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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Uncut Gems, Bombshell, Motherless Brooklyn, A Quiet Place, The Good Liar and more


Uncut GemsUncut Gems garnered all kinds of critical acclaim and even talk of an Oscar nomination for Adam Sandler. Now, I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but I couldn’t disagree with that acclaim any more. I absolutely hated this movie. Yes, Adam Sandler deserves some praise for playing against type, but honestly, it’s a one-note performance. He literally spends two hours yelling and swearing and there’s no nuance or variety to the performance at all. And that carries through the entire film; it’s a loud, angry movie filled with loud, angry, and — most importantly – unlikable characters doing unlikable things. If the film has a bright spot, it’s newcomer Julia Fox, who plays Sandler’s put-upon mistress. She’ the only slightly sympathetic character in the film and her performance is extremely good. She’s one top watch in the future… just not in this film.

Bombshell – Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie star in Bombshell, a dramatic telling of the events at Fox News that led to Roger Ailes being sued for sexual harassment and eventually outed as head of the network. The film was directed by Jay Roach, who has graduated from his Austin Powers roots to making a string of political dramas based on real events, many of which have aired on HBO. Bombshell is a perfectly good film, it just lacks anything to get excited about. There’s some slick editing, the performances are all good, and there are a ton of recognizable faces in minor roles. I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt the need to utilize prosthetic make-up to make Theron and Kidman look more like Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson; it’s more distracting than anything, and not everyone in a biopic needs to look like a photorealistic version of the person they’re portraying. Bombshell tells an important story, but ultimately it feels a little disposable.

Motherless Brooklyn – When I first saw the trailer for Motherless Brooklyn, I made a comment on social media that I thought it was the worst movie title I’d ever seen. Several people quickly responded with no small amount of passion that the book Motherless Brooklyn was an incredible read, and several people cited it as one of their favorites. Be that as it may, I still think it’s a terrible movie title, and I believe it’s a large part of why the movie failed to ignite at the box office. The other reason is that the film – co-written and directed by Ed Norton, who also stars – has too many flaws. For one thing, at almost two-and-a-half hours, it’s way too long. The story also just isn’t all that interesting to me; it’s ultimately a mystery of sorts, but there’s a whole lot of talk about building authorities, zoning, mayors, and other minutiae of city planning and corruption. And finally, Norton’s character, who suffers from what appears to be Tourette’s Syndrome, is constantly twitching and spouting out loud nonsensical statements. Which frankly, gets kind of old. It may be a real syndrome, but it doesn’t really make for an enjoyable movie experience to watch a character deal with it on screen. All in all, it’s not a bad movie, it just didn’t do very much for me.

A Quiet Place (Steelbook Edition) – Just in time for the upcoming theatrical sequel, Paramount delivers a new Steelbook Edition of A Quiet Place. This 4K Ultra HD release sees the movie repackaged in one of four collectible Steelbook cases, all with complementary artwork designed by the people who do the Mondo prints and posters. The set includes the film on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray, and it also includes a digital copy of the film, which I was very pleased to see as Paramount has been releasing another of catalog titles in the past year or so without digital copies, a huge oversight. I don’t think I have to tell you that A Quiet Place is a thriller masterpiece, and this is the best possible format to own the film in. It looks and sounds amazing in 4K, the packaging is terrific, and the digital copy is a nice bonus, plus all the extra features from the original release are included. If you never bought this film when it originally debuted on home video, now is the perfect time to add it to your collection.

The Good Liar – Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen star in this twisty thriller from Warner Brothers. The film quietly came and went in theaters, but I REALLY enjoyed it. What starts as the tale of two lonely elderly people connecting quickly becomes a story filled with secrets, lies, con men, and revelations. Honestly, I can’t tell you much more about the story without giving away the twists and turns of the film, but suffice it to say that even though this isn’t an action film, it’s a well-paced movie that keeps moving and gets more and more interesting as it goes along. This should come as no surprise, but both Mirren and McKellen give absolutely fantastic performances that carry the film nicely. I feel like The Good Liar was a hard film to market because the more you give away, the more you take away from the enjoyment of the story and how it unravels, but I definitely recommend you track it down and just enjoy the ride. It’s terrific.

The Ten Commandments – This new Blu-ray of Cecil B. DeMille’s biblical epic is actually a double feature; it includes both the blockbuster 1956 film starring Charlton Heston, but it also includes the 1923 film of the same name. And while the 1950s film (a nearly 4-hour epic) is the best-known version of the film, the 1923 black-and-white silent film is noteworthy in its own right. It was also directed by Cecil B. DeMille, much earlier in his career, and while it is silent and in black-and-white, there’s no denying the cope of it for an early Hollywood film. The sets are resplendent and impressive, and the two-hour running time still feels epic, especially in the silent film world. This new collection includes both films on Blu-ray, packed with extra features, all packaged in the Digibook format, which includes a full-color book as part of the case. It’s also surprisingly affordably priced, giving you a heck of a lot of bang for your buck. A really nice package altogether.

The Affair: The Final Season & The Complete Series – After five critically-acclaimed seasons, the hit Showtime series The Affair has come to an end. And this week there are two releases for fans, whether you’ve been collecting the show as it came out or if you don’t own a single season. Sadly, neither one is available on Blu-ray. Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson star as the two main couple involved, and the show presents an affair that occurs between two of the characters from multiple points of view. It’s a complex and layered drama, and it’s the acting and the sharp writing that really carries it. For fans of deep relationship dramas, this show will be right up your alley. If you’ve been buying it along the way, The Fifth & Final Season is out on DVD this week. If you like the show or want to check it out for the first time but have never bought it before, this week also sees the release ofThe Affair: The Complete Series, a nice 19-disc box set that includes a good collection of extra features, giving fans of the show everything they could need in one complete set.

The Witch: Subversion – The title of this film might have you thinking it’s a sequel to David Eggers’ overrated 2015 horror film The VVitch, but it is instead an Asian action sci-fi film that’s a little hard to tell too much about without giving away the story’s secrets. The basic gist of it is that the film follows a young girl who escapes a secret government facility and is taken in by an older couple. Fast forward ten years, and when she appears on television, her life begins to turn upside down. The film then dives into action thriller territory as well as superhero territory, and it’s telling that the original Korean title for the film labels it as “Part 1,” and that bears out in that it feels like there’s more of the story to come. I liked parts of The Witch: Subversion and there were parts I liked less, but fans of action, sci-fi, and superheroes might want to check this out.

Also available this week on home video:

  • Masked and Anonymous – This 2003 film makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Shout Select, Shout Factory’s line of critically acclaimed or well-loved films. And this one… well, this one is an oddball. Directed by Larry Charles, director of Seinfeld and Borat, the film actually stars Bob Dylan – yes, THE Bob Dylan – as a mysterious traveling musician who gets bailed out of jail to play at a music festival. And that’s about as complicated as the plot gets, as this is not a plot-driven film; it’s more a mood and a feeling than anything else. But there is an amazing supporting cast including John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Val Kilmer, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Cheech Marin, Ed Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Christian Slater and Fred Ward. Wow! If I’m being honest, even that cast can’t quite save the movie, as it’s really just not my thing, but fans of Dylan will enjoy all the familiar faces (as well as a couple of musical performances by Dylan himself.) I can see why this film isn’t that well known, but I can also see why it has a cult following.
  • Little Joe – Emily Beechem, Kit Conner, Ben Whishaw, and Kerry Fox star in this offbeat indie horror thriller. The story involves a scientist who creates a flower that makes its owner happy, but when she gives one to her teenage son, things begin to go awry. I’ve seen critics compare the film to everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Black Mirror, and while they aren’t inaccurate, it doesn’t reach the heights of those projects. The performances are terrific (especially Emily Beechem in the lead role), but the film has some pacing issues. It’s an intriguing movie; not perfect but not terrible. Fans looking for something a little different might want to check it out.
  • Ancient Aliens: Season 12, Volume 2 – I can’t believe this show has been on for 12 seasons now. I don’t even know what to say about it anymore. Honestly, I find Ancient Aliens mildly interesting but that’s about the extent of it. It explores everything surrounding the possibility of aliens visiting earth in the past, and while some of it comes off as the theories of crazy people, most of it is approached from an academic point of view. I’ve made this complaint before, but while Ancient Aliens is easily watchable, the lack of any concrete answers or hard evidence can get frustrating, and it keeps the show from being something I can get it. Still, if you’re a die-hard fan, this latest season collection is available at a relatively low price.
  • The Great Alaskan Race: 3-Film Collection – This 3-film DVD collection includes a feature film and two documentaries, making it a nice package for people interested in the subject matter. The main highlight of the set is The Great Alaskan Race, a dramatic retelling of the story of Balto and Togo, two dogs who helped deliver medicine during an outbreak in Alaska back in 1925 (and the basis for the Kevin Bacon animated film Balto.) It stars Treat Williams, and while I understand it plays pretty fast and loose with the facts, it’s still an entertaining family movie. The set also includes Why Do They Run? and Lure of the North, two documentaries about sled dogs and their lives. Why Do They Run? is a 33-minute short film that shows how sled dogs live for running sleds. Lure of the North, meanwhile, focuses on a family of mushers in Minnesota who raise over 50 sled dogs. And on top of that, the set even comes with a few extra features, making this a content-packed release at an affordable price.
  • Whiskey Galore! and The Maggie: Two Films by Alexander Mackendrick – Film Movement continues its release of the influential Ealing Studios comedies with this double feature featuring two movies by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Alexander Mackendrick. This two-disc Blu-ray release gives us Whiskey Galore, a quirky tale about an island without whiskey, and what happens when a ship carrying 50,000 cases of whiskey lands there. The other film is The Maggie, a film about a cargo ship, its crew, and its latest client and their unusual cargo. Neither film features any well-known actors, but the direction by Mackendrick is sure and steady, and the films are both offbeat enough to elicit some laughs and stand out amongst their peers. In addition to the films, you get a nice collection of extra features including commentaries, documentaries, and an illustrated booklet.
  • Playmobil: The Movie – It’s easy to see why Universal decided to make a Playmobil movie; with the success of the Lego film franchise, having their own potential kids movie franchise in their stores would be a nice way to launch a new line of family flicks. Unfortunately, Playmobil was a massive bomb at the box office, meaning Universal will have to search elsewhere for its kids’ entertainment staple. But here’s the thing: the movie is perfectly fine. It’s got a terrific voice cast including Daniel Radcliffe, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Adam Lambert, and Kenan Thompson, and the story manages to fit in adventure, intrigue, spies, dinosaurs, robots, and more. Sure, it’s kind of like they took a bunch of other kids movies and threw them in a blender, but for younger viewers, it’s an easy way to kill some time.
  • The Adventures of A.R.I: My Robot Friend – Speaking of kids’ movies, we also get a new film this week with the unwieldy title of The Adventures of A.R.I: My Robot Friend. This family-friendly flick features a teenager whose dad works for a mysterious laboratory. Enter A.R.I. or Artificial Robotic Intelligence, a robot who can turn invisible and, of course, has to go on the run from agents who want him back. It’s a pretty tried-and-true story, and while A.R.I.’s designs are a little cartoonish, the special effects are actually pretty good. Sometimes familiarity is good, and it works here; the story isn’t overly challenging, and kids and their parents can enjoy it together.
  • Norm Of North: Family Vacation – It’s not easy to make a successful animated film these days if you’re not one of the big studios like Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks. I’m not sure the original Norm of the North qualified as a hit, although it did have a short run in theaters, but apparently it did well enough to warrant several sequels, albeit direct-to-video ones. This latest entry in the franchise sees King Norm’s crown stolen, leading him on a journey to recover it while also repairing the rifts in his family by framing it as a family vacation. The film is a decent-enough family movie that is geared for slightly younger viewers and is enjoyable enough to keep them entertained, but parents will probably cringe a little at the unsubtle messages and mediocre writing. I’m not sure this is a franchise that needs to keep pumping out films, personally.
  • Temblores (Tremors) – This Spanish-language drama has quietly won some prizes at indie festivals around the world. It is not, however, a feel-good film for a wide swath of audiences; instead, it will appeal mostly to people looking for some serious subject matter and alternative points of view. The film follows a rich family whose golden child, husband and father Pablo, announces that he’s leaving his family for another man. In an ultra-religious and prestigious family, this is obviously not taken well, and the film deals with the fallout from his decision. It’s a well-acted film with heavy themes, and while it was dealing with multiple worlds that I don’t fit into, I can appreciate its desire to explore the controversial subject matter. Fans of arthouse movies, melodrama, and foreign language film fans will probably be the people who will like this one the best.

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