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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Jojo Rabbit, The Hunt For Red October, Color Out Of Space, Paris Is Burning and more

JoJo Rabbit – I hadn’t seen JoJo Rabbit before the Academy Awards were held, but now that I have, I’m doubly disappointed that Parasite won the Best Picture Oscar. JoJo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) has crafted a masterpiece of a film that’s too funny to be called a drama, but definitely too moving and impactful to be a simple comedy. And frankly, it would have easily been my choice for Best Picture had I seen it in time. The story follows a 10-year-old boy named Johannes (or JoJo), who idolizes Adolf Hitler in World War II-era Germany. His mother (an amazing and award-nominated performance by Scarlett Johansson) tries to teach him there is more to life than blindly following one’s leaders, and things go in some interesting directions from there, but to say more would be to spoil the beauty and the fun of the film. Young Roman Davis Griffin is in literally every scene and carries the entire movie on his shoulders, and he’s a singular talent that should have a bright future ahead of him. JoJo Rabbit comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it’s a very strong presentation in the premium format. Colors are vibrant — although the film often has a slightly desaturated look on purpose – and image clarity is outstanding. The surround soundtrack isn’t the most active I’ve ever seen, but large portions of the film are dialogue-driven, so there’s only so much to work with. JoJo Rabbit is one of those films that was nominated for a bunch of awards, yet it seems like many people still haven’t heard of it. I urge you to not be one of the people who’re unfamiliar with this beautiful film; I can’t say enough good things about it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Hunt for Red October: Collector’s Edition Steelbook – I’ve had some issues with some of Paramount’s recent catalog releases, but I’m happy to report that the new 4K Ultra HD Steelbook release of The Hunt for Red October is a winner from top to bottom. First and foremost, it comes with a digital copy of the film, which has been missing from most of Paramount’s catalog releases for the past year or so. Secondly, the Steelbook case itself looks gorgeous. Then you have the actual 4K transfer of the film itself, which gives the movie a whole new sheen. Color saturation brings new life to the imagery, while the clarity of the film and the shadow delineation look better than ever. The surround soundtrack remains an active, immersive experience. And then you have the film itself, which remains the best Jack Ryan film and a true classic of 1990s action cinema. If you’re a fan of this movie or the world of Tom Clancy, this is the best version of this film yet. A real winner!

Pet Sematary Two: Collector’s Edition – Shout Factory’s second-to-none Scream Factory imprint gives us a new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition of Pet Sematary Two, the largely-forgotten sequel to the hit film based on Stephen King’s book. This film has a new story not based on a King book, although it’s largely a retread (with some differences) of the first film. You know, kids, dead pets, freaky cemetery, things coming back to life… the usual. This one, for a sequel that wasn’t exactly a big-deal affair, features a strong cast that includes Edward Furlong, Anthony Edwards, and Clancy Brown. It’s not a horror masterpiece, but it’s not as bad as I seem to remember it from my lone late-night video store viewing in the 90s. This new Collector’s Edition comes loaded with extra features, including multiple interviews (including ones with Edward Furlong and Clancy Brown!) and a new audio commentary with director Mary Lambert. It’s not a great film, but if you dig it, there’s no denying this is a top-notch release.

One Missed Call Trilogy – Arrow Video continues to challenge Shout Factory and The Criterion Collection with their absolutely excellent special edition releases. This week, we get the One Missed Call Trilogy on Blu-ray. The first film in the trilogy was directed by none other than auteur Takashi Miike, and it presents a sort of archetypal Asian horror story about a girl who gets a call from her future self as she’s dying, which of course leads to her death shortly thereafter. From there, other people begin to receive calls, and it’s a battle for survival against a deadly curse. The first film is a true horror thrill ride and it was obviously very successful, as it spawned two sequels of varying quality. While neither of them reaches the heights of Miike’s entry, they’re both still fun horror outings. This Blu-ray set not only includes all three films but also a metric ton of extra features, including an audio commentary, a making-of documentary, interviews, a TV special, deleted scenes, featurettes, short films, music videos, and much more. It’s a real feast of material for fans of the franchise. This is yet another excellent release from Arrow Video.

Color Out of Space – Nicolas Cage turns in yet another wackadoo performance in this new horror/sci-fi flick that brings to mind some of his other outing such as Mandy (it would make a great double feature with that bat-guano-crazy movie.) Color Out of Space is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, and it starts out simply enough, with a meteorite crashing on the farm of Cage’s family. From there, however, things start to get seriously weird, as you’d expect from a Lovecraft story. Cage gets to go into his crazy-Nick range, which he seems to enjoy, and the film’s visuals are just as trippy as the story. It’s an oddball of a film, and Cage fans especially will love it (and I suspect Lovecraft fans will as well), but people just looking for a Nicolas-Cage-vs.-Aliens movie might be strongly challenged.

Paris is Burning – The Criterion Collection adds this influential documentary to its ranks, spotlighting the Harlem drag queens of the 1980s in a way which I know had never been done before at that point and probably never has been since. Director Jenny Livingston spent seven years capturing the lives and the scene of some of the most famous drag queens within that world, and the result is a film that presents a world most of us have never seen, and does so in a way that is visually exciting and narratively rewarding. I also like that the film clocks in at a brisk 71 minutes; I don’t always love documentaries, but this one manages to hold your interest from start to finish, in part because it doesn’t wander and doesn’t outlive its welcome. This new Criterion Collection edition of Paris is Burning comes with a nice collection of extra features, including an audio commentary, outtakes, an episode of the Joan Rivers show, and more. A terrific version of a well-loved movie.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Frankie – Isabelle Huppert leads an all-star cast that includes Marisa Tomei, Brendan Gleeson, and Greg Kinnear in this drama about a family gathering for a trip to Portugal, and the drama that ensues. Set over the course of one day, we follow three generations of the same family as the idyllic setting rekindles romance, reveals hidden problems, and generates no small amount of drama. I wish I could say I liked this film more than I did. The performances are all perfectly good, but the story left me uninterested and the characters never really felt like a family for me. I don’t love dysfunctional family narratives to begin with, but this one just never got me engaged
  • Mind Games – The MVD Rewind Collection continues to bring us a nice range of cult classics on Blu-ray, and the latest entry in the line is Mind Games, a late-‘80s thriller that is exactly the kind of cult classic that makes for fun late-night viewing. The film follows a family on a road trip: Dana and Rita have a crumbling marriage and are trying to save it, so they load up their 10-year-old son and hit the road. Of course, in a fit of super-awesome decision making, along the way they pick up a hitchhiker at a campground. He’s a nice young fellow! Well, turns out he’s not just a psych student, he’s also a psycho, leading to the family being terrorized. Now, Mind Games isn’t exactly great filmmaking, but I’ve always enjoyed these kinds of films. It’s taut, tense, and even if you can predict what’s coming, it’s simple fun. The new MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray comes with a few nice extra features as well, including a mini-poster, a feature-length documentary, a featurette, and more.
  • Una Familia De Tantas (A Family Like Many Others) & La Barraca – VCI Video has an imprint (that I believe is new, or at least is new to me) called Clasicos del Cine Mexicano, which of course translates to Classics of Mexican Cinema. The first two releases to cross my desk are Una Familia De Tantas and La Barrraca, which are both debuting on Blu-ray this week. Una Familia comes from director Alejandro Galindo and was made in 1949. It’s a sort of family melodrama mixed with elements of a coming of age drama, and apparently it’s very well-regarded in Mexico. I can see why, as it does have a lot of the conventions of classic Hollywood that resonates with viewers. For my money, it’s definitely too long (clocking in at 130 minutes), but the story is interesting enough and there’s a lot to like for fans of more dramatic fare. Meanwhile, La Barraca is touted as being #21 on the list of the 100 Best Movies of Mexican Cinema, and it’s another drama, this one from 1945. This one, dealing with a family working land that comes up against resentful townspeople, and this one was a little less my cup of tea. It’s a little shorter (110 minutes), but it still felt quite long to me. Still, for fans of Mexican Cinema, these are two well-done releases of classic films.
  • Hudson River Massacre – From MVD Classics, we have the Blu-ray debut of Hudson River Massacre, a Spanish/Italian production from 1965 (which I’ve heard referred to as a “Tortilla Western,” which makes me chuckle.) Not as long as the two Mexican films above (this one only runs a brisk 80 minutes), this a relatively low-budget action/drama starring George Martin and Pamela Tudor. The film takes place in Canada (while shot in Spain) and sees a conflict between native trappers, British Mounted Police, and a corporation that cares more about profits than anything else. That’s a fairly universal story, so if you like the Spaghetti Western genre, you’ll probably find something to like here.

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