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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Ford v Ferrari, Doctor Sleep, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, 21 Bridges and more

Ford v Ferrari

Ford V Ferrari – While I’m not necessarily an auto racing guy, Ford V Ferrari isn’t necessarily an auto racing movie, either. I mean, to be fair, it does have a pretty good amount of racing movie, but it’s ultimately more about the relationship between Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles and their quest to create a race car for Ford that could beat the then-dominant Ferrari race cars in the mid-1960s. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are both terrific in the lead roles, and director James Mangold proves once again that he can tackle just about any kind of movie with aplomb. And for those of you who want car racing, trust me when I say there are a good amount present and the action will keep you on the edge of your seat. Ford V Ferrari comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it benefits nicely from the superior format. The surround soundtrack is the real star here, as the racetrack sounds like it’s going directly through your living room. The picture quality is razor-sharp, and the sunny racetrack settings are bright and colorful. There’s really nothing not to like here.

Doctor Sleep – Perhaps one of 2019’s most overlooked films, this sequel to The Shining is a near-masterpiece. Everyone who saw it loved it, the problem is that hardly anybody saw it. Writer/director Mike Flanagan has crafted a sequel that stays true to the original film (and apparently the Stephen King Doctor Sleep novel upon which the film is also based) not just in terms of story but also mood, look, and tone. Flanagan apes Kubrick’s shooting style, with long, sweeping shots and none of the quick-pace editing that mars so many of today’s films. The movie’s new characters are intriguing, the story unfolds slowly but in a way in which you never lose interest, and the performances are terrific, especially Rebecca Ferguson as bad guy Rose the Hat. As a bonus, this release (the 4K Ultra HD version) includes both the theatrical release (on the 4K disc) and the Director’s cut, which comes in half an hour longer at three hours (only on the Blu-ray.) I don’t like when studios don’t give you all versions in all formats, but it’s still great to get a version of the film that is even more developed and nuanced. If you’ve ever seen The Shining, do yourself a favor and watch Doctor Sleep, it really is fantastic. Doctor Sleep comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it looks and sounds terrific. The deeper color saturation doesn’t unnecessarily brighten things up, but the film’s warm amber color palette seems deeper and more vibrant, while image clarity is impeccable. It’s a presentation of the film that seems to mirror exactly what the director wanted, and I think it’s perfect.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – The thing to know about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t that Tom Hanks’s performance as Mister Rogers is terrific (although it is), because we all knew that already. Instead, what’s helpful to know is that isn’t a film about Mister Rogers, really. Instead, it’s a film about the journalist interviewing Fred Rogers and the relationship they develop. None of which males it a bad film, but I think if you go in just expecting a biopic of Mister Rogers, you’re going to be confused and/or disappointed. That said, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a sweet film with a good story and some terrific performances. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but if you’re in the mood for a nice drama that the whole family can watch (although younger viewers might lose interest), this one will do the trick.

21 Bridges – Chadwick Boseman (best known as the Black Panther) stars in this riveting thriller that underdelivered at the box office but should have been a much bigger hit. It’s the kind of movie that would have been a $200 million grosser back in the ‘90s, yet it was largely ignored by audiences. Which is a shame, because it’s utterly terrific. Boseman plays a police detective trying to hunt down two cop killers that pretty much the entire police force wants dead. In an effort to close them, he closes down all exits from Manhattan and has until dawn to catch them before the island has to be reopened again. Boseman delivers a terrific lead performance, but he’s rivalled by a blistering performance by Stephan James and a nearly unrecognizable Taylor Kitsch as the killers. Add in a terrific supporting cast including Sienna Miller and J.J. Simmons, throw in some heart-pounding action sequences, and the end result is the kind of action movie that they frankly don’t make enough of anymore. I loved 21 Bridges, and I think you will too.

The Twilight Zone (2019): Season One – The CBS All Access original reboot of the The Twilight Zone (now in its fourth iteration, I believe) proves that great ideas never die. Hosted by Jordan Peele, the show is an hour-long sci-fi/suspense/drama/thriller that carries on the traditions of the original series but updates it for modern audiences. The first season consists of 10 episodes, and we get a mix of brand new stories and loose updates of classic episodes; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited to see a new version of Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, even if it’s nothing at all like the original episode (that was already once remade for Twilight Zone: The Movie). And CBS has pulled out all the stops by making sure each episode includes well-loved cast members: look for everyone from Kumail Nanjiani, Alison Tolman, Adam Scott, and Steven Yuen to John Cho, John Larroquette, Jacob Tremblay, Seth Rogen, and Zazie Beets. It’s a fun new take on one of the most beloved shows of all time, and while the original will still always be my favorite, this is a highly enjoyable series to dive into.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Complete Collection 15th Anniversary Edition – Every time I get a new Avatar: The Last Airbender release, I’m reminded of why it’s so well-loved, as evidenced by the new 15th Anniversary Edition of The Last Airbender: The Complete Collection, which sees each season housed in a Steelbook case and stint a really nice stylized slipcover.  What makes the show work is that it really balances out a sense of drama with some fun and silly humor, and then it mixes it some great action and fantasy spectacle as well. The result is a cartoon that’s fun, exciting, engaging, and really fascinating to watch. This show has a mythology all its own, and it’s coupled with an amazing design sense that makes it a real pleasure to watch from a visual standpoint. The story is better watched than read, but it involves four warring factions and the “last airbender” or avatar, who may be the key to ending the war peacefully. It doesn’t sound all that interesting on paper, but trust me when I tell you it’s extremely cool on screen. This newest box set includes the entire series in three gorgeous steelbook cases and includes extra features that will keep any fan satisfied. The sho’s been available before, but this is the best-looking release by far.

Roma – After dazzling the world with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanChildren of Men, and Gravity, director Alfonso Cuaron switched gears completely and gave the world Roma, a deep drama that debuted on Netflix in the US as well as some theaters worldwide. To try and describe the film’s plot would be a waste of time; it’s a character-driven drama dealing with family, loneliness, pregnancy, and finding one’s self, and even though the running time is over two hours, it’s not the kind of film that is driven by its plot, as much as it is how the main character deals with the adversity coming her way. And of course, with Cuaron at the helm, it’s all told in a way that keeps the emotion and humanity intact while also being visually gorgeous. Roma comes to Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Criterion Collection, meaning you’re getting the best possible picture and sound, as well as a nice collection of extra features. And while the film can be viewed on Netflix, you won’t get the numerous documentaries about the film’s creation or the essay booklet there, nor the sumptuous packaging. Fans of the film will want to add this one to their collection.

Boyz N’ the Hood (4K Ultra HD) – John SIngleton’s debut film was a sensation when it hit theaters in 1991, and now, almost 30 years later it makes its debut on 4K Ultra HD and reminds us why it was so powerful in the first place. The film either introduced us to or made stars to of a large number of its cast members, including Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King, and Angela Bassett. But it’s the film’s message that really carries the most weight, giving a glimpse into a lifestyle that most people in America knew very little about. With Singleton basing the story on his own life and people he knew, the gritty realism of the film feels visceral and personal all at the same time. I hadn’t seen this movie in a really long time, and I really enjoyed revisiting it. Boyz N’ The Hood has been released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time, and it’s a nice upgrade. It doesn’t look the same as a brand new movie, but there’s a definite crispness to the picture and an improvement in the colors that is absent on previous home video versions. It’s a nice upgrade for a film that is worth revisiting.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series – The hit Netflix series comes to Blu-ray and DVD thanks to Mill Creek, who specializes in affordably priced catalogue favorites and TV hits. I was mostly interested in watching this show because I love Ellie Kemper, the lead actress. She’s so likable and smart and funny and charming that I can watch her in just about anything. Of course, it helps that the show itself is also really, really funny. The show focuses on Kimmy Schmidt, one of four women who were held underground by a cult-leader-type guy who convinces them that the world is ended. After 15 years, they’re let out, and Kimmy decides she’s going to live in New York and not be afraid of life anymore. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of comedy opportunities in watching a woman with no life experience try to navigate the big city. The supporting cast — which includes Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane — only add to the funny, and the show is a lot of fun to watch. This eight-disc set includes all 51 episodes from all four seasons of the show, and it’s a great set to binge watch.

Dragonheart: Vengeance – I’m a huge fan of the original 1993 film Dragonheart, and because of that, I’ve watched — or suffered through, more accurately — every misbegotten direct-to-video sequel Universal has churned out, which I think is four or five now. They’ve all been nigh unwatchable… until now, that is. Now, Dragonheart: Vengeance isn’t a masterpiece, nor is it a patch in the original, but it’s the first film in the franchise since the original that’s actually worth watching. This time around, Helena Bonham Carter provides the voice of a female dragon (who has some different powers than we’ve seen before) as she helps a young man on his quest for vengeance on the people who killed his family. There are some pretty good action scenes in this film, but what really makes it work is a cast that actually delivers characters you can get interested in. They’re all complete unknowns, but between a decent script and good performances, plus the action scenes, the film won me over. I’ll still take the original any day, but I’m glad Universal finally ponied up to make a sequel that wasn’t an embarrassment to there franchise.

Snatchers – Warner Brothers’ direct-to-video horror line continues its run of fun horror flicks with Snatchers. After their Banana Splits: The Movie (which I loved!) and Critters Attack (an update on the 1980s franchise), Snatchers is their first original outing, and it’s way more fun than it has any right to be. The film follows a girl who gets pregnant overnight thanks to her alien-infected boyfriend who then gives birth to a body controlling alien beastie that tries to take over her town. The film has a good sense of humor (the R-rating is earned, but in a way that I liked), there’s some clever social commentary on being a teenager and teen pregnancy, and I like that the film has almost no CGI effects, choosing instead to use practical effects. It has a B-movie vibe, but I mean that in the best way possible. I really dug this film!

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

First Love – Acclaimed director Takashi Miike (of Audition fame) returns with his latest film, First Love, which sounds like it could be a sweet love story. And it is… sort of. It’s a sweet love story wrapped up gunfights, murder, and mayhem, as a terminally ill boxer and a prostitute with some serious issues end up on the run from the mob together. And, as tends to happen in these situations, the two begin to fall in love. As this is a Takashi Miike film, it’s highly stylized, packed with moments of humor, and filled with action scenes that don’t disappoint. There’s a fair amount of violence, but the love story at the center of it gives it a little more heart than you might expect from a film like this. A fun actioner that fans of Miike’s will definitely enjoy.

Another Day of Life – Animated films often skew towards younger viewers, although anyone familiar with Japanese animation knows that there is a large section of the genre geared for adults. But even those movies are usually more fantastical or sci-fi-themed in nature. Another Day of Life is one of the rare animated movies that is deadly serious. Based on real events of the Angola Civil War, the film chronicles the war as seen through the eyes of journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, and it’s sobering stuff. The film has moments where it cuts to real-life footage or interviews, while allowing the animation to tell the most difficult parts of the story. The end result is an animated pseudo-documentary that’s serious stuff, but a worthwhile watch.

Warriors Of The Nation – This week’s obligatory Asian action cinema release, Warriors of the Nation is an epic period actioner set at the end of the Chino/Japanese war, which means we get lots of swordplay and hand-to-hand combat, wrapped up in an epic storyline. The film follows the character of Wong Fei Hung as he tries to prevent a plot to overthrow the Chinese government, while trying to rescue a captured military officer who can help prevent war. The film is fast-paced and has some terrific action sequences, and what I really liked is that it’s only 90 minutes long. Many of these period epics tend to run well over two hours and I always feel like they’re a little bloated; this one eschews that and keeps the running time brisk, which makes the film feel snappy and exciting. Fans of the genre will enjoy this one.

Years and Years: The Limited Series – Created by Russell T. Davies (best known for creating the relaunch of Doctor WhoYears and Years is a direct response to the rise of the world’s current political situation: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Brexit, and the like. It’s a six episode series that follows various members of an extended family in the near future, when the world’s political situation has devolved – and the world has devolved with it. Emma Thompson stars as a foul-mouthed, incendiary political candidate, clearly there to mirror the real life figureheads that got elected with that same rhetoric. The show is quite interesting; there are some terrific performances, and the modern day parallels are eerie and quite frightening. So much so in fact, that it’s what works most against the show; if you’re looking for an escape for all of the strife in the world, this ain’t it. In fact, it might be a little too much like watching the news at times. You’ll laugh at some of the things that happen, and then you’ll cry because they’re really happening. It’s a solid six-episode event, but it might be too depressing for some viewers.

Step By Step: The Complete Sixth Season – I’ll be honest, I never really watched Step By Step. I never disliked the show, it just wasn’t really on my radar during the several years it aired. Family comedies weren’t really my thing when I was a teenager. Watching the show now, I can see why people liked it; it’s relatively harmless family fun with a big cast and lots of familiar faces (Suzanne Sommers and Patrick Duffy were the stars, butBaywatch’s Brandon Call and My Two Dads’ Staci Keanan are on board as well.) This season sees Bronson Pinchot (Perfect Strangers) join the cast as Carol’s new business partner, who’s a complete busybody. His meddling becomes a large part of the focal point for the season. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy revisiting it now, especially as it’s been a slow release cycle for the series so far.

Scandalous: The Untold Story of The National Enquirer – This tell-all documentary features interviews with former staffers and insiders at The National Enquirer, the seemingly harmless supermarket tabloid that has much deeper and darker ambitions. The film is quite fascinating, as it looks at not only the history of the paper but also how it used its power to help further political ambitions of people it is friendly to, most notably Donald Trump. The Enquirer bought exclusive rights to stories that could have harmed Trump and then squashed them, showing that this bastion of “journalism” has its own political agendas. The movie does a good job of uncovering as much dirt as it can, turning the tables on a newspaper that was never afraid to break moral boundaries and even legal boundaries to get a juicy headline. This is a pretty crazy film, made all the more so because it’s all true.

The Point – While The Point is the kind of animated movie that only the ‘70s could have given us, I’m glad that MVD’s Rewind Collection has brought us a new Blu-ray version of this mostly-forgotten film. Conceived by Harry Nilsson (supposedly during an acid trip) and featuring songs by Nilsson as well, the film is also narrated by Ringo Starr, making this of immediate interest to Beatles fans. And while the story itself is slight, the message of the film and the characters have a certain charm to them. Even better, the new Blu-ray release is packed with extra features, including interviews, featurettes, and an hour-long documentary, plus a mini-poster. With seven Nilsson songs throughout the film’s 74-minute running time, fans of the singer will find this a jam-packed release with lots to like.

The Good Karma Hospital: Series 3 – This show has been described as the “love child of Call the Midwife and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and, well… that’s exactly what it is. Except in this case instead of being a hotel, the setting is a medical center in India, where we follow slightly misplaced Dr. Ruby Walker, who’s come straight from a more upper crust UK setting. The show does what the best TV shows do, delivering a strong mix of unique and interesting characters, a mix of laughter and drama, and good writing to carry the stories through. With a cast of exceptional actors (most of whom are TV regulars in the UK, but less known here in the US), this show is quite enjoyable.

Jim Allison: Breakthrough – This documentary profiles Jim Allison, a cancer researcher who fought against the system and bucked convention to research cancer in a way that all his contemporaries derided him for. It’s no coincidence, of course, that Allison’s findings played a huge role in battling cancer that also won him the 2018 Nobel Prize. This look into his life and his struggles to unravel the secrets of cancer is narrated by Woody Harrelson. At 90 minutes, it has a few moments where it lost my interest, but overall it’s an interesting film about a man who truly is making a difference in the world.

Is Anybody Listening? – Another documentary, this one focuses on Veterans, and more specifically veterans who need to talk. We learn about Paula Caplan, a psychiatrist who interviewed hundreds of veterans and found that many of them need an outlet to deal with the horrors and stresses of their experiences. She was then instrumental in setting up a hotline allowing veterans to talk to non-veterans, people who are there solely to listen. To help veterans who just need to share their experiences. It’s a short film, clocking in under an hour, but that’s the perfect length for an important story that deserves a bigger audience.

Clown Fear – This week’s requisite low-budget horror indie is Clown Fearis a weird one. It combines several horror tropes (killer clowns, strangers lost in a weird town, death by slasher) into a passably entertaining B-movie. When a group of girls finds themselves stranded and end up in a small town that is populated entirely by clowns (yes, really!), well… I mean, you can probably figure out what happens next. People start to die. There’s nothing about the film that stands out form a filmmaking standpoint; it’s low budget and kind of cheesy, but fans of B-movie horror will enjoy the clown mayhem and the kills.

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