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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Mulan, The Godfather Coda, V For Vendetta, Collateral, Total Recall, Possessor and more

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Mulan – Disney’s big-budget live-action adaptation of Mulan was one of the biggest casualties of the Coronavirus shutdown of movie theaters. After being delayed, it eventually premiered on Disney+ and is now available on home video on 4K ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD. Now, I’ve always really enjoyed the original Mulan, and for those of you who also like that film, be aware that this is not your typical Disney shot-for-shot remake. It’s more of a new imaging of the legend of Mulan, so it feels like a fresher film. There are no songs, no dragons, and just one fantasy element (one of the film’s main bad guys.) Overall, I liked this new version of Mulan a lot, as it looks absolutely gorgeous and has some exciting action sequences. Although, those action sequences also lead to one of my few big complaints about the film, which has been hyper edited to death, resulting in quick-cut, rapid-fire action scenes that move so fast, sometimes you lose track of what’s happening on screen. That aside, though, this is a strong movie that adults will like every bit as much as younger viewers.

The Godfather: Coda – I’ll be frank: I’m not a Godfather expert. There are people who know every inch of this saga, and I am not one of them. I’ve seen each of the films once or twice, and I think they’re fantastic, but that’s about where it stops for me. I have not studied every nuance. So my impression of the new Godfather: Coda comes from that perspective. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically, Francis Ford Coppola has gone back and re-edited The Godfather Part III, the always mixed-reaction threequel to two of the most successful films of all time. I can’t outline every single change he’s made, but I can tell you that he has drastically streamlined the opening of the film and the ending, which to me results in a stronger narrative. It’s not like it’s suddenly a brand new movie, but it moves things along a lot quicker and I feel like it makes it more entertaining. Coppola has taken to revisiting a lot of his movies, and while I don’t generally love that idea, in this case, I think he’s improved the film. Since a lot of people out there don’t really love this third film, maybe the time to revisit it is now.

V For Vendetta (4K Ultra HD) – Over the last ten years, I have become a massive V For Vendetta fan. When I saw it in theaters, I liked it quite a bit, but I’ve found that every time I rewatch it, I like it more and more, to the point where I now consider it something of a masterpiece. So I was super excited to have an excuse to watch the film again with its new 4K Ultra HD release. And of course, watching it now, it seems more relevant than ever. Besides being a kick-ass action film, it’s impossible to watch the movie today and not reflect on the events of the past few years in our own society. I think it’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, equal parts truly entertaining and thought-provoking. The new 4K Ultra HD release gives the film a new shine, and it looks better than ever. The film isn’t overly colorful, but it features stark contrasts with bursts of color, and the improved spectrum of the premium format lets those colors leap off the screen. Likewise, the improved shadow delineation means that the darker scenes are much easier to see. Add to that an immersive surround soundtrack that is both nuanced and impactful, and the end result is a terrific technical presentation of a film that is absolutely… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Collateral (4K Ultra HD) – Also out on 4K Ultra HD this week is Collateral, Michael Mann’s excellent action-thriller starring Tom Cruise (in his first role as a bad guy) and Jamie Foxx. I’m not always a huge Michael Mann film, but Collateral just might be his best movie. Tom Cruise is absolutely fantastic as a steely assassin, and Jamie Foxx is also terrific as an everyday cab driver who gets pulled into an assassination plot. The film is taut, exciting, and keeps you engaged from the very first scene, and I absolutely love it. Collateral is presented in 4K and overall it looks great. There are a few scenes that still look like they were shot on video, but I suspect that’s the way Mann wanted it to look for whatever reason. But this is a very dark film, taking place entirely at night, and the shadow delineation is excellent, making sure the action is never obscured. The surround soundtrack is forced to move from very quiet to very loud quite rapidly (as action often explodes on-screen unexpectedly) and it handles it all with aplomb. An outstanding film and an outstanding technical presentation. RECOMMENDED!

Total Recall (4K Ultra HD) – Our final 4K Ultra HD this week is one of my favorite movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sci-fi classic Total Recall. Directed by the great Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall is an absolute roller coaster ride of a film, filled with over-the-top action, cutting edge (at the time) special effects, a twisty storyline, lots of humor, and well, Arnold Schwarzenegger at his most Arnold-est. I mean, seriously, what is there not to love about this movie? Now the film has been released on home video multiple times before, but this new release from Lionsgate marks the film’s debut in the premium 4K Ultra HD format. And while I’ve had issues with some of the previous home video releases’ technical quality, this is easily the best the film has looked since it was in theaters. The 4K upgrade looks fantastic, and while it does show off the dated special effects a bit more than you’d want in certain sequences, the Mars scenes also aren’t overrun with red bleeding everywhere. Honestly, I’ve seen some bad transfers of this film, and this one is terrific. The surround soundtrack isn’t as expansive as you might want, but remember that the film is 30 years old at this point and there’s only so much to work with. Altogether, though, this is an excellent presentation of the film and TOTAL-ly worth the upgrade for fans. (See what I did there?) RECOMMENDED!

Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series – Over the course of 10 seasons, CBS’s reboot of Hawaii Five-O remained an hour-long chunk of satisfying procedural television, thanks to its solid action sequences and the interplay between leads Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. The show was easy to watch, thanks to its mix of humor, solid mysteries, and the occasional expensive action sequence when needed. The Hawaiian scenery added to the show’s visual charms, and from what I understand, the ladies didn’t mind looking at Alex O’Loughlin all that much, either (at least my wife sure didn’t seem to.) While the show had a lot of changes 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. Now, with the show having wrapped, it’s all been collected into the massive 61-Disc box set that includes all ten seasons. That’s 6 discs per season, but you also get that bonus 61st disc, which includes some welcome all-new extra features, including a retrospective with the cast reflecting on their ten-year journey. This is a terrific collection of a fun show, and it will make a great holiday present as well.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:

  • Possessor: Uncut – Also known simply as “Possessor,” this new film from Brandon Cronenberg (yes, the son of David Cronenberg) is a little hard to categorize, but I would suspect psychological thriller would be the closest I could come. The film involves the idea of assassins “possessing” people’s bodies to pull of their hits without being physically involved. As you might expect from the son of David Cronenberg, however, it’s not a straightforward narrative movie, using surreal imagery and colors and moods as much as plot and action and dialogue. Cronenberg gets a great performance out of lead actor Andrea Riseborough, but the film was a little much for me. People who are fans of the films of Panos Cosmatos (Mandy, Beyond the Black Rainbow) will probably enjoy this one, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • Smiley Face Killers – From writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) comes Smiley Face Killers, a thriller about a young man who becomes convinced he is being stalked by a mysterious hooded figure, all while fellow students at this college are being murdered. It has the makings of an intriguing thriller, but the film just never comes together. The acting is okay but not great (Crispin Glover does show up as the hooded figure, though), the script is lacking (a bit of a surprise from Ellis), and the production values aren’t that great. The film feels like a low-budget indie that lucked into some last-minute financing, but too late to really make any major improvements. I wish I could say I liked this one more than I did, but it left me unimpressed.
  • The Secrets She Keeps – As I’ve mentioned a few times in previous reviews, my wife and I have become slightly obsessed with Australian drama television. The latest Aussie TV fling we had was with The Secrets She Keeps, a six-episode mystery series starring Laura Carmichael, best known as Edith on Downton Abbey. The show is a bit of the “one character is obsessed with what another character has” trope, and in this case what that other person has is a new baby, so it quickly shifts from drama to mystery. And here’s the thing; this isn’t necessarily one of the best shows from Australia we’ve watched lately, but the six-episode format and the over-the-top soapy elements make it really easy to watch. It’s a little ridiculous and over-the-top in spots, but you can chew through it in a couple of nights and enjoy the silliness, and then move on. Worth a watch if you like high-concept melodrama.
  • Nomad: In The Footsteps Of Bruce Chatwin – Director Werner Herzog likes to shift back and forth between narrative films and documentaries, and this latest one falls into the latter category. Ostensibly a biography of British travel writer and luminary Bruce Chatwin, the film also serves as a deep dive into Herzog’s mind, method, and madness, which I suspect will be the real appeal for Herzog fans. As the director reflects on his friendship with the late Chatwin, we get to see into the real Herzog, something which he’s never been shy about sharing but never quite feeling as personal as this. I suspect that die-hard Herzog fans will consider this something of a masterpiece, whereas for me, it was an interesting enough film to kill 90 minutes with.
  • The Little Penguin Pororo’s Dinosaur Island Adventure – This Korean animated film has been translated for English-speaking audiences and it’s aimed at little kids, so I’ll keep this relatively brief. The film follows Pororo the Penguin and his friends, who investigate when an egg falls from the sky and reveals a baby dinosaur inside. When the dinosaur gets Dino-napped, Pororo and his friends have to go to Dinosaur Island to stage a rescue. (Look, it’s made for little kids, don’t ask questions.) The film is bright and colorful and keeps moving at a pace that will keep little ones engaged. Parents will probably want to do something else while their kidlets are watching though, as it doesn’t offer up much for an adult audience. It runs 79 minutes, so long enough to get something done while the kids are watching, short enough not to take up the whole afternoon.
  • Indie Spotlight – Finally this week, we have a number of independent releases, including some interesting dramatic offerings. First up is Habermann, which actually came out in 2010 but is just making its US home video debut. This German/Czech World War II film deals with the Nazi occupation of Sudetenland, which is apparently land shared by Germans and Czechs, and August Habermann and his wife’s attempts to navigate the situation. I feel like this film would work better for someone with familiarity with that particular storyline, as it seems to be common knowledge in that part of the world but less so in the US (it’s very specifically about the Sudetenland occupation and what happens when it ends, not the Nazi occupations in general). It’s a dark, hard to watch film, with some good performances, but I’d say you really have to be in the mood for a film like this. Next up is You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t, another film from 2010 that makes its home video debut. This one is a documentary, however, and its subject is Alzheimer’s (which helps to explain the title.) Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease, and this film focuses on telling us about it through the lens of the elderly Lee Gorewitz, a woman trying to fight the disease and its effects. It’s a moving — if sometimes depressing — documentary that puts a human lens on a terrible disease. Finally, shifting gears completely, we have Riders of Death Valley, another of VCI Video’s ongoing series of releases of classic Hollywood serials on Blu-ray. With stagecoach robberies, outlaws, a band of heroes, and plenty of horses and six-gun shooters, it’s pulpy western material like you saw a lot in 1941 when it was released. This one runs 15 episodes, which totals almost five hours. And of course, you really have to love serials to dig into these releases. If you only got to see a 20-minute chunk once a week, I can see how they worked. But watching it sequentially… a five-hour film is a LOT to take. So fans of serials and westerns will want to check this out, everyone else will probably be uninterested or not have the time to invest.

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