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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Parasite, Zombieland: Double Tap, Terminator: Dark Fate, Harriet, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and more

Zombieland: Double Tap – I’m not generally a fan of sequels that get made a decade or more after the original film, usually because the studio behind it is looking for a quick and easy hit. But by reuniting the original director and cast of the first Zombieland – a surprise hit and well-loved movie – Sony has managed to buck the trend and give us a sequel that feels familiar yet fresh, and manages to maintain most of the charm and humor of the original. Is it EVERY bit as good as the first one? Well, no, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. Is it a solid 90% as the original? I’d say so. I had a lot of fun watching it; it moves quickly, has good action, lots of jokes, and it keeps the stylistic flair that made the first film stand out. Sure, it tries a little too hard here or there, but by and large, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Zombieland: Double Tap comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it’s a very strong presentation. The deeper colors really give the visual gags some pop, and the image clarity lets you see every kill in glorious – gore-ious? – detail. The surround soundtrack also does a nice job of making it sound like there’s a swarm of zombies in your living room.

Terminator: Dark Fate 4k – I think the Terminator franchise is truly dead and buried. If James Cameron producing and the director of Deadpool directing (not to mention Linda Hamilton returning to the franchise) couldn’t get people into theaters, I don’t know what will. But here’s the thing: I absolutely LOVED Terminator: Dark Fate. It is easily the best film in the franchise since T2. Now, admittedly, I actually like every film in the franchise to varying degrees – even the ones that most people hated – so maybe I’m predisposed to liking this one, but it’s still a really, really good film. You can feel James Cameron’s influence on it, Tim Miller pays loving homage to some of the hallmark Terminator moments, and Linda Hamilton kicks ass as always. Arnold Schwarzenegger is, of course, always a welcome presence as well, but the focus of the film is on a new heroine and some new timeline challenges. Yes, the film follows the T2 plot a little closely, but honestly, isn’t that what people want to see? When they veered from the formula (think Genesys and Salvation), people really didn’t like them. It seems to, unfortunately, be too little too late, but for anyone who’s felt by the last few entries in the franchise, I implore you to give this film a chance. I absolutely loved it. Terminator: Dark Fate comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and this is the kind of movie the premium format was made for. Image clarity is absolutely impeccable, and while the film isn’t necessarily the most colorful movie ever made, the deep color saturation gives the film a vibrancy that leaps off the screen. Meanwhile, excellent shadow delineation lets you see every moment in the darker scenes, of which there are a good number. The surround soundtrack is also extremely active and nuanced, giving your speakers a real workout, especially that bass channel. It’s a terrific presentation of a terrific film.

Parasite – I didn’t see Parasite in theaters, but every review I looked at basically said the same thing: “I can’t tell you what this film is about, but it’s definitely worth seeing.” And now that I’ve watched it, I get that sentiment. This newly-Oscar nominated film is one of those movies that unfolds, layer by layer, and to tell you the plot would be to ruin the surprises. I will say this: the film deals with a poor family in Korea and the opportunities that arise when they receive a stone that portends good fortune. But honestly, even saying that puts a picture in my mind that’s very different from what the movie really is. It’s a dark drama combined with a suspense film, and there’s a dose of sociopolitical commentary mixed in for good measure. Ultimately, I liked the film quite a bit, although I think it runs just a bit too long (it’s over two hours), and there’s a sense of dread underlying the events that can make you a bit fidgety while watching it. Parasite was nominated for five or six Oscars, and I can see why; it’s a film unlike anything else I’ve seen in recent years.

Harriet – While not the huge box office hit it could have been, Harriet is the kind of biopic that would have been a major blockbuster back in the ‘90s. The film tells a slightly Hollywood-ized version of the story of Harriet Tubman, the Civil War-era slave who escaped slavery and then created the underground railroad to help free slaves in great numbers. Yes, the film probably takes some liberties with historical fact, but I just expect that from any based-on-a-true-story film these days. The highlight of the film is Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman. Erivo first came to my attention in the completely underrated A Bad Night at the El Royale, in which she gives an absolutely stunning performance. She’s just as good here, anchoring the film, taking the weight of this legendary hero on her shoulders, and making it all look easy. I enjoyed Harriet and I think it’s worth tracking down.

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot – First and foremost, let me say that you have to be a Kevin Smith fan to really enjoy this movie. Narratively speaking, it’s not what I would describe as robust, and it’s also filled with so many cameos, in-jokes, and recurring characters that people unfamiliar with Smith’s View Askew-niverse will have a hard time enjoying it. If you are a Kevin Smith fan, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that all those aforementioned cameos, in-jokes, and recurring characters are a lot of fun, and there are some really great people popping up here and there. The bad news is that the film as a whole isn’t all that great. It feels a little forced on occasion, and the story really isn’t much of a story. Not that Smith’s movies have ever been overly plot-heavy, but this is really just a string of jokes tied together rather loosely. I still somewhat enjoyed it, but it doesn’t live up to the glory days of Clerks and Chasing Amy.

Black and Blue – Naomie Harris, Tyreese Gibson, and the always great Frank Grillo star in Black and Blue, a terrific action thriller that didn’t make much of a splash at the box office but is really worth tracking down. Harris stars as an ex-Army vet who’s now a rookie cop in her hometown of New Orleans. When she witnesses some bad cops commit murder, she’s forced to go on the run. Trapped between an increasingly corrupt and growing group of police officers and people in the run-down community who don’t trust the police even a little and refuse to help her, she has to try and survive and make her way to safety. It’s a simple story, but the film succeeds because once it starts moving, things never let up. Whether it’s moments of pure tension or electric action sequences, the film starts in high gear and never lets up. For fans of action movies or thrillers, Black and Blue is a really good reminder of how great this genre can be.

Pain and Glory – Antonio Banderas has quietly been turning in some amazing performances over the past several years, most often in movies that nobody sees. Now, starring in the latest film from acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar, Banderas has found a role that has garnered him some real attention, resulting in his first-ever Academy Award nomination. Pain and Glory is a semi-autobiographical film about an aging film director “re-experiencing” moments from his entire life. It’s not hard to see the correlations between the film and Almodovar’s real-life (although there is a lot of fiction mixed in), but that doesn’t take away from Banderas’ powerful performance. Now, I’m not as enamored with Almodovar as a filmmaker as many critics are, so this film was a bit hit or miss for me. I liked the performances and parts of the story, but as with many Almodovar films for me, it’s a bit meandering and not entirely coherent. If, however, you’re a fan of the filmmaker, I suspect you’ll absolutely love this one.

Fail Safe – The Criterion Collection lands a great one with their presentation of Fail Safe, a tense cold war thriller starring Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, the film sees a mechanical failure cause a breakdown in communication that leads the U.S. towards a possible nuclear confrontation with Russia. While the movie has very few locales and at times feels like it’s based on a stage play (it’s actually based on a novel), that actually serves to increase the tension and claustrophobia throughout the film. It’s a firecracker of a film, all mood, tension, and increasing suspense, and it is – not surprisingly – a typically fantastic Lumet effort. The new Criterion Collection version of Fail Safe comes with restored and remastered sound and picture, as well as a nice complement of extra features, making this one a must-have for sure.

Roswell, New Mexico: The Complete First Season – I’ll start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of the original Roswell TV series from the 1990s. Aliens in high school? Sign me up! When I heard they were rebooting it, I was a little apprehensive about it, but of course I was also excited, too. Interestingly, the show recreates the opening scene of the first episode almost shot-for-shot from the original pilot, only to then veer off in some pretty different directions. The show now focuses on main characters who are ten years out of high school as opposed to in high school, giving them a whole new set of challenges to deal with. The show also adds in something the original series never really broached: sociopolitical issues. In addition to a heavy undercurrent dealing with prejudices against immigrants, there are a few gay or bisexual characters on the show as well. And to be honest, I like that about the show; it gives an immediacy and relevance to a story that is still, ultimately, about aliens in love with humans. I’m really happy with how this version of Roswell has turned out and I can’t wait for Season Two. This one is available through the Warner Archive, Warner’s print-on-demand service, so don’t look for it in stores but rather online.

You: The Complete First Season – Penn Badgely and Elizabeth Lail star in this Netflix show which quietly became one of the most-watched and more talked-about shows of the past year or so. Just in time for the second season to drop on Netflix, this DVD collection (available through the Warner Archive, Warner’s print-on-demand service) includes the entire first season, which sees a bookstore manager fall for an aspiring writer and then proceed to use social media and technology to get closer and closer to her… often in unhealthy ways. It’s a romance/drama thriller, which gives it a different flavor from a lot of other shows out there right now. Badgely and Lail are terrific together, and the show does a nice job of pacing itself well so it doesn’t drag on but it also doesn’t rush through things. I’m not sure how many seasons Netflix can sustain it for, but for now, I’m intrigued enough to revisit it.

Very Bad Things: Collector’s Edition – This is one of those movies that I had just never gotten around to seeing before, so I was excited to see this new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Shout Factory. After all, Very Bad Things was the first film from Peter Berg, who’s gone on to become a pretty reliable director, and it has a great cast that includes Jon Favreau, Daniel Stern, Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, and Jeremy Piven. Turns out, I could have easily gone another 20 years without seeing this film and been perfectly happy. It is a film about severely unlikable people who do terrible things (hence the title, I guess), and become more and more unlikable and evil as things go on. By the end of the film, I was fantasizing about every character dying because I hated them all that much. I get that it’s a black comedy, but it’s not funny and it’s not enjoyable to watch. If you do like this movie, at least the good news is that this new edition of the film has a nice plethora of extra features, so that’s something.

Also Available this Week on Home Video:

  • Ballers: The Complete Fifth Season –I can’t believe it’s already been five seasons. I feel like I just started watching this show yesterday. In Ballers, Dwayne Johnson stars as an ex-football player turned wannabe financial advisor to the stars in this terrific HBO series. It’s a half-hour show that is ostensibly a comedy, but it’s very much in the vein of something like Entourage, sort of a dramedy more than anything else. There are serious story lines at play here, but there is a lot of humor to be found as well. Dwayne Johnson is charismatic as hell — as always — in the lead role, and the fact that the show is littered with real NFL stars and coaches playing themselves adds to the authenticity. I believe this is the final season (although I’m not 100% sure so don’t quote me on that), and if it is, I’ll be sad to see it go.
  • The Battle of Jangsari – Megan Fox and CSI’s George Eads get prominent placement on the cover art of this Korean War film, but they play supporting roles. This is a Korean film based on a little-known true story about a group of student-soldiers who were tasked with liberating an important location, and things quickly go wrong. With little guidance, no support, and low supplies, these inexperienced young men must survive the hell of war. Megan Fox plays a journalist and George Eads plays a military commander, but again, the main characters are the young men on the battlefield, and that’s really the focus of the film. It’s visceral and intense, and fans of war films should enjoy it.
  • Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – I feel like this is one of the most famous “non-famous” movies in the horror genre. What I mean by that is while Let’s Scare Jessica to Death was never a big box office hit like The Exorcist or The Omen, I feel like everyone’s heard of it, even if not nearly as many people have actually seen it. Apparently, that has to do with the fact that it was on heavy rotation on network television in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so it seems like a people have childhood memories of this one, even though children shouldn’t be watching it. Ultimately, it’s a creepy and effective little horror tale about a woman with some mental health issues in a secluded house that – surprise! – may or may not have some supernatural things going on in it. Watching it now, it’s clearly dated, but there’s no denying that it’s more effective than not, and the cult nature of its reputation makes it a curiosity worth tracking down. This new Blu-ray from Scream Factory is a great way to do that.
  • Body Parts – Also new from Scream Factory this week is Body Parts, a much less well-known cult horror film starring Jeff Fahey and Brad Dourif. This body horror-styled creeper sees a man who loses his arm in an accident, only to find that the replacement arm he gets grafted on has an (evil) mind of its own. When the arm starts causing violent havoc, well… you can probably figure out that things get a little bit crazy. Body parts isn’t a great film, but it’s fun in that early ‘90s kind of way: a little bit cheesy, a little bit scary, a little bit silly, a little bit gory. All in all, it’s a fun enough film that’s worth a watch if you don’t expect too much.
  • My Life is Murder: Series One – Lucy Lawless returns to series television in a leading role in this ten-episode Australian series. Part drama, part comedy, all mystery, the show sees Lawless as a retired police officer who keeps getting sucked into solving crimes, thanks to her old boss and a new and young police analyst who wants to learn from the best. The show is a great mix of serious crime-solving, dramatic moments, and great comedy; it’s a terrific blend, all of which is anchored by Lawless, who has a been a television personality for the better part of three decades, and it’s not hard to figure out why. She’s so easy to watch and personable; this is a great show on its own merits, but I doubt I’d enjoy it quite as much without Lawless in the lead role.
  • Britt-Marie Was Here – Based on a novel by the author of A Man Called Ove (which was adapted into a hit Swedish film), Britt-Marie Was Here is the latest Swedish film that just might get some attention here stateside (like A Man Called Ove did.) The film stars Pernilla August (who had roles in Star Wars Episodes I and II, so she might look familiar to some eagle-eyed fans) as an older woman whose long-term marriage dissolves when she learns her husband had cheated on her. Alone and starting over in a small town, she’s forced to take the only job she can get: coaching the town kids’ soccer league. While this sounds like your typical fish-out-of-water comedy (and there are elements of that for sure), there is also drama, pathos, and real emotion to be found as well. It’s a charming little film that will win over people who aren’t afraid of subtitles.
  • Indie Spotlight – We have a number of new independent releases this week. First up is Dead Earth, a zombie horror film. The story follows two women who live in near silence in fear of attracting the zombies that roam the countryside, but when the resort they’ve made their home base runs out of fuel, they are forced to venture out into the dangerous world to survive. It’s a low-budget affair, but I do like a good zombie film and I like the sort of small-group-of-survivors aesthetic that drives the story. It’s got a rawness to it that I appreciated. Next up is, My Name is Myeisha is an interesting new film. It follows a teenager who “crosses over into a hip hop musical dreamscape” when she dies tragically, and she reflects on what her life might have been like if she had lived. It’s almost like a hip-hop version of It’s a Wonderful Life, although that’s sort of a broad statement that isn’t 100% accurate. Next, we have Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different is a documentary about Betty Davis (not Bette Davis, the actress), a funk music pioneer who married Miles Davis and was apparently a force to be reckoned with on the ‘70s music scene. This new documentary from MVD Visual is brief, running just under an hour, and it combines traditional documentary with – of all things – animation. I can’t say I loved the film, but I did find Davis’s story pretty interesting, especially since I’d never heard of her before. Keeping in the non-fiction category, David Susskind Archive: Interview With Nikita Khrushchev is an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the premiere of Russia in the early 1960s. When he agreed to appear on Susskind’s Open End program, there was a lot of controversy, but it’s hard not to see it as groundbreaking now. This DVD includes the entire program, which will be of great interest to history buffs, and is followed up by a roundtable discussion including scholars and historians. Finally, Martin Barre: Live in NY is a 3-disc music release, Barre being best known as the guitarist for Jethro Tull. This set includes one DVD of the concert as well as two audio CDs, and while I’m not a Jethro Tull fan per se, the 3-disc format is great for fans and the included booklet is a nice touch.

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