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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Trolls World Tour, The Hunt, War of the Worlds, That’ll Be The Day, and more

War of the Worlds

Trolls World Tour – One of the first casualties of the Coronavirus cancelling movies at movie theaters, Trolls World Tour makes its home video debut after being able to rent via Early Access for the past couple of months. Now, I know the first Trolls movie didn’t get the critical acclaim that movies like Pixar’s flicks typically do, but it’s a favorite in our household. The humor is goofy and funny, the characters are endearing, and the songs are fantastic. So I was excited to watch Trolls World Tour, even if my expectations were pretty tempered. Luckily, while TWT might not be a masterpiece, it’s still an awful lot of fun. The characters are all back, and so is that same sense of goofiness mixed with earnestness, and there is a good mix of jokes that are pop-culture savvy and just good old fashioned humor. And the songs are catchy once again, which makes the whole thing a bright, loud, glittery batch of fun. Recommended for households with young kids and for people who just enjoyed the first film.

The Hunt – Is The Hunt the most cursed movie of all time? Originally set to be released in late 2019, this film about people hunting other people was yanked just weeks before its release due to a touchy subject matter in the wake of another mass shooting. It finally got rescheduled for theaters in March 2020, just in time to open for a few days before the Coronavirus shut theaters down. Well, now the film has been released on video, and even with that, the studio reached out to us reviewers and said, feel free to run this review when you are comfortable with it, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. I just can’t think of another movie that’s had as hard a time getting released as this one. Which is a shame, because it is a fun movie. I’ll give it credit for poking fun at both sides of the political spectrum: both conservatives and liberals get the brunt of the joke here. My main issue with the film is that there are several scenes that are way more gory than they need to be. I just don’t think The Hunt is THAT kind of film, and there are a couple of scenes that felt like the gore went overboard for no real reason. Aside from that, there’s some really sharp political satire mixed in with a good thriller here, and it’s an enjoyable 90-minute romp.

War of the Worlds – The Criterion Collection brings one of my favorite movies to their hallowed halls, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. I remember watching this movie when I was a kid and it absolutely enthralled me; I think it was one of the very first science fiction films I ever saw, and it launched a lifelong love affair with H. G. Wells’ story of the Martians invading earth, which eventually became a passion for other things like Mars Attacks and Close Encounters and so much more. Now, Criterion gives us a new restored and remastered version of the 1953 classic, and it comes loaded with extras, making this the best home video version of the film yet. The movie itself remains a taut masterpiece of sci-fi, with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson trying to survive a Martian invasion over the course of a well-paced 85 minutes. Then you add to that the fact that the picture and sound are better than ever before, and the supplements include Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 radio broadcast, an interview between Orson Welles and H. G. Wells, multiple documentary features, and much more, and the end result is magic. This is a must-have for any sci-fi fan!

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Go Go Mania & That’ll Be The Day – Kino Lorber has two new music-themed releases out this month. The first is a true music release, Go Go Mania, a music film from the 1960s that features no less than The Beatles (performing just a couple of songs) as well as other acts like Herman’s Hermits, The Animals, The Spencer Davis Group, and more. In just over an hour, we get to hear pop-rock ditties from 16 different acts, all in color. These are sort of like early music videos, with each act on a staged set-up, singing with no microphones and unplugged guitars and such. The Beatles’ two live numbers that bookend the film are clearly add-ons. There are a number of unknown acts and songs, making this something of a mixed bag, but it’s a pretty interesting experience nonetheless. Following that, we have That’ll Be The Day, a drama set in the world of Rock ’n’ Roll that features performances by no less than Ringo Starr and Keith Moon! The film is rumored to be based on young John Lennon’s life (and there are some parallels, but also some differences) and while it’s not exactly a great film, it is fascinating to see Starr and Moon in acting roles in a film about the birth of rock and roll. Both of these films are making their Blu-ray debuts, and both come with commentary tracks by music journalist Bryan Reesman (along with Jeff Slate on Go Go Mania), who does numerous commentaries for Kino Lorber and has become one of my favorite commentarians. Fans of the music and culture of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s would do well to check these releases out.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Season 13 – The popular show returns! By now you know that Murdoch Mysteries is a forensic procedural, but it’s set in turn of the century Toronto, right on the cusp of the age of scientific discovery. This setting gives it a feel that’s different from your typical NCIS or Criminal Minds show, plus the fact that it’s set in Canada gives it a unique charm of its own. This season gives us 18 episodes and sees the gang dealing with issues from the time period: suffrage, unions, stamp collecting, theater, and more. The show is fun and endearing, filled with good mysteries, excellent acting, great guest stars (this season sees roles by Colin Mochrie and Colm Feore), and amazing period-era production values. Mystery fans, if you STILL haven’t checked out Murdoch Mysteries, what are you waiting for?
  • Burden – Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker and Andrea Riseborough star in this drama about the true story of Mike Burden, a young man who rose through the ranks of the KKK in short order. When he finds a new love in his life, he realizes that he needs to turn his life around, and with the help of an African American religious leader and social activist (played by Forest Whitaker.) Okay, first the good: the film features some pretty stellar performances and I think this is an important story to tell, especially in this day and age. It’s important for people to know they can reject bigotry and racism and come out the other side okay. Those are the things I really liked about the film. On the flip side, at a full two hours in length, the film’s pacing suffers somewhat. There are moments that are moving and memorable, and there are moments where the film crawls along I think a tighter edit with maybe 20 minutes less included would have made a more impactful film. That said, it’s still a worthwhile viewing experience.
  • Belzebuth – This newest Shudder horror original plays fast and loose with the concept of the second coming to craft a somewhat original take on the whole demons/antichrist/religious imagery horror genre. The film stars Tobin Bell (of the Saw franchise) and Joaquin Cosio (who I’m not familiar with but turns in a pretty darn good performance), and while the logic of the film might not add up at all times, I’ll say that I liked that it took a genre which has been done to death and at least tried to do something different with it. It’s not a home run, but it’s an easy enough way to kill 90 minutes.
  • Sweating Bullets: 10 Action-Packed Movies – Mill Creek brings us one of their patented 10-film collections, which gives you ten B-movies on a couple of DVDs all at a super-low price. This collection, despite featuring a few known actors such as Sandra Bullock, Steve Buscemi, Mickey Rourke, and Malcolm McDowall, is made up almost entirely of movies your never heard of before. Here’s the complete list: Across the Line, Fatal Combat, Inner Action, Fugitive Rage, Maximum Revenge, Me and the Mob, The Night Never Sleeps, Rapid Assault, Shades, and Yesterday’s Target. What’s weird is that 9 of the 10 films came out between 1994 and 2000, and then you have The Night Never Sleeps, which was released in 2012. It’s an odd outlier. Most of these are TV movies or TV-movie quality, but considering the names involved and the fact that you can get 10 movies for under 10 bucks means it could be a fun pick-up for the right kind of audience.
  • The Wild Kratts: Around the World Adventures – When my kids were little The Wild Kratts was a favorite in our house. Take animal powers, superhero costumes, a healthy dose of animation, and likable lead characters courtesy of the real-life Kratt Brothers, and the show was that perfect mix of entertainment for the little ones without making the parents want to lose their minds. For the most part, the Wild Kratts episodes have been released in four or five-episode collections, but as parents are facing a summer at home with kids and limited traveling options thanks to the Coronavirus, PBS Kids has brought us a new Wild Kratts collection: Around the World Adventures. This great new collection features three discs and a whopping TEN hours of episodes! I mean, how can you beat that? Parents, if your kids like Wild Kratts (or even if they haven’t discovered them yet), you can’t beat this release for sheer amount of content at a budget price.
  • PBS Spotlight – PBS has four new documentary features out this week, three of which have a scene or nature three to them. First up we have Nova: The Truth About Fat, an hour-long episode about, well fat. But it looks at it through a scientific lens; how do our bodies interact with it? Can we control it? What is it? It’s an interesting-enough look at something that affects every single one of us, yet so few of us understand. Full disclosure, it’s not the most enthralling program I’ve watched this week, but it does have some good information in it. Next up is Nova: Cuba’s Cancer Hope, another highly informative and mildly entertaining educational hour. This one looks at some of the cancer treatments that have been developed in Cuba since America placed them under embargo, meaning all their research has been done independently of the US, leading to some new and promising breakthroughs. Honestly, I knew nothing about this, so I found it a little fascinating, but it also has some dry places. Moving into the natural world, we have Nature: Remarkable Rabbits, a fun hour filled with footage of more flossy-eared (and some not so flopsy-eared) rabbits than you can shake a carrot at. This hour-long show looks at the different species of rabbit, their environmental struggles, and more, and there’s lots of interesting footage. Finally, moving into the historical side of things, we have The Queen at War. This hour-long program looks at Queen Elizabeth and how her experiences as a young teenager during World War II shaped her life and her rule. I’m not a huge history buff per se, but the brief running time and solid material results in a pretty engaging show.
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up the week, we have a few new independent features out this week, starting with a terrific documentary biography of noted film critic Pauline Kael. What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael is narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker and it delves into the life and career of the famed New Yorker film critic and best-selling author. Rather than the typical talking heads bio, however, the film uses mostly Kael’s writings, brought to life by Parker, paired with imagery from Kael’s life and work, to tell her story. It’s an interesting approach, and while it isn’t the most comprehensive version of her biography we might have gotten, it is properly artistic. Next up is The Carer, starring Brian Cox and Emilia Fox, with a small role by the late Sir Roger Moore. This is an interesting film, with Cox playing a terminally ill, aging actor who gets a new foreign nurse who secretly longs to be an actress. Cue suspicious family members, reaffirmation of life, and a few other tropes from these kinds of dramas, but that doesn’t take away from an effective story and some great performances. The film is brisk, coming in just under 90 minutes, making it a quick and enjoyable watch overall. Following that we have Hands of God, originally called Throwing Bombs in Baghdad and produced by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón. This film is the true story of the Iraqi Olympic boxing team, and their endless struggles to make it to qualifying for the Olympics. It’s a quick-moving underdog story, and even knowing the ending (no spoilers here, though!) won’t ruin watching the human spirit overcome some true obstacles that would defeat lesser people. Finally, we have The Etruscan Smile, which sees Brian Cox in a lead role for the second time this week, although this time he’s accompanied by Rosanna Arquette, Thora Birch, and JJ Feild. It’s a little funny that these two movies are out at the same time, as Cox once again plays an ailing older man, this time traveling from Scotland to San Francisco for treatment and to stay with his son, but he once again finds his life reaffirmed, this time by his infant grandson. Ultimately, it’s quite a different film from The Carer (and a pretty good one, which is nice), but the similarity in the overarching themes is striking.

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