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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Deadwater Fell, Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, Cursed Films, Sunset Boulevard, Blue Bloods, Ride Your Wave, and more

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons – DC Comics brings their latest Animated Universe film to home video with the release of Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons. One of the few forays for the line outside of the Justice League umbrella (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, etc.), Deathstroke is an assassin-for-hire who sometimes strays to the side of the angels, usually only when the price is right. He’s more of an antihero than anything else. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how he would hold up anchoring a movie all by himself, especially with a full running time of 90 minutes (a lot of the DC animated films run closer to 70 minutes), but I have to say I enjoyed this one quite a bit. We do get an origin story but it’s just a part of the film; this is not an origin movie. It’s packed with action, and while I still question DC’s decision to make R-rated animated features, I will give the film credit for not pulling any punches. Curiously, there’s no short film this time around: DC almost always includes a premiere short film featuring lesser-known characters on their animated releases. I guess the longer running time took up the budget for that. Still, DC and Deathstroke fans will enjoy this one; it’s one of the better DC animated movies of late.

Deadwater Fell – David Tennant and Cush Jumbo star in this four-part mystery/drama miniseries. Tennant plays a doctor in a small town who suffers a horrible tragedy that affects his family in a tragic way, and there are rampant suspicions as to who is responsible. I can’t say more without spoiling the story, but I can say it is a gripping mystery that is atmospheric and moody without being boring. I also liked the way each of the four episodes subtly focuses more on one of the four main characters than the others. It’s not really noticeable at first, but by the end of the series, you realize that they did it and it makes for a cool point-of-view storytelling device. And I also liked that the story is definitively over by the end; this isn’t a show that they’re going to run into the ground. The showrunners get in, tell the story, and get out. With great performances and an intriguing mystery, Deadwater Fell is definitely worth the watch.

Cursed Films – I love documentaries about movies, so I was all over Cursed Films, a five-part series about, well, cursed films, More specifically, films that have suffered tragedies while shooting that were so prevalent the films developed reputations as being “cursed.” The movies in this collection include The Exorcist, The Crow, Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Omen, and Poltergeist. The show originally aired on the Shudder Network, but since I don’t get that, I was happy to see it being released on Blu-ray. Now, I wish I could say I was blown away by the show, but what I’ll say instead is that I found the episodes entertaining. They only run a half hour each, so there isn’t a ton of time to really dive into the “cursed” aspects of the films. Mostly, we learn about the mishaps that plagued each film, hear from some of the people involved, and move on. Not that I was expecting definitive proof of actual curses (which I don’t really even believe in), but sometimes the episodes feel a little lightweight. That said, all of the movies have interesting stories, and I did enjoy the episodes, I just wish they were a little beefier.

Blue Bloods: The Tenth SeasonBlue Bloods returns to DVD for its tenth season. I’m a huge Tom Selleck fan, and even though I’m not a regular watcher of the show, I always like to drop in and check out a few episodes here and there when I get the DVDs. Season Ten seems to be the show keeping up its status quo; while there are a few minor narrative through lines that bridge episodes, for the most part, the show works on an episode-by-episode basis, with a new central issue or crime or mystery each episode. This season gives us 19 episodes, with a few notable guest stars such as Ed Asner and Lyle Lovett. I’m not a die-hard fan so I can’t tell you where Season 10 ranks in the pantheon of the show, but I can tell you that fans of the show get a good season; all of the episodes I watched were engaging and kept me interested. Fans of the show will want to add this one to their DVD shelves for sure.

Town Bloody Hall – This latest Criterion Collection releases is kind of different from the line’s usual fare, yet somehow it also manages to fit right in with the general aesthetic of a Criterion title. Filmed on April 30th, 1971, the movie is basically the capturing of a live event featuring acclaimed author Norman Mailer doing a town hall meeting to discuss his controversial essay “The Prisoner of Sex” and he does so with prominent women’s rights activists: Jacqueline Ceballos, Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston, and Diana Trilling. Filmed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker and then edited by another great documentarian, Chris Hegedus, the film wisely trims the 3-1/2 hour event down to just under an hour and a half, giving it a visceral energy that is visible on the screen. And, sure, you might think, “Well, great, but this event happened 50 years ago, how is it relevant now?” All I can say is if the political landscape of the past four years hasn’t already answered that question, watching the film definitely will. As with all Criterion releases, the film has been remastered and restored, and it includes some cool extra features including an audio commentary, interviews with the filmmakers, and even an appearance by Norman Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show, which is pretty cool. Socially relevant and a gripping watch, Town Bloody Hall is a film I wasn’t familiar with before but am glad I’ve now seen.

Orange is the New Black: The Final SeasonOrange is the New Black was huge in the beginning, then it became “talked about”, and now that it’s winding down, I think we can safely say that its time is right. The buzz died down over the last couple of seasons, and that gives us this, the show’s final season. And while I can say that I don’t feel like the episodes have the same pop as they did in the early years, it’s hard to argue that it was still an extremely watchable show right up to the end. Will the ending satisfy every viewer? I mean, does any show’s finale satisfy every fan? I doubt it, but I think more people will like how the show wrapped up than dislike it. And now both of you who don’t have Netflix can get caught up on the last season.

Sunset Boulevard – I’ll admit, I was pretty late to the Sunset Boulevard party. I know it’s a classic film that is well-loved and critically acclaimed, but I just never got around to watching it until recent years. Now, this technically isn’t a new Blu-ray this week, actually having come out a few years ago. But this year the film is celebrating its 70th anniversary and is being released on digital platforms as well, so Paramount was kind enough to provide me with a Blu-ray for review. And I couldn’t be happier; when I finally watched Sunset Boulevard, I was blown away by it. It is by turns dramatic, melodramatic, funny, heart-wrenching, suspenseful, and fascinating. Gloria Swanson and William Holden are outstanding, and as soon as I finished the film, I could see why it’s considered such a classic and has had its legacy intact for seven decades. Simply put, I love this movie, and if you’ve never checked it out or just if it’s been a while since you’ve watched it, track down the Blu-ray or the digital release and re-watch it. You’ll be glad you did.

Ride Your Wave – This new anime film from director Masaaki Yuasa (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!) is a perfect blend of drama and fantasy. The story involves a young couple named Hanako and Minato, but when Minato dies at sea, Hanako is inconsolable. However, she soon learns that when she sings a special song near water, Minato appears to her. But what kind of future does a couple that includes a water ghost hold? Well, I’m not going to tell you, but I will say that I tend to prefer anime films that don’t get too far out there, and Ride Your Wave lands right in that sweet spot. It has a fantasy element that makes it more than just a tragic romance, but it’s also grounded in real characters and real love that give the film a lot of heart. It’s also quite beautiful, featuring some stunning animation that really captures the feel of the film. Worth a look for fans of anime, romance, or fantasy (or all of the above!)

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Limited Series EventAre You Afraid of the Dark? was an incredibly popular show for younger audiences that aired on Nickelodeon for seven seasons in the 1990s and hooked into the same vein that made the Goosebumps books so popular. After a nearly 20 year hiatus, the show returned to Nickelodeon in 2019 as a three-episode miniseries that features new characters and stories, but will probably capture a whole new generation of fans. Now, I never really watched the original show, but I can say that this new iteration is pretty darn good. It’s just the right level of scary: super creepy without relying on blood or gore. We get the return of the Midnight Society, a haunted carnival, and a cool new character named Mr. Tophat that seems ripe to become a breakout character if the show comes back again. I think both kids and nostalgic adults will like this new reboot and I won’t be surprised if parents who were kids when the original show aired enjoy watching this new version with their own kids!

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Strike Back: The Seventh and Final Season – Cinemax’s popular foray into scripted television finally comes to an end, which is a shame because I always enjoyed the action-packed show, but it’s hard to argue with a seven-season run. This season we get what is effectively a ten-episode movie, with one storyline that runs throughout the season and culminates in the series finale. As always, the show features action sequences that are big-budget affairs, but not at the expense of good characters, and while the cast has changed a few times over the years, this season sees the return of all the principals from last season. If you’re already a fan of the show, you can’t miss how it all wraps up, but even if you’re not, I recommend checking it out. You might want to go back to the beginning, but even jumping in late, it’s a lot of fun.
  • Independent Spotlight – We’ve got a few new indie releases this week. First up is the sci-fi thriller G-Loc, which stars Stephen Moyer, John Rhys-Davies and Casper Van Dien. Now, I love Casper Van Dien, but when you see him in a movie nowadays, you kind of know what type of film you’re getting. Although, I have to say, helmed by accomplished B-movie director Tom Paton, G-Loc is actually pretty entertaining. Moyer plays a man fleeing an uninhabitable earth in search of the planet Rhea which was settled by humans centuries earlier. Unfortunately, Rhea doesn’t want humans coming there, which makes things difficult when Moyer has to team up with a killer Rhean to survive and possible save the planet. It’s not a big-budget affair but it works well with what it has, and the film is pretty enjoyable overall. Next up, we have a horror offering in the form of Cannibal Corpse Killers, which — while it brings to mind a notorious death metal band — is actually a zombie movie. Well, a demonic zombie movie, to be more precise. And to dig even deeper, it’s really more of a Mad-Max-meets-demonic-zombies flick, though, as it takes place after America has already suffered the zombie plague and is becoming something of a wasteland. The film is grungy and tough, and while it’s a bit too long and occasionally a bit too gory, I think fans of genre films like zombie movies and post-apocalyptic films can really sink their teeth into this one. It’s low-budget but it has some good make-up effects, and the end result is a solid zombie offering that feels different from the usual fare. Switching gears, we have a couple of foreign films making their DVD debut this week: Terra Franca and Djon Africa. Terra Franca is a festival award-winning quiet little film about a man, his family, and his fishing. This Portuguese film runs 80 minutes but still felt long to me. I read a few reviews of the film to see if I was missing something, and one reviewer mentioned those well-known Portuguese family moments where families are sharing but nothing seems to happen. So maybe it’s a difference of cultures, but this film didn’t really do much for me as I found it a bit too slow for my tastes. People with an understanding of Portuguese culture may have a different experience. Djon Africa, meanwhile, is another Portuguese film, this one about a young man on a search for the father he never knew. It’s a much lighter and looser film than Terra Franca, but it’s also about 20 minutes longer, and once again, I suspect the cultural differences are at work here, as there are stretches of the film where I wish something more substantial was happening. I liked it more than Terra, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to recommend unless you know the culture or appreciate foreign films.

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