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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Bohemian Rhapsody, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Valentine, Rick and Morty, and more

Bohemian Rhapsody – What if a film was mired in controversy and nobody cared? Well, apparently said film would go on to become a massive worldwide smash, grossing over $800 million worldwide. Bohemian Rhapsody gained media attention for a number of things: director Bryan Singer getting fired/quitting just before completion of the film, being homophobic, being historically inaccurate, and any number of other things, but at the end of the day people still came out to see it in droves. Apparently, people just want to watch a good biopic with great music, and on that front Bohemian Rhapsody delivers. I don’t know if it has an agenda or is inaccurate or what Bryan Singer’s deal was, and at the end of the da,y I don’t particularly care, either. Bohemian Rhapsody is available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and it really allows the film to shine, with brilliant colors and razor sharp imagery, plus a soundtrack that really brings Queen’s music to life. Terrific!

Four Weddings and a Funeral – Shout Factory has a new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of the film that made Hugh Grant a star, but Four Weddings and a Funeral is much more than a breakout film for a particular actor. It’s a terrific ensemble piece that’s filled with laughs, drama, romance, witty writing, and terrific performances. This new Blu-ray features a bevy of extra features as well as new cover art that immediately identifies it as one of Shout Factory’s high end collectible releases. A nice job overall for a movie that was a lot of fun to revisit.

Valentine – Speaking of Shout Factory, their Scream Factory imprint continues to put out the best horror and genre Blu-rays this side of the digital Mississippi. Their latest release is Valentine, a star-studded slasher flick from post-Scream era 2001 that stars David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Katherine Heigl, Marley Shelton, and Jessica Capshaw. While ultimately there’s nothing all that special about the film, it’s a really fun flick from an era when the slasher genre felt alive and reborn in the wake of the Scream films. Valentine probably marks the last one before the genre started to implode again, but it sure is fun to revisit it after all these years. This Blu-ray comes with a ton of extra features, too, including new interviews with most of the cast.

Rick and Morty: The Complete Seasons 1-3 – I’ve heard it compared to everything from Back to the Future to Doctor Who to Futurama to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and in reality, it is kind of a mash-up of all of those things, just in animated form and with a seriously PG-13 sense of humor. Unfortunately, it’s also terrible. I know people love it, and the show has a very strong fan following, but I just don’t understand why. I find it incredibly annoying to watch and not funny in the slightest. Sigh. But, assuming you are a fan, this new collection features all three seasons so far in one nicely-packaged box set that includes every episode plus bonus features across six discs. It’s a nice release for fans.

At Eternity’s Gate – Willem Dafoe turns in an Oscar-nominated performance playing Vincent Van Gogh in the later years of his life in At Eternity’s Gate. Directed by The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’s Julian Schnabel, the film also features a terrific supporting cast that includes Rupert Friend, Mads Mikkelsen, and Oscar Isaac. This isn’t a biopic of Van Gogh, however; rather, it’s a pastiche of scenes based on the letters of Van Gogh that blend reality and fantasy that — pardon the pun — paints a picture of who Van Gogh was. I can see why critics love this film, and there’s no doubt the performances are great across the board, but I can’t say it was the kind of film I enjoy.

The Poison Ivy Collection – If you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, it’s been too long since I’ve watched an erotically charged thriller with an actress who skirts the A-list and the B-list, in the lead role” well, then have I got some good news for YOU! The Poison Ivy Collection features all four Poison Ivy films on Blu-ray (for the first time) in one nice package. The first film sees Drew Barrymore as a dangerous ingenue, while the second film sees Alyssa Milano as the femme fatale. The third film offers up Jaime Pressly, while the final film ventures into unknown actress territory and gives us Miriam McDonald. Are these great films? No. But are they fun to watch, titillating, and perfect for late night viewing? Absolutely! This four-disc collection offers up both Rated and Unrated cuts of each film, plus there’s a couple of extra features included for good measure.

Audition – Takashi Miike’s most notorious film has been released on home video before, but now Arrow Video turns their talents toward the squirm-inducing thriller. This is one of those movies that I don’t really have to tell you much about. If you’ve seen it, you know exactly why it’s so well-known. And if you haven’t seen it, well, the less you know, the better off you’ll be. But what’s exciting here is that Arrow Video has gotten their hands on the film and given us a new Blu-ray edition that fans will absolutely love. It’s got commentaries, interviews, a booklet, and much more, and the film has been given a visual upgrade via a new 2K scan. It’s everything fans could want, and that’s pretty exciting.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Shame – The Criterion Collection never fails to deliver the goods, and this week we have a new Ingmar Bergman film making its Blu-ray debut. Shame stars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman as musicians who retreat to escape civil war, only to find that the war eventually catches up with them. But the plot isn’t what drives a Bergman film, and this movie with cinematography by acclaimed Director of Photography Sven Nyqvist has what you would expect: atmosphere in spades. Couple that with the technical specifications, which include newly restored and remastered sound and picture and some in-depth extra features, and this is a must-have for fans of Bergman or foreign cinema in general.
  • Nobody’s Fool – The latest Tyler Perry film is a welcome respite from the Medea movies he trots out so regularly. This comedy features Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter, and Whoopi Goldberg, and it’s a relatively enjoyable affair. Haddish plays a woman with a wild side who turns to her by-the-book sister to help her straighten her life out, only to find that there might be more going on there than she expected. I don’t know that I really loved the film all that much, but it’s at least enjoyable enough to watch. Haddish has got talent, but it feels like she’s just repeating some of the roles she’s already done here. Still, fans of Tyler Perry or any of the cast will most likely enjoy this flick at least a little.
  • Poetic Justice – In one of those, “Why isn’t this movie on Blu-ray yet?” moments, Sony apparently just realized that this drama starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur has never been available on Blu-ray, even though it came out in 1993 (and Blu-ray has been a format since 2006). Well, they’ve finally rectified the oversight and Poetic Justice is available in high def. That being said, was it worth the wait? I mean, sort of, I guess. If you’re a fan of the film, it’s nice to finally have it in a better format. For me, the film has always been a little heavy-handed and overwrought, despite some solid performances by Jackson and Shakur. Of course, the message of the film is just as timely now as it was in 1993, so that makes this release a good thing.
  • American Nightmares – Horror anthologies are always hit or miss, and they’re usually more miss than hit. So, it’s no surprise that American Nightmares, which offers up a number of short horror vignettes, is a bit uneven. That said, it’s also a lot of fun thanks to a star-studded cast that includes Danny Trejo, Vivica A. Fox, Chris Kattan, Clarence Williams, Jay Mohr, and even Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame. It’s a low-budget film and it often feels it, but I’ve certainly seen worse horror films and the anthology format means there’s a little something for everyone.
  • The Haunted Castle/The Finances of the Grand Duke – F.W. Murnau will always be best remembered as the German filmmaker who brought us the silent classics Sunrise and Nosferatu, but he made many other films during his career. This new double feature from Kino Lorber collects two of them on Blu-ray. The Haunted Castle (1921) is a dark thriller involving murder and mystery, while The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924) is an espionage thriller with a vain of comedy running through it. Not surprisingly, neither film features any well-known stars, but both silent features are engaging enough and their relatively short running times (each is about an hour and 20 minutes) keep them moving briskly. A worthwhile watch for fans of silent cinema.
  • Purgatory Road – The latest horror entry from Unearthed Films follows two brothers — one a priest — who travel the highway as a sort of mobile confession service, and the worst sinners don’t receive absolution… they receive death! Oh yeah, there’s also a psychotic femme fatale who enters the proceedings at a certain point as well. Unearthed Films specializes in trough, low-budget, gruesome horror entries, and I’ll be honest, I don’t usually dig what they put out. At least this film I could make it through, unlike some of their earlier releases, so that’s good, but I can’t say it’s something I’d go out of my way to watch.
  • Bang: Series 1 – Set in South Wales, this crime thriller from Acorn Video is both cliched and fresh. On the one hand, you’ve got the whole, “one sibling is a cop, one is a crook” trope that’s been done a million times before. However, in this case, the cop sibling is a woman, and the crook sibling is a man who gets in way over his head, instead of the usual mob boss or brutal enforcer that we tend to see in these types of shows. Not surprisingly, Bang offers up eight episodes of intense drama and action, and cop show junkies will do well to track it down.
  • Ackley Bridge: Series 2 – This timely dramatic series from across the pond sees a small town high school dealing with de-segregation for the first time, which results in white high school students mixing with Pakistani high school students for effectively the first time. Which results in – not surprisingly – a lot of tension. Racial tension, romantic tension, you name it, this school has it. Now, this is a show that’s got some pretty solid drama in it, but it’s carried by a top-notch cast (of mostly unknowns, at least in the US) and there are occasional bouts of mild humor to break things up. But it’s drama that drives this show, so be prepared for some serious storylines.
  • Ken Follet’s The Key to Rebecca – CBS releases the 1985 TV movie based on of Ken Follett’s popular novels, The Key to Rebecca. This film stars Cliff Robertson and David Soul, and takes place in Cairo during World War II. It’s a solid enough watch, but it’s also a TV movie from the mid-‘80s, which wasn’t exactly the height of production values and cinematic achievement in TV-moive-land. Still, a solid cast and a good story make for an entertaining-enough viewing.
  • Peppermint Soda – Cohen Films is one of the best distributors these days for foreign cinema, and their mission to bring much of the most notable French Cinema to home video is admirable. Their latest release is a 40th Anniversary Edition of Peppermint Soda, a coming-of-age tale set in 1963 France. School drama, divorcing parents, teen angst… it’s all here. It’s not exactly a fun movie, but fans of French cinema will find this new Blu-ray a worthwhile purchase.
  • Possum – While this movie wasn’t quite for me, I imagine there are people out there who will like this unique entry in the horror genre. Sean Harris from the Mission: Impossible movies stars as a disgraced puppeteer who has a weird sort of spider-puppet (Why? Why would anyone have this?) which may or may not start to cause havoc. It’s a weird film that blends psychological horror with a general sense of unease and a heavy atmosphere to really get under your skin, which is exactly why some horror fans will love it.
  • Haunted Hospital: Heilstatten – This German found footage horror film sees a group of bloggers breaking into a supposedly haunted abandoned hospital that turns out to be — surprise! — actually haunted. I’m not a fan of found footage films for the most part, although at the blogger conceit gives these people a reason to be filming. I’ll say this: the film’s ending is interesting and boosts the overall effect of the movie, even if I wasn’t overly impressed by it.
  • Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco – I didn’t know who Antonio Lopez was before this DVD crossed my desk, but I’m not really into fashion so that’s no big surprise. Apparently, this style icon was responsible for discovering Grace Jones, Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall, and he’s celebrated in this documentary. The film sees a number of interviewees reflecting on Lopez, including Yves, St. Laurent, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Jessica Lange, Patti D’Arbanville, fashion photographer Bill Cunningham (in his final interview), Michael Chow, Bob Colacello, and more.
  • Band Vs. Brand – What’s more important to the modern rock band: who’s in it, or the brand of the band itself? Think of KISS, and how they’re currently on their farewell tour with only two original members. Will that affect their ticket sales? Doubtful. This new documentary explores which aspect of rock bands is more important: their name or their members. There are interviews with David Ellefson of Megadeth, Jack Russell from Great White, Nik Turner and Nicky Garrett from Hawkwind, Dave Lombardo from Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer, Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, and many others, as they discuss the state of rock and roll.
  • Sesame Street: Celebrate Family, Shimmer & Shine: Flight of the Zahacorns, Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom – We have three new kids releases this week. First up is Sesame Street: Celebrate Family. I think by this point we all know what you get when you purchase a Sesame Street DVD. Parents know it’s one of the most time-honored shows for kids in the history of television. This DVD release focuses on family, with Mother’s and Father’s day episodes and segments with Abby and Elmo, and it runs just over two hours. Fun! Next up is Shimmer & Shine: Flight of the Zahacorns. Shimmer & Shine is a really cute little show about a girl named Leah who has two genies-in-training who try to help her out. With emphasis on the “in-training” part, things often go wrong. It’s a fun series that younger kids will definitely enjoy, and this DVD includes 7 episodes and runs about an hour-and-a-half. Finally, we have Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom. It’s not easy to make a successful animated film these days if you’re not one of the big studios like Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks. I’m not sure the original Norm of the North qualified as a hit, although it did have a short run in theaters, but apparently it did well enough to warrant a sequel, albeit a direct-to-video one. Regardless, the film is a fun family movie that is geared for slightly younger viewers and is enjoyable enough to keep them entertained.
  • Road House 2, Astro Boy: The Complete Series, First Lady of Television: Betty White, The Benji Movie Collection – Mill Creek continues its releasing of budget titles with a number of new releases this week. First up is a new Blu-ray version of Road House 2, which is one of those direct-to-video sequels that came out 20 years after the original and with almost no connection to the Patrick Swayze original. It’s actually a perfectly fun action film in its own right, it just had no business being called Road House 2. Astro Boy: the Complete Series collects the entire 2003 animated series featuring Osamu’s Tezuka classic character. I’ve always found Astro Boy enjoyable and I hadn’t seen any of these episodes before, so it was cool to check out a new-to-me series. First Lady of Television: Betty White offers up over 40 episodes of classic Betty White TV shows, and by “classic” I don’t mean The Golden Girls or The Mary Tyler Moore Show. No, this set gives us a couple dozen episodes of Life With Elizabeth (in which White starred, co-produced and won her first Best Actress Emmy®-award for) and Date With the Angels, both from the 1950s. It’s cool to see what a young Betty White was like! Finally, The Benji Movie Collection is a nice Blu-ray set that includes Benji (the original), For The Love of Benji, and Benji: Off The Leash, all in one low-priced set. The films have been remastered and include some extra features, which makes this a really nice set.
  • Double Features: Hostel/Hostel Part 2, You Got Served/Stomp The Yard, Metropolis/Memories – Speaking of Mill Creek, they also have a number of movie double features out this week. First up is Hostel and Hostel Part 2 on Blu-ray. I find Eli Roth’s torture porn flicks a bit hard to watch, but they were big hits and now you can own them both together on the cheap. You Got Served/Stomp The Yard sees the two popular dance movies on Blu-ray together, which is a nice inexpensive way to get two films that might not be related, but are spiritual brethren. Finally, Metropolis/Memories is an anime double feature (oddly only on DVD instead of Blu-ray) that sees the aforementioned Osamu Tezuka’s sprawling film Metropolis paired with Memories, an anthology film with three segments based on works by the creator of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo. I can be hit or miss with anime, but these are both pretty cool flicks, although I wish this double feature was on Blu-ray.
  • Moko Jumbie, Ferah Feza (Ships), Narcissister: Organ Player, and Nude Area – Finally, this week, we have a number of independent films hitting home video. First up is Moko Jumbie, a “gothic punk Caribbean love story,“ shot on location in the Caribbean. This is vera basically a star-crossed lovers tale that doesn’t exactly reinvent the genre, but it does offer up a somewhat fresh take. Next, Fera Fezah (Ships) is a Turkish film about a young man who works in a shipyard living an unhappy life who meets a graffiti artist who captures his heart. A low budget film shot in Istanbul, it’s nonetheless interesting to see other cultures’ takes on the romance film; it’s quite different from Hollywood’s take. Next up is Narcissister: Organ Player is a documentary about Narcissister, a modern-art rising star who does some…. unique things to get her visions across. I’m not much of a modern art guy so some of the stuff in this film was over my head, but art fans might want to check it out. Last but not least is Nude Area, a drama about two young women in love, a Dutch girl from Amsterdam South and a middle eastern girl from Amsterdam East. They meet in a nude, female-only sauna to develop their romance. Oh yeah, and on top of all that, the film is pretty much entirely without dialogue. If you need yo get your arthouse fix this week, I can safely say that Nude Area is for you.

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