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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Abbott & Costello, Catch-22, The Fan, Road Games and more


The Fan

Dora and the Lost City of Gold – Believe it or not, Dora and the Lost City of Gold might just crack my top 10 films of 2019. I kid you not! This movie is just fun from start to finish, a great one for kids and for families alike. To be fair, a lot of my enjoyment streams from the fact that the movie was not afraid to make fun of the cartoon at all, meaning if you were a parent who was forced to watch Dora when your kids were young, you’ll really enjoy the many in-jokes. My 12-year-old too-cool-for-kids-stuff daughter (who watched Doraas a kid) asked me, “Why did you make me like this movie?” Hey, they made a good movie, I can’t help it. It’s funny, it’s charming, it has some solid adventure sequences, and it’s a surprisingly fun way to kill 90 minutes.

Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection – I’m not quite sure why Universal let Shout Factory steal this out from under them, but I’m totally okay with it, because this set is a real treat. Comprised of all 28 Universal films made by the greatest comedy duo of all time, this 15-disc set gives you per movies per disc on Blu-ray, all packaged in a compact yet generous box. With highlights such as Buck Privates, Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein, In the Navy, and Hold That Ghost, the nice thing about this set is you get the greatest hits of Abbott & Costello, but you’re not left without some of their lesser-seen films as well. Then there’s a bonus disc, which includes some nice documentaries. I love Abbott & Costello, and digging into this set has been a reminder that classic Hollywood comedy can be some of the funniest stuff out there For fans of the Universal Monsters, this set also includes all of the Abbott & Costello Meet The… movies, which includes the aforementioned Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Killer Boris Karloff, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Fantastic stuff. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Flowers in the Attic – Arrow Video continues to be the Criterion Collection of genre films with their new Collector’s Edition of Flowers in the Attic, the original 1987 movie based on V.C. Andrews’ hit book series. Starring Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, and a young Kristy Swanson, the film is a slightly dated outing, but it still works pretty well overall, largely due to the fact that the source material is so effective. But the real star here is the new Blu-ray from Arrow Video. Wrapped in haunting new cover art, the disc comes loaded with extra features including a new commentary, multiple new interviews, an alternate ending, and much more. Arrow also pays a lot of attention to the audio and video presentation, meaning this is the best the film has looked probably since it was in theaters. I can’t say the movie is perfect, but a game cast and a good story combined with the terrific presentation make this one heck of a release.

The Kaminsky Method – Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin together in one project? Sign me up. I love both actors and I’ll tend to watch anything they’re in. Now, if I’m being honest, was I excited that they’re co-starring in a show about old guys complaining about being old? Not so much. Luckily, this is more than just Grumpy Old Men: The Series. Instead, it’s a treatise on friendship, life, love, and – yes – aging. The writing is sharp, and that’s a huge part of what makes the show work, but make no mistake, with lesser actors than Douglas and Arkin, I don’t know that it would be half as engaging. This DVD collection of the Netflix show includes all eight episodes of Season 1, and it’s a pretty quick but rewarding binge watch.

Catch-22 – This four-hour series is the latest filmed version of Catch-22, based on the novel by Joseph Heller. There was a movie version in the 1970s, but this one wisely takes on the miniseries format to allow the story to be more fleshed out. It’s still a bit of an oddball, though. Starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Kyle Chandler, and Christopher Abbott (in the lead role), the story is… well, is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it both? Is it neither? It’s kind of hard to tell. The story serves as a microcosm of the military and the way it doesn’t always make sense to outside eyes, and while there are some good performance and some effective moments, I found it interesting enough to watch but not engaging enough to say I really loved it. It landed somewhere in between for me.

Road Games – Jamie Lee Curtis (in her prime scream queen years) and Stacey Keach star in this 1981 thriller that sees a serial killer and a mysterious driver at odds with one another. (Which of course, we all know, that’s how we end up with abandoned cars on the side of the road.) For fans of movies like The Hitcher and Duel, Road Games will be right up your alley. It’s a taut, tense thriller that may be a little dated, but is still surprisingly effective. Released as a new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory includes the usual plethora of new extra features all wrapped in cool new cover art, but the real attraction here is the film itself, which captures that dark ‘80s horror vibe in a way we just don’t get anymore.

The Fan – The great Lauren Bacall and one of my favorite actors, Michael Biehn, co-star in this underrated thriller that also stars James Garner, Maureen Stapleton, and Hector Elizondo. Bacall plays a big Broadway star, and Michael Biehn plays the fan who becomes obsessed with her Long before stalking was known to the public at large, this film puts a dark spin on it, and the result is a very enjoyable and tense flick that is a lot of fun. Now, Shout Factory gives us the film on Blu-ray for the first time, and it includes a number of great extra features, including an interview with Michael Biehn and others involved with the film. You might not be familiar with this movie, but it’s worth tracking down.

The King of Queens: The Complete Series – This new box set from Mill Creek collects all 206 episodes of the hit Kevin James sitcom into one budget-priced collection. Seriously, just a few years ago this set would probably have cost you $200, now you can find this set online for around 40 bucks. You gotta love the bang for your buck you get with Mill Creek releases. Now, I was never a huge King of Queens fan; that’s not to say I don’t like it, it just was never a show I watched regularly. But I’ve become something of a Kevin James fan over the year, so this set was a great way to start watching the show from the beginning, which I’ve found pretty enjoyable. With 22 discs worth of comedy, this set will keep you busy for quite a while.

Rock N Roll High School: 40th Anniversary Edition – If there’s a movie that encapsulates what makes a great B-movie (to the nth degree of B-movie-osity), it’s Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Starring Halloween’s P.J. Soles, Clint Howard and The Ramones (and if that cast doesn’t tell you everything you need to know…) the film is a mash-up of high school comedy, rock ‘n’ roll rebellion screed, and Roger Corman cheesefest. Yet somehow, it works, as long as you don’t go into expecting a serious film or anything other than big, dumb fun. This new 40th Anniversary Edition from Shout Factory is pretty much the same as the previous release, but this time it comes in a nice Steelbook case, which fans should enjoy having in their collections.

After The Wedding – Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, and Billy Crudup star in this dramatic thriller about two women, a man, and a past that might come back to haunt them all. I hadn’t really heard much about this film until recently when I saw the trailer and it hooked me in, so I was excited to watch the film. And while the finished product might not be quite as exciting as the trailer presented, it’s still a pretty solid film. Michelle Williams stars as a charity worker whose project might get funding from Julianne Moore, but when they meet over an extended weekend, it turns out that there’s a secret history between Williams and Moore’s husband, Billy Crudup. The details unfold slowly, and if I have any complaint about the film at all, it’s Williams. I recognize that she’s a well-respected actor, but I find her hard to warm up to in many roles, and this is one of them. That said, it’s an engaging film overall and worth a watch when you want something a little less in-your-face than the latest superhero action-fest.

Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll – This combination of Documentary and concert film sees the legendary Chuck Berry celebrating his 60th birthday in concert playing with other rock and roll icons, including Keith Richards and Eric Clapton (among others). But while the film itself is pretty amazing, this new Special Edition Blu-ray from Shout factory goes above and beyond by giving you hours and hours of extra features, including an hour of rehearsal footage and multiple documentaries, some of which are full movies in their own right. Even if you’re not a Chuck Berry fan per se, this film and extra features serve as almost a rock n’ roll primer, and any music fan or music history fan should find a lot to like here.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • The Divine Fury – You would think that a film that mashes up The Exorcist with MMA fighting would be a win right out of the gate, but The Divine Fury falls flat. First off, at two hours long, it’s a half hour too long by far. Then you add in the fact that – aside from a few intense sequences – the film is bogged down by exposition and scenes that just meander instead of going anywhere, and the end result is a movie that just never rises to its potential.
  • Poldark: The Complete Series & The Complete Fifth Season – This well-loved Masterpiece is a remake of the 1970s Masterpiece show (which was also quite popular.) And while that was a fine show, it’s the new series with Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson that has really captured audiences’ hearts. The show focuses on Captain Ross Poldark, a young war hero who returns home to find his true love engaged to another man, his family money gone, and his family estate ruined. Over the course of five seasons, Captain Poldark works to rebuild his life, seeks love, and goes through the trials and tribulations that come with being a man of character in the 18th century. The show features great performances (especially from Turner and Tomlinson), is well-written, and features excellent production values that will make you feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1700s. This terrific box set includes all five seasons in one nice package, giving you the complete saga without taking up much room on your shelf. Also available this week is The Complete Fifth Season, so if you’ve been collecting the show all along, you can complete your collection.
  • Ultraman Orb & Ultraman Geed: The Complete Series & Movies – Mill Creek continues its top notch Blu-ray releases of the entire Ultraman series with these two new sets, both of which include the entire series of each show and the resultant movie that went along with them. Ultraman Orb is one of the later series in the franchise, created to celebrate Ultraman’s 50th anniversary. You get six discs of content, including the movie (and digital copies of everything.) Ultraman Geed is a separate series that sees a new twist on the hero, an Ultraman who is cursed with evil in his genes. It’s actually a pretty cool take on the beloved hero, and this might be my favorite of the series we’ve gotten from Mill Creek releases so far. Again, you get six discs of episodes (plus the movie) as well as digital copies. Both sets come with a number of cool extra features, nice packaging, and a low price point, making these a big hit for Ultrafans.
  • American Dreamer – Jim Gaffigan, who is hands down my favorite stand-up comedian, has dabbled in dramatic acting roles in his career, and he fares pretty well. But with American Dreamer, he takes a turn to the dark side as a down-on-his-luck ride-share driver who ends up kidnapping a drug dealer’s daughter in a desperate bid for money. It turns out, he does a pretty damn good job in the film, which was also better than I expected it to be. Direct-to-video thriller often suffer from low budgets and a lack of thrills, but this film delivers some pretty tense scenes and ratcheting anxiety. Coupled with a strong performance by Gaffigan, I was pleasantly surprised by this one.
  • Down Home Christmas – This terrific new budget-priced collection from Mill Creek delivers not just one, not two, but no less than FIVE Lifetime Christmas movies in one collection. And as a special bonus, four of the five films feature former cast members from One Tree Hill, a show that I love. You get two films with Hilarie Burton (of which one also stars Daneel Ackles and one of which stars Tyler Hilton), one with Stephen Coletti, and one with Jana Kramer, so it’s kind of a two-for-one special for fans of One Tree Hill. The five films included are: The Christmas Contract, Hometown Christmas, Christmas in Mississippi, Christmas on the Bayou, and Wish Upon A Christmas. I’m a huge fan of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies, and getting five of them for under $15 is a huge win as far as I’m concerned.
  • Lifetime Royals & Romance 3-Film Collection – Also from Lifetime this week, we get the Royals & Romance 3-Film Collection, which includes William & Kate, Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal, and Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. Each of these films is a dramatization of the romance between the royal princes and the women they ultimately married, and each is also a slightly cheesy but ultimately enjoyable little romantic flick. Look, these are far from masterpieces. They’re Lifetime movies; I kind of feel like that means you should know what you’re gonna get with them. Either you like these movies or you don’t. and if you do, you can get all three films in one nice set for just a few bucks.
  • Taken Down: Series 1 – This new Irish crime drama series tackles some pretty modern issues. When a young Nigerian girl is found dead at a bus stop, it launches an investigation into a nearby organization that takes in refugees There’s an obvious distrust among the residents there, which doesn’t make it easy for our characters who try to investigate the crime. Things escalate when a young girl goes missing from the center, and the mystery goes into full-driven mode at this point. This six-episode show features a great central mystery, a strong cast, and a story that keeps things moving along nicely. For fans of crime procedurals (especially the British and Irish variety), this show has a lot to offer.
  • The Simple Heist Series 2 – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a gastroenterologist and a math teacher walk into a bank… and rob it. Okay, okay, there’s no punchline. Instead, that was the basic premise of the first season of The Simple Heist, a Swedish-language TV series from Acorn Media that sees two struggling older women go on a robbery spree to solve their financial woes. This second season sees a bigger heist, as the duo set out to rob an art gallery of some pricey artworks, which — even if they succeed — presents some very different challenges than robbing a bank. A mix of comedy and drama (with some action thrown in) the series is charming enough to be worth watching, even if it isn’t quite must-see TV.
  • Ancient Aliens Season 12, Volume 1 – I can’t believe this show has been on for 12 seasons now. I don’t even know what to say about it any more. Honestly, I find Ancient Aliens mildly interesting but that’s about the extent of it. It explores everything surrounding the possibility of aliens visiting earth in the past, and while some of it comes off as the theories of crazy people, most of it is approached from an academic point of view. I’ve made this complaint before, but while Ancient Aliens is easily watchable, the lack of any concrete answers or hard evidence can get frustrating, and it keeps the show from being something I can get it. Still, if you’re a die-hard fan, this latest season collection is available at a relatively low price.
  • The Demons and Genese – This week sees DVD releases of two films from French director Phillippe Legasse, The Demons and Genese. The Demons was Legasse’s second film with Genese his third. The Demons is one of those films that I don’t know that I can adequately sum up in a few sentences. There’s a young boy at the heart of it all, living in Montreal at a time when a serial killer is targeting young boys. That sounds like the makings of a thriller, but really it’s an esoteric drama that’s really ephemeral and is more concerned with mood and atmosphere than plot. The follow-up film, Genese, follows three teenagers dealing with love for the first time, and it actually features a few characters from The Demons, even though it’s really not a sequel. It’s a little more linear and cohesive than The Demons, but it’s still… well, it’s still pretty French. Both films clock in around two hours in length, and I have to admit they’re not quite my cup of tea, but fans of artier fare might enjoy them more than I did.
  • WB Archives Spotlight – The Warner Archive delivers some of the best cult classic films from their deep library on DVD and Blu-ray for fans, all printed on-demand from Warner Bros. This week, they have one of their best release slates of recent months. First up we have From Beyond the Grave, a terrific horror anthology movie featuring five short stories and a terrific cast that includes Peter Cushing, David Warner, Donald Pleasence, Lesley-Anne Down, and Margaret Leighton. As with any anthology, some of the stories fare better than others, but I especially enjoyed the framing sequence with Peter Cushing and the mirror-based segment starring David Warner. A fun horror romp! Next up is The Fearless Vampire Killers, an odd entry in Roman Polanski’s oeuvre. It’s funny to think that Polanski, who made one of the quintessential horror films of the 20th century with Rosemary’s Baby here delivers us a spoof of Dracula films. It’s a bit of an oddball, but it’s great to see a lighter side of Polanski as well as a rare role from the late Sharon Tate. A neat throwback oddity Next up is Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark a TV movie that some people have described as the scariest TV movie of all time. I don’t know if I can assign it that title officially, but it is a pretty creepy outing for a 1973 network production. Starring Kim Darby and Jim Hutton, the film sees a pair of newlyweds who inherit a run-down mansion. Unfortunately, the house comes with a bunch of demons, which might be enough to drive them to madness. The film is definitely more intense than you’d expect from something that aired on TV, and the brisk 74-minute runtime keeps things moving nicely. Another great one out of the archives. Moving out of the horror genre, we get a new Blu-ray edition of Days of Wine & Roses, the classic melodrama starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Directed by Blake Edwards, this heavy film sees a pair of alcoholics descending into some pretty bad days. The performances are amazing, and while the film isn’t an easy watch, it’s an incredible film. I’m a little surprised that this one wasn’t given a wide release, as this is a pretty well-regarded, Oscar-nominated film and I would qualify it as more than just a cult classic. Finally, we get a new version of Mr. Nice Guy, one of Jackie Chan’s best films. Released in 1997, apparently the film was edited pretty heavily for an American release, so this new Blu-ray version gives us two different takes on the film: the American cut and the original theatrical edit, which is the superior version. I like that this release includes both versions, though, so fans can watch whichever one they enjoy. The film itself is fairly standard Jackie Chan fare, but of course, the fight scenes are absolutely outstanding and it’s an action powerhouse. Lots of fun!
  • Indie Spotlight – We have a number of indie releases out this week, from a wide range of genres and styles. First up is Santa With Muscles, a new Blu-ray edition of the cult classic Christmas movie starring a much younger Hulk Hogan. It’s an amnesia/mistaken identity comedy with a Christmas message, and it’s… well, it’s okay. There’s a certain charm to it, but Hogan is far from a great actor and the movie isn’t a holiday classic. But if you have fond memories of the film, it’s nice to have a new Blu-ray edition of it. Next up is Tel Aviv on Fire, which makes its Blu-ray debut this week. This Arabic comedy takes a serious subject matter (Palestinian occupation and the Middle East political climate) and paints it in a humorous light that doesn’t undermine how serious the situation really is. It’s probably not for everyone, but I liked the way it looked at a major world conflict through the lens of the entertainment industry and with a comedic sideways glance. Next up we have Bliss, which I’m sure is a great movie for the right audience but it just not my cup of tea. Ostensibly the story is about an artist trying to break through artist’s block and flirting with madness while doing it. But ultimately, it’s like an acid trip on film. It looks fantastic, with really innovative cinematography, but from a narrative and character point of view, I didn’t care for it. Still, I think it’s got future cult classic written all over it. Finally, we have Cold Case Hammarskjold, a documentary about a plane crash over half a century ago. But this wasn’t just any plane crash. No this was a plane carrying UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, leading many to question what exactly happened. That’s where filmmaker Mads Brugger steps in, investigating the case and filming it all I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that the film held my attention much more than most documentaries do, so that’s worth noting.
  • PBS Spotlight – PBS has a number of documentary specials out this week on DVD. First up is one of the most timely and sobering releases, Flint’s Deadly Water. This hour-long Frontline special delves into the situation in Flint, Michigan: what caused it, how bad it is, and how it’s affected the people who live there. Frankly, it’s not a particularly fun watch because the situation is so dire, but it is an important one. I’m just glad it’s only an hour. Next up is Wild Metropolis, a cool three-part documentary series about animals that are learning to thrive alongside human inhabitants like big cities and ports. There’s a wide range of wildlife covered, and it’s fascinating to see how they’re adapting to a changing world. Meanwhile, Life From Above takes a different view of the same world. This four-hour series utilizes NASA satellite footage to showcase our world and how it’s changing. There’s some footage here you’ve never seen before (nor will probably ever come across anywhere else), and it’s absolutely stunning. This is a cool one that’s worth checking out. Switching gears a bit, Odyssey: The Chamber Music Society In Greece is… well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Although somehow, it’s also more than that. Basically, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center travels to historical cities in Ancient Greece and performs in them, giving you a breathtaking combination of music and scenery. I really wasn’t sure if this 90-minute concert film would be my thing, but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Moving on to more biographical pursuits, N. Scott Momada: Words from a Bear introduces us to N. Scott Momada, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American writer who was at the forefront of Native American art and culture. This American Masters biography is feature-length, meaning it’s a treasure trove of information and interviews for those interested in Momada’s life and works. As someone who is… less interested, let’s say, it was a little too long for me. Finally, For Sama is a feature-length Frontline special, but it’s really a documentary film in its own right. Made by a young married couple in the bombed city of Aleppo in Syria, the film follows them and other people as they try to keep a hospital open in a city decimated by pointless conflict and wholesale slaughter. It’s powerful, sad, and moving, and while it’s not an easy watch, I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

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