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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases – Spider-Man: Far From Home, Doom Patrol, Hellraiser, Gremlins, Itsy Bitsy and more


Spider-Man: Far From Home – Spider-Man: Homecoming (the first Tom Holland standalone Spider-Man film) is my favorite Spider-Man movie of all the iterations so far. So my hopes were pretty high for Spider-Man: Far From Home. Here’s what I’ll say about this post-Avengers Spidey outing: I get what the filmmakers were going for. And I liked it. But did I love it? If I’m being honest, not as much as I wanted to. It’s a nice palate cleanser after the heavy nature of Avengers: Endgame, but it feels a little slight, frankly. The emotional heart that was at the center of Homecoming seems to be missing this time around, meaning the film is a really good time, with great special effects and action sequences, but it falls a little flat for me. I really do like the film, but it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

Doom Patrol: The Complete First Season – I’ll admit, I was more than a little surprised when DC announced they were making Doom Patrol one of the flagship shows of their new DC Unlimited app. I’ve always enjoyed the Doom Patrol comics, but they’re hands down one of the weirdest superhero teams in existence, and I thought pulling it off as a TV show would be… challenging, to say the least. But somehow, DC has made it work. The show manages to capture the vibe of the comics, and while it might not be 100% as weird as the comic book (and I actually think that’s a good thing), it’s still pretty offbeat. The show has a great feel, a great cast (including Brendan Fraser and Timothy Dalton), and it feels different from any other superhero show around. It has some clunky moments early on, but I think it’s definitely on the right path towards becoming a real fan favorite.

Hellraiser & Hellraiser II: Unbound – Arrow Video continues their march towards becoming the Criterion Collection of cult and genre favorites, and they’re really showing it here with their superb new releases of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II: Hellbound. Famously born from the mind of Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart has gone on to spawn something like 10 sequels, almost all of which have gone directly to video, but the original film and the first sequel are still high quality, theatrical releases. Each of the two discs (they are sold separately) feature beautiful new packaging, with premium cases, new artwork, and illustrated booklets More importantly, each disc features remastered picture and a ton of extra bonus features. I’m talking documentaries, featurettes, commentaries, interviews, photos… you name it, they’ve squeezed it onto these two discs. I know that the Hellraiser movies have been released multiple times in different configurations, but I can say these are hands-down the definitive versions of the best two films in the entire franchise.

Gremlins (4K Ultra HD) – Horror-comedy classic Gremlins makes its debut in the premium 4K Ultra HD format this week, and fans will be excited to have it. However, those same fans should be aware that while it’s nice to have the film in the newer format and it’s probably the best it’s ever going to look, the film is also 35 years old at this point and there’s only so much you can do with it from an audiovisual standpoint. Color saturation is solid, but it’s not as vibrant as you see with many newer films on 4KHD, and while the imagery is sharp, the source material offers limitations (fuzzy backgrounds on occasion, etc.) Likewise, the surround soundtrack is largely front-centered, leaving the rear channels largely inactive for stretches of time. I don’t fault the new release for this, as the film’s age is a factor, but it’s not an overly huge upgrade over the Blu-ray release I do like that it comes with the existing bonus features and adds a digital copy, so if you want the film digitally, this is probably the best way to get it.

Itsy BitsyItsy Bitsy is a surprisingly serious horror film considering its less-than-serious title. The film follows a troubled single mother and her two kids who takes on a job as a caretaker for an elderly man (played by Bruce Davison). When he accidentally activates an ancient relic, a giant spider becomes a real problem for everyone involved. The film is a bit uneven and it has some pluses and minuses. On the plus side, I like that they went for practical effects instead of CGI for the spider, giving the film a visceral feel to it. The film also doesn’t rely overly on jump scares and excessive gore to create its scary moments. On the minus side, the film really takes its time getting to the thrills, and while the character drama gives the film more weight, not all of it is convincing. Overall, the film is a pretty fun little thriller, although if spiders give you the heebie jeebies, it might not be for you.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Robin Williams: Comic Genius – This new version of the Robin Williams box set from a few years back celebrates the comic’s genius (it’s even right there in the title.) Rather than being a collection of his movies, this set focuses on what made him famous in the first place: his stand-up comedy. In this iteration of the release, you get five discs loaded with classic Williams performances. In fact, you get all five HBO comedy specials from Williams: Off The Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1983), An Evening at the Met (1986), Live on Broadway (2002), and Weapons of Self Destruction (2009). Then you get a couple of new interviews as bonus features. This new version of the set is available exclusively at Wax-Mart, but it’s well worth tracking down if you’re a fan of Williams.
  • The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil – I get a lot of Korean films to review and there’s no doubt that they make some really high-quality films, even if they aren’t always to my personal aesthetic. The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is a nice departure in that it really worked for me. The film starts with a terrific concept: when a high-stakes mob boss is randomly attacked by a serial killer, he finds his reputation and power in danger as a result. So what does he do? Team up with a renegade cop (who also happens to be the only cop that thinks there’s a serial killer on the loose) to try and bring down the bad guy. It’s a good starting point, and then the film adds some colorful visuals, some strong action sequences, and some interesting characters to give us an engaging crime thriller that doesn’t simply feel like a movie we’ve seen dozens of times before.
  • Gunsmoke: The Fifteenth Season, Volume 1 & 2 – The Gunsmoke series has been s series of dribs-and-drabs releases on DVD, but now we finally have a new season of Gunsmoke on DVD. I’m not sure why it’s taken them so long to get the show out; Gunsmoke is one of the most successful TV series of all time. Before Gunsmoke, Westerns were largely considered kids’ stuff or more stereotypical “Cowboys & Indians” fare. And while I’ve never been a huge fan of westerns in general, you can’t deny the quality of this historic series. Gunsmoke: The Fifteenth Season is presented in two volumes (as the previous few sets have been) so it’s not a cheap set, but if you’ve been collecting up until now, there’s no reason to stop.
  • The Truth Will Out: Series 1 – I’ve seen this show referred to as a Nordic Noir Mystery, and that description seems pretty darn apt, so I’m co-opting it here. This Swedish mystery show is kind of like the hit series Cold Case… if Cold Case took place in a forlorn climate and the team of cops was made up of a bunch of forgotten, quirky, or rejected police officers. The result is a show that includes a diverse cast of characters trying to solve old murder cases that are quite interesting. The show is kind of slow moving, though. I found the payoff to be rewarding, but this isn’t a fast-paced action show like your typical Law & Order spin-off. Instead, it takes its time to build the mysteries and methodically works through them. This first season collection includes all eight episodes of Season One, and fans of mysteries who want something a little different will enjoy it.
  • FLCL: Progressive – This Adult Swim anime show is apparently a sequel to a previous FLCL series (Fooli Cooli, I believe it was called) that was quite popular. I don’t recall seeing it, so I’m not sure how much you have to know going into this one to follow along. I’m also not quite sure how much following along you could do either way. The show is pretty out there, involving a teenager who can turn into a robot, various friends and hangers-on, and a storyline that isn’t the most coherent thing I’ve ever encountered. The show features some fun visuals and a great soundtrack, but I couldn’t really get engaged with the characters or story, so ultimately it wasn’t quite my thing. Fans of the original show will probably be happy to have a new entry of some sort in the series, especially since it’s been over 15 years since the previous series.
  • Sesame Street: 50 Years and Counting – This terrific new Sesame StreetDVD is pretty darn amazing, and any parents of appropriately aged children should track it down immediately. First of all, it gives you five hours of Sesame Street programming; that’s like one hour for every decade the show has been on the air! Second of all, it’s priced like a regular DVD, not some expensive box set or something like that. And finally (and most importantly), this is effectively a Sesame Street’s Greatest Hits, giving us clips from all of the most memorable moments from the show’s history. Whether it’s a famous wedding or the death of Mr. Hooper, or whether it’s a famous guest star like Jeff Goldblum or R.E.M., there are so many great clips in here that you might be tempted to watch even if you don’t have kids. This is – simply put – the best of the best for preschoolers’ entertainment.
  • Find Me Guilty – MVD’s Marquee Collection specializes in new re-releases of cult or semi-forgotten (but liked/respected) films. This week they bring us a new Blu-ray version of Find Me Guilty, a little-seen entry in Vin Diesel’s filmography. Directed by the great Sydney Lumet, the film sees Diesel playing real life mobster Jackie Dee DiNorscio, who decides to represent himself at his own trial. Needless to say, it’s part legal “thriller” and part comedy, and it’s actually not a bad film at all. Lumet is, of course, a world class director, while Diesel puts on his acting hat and turns in a pretty strong performance (his hair plugs should get their own billing, though.) This new Blu-ray includes a few short extra features, but the real appeal is the film itself, which I’m sure has its share of fans.
  • Lost City of the Jungle – VCI has been bringing us classic old Hollywood serials to Blu-ray, which makes for a nice sort of time capsule, but doesn’t always equal the best viewing experience. Lost City of the Jungle is a 13-part serial from 1946 (towards the end of the serial era) that – when put all together – runs about four hours long, which is a bit much. The film doesn’t really feature many marquee actors and the story feels long and drawn out, focusing on a post-World War II search for an element that will protect a country from a hydrogen bomb It’s neat to see what the serials of old were like and there’s a strong historical case to be made for preserving these, but I can’t say it’s going to win over most viewers in 2019 unless they’re already predisposed to liking classic Hollywood low-budget filmmaking and the serial format.

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