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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Replicas, Justice League vs The Fatal Five, The Craft and more


Replicas – This Keanu Reeves-starring sci-fi drama got savaged by critics, but I actually liked it. Sure, it’s a flawed film, but it has some intriguing moral concepts at work and it kept me interested until the end. Reeves plays a scientist working on transferring human consciousness into robots when his family is killed in an accident. Using a combination of cloning and mind transference, he attempts to bring them back, but what happens when he can only resurrect three of the four of them? It’s an intriguing exercise in emotions and fatality, and while there are some underdeveloped plot threads, on the whole, I enjoyed it. Keep your expectations tempered and recognize that it is a drama more than anything else (with an action-y ending) and you might enjoy it too.

Justice League vs. Fatal Five – The DC Animated Universe’s series of original movies continues with this latest effort, Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five, which sees the Legion of Superheroes-universe villains The Fatal Five going up against a Justice league featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, new Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, and Legion member Starboy. I’ve been a LSH fan for years and years, so I was happy to see some of them make brief appearances — although I’d love to get a full-on animated Legion film — and overall this one is pretty good, even if it is DC Animated sort of doing their usual thing.

The Craft – I don’t remember being a huge fan of this cult classic teenage witch movie from the late 90s, even though it was kind of a minor big hit back in the day. Leave it to Scream Factory, as usual, to cause me to reevaluate the film thanks to their excellent new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition. First of all, it’s fun to go back and watch a cast of young actors who were all red hot at the time (and might be a little less so now), including Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, and Skeet Ulrich. But the disc also comes with a ton of bonus features including four new featurettes, a commentary with the director, and much more, all packaged together under some gorgeous new cover art. While I still don’t think the film is a masterpiece, I enjoyed revisiting it quite a bit.

The Big C: The Complete Series – Laura Linney and Oliver Platt star in this comedic series about a teacher who’s lived a prim and proper life… until she discovers she has cancer and her life is likely coming to an end. Yes, on the surface it sounds similar to Breaking Bad, but not only does she not become a drug dealer, but the show is much different in other ways as well. First of all, The Big C is a comedy, and while it’s not necessarily laugh-out-loud material, it’s certainly got a very different feel from Walter White and company. The show ran for four seasons, and the cast is terrific, the writing is sharp, and the humor is both charming and poignant. Now, for the first time the show has been released in its entirety on Blu-ray from Mill Creek, and it’s a pretty great value for your money. I’ll generally watch Laura Linney in anything, and this nice box set is a great way to immerse yourself in one of her best roles.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Victoria: Season Three – My main interest in watching Victoria was for the fact that Victoria herself (as in Queen Victoria) is portrayed by Jenna Coleman, better known as Clara Osgood Oswald from Doctor Who, and of whom I’m a massive fan. She’s so fun and cute and effervescent that I’ll watch her in just about anything. And while she’s excellent in this new period drama TV series, she also feels very restrained. Of course, I understand that that’s her character and the arc that she goes through, and while she has moments of personality, it’s not the same as watching her in something like Doctor Who. I’m not the biggest fan of period dramas, and while I found Victoria to be a bit dull at times, it looks absolutely stunning, with amazing production values and top-notch cinematography. Worth a look if you like this genre.
  • A Place to Call Home: Season 6 – The beloved Australian drama comes to a close with A Place to Call Home: Season 6. While I wasn’t sure what to expect with this show, I became caught hip in it in short order. Imagine an Australian version of Downton Abbey set in the 1950s and you have some idea what this show is like. While that’s not a perfect comparison, it does give you some idea of what you’re in for. The acting is uniformly terrific, the characters are engaging, and the show is — like Downton — more addictive than you would think. There is also a Limited Edition Complete Series box set out this week, which I’ll have an in-depth write-up on very soon.
  • Noir Archive Volume 1: 1944-1954 9-Movie Collection – Also from Mill Creek this week, we have a terrific collection of some lesser known film noir movies in the Noir Archive Volume 1, a three-disc, nine-movie collection that skips vower the big name noir films and instead digs a little deeper into the classic Hollywood archives. The movies included from this decade of noir are: Address Unknown (1944); Escape in the Fog (1945); The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947); The Black Book (aka The Reign of Terror) (1949); Johnny Allegro (1949); 711 Ocean Drive (1950); The Killer That Stalked New York (1950); Assignment Paris (1952); and The Miami Story (1954). Now, as with any anthology, there are different levels of quality at work here. While there aren’t any outright bad movies in the bunch, I particularly enjoyed Johnny Allegro starring the great George Raft, as well as 711 Ocean Drive, which stars Edmond O’Brien. The whole set can be found quite affordably, and it’s worth if it you’re a film noir fan.
  • Tito and the Birds -This Brazilian animated film is unlike anything I’ve seen in recent memory. It has a unique animated style reminiscent of an oil painting crossed with an old fashioned cartoon, and its message is one with a cutting social commentary. In the film, the world is being ravaged by a disease that causes paralysis, which is spread by ideas. There’s an obvious allegory there to the state of the world these days, and the film isn’t afraid to hit you over the head with a metaphor now and again. The film is short, which keeps it from overstaying its welcome (at just 73 minutes), but it has some interesting ideas. Worth a look if you want something a little unconventional.
  • Emmanuelle, Emmanuelle 2, Goodbye Emmanuelle – Kino Lorber has finally given us new Blu-ray releases of one of the most famous erotic cinema franchises (scratch that — THE most famous erotic film franchise) in cinematic history. This trilogy of films from the 197s almost single-handedly defined the genre when they were released, thanks to a combination of a stark performance by the late Sylvia Kristel, frank stories about sexual discoveries, and… well, let’s face it, plenty of sex. Each of the three films in the trilogy comes new to Blu-ray as a Special Edition, featuring extra features that include interviews with the director and Sylvia Kristel herself, making these quite an attractive purchase for fans.
  • Tickled – I swear I had to look up whether this film was a real documentary or not, that’s how outrageous it is. But it turns out it is, which blows my mind, because it seems so ridiculous on paper. I mean, it’s weird enough that there’s a documentary film about “competitive endurance tickling,” but then as the oil goes on and you discover what a secretive world it really is, it just seems like something that could only happen in a fictionalized film. But apparently, it’s real, and it’s quite fascinating, not only because there are people who compete in competitive endurance tickling, but also because many of them seem to be caught up in this unfriendly societal world. Crazy, but fascinating.
  • Independent Releases – There are a number of more art house and independent releases out this week, many of which will strongly appeal to those who prefer more esoteric fare. First up is Farinelli, a new Blu-ray release of the 1994 Golden Globe winning French/Italian film (for Best Foreign Feature) about a famous opera singer who lived in the 1700s. It’s kind of like a foreign film version of Amadeus, although jot quite at that level in my opinion. Next up, The Invisibles is an uneven cross between a documentary and a drama film that follows four of the Jewish people who tried to escape Nazi-occupied Berlin during World War II. But the film cuts back and forth between interviews with the survivors and a dramatized version of their story, which is, well, unsatisfying. I wish they had chosen one format or the other. Las Sandinistas is a serious documentary about women soldiers in the Nicaraguan Sandinista movement and the following Contra War. It’s a solid film, but the subject matter is pretty niche and not something I’m terribly interested in, so it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. Another, more interesting documentary is The Gospel of Eureka, about a small town in Arkansas that shared both a heavy down-south Christian culture and a strong queer community. However, instead of the typical strife you’d expect, this town somehow thrives with both communities mingling. Interesting stuff. Next up, we have a trilogy of films by Ferid Boughedir, an acclaimed Tunisian filmmaker. A Summer in La Goulette is the most accessible of the three, sort of an ‘80s sex comedy set in 1967 and featuring three teenage girlfriends (one Jewish, one Muslim, and one Catholic). This was my favorite of the three films. Zizou and the Arab Spring is also a comedy of sorts, however it’s about a much more serious subject: the 2011 Arab Spring uprising in Tunisia. I can’t say I got all of what was going on politically, so this one didn’t resonate with me. Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces is about a thirteen-year-old boy who starts to notice women in a mature way for the first time, and there are some cultural norms (such as public baths) that allow him to learn a lot, and quite quickly. Finally, we have two documentaries. Target: St. Louis is an incredibly sobering and disturbing film about government-sanctioned radiation tests that were performed on poor and low-income families in and around St. Louis in the days after World War II. It’s not a cheerful film and can at times be a bit disturbing, but it’s a story we’ve heard very little about, And in The Gospel According To Andre, we learn about fashion icon Andre Leon Talley and his journey from the deep south riddled with racism to the higher echelons of the fashion world. Fashion luminaries such as Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford are all present for interviews, and fans of shows like Project Runway will want to track this one down.
  • PBS Releases – PBS has several new documentary programs releasing on DVD this week as well. Kilauea: Hawaii on Fire is my favorite of the bunch, giving us a fascinating look at the Kilaue Volcano that erupted in Hawaii last year. You might remember seeing pictures on the internet of people golfing with fiery lava in the background behind them. I could watch stuff like this all day long. Nature: Wild Way of the Vikings is an hour-long program narrated by Ewen McGregor that takes us from the shores of Scotland to Norway, as we learn about ancient viking warriors and what the world was like for the, Nature: Attenborough & The Sea Dragon, takes a look at the discovery of the skeleton of an ichthyosaur, a prehistoric aquatic dinosaur. Sir David Attenborough explores this fascinating creature’s biology and history. Boss: The Black Experience in Business is a two-hour film that looks at everything from slavery to modern tycoons and relates the African-American experience in the world of business and commerce. The Dictator’s Playbook is a six-episode, six-hour series that gives us historical biographies of some of the worst dictators the world has ever seen, including Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, and Manuel Noriega. They skip over some of the bigger names (like Hitler), largely, I imagine, because they’ve already been covered so much. There’s some good and frightening history to be learned about here. Sealab is an incredibly cool documentary about the creation of an undersea laboratory that was placed at the bottom pf the ocean back in the late 1960s. I didn’t even know it existed, making this one of special interest to me. Finally, Frontline: Predator on the Reservation, is a disturbing expose of Dr. Stanley Weber, a government pediatrician who traveled throughout Indian reservations and sexually assaulted children. The film looks at how he was allowed to practice for so long and why repeated warnings were ignored. It’s not a fun watch, but it does explore some important territory.

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