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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Captain Marvel, Dumbo, Us, Wonder Park, The Green Inferno and more


Captain MarvelCaptain Marvel got kind of a weird reception at the box office. I mean, it made literally over a billion dollars worldwide, but if you talk to people, I heard more folks say it was “okay,” or “I liked it but didn’t love it,” than you get with the typical Marvel movie. Now, I generally rail against saying you need to watch a movie more than once to “get” it, but I’ll say this: I really liked Captain Marvel on my first viewing, but I absolutely flat-out loved it on my second viewing. So in this rare case, I will say that I think people should watch it a second time. Because there is some confusion about her origin in the beginning of the film (done so deliberately), since you’re figuring that out, it makes it harder to focus on just enjoying the movie. However, the second time around, you already know who’s who and what’s what, so you can just revel in how much fun the film is. Simply put, I love this movie, and I’m glad it made that billion dollars so we can have an inevitable sequel that I’m sure I’ll love just as much.

Us – Based largely on the success of his previous film Get Out, Jordan Peele’s follow up horror film Us was a massive box office success, and it also garnered no small amount of critical acclaim. Which is a little mind-boggling to me because I absolutely hated this film. I knew I was in trouble when the opening credits showed a bunch of rabbits for seemingly no reason; it clued me in that I was watching more than just a simple story of a family fighting their own doppelgangers. And as the story progressed, it got more and more stupid. Sadly, I can’t go into too much detail without giving away major spoilers, but just do me this favor: when you’re done watching the film, simply ask yourself, “THAT was their plan?!?” It’s utterly ridiculous, it makes no sense whatsoever, and the end result is a film I severely disliked. There’s a decent horror movie in there for about half an hour, but Peele’s need to expand the story and make a sociopolitical statement while trying to create origins for the events completely unravels any sense of logic or reality. Some people seem to like this movie, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Us comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and I will say this is one area where it excels. The many dark scenes never obscure the action thanks to exceptional shadow delineation, and the colors (where there are some) are exceptionally vibrant. The surround soundtrack also exhibits some real depth and detail It’s a terrific presentation of a terrible movie.

Dumbo – Tim Burton’s live-action remake of Dumbo wasn’t a huge flop, but it wasn’t a huge hit, either. And I think that has more to do with the fact that Dumbo is one of the less popular Disney remakes more than anything else. As for the film itself, it’s… well, it’s very Tim Burton-y. I give him credit for taking a so-so film and crafting a live-action flick that is full of spectacle and great visuals. Plus, the cast is terrific, especially Colin Farrell and Michael Keaton. The CGI elephant works pretty well, and the young actors are pretty solid, so all in all, while it’s not a film I can say I fell in love with, it’s a solidly slightly-better-than-average movie.


Wonder Park – This animated film failed to excite audiences at the box office and it disappeared from theaters pretty quickly. I think a lot of the blame for that comes from the trailer, which in my estimation was just utterly lackluster and unengaging. I can report that the finished product is better than the trailer would indicate, but it’s still far from being a great film. Frankly, it’s a bit of a weird movie, with the story of a girl who finds that the amusement park of her dreams has come to life. There’s a collection of characters that kids might like, although some of them feel a bit familiar. There’s also a good number of recognizable voices in the cast, including Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Ken Jeong, Kenan Thompson, John Oliver, and Mila Kunis. It’s a decent if ultimately forgettable family flick that kids will like and parents will tolerate.

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 – Universal Studios has done a great job of packaging up the heavy hitters from their Universal Monsters franchise, such as the classic Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolfman movies, but they’ve largely ignored some of their less famous outings. Smartly, they’ve licensed out some of their more cultish hits to Shout Factory for the excellent Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1, which gives us four classic horror films on Blu-ray for the first time: The Invisible Ray, The Black Cat, The Raven, and Black Friday. The common thread here is that each of these films stars both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, two of the great actors of the classic horror scene. They don’t always appear on screen together, but it’s still nice to have two tried and true actors in the mix. Of the films, The Invisible Ray and The Black Cat are my favorites, although Black Friday is an oddball that I find strangely charming. Each film gets its own disc, and the packaged is housed in a nice slipcover. I’m very much looking forward to Volume 2.

The Green Inferno – I had the chance to interview Eli Roth a few years ago, and he was hands down one of the nicest, most enthusiastic guys I’ve ever interviewed. I wish I enjoyed his films as much as I enjoyed him as a person. The Green Inferno is a film that could have been outstanding if it weren’t for Roth’s reliance on over-abundant amounts of gore. In the right hands, this could have been a horror/suspense masterpiece. The story follows a group of activist students protesting in the Amazon whose plane crashes, leaving them in the hands of the very natives they were trying to save. Who just happen to be sadistic cannibals. Honestly, I would have LOVED to have seen this film go the understated route, with all the carnage happening off screen and leaving the worst bits to your imagination. Not so with Eli Roth at the helm. While it features his signature first half-hour of character development, the rest of the film is brutal, bloody quagmire. Too much for me, I’m afraid. This new Blu-ray edition from Scream Factory includes a massive collection of extra features as well as a soundtrack CD that gives you the film’s score, which is a neat addition. If you’re an Eli Roth fan, this release offers you literally hours of extra content to dig into.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Hotel Mumbai – Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, and Jason Isaacs star in this dramatic thriller based on true events. Based on the 2008 siege of the Taj Hotel in India, the film follows hotel staff members who risk their lives to protect their guests from terrorists. As you can imagine, this isn’t a light film, as there are some pretty hard moments and the deaths of innocent people. However, it’s not only an important story but also an engaging film, so while it’s not cheerful or fun-filled, it is entertaining and moving. Think of something like The Impossible or Munich. A tough film, but worth a watch.
  • The Beach Bum – I get that there are people out there who like the films of Harmony Korine (such as Kids and Spring Breakers). What I don’t get is why exactly there are people who like Harmony Korine’s films. I will be absolutely up front about my bias here: I’ve yet to see a Korine film that I like in any way shape or form. The Beach Bum, despite starring Matthew McConaughey, is yet another non-sensical drug-trip of a movie with a pastiche of styles mashed together under the auspices of being a “film.” I just do not get what people like about these movies, but I will say that if you like his other movies, you’ll probably like this one for some inexplicable reason.
  • Cinderella: Signature Edition – Okay, I love Disney, and I always appreciate a good version of a great film, so it’s hard to say anything bad about this newest home video release of Cinderella. The Cinderella: Signature Edition includes the film on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as providing a digital copy. That all said, this is something like the 700th version of Cinderella to hit home video; there have been no less than two other Blu-rays before this, and for the most part, they’re largely the same release, just with a couple of new add-ons (like the digital copy.) So it’s a great release if you don’t already own Cinderella, but if you do, there’s no need to upgrade.
  • The Cleaning Lady – This new thriller has echoes of films like Audition and Single White Female, but it is definitely its own film. The story follows a woman named Alice who is in love with a married man. She hires her building’s disfigured maintenance lady to do some cleaning for her and as they get to know each other, the cleaning lady decides to clean out some elements from Alice’s life that are holding her down. While there are no known actors in the cast, the acting is pretty solid for this genre of film, and there are some incredibly tense moments. It’s a solid psychological thriller that should find an audience on home video.
  • Swingtown: The First Season – This was an interesting show for a mainstream network to air. A drama dealing with open marriages and swinger parties isn’t usually what a network known for crime procedurals like CBS was going to put in primetime. But they did, and the result was the short-lived Swingtown. I’m a little confused by this release, as the show aired on 2008 and I want to say they did a DVD release back then, so why did CBS feel the need to give us a new DVD version a decade after it aired? Has there been a big resurgence in interest in Swingtown? I don’t know the answer to that, but I guess if you’re a fan of the show or it’s one of those shows you always meant to get around to, now’s your chance.
  • May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers – I’m always fascinated by what bands get documentary films made about them. And I don’t mean the cheapie, unauthorized types you see pop up on DVD all the time, but actual documentaries by real filmmakers that make it to theaters, even if only in limited release. Now, I’m a big Avett Brothers fan, but I don’t consider them a hugely mainstream band. Yet, directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio felt the need to create a portrait of the band, and I’m glad they did. As I much as I love the Avetts’ music, I don’t really know much about them or their history. This terrific film delves into the band as people with a nice focus on how they write and create their music. It’s an emotional and musical journey, and it goes deeper than a lot of more surface music documentaries do. Definitely recommended for fans of the band, but even non-fans might find it enjoyable.
  • Modest Heroes: Ponoc Short Films Theater – With a who’s who of animators who have worked on numerous notable animated projects in Japan (several with Studio Ghibli), this short film collection features three short animated films: Invisible, Kanini & Kanino, and Life Ain’t Gonna Lose. The films both feature the option of English or Japanese audio, and the English adaptation counts Maggie Q among the voice cast. Each film is pretty short, with the total running time just under an hour, but each one features some pretty spectacular animation. Studio Ponoc is a newer animation studio and it’s clear that they’re trying to become one of the premiere houses in Japanese animation, and this is a pretty good early effort.
  • Run the Race – While the main cast is largely unknown, Kristoffer Polaha and Mykelti Williamson have notable supporting roles in this faith-based teen sports drama. When an injury sidelines a promising young athlete, he has to discover a new support network that includes a nurse, his brother, his track coach, and god. I’m not typically a watcher of Christian films, so this isn’t quite my particular cup of tea, but I’ll say that the film is pretty solid for its genre. The cast is good, the drama is relatable, and the faith elements aren’t beating you over the head with preachy messages. Worth a watch if you’re part of the target audience.
  • Patrick Melrose – Benedict Cumberbatch gives a predictably terrific performance in this British miniseries that also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving. It’s a bit of a heavy watch, as we see an affluent man who is filled with both self-loathing and self-destructive behaviors. As he drowns in booze and drugs after the death of his father, we flashback to see the events in his childhood that shaped his adult life. Over the course of five episodes, we follow Patrick’s life, and it’s not exactly a fun experience, but it is quite engaging and intense. Of course, Cumberbatch in the lead role makes the show more watchable than I think it might have been with someone else in the role. A strong showing, but maybe one you’ll need to watch an episode of Friends afterwards to cleanse your palate.
  • Slaughterhouse Rulez – While the cover art would have you believe that this is the next big pairing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, both actors appear in small supporting roles, while Michael Sheen, Asa Butterfield and a cast of largely unknown teen actors take on the lion’s share of the character duties here. This is a sort-of typical kids at a boarding school having to fend off nasty creatures kind of flick, and it’s also pretty average in quality. There are some fun scenes, some parts that drag a bit, and a couple of cameo scenes from Margot Robbie, which makes everything better. Fun enough, but nothing special. Also, points off for only being available on DVD and not Blu-ray.
  • Between the Lines – Every once in a while I get a movie that I feel like I should have heard of, but I definitely haven’t, and Between the Lines is one of them. This late ‘70s drama has an outstanding cast, including Jeff Goldblum, John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Michael J. Pollard, Jill Eikenberry, Bruno Kirby, Stephen Collins, and Marilu Henner. While the movie was never a success, it lives on in home video and comes to Blu-ray for the very first time. The film is reminiscent of a similar movie from the time that WAS a big hit, The Big Chill, although it seems a little more immediate than the more famous film. Goldblum is SO young in his role, but it’s also a clear indicator that he would go on to become a major talent. An interesting film that I’m glad I discovered.
  • The Poison Rose – John Travolta and Morgan Freeman lead an all-star cast that also includes Brendan Fraser, Famke Janssen, and Robert Patrick in this low-level detective mystery. I like a good hard-boiled tale, but this is one of those movies where I wonder what all the talent involved thought they were getting involved with. It’s a completely mediocre film on all fronts, and I can’t imagine anyone read the script and was blown away by it. Travolta’s private eye narration adds nothing to the film, the mystery isn’t terribly compelling, and nobody looks like they’re having a good time. This one is a misfire on all fronts.
  • The New York Ripper – Acclaimed Italian horror filmmaker Lucio Fulci took a bit of a left turn with The New York Ripper, a low-budget slasher film set in (where else?) New York City. I’ve only seen a few of Fulci’s films so I’m far from an expert on his filmography, but this one strikes me as a pretty typical slasher entry from a director better known for zombie fare and giallo offerings. The film itself is average, but this new three-disc Special Edition release is far from it. Including a Blu-ray and a DVD, the third disc is an exclusive soundtrack CD, which is a nice bonus. The set is also packed with extra features such as an audio commentary, multiple featurettes, and more. And it’s all wrapped up in a sparkly package that includes a 3-D Lenticular cover. It’s a real treat for fans of Fulci’s or this movie in particular.
  • Fatso – Dom Deluise stars in this film that was written and directed by Anne Bancroft (who also co-stars). This film has been out of print on DVD for a while now, making this new Shout Select Blu-ray from Shout Factory a nice treat for fans. This comedy is about eating, family, loneliness, and being Italian. I had never seen this movie before (and frankly I can’t even remember seeing a film with Dom Deluise in the lead role and not a supporting one), but it’s pretty enjoyable overall. Bancroft brings a lot to the film both in front of and behind the camera, and while it’s not an action packed or laugh-a-minute affair, it’s an enjoyable watch, and I’m glad it’s once again available on home video.
  • Manhunt – Martin Clunes (best known for playing the lead role for several seasons on the hit show Doc Martin) takes on a different kind of role in Manhunt, playing a police detective tackling his first big case, which may or may not be a serial killer at work. Over the course of three episodes, we see his team try to catch a killer with effectively no clues, no leads, and no suspects. Apparently the show is based on a real case, which makes it all the more chilling. Clunes is excellent as usual, and the supporting cast, while not filled with recognizable names, is equally impressive. This is a tight, riveting mystery, and it’s worth tracking down.
  • Marcella: Series 2 – Anna Friel headlines this mystery drama that is pretty damn intense. This dark story is about a former detective who rejoins the police force after her marriage ends, and ends up tracking a serial killer. As events unfold, she realizes that she knew one of the victims. To say more than that would be to ruin the fun, but this is an engaging and gripping show. Friel is terrific in the lead role, and Victoria Smurfit and Jamie Bamber in the supporting cast are excellent additions. The central mystery and drama flow together nicely so you don’t get too much procedural nor too much home drama. Worth a watch.
  • The Illusionist – I love this movie by Neil Burger, who went on to direct Limitless and Divergent. Starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel, this romance/thriller sees Norton play a magician who uses his illusions to not only win the love of a woman, but to help mitigate their different social standings. It’s a terrific, underrated film that has a bit of a cult following, hence this new Blu-ray re-release from MVD’s Marquee Collection. And while I’m happy to see the film get another chance to gain new fans, I wish the Blu-ray were more impressive. It does come with some good extra features, which were relegated to the DVD half of the Fox Blu-ray/DVD combo, so that’s a nice bonus. But I wish they had dug deeper into the archives and found something more to add to make it truly a special edition. Still, it’s a great film and is definitely worth having in your collection.
  • Resurrecting the Champ – Also from MVD’s Marquee Collection is a Blu-ray release of Resurrecting the Champ, which marks the high-def debut of the drama starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett. Hartnett plays a reporter who discovers a former boxing champion living on the streets, and of course, the resulting uplifting drama that follows is effective if unsurprising. Jackson gives a bravura performance and Hartnett holds his own well, and there are nice supporting turns from a great cast that also includes Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer, and Peter Coyote. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s relatively entertaining.
  • The Brink – This feature-length documentary takes on Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump in the White House, and it focuses on the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections. We see Bannon moving pawns and enacting machinations to try and shore up his political base and gain influence in some unexpected areas of the world. Politically-based documentaries are tricky because they tend to only be received well by people who agree with the underlying ideologies, but this is far from a hatchet job, and even puts Bannon in a positive spotlight once in a while. It’s relatively reserved in its biases and is an interesting film.
  • Indie Spotlight – We’ve got a few new indie releases this week. First up are two new entries from the Retro Afrika Collection from Indiepix Films. Lola and One More Shot are both Zulu-language films from the 1980s, although they’re very different. Lola is something of a sports drama (although it’s about a girl who believes there’s more to life than just volleyball) while One More Shot is a revenge thriller involving human trafficking, prison, and a major crime syndicate. As with the previous Retro Afrika films, these are mostly large budget films that are in a foreign language, so they’re not exactly light watching, but fans of international cinema will find them intriguing.
  • Warner Archive Spotlight, Part 1 – There are several new titles available from Warner Bros.’ manufacture-on-demand service, the Warner Archive. First up is the classic Prisoner of Second Avenue. Starring Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft, the film makes its Blu-ray debut and it’s a classic for a reason. Jack Lemmon, as a man who has lost his job and must rely on his wife’s income, has rarely been better, and Anne Bancroft matches him scene for scene. This one is very welcome to see making its high def debut. Next up is Frankenstein 1970 (on Blu-ray), and attempted new take on the Frankenstein mythos that takes place in a more modern era. Boris Karloff stars as Victor Frankenstein, who rents his ancestral family house out to a film crew to make ends meet. Of course, things start to go wrong. It’s a slow moving film with little of any monsters in it, yet its atmospheric and creepy enough to make it worth watching. Switching gears,Summer Stock makes its Blu-ray debut, and this fun musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly is a real good time. It’s a bit cheesy and a bit hokey, and it’s nothing all that complicated or plot-driven, but the dance numbers are good and the movie has a lightness and sense of fun that make it a great watch. The Glass Bottom Boat also makes its Blu-ray debut. This is a film I was unfamiliar with, but I’m really glad I got to see it. Doris Day stars alongside Rod Taylor as a woman who works at NASA but is mistaken for a Russian spy, launching one madcap adventure after another. It’s very funny, Doris Day is delightful, and I’m always happy to watch Rod Taylor in a film. This one is really worth tracking down. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the blaxploitation classic Cleopatra Jones, a film following in the footsteps of Coffy and Foxy Brown. Co-starring Shelley Winters and Bernie Casey, with Tamara Dobson in the lead role, the film is very much a product of its time. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely dated, although the presence of Winters in the villain role adds to the fun. Moving on to DVD-only releases, Coquetteis an old film starring Mary Pickford, one of Hollywood’s first great movie stars. This is an early sound picture, which is interesting since Pickford was a silent movie star, but the film was a hit and an Oscar-winner, and it’s easy to see why. Lady Scarface is from 1941, and it could be considered an early film noir, if you will. Judith Anderson stars, and the film involves a gang and the woman who accidentally receives their money, which – of course – they want back. It’s not a true classic, but it is an interesting watch, especially as a proto-noir movie. Finally, The Gorilla Man is not a King-Kong type of movie but rather a World War II spy drama. The film doesn’t have any real stars in it, and honestly, it wasn’t my favorite film of the bunch, but I like that Warner Archive is committed to releasing these rarities because there are always fans of the films or the actors involved, even if they weren’t big hits.
  • Warner Archive Spotlight, Part 2 – The WB Archive ( presents us with a few choice new releases that are all manufactured on demand this week. First up we have the Blu-ray debuts of two of the original Shaft series’ later entries: Shaft’s Big Score and Shaft in Africa. The new Samuel L. Jackson sequel was D.O.A. at theaters, but I’m sure it sparked some interest in the original series. While the original film has been available on Blu-ray, these mark the Blu-ray debut of the last two films in the trilogy. Shaft’s Big Score is a more traditional sequel, while Shaft in Africa is a fun departure that sees Shaft undercover as a slave in Africa. Both feature Richard Roundtree, which makes them worth watching. They’re not classics, but they are cult favorites for a reason. Next up, making its return to DVD is A Patch of Blue, starring Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters. This drama about an interracial love affair and the racism that threatens it is a bit heavy handed at times, but it’s a solid story and the performances are uniformly terrific. Finally, Three Men on a Horse debuts on DVD. This largely forgotten comedy stars largely forgotten actors Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, and Joan Blondell. McHugh stars as a hapless writer who figures out how to pick the horses with unerring success, and of course he falls under the sway of some gamblers who take advantage of him. It’s a tight, fun little comedy, and if you like more obscure classic Hollywood outings, this is an enjoyable one.

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