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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Wind Rises, Alfred Hitchcock Collection, Stephen King Collection, Killing Eve, Succession, Weathering With You and more

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Weathering With You

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection (4K Ultra HD) – The 4K Ultra HD format has had a handful of classic releases so far, but for the most part, it’s been used to showcase shiny new films. This week, we get a terrific collection of some of the best films of all time on the new format, and I couldn’t be happier. The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection includes four of Hitch’s most well-loved and influential films: Psycho (more on that in a moment), Vertigo, Rear Window, and The Birds. Each film is included on both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, so even if you haven’t upgraded to 4K, it’s still worth picking up the set. What’s neat is that there’s a theatrical cut of Psycho included as well as what has apparently become the “standard” cut used on home video releases for the past 50 years. It’s not a terribly different film, but it’s still cool to see the movie with a few changes here and there. Each film boasts an improved audiovisual experience in 4K, although due to the age of the films, it’s not a complete revolution. Still, each film looks a little sharper, a little brighter, and a little more colorful (except Psycho, which is obviously in black & white). Each disc is packed with extra features (Universal doesn’t seem to be including them with the digital films as digital extras, though, which is pretty frustrating), and the set as a whole is gorgeous. This is a must-have for Hitchcock fans.

Stephen King 5-Movie Collection – This new Blu-ray collection is an interesting one. It’s called a 5-movie Collection, but The Stand is actually a miniseries, so you get a little extra bang for your buck here. And while there are so many Stephen King adaptations out there it would be nearly impossible to fit them all in one box set, this has a little bit of a mixed-bag deal to it. I love The Stand miniseries, The Dead Zone is a thriller classic, and Silver Bullet is goofy werewolf comedy/thriller starring Corey Haim that is ‘80s-tastic, but in a good way. Then you get both versions of Pet Sematary, neither of which I’m a terribly huge fan of. So, really, a lot of the value of this collection comes down to which films you like and which you don’t, and how many fall into each category. Still, for under $30, it’s hard to argue with four movies and a miniseries, all on Blu-ray. Worth the pick up if you’re a fan of at least… oh, I’d say, three-fifths of the material included.

The Wind Rises – This is a new version of a film which has been on home video before, so Studio Ghibli fans, this is noteworthy but mostly if you don’t already own it. The Wind Rises is a drama about a young man who designs airplanes, and it follows him from a fantasy-filled childhood to an adulthood taken up by love and sickness. The American voice cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, and Emily Blunt, and they all do a perfectly fine job. Now, this is not news, as I’ve stated it numerous times before, but I’m not a fan of most Studio Ghibli films. I wanted to give this one a chance (the new version includes both a Blu-ray and a DVD and comes with some nice extra features), so I plunked it into my Blu-ray player. And I was promptly bored to tears. I just don’t understand what people like about these movies so much. Yes, it is beautiful; there’s no denying the animation is outstanding. But the movie is two hours long, it takes forever to get anywhere, and I just never found it very interesting. Still, if you’re a fan, it’s a nice package overall.

Killing Eve: Season 3 – The popular TV series that’s been garnering buzz left and right returns to home video with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Killing Eve: Season Three. Sandra Oh and Jamie Comer star in this story of an MI6 agent and a dangerous assassin, and their weirdly co-dependent relationship. Season Three picks up six months after Season 2’s cliffhanger ending; this is definitely one of those shows where you want to start at the beginning and work your way foreword rather than just jumping in. I don’t want to say any more about the story to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that Season Three continues the twists and turns of the first two seasons while also branching out into new directions. Comer and Oh are both excellent in their roles, and I doubt the show would have worked nearly as well without them.

Succession: The Complete Second Season – HBO rarely makes out-and-out bad television, and while Succession certainly isn’t what I would consider bad television, it’s not a show I really like, either. Well-acted and well-written, the film follows a Rupert Murdoch like corporate magnate and his four children who are in varying degrees of jockeying for his power when he passes away. While the cast is terrific (featuring Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Alan Ruck, Kieran Culkin, and Sarah Snook) it’s hard for me to really find much common ground with characters who are so rich they can’t even count their money. This show is like an HBO version of Dynasty, which I’m sure there’s an audience for, I’m just not it.

Weathering With You – Another anime release this week, Weathering With You is not a Studio Ghibli film, and maybe that’s why I liked it better than The Wind Rises. This drama (with a fantastical flair) is much more compact (running only 90 minutes) and while I wasn’t blown away by it, I found it enjoyable overall. The story focuses on a young runaway and the mysterious girl he meets who can control the rain. There’s more to the story than that, but I don’t want to give anything away. The American voice cast includes the excellent Alison Brie, Lee Pace, and Riz Ahmed. If you like Studio Ghibli films, Weathering With You is enough in their wheelhouse that I think you’ll like it, but it’s also different enough to appeal to viewers like me who aren’t fans.

Also Available this week on Home Video:

  • A House Divided: Season 2 – A show from UMC (Urban Media Channel), I had to jump into this one without watching Season 1. It turns out, it’s another soap opera-esque show about a rich family that is filled with strife, secrets, scheming, and sex. And while I don’t go out of my way to watch shows like this, there’s no denying that is extremely juicy and things move at a fast pace right from the get-go. This season is composed of six episodes, so it’s a brief season, but that means you get a LOT of melodrama in every episode. It’s the kind of show that I think people can get addicted to very quickly, so I won’t. Be surprised to see more seasons, and I won’t be surprised to see more episodes in future seasons, either.
  • Mighty Oak – Director Sean McNamara has succeeded in making some of the more successful faith-based dramas of the past decade, including theatrical hits like Soul Surfer and The Miracle Season. His latest effort, Mighty Oak, shifts the setting from a sports/athletic one to the world of music. Janel Parrish stars as a young woman who meets a guitar prodigy that she thinks is the reincarnation of her brother, who passed away ten years ago, and sets about to enlist him and her brother’s old band to “re”-unite. The film also stars Raven Symone and Alexa PenaVega, and it fits well in McNamara’s oeuvre, being a Christian film that doesn’t beat you over the head with its faith message, while still presenting a solid drama and a good cast, so that you’re just watching a dramatic film, not a cringe-inducing sermon masquerading as a film. This DVD-only release didn’t get a Blu-ray release, but the DVD does include a digital copy, which is a nice addition.
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up the week, we have a number of indie features this week, encompassing a wide range of genres. First genre: horror! Pit Stop is a new horror flick straight from the low-rent school of b-movies. We meet a foursome of young adults on their way to a rave at a deserted warehouse who are soon beset upon by zombies (and maybe other baddies) and find themselves on the run. I wish I had more good things to say about the film other than that it’s relatively short (an hour and 20 minutes), but it sadly just isn’t very good. It’s an easy watch and it’ll kill an hour pretty easily, but the script and acting don’t do anyone any favors. Next genre: foreign drama! Pilgrimage is a Portuguese film that was submitted for Oscar consideration about Fernão Mendes Pinto, one of the first Europeans to sail and explore the Orient. Loosely based on Pinto’s own memoir, I found the film pretty interesting, largely because I had never learned about Pinto in any history class, so his story was completely unknown to me. With strong production values and a terrific central performance by Claudio da Silva (and also not feeling the need to stretch the film out to three hours like so many period epics do), this one was worth the watch. Next genre: party drama! Beats takes place during the rave scene in England in the mid-90s, when unlicensed raves were made illegal. The film follows two young best friends for one last big hurrah at a rave before the future splits them apart. The cast is mostly unknowns but they are quite endearing, and while the film isn’t a heavy lift, it has a little more heart to it than I was expecting to find. It might not be 24-Hour Party People, but I think there’s an audience out there for this film. Next genre: sex comedy! CRSHD takes the sex comedy formula and runs it through the filter of social media, focusing on a trio of female college freshman, one of whom wants to lose her virginity by night’s end. The film starts off with a heavy use of social media as a part of the visual language of the film; think lots of chat screens, graphics, etc., but luckily, that lessens as it goes on. It still starts things off with a bad taste in your mouth because it’s way overdone, however. The end result is a solidly okay film that doesn’t really have all that much to say and thinks it’s more clever than it is. Next genre: foreign dramedy! A Tramway in Jerusalem is an interesting film that’s set mostly in Israel (or, more specifically, on a train in Israel) but is played out in several different languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, French, Italian, Yiddish, and German. The film is an ensemble of sorts, following people who get on and off a train that travels through several neighborhoods in Jerusalem, meaning we largely get snippets of several different people’s stories. It’s an interesting set-up, and the filmmakers know well enough to keep the film brief (90 minutes) and get out, rather than belaboring the conceit. The film has several different tones to the various encounters and conversations, making it an interesting viewing experience that I enjoyed more than less. Final genre this week: Canadian! Okay, okay, I realize Canadian isn’t really a film genre, but I don’t get Canadian films very often, and The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova is sort of a genre mash-up anyway, mostly drama with some comedy and a bit of lost-in-a-foreign-country vibe, as well. The story follows two Canadian Jews who travel to Poland to dig up the bones of their grandmother’s dog in order to fulfill her dying wish. It sounds like an oddball, but it ends up being a rather endearing film, with a warm tone and a light script that keeps things moving. I honestly didn’t have high hopes for this movie, but it might have been my favorite of the indie releases this week.

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