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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Parasite, El Camino, Alone, Tremors: Shrieker Island, The Flintstones and more

Parasite – It’s pretty rare that The Criterion Collection chooses a film from the last year to enter the ranks of their esteemed oeuvre, but it’s no surprise that if they were going to do so this year, it would be with the multi-award winning Parasite. Now, personally, I liked Parasite, but I think it’s one of those films that got a wave of hype that helped it along. Do I think it’s the best picture of 2019? Not really, but it is a pretty interesting movie. It’s one of those movies that unfolds, layer by layer, and to tell you the plot would be to ruin the surprises. It’s a dark drama combined with a suspense film, and there’s a dose of sociopolitical commentary mixed in for good measure. Ultimately, I liked the film, although I think it runs just a bit too long (it’s over two hours), and there’s a sense of dread underlying the events that can make you a bit fidgety while watching it. Now the film has been released as a Criterion Collection Blu-ray (and DVD), and it comes in some really snazzy die-cut packaging and includes a bevvy of new extra features, including a new audio commentary with director Bong Joon Ho, a black-and-white version of the film, multiple interviews and featurettes, and more. Plus, the film has been remastered, giving us the ultimate audiovisual version of the movie. If you’re a fan of the film, this is by far the version to own.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie – Though it aired on TV already, you can now add El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie to your home video collection as a bookend for those individual season sets of Breaking Bad that I’m sure many of you have. The focus of the film is on Jesse Pinkman, and Aaron Paul returns to portray his signature character, but Bryan Cranston and Jonathan Banks show up as well. I don’t want to say too much about the story because I don’t want to spoil anything from the show for those of you who haven’t watched it yet. And while El Camino does hold up on its own, I imagine it works better if you’ve already watched the original show. The new Blu-ray/DVD combo release comes in a cool steelbook with a swirly art cover design that also largely avoids spoilers. If you were a fan of Breaking Bad — and it seems like almost everyone was — I doubt you’ll be disappointed by this coda to the series.

The Flintstones: The Complete Series – Warner Brothers was great about releasing their classic cartoon shows in the heyday of DVDs, back in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But since the advent of Blu-ray, they’ve been releasing their classic cartoon shows in dribs and drabs in the better format. Well, I’m happy to report that Warner Brothers has stepped up and delivered a terrific new Blu-ray release with The Flintstones: The Complete Series, a ten-disc Blu-ray set that includes all 166 episodes and a couple of bonus movies. I’ve always been a big Flintstones fan; I watched it in reruns obsessively as a kid, and I’ve always found that it holds up exceptionally well, despite the fact that aired for the first half of the 1960s. You get the all six seasons’ worth of episodes, and the two movies are A Man Called Flintstone (a classic 1966 movie that sees Fred as a spy of sorts) and The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown, which seems like more of a marketing move than anything else, as it just came out a few years ago and doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the content in the collection. My only real complaint with the set is the lack of extra features. As this is a complete series set and is theoretically the only Flintstones collection you’ll ever need, it would have been nice to see a documentary or some featurettes or something. As it is, it’s just the episodes and the movies, but the show is so much fun, it’s hard to complain too much.

Tremors: Shrieker Island – The Tremors franchise returns for it’s seventh outing with the new direct-to-video thriller, Tremors: Shrieker Island. This latest outing sees Michael Gross return once again as Burt Gummer, graboid-slayer extraordinaire. After being saddled with Jamie Kennedy for the last couple of films, he’s replaced this time by Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), who’s actually a big improvement. The film itself is a big improvement over the last outing as well; I think the first five minutes of this film look like they cost more to produce than the entire last film. I’m not sure if the budget was upped or not, but it certainly looks like it was. The story borrows a little from Jurassic Park, but basically, you get Burt Gummer and company up against graboids and shriekers, and what more do you really need to know? I love the Tremors movies, even the direct-to-video sequels, and this one is one of the better ones from the last few.

AloneTeen Wolf’s Tyler Posey stars in this new zombie thriller, and it’s a really good one. Based on an Asian zombie film of the same name, the film sees Posey as a young man in an apartment complex when a zombie outbreak hits, and these are the fast-moving kind. Trapped for weeks on end, he starts to become desperate, until he connects with a woman in an apartment across the courtyard. It’s a tight, terse, taut 90-minute thriller, in which Posey has to do a lot of heavy lifting because he’s in literally every scene, and for the first half of the film, he’s literally the only character. It’s one of those movies that could get stale or boring really quickly, but there’s a good sense of tension and dread that runs throughout. I do wish the ending was a little more complete, but overall I really enjoyed the film quite a bit. Worth a look if you want a high-quality zombie flick that’ll keep your heart pounding.

Save Yourselves – This new horror-comedy borrows heavily from the Critters playbook, except in this case the story focuses on a couple who go away to a cabin in the woods for a weekend away, only to find the earth under attack from murderous alien fuzzballs and themselves cut off from the rest of society. Sunita Mani and John Reynolds make up pretty much the entire cast, and while they’re largely unknown, you’ll recognize Mani from those Geico commercials with the dude flipping the sign around. It’s a low-budget affair, but luckily Mani and Reynolds are likable actors and the couple — while bickering sometimes — aren’t one of those couples that you WANT to get eaten. They’re likable and realistic, giving the film its heart. It’s a fun little movie; nothing special at the end of the day, but enjoyable enough.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Mr. Topaze – Considered by many to be a “lost” Peter Sellers film, Mr. Topaze not only stars the comedic legend, but it also marks the only film he ever directed. Having been unseen for many years, the film was recently restored thanks to the British Film Institute, and this new Blu-ray release marks its first North American DVD or Blu-ray release. In it, Sellers stars as the titular Mr. Topaze, a poor French schoolmaster who is manipulated into working for a shady business dealing, but then decides to turn the tables on his crooked benefactor and get the money for himself. This 1961 film shows Sellers at the height of his powers, and his direction is surprisingly solid, making me wonder why he never pursued more. Still, the Blu-ray gives you the film itself, restored and remastered, as well as a 1951 short film starring Sellers and a few other extra features, making this a nice pick-up for any fans of the late comedic genius.
  • The Plot Against America – An all-star cast features in this HBO miniseries that has some strong echoes to today’s society, even though it takes place during World War II. The story starts in 1940, in an alternate America where Charles Lindbergh ran for president and won on a platform of not getting America involved in the growing conflict. From there, we see the rise of fascism and what happens when people turn their heads and look the other way. Huh, I wonder what parallels there could be to modern-day society? We get a great roster of talented actors, including Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, Morgan Spector, David Krumholtz, Lee Tergesen, and John Turturro. It’s a dark and atmospheric six episodes, but it’s a pretty neat story and the performances are top-notch, as are the production values. Worth the watch.
  • WB Archives Spotlight – The Warner Brothers Archive print-on-demand service has a few new titles this week worth spotlighting, so here they are. First up is Sergeant York, the multiple Academy Award-Winning film from 1941. Gary Cooper stars as the title character and won an Oscar for his performance in this story of the famed war hero. Directed by Howard Hawks, the film was a huge hit in its day, and it’s easy to see why. The story is compelling, Cooper’s performance is terrific, and while I usually criticize movies that run over two hours long, this one earns it. And while the Warner Archive usually uses existing elements, this film has been meticulously restored from the best nitrite prints available, giving us the nicest-looking print of Sergeant York probably since the film was in theaters. A great signature release from the WB Archive. Next up, we have Reversal of Fortune, another film that sees the lead actor receiving the Best Actor Oscar, this time Jeremy Irons for his chilling portrayal of a real-life murderer(?) Claus Von Bulow. Glenn Close and Ron Silver also star in this dramatization of real-life events, and the film is sharply directed by Barbet Schroeder. This is a great film that I was surprised to realize had ever been released on Blu-ray before, so this is another excellent release for the Archives. Finally this week, we have the criminally underrated comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, which skewers the world of beauty pageants. Starring Denise Richards, Kirstie Alley, Kirsten Dunst, and Ellen Barkin, this 1999 movie didn’t garner that many awards nominations, but it’s incredibly smart, funny, and satirical, and its lack of commercial success shouldn’t stop you from seeking it out. Trust me, you’ll really enjoy it.
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up this week, we have several indie releases, with something of a focus on foreign films and eclectic material. First up is Driveways, a sweet little film starring the late Brian Dennehy. In the film, a woman and her young son travel to clean out a deceased relative’s house, where the young boy forges a friendship with the retired man (Dennehy) who lives next door. It’s a brief film, coming in at about an hour and 20 minutes, and that’s part of its charm. It’s not a complicated story, but the characters are endearing and the film feels the perfect length for what it is. Next up is Three Comrades, a Russian film that serves as something of a mockumentary, following three mid-twenties men on a Friday night out, drinking and casting trouble. No subject matter remains untouched, and it’s kind of a frightening film, as these guys are not really good people. Luckily, the film is also pretty short (just 70 minutes), and that’s good because I don’t think I’d have wanted to spend any more time with these characters. I think there’s some sociopolitical subtext that you can draw from here, but as pure film-watching goes, I didn’t love the experience. Next up, we have Calor Después de la Lluvia, a heavy Costa Rican drama that’s also surprisingly brief (70 minutes again.) This is not a cheerful film, as we follow a young woman grieving the loss of her unborn child who has an encounter with an ex during a religious pilgrimage. I mean, if that doesn’t scream “good times!” I don’t know what does. There are some good performance here, but ultimately, it’s not really my kind of movie. If you like dramatic foreign films, then you might want to track this one down. Continuing the odd theme of “short, foreign films,” we have Paulistas, a documentary about a remote region of Brazil in which all of the young people have left. Like, since 2014, there are no young people living on Paulistas. Weird. Now, during the summer, the young folks reconvene on the town to visit their families during vacation, so we get an interesting look at this odd town set-up as well as stories of some of the families and young people back for a visit. It’s an unusual subject matter and the film does a good job of making it accessible. Finally this week, we have a DVD+CD release, with Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld: Winter Stories Live From The Oslo Opera House. In this concert release (which you can watch or listen to with the DVD or CD) gives us 15 songs from folk singer Judy Collins, joined by Norwegian folk singer Jonas Fjeld and bluegrass group Chatham County Line. Over the course of 90 minutes, you get a mix of Collins songs and classic covers. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with any of the people involved in this show, but the music is haunting and melodic, and the concert is a lively event with some real true musicianship on display. Fans of Collins or anyone else involved will enjoy this unique concert.

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