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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Goonies, Sherlock Holmes, Antebellum, Valley Girl, Misbehaviour and more

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The Goonies (4K Ultra HD) – This week sees the 4K Ultra HD release of a handful of great movies, starting with one of the all-time greats, The Goonies. If you’re of a certain age, The Goonies is a touchstone film, a part of your childhood that never ages, and I definitely am of that age. I love The Goonies, and I can watch it again and again and never get tired of it. So I was thrilled to get the film in the premium 4K format. Now, the film is 35 years old, so the 4K format gives it a nice upgrade, but it isn’t a complete transformation. The film looks very clean, with nice, sharp lines and good image clarity, and the enhanced color saturation gives the film new life. Honestly, it’s the best I’ve seen the film look since I saw it in theaters. The surround soundtrack also gives the film new depth, utilizing the rear channels well. It’s not the most subtle or nuanced mix I’ve ever heard, but it puts the big action in the appropriate speakers, and that’s all I need sometimes. The disc includes a number of extra features, mostly ported over from the previous special edition Blu-ray, but hands down, if you’re a Goonies fan, this is the version to own.

Sherlock Holmes & Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (4K Ultra HD) – Also making their way to 4K Ultra HD this week are the two Sherlock Holmes films by Guy Ritchie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. I really enjoy these films and I wish the franchise had continued. The first film is outstanding, and the second movie is flawed, but it’s still quite entertaining. I’m not even a huge Guy Ritchie fan, but I quite liked his take on England’s greatest detective. Both films have been released on 4K Ultra HD, and they both look and sound fantastic. As much more recent films, the 4K upgrade really works well. Shadow delineation makes the many dark scenes much easier to see, image clarity is at a premium, and even though the films have a more muted color palette, the deeper colors give the films much more vibrance. The surround soundtracks take full advantage of the satellites speakers to bring the hustle and bustle of turn of the century London to life, creating an immersive experience. These films are definitely worth revisiting and this is the way to do it!

Antebellum – Janelle Monae stars in this new horror film that was supposed to be a theatrical release in 2020, but… well, we all know what happened there. This is kind of a hard movie to summarize in a sentence or two, but the film deals with slavery in the past and how it haunts people in the present. Imagine 12 Days a Slave as a horror movie (which it already was, in a sense), and you kind of get the idea. Monae turns in an excellent performance, and she’s joined by a sharp supporting cast that includes Gabourey Sidibe, Jena Malone, Tongayi Chirisa, and Jack Huston. I’m a little mixed on this film; it definitely tries to be more than just the usual jump-scare filled haunted house story, but there are parts where it drags, too. There are some good tense moments and a solid ending, although I suspect some people will see some of the events of the film coming before filmmakers wanted them too. All in all, it’s an interesting film that will keep horror fans interested.

American Pie: Girls’ Rules – It’s been a while since we had a direct-to-video American Pie movie, so it felt like a good time for Universal to drop American Pie: Girls’ Rules. This new outing has very little connection to the original franchise (save one of the main girls being a Stifler), but it borrows liberally from the original films, in that we have four high school girls trying to attain their goals by the end of summer (including one losing her virginity, a la the original film.) The cast is largely unknown but they’re pleasant enough on-screen presences, and while the film really doesn’t do anything all that clever or original (and it sometimes tries too hard to force the “raunchy” humor), it’s also an easy watch that will have you chuckling here and there. It’s basically an easy way to kill 90 minutes, but it’s nothing special.

Valley Girl – The original Valley Girl movie in the early ‘80s launched a short-lived cultural movement mostly punctuated by speech patterns (“Like, gag me with a spoon”) and fashion choices (lace and jelly bracelets.) And while the valley girl movement didn’t really last that long, it is well remembered by people who were around in the 80s. And I’m assuming it’s some of those people who made the new Valley Girl, a musical adaptation of the original story. This new version stars Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse and features an ‘80s-themed soundtrack, which in theory should mean that people who were around in the early ‘80s will love it, although the film is clearly aimed at younger audiences. For my money, I found it an entertaining enough distraction, but as someone who’s not a huge musical fan, I can’t say I was blown away by it. I think older audiences will recoil from its very 2020 aesthetic, but younger audiences might take to it.

Misbehaviour – Keira Knightley, Greg Kinnear, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Jessie Buckley star in this based-on-real-events dramedy that tells the story of the 1970 Miss World beauty pageant. In a time of social and racial unrest, the Women’s Liberation activist organization decided to try and disrupt the pageant to bring attention to the plight of women and minorities at the time. The film follows multiple characters throughout, and it gives us kind of a broad view of the events as they happened. It never digs to deep into any character or scene, but I’m okay with that. It’s a lighthearted film that tells a story that’s worth being told, but didn’t exactly change the world. It doesn’t need to be a three-hour epic. The cast is great (and there are a ton more recognizable faces than I mentioned above), and it’s a solid watch.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:

  • Bonanza: The Official Eleventh Season, Volume One & Two – With just a few seasons left of the perennially popular western series, CBS brings us the eleventh season on DVD this week. Broken up into two volumes (as the previous few have been), the 28 episodes of the show are collected onto four discs in Volume 1 and three discs for Volume 2. As always, you can once again watch Hoss, Adam, and Little Joe help Ben Cartwright battle cattle thieves and old west injustice in all of its original glory. If you’re a fan, this is a terrific release as usual. I’m hoping that the quick turnaround time on this set means that CBS is finally knuckling down and wrapping up this historically popular show in a way that the fans deserve. After this, there are just season 12, 13, and 14 to complete the run, and so it seems CBS is committed to finishing the series, but for now, at least you’ve got another season in the books.
  • Head of the Class: The Complete Second Season – One of the classic ‘80s sitcoms makes its return to home video, courtesy of the Warner Archive. (WAC offerings can be found via warnerarchive.com and your favorite online retailer.) Howard Hesseman, best known at the time as Johnny Thunder on WKRP in Cincinnati, stars as a put-upon high school teacher in charge of a class of gifted students. Of course, with ten students you have ten different personalities, and the interchange between Hesseman and his charges was comedy gold. Sure, there are some echoes of Welcome Back Kotter, but in this case, instead of the Sweathogs, we get the brains, the nerds, the geeks and the drama kids. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this show would hold up after three decades, but while the hairstyles and fashions are wildly ‘80s, the characters and the jokes still work, and I enjoyed the heck out of revisiting this first season. Here’s hoping the Warner Archive brings us the rest of the seasons in short order!
  • PBS Drama Spotlight – PBS is usually known for putting out documentary DVDs every month, but they’re also responsible for bringing us a lot of great dramatic content, and this week we have three new TV show releases. First up, we have Cobra: Season One, a mix between a disaster film and a political drama. The show stars Robert Carlyle, Victoria Hamilton, and Richard Dormer, and it follows the group of people responsible for disaster management in the UK when a solar flare causes most of the country to lose power. As people begin to panic and tough choices have to be made, we follow a handful of characters as they deal with a number of obstacles. I love disaster movies, and there were parts of the show I really liked. There were also parts that I didn’t care for, such as the Prime Minister’s daughter’s drug problem (which felt shoehorned into a six-episode season.) While this is just Season 1, Season 2 is scheduled but has been delayed by the pandemic. Next up, we have Masterpiece: Flesh and Blood, a four-episode miniseries starring Imelda Staunton and a cast of terrific actors (most of which are unknown here in the US.) The story jumps back and forth in time, and there is a central mystery of sorts, but it’s hard to say too much without spoiling things. Suffice it to say, the story deals with a widowed mother and her new paramour, and the reactions that causes amongst her adult children and within there own relationships. It’s actually a really neat story with some great performances and a central mystery of sorts that does keep you guessing until the end. Finally, we have Masterpiece Mystery: Van Der Valk, a series of three 90-minute episodes, each of which works as part of the series but also as a standalone mystery movie. Marc Warren plays Piet Van der Valk, a gruff detective in Amsterdam dealing with drugs, political corruption, and the like. The show is based on the series that ran sporadically in the UK from the 1970s to the 1990s. I haven’t seen the original so I can’t comment on how they compare, but fans of shows with barely likeable lead characters should take to this one.
  • Islands of Wonder – Speaking of PBS’s documentary offerings, we have a good one this week. This three-episode documentary series gives us in-depth looks at three major islands: Madagascar, Borneo and Hawaii. We learn about the people and culture of each island, but also the wildlife and landscape of each island as well. Each episode is just about an hour, giving us the perfect sized travel capsule; enough info to be entertaining and engaging, but not so long as to start to get dull. There is some absolutely stunning photography here, and it makes you want to travel to each of these islands immediately! A fascinating series.
  • Garfield and Friends: Season 3 – I love the old Garfield cartoon from the 1980s, which is collected here in this new two-disc set that collects the entire third season of the show. I watched this show religiously as a kid and was always a big fan of the Garfield comic strip, so seeing the big orange cat come to life was a real treat when I was young. Rewatching the show as an adult (in its new remastered form, keeping the animation from looking dated), I still find it a lot of fun. And, as a bonus, the “and Friends” part of the titles refers to US Acres, which was a short cartoon that played as part of the Garfield show, and those vignettes are collected here as well, which is awesome! I loved US Acres! This is a really fun set and can be found for a nice, low price, so pick it up for some instant nostalgia!
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda – Ryuichi Sakamoto may not be a household name in the US, but he certainly has his fans worldwide, and he’s absolutely a superstar in his native japan. Whether it’s as a social activist, a pop musician, a film score composer, or a celebrity personality, Sakamoto is a unique being and it’s easy to see why he has such legions of fans. This feature-length documentary delves into the life and career of Sakamoto, not shying away from more difficult subjects like his bout with throat cancer. We see footage of him performing all the way back to the ‘80s, and we also see his more recent endeavors. It’s a wide-ranging documentary that paints an intimate portrait of an enigmatic star.
  • MVD Spotlight – MVD Video specializes in bringing us a mix of low-priced re-releases of cult classics and mid-sized hits as well as American DVD releases of small indie and foreign films. This week, MVD has a wide-ranging slate of new titles, starting with the Blu-ray debut of Michael Moore’s fiery documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. Admittedly, it actually streeted a few weeks ago (so the timing was more fitting than the actual day of the election), but I just got my review copy. This is an outstanding film, a documentary about George Bush and his many faults (as well as the Republican Party as a whole) that has personality and humor built into it. Of course, like so many political documentaries, it probably won’t change anyone’s mind who sees things from the other side of the aisle, but it’s definitely worth watching, whichever side of politics you identify with. Next up is Abbot & Costello: Jack and the Beanstalk, a new DVD release of one of the comedic duo’s mid-sized hits. I believe this film is in the public domain, as there are a number of home video releases of it, but this is the first one that has taken the time to remaster the film in 4K from the original 35 mm prints of the film, which means it looks better than you’d expect. It also includes a second Abbot & Costello film, Africa Screams, as a bonus feature. I always love these two, and while Jack and the Beanstalk isn’t one of their true classics, it’s still a fun comedy outing. Shifting gears a bit, we have The Dog Doc, which is exciting because it allows me to say that this is a dog doc about a dog doc! By which I mean it is a dog documentary about a dog doctor. (I had too much fun with that!) The feature-length documentary focuses on Dr. Marty Goldstein, a holistic veterinarian who people travel to from all over the world to save their pets when traditional medicine fails. It’s a moving documentary with some real emotions and any dog lover will be happy to see someone who works so hard to extend pets’ lives. Finally, we have Navajo, a 1952 film that is sort of a documentary, sort of not. Reminiscent of Luis Bunuel’s Nanook of the North, Navajo follows a young Native American boy who is taken from his home and sent to a boarding school for white children, only to escape and find himself pursued by nefarious forces. The film is told as a documentary but was actually staged, although it did reflect true events, and in fact, won the 1952 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. (It was also nominated for Best Cinematography, a rarity for documentaries but owed to cinematographer Virgil Miller, who had to deal with some harrowing circumstances while filming.) It’s an interesting film and certainly a time capsule to when the idea of documentaries was a little more fluid than it is today.
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up the week, we have a number of indie releases hitting home video this week. First up is The President, a film from Georgia (the country in Russia, not the southern US state) about a dictator of an unnamed country who is deposed from power and forced to go on the run with his young grandson. Trying to blend in as part of a band of street musicians, the man and his young charge must avoid mobs of bloodthirsty locals who are out to find him. It’s an interesting and timely story, and while the Georgian language requires the use of subtitles (which I don’t mind), that doesn’t lessen the impact of the film’s excellent performances or the power of the story. Foreign films can be hit or miss for me, and while this one is a bit long for my tastes, it’s more of a hit than a miss. Next up is a drama called The Short History of the Long Road, which is released on Blu-ray as a special edition. This film delivers a powerful performance by young Sabrina Carpenter, who plays a teenager who grew up living in a van with her dad (played by Steven Ogg of The Walking Dead and Westworld). When real life takes an unpleasant turn, Carpenter’s Nola finds that she has to dig deep and reevaluate what life can be all about. Admittedly, these types of dramas aren’t my favorite kinds of films, but Carpenter is terrific and the film is engaging enough. Fans of character-driven melodrama will dig it. Mining similar dramatic territory, we have Mellow Mud, a Latvian film about a teenage girl and her younger brother who live a tough life with a grandmother who dies. Facing separation, young Raja tries to keep her grandmother’s pension checks coming by keeping her death a secret, but things start to unravel. This is a bleak, depressing film, and I hope it’s just one picture of Latvian life and not what things are like there for everyone. Not my thing, but again, foreign film fans who want something moving might find something here. Finally, we have The Chronicles of Melanie, another Latvian film (that was co-produced with Finland and the Czech Republic). This drama tells the tale of the 40,000 Latvian citizens who were forcefully deported to Siberia during World War II. In the film, we follow Melanie and her young son as they face a harsh life in what amounts to labor camps in Siberia for 16 years. It is NOT a cheerful film, but there is at least some sense of overcoming incredibly difficult circumstances, which is still a powerful story. Be aware, though, that this is a heavy watch.

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