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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Joker, Gemini Man, Maleficent 2, Beverley Hills Cop, Brewster’s Millions and more

Joker – Of all the movies I would have predicted to gross over a billion dollars at the box office, Joker would not have been very high on that list. A dark drama about a man spiralling through mental illness who eventually becomes a comic book villain, I just wouldn’t have thought that Joker would out-gross almost every other DC Comics movie so far. And to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like it. I’m not a huge fan of director Todd Phillips, and none of the film’s trailers got me terribly excited. But Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is absolutely astounding, and Phillips’ direction is, frankly, quite beautiful. The film has some very dark moments, and it’s not the kind of film that you’ll probably want to watch over and over again, but man, I was so much more impressed than I expected to be. Joker comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the A/V quality is impeccable. While this is a film with a dark and muted color palette, the deep color saturation that comes with the premium format gives the bursts of color a real pop that makes them stand out. The surround soundtrack is also quite effective; while this isn’t an action film, the rear channels are utilized to create a nice atmosphere that fits the film. A terrific presentation of a terrific film.

Gemini Man – Of all the big-name directors out there, I think Ang Lee confuses me the most. I feel like he has no real identity. Sometimes he makes a gay romance art film, sometimes he makes a special effects-filled religious parable; sometimes he makes a small family drama, sometimes he makes The Hulk. So, it was both completely surprising and not at all surprising to me that he directed Gemini Man, a big-budget sci-fi actioner starring Will Smith and… well, Will Smith. Smith is in top form as an aging government hitman who is marked for elimination and targeted by another hitman; namely, a younger version of himself. The film takes the time to set up solid characters and a slightly over-complicated background, but once the action kicks in, the film is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s not the greatest film I’ve ever seen, but honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t fare better at the box office than it did. Smith is terrific in it and it’s a pretty high-octane thrill ride. Gemini Man comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and is notable for including the film with its 60 frames per second format, which has stirred up some controversy amongst cinephiles. I’m not an expert on that side of things, but I can say that the film looks impeccable and the soundtrack is incredibly active and nuanced. This is a fun film that’s worth tracking down, and it looks and sounds utterly terrific.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – I don’t want to say that 2014’s Maleficent was a surprise hit, because it was a Disney film starring a major movie star. That said, I don’t know that most people expected it to be quite as big of a hit as it was. On the flip side of that, as well-liked as the movie was, I don’t know that most people thought the movie needed a sequel. But this is Hollywood in the 21st century, and a film as big as Maleficent isn’t going to not get a sequel, so here we are with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. With Michelle Pfeiffer along for the ride this time, the film continues the story of Maleficent and Aurora and works as a prequel to Sleeping Beauty. Much like the first film, this sequel looks absolutely terrific, with impressive visuals, costumes, and make-up. The story was better than I expected as well, making this a sequel that might not have been necessary, but was at least enjoyable. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and looks and sounds fantastic. The color palette benefits from the deeper color saturation that comes with the Ultra HD format, and the imagery is razor-sharp. The surround soundtrack isn’t the most immersive one I’ve ever heard, but it is quite effective overall. Good movie, great presentation.

Beverly Hills Cop: 3-Movie Collection – I don’t understand Paramount Home Video. For the past year or so, they’ve been releasing new Blu-ray versions of some of their catalog favorites, but they’ve completely skipped over including digital versions of the films. So, for example, this week we have a brand new 3-movie collection of the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy on Blu-ray. Hey, terrific! I love the Beverly Hills Cop movies! But… no digital copies? Why? I already own the trilogy on Blu-ray. I do not, however, own the film in my digital collection. In fact, Paramount’s last version of this film series on Blu-ray is still readily available for about the same price point. If this set included the films digitally, I could easily recommend it, because who doesn’t like to add to their digital collection? As it is, if you already own these movies – as great as they are – there’s no reason to buy them again. Not sure what Paramount’s logic behind this is, but I can think of at least three catalog releases in the past six months that were Blu-ray only with no new extra features and no digital copies. It’s terrible marketing, frankly.

Brewster’s Millions: Collector’s Edition – I like Brewster’s Millions. It was a big hit (or at least it seemed like it at the time) when I was a kid, and I have fond memories of watching it as a youngster. Revisiting it now, via Shout Factory’s new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, I still enjoy the film, but there’s no denying the faults are more evident to me now. First and foremost amongst those flaws – and this won’t be a popular opinion – is Richard Pryor himself. Keeping his stand-up career aside, as an actor (at least in this film) Pryor is extremely one-note, half-yelling all of his dialogue. And frankly, by an hour into the film, it’s pretty annoying. I love the story of Brewster’s Millions, but I honestly think this film is ripe for a remake; preferably a more nuanced one. This is a pretty great disc, though, with some cool new extra features including the 1945 film version starring Dennis O’Keefe and Helen Walker. Pretty cool.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:

  • Krypton: The Complete Second & Final SeasonKrypton is the latest TV show to explore the Superman legend, only this one is doing it without Superman. Set on the planet Krypton (before it exploded, obvs), this show follows Clark Kent’s grandfather, Seg-El, who has to deal with family issues, politics, and general sci-fi peril. Over the course of two seasons, we met an expansive cast of characters on a different planet, and the show had the feel of many shows on its Network, SyFy, while also not feeling out of place if it was added to the CW’s line-up. It’s no Smallville, but it’s a decent start. Or at least, it was. Unfortunately, Krypton was canceled by SyFy, which is unfortunate because Season Two had some really fun moments, especially with the addition of legendary DC characters like Lobo and Doomsday. Still, if you were a fan of the show (or Superman), you’ll probably enjoy this season and the bonus features included in the set.
  • Veep: The Final Season – I don’t know why I like so many of HBO’s drama and genre shows and dislike so many of their comedies, but boy is Veep: The Final Season a perfect example of what I don’t like. I’m a pretty big Julia Louis-Dreyfus fan, and I generally find her both very funny and a great actress. Unfortunately, I really don’t like this show at all. And the fault isn’t really Dreyfus’s. She’s absolutely fine in the lead role, but there seriously isn’t one other character in this show who isn’t an obnoxious a-hole. The dialogue is mean-spirited and insulting, and there isn’t a warm or mirthful bone in the show’s body. This is a nasty, ugly show, and to make it worse, it’s just not that funny. I’ll be honest, I’m glad it’s over. If you’re a fan, however, you can complete your collection with this final set, now out on Blu-ray and DVD.
  • The Shed – The title and cover art for this movie don’t really reveal much about the movie itself, which is both good and bad. On the one hand, I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises that come with the film, but I also want people to know what kind of film they’re getting here. I’ll keep it short and say that the film is about two small-town guys who discover a vampire living in their shed. And let’s just say, they have very different ideas about how to handle it. The film is a pretty taut little thrill ride, low budget but with good production values and vampire effects. The actors are pretty good and the film has a little bit of humor to it, but things build as the movie goes on and the intensity grows as the running time progresses. I have to say, this is one of the more interesting vampire flicks I’ve seen in recent memory.
  • The Turkey Bowl – Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars) and Alan Ritchson (The Hunger Games, Titans) star in this fun dramedy about a guy who travels back to his Midwest hometown and finds himself in a pitched battle to finally win a neighborhood football game that got snowed out 15 years ago. While ostensibly this is a Thanksgiving-themed film, honestly, it plays just fine any time at all. It’s a lighthearted film with some good humor and also some moving moments with a likable cast and a story that most people will enjoy. My one complaint is the running time; the film is two hours long, and it could have easily shed 20 minutes or so. Still, for a little-seen movie, it’s a surprisingly good one that’s worth tracking down.
  • The Big Trip – This new direct-to-video animated film is touted as being “from a writer of Madagascar,” and it’s not hard to see that pedigree in the film’s story: When a stork delivers a baby panda to a brown bear named Mik-Mik, he sets out to return the baby to its rightful parents and is – of course, joined by a cast of colorful animated characters, including a pelican, a wolf and a tiger. It’s not a huge stretch from Madagascar, although it isn’t nearly as good. Drake Bell and Pauly Shore provide voices, and younger kids will probably find it mildly enjoyable, but parents will probably find themselves pretty bored.

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