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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Countdown, Jexi, The Addams Family, The Courier, MacGyver and more

Charlize Theron as the voice of Morticia Addams (left) and Oscar Isaac as the voice of Gomez Addams (right) in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film.
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
© 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Countdown – One in a seemingly endless string of mid-level horror hits,Countdown is exactly the kind of movie you think it is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The film centers on an app that people download that tells them exactly when they’re going to die. But, of course, when a few young, pretty people get a prediction that they’re going to die in just a couple of days, they fight to circumvent that death. Well, of course, the cursed app doesn’t take kindly to that, and so mayhem and death ensues. It plays out a lot like a 2.0 version of the Final Destination films. And while it’s fairly predictable, it’s also pretty fun. It has the requisite jump scares and a few creative deaths, but it does benefit from some better performances that you usually find in these kinds of films, especially lead actress Elizabeth Lail. Plus, Peter Facinelli shows up as a slimy doctor, and he’s always a welcome addition to any cast. There’s really nothing we haven’t seen here before, but it’s a fun enough way to kill 90 minutes.

The Addams Family – Honestly, if you said that you predicted that the animated Addams Family movie was going to be a pretty solid hit at the box office, I’d probably call you a liar. Here you have a kids film based on a property that started off as a TV show in the 1960s and was last on the national stage thanks to two live action movies in the ‘90s, long before anyone in the current target audience was born. Yet the film, which was dropped with next-to-no promotion, made $200 million worldwide. Whaaa? Honestly, I can’t explain why it was a hit, but that’s no bearing on the film itself. It’s actually a perfectly enjoyable animated family comedy, capturing most of the fun, quirky nature of the original characters, but updating it a bit by using CGI to bring the story to life. I have no idea why it did as well as it did, but at least a part of it has to be that it’s a pretty good little flick for what it is.

Jexi – I really enjoy Adam Devine, and I thought the idea of a romantic comedy in which he also has to deal with a cell phone A.I. with a major attitude (think Siri on a REALLY bad day) could be a lot of fun. I know that it was a massive bomb at the box office, but I never rely on that as an indicator of a film’s quality. And at the end of the day, I don’t really have anything all that bad or all that good to say about this film. Is it as bad as you’ve probably heard? Definitely not. There are some funny moments and Adam Devine is a fun lead. But is there anything even remotely memorable about it? Again, no. The film is very slight (it runs about an hour and 15 minutes once you take the credits out) and the story is almost non-existent. It just feels like somebody set out to make a really funny short film that accidentally turned into a feature. I’ve seen worse, and it’s worth a watch if you’re bored and not looking for anything challenging, but I was surprised at just how little of a movie it ultimately is.

The Courier – Olga Kurylenko and Gary Oldman star in this action film about a mysterious courier (AKA sexy bad-ass chick on a motorcycle) helping a witness survive against the crime boss he’s supposed to testify against after said crime boss originally hires the courier to unwittingly kill the witness. If that sounds convoluted, trust me, it’s not. This isn’t a complicated film. It’s a string of decent action sequences tied together by a by-the-numbers crime movie plot. Gary Oldman phones his performance in, and Olga Kurylenko, who’s quietly become a true action star in a series of movies that nobody has seen, is the high point of the film. Unfortunately, her character is a cypher (she doesn’t even get a name), resulting in a film with some solid action but no real heart or character. I’ve seen worse films than this, but honestly, I was hoping for just a fun, slick action thriller and instead I got an example of the mediocrity that is the norm in the genre these days.

MacGyver: Season 3 – “A MacGyver reboot? That will never work!” That was me about three years ago. Well, it worked well enough to get at least a third (and presumably an upcoming fourth) season, so I guess I was wrong in my initial assessment of the show. And while Lucas Till is no Richard Dean Anderson, he does have a certain likability that carrels him here. I guess my biggest problem with it is that it ultimately it feels like yet another CBS show. There’s a homogeny to all CBS procedural shows these days that’s bled into other shows, like the network’s Magnum reboot and even MacGyver. Yes, it’s a little different from a regular procedural, with modern technology giving MacGyver’s craftiness a new spin, but it still has that CBS kind of blandness to it. That said, while it doesn’t live up to the classic series for me, it’s enjoyable enough for what it is.

Sliding Doors – Shout Factory continues its line of top-notch Collector’s Edition Blu-rays with Sliding Doors, a largely forgotten but underrated romantic dramedy that tried to do something different with the genre. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Helen, a publicist in London leading a fairly typical life. On her home one day, she just narrowly makes her train… or does she? This is where the film gets interesting, as the film branches off into two different storylines, one in which she makes her train, and one in which she doesn’t. The two storylines diverge into wildly different scenarios, and we follow both storylines to the end, with Paltrow playing the same role but in very different circumstances. It’s a clever conceit, and while it could be a disaster, it works very well. Paltrow is delightful in the lead role (one of her first leads) and it’s easy to see why she became such a big star. Shout Factory’s new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray (the first time it’s been available on Blu) comes with a nice collection of new extra features, making this a real treat for fans.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • I See You – This is one of those movies that’s hard to tell you much about because its plot is predicated on multiple twists and turns. The short version is that we’ve got a woman, her husband (a police detective) and their son, as well as a missing persons investigation and some weird goings-on at the family’s house. More than that, I can’t tell you, but suffice it to say this movie has no shortage of plot twists. Some work really well, some are a little more predictable, but I appreciate a movie that tries to keep people guessing. Helen Hunt turns in a good performance in the lead role, and the supporting cast is good, even if it’s not filled with well-known actors. I See You is an engaging thriller that’s not quite a home run, but is at least an enjoyable and suspenseful experience.
  • Summer Days With Coo – As with most anime films these days, Summer Days With Coo is an oddball of a film, focusing on a fourth grade boy who finds a fossil that turns out to be a mythical Japanese water creature. Taking the “Kappa” home, young Koichi quickly becomes best friends with the creature, but of course, mythical Japanese water creatures don’t necessarily fit in with modern life. What ensues is some comedy, some (surprisingly dark) drama, and plenty of the weirdness I’ve come to expect from anime these days. The film has a lot of charms, so even if I didn’t love it outright, there are parts I enjoyed and of course, it looks great. Fans of the genre should find quite a lot to like here, I just find that anime films, in general, tend to not be my cup of tea.
  • Mrs. Lowry & Son – Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall star in this drama about a man and his overbearing mother who basically has emotionally abused him his entire life. The film is based on a play, and it feels like it in every scene, as the film is almost entirely set in one location and is largely driven by dialogue. Said dialogue is sad, painful, emotionally distraught, manipulative, and unpleasant, making this a tough watching experience. Spall and Redgrave give good performances (even if they occasionally feel a bit hamstrung by the story’s constraints), but it’s just not enough to save a film that is just no fun to watch.
  • The House By The Cemetery – Blue Underground continues their line of high-quality cult horror releases by bringing us a 3-Disc edition of Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery. This gory shocker feels like it could be a haunted house thriller and quickly turns into a Something is Living in the Basement flick. Fulci isn’t known for his restraint, and this is a pretty archetypal film from the giallo genre director. For fans of his style of filmmaking, this new edition is sure to delight. You get the film on Blu-ray as well as DVD, and then as a bonus you get the original motion picture soundtrack on CD. The set is packed with extra features including a new audio commentary, multiple interviews and featurettes, and a nice booklet, as well as a 3-D lenticular cover. A real treat for fans of the “Godfather of Gore.”
  • The Knight of Shadows – Jackie Chan stars in this new Asian martial arts fantasy adventure, a bit of a turnaround from his more recent fare. Chan has spent much of his career playing super agents or police officers set in current times, but in this one he plays a demon hunter in medieval Asia. He investigates the disappearances of several young girls in a village, which leads him on a colorful and outrageous journey. Now, personally, I prefer the more earthbound Jackie Chan, but this does harken back to some of his earliest film. As always, Chan is likeable and enjoyable to watch, even if the film goes in some strange directions and occasionally feels like it’s not sure where it wants to go. Chan fans might enjoy this one, even if it’s not my favorite of his more recent works.
  • Piranhas – Not to be confused with the horror series about killer fish, Piranhas is an Italian crime thriller about a group of teenagers who dream of a more glamorous life, so they begin selling drugs and committing crimes. Of course, they start doing so in an area controlled by organized crime, so obviously things don’t go as smoothly as they want. Based on the novel by Roberto Saviano (who wrote Gomorrah, a critically acclaimed film as well), this is a film that has its pluses and minuses. On the one hand, it’s stylistically shot and it doesn’t pull any punches. On the other hand, the characters are mostly underdeveloped, and the film isn’t exactly a light watching experience, especially considering how young the characters are. It’s a solid foreign effort, although I wish it had a little more depth to it.
  • Mister America – Ummm… okay. So, this is a weird one. Starring Tim Heidecker and directed by Eric Notarnicola (better known as Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), Mister America is kind of like watching an inside joke for 90 minutes. I had to do some research to even figure out what I was watching, and apparently, if you’re not a fan of Tim & Eric Awesome Show or On Cinema at the Cinema, this is going to be some work. Ostensibly, the film is a mockumentary about Tim Heidecker running for district attorney even though he’s woefully wrong for the job, low on funds, and largely belligerent. I guess this is funny for some people, but I never enjoyed it. I don’t really like cringe-inducing humor, but I can enjoy it when it’s done well. This is… not done well. If you’re a fan of the Tim & Eric-verse, jump in feet first. All others, beware.
  • Gregory’s Girl – The quote on the cover of Gregory’s Girl boldly proclaims it, “One of the most loved British films of all time!” Which I questioned briefly, but then I realized it’s a film by the director of Local Hero, Bill Forsythe, who’s basically considered a national treasure in England, even if he’s never garnered quite the same acclaim in the U.S. This was only Forsythe’s second film, and it’s – technically – a teen comedy, concerned with a gawky, gangly Scottish teenager who becomes infatuated with the girl that replaces him on the soccer team. But to think “teen comedy” is to do this film a disservice. This isn’t American Pie or Porky’s. It is, however, a charming little film that survives the fact that it’s rather dated solely on the fact that it understands teenagers and their feelings better than most other films do, and thanks to the effortless writing and direction by Forsythe. This new Blu-ray edition of the film features not only a remastered picture, but also a commentary track by Forsyth and film critic Mark Kermode, who is the entire reason I even know who Bill Forsyth is. A great release of a well-loved little film.
  • True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality – This documentary is a portrait of Bryan Stevenson, the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who’s spent most of his working life trying to eliminate racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Now, a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been all that interested in this documentary. But my wife is obsessed with wrongful conviction true crime stories, and so I figured this might be the kind of thing she’d like. And while its main focus obviously isn’t on wrongful convictions, there are some strong examples of the kind of systemic racism that Stevenson has been fighting against. HBO’s documentary series is at its best when it’s tackling true crime and social issues, and this one is no exception.
  • Complicity – This Chinese film is about a Chinese immigrant living illegally in Japan who takes a job working under a soba noodle master chef and begins to learn the delicate art of making soba noodles, the whole time fearing his illegal status will be revealed. There’s an obvious corollary between the storyline here and issues facing many countries today, so there’s a lot that people can probably relate to. That said, this is a quintessentially Asian film; everything from the pacing to the cinematography to the focus on the making of the soba noodles reflects what I’ve seen in countless Asian drama films: a sense of control, measured approaches, delicate cinematography, and artistry. As such, it’s not a fast-paced films, but patient viewers will be rewarded.
  • Mill Creek Spotlight – Mill Creek specializes in discount-priced catalog treasures, and this week they have a few notable releases. First up is a new Blu-ray of Maid in Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. This early-2000s film is a pretty typical rom-com of the time, with Fiennes’ rich gentleman falling in love with Lopez’s scrappy housekeeping worker. It’s not great, but I can understand the timing of the release with Lopez’s star turn in Hustlers bringing the spotlight on to her again. Next up we have two Blu-ray double features, one featuring Reservation Road and Return to Paradise and one featuring Terry Pratchett’s Color of Magic and The Hoggfather. I absolutely love the Terry Pratchett double feature. The Hoggfather is a Christmas story (but one that can be enjoyed anytime) and Color of Magic is a more traditional Pratchett magic/fantasy/comedy, but both are a lot of fun to watch. On the other side of things, Reservation Road (starring Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, and Mira Sorvino) and Return to Paradise (starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche) are both hard dramas, and both star Joaquin Phoenix alongside the aforementioned excellent supporting casts. I don’t know that either of these are truly great films, but again, I get the timing with Phoenix winning and being nominated for multiple awards for his performance in Joker. Finally, we have two horror releases: Savage Creatures and A Psycho’s Path. A Psycho’s Path stars former MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as a psycho killer roaming the streets of a small town in California and being hunted by the police. Honestly, the less I say about this film the better, as I don’t really have anything nice to say. Savage Creatures is a little bit better, in that it somehow manages to combine vampires, aliens, and zombies (well, vampire zombies.) So while it’s not exactly a good film, it gets bonus points for being so bat-guano crazy that it’s hard to completely dislike it. Plus, it’s only 75 minutes long, so it goes by quick.
  • Indie Spotlight – We have a number of indie releases this week. First up is The Merger, an Australian football comedy making its debut on Blu-ray. Actually, calling it a football comedy is a bit of a misnomer; it’s more about a group of characters and a small town, with the football (soccer in the US) match as sort of the genesis for it all. It’s a charming little film that could find a cult audience. On a different tack, Bluebird is a terrific documentary about Nashville’s Bluebird Café, a venue that launched many a famous country singer’s career. Interviewees include Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, and Trisha Yearwood, among others, and honestly, even if you don’t like country music, this is an engaging enough film to still enjoy quite a bit. Definitely worth a watch for music fans of any genre. Next up is Moving Parts, a dark drama about an illegal Chinese immigrant smuggled into Trinidad and Tobago who ends up in indentured servitude. Human trafficking dramas tend to share a couple of hallmarks: they tend to be very well done, very well acted, and take their subject matter seriously, and they also tend to be hard to watch just because it’s such an unpleasant subject. This one checks all those boxes. This next film also has some serious elements and deals with immigration, although in a different way. Sprinter: Special Edition is a new Blu-ray version of a film about a Jamaican teenager with a tough home life who hopes his track-and-field career will help reunite him with his mother, who’s living illegally in the US. It’s not nearly as dark as Moving Parts, but it does have some serious overtones. Switching gears a bit, we movie into shlock-thriller territory with a double feature of low-budget cult horror films: Mommy & Mommy 2: 25th Anniversary Special Edition Double Feature. This is a pair of ‘90s direct-to-video thrillers, with the first film starring Patty McCormack, Jason Miller (from The Exorcist), Star Trek’s Majel Barrett, and B-movie queen Brinke Stevens. The films were written by crime novelist Max Allan Collins, and while they’re not great, they’re not entirely terrible either, probably thanks to Collins’ contributions. They’re cheesy, yes, but also a certain amount of fun, and it’s hard to argue with two movies for the price of one.

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