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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Jack Ryan, NCIS, Promare, House of Hummingbird, Sukiyaki Western Django, and more

Jack Ryan: Season 2 – The hit Amazon Prime series returns to Blu-ray and DVD this week for those of you who aren’t Prime subscribers. While I enjoyed the Jack Ryan movies, I have to say that the whole world of Tom Clancy fiction generally isn’t my favorite genre. This show features John Krasinski as Jack Ryan, and he’s quite likable in the lead role, but there’s a lot of techno-wizardry, terrorism, and envelope-pushing as the show tries to be timely and gritty. It’s perfectly good television, and it’s extremely well made, I just couldn’t get all that excited about it. This season sees Ryan head down to South America, and it also sees Noomi Rapace join the cast, and she’s always a welcome addition. I might have liked this season better than the first one, even if it still isn’t quite my favorite.

NCIS: The Seventeenth Season & Hawaii Five-O: The Final Season – CBS has two new hit TV shows on DVD this week. First up is NCIS, which just never seems to end. NCIS has been a constant presence on the television landscape for almost two decades now. This season has a cool throughline story that features a terrorist known as Sahar, and while you still get your mystery-of-the-week episodes, the “mythology” arc episodes were the more interesting ones for me. Also, longtime fans will be thrilled by the return of a fan-favorite character! Then we have the final episode of Hawaii Five-O. While the show has changes a lot of cast members since the early seasons, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan remained throughout the show’s decade-long run, keeping some character continuity and ensuring the show had likable leads for its tenure. This season doesn’t shake things up too much other than bringing some storylines and character arcs to a close. If you’ve been a fan of the show, you’ll probably want to see how it all wraps up (plus the Magnum crossover episodes are fun!)

Promare: Collector’s Edition – A regular edition of the anime film Promare came out just a few months ago, but now, I guess it’s proven so popular that we’re getting a nice new Collector’s Edition. Basically, the film takes place a few decades after a mutant race called the Burnish burned half of the earth, and now there are resistance cells popping up, which leads us to our main characters, Galo and Lia, who may or may not clash instantly. The film is definitely anime, but it has a unique look and feel to it; the animation style isn’t quite the anime style you’re used to. It’s… well, it’s hard to describe in words, but it’s somehow both softer and more angular at the same time. I’m always a little hit or miss with anime films, and this one is interesting enough. There are some fun sequences of action, but I can’t say I got too wrapped up in it. Anime fans looking for a new fix will probably want to give it a whirl, though. For those of you who missed the first offering or are super-fans, this new version includes the movie on Blu-ray, as well as the film’s soundtrack on CD, a 52-page book, the script, a mini-poster, and a sticker. Some pretty cool extras if you want to immerse yourself a little further into the world of Promare.

House of Hummingbird – This Korean coming-of-age drama follows a 14-year-old girl named Eun-hee as she navigates a complicated teenage-hood. Her parents won’t give her the time of day, her brother is a jerk, and the only escape she has is with her best friend. They get into trouble here and there and interact with friends and possible romantic interests. If it doesn’t sound like a complicated plot, that’s because it isn’t one, but that’s not really what the film is about. It’s about this character of Eun-hee, who feels like a real person in a way that so many films don’t get. Part of that is due to the incredibly effective and nuanced performance by Ji-hu Park, who carries the film on her shoulders and does so effortlessly. My biggest issue with the film is the running time, which clocks in at around two hours and 15 minutes. No big surprise, but I felt like the film could have been streamlined, although I’ll say that for the most part it never drags or gets too boring. Fans of strong dramas and even stronger performances will want to track this one down.

Sukiyaki Western Django – When I got this disc to review, I thought it sounded familiar, and then eventually I realized why. It’s actually a film from 2008 that is making its Region 1 Blu-ray debut as a Collector’s Edition from MVD. This is an oddball western action film from noted auteur Takashi Miike (best known for the horror film Audition) that has a supporting role in it by Quentin Tarantino, of all people. Reminiscent of (yet completely different than) Sam Raimi’s The Quick and the Dead, the film never lacks for action and doubly never lacks on atmosphere. This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray gives us a feature-length documentary, featurettes, and more, but the highlight is the extended cut, which is an almost three-hour version of the film. Fans will love getting a look at what the movie could have been and comparing the multiple differences between the two. So even if you already have the film on DVD, you’ll want to upgrade not just because it’s on Blu-ray but because it’s like getting two films in one!

Also Available on Home Video This Week:

  • MVD Spotlight – Speaking of MVD, they also have four new releases a start of their MVD Marquee Collection. Now, up until now, most of their Marquee Collection releases have been full-on, extras-packed special editions. These four releases seem to be their take on a budget line, with movies that have fallen by the wayside and probably have cult followings, but with lower prices points and very little in the way of extra features. First up is Even Money, a dramatic thriller about gambling and addiction with an all-star cast (Kim Basinger, Danny Devito, Kelsey Grammer, Ray Liotta, Tim Roth, Forest Whitaker, and more). It’s a bit heavy-handed and a bit long, but the cast keeps you engaged for the most part through the end. Next up is Haven, another dramatic thriller starring Orlando Bloom, Bill Paxton, Anthony Mackie, and Zoe Saldana. You wonder sometimes how some of these movies have casts like this and yet no one seems to have heard of them, don’t you? This one came out in 2006 but it feels like it’s straight from the ‘90s: watchable, occasionally sleazy, nothing great, but hard to turn off once you start. Then we have First Snow, another dramatic thriller (noticing a trend here?) starring Guy Pearce, Piper Perabo, and J. K. Simmons. I love Guy Pearce, and this is probably the most interesting film in the bunch, as Pearce plays a guy who has a psychic predict his death and then tries to come to grips with his past before it’s too late. Finally, Possession is one of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s later forays into film, and it once again falls under the category of dramatic thriller. Gellar plays a woman whose husband and his brother end up in a coma following a car accident. When the brother wakes up and tries to convince her that he’s actually her husband, things get complicated. The film isn’t entirely effective, but it’s good to see Gellar on screen (it’s been a while) and there are some intriguing scenes, making it more enjoyable than not.
  • Indie Spotlight – Finally this week, we have a couple of indie releases. Even when the major studios run out of films from the theaters, you can always count on the indie studios to bring you films that are a little more unique and different to try out. This week we have two. First up is Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub, a charming documentary/concert film. The focus of the film is — not surprisingly — The Saxon Pub, a mainstay in Austin, TX that had to change locations amid financial hardships. The film blends interviews with live music sets from regulars at the Pub (mostly unknown to larger audiences) and it really captures the spirit and vibe of this musical mecca. Then we have Night Out, a German ensemble film made up of unknown actors playing young friends, couples and strangers whose lives intersect in interesting and occasionally sexually charged ways. Believe me, when I tell you trying to lay out all the relationships would just make your head spin, but the film fits interesting ways to branch them all out and bring them all together. The film has some explicit sexual material and also embraces all sexualities, so it might not be for everyone, but people who embrace the nightlife will probably want to check it out.

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