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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Swamp Thing, Shutter Island, My Bloody Valentine, I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny and Cher and more

Shutter Island (4K Ultra HD) – Martin Scorsese’s hit horror drama makes its debut on the premium 4K Ultra HD format this week, packaged in a nice Steelbook case. I’m famously not an overly huge Scorsese fan, but there is a lot to admire about Shutter Island. Leonardo Dicaprio turns in a terrific performance, the film has a real sense of mood and atmosphere to it, and there are some neat twists and turns. Personally, I found the ending unsatisfactory, but there are few films I can think of that so viscerally capture the look and feel of the time period and setting they’re trying to capture. The new 4K Ultra HD release of Shutter Island will probably be a must-have for fans of the director. It’s such a visual film that the deeper color saturation, razor-sharp image clarity, and top-notch shadow delineation only enhance the atmosphere and the imagery. Meanwhile, the surround soundtrack utilizes some discrete and nuanced channel separation to fully bring the oppressive atmosphere of the film to every corner of your living room. If you’re a fan of this movie, there is no finer A/V presentation of it out there.

Swamp Thing: The Complete Series – As one of the flagship shows for DC Comics’ streaming platform, DC Universe, I’m a little surprised that DC literally cut this show off at the knees before it even had a chance. Originally conceived as a 13-episode first season, Swamp Thing’s order was cut from 13 to 10 episodes while the show was still filming, and then it was quickly cancelled after just ONE episode had aired. DC has never really given a satisfactory reason for why, but the fact remains that the 10 episodes in this Complete Series set mark all we’re going to get of this particular iteration of the character. Which is a shame, because there are some things to like about the show. The Swamp Thing suit looks good, I’m a huge fan of Will Patton (who plays the show’s main villain), and the fact that they managed to work in Blue Devil (an obscure yet popular DC character) to the show is a lot of fun. There are also moments where the show drags (a lot of B-plots that seem unnecessary), but I feel like the show had some potential. Unfortunately, we’ll never get to see what might have been next.

My Bloody Valentine – You might remember the 3D remake of this 1980s slasher film that hit theaters a decade ago or so, but for true horror fans, the original My Bloody Valentine is still one of the better slasher flicks of its era. While Jason and Freddy and Michael Myers got all the attention in the ‘80s, there were a number of one-off flicks that are also true classics of the genre. The original My Bloody Valentine has a Valentine’s Day theme that allows for some really great, creepy, and funny moments… oh, and some gory ones as well. (Let’s just say you probably won’t open a heart-shaped box of chocolates the same way ever again.) This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Shout Factory’s excellent Scream Factory imprint delivers the goods, loaded with new extra features, including multiple interviews, featurettes, and more. A perfect sweet gift for your horror-loving valentine!

I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny and Cher – Time Life taps deep into the nostalgia of America with their latest collection, the terrific five-disc set I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny and Cher. The guts of the set are a collection of episodes of the duo’s hit show The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, which featured music, comedy sketches, guest stars, and Cher looking like a fashion maven/supermodel every week. In this set, we get episodes featuring guest stars such as Tony Curtis, Carroll O’Connor, The Supremes, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Valli, Neil Sedaka and many others. In addition to the episodes (which according to the press notes are never-before-released), there is also Sonny & Cher’s pilot on The Barbara McNair Show, a 1970 interview and performance with Sonny and Cher, and a new interview with Cher, which to me is the real cherry on top for fans. Watching some of these episodes now, it’s obviously quite dated in terms of production style and material, but it’s hard not to see the charm and to recognize why people took to Cher so much at the time. With over eight hours of material in this set, it’s a great get for fans of the swinging 70s.

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert – In a similar vein, we have another music-based mega-collection out this week with the six-disc box set, Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert. This is sort of a compilation of all of the previous R&RHOF home video releases, only this time in one nice box set. First off, the highlights: Over 150 performances from the Hall of Fame induction concerts are included, featuring some of the biggest musical acts in history. Names like US, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Metallica, Chicago, Cheap Trick, Pearl Jam, Rush, and so many others, I can’t even list them here. Then you get a number of induction speeches in their entirety, which also sees some of the biggest names in rock n roll getting emotional and sharing personal insights. Then, to top it all off, you get a 36-page souvenir booklet packed with info and photos. Now, everyone has different tastes in music and maybe you won’t like every act in this set, but there are so many talented and legendary musicians represented here that it’s almost impossible you won’t find great music that you love in here somewhere. This one is a must-have for music lovers.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Get GoneGet Gone takes on several different horror movie tropes at once and mashes them all together: Inbred hillbilly family + greedy land drillers + internet video creators = low-budget horror mayhem. Horror mainstay Lin Shaye shows up (of course) as the matriarch of the family, and there’s some Coppola no one’s ever heard of (Weston Cage Coppola?) in the cast as well. I’ll say this about Get Gone: it at least tries to have a sense of humor, and while it doesn’t tread any new ground, it moves quickly and doesn’t have time to get dull, despite it’s low budget. It’s not great, but it scratches a particular itch.
  • The Great War – Billy Zane and Ron Perlman get their name on the cover art for this World War I film, but they’re really just supporting actors to a cast of much lesser-known figures. Those actors include Bates Wilder and Hiram Murray, both relatively unknown but both quite good in their roles. The story focuses on a unit of white soldiers in World War I assigned to rescue a unit made up of African American soldiers. The message of the film isn’t subtle, and there are Important Lessons to Be Learned at almost every turn. There are also a number of war film clichés, so if you’re looking for something original (or big-budgeted), this won’t be the film for you. That said, I’ve seen worse war films, and it won’t surprise me if the unknown actors involved go on to bigger and better things.
  • Winter Flies – Sometimes movies come across my desk that I know nothing about but feel like I should. Winter Flies is the third film by director Olmo Omerzu, who apparently has garnered some critical acclaim, even though I’ve never heard of him personally. This time around, he’s crafted a story about Mara and Hedus, two teenagers in the Czech Republic who go on an unsupervised road trip. The film reminds me of Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien, albeit a much colder, sparser, darker version of that beloved road trip memoir. There’s a charm to Winter Flies that I appreciate and it feels somehow familiar and fresh in a genre that isn’t lacking in entries. Worth a look if you don’t mind subtitles.
  • Nighthawks: Special Edition – Not to be confused with the Sylvester Stallone film of the same name, the Nighthawks that we get here is a drama starring Kevin Zegers (Fear the Walking Dead) and Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl). Basically what you get here is a film about spoiled rich kids doing spoiled rich kid things in New York City. I like Zegers and Crawford as actors, but I’m not sure what they were thinking when they got involved with this film. There’s not much to like here; the characters are unlikable, the pacing is slow, and the story is uninspired. Honestly, this Blu-ray may be labeled as a special edition, but there’s nothing special about either the film or the devoid-of-extra-features home video release.
  • 16 Bars – Speech, the lead singer of ‘90s music group Arrested Development, features in this documentary about a Virginia jail that allows its inmates to record music as part of their rehabilitation efforts. Speech worked with the inmates to teach them about creating and recording music, and then he actually recorded an album with the help of some of the inmates. It’s an interesting film that manages to split its focus between music and social justice issues facing people behind bars, without either aspect of the film feeling sidelined. There’s not a lot of bonus features, but you do get a handful of music videos, which is nice.
  • Bad Company: Official Authorized 40th Anniversary Documentary – I don’t know if I think Bad Company is a band that necessarily warrants a feature-length documentary, but get one they did and I’m here to talk about it. This 40th Anniversary Documentary is – if you’re a fan of the band – one of the better ones I’ve seen. So many music docs feature next to no participation from the actual band, but that isn’t the case here. Not only do you get interviews with band members Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs, but you also get the band’s music in the film, which is one of the things that really makes a music doc worth watching, for my money. In addition, several other noteworthy musicians are interviewed, including Brian May, Jason Bonham, and others. If you’re a Bad Company fan, this official, authorized film is the only one to watch.
  • Greener Grass – Oookay, so… this is a weird one. Greener Grass is a skewering satire of suburbia that’s based on a short film, and it’s written and directed by its two lead actors, Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe. The film focuses on these two soccer moms, but the bizarre world they live in is incredibly bizarre. Every adult wears braces, people turn into dogs, there’s a pregnancy involving a soccer ball, and a yoga instructing killer on the loose… it’s weird. There is some real humor to be found in some of the satire, but honestly, the overall weirdness of the world turned me off, and the film felt way too long. I have the feeling the short film it’s based on might have been enough. I’m not sure it warranted a feature-length version.
  • Mill Creek Spotlight – Mill Creek is one of my favorite home video distributors, putting out low-priced catalog favorites and obscure cult classics in new editions, making sure that certain deserving films don’t disappear into the ether. This week sees the studio dropping a number of great titles, starting with four entries in their terrific VHS Retro collection, which sees catalog titles released on Blu-ray with slipcovers evoking the video store VHS tapes of yesteryear. This batch includes Hudson Hawk, When a Stranger Calls, No Mercy, and Vibes. Hudson Hawk is, of course, the infamous Bruce Willis box office flop that has developed a pretty huge cult following. (“Buffy, ball ball!”) When a Stranger Calls is the original babysitter thriller (that was remade in the 2000s with Camilla Belle) starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning that is a heck of a lot of fun. No Mercy is a steamy thriller starring Kim Basinger and Richard Gere that’s not exactly great, but is kind of great in that very 1980s way. Vibes is a quirky flick starring Jeff Goldblum and – of all people – Cyndi Lauper. I think the film, a comedy about a pair of psychics on a treasure hunt, was supposed to launch Lauper’s acting career, but it never happened. Still, the film has an early appearance by Steve Buscemi and also co-stars Peter Falk, so it’s a goofy but fun experience. Wrapping up the Mill Creek releases this week, we have two double-feature Blu-ray releases: Rosewood Lane & White Noise: The Light and Wild Child & Life Happens. The first one is a horror-themed release, featuring Nathan Fillion’s White Noise 2 (which is somehow better than the original) and Rosewood Lane, which is more of a traditional stalker thriller starring Rose McGowan. It’s also directed by Victor Salva, who helmed the terrific Jeepers Creepers, making this a pretty fun little two-fer that can easily be found for under $10. Wild Child & Life Happens is a comedy double feature. Wild Child sees Emma Roberts as a spoiled L.A. teenager who gets shipped off to a British boarding school. With Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn and Nick Frost in the supporting cast, this one is actually more fun than you might expect. Life Happens is a comedy about an unexpected pregnancy and dating life after a baby that stars Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth, Jason Biggs, and Rachel Bilson. It’s nothing special, but it’s a fun-enough comedy that’s an easy watch. All in all, Mill Creek has dropped a nice group of titles this week, all available at easily affordable prices.
  • PBS Spotlight – PBS has a slew of new releases available this week. Whereas last week’s batch had a technology theme, this week’s new releases focus a little more on culture and nature. First up, we have No Passport Required: Season Two. The popular travel/cooking show returns with hist Samuel Magnusson traveling to a different American city each week. While there, he explores immigrant culture and food, and how they are weaved into American culture. This season, he visits cities such as L.A., Boston, and Las Vegas, and we meet people from West Africa, Portugal, Italy, and China, among others. It’s a fun show, and you get six hour-long episodes in this two-disc set. Next up is Nature: Bears, a terrific hour-long episode about, well, bears. All different kinds of bears from Grizzly bears to the bears that served as the model for Paddington Bear. I don’t always love all animal documentaries, but I think bears are amazing creatures and I really enjoyed this look at the different kinds of bears in nature. Staying on the animal front, we have Nova: Rise of the Mammals. This hour-long special looks at the rise of life in on the post-dinosaur Earth. How did mammals become the dominant species? This episode aims to answer that. Switching gears a bit, we have Frontline: Fire in Paradise, a documentary about the massive California wildfires that ravaged the west coast in 2019. There is some stunning footage to be found here that will blow you away, and I suspect it still doesn’t come to close to capturing the true magnitude of these destructive tragedies, but it’s fascinating to watch. Next up we have a couple of release from the show Nature: Okavango – River of Dreams and Nature’s Biggest Beasts. Okavango – River of Dreams focuses on the river in Southern Africa that represents the circle of life thanks to the various kinds of wildlife that depend on it. Over the course of three hours, you’ll learn all about the river, the animals such as elephants, crocodiles, lions and so many others, and how it all works together to thrive in the African climate. Nature’s Biggest Beasts, meanwhile, is a one-hour episode focusing on the largest examples of many different classes of animals. We learn about the giraffe, the Komodo dragon, the blue whale, armored crickets and giant hornets, and how their immense size presents unique challenges (and advantages) to their ability to survive and thrive. It’s a neat way to take a different look at some fascinating wildlife.

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