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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Green Book, The Mortal Engines, Krypton, Legally Blonde and more

Green Book – Ok, I know it’s in vogue to hate on Green Book — even more so after it won the Oscar for Best Picture — but I really enjoyed this movie. In fact, it was my number four film for 2018 on my movie podcast, After the Ending. Yes, there’s controversy over how accurate it is, but since when did that become the barometer for whether a film is good or not? I’ve seen a million Hollywood films that are “based on a true story” that play fast and loose with the facts, so why is this one all of a sudden the big bad guy? The fact of the matter is that Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali both give absolutely incredible performances, and the film is funny, touching, engaging, and enjoyable. So, what, now I’m supposed to say I didn’t like it because it won he Best Picture Oscar and some people felt like a different film deserved it? Sure, I wish BlacKkKlansman had won (it was my number one film of the year!), but it doesn’t change how much I loved this movie. Green Book comes to home video on 4K ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and it looks and sounds quite good in the premium high def format, although this isn’t really the kind of film that sees a humongous uptick in quality beyond some more vibrant colors and slightly sharper clarity. Still, it’s a great film that I recommend seeing.

Fantastic Beats: The Crimes of Grindelwald – Speaking of movies that are being torn apart, this second chapter in the Fantastic Beasts franchise was savaged by critics and audiences alike. Now, while I’m a Harry Potter fan, I’m much more of a casual Harry Potter fan, so I didn’t get as incensed about this film as some people did. Is it as good as the first one? No. But you add Jude Law to anything and it instantly improves, and I really enjoyed him in this movie. Yes, it’s a lot of set up and it’s not the film I was hoping it would be, but I’ve seen worse movies and worse franchise spin-offs than this.

The Mortal Engines – Speaking of movies based on books — and yes, I’m going to see how many reviews I can start with, “Speaking of…” — The Mortal Engines was pretty much dead on arrival at the box office, which is a real shame, because I really enjoyed it. Based on a series of YA novels, the film takes place in a dystopia future where the great cities have all become giant, mobile vehicles (it makes more sense when you can see it) and, well, there are bad guys and good guys. The plot is a little too involved to go into detail, but the film has a cool vibe to it,.. Some great action sequences, some really neat special effects, and a likable cast of mostly unknowns (and Hugo Weaving). I haven’t read the books, but now I want to, and that’s a mark of a good film in my opinion. The Mortal Engines comes to home video on 4K ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and it looks and sounds amazing in the premium high def format. The colors are brilliant, imagery is sharp, shadow delineation is strong, and the soundtrack is incredibly active and immersive. A terrific package all around.

Krypton: The Complete First Season – Speaking of… okay, I got nothing for this one. Sigh. Anyway, Krypton is the next TV show to explore the Superman legend, only this one is doing it without Superman. Set on the planet Krypton (before it exploded, obvs), this show follows Clark Kent’s grandfather, Seg-El, who has to deal with family issues, politics, and general sci-fi peril. Over the course of ten episodes, we meet an expansive cast of characters on a different planet, and the show has the feel of many shows on its Network, SyFy, while also not feeling out of place if it was added to the CW’s line-up. The show takes a bit to get going, but it does have some good moments, so I’m gonna see what season two holds. It’s no Smallville, but it’s a decent start.

Legally Blonde Collection – I am quite definitively NOT a Reese Witherspoon fan. I don’t hate her or anything, I just don’t think she’s a particularly good actress and I haven’t cared for a lot of her films. But I do have to admit that I enjoy the two Legally Blonde movies, where she plays fashion plate spoiled girl Elle Woods, who ends up in law school and of course becomes an unlikely crusader for justice. The first film especially is charming, funny, and lighthearted, while the second one is a surprisingly solid sequel. Now, both films are available together on Blu-ray for the first time in the new Legally Blonde Collection from Shout Factory, which comes with new cover art and some nice extra features. I don’t think the Legally Blonde movies are comedy masterpieces or anything, but they’re enjoyable fluff, and sometimes that’s all I need.

Someone to Watch Over Me – Speaking of people I’m not a fan of, this film — one of Ridley Scott’s earliest directing efforts — is a cop thriller starring Tom Berenger and Mimi Rogers as a cop and the woman he’s protecting from a killer. Now, I’m not a Ridley Scott fan at all, and while I certainly didn’t hate this movie, I didn’t love it either. The film makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Shout Factory, and since I had never seen it, I wanted to give it a go. And while many of Scott’s hallmarks are absent, the film never quite becomes a home run. It’s a little too long, the plot is rather basic, and it’s enjoyable but not exciting. This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray does include some cool new extra features and terrific new cover art on an exclusive slipcover, so fans will be impressed by the overall release, but I found the film itself underwhelming.

The Last Ship: The Complete Fifth Season – One of my favorite shows of the last few years returns to home video for its final season. Now, I’ll admit, I’m already a huge fan of anything that takes place in a dystopia or post-apocalyptic situation. And while this show doesn’t quite get that far, it does take place in a world where a virus has killed off something 95% of the world’s population. In this last season, the world is starting to recover, but there are still plenty of problems for the crew of the USS Nathan James, including a potential war with Panama. What I love about the show is how it plays out like a big-budget blockbuster every week, yet still takes the time to give you characters you’ll really enjoy watching. A smart, tense, thriller in serialized format, I can’t recommend this show highly enough.

Man’s Best Friend – Speaking of Shout Factory, they bring another catalog titles to Blu-ray for the first time this week, with the release of Man’s Best Friend. This sci-fi thriller starring Lance Henriksen and Ally Sheedy sees Sheedy as a crusading reporter who breaks into a science lab and frees a genetically engineered dog. Of course, said dog becomes a killer without his special medicine and, well, people start dying. Yes, it’s a B-movie, but it’s the best kind of B-movie, and Lance Henriksen always gives films like this a little extra gravitas. Plus, I love Ally Sheedy still from the ‘80s, so how can you go wrong?

Tyrel – Speaking of Horror thrillers, Tyrel is an interesting one. In fact, it’s really more of a suspense drama, but there are elements of a horror film to be found, even if it’s more of a socially-themed horror film. The easy comparison is to Get Out — in fact, I believe it’s mentioned right on the cover in a pull quote — but there pretty different films. This one sees a young black man named Tyler invited to a weekend giveaway by one of his buddies only to find that he’s the only minority there. When the drinking and partying gets a little intense, suddenly being the only minority in the group starts to feel… unsafe. It’s a pretty good film, with some really tense and uncomfortable moments, and while the message part of the film never gets out of hand, there’s some important social commentary to be found, which isn’t a bad thing. Worth a watch.

London Fields – Amber Heard stars in this movie which boasts an interesting concept and a terrific cast, but not much else. Johnny Depp, Jason Isaacs, Billy Bob Thornton, Theo James, Jim Sturgess, and Gemma Chan all star alongside Heard as a woman who can predict her imminent murder. But the film is uneven and odd with some truly bizarre sequences, and some of the actors seem like they’re phoning in their roles. The movie makes little sense and doesn’t really inspire you to try to make sense of it, so the end result is, sadly a mess. I haven’t read the Martin Amis novel the movie is based on, but I suspect it deserved better than this.

Also Available This Week on Home Video –

  • The Last Man – Speaking of films that aren’t very good, Hayden Christiansen and Harvey Keitel star in this dystopia future-set film that —- wait a minute. Hold on. Hayden Christiansen and… Harvey Keitel? As co-leads in a movie? That can’t be right, can it? Well, surprise surprise, turns out it is. And the film sees the two as a soldier and a street prophet, respectively, who have to prepare for an impending (or is it?) apocalypse. I guess the two of them work together well enough on screen together, but the film is far from inspired; it’s got that dirty aesthetic that makes you want to shower after watching it, and sadly I don’t mean that as a compliment.
  • Dynasties: The Greatest of Their Kind – Few entities can make a nature-based film like the BBC can, and Dynasties is no exception. This six-hour series follows a number of animals that represent some of the most complicated relationships in the animal world, hence the concept of the titular “dynasties.” We get to follow along with families of chimpanzees, tigers, wolves, penguins, and more, and the ride is totally worth it. Not surprisingly, the BBC has crafted a show that is absolutely fascinating while filled with unbelievable footage, and the narrative structure of the dynasties at play makes it even more interesting than your typical nature documentary. Dynasties comes to home video on 4K ultra HD, and for a show with the level of stunning footage that this one has, you’ll definitely want to watch it in the best format possible; it looks absolutely breathtaking.
  • Then Came You – This is one of those movies with an impressive cast that makes you wonder how they got them all to be in such a small little film. With leading roles from Asa Butterfield Maisie Williams (she of Game of Thrones), and supporting roles by Nina Dobrev, Tyler Hoechlin, David Koechner, Peyton List, Sonya Walger and Ken Jeong, there’s no shortage of familiar face gracing the screen. The story focuses on a terminally ill teenage girl and the hypochondriac teenage boy who befriends her and sets out to help her check all the items off her bucket list. It’s a solid film with some sweet and cute moments, but it’s nothing all that memorable. Worth a watch on a night when nothing else tickles your fancy.
  • Showdown – Billy Blanks (yes, the Tae-bo guy) stars in this B-movie action cult classic, alongside mostly unknown stars (and a pre-fame Christine Taylor). It’s a typical ‘80s action set-up, with a man having to fight to defend his life, a mysterious teacher, and a bad guy who secretly wants the good guy dead. This release comes from MVD’s Rewind Collection, which ic quickly becoming the Criterion of B-movie releases. The disc comes with all new art and a slipcover, plus a ton of extra features like interviews, documentaries, and more. The film is cheesy B-movie fun, but the new Blu-ray release is an A+ package.
  • Divide And Conquer: The Story Of Roger Ailes – Roger Ailes was not a nice man. And this documentary about his life and the controversies that ended his career is okay with you knowing that. The film follows the beleaguered Fox News president as he played political ally, network chairman, power broker, and all around latch (at the end of his career), and while you won’t like the guy, there’s no denying that his story is one hell of a tale. Its the kind of thing where if you saw it in a fictional mov ie, you’d say it wasn’t believable that one guy could have this much power. True story, powerful film.
  • Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Now, I’ve proclaimed my love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so many times that it’s just redundant at this point. I’ve loved them in comic books, in cartoons, in movies, in video games, you name it. And it’s no secret that I considered the previous Ninja Turtles animated series to be nothing short of a masterpiece. So I really wanted to give Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a chance. But I just don’t dig this cartoon. I don’t like the character designs, I don’t like that Leonardo isn’t the leader anymore, and I just don’t like the general vibe of the show. Luckily, the show isn’t made for me, it’s made for kids, and they’ll probably dig it just fine. This inaugural DVD release of the series gives you seven episodes on one disc for just over an hour and a half’s worth of content.
  • A.I. Rising – This surprisingly good Serbian sci-fi film was a heck of a lot better than expected. Filmed in English (don’t worry, no subtitles!), the film follows an astronaut in deep space with a female android that he can program to do anything he wants. Yes, anything. Which of course, leads to exactly where you think it does. Of course, at a certain point — as you’d expect — the android begins to rebel, and that’s when the artificial you-know-what hits the fan. The film boasts some terrific special effects, a solid story, some good suspense, and a strong pace that belies the fact that there are really only two main characters in the film. Not gonna lie, this one caught me by surprise.
  • Neighbors – John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty star in this ‘80s-era comedy, which is out from Mill Creek’s Retro VHS Collection (meaning it’s a Blu-ray with packaging that looks like an ‘80s video store rental.) The twist in this comedy is that John Belushi plays the straight man, while Aykroyd and Moriarity play his over-the-top neighbors. I wasn’t particularly familiar with this film, and after watching it, I can see why. It has some funny moments and it’s always great to see Belushi and Aykroyd together on screen, but it’s not a particularly great or memorable film. Still, it can be found pretty cheap, so it’s nice to see the film get new life on video.
  • Dark River – The cover art makes this film seem like more of a thriller than a drama, and while it definitely is a drama, there’s an undercurrent of thriller running through it. The story follows a woman who returns to her family farm to reclaim ownership of it away from her brother who nursed their dying father through his last years. Well, as you can imagine, he doesn’t want to give it up, and their struggle brings to light some uncomfortable truths about their relationship. Sean Bean stars in flashbacks as the duo’s late father, but it’s lead actress Ruth Wilson who really steals the show here. A tough film, but a strong one.
  • The Simple Heist: Series 1 – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a gastroenterologist and a math teacher walk into a bank… and rob it. Okay, okay, there’s no punchline. Instead, that’s the basic premise of The Simple Heist, a Swedish-language TV series from Acorn Media that sees two struggling older women go on a robbery spree to solve their financial woes. A mix of comedy and drama (with some action thrown in) the series is charming enough to be worth watching, even if it isn’t quite must-see TV.
  • She-Wolf – Speaking of foreign-language productions, while it sounds like it might be the latest comic book adaptation, She Wolf is instead an intense drama/thriller dealing with a serial killer with some serious sexual issues. And of course, in this case, the killer is a woman who lures men to their deaths with sex. This Spanish-language movie is in black and white (with flashes of color during some of the more surreal moments) and it doesn’t shy away from the nudity or the blood. But keep in mind that this is no slasher thriller that’s just out to wrack up a body count, It’s a deeper film than your typical horror fare, and that might not be a great fit for everyone.
  • Ancient Aliens: Season 11, Volume 2 – I can’t believe this show has been on for 11 seasons now. Okay, I find Ancient Aliens mildly interesting but it’s certainly not something I can get passionate about. It explores everything surrounding the possibility of aliens visiting earth in the past, and while some of it comes off as the theories of crazy people, most of it is approached from an academic point of view. I’ve made this complaint before, but while Ancient Aliens is easily watchable, the lack of any concrete answers or hard evidence can get frustrating, and it keeps the show from being something I can get it. Still, if you’re a die-hard fan, this latest season collection is available at a relatively low price.
  • Over the Limit – This documentary will be of interest to any Olympics fans (such as my wife, who is obsessed with the Olympics). The film follows 20-year-old Russian gymnast Margarita Mamun on her quest to win Olympic gold, and it gives us a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of training for the Olympics, and in particular how the Russian athletes train for the Olympics. At just 77 minutes, the film is fast-paced and offers a glimpse of something we’ve mostly only seen dramatized in films. Terrific stuff for Olympics junkies.
  • Life in the Doghouse – Speaking of documentaries, this new one from FilmRise follows two men who you’ve most likely never heard of: Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta. They started an organization called Danny & Ron’s Rescue, which has worked tirelessly for ten years to rescue dogs and find homes for them. After a decade and 10,000 dog lives saved, I thin they’ve earned the right to have a film made about them. The movie explores their lives, the work they do, and of course, the dogs, so it’s a heartwarming and interesting watch.

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