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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Rambo, The War With Grandpa, Avenue 5, Jiu Jitsu, Tourist Trap, Guncrazy and more

Rambo: 4K Ultra HD Steelbook Collection – As a child of the ‘80s, I have a deep love of the Rambo movies. I mean, for the most part I love all things Sylvester Stallone, but the Rambo movies are some of my favorites. Re-watching the trilogy in this beautiful new 4K Ultra HD Steelbook box set, I was surprised to see that my favorite film of the three had changed. I always loved Rambo: First Blood Part II and more… appreciated First Blood, thinking of it as less of an action film than a drama. I’ve now realized that First Blood is a near-masterpiece. Rambo is still an utterly fantastic check-your-brains-at-the-door actioner, but First Blood is an amazing mix of action, drama, and suspense, and it’s by far the best of the three. And Rambo III isn’t as bad as its reputation, either, it’s just not as good as the first two films. Then you have the latter two films, 2008’s John Rambo and 2019’s Rambo: Last Blood. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the 2008 film as a solid if not great mindless action flick, but Last Blood was just too brutal in its violence for me to enjoy. Now all five films have been collected for the first time ever in one 4K Box set, and it is a beauty! The original three films look exceptionally good. They’re not quite as impressive as brand new movies, but they look crisp and clean with vivid colors and excellent shadow delineation. The two newer movies look like you’d expect post-2000 big budget films to look on 4K: terrific. All the movies give your speakers a workout with active and discrete surround soundtracks that can shake the room at times. But the best part about this box set is the packaging. When I first got the press release for the set, I assumed it was just one steelbook case housing the entire collection, but I was wrong. The set comes in a huge steel box, and each film is housed in its own individual steelbook case, all with brand new Mondo-style artwork. The Steelbooks are gorgeous, and the box set itself is a metal behemoth fitting of this franchise. Each movie comes on 4K Ultra HD and also includes a Blu-ray, plus a digital copy for each film and a nice collection of extra features. As a special bonus, there’s also a digital copy of the Extended Cut of Last Blood, although I haven’t had a chance to compare it to the theatrical cut yet. It is currently available only as a Best Buy exclusive, but it’s worth tracking down. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The War With Grandpa – An all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin and Jane Seymour features in this adaptation of the popular kids’ book. The story is about a middle schooler forced to share a room with his ageing grandfather who launches a war of pranks (and more) against him, which the grandfather retaliates against. It’s a PG-rated comedy that maybe some kids will enjoy, but I sure didn’t. There’s a bit of a dark undertone to it that seems a little mean-spirited, the characters are either unlikable or paper-thin and most of the pranks — instead of being funny — just had me worried that people were going to get hurt. Add to that that the film doesn’t really play all that well in the COVID-19 era (You think sharing a room is bad now, kid? Wait until you’re home 24 hours a day!) And the end result is a fin that I think will have limited audience appeal.

Avenue 5: The Complete First Season – Creator Armando Iannucci seems to specialize in creating shows about unlikable people. First he crafted a hit with The Alan Partridge Show (which I’m neutral on), then he created the insufferable Veep (that somehow became a hit, which I’ll never understand), and now he brings us Avenue 5. This sci-fi comedy is set aboard a luxury space cruiser that gets thrown off course and instead of an eight-week trip around the galaxy, will now need three years to get home. Yeah, I guess when I say it like that, it does sound a little bit like a modern updating of Gilligan’s Island. With Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad (looking like modern-day Vince Neil) in the lead roles, there are a few things to like, but most of the characters are rich and obnoxious and annoying, and I found it really challenging to watch without wanting to punch everyone. It’s also less of a straight comedy than a dramedy of sorts, in that it isn’t just one-liner after one-liner. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but people looking for a real laugh fest will be disappointed All nine episodes of season one are collected in this DVD release.

Jiu Jitsu – I mean, when you have a movie called Jiu Jitsu that features ninja warriors fighting aliens AND it stars Nicolas Cage, I kinda feel like you know what you’re in for, no? Well, whatever you think it is, you’re probably right. Jiu Jitsu is a low-budget, rather cheesy affair. The only thing that’s different from what you might think is that Cage has more of a supporting role, ceding the starring roles to former stuntman Alain Moussi, Tony Jaa, and the always-excellent Frank Grillo. I get what Cage is doing here, and maybe Jaa, but Frank Grillo seems to be always working on high-quality or big-budget films, so why is he slumming it here? Anyway, the film is a mash-up of about a dozen existing Ninja movies and another dozen existing sci-fi movies, with no cliche left unturned. If you like watching B-movies for the fun of them being B-movies, you might want to check this one out, but if you’re looking for a real action film, look elsewhere.

Tourist Trap: Vintage VHS Collection – Okay, I have to admit I was not actually familiar with Tourist Trap before this new deluxe version of the film crossed my desk. Turns out, it’s a 1979 horror film that has something of a cult following, and also stars Chuck Connors as the bad guy, the not-so-scarily named Mr. Slausen. The film also stars Tanya Roberts and follows a group of teens whose car breaks down (of course) and who find themselves in a museum filled with wax mannequins that our mysterious Mr. Slausen can control telepathically. And that’s pretty much the gist of it; cue teen death by angry mannequins. The film is a solidly 1970s horror romp: a bit slow in places, a bit cheesy in places, but overall a decent amount of fun. It’s not a masterpiece but it’s not bad either. I guess there are people out there who really like this film, though, because MVD has released it as part of their Vintage VHS Collection, which sees the fit on Blu-ray and DVD packaged in an old school VHS style box (but bigger) that also comes with a Mr. Slausen action figure. I’m a huge fans of packages like this that give fans a little something extra, so if you dig Tourist Trap, hunt this cool set down.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Guncrazy – Also from MVD this week, we have new entry in their MVD Rewind Collection, which brings us under-appreciated and cult classic films in high-quality Blu-ray releases with all-new extra features. This dark, R-Rated drama sees Drew Barrymore as an exploited young woman who falls in love with a prisoner via a pen pal system, and is then driven to murder as they unite to go on the run. It’s got shades of Natural Born Killers, although it didn’t get nearly the press that Oliver Stone’s film did. (Although to be fair, it’s much more straightforward from a narrative and visual standpoint than NBK is). Drew Barrymore was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, and while the film itself isn’t necessarily great, she does make it worth watching, especially if you’re used to seeing her in fluffy romantic comedies. This top-notch Rewind Collection Blu-ray includes a making-of documentary that’s as long as the film itself, a new featurette on director Tamra Davis that runs 40 minutes long, and an audio commentary with Barrymore and Davis, so fans will want to snag this one soon.
  • Blade: The Iron Cross – Admittedly, I have not seen nearly all of the dozen or so Puppet Master movies that exist, but the last one, 2018’s The Littlest Reich, was a heck of a lot of fun. Sort of a reboot of the franchise starring Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon, the series was reimagined as a horror/comedy hybrid, and I really dug it. It also ended on a sort-of cliffhanger that promised more fun in the Puppet Master universe. So I was excited when I got Blade: The Iron Cross to review. Or I WAS excited until I realized the film was set in 1945 and had NOTHING whatsoever to do with the 2018 film. Seriously? This one is basically Blade the killer puppet versus Nazi zombies. And I guess that’s fun if you’re into that kind of thing, but the film isn’t particularly good, and I don’t understand why they felt the need to go back and do what I guess is some kind of prequel after such a great last effort. Sigh. File under “Disappointing.”
  • Louis Van Beethoven – This dramatic film tells of three periods in the life of the composer who is better known to most people as Ludwig Van Beethoven (It seems Louis was his commonly-used nickname.) The film (which aired originally as a TV movie) bounces back and forth between his later years when he is deaf, cranky, and burdensome, and his child years as a prodigy and his young man days as a composer first making his mark on the world. It runs a little over two hours and is in German with English subtitles, so it might be a challenging watch for some people. I found it solidly adequate. It tries to fit a lot of story into two hours, but the performances are good. I wouldn’t say you have to rush right out to watch it, but if you’re interested in Beethoven it might be worth a gander.
  • Chuck Berry: The Original King of Rock ’n’ Roll – One of the greatest rock n’ roll stars of all time, Chuck Berry finally gets a well-deserved feature-length documentary with Chuck Berry: The Original King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Featuring interviews with Keith Richards, Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt, Gene Simmons, Joe Bonamassa, George Thorogood, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, and many others (including Berry’s widow, apparently the first time she’s ever been interviewed on camera), the film artfully details the legendary musician’s life, career, and music. Running an hour and 40 minutes, we get interviews about Berry, archival footage and photos, music, and even some recreations of key moments of Berry’s life. Those can often be cheesy or goofy, but these actually work as they’re pretty well-crafted. It’s a terrific movie that honors a music legend, and it’s definitely worth watching.

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