Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Gladiator, Friday the 13th, Sniper: Assassin’s End, LEGO Shazam, and more

Gladiator: 20th Anniversary Edition – Paramount has been hit or miss with some of their recent catalog titles for me, but this new 4K Ultra HD 20th Anniversary Edition of Gladiator shows that they can really do a great job when they want to. Now, personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Gladiator. I’m not a giant Ridley Scott aficionado, and I’ve always felt Gladiator is a bit heavy-handed. However, watching it again for the first time in many years — especially in the new premium format — I was extremely impressed but the film’s scope, splendor, and visuals. It’s still not my favorite movie, but I can certainly appreciate the grandeur of it. Gladiator makes its 4K Ultra HD debut in a nicely packaged steelbook with beautiful cover art. The set also includes the film on Blu-ray and a Digital Copy, which is something Paramount has been stingy with in regards to their catalog titles. The 4K transfer is gorgeous; if ever there was a filmmaker whose works deserved the 4K treatment, it’s Ridley Scott, who may have many faults as a filmmaker, but awe-inspiring cinematography is never one of them. The surround soundtrack is also excellent, bringing the roar of the crowds (and the tigers) to life and filling in your living room with sound from every direction. I’ve been vocal in my criticisms of some of Paramount’s recent catalog releases, but this one gets everything right.

Friday the 13th: 40th Anniversary Edition – While not a 4K release (and why not, Paramount?) the studio also has another notable catalog releases out this week: the Friday the 13th 40th Anniversary Edition. Once again packaged in a sweet-looking steelbook case, this Blu-ray release includes a digital copy as well, which is exactly right. Now, here’s the thing: yes, this is the Uncut version of Friday the 13th, which adds in less than a minute of footage that was slightly too gory for the original release. And yes, this version does come with a very nice collection of extra features. But all of those things have been available before. There isn’t actually any new content on this disc. The main attractions, then, are the beautiful collector’s packaging and the digital copy. Now, I’m not faulting Paramount for that; honestly, after 40 years, I think they’ve pretty much-mined everything they can in terms of F13 making-of material. What’s really left to say? So if you don’t already have the original Friday the 13th in your home video collection, this is the version to get!

LEGO Shazam: Magic & Monsters – It’s been a while since we’ve had a new LEGO DC Superheroes movie on home video, so I was excited to see LEGO Shazam: Magic & Monsters. It’s nice to see DC giving the focus to someone other than the big three (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman), and I’m glad they went for the feature-length film instead of the short 26-minute films they sometimes do. This is basically another take on the Shazam origin/intro tale (and the other DC Superheroes do show up) but it’s told with not just the LEGO visual style, but also the LEGO sense of humor. This isn’t meant to be a dark and serious superhero epic; instead, it’s a light and fun LEGO superhero action-comedy. Kids will love it and adults will enjoy the heck out of it, too. Plus, the disc comes with an exclusive LEGO Shazam minifigure, which was a HUGE bonus for my son, who is obsessed with LEGO minifigures! Lots of fun!

Sniper: Assassin’s End – The Sniper series continues with the latest direct-to-video entry. I’ve been a huge fan of this series since the beginning, starting with the original Tom Berenger/Billy Zane theatrical release. When Sony rebooted the franchise with Chad Michael Collins in the lead role, I started following it again and have really enjoyed every entry, especially when they brought Tom Berenger back in as his original character. In this latest outing, sniper Brandon Beckett is framed for an assassination and has to go on the run, with the help of his dad, sniper Thomas Beckett. It’s a classic action movie story, with the good guy on the run, being hunted by both an enemy sniper and the good guys. This series continues to impress me; for being a direct-to-video series, they look great, feature real action sequences, and bring us action-filled stories that re exciting and enjoyable. As usual, Chad Michael Collins is terrific in the lead role, and seeing him and Berenger team-up is always fun. It’s old-school action in the best way!

South Park: The Complete Twenty-Third Season – I’ve never been an overly huge South Park fan (Season 23 is out on Blu-ray and DVD this week. 23 Seasons… Holy cow!!), but I always give it a try when it comes out on DVD (or in this case, Blu-ray) to see what I’ve been missing. Everyone goes on about how great their parodies are, but I’ve never found the show that funny. And, well, I still don’t. They get their parodies on the air quick, but the show is still mostly just construction paper-looking cutouts of kids swearing. Yay. I may not get this show, but fans will be happy to have another season’s worth of episodes to revisit. And hey, I guess that’s a good thing.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Ultraman Ace: The Complete Series – Mill Creek continues its top notch Blu-ray releases of the entire Ultraman series with Ultraman Ace: The Complete Series, which comes out both in standard packaging and a super-cool Steelbook case. This is the fifth series of Ultraman shows, from the early 1970s, and this set includes all 52 episodes. In a way, this is like the Avengers of the Ultraman franchise, in that in addition to Ultraman Ace, we also see all of the previous Ultramen characters showing it up, giving it a super-group sort of feel to it. Again, the influence Ultraman had on shows like Power Rangers is evident here, so if you’re a fan of the Power Rangers, I strongly recommend you go back and see the genesis for it with shows like Ultraman Ace. With these new Blu-ray releases, you get all 52 episodes on Blu-ray along with digital copies at a low price point, making this a big hit for Ultrafans.
  • Blue’s Clues & You – The latest iteration of Blue’s Clues sees Blue the dog and his newest friend, the purple-striped-shirt-wearing Josh, as they teach your preschoolers about everything pre-schooler’s need to know: numbers, letters, imagination, and the like. This first DVD of the new show is available exclusively at Wal-mart, and it features four episodes for your kids to enjoy which will keep them busy for about 90 minutes total. There are a couple of short extra features, and since some of them deal with sign language, the disc also includes 8 American Sign Language flash cards packaged inside the DVD case. My kids are well past their Blue’s Clues days, but for parents with little ones toddling around, this is a nice collection of a wholesome show for a low price. Hard to beat that!
  • Enemy Gold & The Dallas Connection – This week we have the next two Blu-ray debuts of two movies from the collection Mill Creek has been bringing us of B-movie impresario Andy Sidaris. I believe these mark the 7th and 8th releases in the line: Enemy Gold and The Dallas Connection. Sidaris has developed a huge cult following by spending his career making low-budget movies with scantily clad female secret agent-types getting into crazy adventures in exotic locales. Since last year, Mill Creek has been releasing each of them on Blu-ray for the first time. Enemy Gold stars Julie Strain and is only produced by Andy Sidaris, instead directed by Christian Drew Sidaris, who I assume is his son. Meanwhile, The Dallas Connection also stars Julie Strain and is also direct ted by C.D. Sidaris, so there’s not a ton of difference between the two, with just some different bad guys and locations (and somewhat different stories, I guess, although these aren’t exactly plot-heavy films). Still, these are hard films not to have fun with, so if you’re a Sidaris fan, your next two purchases are right here.
  • Mill Creek Collections – Mill Creek specializes in low-price-point catalog releases and collections, and they have two multi-film collections this week: A Deadly Place: 10 Frightening Films and Once Upon: A Fantasy Film Collection. A Deadly Place gives us ten lesser-known horror films and TV movies from 1977 and 2000, with titles such as Cardiac Arrest, Day of the Animals, Dead Hate the Living, Deadly Instincts, Don’t Go in the House, Grim, Shrunken Heads, Tunnels, With Friends Like These, and You’re Driving Me Crazy. These are all low-budget B-movie affairs, so while nothing in the set is all that great, it’s a good, cheap set for fans of B-movie fare. Once Upon… includes ten fantasy film, mostly TV movies, including The Magic Door, The Last Leprechaun, Merlin: The Return, Dazzle, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Fairy King of Ar, The Little Unicorn, The Excalibur Kid, Dragonworld: The Legend Continues, and The Secret Kingdom. Again, there’s nothing here that stands out as a true gem, but it’s hard to argue with some 20+ hours of programming for 10 or 15 bucks.
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up this week, we have a number of new Indie releases for those of you looking for something a little more artsy or more challenging than your major studio fare. First up, we have A Good Woman is Hard to Find, which features a fantastic performance by Sarah Bolger. The film is a bit of a slow-burn thriller which sees Bolger as a widowed mom (who’s husband was murdered) end up with the wrong crowd of drug dealers and have to take matters into her own hands. It has some exciting moments and some really slow ,moments, so the pacing is inconsistent, but it’s entertaining enough, and Bolger brings a searing intensity to her role that is hypnotic. Next up is And Then We Danced, which I’m pretty sure marks the first Georgian film I’ve ever reviewed. It’s a drama set in the world of ballet and it focuses on an illicit same-sex romance next to a professional rivalry, all set in Georgia (the one in Russia, not the US) where such passions do not have the same freedoms as we do here. It’s a dark film with an undercurrent of hope, and while I’m not big on dancing-based material, there are some stunning dance sequences and a serious drama all together here, so I am sure there is an audience for it. Next we have Dark Fortune, a dark psychological trauma dealing with PTSD, abuse, and other cheerful subjects. This German film sees a child psychiatrist bonding with her young patient, who was the only survivor of a car crash that wiped out his immediate family. As she becomes closer to him, she begins to discover that his psychological scars go much deeper than that. This is a deep dramatic film with some hard-to-watch parts, and fans of dark subject matter will enjoy it, as it’s well made, but it was a bit too much for me to wholly embrace. Finally, we have Traditional Wild America: Duck Hunting On The Santee Delta, which is really, truly only for duck hunters or hunting aficionados. If the idea of listening to three fellas talk about hunting and watching them shoot and retrieve ducks sounds appealing to you, this will be right up your alley. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing else here to attract you to it. It is what it is, and what it is is for hunters. You get a little less than an hour of hunting stuff for a pretty low price. Maybe a good gift for the hunter in your family.

Next PostPrevious Post