets the characters and the story drive the action, and most of them are interesting enough to keep you watching. It’s not an exciting film per se, but it’s worth a watch.

Reprisal – Frank Grillo and Bruce Willis star in this direct-to-video action film that’s a lot better than many of the DTV films Willis has been starring in as late (he takes a supporting role here.) Grillo plays a bank manager whose bank is robbed, and he gets involved into trying to track down the robbers. When they begin to clash, all hell breaks loose. The film works well largely because Grillo is both a likable actor and a legitimate action star, and Willis in the supporting role seems to have remembered that he can actually act when he wants to. I liked this film; it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a good way to kill 90 minutes.

Also available this week on Home Video:

  • My Little Pony: The Movie – 35th Anniversary Collection – This four-disc set includes two movies in two formats each: the original 1986 My Little Pony: The Movie on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as the 2017 My Little Pony: The Movie on Blu-ray and DVD. Now, by my math, that would make this the 32nd Anniversary Edition, but I guess they’re counting the actual launch of MLPO as opposed to the film itself. The 1986 movie marks the first time its appeared on Blu-ray, although the only extra features included are for the 2017 movie. It’s a nice package for fans of the Ponies, especially having the first film in high def for the first time.
  • The Affair: Season Four – I’m not sure why this Showtime TV series wasn’t released on Blu-ray, but now you can catch up with the acclaimed show on DVD. Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson star as the two main couple involved, and the show presents an affair that occurs between two of the characters from multiple points of view. It’s a complex and layered drama, and it’s the acting and the sharp writing that really carries it. For fans of deep relationship dramas, this show will be right up your alley.
  • Down a Dark Hall – AnnaSophia Robb and Uma Thurman star in this supernatural horror film, which is entertaining enough if wildly uneven. There doesn’t seem to be a set tone to the film; it’s not all that scary, but it is creepy at times. It doesn’t seem to be aiming for comedy, but Uma Thurman might just not be aware of that. It’s a little too young-skewing for most adult horror fans, but it might be too much for younger fans. It just doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. That said, it’s not entirely bad, either, and there is some fun to be had watching it.
  • Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance – I don’t know that the world was ready for a TV-movie version of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s romance just yet, but then again, maybe this is exactly what people want. Since most of what we know about Harry and Meghan’s courtship is relegated to what we read in people Magazine, this film attempts to fill in the blanks by dramatizing the events we know about; their early dates, their trip to Africa, etc. It’s a little cheesy and a little overearnest, but fans of Lifetime movies will enjoy the mushy romance of it all.
  • Elvis Presley: The Searcher – I’m surprised this movie didn’t get more attention before its home video release. Honestly, I never even heard about it until the disc crossed my desk. This 3 1/2 hour, two-part HBO documentary — produced by Priscilla Presley — tells Elvis’s life story in detail, and it’s extremely comprehensive, utilizing materials from the Graceland Archives to give us a deeper look behind the curtain than we’ve ever had before. It features interviews with several musical luminaries, including Priscilla Presley herself as well as Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, and many others. This is a really fantastic dive into the life of a legend.
  • Boundaries – There’s been a trend over the last few years of more and more “quirky family with issues goes on a road trip to much drama and healing” movies, and Boundaries is the latest of them. This one boasts a top-notch cast that includes Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Kristen Schaal and Bobby Cannavale, which elevates it above some of the other movies in this genre, but I’m seeing two or three of these films a year now, which leads to a bit of “road trip family drama fatigue.” Still, it’s a solid drama with great performances, so it’s hard to argue with that.
  • When Calls the Heart: Year Five – All six movies from the show’s fifth season are included in this, the latest collection of the hit When Calls the Heart series. The show stars Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin and Jack Wagner., and it’s pretty typical Hallmark fare. I’ve said this before, but you don’t see a lot of romances where one of the main characters is a Canadian Mounty. Well, in this case you do. This isn’t a series I go out of my way to watch, but I imagine the target audience will enjoy it, and this DVD collection lets you stay caught up at an affordable price.
  • BuyBust – You know how, for years after the release of Die Hard, almost every action movie that came out was “Die Hard on a bus!” “Die Hard on a boat!”, etc, etc.? Well, it seems as if for the past few years, we’ve seen the same effect with the action movie The Raid. Only now it’s “The Raid in the future!” “The Raid on a city block!” Well, that’s what BuyBust is: an action movie heavily influenced by The Raid, but this time set in a city neighborhood. That unoriginality is the bad news, the good news is that BuyBust is a pretty entertaining action flick in its own right, despite being in a foreign language and with unknown stars.
  • Anna Karenina – An all-star cast headlines this adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s beloved drama Anna Karenina from Acorn Media. This version runs just about four hours long (on two discs) and while that’s not exactly brief, the epic nature of the tale makes it understandable. Featuring Helen McCrory, Kevin McKidd, Stephen Dillane, and Mark Strong, the cast is a large part of what makes this new adaptation work so well. And while period dramas aren’t really my cup of tea (especially four-hour ones), I can appreciate the quality at work here.
  • The Durrels in Corfu: Season 3 – Based on a series of popular novels, this show follows a family that leaves England in the 1930s and relocates to the sunny coast of Greece. What follows is a charming, enjoyable drama about a mom and her four kids who are all in the classic fish-out-of-water mode. The show is really well balanced; the characters’ natural quirkiness lends some humor and charm to what is essentially a drama, and there are some more serious moments but the levity keeps things from becoming dreary. I won’t say this is a show for everyone, but I think if you like most of what Masterpiece has to offer, you’ll probably enjoy this one quite a bit.
  • No Postage Necessary – This romantic dramedy seems to want to be both a Hallmark rom-com movie and an edgy comedy/drama at the same time, Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work as either. The story is nothing new (an ex-con hacker steals mail, reads a woman’s letter to her dead husband, becomes infatuated with her) but the film’s tone is out of wack. The male lead isn’t particularly likeable, the female lead is solid but unremarkable, and the script isn’t particularly clever either. There just wasn’t a whole lot about this film to recommend it for
  • Dust 2 Glory – Dana Brown continues his journey as the heir apparent to his father Bruce Brown (the Endless Summer films), branching out from surfing to helm his second movie about racing. This time around, we explore the Baja 1000 a gruelling desert race that seems like it was tailor-made for insane people. Brown once again brings his narrative flair to the proceedings and gives the film a story, while also having an eye for footage that will blow you away. I don’t follow any kind of racing, but this film goes beyond cars going in circles on racetracks. Worth a watch!
  • Rodin – Vincent Lindon portrays the famed sculptor Auguste Rodin in this biopic which focuses mostly on a specific time period in the artist’s life. We see him receive his first state commission, all while dealing with not one but two romantic relationships (and an ensuing break-up). At two hours long the film isn’t in a hurry to tell its story, and while I can appreciate foreign dramas as much as the next guy, usually they have to be something special to really capture my attention. This one is a solid drama but nothing more, for me at least.
  • Generation Wealth – Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield previously struck gold (pun intended) with her 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles, a somewhat-crazy look into a definitely crazy-rich family’s quest to build something of a palace in Florida. Now she tackles wealth once again, but this time she looks at the bigger picture. We see what’s happened to people who have had wealth and how some people who want it are chasing it. It’s pretty fascinating stuff, even if you won’t come away from it liking pretty much anybody involved.
  • Smithsonian: The Real Story – The Da Vinci Code – These documentary-styled specials look at the real-life events behind popular movies. This time around, we learn about the true mysteries behind Dan Brown’s runaway smash-hit The Da Vinci Code (and the subsequent movie adaptation). I enjoy these programs that give us a look at both real life and movies, and they’re quick, easy watches that are priced affordably.

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