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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Frozen 2, Midway, Queen and Slim, Dark Waters, Titans and more

Frozen II – When Frozen came out a few years ago, it was the biggest hit in the world, surpassing being a movie and becoming a global phenomenon. I don’t know ifFrozen II had quite the same cultural impact – more because it’s hard to top what you’ve already done in that arena – but it sure as heck was a massive hit, becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time. And while I could never quite reconcile the first film’s massive popularity (for my money, Tangled is a far superior Disney animated film), it’s nice to see that Frozen II improves upon the original. Without the need for an origin story for anna and Elsa, the new film has more room to breathe and more time for adventure. So what you get is a fun, exciting, charming film that features some truly breathtaking animation. This isn’t a franchise that younger viewers are going to grow out of anytime soon. Frozen II comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the premium format really lets the film shine, with it’s exception color saturation and impeccably clear imagery. The surround soundtrack is extremely nuanced as well, offering up sounds from every corner of your living room. All in all, this is Disney at its finest.

MidwayMidway doesn’t reach the heights of 1917 – heck, it doesn’t even reach the heights of Pearl Harbor – but it’s not a bad film at all, despite what you may have heard. The biggest problem with the film is the script, which flip flops back and forth between cookie-cutter jingoism and cheesy dialogue. The cast is filled with likable actors (Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, and Mandy Moore, among others) although lead actor Ed Skrein (Deadpool, The Transporterremake) does some sort of New-Jersey-by-way-of-carnival-barker dialect that’s rather painful to listen to. But the film’s strengths lie in its action sequences, which include the attack on Pearl Harbor and – of course – the battle of Midway. While they are heavily CGI-reliant, they are still quite exciting and they look pretty damn great overall. There’s also a pretty good amount of it, meaning you’re never stuck with the film’s awkward moments before you get an aerial dogfight or an explosion to wake you up. Midway comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the picture and sound quality are outstanding. This is exactly the kind of film you want to see in 4K and to show off your home theater system with, all bright colors, loud explosions, and epic battles. A very nice presentation of a film that’s flawed but still enjoyable.

Queen & Slim – There’s a lot to like about Queen & Slim, but the lead performances by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith are the highlight of them all. The film is sort of an update on Bonnie & Clyde, although in this case, our main characters aren’t really criminals. Slim kills a cop in self-defense and they go on the run, along the way becoming folk heroes to African-American people across the country. The film is part road trip, part social commentary, part romance, and the end result is an affecting and powerful movie. For my money, it’s just a bit too long, clocking in at a little over two hours; I appreciate that the movie finds plenty of time for character moments and doesn’t try to be an action movie when it isn’t one, but there are a few scenes that could have been trimmed down and resulted in a tighter film. Still, overall, it’s an excellent movie with terrific performances, and while it wasn’t a huge hit in theaters, I expect it to gain a new fan following on home video.

Dark Waters – Mark Ruffalo stars in this gripping legal thriller based on a true story. Telling the events of a lawsuit that revealed that Dupont was knowingly poisoning water in a small community, the film takes 20 years of history and compresses it into a two-hour running time, but it does so with aplomb. Director Todd Haynes, much better known for his small, quirky indie dramas (such as Far From Heaven and I’m Not There), takes on a very different kind of vine than his other films have, and it’s good to see him venture into the mainstream. But it’s Ruffalo who is the real star here, playing a lawyer who usually defends chemical companies that gets sucked into realizing just how bad things really are in this situation. I love these kinds of one-lawyer-up-against-a-corporate-behemoth stories, and while Dark Waters isn’t perfect, I enjoyed it – and Ruffalo’s performance — quite a bit.

Titans: The Complete Second Season – DC’s Titans has already completed a second season, which is weird to me because it feels like just yesterday that they even announced the show to begin with. Available originally only through the DC Universe app, Titans’ second season has now been released on home video on Blu-ray and DVD. What I like about this show is that it draws a lot of inspiration from the comic books upon which its based, without feeling like it’s restricted to copying stories out of the comics. Titans definitely goes in its own directions, while still feeling like the Titans we know and love. The cast (which includes Brenton Thwaites, Minka Kelly, and Alan Ritchson) does a nice job of bringing the characters to life, and the show’s aesthetic – while occasionally veering slightly into cheesy territory – feels appropriately comic-booky. This Season Two collection includes all 13 episodes and a nice collection of extra features, making it a nice pick-up for fans of the show or the comics.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Return of Ultraman: The Complete Series (SteelBook Edition) and Ultraman Orb: Origin Saga – Mill Creek continues its top-notch Blu-ray releases of the entire Ultraman series with these two new sets, both of which include the entire series of each show and the resultant movie that went along with them. Return of Ultraman is one of the more well-known Ultraman series (at least to me), featuring a young man named Hideki Go and the MAT or Monster Attack Team. Its a more traditional Ultra-hero show, and it’s lots of fun to watch. This one comes in either regular packaging or the ultra-sleek Steelbook, which looks terrific. You get six discs of content, including digital copies of the episodes.) Ultraman Orb: the Origin Saga is a prequel to the series Ultraman Orb that was created to celebrate Ultraman’s 50th Anniversary. As a bonus, you also get Ultra Fight Orb, a sequel miniseries to Ultraman Orb. So here you get two discs of content, along with digital copies. Both sets come with some cool extra features, nice packaging, and a low price point, making these a big hit for Ultrafans.
  • No Offence: Complete Collection – There is no shortage of British crime procedurals in the world, but since most of them range from above-average to excellent, it’s hard to argue with the continued production of them. One of the standouts from the last few years is No Offence. As the title might imply, this isn’t just a by-the-book mystery show. Yes, it deals with cops and cases, but it also has a vein of dark humor running through it and it also features characters that aren’t all as aboveboard as you might expect. With a terrific cast that includes Elaine Cassidy, Joanna Scanlan, Paul Abbott, and Will Mellor, this show has won me over. Now you can get the entire thees-episode run in one nice, compact set with No Offense: The Complete Collection. This seven-disc set collects the entire series, and while it’s a little light on extra features, it’s nicely packaged and offers you a chance to binge-watch the entire show, which will be a lot of fun. Track this one down for sure!
  • The Climbers – This Asian survival thriller is based on the true story of a group of Chinese mountain climbers who set out to summit Mt. Everest from the treacherous north side, long understood to be the most dangerous way to approach the mountain. There are some notable actors in this one, including superstars Wu Jing and Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), as well as Jackie Chan in a small featured performance. I love these kinds of movies; give me a good survival thriller any day of the week and I’m there. The fact that it’s based on real events makes it even more harrowing, and there are definitely moments that will get your heart pumping. Worth a watch if you want something exciting to watch.
  • Ne Zha – This Asian animated action epic is not your traditional release from the genre. While most Asian animated films are in the traditional hand-drawn anime style, this film is made with a 3-D CGI style, giving it some moments of anime inspiration but also a look and feel all its own. The story tells of a young boy named NeZha who is a descendant of heaven and has superpowers. Unfortunately, he’s foretold to destroy the world, so cue the internal struggle of the main character that drives the film. It’s a little long for an animated film (or even for a lice action film, honestly), so there are moments where it flags a bot, but the animation is impressive and the story moves along well enough for the most part. I wasn’t blown away by it, but honestly, I liked it better than I do most anime releases.
  • The Warrant – Neal McDonough, Steven R. McQueen, Annabeth Gish, and Casper Van Dien star in this by-the-numbers but enjoyable western Direct-to-Video flick. McDonough and McQueen play a father and son who reunite after the civil war, only to find themselves teaming up to hunt down an outlaw. It’s a low-budget affair and it’s really nothing original, but I like Neal McDonough a lot and it’s good to see him take on a lead role. I also like Steven R. McQueen, who you might best remember from the first several seasons of TV’s The Vampire Diaries. If you don’t mind a fairly familiar plot and you like westerns, this is an easy enough way to kill 90 minutes.
  • CMA Live Greatest Moments – I’ve never been a huge country music fan, but I can always appreciate a terrific home video release, and for country music fans, that release is here. CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968-2015 makes its Blu-ray debut with some of the most memorable live music performances from nearly a decade of CMA Awards shows. With songs performed by Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, and dozens of others, even I’ve heard of many of the songs in this collection. There are also some extra features in the way of interviews, providing more added value to an already value-packed release. Country music fans should be all over this one!
  • By The Grace Of God – This powerful and emotional French drama reflects events in our own country and, most likely, all over the world. The film starts with a man telling his church that he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child; a priest who is still currently working with children. When the church doesn’t respond, he gets the police involved, which opens the floodgates to more victims coming forward. The film is based on real events that happened in France, and it’s a somber, at times chilling affair. The film’s focus stays on the victims, and at times it’s not an easy watch, but the gripping story and strong performances keep you engaged from start to finish. Worth the time and emotional investment, even if it will leave you feeling a little emotionally exhausted.
  • El Esqueleto De La Senora Morales (AKA Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales) – Part of MVD’s Clasicos del Cine Mexicano line (Classics of Mexican Cinema), this new release marks the film’s first release on Blu-ray. This 1960 Mexican film is adapted from horror author Arthur Machen’s 1927 story The Islington Mystery, and it’s kind of an odd film. It can’t seem to make up its mind if it wants to be a comedy, a thriller, a drama, or some sort of hybrid of the three. Most of the releases in this line so far have been ranked on the list of the 100 best films of Mexican cinema (crafted by 25 film critics and experts on Mexico), and this one came in at #19, so I guess it’s a well-regarded film, but for me personally, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

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