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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Ma, MIB International, Into The Ashes, Rambo and more


It’s a light week with the Labor Day holiday in the US. Still, there are a few hits and hidden gems to be found on shelves and online. Here’s what’s on tap this week:

MIB International – While it would have been great to see MIB Internataional relaunch the entire Men in Black franchise with a bang, unfortunately, the film failed to really find an audience and ended up being a box office disappointment. The reason for that, ultimately, is that the film is just solidly okay. It’s not bad per se; it’s easily watchable and Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are engaging and likable leads. And for my money, the film gets better as it goes, becoming more enjoyable after a slow start. But it just never gets to the point where you really love it. As much as it’s damning with faint praise, the film is s – simply put – fine. But that’s not enough in this day and age to relaunch a global franchise. So, if you like the Men in Black franchise, you won’t regret watching this new iteration, but you probably won’t fall in love with it, either.

Ma – It’s hard to say I was disappointed with this movie, because it’s not like was I expecting a whole heck of a lot from it. But I thought the trailer made it look like at least a relatively entertaining horror flick. Instead, it’s as by-the-numbers as they come, only without any of the interesting characters or fun kills of your more traditional fright flicks. And the movie just has so many flaws: the script is awful, the story is weakly developed, the ending is lackluster, and Alison Janney is completely wasted in what amounts to a glorified cameo appearance. Plus, the menu screen has picture-in-picture video previews of the extra features, including an alternate ending, which is kind of spoiler-y, and it’s right there on the main menu screen. All in all, the whole thing is a mess, and I was thoroughly unimpressed.

Rambo (4K Ultra HD) – It’s funny how time and distance can affect your opinion of a film. As a huge Sylvester Stallone fan and a Rambo franchise devotee, I was first in line to see Rambo (also known as John Rambo), the fourth film in the series when it hit theaters in 2008. And at the time, I was incredibly disappointed in it. In fact, I had a viscerally negative reaction to it. With the film being released on the premium 4K Ultra HD format to capitalize on the upcoming Last Blood film in theaters, I had to revisit the film, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. But this time around, I watched it and I really enjoyed it. What was different? I honestly have no idea. But whatever bothered me about it so much the first time didn’t do so this time. I still don’t think it lives up to the original trilogy, but I liked it a heck of a lot more this time around. Rambo on 4K Ultra HD looks and sounds pretty terrific. The deep color saturation brings the Burmese jungle to life (and the bloodshed that satins it bright red), while the surround soundtrack fills your living room with whizzing bullets, thunderous explosions, and other various sounds of war.

Into the Ashes – Luke Grimes, James Badge Dale, and the always-excellent Frank Grillo star in this new dark drama that treads familiar ground. I can’t tell if this movie WANTS to be an action film and doesn’t succeed, or if it’s just being marketed as an action film when it hews much closer to drama territory as it plays out. There are some punctuations of action, but it’s not the gritty explosion-filled type of movie that, say, Rambo (mentioned above) is. The performances are good, especially by Grillo, who stands out as usual, but the film is so cliched, it’s hard to get too excited about it. Grimes plays a man with a good life, but – SURPRISE! – he used to be a criminal, and he’s got something the bad guy wants. And said bad guy? Just released rom prison. Guess what happens next? Yep, you can probably lay out every scene just based on that one sentence description. It’s an okay film, but I wish it had tried to do something a little more original, or at least given us a different spin on a familiar story.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • NCIS: The Sixteenth Season – I’ll be honest, I never thought NCIS was going to last a full season, let alone sixteen seasons. Sixteen!!! To me, it just seemed like such a blatant rip-off of the then-scorching hot CSI franchise that I figured viewers would reject it in favor of the original forensics investigators. Shows what I know; NCIS has been a constant presence on the television landscape for well over a decade now. Ultimately, I get that NCIS is an incredibly popular show. What I can’t figure out is why; the show is just not that good, at least for me. I mean, it’s a watchable show, it’s zippy, and there are some halfway interesting crimes to be solved, but the whole thing is just completely lightweight, with no emotional heft whatsoever. If you are a fan of the show, this season sees some new developments while continuing the case-of-the-week formula. If you like what you’ve seen for the past fifteen years, you shouldn’t;t have any complaints.
  • Bull: Season Three – Speaking of NCIS and shows that kind of annoy me… I’ll be honest, I’ve sort of come to hate Michael Wetherly after seeing him in NCIS over the years. His character in that show is one of my least favorite characters in the history of television. With the new hit show Bull, this time he plays a variation on that character but since he’s in charge of the team of trial analysts he heads up, he’s somehow even more obnoxious. I know the show was a ratings hit, but I just really don’t like it.
  • Martin Clunes: Islands of America – Season 1 – Martin Clunes is best known for his dramatic roles, such as in the hit British series Doc Martin, in which he played the title role. For this show, he takes on a new role: tour guide. Whereas you might expect him to travel to exotic locales far across the world, instead he takes us to familiar places we might never have seen before: the exotic locales of America. Clune hops from coast to coast (with several stops in between), taking us to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Maine, New York, California, and more. Clunes is a more amiable host than many of his characters would have you expect, and he really finds some great places to visit. This first season includes four episodes that features 12 locations, and I hope a second season isn’t too far behind.
  • Darlin’ – Pollyanna McIntosh (probably best known for her role as Jadis on The Walking Dead) writes and directs (as well as co-stars in) this dark thriller, which plays out largely like its own film but iss apparently part of a loose trilogy that bean with the movie The Offspring and continued in cult director favorite Lucy McKee’s The Woman. This go around, the film focuses on a feral teenager who is taken in by a corrupt church and ends up in less-then-terrific circumstances. Luckily for her (and unluckily for others), this feral teen has a feral mom. McIntosh demonstrates some skill behind the camera and presents a pretty visceral film, although it wasn’t ultimately a movie I loved. Fans of disturbing horror (as well as the previous films in the series) might like this one more than I did.
  • Sunny Day: Welcome to the Pet Parlor – This relatively new Nickelodeon animated series is aimed squarely at little girls, and I’m sure they’ll like it. This is one of those shows that’s tough for a middle-aged male to review, because there’s literally nothing for me here. But that’s okay, because I don’t need to be a fan to see that preschool girls will enjoy it. It’s sparkly, full of bright colors (largely pink, purple, and yellow), features a cute dog, and sees a multi-ethnic crew of a hairstylist and her friends learning lessons about friendship, cooperation, and the usual preschool fare. It’s cute and fun and has positive life lessons, and this DVD collection gives you four episodes of it. Nothing wrong with that.

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