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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Like A Boss, Just Mercy, 30 Rock, Ip Man 4, Looking For Alaska and more

Like a Boss – Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish, and Salma Hayek star in this 9 to 5-esque comedy that finds some laughs but also ups the obnoxious quotient to deliver mixed results overall. Byrne and Haddish play best friends who own a make-up company together and get an offer to sell to a huge make-up conglomerate run by Salma Hayek, who is less than the loving beauty icon she appears to be. Cue wacky hijinks as the two try to basically wrest control of their company back from Hayek, who goes into full rhymes-with-witch mode. Now, if you — like me — saw the trailer for this movie and thought it looked incredibly stupid but also like it had some laugh-out-loud funny parts, well… you’re exactly right. This is far from a great movie, but there were moments that made me laugh. And Byrne, Haddish, and Hayek give it their all, so it’s a high energy romp with some game performances. But for every joke that hits, there’s one that doesn’t, so take that for what it’s worth. It’s an easy diversion for 90 minutes, though, and sometimes that’s all you want.

Just Mercy – Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx star in this stirring drama based on the memoirs of the civil-rights activist and death row lawyer Bryan Stevenson. Jordan plays Stevenson as a young lawyer from the north who travels down south to represent a man (played by Jamie Foxx) accused of murder who maintains his innocence — and the evidence backs up his plea. However, institutional racism rears its ugly head and results in an innocent man on death row. From there, the film relies mainly on courtroom proceedings to tell the story but that doesn’t mean it’s dry or boring. Far from it, in fact; the story is riveting, only enhanced by terrific performances by both Jordan and Foxx, as well as utility player Rob Morgan, who shines. The fact that this story is based on true events makes it all the more compelling. It’s a shame the film didn’t fare better at the box office, as it’s definitely worth watching. Track it down.

30 Rock: The Complete Series30 Rock was one of those shows that seemed like everyone watched or talked about, but was never a runaway smash success. It never seemed like the ratings darling that a show like Modern Family or Friends was, but season after season, 30 Rock seemed like the show that all the cool kids watched. For my money, 30 Rock falls solidly into the “pretty good” category. I always liked watching it when it was on, but I never went out of my way to make sure I didn’t miss it. That said, I was pretty psyched to dive into 30 Rock: The Complete Series, because it gave me a chance to fill in all the gaps, which makes for a much more rewarding viewing experience. This is definitely a show that benefits from binge-watching. This new Complete Series collection from Mill Creek (available on either Blu-ray or DVD) contains all seven seasons on 20 discs, all for a pretty low price point. It also includes all of the original bonus features from the original DVD releases, and I’m almost positive this is the first time every season has been available on Blu-ray, so for fans, this is a great chance to own the whole show in one nice, compact set.

Ip Man 4: The Finale – Donnie Yen returns to the role he’s become most famous for at this point in his career, Ip Man, the real-life grandmaster who at one point trained Bruce Lee. When the first film came out, it seemed like a solid biopic of a man who was largely unknown to the general public but had a huge impact on the martial arts world. Now at this point, four movies in, I don’t know how much of what goes on in these films is based on true events anymore, but clearly historical accuracy isn’t the focus here. Instead, we get a drama/action hybrid that focuses on a man of learning and study who finds himself occasionally having to use his martial arts skills to defend his honor. Fans of Bruce Lee will like this outing as he has a decent part (I mean, Danny Chan playing Bruce lee, obviously) and it’s fun to see their interactions. It’s an engaging-enough movie series and a fine film for the fourth movie in a franchise, although I hope the series doesn’t feel the need to continue after a pretty solid trilogy plus an additional film.

Looking For Alaska – While the title implies a travelogue or PBS-style documentary, Looking for Alaska is actually a dramatic eight-episode Hulu miniseries based on a book by John Green, best known for authoring the smash hit The Fault in Our Stars. This adaptation was developed by Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Chuck, Gossip Girl, Marvel’s Runaways), who obviously has a pedigree in teen-based dramas. The story involves a teen from Orlando who travels to his father’s boarding school and becomes wrapped up in the social scene, including a good old-fashioned rich-kids-versus-everyone-else conflict that drives the show’s drama. There’s a lot of teens talking in that way that teenagers only talk like on TV, and things move along at a solid pace until a Big Event happens, which serves to further catalyze the story. Originally set to be a film, the eight-episode format works if you buy into the kids and their world; if not, you’ll probably find this show interminable. However, with some clever writing and good performances, my guess is that more people will get sucked into than not. Worth a look if you know what you’re getting into.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Step By Step: the Complete Seventh and Final 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, but Baywatch’s Brandon Call and My Two Dads’ Staci Keanan are on board as well.) This final season sees a couple of the kids off in college or in the working world, so it’s a slightly different vibe from some of the earlier seasons. That said, if you were a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy revisiting it now, especially as there was a long wait between the first five seasons released on DVD and the last two which both came out this year.
  • Alastair Sim’s School for Laughter: 4 Classic Comedies – I don’t know that Alastair Sim’s name is as well known in America as it is in the UK, but fans of classic comedies will be interested in this nice new Blu-ray collection regardless. This compact box set includes four comedy films starring Sim, most of which are making their Blu-ray debut. You get The Belles Of St. Trinian’s, which sees Sim playing both the headmistress and her brother(!); School For Scoundrels, based on the Stephen Potter books; Laughter In Paradise, which was a huge box office hit; and Hue And Cry which marks the first of the Ealing comedies and has a cool comic book plot device that seems a little ahead of its time to me. On top of all that, you get over two hours of bonus features, making this release a real treat for fans of Sim or just great British comedies in general. This is the second box set I’ve seen like this come out of Film Movement, and I have to say, I’m very impressed with their efforts so far. A nice collection at an affordable price point, featuring noteworthy movies that are harder to find than they should be.
  • Ultraman X: The Movie – Mill Creek continues its top notch Blu-ray releases of the entire Ultraman series with this movie, which debut on Blu-ray. Ultraman X: The Movie is clearly one of the more modern releases, as the catalyst for the story is a reality TV special. It — of course — quickly goes wrong and ultimately unleashes a monster called Zaigorg. Bring on Ultraman… or Ultramen, really, as this is not solely a solo hero outing. There’s plenty of action, and like most of the Ultraman films, it’s a little bit silly, a little bit fun, a little bit action-packed, and a little-bit cheesy. However, fans of the 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 this a big hit for Ultrafans.
  • Xavier Riddle And The Secret Museum: Meet Xavier! – PBS’s latest kids series is the fun and charming Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, which is based on the creations of Chris Elioupolos, a popular cartoonist in the comic book world for the past couple of decades. I’ve been familiar with Eliopoulos’s work for years, so I was excited to see his distinctive art style brought to life via animation. This first DVD collection features three episodes, with each one focusing on a different historical figure who comes to life and teaches the kids valuable lessons. In this trio of episodes, we meet Madame Curie, George Washington Carver, and Charles Dickens, all brought to life in that inimitable Eliopoulos style. It’s a fun show, and I think kids will really dig it.
  • Indie Spotlight – This week, we have a number of indie releases making their home video debut. First up is Strike, a CGI animated kids film. This one focuses on a mole named Mungo who just wants to play soccer — and help his community at the same time. Of course, there’s a town mine and an evil boss, and things roll out in the typical kids-film way, with some action, some humor, and some Lessons Learned. It’s a perfectly serviceable film for kids; nothing special and not on the par of big budget fare from Disney or Dreamworks, but for younger kids, it’s an easy way to kill some time. Next up is From Iceland to Eden, a weird hybrid of foreign film/heist movie/rom-com/drama. The story follows a young man and woman, both drug users and small time dealers, who want to escape their lives and start over again. They go on the run to Paradise, or Eden, but since they’re funding their trip with ill-gotten gains from a full-time bad guy, there are a number of people out to stop them from getting where they’re going. It’s an interesting film, occasionally a bit chaotic, but with some game performances and a few charming moments. I suspect it will appeal to a younger demographic, at least ones who don’t mind subtitles. Following that, we have Goldie. Is it a hard-hitting drama? Is it a dance film? Well, yes. The story follows Goldie, an aspiring hip-hop dancer whose mother ends up in jail, leaving Goldie to fight with social services trying to keep her two younger sisters together with her. The film stars Slick Woods, a model and Instagram influencer, in her first film role, and she does it justice, even if she’s not quite an acting powerhouse yet. This isn’t really my kind of film, but people who like these types of dance-dramas will enjoy it. Next up is Jungle Queen: 2k Restored Special Edition, a collection of classic Hollywood short serials from 1945. This series gives you 13 episodes which run about 3 1/2 hours and have been restored from a 2K scan for improved picture quality. The World War II adventure story sees Nazis trying to rally African tribespeople against British soldiers. Two Americans and a young woman searching for her lost explorer father join the fray, and the result is somewhat overwrought action and melodrama. It’s hard to judge this entirely by today’s standards. With its extended running length and dated production values, there are times where it drags a bit, but it also has moments that can be a lot of fun in that golden-oldies serial adventure kind of way. Fans of the genre will like this release. Finally, we have a documentary to wrap things up. The Vinyl Revival is a new film documenting vinyl records’ rise once again as the music listening format of choice among young people, and not just as a collecting haven for old white dudes. Featuring interviews from musicians and other talking heads, it’s an interesting-enough movie for music fans. I don’t know that this was a subject matter that was so baffling that it needed an entire film dedicated to it, but as it runs under an hour, it’s a quick and easy watch.

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