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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Shazam!, Five Feet Apart, Klute, Fast Color, Breakthrough, Space: 1999, Moon and more


Shazam! – It’s no secret that DC’s first handful of movies were, well, not so great. But over the past year or two, they’ve really started to improve. Between Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and now Shazam, DC is finally starting to find their feet. They still have a way to go to catch up to Marvel, but they’re improving. Shazam, is one of my favorite movies of theirs yet, which is made more impressive by the fact that the main character is probably the most obscure DC character to receive a solo outing yet. Zachary Levi is terrific as the superhero who is basically a young teenager in the body of a massive superhero who just wants to find his mom. The young cast of largely unknowns is terrific, and the film’s humor really carries the day. That said, I wish DC was a little better about their PG-13 ratings. There’s a number of noticeable swear words in the film and one or two scenes that are a little gruesome for younger views. Kids will really enjoy this film, but I’d preview the film as an adult first before showing it to anyone under the age of, say, 8 or 9. All that said, though, Shazam is a great deal of fun and I enjoyed it immensely. Shazam has been released on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD. The 4K Ultra presentation is terrific. The deep color saturation really brings the film to life, as it’s quite colorful to begin with, and image clarity is razor-sharp. The surround soundtrack is also spectacular, making this a terrific presentation of a terrific film.

Five Feet Apart – Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse (of TV’sRiverdale) star in this moving dramedy about two teenagers with Cystic Fibrosis. I learned a lot about CF through this film. For example, people with CF generally aren’t allowed within 6 feet of each other due to the chance of spreading dangerous germs that could make someone seriously ill. So what happens when two teenagers in the CF wing of a hospital fall in love? Well, a lot of angst, humor, and heartbreak. I really enjoyed this movie, which surprised me a little bit just because I knew so little about it. The real standout of the film, however, is Haley Lu Richardson, who gives an absolutely stellar performance. Honestly, in a perfect world, I’d love to see her get an Oscar nomination for her role, she’s that good. Teens who love books like The Fault in Our Stars should really like this movie, and I think adults will be pleasantly surprised by it as well.

Klute – The Criterion Collection adds the seminal 1970s film Klute to their roster with this new release. Starring Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda, Klute is a dramatic thriller about a call girl who gets wrapped up into a police investigation into a missing businessman. Donald Sutherland plays the titular detective who is surveilling her, and while they begin a romance, they also learn that he’s not the only one after her. Jane Fonda won an Oscar for her role here, and deservedly so, as she’s absolutely fantastic in the role. Donald Sutherland, of course, is no slouch either. The film absolutely holds up, and it’s an example of the best of 1970s filmmaking, which isn’t automatically my favorite decade of filmmaking. The new Criterion Blu-ray has been restored and remastered, featuring excellent picture and sound. It also comes with a nice collection of extra features, including interviews, documentaries, essays, and more. A top-notch release!

Fast Color – I’d heard a lot of critical praise for this drama with supernatural shadows. The film stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (an actress I like quite a bit), as well as David Strathairn, Lorraine Toussaint, and young Saniyya Sidney. The film follows a young woman with some shaky superpowers that she has a hard time controlling who is being hunted by some government scientist types. But that’s really just a backdrop for the film, which is really a character drama about three generations of women. And that’s sort of where my problem with the film begins. I don’t care that the movie isn’t a big-budget superhero adventure flick; in fact, I’m perfectly fine with that. No, my issue is that the underlying story and the drama that comes with it is, well, really dull. I found this movie to be rather boring, despite an interesting concept and great performances; It’s mostly just talking and I could never get interested in the characters or their lives. People seem to really like this film, however, so apparently I’m in the minority on this one.

Breakthrough – Chrissie Metz (This is Us), Topher Grace, Josh Lucas, and Mike Colter star in this faith-based drama directed by Roxann Biggs (best known as Lieutenant B’elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager, but now a successful director). The film follows a family whose son falls through ice and suffers some pretty severe brain damage, who is not expected to recover. Through what is basically a miraculous medical recovery, things begin to turn around for the family and the young man. I don’t generally go for faith-based movies, but this is one of the better ones in recent years. The performances are strong, the filmmaking is competent, and the religious overtones don’t beat you over the head. Breakthrough is released on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and it looks and sounds terrific. The colors are extremely vibrant and image clarity is outstanding, and the surround soundtrack – while not overly active – is appropriately immersive.

Moon (4K Ultra HD) – It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Duncan Jones’ debut feature film came out. Jones, the son of David Bowie, has become a well-liked director in large part thanks to this small debut feature, but he’s also found success with movies like Source Code, Warcraft, and others. Moon stars Sam Rockwell (who gives an amazing performance) as a miner on the moon whose tour is almost up when he discovers that something isn’t quite right. I don’t want to say any more than that because I don’t want to spoil any of the story. I will say that while I like Moon, I’ve never been as big a fan as many people who seem to absolutely adore this movie. I like it, but I don’t love it. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the film, Moon has been released for the first time on 4K Ultra HD, which has an interesting result. The film is low-budget and somewhat monochromatic (featuring a LOT of greys and whites), meaning that the vibrant colors that usually come with a 4K release are somewhat moot. Still, shadow delineation makes the dark scenes easy to see, and image clarity is razor-sharp, while the surround soundtrack kicks in when needed (although there are a lot of quiet scenes.) Overall, it’s a strong audiovisual presentation that fans of the film should enjoy.

Luther: The Complete Series & Season 5 – Idris Elba is a household name now, but a large part of the reason you’ve heard of him is because of this show. Luther stars Elba as police detective John Luther, a genius who tracks down some of the most twisted killers in Britain, including his arch-nemesis, Alice Morgan. The show is, on one hand, a fairly typical crime procedural, but on the other hand, it’s unlike many other shows, largely because of the intensity of Elba’s performance. I really like this show, and I love the relationship (of sorts) between Luther and Alice Morgan; I always find it fascinating when a hero has a really sinister arch-nemesis. There are two Luther releases out from the BBC this week: Season Five includes the complete fifth season, while The Complete Series includes the entirety of all five seasons in one nice, compact box set. Both are highly worth watching.

Space: 1999 – The Complete Series – I’m really excited about this new release from Shout factory. Although it never became the long-lasting hit that Star Trek eventually turned into, Space: 1999 is a cult favorite TV series from the mid-70s starring the great Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. The show sees an explosion on the moon that sends the moon and Moonbase Alpha off into uncharted space, giving us something akin to Lost in Space but with 300 people in a permanent dwelling being the ones who are lost. The show was a product of Gerry Anderson, best known for bringing the Thunderbirds to life. While the show is certainly dated (as most sci-fi from the past tends to get), it’s a cult classic for a reason. There are some great sci-fi concepts at work here, the cast is game, and the show filled a void when Star Trek was in limbo. Now, the show has been collected in a complete series set (on Blu-ray for the first time in the US), giving us both seasons in their entirety on 13 discs, as well as some cool extra features, In short, it’s the ultimate version of Space: 1999 on home video, and fans should be thrilled to have it in their collections.

Noir Archive Volume 2: 1954-1956 9-Film Collection – This terrific three-disc set is the second volume in the Noir Archives from Kit Parker Films, which gives us nine of the lesser-known Film Noir movies from the mid-1950s. This set contains the following films on Blu-ray: Bait (1954); The Crooked Web (1955); The Night Holds Terror (1955); Footsteps in the Fog (1955); Cell 2455 Death Row (1955); 5 Against the House (1955); New Orleans Uncensored (1955); Spin a Dark Web (1955); and Rumble on the Docks(1956). Now, most of these films star mostly unknown (or forgotten actors) but there are a few standouts, such as The Night Holds Terror featuring John Cassavetes, New Orleans Uncensored with Beverly Garland, and 5 Against the House with William Conrad. Personally, I especially enjoyed Cell 2455 Death Row (starring William Campbell, a notable guest star from the original Star Trek series) and Footsteps in the Fog, directed by Arthur Lubin. While these aren’t the most famous noir films out there, it’s nice to get a collection of well-made but lesser-seen classic Hollywood films on Blu-ray.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Criminal Minds: The Fourteenth SeasonCriminal Minds is a show that I really like; even though I don’t watch it live, I always get excited when it comes time to release on DVD because it really is some fun television. Sure, the adventures of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are ultimately just another procedural show, but the fact that it focuses on serial killers really gives the show an edge. It’s dark stuff and it’s not always pleasant to watch, but it is extremely addictive. The team has a great chemistry and the show has an easy rhythm; the producers clearly know what they’re doing by this point. Fourteen seasons in, I still find the journeys to stopping the killers very rewarding and as the show continues on, they’ve found creative ways to Gert some variety in their storylines. This season set includes the landmark 300th episodes, and the DVD set is packed with extra features, making it a must-have for fans.
  • Shortcut to Happiness – This movie has an awfully big cast for me to be completely unfamiliar with it, especially since it came out in 2007, which wasn’t all that long ago in terms of the moviegoing world. This adaptation ofThe Devil and Daniel Webster stars Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Aykroyd, and Kim Cattrall. Baldwin plays a writer who makes a deal with the devil for success but changes his mind, thus needing to enlist the help of Anthony Hopkins as the titular character to worm his way out of Satan’s grasp. Set in modern New York City, the film is actually surprisingly enjoyable I didn’t expect too much from the film since I can’t recall ever hearing about it and that’s usually not a good sign. But the cast is obviously quite good and the story is engaging. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a fun film and I’m happy to see it on Blu-ray.
  • The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales – This charming animated feature form the creators of the Oscar-nominated Ernest & Celestine is a unique and fun film that both kids and parents will enjoy. The film is a collection of intertwined stories about animals on a farm (as well as the fox that is a nearby inhabitant) and while they’re pretty simple stories, they’re also rather amusing. What really makes the film hit home, however, is the animation style, which has a unique look that is both original and comfortably familiar. It’s a cute little film that kids should really enjoy, and I think it’s charming enough to win over parents who are watching along as well.
  • The Pretenders: With Friends – This new three-disc release from The Pretenders is pretty darn cool. It features both a Blu-ray and DVD as well as an audio CD of a Pretenders concert that features some pretty impressive guest stars. Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders team up with their guests to tackle both Pretenders classics and songs from the guests that fans will enjoy. Along with The Pretenders, you’ll hear from Iggy Pop, Shirley Manson, Kings of Leon, and Incubus. It’s an eclectic mix to be sure, but somehow it really works. The best part is that you can watch the concert in high def on Blu-ray, then pop the CD in and listen to it on repeat. You get sixteen performances and they’re all pretty great. This is a must-have for Pretenders fans.
  • Indie Spotlight – We have a small slate of indie movies this week, all of which are foreign films. First up is Transit, a Blu-ray release. This German movie based on a 1942 movie sees a German refugee in Marseille using a dead man’s identity who falls in love with a woman who’s searching for her husband – who just happens to be the dead man our main character is impersonating. It’s a strong concept for a film, and the filmmakers play with it in a way that I think lessens the impact. While the original novel was obviously a reflection of World War II, the film has been transplanted to seemingly modern day, although the time periods are somewhat fluid. The end result is a little more surreal than I would have liked, personally. It’s an interesting film with a strong message, but it’s a bit unconventional. Next up, we haveDogman, an extremely intense Italian crime thriller about a man named Marcello who has a happy life but supplements his income by dealing cocaine. When he gets involved with a criminal named Simone, things quickly spiral out of control, costing him his friends, his family, and maybe even his humanity (especially when you consider the last scene of the film.) It’s a dark film and it doesn’t have a lot of happy spots, but it’s very effective and hard to look away from. Not for the faint of heart, but a good shot of adrenaline for those who want a crime thriller that’s a little more intense than the latest no-teeth Hollywood B-lister. Finally, Don’t Look At Me That Way is a German-Mongolian romantic drama Originally released in 2015, the film is just now seeing release in the US on DVD. The film focuses on two women who fall in love, but there’s more to it than that, especially when one of the women’s father enters the picture. It’s a dramatic story with strong performances, and while it won’t be for everyone, cinephiles who like material that’s a little more challenging may want to seek it out.

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