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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Knives Out, Spies In Disguise, Charlie’s Angels, Superman: Red Son, A Hidden Life and more

Knives Out – One of 2019’s most delightful films, Knives Out proves that Rian Johnson can still be a great filmmaker, despite what Star Wars: The Last Jedi might have you believe. With an all-star cast including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, and Ana de Armas, the film shines just thanks to the talent on screen. Then you add to it a delicious whodunit wrapped in twists and turns and a fantastic new character in Daniel Craig’s detective Benoit Blanc, and the result is a movie that is fun and engaging and exciting and humorous. Simply put, I LOVED Knives Out. You should absolutely track it down and watch it ASAP. Knives Out comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the 4K presentation is superb. Color saturation is bright and vivid, although this isn’t a terribly colorful film. Image clarity is sharp and black levels are deep and rich. The surround soundtrack does a lot with a little, as this is a film that’s driven by dialogue more than anything else, but there are nuances that give the surround channels a nice workout. A very strong presentation of a terrific film.

Spies in Disguise – I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Spies in Disguise. As much as I like Tom Holland and Will Smith (the main voice actors in the film), the trailer just didn’t do that much for me. I mean, a spy turned into a pigeon? I mean, sure, I guess that can be entertaining. Well, I’m happy to report that I liked Spies in Disguise much more than I expected to. Even better, both of my kids liked it more than they expected to, as well. It’s not a classic; it’s not the kind of film we’re going to be talking about 20 years from now. But there are some funny jokes, the characters grow on you, and there are some pretty fun action sequences. It’s a good way to distract yourself and escape from reality without having to think for 90 minutes. Spies in Disguise comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the 4K presentation is top-notch. 4K really shines in the animated world, filling your screen with incredibly vibrant colors (and this is an extremely colorful film, especially when the glitter hits!) And razor-sharp details. The surround soundtrack is constantly active, filling each speaker with discrete sounds that keep the film active at all times. It’s a fantastic presentation of a fun film.

Charlie’s Angels – It’s hard to think of a bigger box-office bomb in recent history than Charlie’s Angels. And I’m not going to get into the reasons why it might have failed here (although I do think poor marketing was a big part of it); the real question is, is the film any good? And actually, it is. Sure, I don’t love Kristen Stewart any more than the next person, but the combination of her and Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska work well together, and Patrick Stewart and Elizabeth Banks are welcome additions to the supporting cast. The film has some good action sequences and while it’s not without flaws, it certainly didn’t deserve the savagery it got on the internet. It’s an easily watchable throwaway film for an hour and a half. Charlie’s Angels comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the 4K presentation does a lot with the film. It looks sharp and clear and vibrant, and the soundtrack brings the action scenes to life quite nicely in all the satellite channels. If you’re going to go in on this film, this is the way to do it.

Superman: Red Son – I used to love all of the DC Animated movies, but over the past few years they’ve become largely stale and repetitive. I’m happy to say that Superman: Red Son (based on the excellent graphic novel by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson & Killian Plunkett) bucks that trend. Telling an alternate history that explores what would have happened if Superman’s rocket from Krypton had landed in Russia, Red Son is fantastic; dark, moody, thrilling, and with new twists on characters we love. I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises, but suffice it to say, this is the most interesting Superman movie we’ve seen in years. Superman: Red Son comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the 4K presentation looks great. The film’s color palette is purposefully muted, but there’s a richness to the colors that gives the film a real weight. The black levels and outlines are also inky and rich, adding even more weight to the picture, which fits the mood of the film. The surround soundtrack is robust and effective; not particularly nuanced but with a nice low end and some good rear channel usage during the actions scenes. It’s not a reference-level disc, but it looks and sounds really good overall.

A Hidden Life – I don’t understand how they keep letting Terrence Malick make films. I mean, I get that critics like them, but they must cost a fortune and they never seem to make money at the box office. For my money, I also don’t get it because I don’t get him. Why can’t he make a movie that’s under three hours? Why are they so incredibly boring? A Hidden Life, which I thought I might enjoy because I thought the story was intriguing, is way too long and too boring. Yes, there are good performances and of course, the film is shot beautifully, but it just takes forever to get going anywhere. The film tells the true story of a man in World War II Austria who is conscripted into Nazi service and refuses to comply, causing great risk to himself and his family. That’s a story that SHOULD be told. I just wish literally any other director had chosen to tell it.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Universal Horror Collection: Volume 4 – Universal Studios has done a great job of packaging up the heavy hitters from their Universal Monsters franchise, such as the classic Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolfman movies, but they’ve largely ignored some of their less famous outings. Smartly, they’ve licensed out some of their more cultish hits to Shout Factory for the excellent Universal Horror Collection, which returns with its fourth volume this week. This terrific collection for completists gives us four classic horror films on Blu-ray for the first time: Night Key (Starring Boris Karloff), Night Monster (starring Bela Lugosi), The Climax (starring Boris Karloff), and House of Horrors (starring Rondo Hatton). Whereas the first volume had the common thread all the films starred Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, the third set veered away from that, although this fourth collection seems to have dipped back into that well. Each film gets its own disc, and the package is housed in a nice slipcover. I’m very much looking forward to Volume 5 and I hope this series continues for a long time.
  • Abigail – This fantasy adventure is an intriguing film, although I wonder how many people are going to want to watch it considering the subject matter. From the official description: “When townspeople start dying from a mysterious illness, Abigail’s town closes itself off from the outside world and takes away everyone infected with the disease, including Abigail’s beloved father, to be executed. Ten years later, as she’s trying to escape the town’s security forces, Abby uncovers a shocking truth – her father may still be alive.” Now, obviously, this is a magical steampunk adventure, so it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the current outbreak of Coronavirus, but the idea of infected people being taken off to be executed might turn some viewers off. With that out of the way, though, the bigger obstacle to this film’s success is that it just isn’t all that great. It’s more than a little slow, the plot is occasionally confounding, and the action isn’t enough to keep you engaged. Steampunk fans might find something to like here, but it wasn’t for me.
  • Intrigo: Death of an Author – Ben Kingsley stars in this international thriller about an author, a murder (maybe?) and husbands and wives. I can’t really get into the plot for two reasons: for one, I don’t want to spoil any of the mystery of the film. Second, I cannot say I entirely understood it. The film is murky and labyrinthine and slow and dark, and I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on at all times. Kingsley does give a somewhat restrained performance, which is good, but this one of those films that’s all mood and atmosphere and seems to be trying hard to one more than it needs to be. Arthouse film fans might take to it, but I sure didn’t.
  • Ultraman Orb: The Movie & Ultraman Geed: The Movie – Mill Creek continues its top notch Blu-ray releases of the entire Ultraman series with these two movies, both of which debut on Blu-ray. Ultraman Orb: The Movie sees a mysterious object delivered to the SSP that turns out to be the X Deviser in search of a new human host. This leads to an alien attack, a space witch, and lots of crazy action. Meanwhile, Ultraman Geed: The Movie sees an even bigger alien threat menacing earth, with Orb, Zero, and Geed at various stages trying to save the planet. Both of these films show the obvious influence that Ultraman had on the Power Rangers phenomenon. They’re a little bit silly, a little bit fun, a little bit action-packed, and a little-bit cheesy, but fans ofd there franchise will dig these newer films in a decades-old series. With these new Blu-ray releases, you get the films themselves along with digital copies at a low price point, making these a big hit for Ultrafans.
  • Verotika – Back in the ‘90s rocker Glenn Danzig of the Misfits launched a comic book company that was known for two things: an incredibly controversial erotic horror anthology called Verotika, and a series of comics based on the paintings of master fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. Now, Danzig himself has created a film based on his own anthology, also called Verotika, that is a three-story low-budget horror film. I’m going to go ahead and say you have to be a certain kind of film fan to enjoy this film: it’s Z-grade quality moviemaking filled with blood, gore, and nudity. Some of the stories make sense, others less so. The anthology hostess is played by a porn star (Kayden Kross). Make of that what you will, but it’s a pretty bat-guano crazy affair. On the plus side, the home video release comes with both a Blu-ray and a DVD, as well as a soundtrack CD including The Misfits and several other hard punk legends.
  • 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 a few Blu-ray releases. The Nines is an intriguing, undersign film starring Ryan Reynolds and Hope Davis, each playing three different characters who are connected in some way. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s fun and different and Reynolds shines I the lead roles. Following that is a nice Blu-ray double feature starring Wesley Snipes. The Contractor/The Fan: Double Feature. While The Contractor is a pretty typical direct-to-video action flick, The Fan is an enjoyable thriller starring Robert de Niro as a deranged fan stalking Snipes’ superstar athlete. A nice double bill for a low price. Next up, we have Fit to Kill and Hard Hunted, Mill Creek’s latest entries from filmmaker Andy Sidaris. Sidaris is a low-budget filmmaker with a cult following thanks to his formula of gunfights, nudity, and exploding helicopters. Neither of them are great films, but they check all the boxes (and Fit to Kill features a performance from Julie Strain.) They’re fun, in a certain way. Finally, The Benji Movie Collection is a nice DVD set that includes Benji (the original), For The Love of Benji, Benji: Off The Leash, and Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story, all in one low-priced set. The films have been remastered and include digital copies, which makes this a really nice set.
  • Indie Spotlight – This week, we have a number of new indie releases hitting shelves. First up is Stuffed, a fascinating documentary on taxidermy and the wide range of taxidermists and their personalities. This isn’t just a film about stuffing animals, trust me. Think Gates of Heaven, but with a different kind of dead animal. Next up is While You Live, Shine, an award-winning documentary that follows Chris King, an “American music expert fascinated by early recordings of melancholy blues and folk from the start of the twentieth century” on a mission to explore and preserve Greek music, some of the oldest music in the world. I don’t always love this kind of movie, but this one has a nice amount of information but also an infectious spirit that makes it more enjoyable than I expected. Moving into the dramatic realm, Clay Pigeon is a classic film being released on DVD for the first time from MVD Visual. Starring Telly Savalas, Robert Vaughn, and Burgess Meredith, the film is an early ‘70s actioner with B-movie overtones about an army vet, a CIA operative, and a drug dealer at odds with each other. It’s certainly a bit dated, but the combination of Savalas, Vaughn, and Meredith makes the film a fun watch, and I’m glad it’s available on home video now. Switching gears, Ghost Killers Vs. Bloody Mary is a low-budget horror film/found footage parody which sees a group of internet-fame-seeking YouTubers searching a high school for a ghost named Bloody Mary, only to find out she actually does exist. Cheap thrills and easy deaths follow, predictably. Finally, Christian Death: Death Club CD & DVD Combo is for you metalhead out there. It’s a live concert from 1990 featuring the band Christian Death, and it comes with a live concert DVD that matches the CD. This isn’t my type of music, so I can’t objectively review the music, but I imagine if you’re a fan of Christian Death, this “official bootleg” will be a must-have, especially since it gives you audio and video versions of the concert.

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