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US Blu-ray and DVD releases: The Meg, BlacKkKlansman, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Superman, Final Score and more


The Meg – I love me some Jason Statham and I love me some giant shark movies. So it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed The Meg. (I’m even a fan of the series of novels the movie was based on, having read every single one.) It was great to see Jason Statham have a hit again, and the film was so successful that there’s no doubt we’ll see at least one sequel. If I have one complaint about the film, it’s that it’s just a little bit… well, toothless. In the quest to keep the film PG-13, the actual carnage wreaked by the giant shark is a little less than you’d expect. The film has a surprisingly low body count. I’m not saying I wanted some crazy blood-and-guts fest, but this is a pretty tame flick for a giant shark movie. That said, it’s still a heck of a lot of fun, with some terrific special effects and a great supporting cast. The Meg is available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and it looks and sounds quite spectacular in the premium format. Colors are maxed out, imagery is razor sharp, and the surround soundtrack makes your living room feel like its underwater. Terrific stuff.

BlacKkKlansman – I find Spike Lee’s films to be a bit hit or miss for me, but BlacKkKlansmanis a hands-down masterpiece. Not only is it my favorite film of 2018 so far (and we’re almost at the end), but it has easily become my favorite Spike Lee film. Based on a true story of an African American police officer who helps infiltrate The KKK in the 1970s, the film defies any easy genre-classification. Is it a comedy, a drama, a suspense film, a biopic, a sociopolitical commentary? Well, yes, in fact, it is all of those things. Lead actor John David Washington is a revelation and Adam Driver turns in the finest performance of his career. There are too many great supporting players to name here, but trust me when I say that every single person in the cast is utterly fantastic. I was captivated by this movie from the first scene and I was moved to tears when the final credits rolled. It is, simply put, the best film of the year. BlacKkKlansman is available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and while not a film that is overly visually oriented, it still looks very good overall, with bright, deeply saturated colors that help the film pop. An excellent presentation of an excellent film.

The Spy Who Dumped Me – Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon in a comedy together is enough to get me to watch. Throw in Sam Heughan from the hit Starz show Outlander and you’ve got my wife’s attention too. This comedy about two best friends who get mixed up in spy-type-shenanigans thanks to one of their ex-boyfriends being a secret agent is the kind of film that’s lots of fun as long as you don’t overthink it. Is it a particularly smart or realistic film? Definitely not. But is it a fun way to kill a couple of hours when you just want to relax and veg out in front of the TV? Absolutely. Kunis and McKinnon are terrific together and Heughan shows he can hold his own on the big screen as well as the small. The Spy Who Dumped Me is available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD and is another one that doesn’t live or die by its visuals, but overall it looks and sounds quite good in 4K.

Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 3 – It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest Pixar fan and that I find most of the studio’s output to be overrated. However, the one area I think the studio always excels in — almost without fail — is their ability to create amazing short films. This third collection of Pixar shorts features some of the most beloved short films of the past five years, ones you’ve seen in front of hit animated films from both Pixar and Disney. You get a total of 13 shorts (which includes two bonus “mini-movies”) such as Lou, Lava, Sanjay’s Super Team, Riley’s First Date?, The Radiator Springs 500 1/2, The Blue Umbrella, The Legend Of Mor’du, Partysaurus Rex, and a few others. This is a really fun collection and it also comes with some nice behind-the-scenes bonus features as well.

Superman: The Movie (4K Ultra HD) – The original Richard Donner classic from the ‘70s has no shortage of home video releases to date, but this newest one marks the debut of the film in the 4K Ultra HD format. Superman remains one of the best films in the franchise, which now numbers eight films if you count the Man of Steel/Justice League era. But how does a 40 year-old-film look in the premium HD format? Well… it looks pretty okay. I mean, the film looks good, it’s certainly not like the presentation here is worse than Blu-ray, DVD, or VHS. But I’ve found with 4K the upgrades you get from the new format tend to lessen with the age of the film. A film four decades old benefits from slightly brighter colors and more solid black levels than we’ve seen previously, but it’s not exactly a visual revolution. Still, this release includes a Blu-ray and a digital copy of the film as well, so it’s a nice way to upgrade a classic superhero movie.

Final Score – Take Die Hard, subtract Bruce Willis, add Dave Bautista (Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) and move the setting to a soccer/football stadium in England, and you have Final Score. But you know what? It’s a surprisingly good movie. I use “good” in the sense of “hey, I had a lot of fun watching this action flick for 90 minutes” and not in the “this is an original and thoughtful piece of art” way, but still, I really enjoyed this one. It’s better than about 99% of the direct-to-video action flicks that come across my desk, and even though there are things it lifts directly from Die Hard, that doesn’t take away from it being a lot of fun to watch. Track this one down when you’re in the mood for Die Hard but don’t want to watch the original again for the hundredth time.


Also available on home video this week:

  • The Children Act – Ooof. Sometimes a film hits you like a punch to the gut, and this is one of those times. The Children Act features Emma Thompson turning in a blistering performance as a magistrate who has to rule on whether or not to overrule religious rights in the case of a 17-year-old boy who needs a blood transfusion but whose religion forbids it. Written by Ian McEwan (based on his own novel), the film is not an easy watch, not because it isn’t well-made, but because the subject matter is just so heavy. But Thompson is outstanding (as is her co-star Stanley Tucci) and the film moves at a pretty good pace. Not exactly one to throw on with a group of friends, but a good watch when you’re in the mood for something a little more challenging.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America – I’m sure you’ve heard some of the controversy surrounding this show, where Sacha Baron Cohen basically tricks politically controversial figures into making fools of themselves on television. Well, it’s every bit as revealing as you’d expect, with subjects such as Judge Roy Moore, Corey Lewandowski, OJ Simpson, and Barney Frank all falling prey to Cohen’s interview antics. And while some of the interviews really don’t paint their subjects in the best light, which I’m sure some viewers enjoy, the show as a whole is a mixed bag. Some segments are kind of funny, but most of them go too long and frankly it can get tedious to watch sometimes. Some of Cohen’s characters like his Israeli counter-terrorist expert are hard to understand, with his fake accent laid on so thick it makes him unintelligible at times. I appreciate what Cohen’s doing here, but as a viewing experience, I was underwhelmed.
  • MacGyver: The Complete First Season – Even though the entire series of MacGyver has been available already on DVD, CBS/Paramount is getting an early rush on the holiday gift buying possibilities with a new re-release of MacGyver: The Complete First Season that marks the show’s Blu-ray debut. Watching the show again, I was thrilled with how much I still enjoyed it. Richard Dean Anderson was so much fun in the role, and the show never failed to be creative or clever in how he constructed items to help him get out of dicey situations. The Blu-ray presentation offers a nice upgrade over DVD as well. It’s not like suddenly the show looks like reference material high-def, but you do get the standard level of improvement you see when you go from DVD to Blu-ray. This is a great release for fans of a great show.
  • Single White Female – Shout Factory releases a new Blu-ray of the quintessential ‘90s thriller starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda. Surprisingly, this marks the first time the film has been released in the US on Blu-ray. Watching it again, sure it’s dated in places, but it remains a fun and canopy thriller about a girl and her roommate who becomes a little more attached. And you’ll still never look at stiletto heels the same way after watching this film! I love when Shout Factory brings us films like these on Blu-ray: well-liked films that have been underserved on the home video market.
  • Sleepwalkers – Also from Shout Factory’s Scream Factory line, we have a new Blu-ray of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. While this film has been released on Blu-ray before, this is a collector’s edition that comes replete with a bunch of new extra features, new cover art, and a reminder of what a delightfully wacky horror film this is. Yes, it’s basically vampires versus house cats (I mean, sort of). With fan-favorites like Madchen Amick and Ron Perlman in the cast and directed by horrormeister Mick Garris, this isn’t a great film per se, but it’s fun to revisit.
  • Elementary: The Sixth Season – I’ve always been underwhelmed by this show, but it’s turned out to be a big hit for CBS. And there’s no denying that it’s gotten better as the seasons went on, but I’m never overly excited to watch it. I do like Jonny Lee Miller a lot, so I’m happy to see him on a hit show, and he and Lucy Liu play off each other well. Their rapid-fire back-and-forth is evocative of Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Sherlock Holmes, which isn’t a bad thing. I can see why people like this show, I just wish I was more into it. I love mysteries, and I love Sherlock Holmes, but I only kind-of like this show. Too bad.
  • Detectorists: Complete Collection – Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook star in this British comedy series about two metal-detecting aficionados. (The great Diana Rigg also joins the cast in the last season as one of the characters’ mother, and she’s a welcome addition to the cast.) This show is one of those quirky comedies that isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it is charming and will elicit a good number of chuckles. I wouldn’t have thought you could make a show about two guys with metal detectors looking for gold and have it run for three seasons, but they’ve pulled it off and it works. This collection includes all three seasons of the show and comes in a really great-looking package that is nicer than your usual DVD set.
  • Hidden: Series 1 – Set in Northern Wales, this gripping show follows a police detective on the hunt for a serial killer who is abducting and killing young women. When another woman goes missing, it becomes a race against time to catch the killer. The show is typical of British police procedurals, and I mean that as a compliment, The show features a dark mystery storyline, complex characters, and a mix between the police work and the main characters’ personal lives, which is what British mystery shows tend to do so well. This one is worth a look for sure.
  • Topper Returns – I’m a big fan of the first Topper movie, the 1937 film starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as ghosts and Roland Young as the titular character whom they haunt/help. This 1941 film is the third and last film in the series, and in it Roland Young returns as Topper. This time around, he helps Joan Blondell’s ghost find her killer and save her friend’s life. While the film isn’t as enjoyable as the original, it was fun to go back and revisit this series even in the mediocre third outing, as I do enjoy the concept and the character.
  • The Unnamable – This low-budget horror movie from 1988 makes its Blu-ray debut from Unearthed Films. I’ll say this: this new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray features some of the best cover art I’ve seen in a long time. (Seriously, track it down just to see the amazing cover.) Now, the film itself, loosely based on an HP Lovecraft story, doesn’t quite live up to that cover, but it is still a relatively fun-if-cheesy creature flick. There is a bevy of extra feature included on this release, so if you’re a fan of this little seen flick, you’re in for a treat.
  • Glastonbury Fayre – This documentary directed by Nicolas Roeg (an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right) is part doc, part concert film, and it features a number of trippy live performances by early seventies/late sixties music stars such as Terry Reid, Family, Melanie, Fairport Convention, Traffic, Linda Lewis and Arthur Brown. I’ll admit I am not familiar with most of these acts, but I’ll say this: the Blu-ray version probably gives us the best looking and sounding version of this film we’re going to see, so if you’re a fan of this kind of music and want to revisit a noteworthy music festival of the early 70s, check this disc out.

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