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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: Incredibles 2, Mara, The Matrix Trilogy, The Darkest Minds, Batman: The Complete Animated Series and more


Incredibles 2 – I’ll be honest, I was never the biggest fan of the first Incredibles movie to begin with. As a huge comic book collection and superhero fan, the first movie should have been my absolute favorite. But — as usual with Pixar movies — I found it lacking. Incredibles 2 is a perfectly good film, and I enjoyed it. But can I say I absolutely loved it like I should have? Once again, not really. Perhaps it’s because I’m just not invested in these characters, or perhaps it’s just that I simply still don’t think Pixar is all that great. I dunno, but I’m definitely in the minority in that opinion. The bottom line here is if you loved the first film — which most people did — you’ll probably love this one too.

The Darkest Minds – Based on a series of popular YA novels, this film was marketed like a film version of one of Marvel’s young mutants comics, like The New Mutants or The Runaways. The problem is, Marvel already has its own versions of those properties (in a roundabout way with The Gifted and Runaways TV shows, plus next year’s New Mutants feature film). And so, we get sort of a mash-up of a Marvel-inspired movie and a YA film, and the result is a decent film with a likable cast that isn’t nearly as good as I wanted it to be. Its watchable and it has some fun moments, but it never feels like it amounts to much. Worth a watch, but forgettable.

The Matrix Trilogy (4K Ultra HD) – Okay, I’ll skip going into too much detail about the films themselves here. I mean, I think we can all agree that The Matrix is a groundbreaking sci-fi/action film that is incredibly beloved by many movie fans (myself included) and that the sequels are… less good. Now, however, the trilogy has been released in the premium 4K Ultra HD format in a trilogy box set, and the results are… outstanding! The films may be twenty years old, but they were made with the utmost in technology at the time, and it’s reflected here. The movies look and sound better than ever (and I’ve watched them on every format imaginable!) In addition, all three films come with all of their original extra features, which means you get hours and hours of bonus features. The only major disappointment for me is that The Animatrix film isn’t included like it was on a Blu-ray box set of the films that came out several years ago.) You do get digital copies of the films, which is nice for those of us who have owned them on Blu-ray since before digital copies were a thing. So if you’re a fan of this trilogy (and who isn’t?), then this is simply a must-have.

Mara – Olga Kurylenko, who I like quite a bit, stars in this horror film that takes a slightly new angle (sleep paralysis victims are haunted by a demonic figure) and ends up mostly being just another horror flick along the lines of every Conjuring movie we’ve ever seen. The film is actually fairly entertaining, so don’t take this as a bad review per se, it’s just that there’s really nothing here we haven’t seen before. Kurylenko ups the ante a little bit with a great lead performance, but mostly we get eerie music, jump scares, a menacing shadowy figure, and the like. It’s a fun enough way to kill 90 minutes, but it’s not terribly original.

Beyond the Sky – I liked this little sci-fi thriller, despite its low-budget origins. The film follows a filmmaker whose deceased father believed that his mother was abducted by aliens. In trying to find out the truth about alien abductions, he meets a girl who claims she’s abducted every seven years on her birthday. With her 28th birthday going up, it’s a race to find out the truth. The film isn’t action-packed or filled with special effects, but the plot is engaging, the characters are solid, and the cast is game. Admittedly, I’m partial to movies with UFOs as a subject matter, but this one has a nice charm to it.

Also available this week on Home Video:

  • The Sound of Music Live – Kara Tointon and Julian Ovenden deliver extremely strong performances in this latest live television adaptation of a classic musical. Of course, it doesn’t compare to the original film with Julie Andrews, but as a live TV adaptation, it’s quite good. And the production itself is quite impressive; filmed on a massive soundstage set, it’s amazing to see what the filmmakers pulled off in a live performance. If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music but have watched the original film a million times, this might be a fun way to shake things up.
  • The Good Fight: Season TwoThe Good Wife may be over, but The Good Fight goes on. This spin-off of the hit show sees Christine Baranski in the lead role as a lawyer forced out of her firm who takes on a job working at a prestigious African American–owned firm that’s gaining attention for tackling police brutality cases. There’s a great supporting cast and the show was the first original scripted show that aired exclusively on the CBS All Access App. This DVD collection includes the entire second season (10 episodes), and it’s a pretty easy binge watch. I can’t say I was looking for another law show to watch, but if you are, this one is pretty good.
  • Maximum Overdrive – I have such a weird love/like relationship with this film. I always think I love it and I can never wait to watch it again, but then when I do rewatch it, I remember that it really isn’t that great of a movie. I mean, I still like it and I think I’ll always have a soft spot for it just based on how much I loved the original Stephen King story it’s based on when I was a kid, but it’s definitely not what I would consider a great film. Released as part of Lionsgate’s Vestron Video imprint, this is by far the best version of the film yet. Not only does it come in high def, but the disc is absolutely loaded with extra features, including two new audio commentaries, seven new making-of featurettes, and much more. As much as I don’t love this film like I want to, I do love this film (and this Blu-ray!)
  • The Princess Bride – While there have been approximately 272 previous versions of The Princess Bride on home video, the fact that it is now officially part of the Criterion Collection is a nice badge of honor. The film is presented in a nice hardcover book package and it features the usual sound and picture quality we’ve come the expect from Criterion, as well as a ton of extra features, but to be honest, most all of it has been available before. I was a little surprised that Criterion didn’t really add much new to this release, which is sort of their hallmark. Still, it’s the best, most complete version yet of one of the greatest films of all time, so it’s hard to complain!
  • Sisters – Also out from the Criterion Collection this week is Sisters, one of Brian DePalma’s earliest films. I’m a pretty big DePalma fan (although I admit he has his ups and downs) and this thriller about a woman separated from her Siamese twin who is suspected of murder is definitely one of his more intriguing films. Heavy with Hitchcockian influence, the film also boasts many of De Palma’s signature tropes as well, including a sense of voyeurism that permeates the entire film. This new Criterion Blu-ray has been restored and remastered and it includes a few new extra features alongside some archival ones, making it a terrific package for fans of the film and De Palma.
  • Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Ultimate Edition – It’s hard to find ways to repackage a 26-minute cartoon. Or so you would think. When it comes to the beloved Grinch, however, there’s never a shortage of new ways to package it, especially since there’s a CGI theatrical release on the horizon. This new version of the classic cartoon version of the Grinch features the original special, plus two other Grinch animated specials: The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat and Halloween is Grinch Night. On top of that, you get a digital copy and some nice extra features. So all in all, it’s a pretty good package, especially since you get those other two rarely-seen specials.
  • Batman: The Complete Animated Series – This deluxe box set is one of the greatest things to hit home video ever. It includes ten discs that feature every single episode of the Batman Animated Series, all of the Animated Series movies, plus a ton of extra features. Now, keep in mind that Batman: The Animated Series is one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and having every single episode in one place (along with all the movies) is a true gift. Add to that the fact that Warner Brothers has done significant restoration to the episodes, and I can tell you that they look better than ever. This isn’t just your standard DVD-to-Blu-ray upgrade, either; they did massive work to remaster the entire series and it looks amazing. I love this box set so much!
  • Robin Williams: Comic Genius – Speaking of amazing box sets, this new Robin Williams box set celebrates the comic’s genius (it’s even right there in the title.) Rather than being a collection of his movies, this set focuses on what made him famous in the first place: his stand up comedy. In the box set, you get 22 discs loaded with classic Williams performances. The highlight is all five of his HBO comedy specials as well as two other live stand-up specials. Then you get a ton of interviews and guest appearances by Williams, a feature-length documentary on him, and a ton of other archival comedy bits. Top that all off with a color book and a some beautiful packaging, and the end result is one of the best collections I’ve ever seen dedicated to a single performer. Top notch stuff, truly.
  • Law Abiding Citizen (4K Ultra HD) – This 2009 thriller starring Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx is a dark, twisted ride, but man is it fun! Butler plays a man in prison for killing the men who killed his wife and child, and he threatens to take out bureaucratic guilty parties until he’s released. Even though he’s in jail, people start dying, and watching Jamie Foxx try to piece it all together is quite gripping. The film has been out on home video for years, but now it makes its debut on the premium 4K Ultra HD format. The film definitely boasts an upgrade (mostly in terms of stronger colors and deeper blacks) but you also get a digital copy, which is a bonus as I’m sure the original Blu-ray release predated digital copies.
  • Community: The Complete Series – Dan Harmon’s incredibly popular (or is it cult popular) series has been released on home video before, but this collection marks the first time the entire series has been collected in one place on Blu-ray. And if there’s ever been a series that needed to be collected in one place, it’s Community. Rarely have I ever seen a show that benefits from binge-watching like this one does. The number of details from previous episodes that make callbacks in future episodes is staggering. I’m sure there’s a ton that you’ll only spot on repeat viewings. Luckily, that’s now easier than ever with this terrific box set from Mill Creek.
  • Rescue Me: The Complete Series – Also from Mill Creek this season we have a box set collecting all seven seasons of Denis Leary’s terrific fireman drama, Rescue Me. And again, this marks the first time the entire show has been collected in one place on Blu-ray. I always loved this show; one because I’m a huge Denis Leary fan; and two, because it was always the perfect blend of hard-hitting drama and laugh-out-loud comedic moments. The show is ultimately a drama, but you’ll never feel overwhelmed thanks to all the comedy that filters in. This one is highly recommended!
  • Charmed: The Complete First Season – With a new Charmed series on the TV, it seems the perfect time to revisit the original series that started it all. Paramount/CBS had already released all of the seasons of that long-running show before this, but never on Blu-ray. Now, the first season is available on Blu-ray for the first time, and I imagine if it sells well we’ll see more seasons in the future. The picture quality gets a nice upgrade on Blu-ray, and fans should be happy to have the show on a better format.
  • Midaq Alley – This ensemble drama is being released on Blu-ray for one reason and one reason only: it features a pre-Desperado (and pre-fame) Salma Hayek. Now don’t get me wrong; that is absolutely an acceptable reason for releasing this movie! Okay, okay, in all honesty, there are a lot more reasons this film has been released. It was the winner of a whopping ten Ariel Awards (Mexico’s equivalent to the Oscars) and it’s actually a pretty good film. The movie follows the various inhabitants of neighborhood in Mexico, and while Hayek is the only familiar face, the entire cast is quite good. Yes, the film is in Spanish with subtitles, but it’s worth watching.
  • Nightwing/Shadow of the Hawk & Age of Consent/Cactus Flower – Mill Creek Entertainment has two cults classic double features out this week, both on Blu-ray. First up is Nightwing and Shadow of the Hawk. Nightwing is a killer bat movie starring Nick Mancuso, David Warner, and Strother Martin, and while it’s not a great film per se, it is fun in that cult classic man vs. bat kind of way. Shadow of the Hawk stars Jan Michael Vincent and is a more metaphysical type of film, as we see a shaman training his grandson to fight against black magic. Honestly, I prefer killer bats, but since the deaths in that film take place on an Indian reservation, it’s not hard to see the theme of this double feature. Age of Consent and Cactus Flower gives us the screen debuts of two of Hollywood’s leading ladies, Helen Mirren and Goldie Hawn. Age of Consent sees Helen Mirren play a young woman who poses for James Mason’s disenchanted artist. Meanwhile, Cactus Flower sees Goldie Hawn’s big screen debut alongside no less than Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman (what an odd pairing of three actors!) in a romantic comedy that’s quite charming. This is the better of the two double features, but they’re both available at a super-low price point which makes them good pick-ups.
  • Breaking Brooklyn – Louis Gossett Jr. and Vondie Curtis-Hall co-star alongside lesser known actors Colin Critchley, Nathan Kress, and Madeleine Mantock in this dance-based drama. This one is less about guys trying to win over girls and more along the lines of a coming-of-age, life-on-the-streets drama, but with dancing. Now, I’m not an overly huge dancing-movie guy, but I’ve watched my fair share and I liked this film. It’s got solid drama, good characters, and the dance numbers are energetic and enjoyable. Plus, it’s family friendly, which is a bonus. Worth a watch if you like these films.
  • Single-Handed: The Complete Collection – This popular show about an Irish cop who’s transferred from Dublin to the West Coast of Ireland only ran for two seasons, but that’s not because the show wasn’t good. In fact, it’s quite a gripping drama that blends traditional cop cases with well-drawn character beats and history. This collection, some six years after the last DVD release from the series, includes six regular episodes, plus three feature-length episodes, giving you quite a bit of bang for your buck.
  • Blood, Sweat and Terrors – This is an odd one. Not a movie, but rather a collection of nine short films from Rue Morgue and Unstable Ground’s Little Terrors Short Film Festival. With a few somewhat-name actors mixed in (Ed Speleers, John Hannah), the short films are a mix of horror and action flicks, and as usual with anthologies, the quality varies from short to short. The standout is definitely Express Delivery, a film absolutely drenched with unbelievable action and fight scenes. Overall, there’s more good than bad here, and that’s always a plus with anthology films.
  • Sesame Street: The Magical Wand Chase – This latest Sesame Street release is different from the typical collection of episodes, marking the first feature-length Sesame Street program since 1994. Filmed in multiple locations in New York City, the story follows Elmo and Zoe (naturally; they’re still Uber-popular) as they try to recover Zoe’s magic wand. From there, the film is mostly what you’d expect from Sesame Street: friendship, lessons, music, and humor that little kids will love.
  • Spontaneous Combustion – Brad Dourif and Cynthia Bain star in this 1990 thriller directed by Tone Hooper, by far one of the most forgotten movies of the director’s career. And while it’s not cinematic genius, Dourif (the choice of Chucky) js always fun to watch, and he tackles this role with gusto. He plays a young man who is unaware that his parents were involved with nuclear experiments, and as a result he develops powers that can cause people to spontaneously catch on fire. The film builds and builds in terms of tension and death-by-fire scenes. It’s a fun cult classic that makes its welcome debut on Blu-ray.
  • La Boyita – I don’t usually refer to other critic’s quotes when reviewing a movie, but Leo Nikolaidis’ quote from the press materials for this film sums it up so perfectly, it’s hard not to: “A sweet yet daring look at that awkward no man’s land betweenthe end of childhood and the start of adolescence.” This drama from Argentina tracks the friendship between two children who are on the cusp of adolescence, and their relationship begins to flower in unexpected ways. It’s a charming little film, worth sitting through the subtitles for.

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