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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Court Jester, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Snowpiercer, You, Doom Patrol, Fatman and more

Batman: Soul of the Dragon – I applaud the DC Animated Universe movies for branching out a bit and trying something new, but I’m not sure Batman: Soul of the Dragon is what I really want to see them doing. Set in the 1970s, this new movie starts off as a sort of Batman-teams-up-with-Bruce-Lee adventure (or in this case, DC’s stand-in character, Richard Dragon). But halfway through, it shifts to a supernatural, metaphysical adventure which just doesn’t work nearly as well in Batman’s world for me personally. Add to that the fact that Batman takes kind of a backseat to the other characters (Lady Shiva, Richard Dragon, etc.) and the film as a whole is just okay. I also didn’t love the costume design for Batman this time around. I’m not trying to pile on, as I really am a fan of what DC does with their Animated Universe movies. It’s just that some are hits and some are misses, and this one was more of a miss for me. Batman: Soul of the Dragon is available on 4K Ultra HD (as well as DVD and Blu-ray), and it does look and sound terrific in the premium format. The animation works well with the deeper color saturation and inky black outlines, and the surround soundtrack offers up a robust sound field. It’s a very strong technical presentation.

The Court Jester – Paramount continues its terrific Paramount Presents imprint with this new Collector’s Edition (and Blu-ray debut, I believe) of The Court Jester, the 1961 musical comedy masterpiece starring Danny Kaye, Angela Lansbury, and Basil Rathbone. This is one of those classic Hollywood films I fell in love with as a kid and it continues to hold up really well even to this day. In it, Kaye plays a carnival performer who joins a rebel force against a tyrant king, but a sorceress’s spell causes him to flip flop between goofy troubadour and gallant swordsman at the drop of a hat. The ensuing chaos is the stuff of comedy gold. And while I don’t generally go for musicals, this one works well because the songs are well-written, and the whole vibe of the movie is just so much fun. As usual with the Paramount Presents label, Paramount has decided not to include a digital copy of the film, which is inexcusable in my opinion, but other than that, this is a great release of a great movie.

Snowpiercer: The Complete First Season – Just in time for the upcoming Season Two to air on TV, we get the first season of TNT’s hit show Snowpiercer on Blu-ray (and DVD) this week. Starring Jennifer Connelly and Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs, the show takes place in a future in which the world has frozen, and all of humanity survives on a mega-train with 1,001 cars. Throughout these cars, we have pretty much all of society from the poor and the downtrodden to the rich and the spoiled. The show expands upon the original film (and the comic it was based on), and gives us a good mix of class warfare and dystopic fiction in each episode. It’s a dark show, not a cheerful one with a lot of humor, but if you’re looking for something meaty to sink your teeth into, Snowpiercer definitely fits the bill. It looks great and has strong performances; I found it a little heard to get invested in some of the characters, but that gets easier as the episodes continue. This two-disc set includes all ten episodes from the first season, plus some nice extra features.

You: The Complete Second Season – Penn Badgely and Victoria Pedretti star in the second season of this Netflix show which quietly became one of the most-watched and more talked-about shows of the past couple of years. For those of you who don’t have Netflix, this second season DVD collection (available through the Warner Archive, Warner’s print-on-demand service) continues the story of Badgely’s Joe, now in California and obsessed with a girl named, yes, Love. It’s a romance/drama/thriller, which gives it a different flavor from a lot of other shows out there right now. Badgely and Pedretti are terrific together (and James Scully is a standout as Forty), and the show does a nice job of pacing itself well so it doesn’t drag on but it also doesn’t rush through things. I’m not sure how many seasons Netflix can sustain it for, but for now, I’m completely hooked and can’t wait for Season Three.

Doom Patrol: The Complete Second Season – I’ll admit, I was more than a little surprised when DC announced they were making Doom Patrol one of the flagship shows of their DC Unlimited app. I’ve always enjoyed the Doom Patrol comics, but they’re hands down one of the weirdest superhero teams in existence, and I thought pulling it off as a TV show would be… challenging, to say the least. But somehow, DC has made it work. The show manages to capture the vibe of the comics, and while it might not be 100% as weird as the comic book (and I actually think that’s a good thing), it’s still pretty offbeat. The show has a great feel, a great cast (including Brendan Fraser and Timothy Dalton), and it feels different from any other superhero show around. It has some clunky moments here and there, but I think it’s definitely on the right path towards becoming a real fan favorite. This second season collection is available on Blu-ray and DVD, and it contains all nine episodes.

Fatman – Mel Gibson stars as — believe it or not — Santa Claus in this dark comedy. Okay, he’s Santa, but he’s a bitter, haggard Santa, disappointed in how many kids are on the naughty list nowadays and with nary an ounce of holiday spirit left. Enter one spurned, spoiled rich kid, who gets coal in his stocking and hours a hitman to take out Santa. It’s a pretty fun concept for a movie, and it’s clear the cast is having a good time, which also includes the always-excellent Walton Goggins and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. While the film lets a few of the characters remain a bit thinner than you’d like, it also works hard to make what could be a ridiculous story works in a real world setting. I have to admit, I had a good bit of fun with this one.

Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?: The Complete First Season – As a lifelong Scooby Doo fan, I’m always happy to watch a new entry in the franchise. And Scooby Doo and Guess Who is a lot of fun, as it hearkens back to The New Scooby Doo Movies from back in the day. In this new series, Scooby and the gang solve a new mystery in each episode, but in this case, they’re joined by a special guest in each outing. Over the course of 25 episodes we get to see animated versions of everyone from Neill Degrasse Tyson, Mark Hamill, Sia, Wanda Sykes, Jim Gaffigan and Ricky Gervais to other fictional characters like Wonder Woman, Batman, and Sherlock Holmes. With the guests voicing themselves, the show is a lot of fun. I’m glad to see Scooby continue on and it’s great that Warner Brothers is trying new things and letting the franchise go in new directions while at the same time staying true to its roots. This one’s a win!

Come Play – While 2020 was a wasteland at the movie theaters, if there were major theatrical releases, Come Play is one of them that would have probably dropped in early October, grossed 30 or 40 million dollars, and quietly disappeared. (To be fair, I think it did actually reach theaters, but I live in a state that’s pretty shit down, so I didn’t get to theaters at all.) But in case you were missing by-the-numbers horror thrillers, don’t worry, Come Play is here to save you! Gillian Jacobs stars as the mom of a young boy with autism who communicates only through his electronic devices. Well, don’t you know, of course those devices begin to get haunted by a malevolent spirit. Cue the requisite overly dark cinematography, cheap jump-scares, and forced atmosphere. To be fair, Come Play isn’t actually bad at all, its just a little bit of business as usual. It’s a quick and easy way to kill 90 minutes, but you’ll forget about it as soon as its over.

Synchronic – Anthony Mackie (The Avengers’ Falcon) and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey’s Christian Grey) team up in this new thriller. The pair play paramedics who discover a new street drug that may have properties that allow time to be altered. This is particularly handy as one of our protagonists has just received some pretty terrible news. But this is far from a bright and shiny sci-fi thriller; it’s a dark film with atmosphere oozing from its pores that uses realistically drawn characters with faults aplenty to tell its story. Both Mackie and Dornan deliver terrific performances, and while the film might make you feel a little uncomfortable at times (reminiscent of The Butterfly Effect in that way), it doesn’t pull its punches. An effective and gutsy thriller.

The Kid Detective – Adam Brody has had an interesting career. After breaking through in The OC, he went on to just sort of… show up whenever he wants to. I’ve seen him in comedy TV series, dramatic films, thrillers, you name it. He just sort of seems to take on projects that interest him and. Nothing else, and as a result, he’s often the best thing in any movie or show he stars in. And such is the case with The Kid Detective, which is sort of like the story of what would happen if Encyclopedia Brown grew up and was still holding on to his “celebrity” as a boy detective. And what happens when he finally has a real case to solve? Ably supported by the likable Sophie Nélisse, the film is part mystery, part comedy, and part dark drama, with events getting a little more intense as they go along. But Brody brings a heaviness to the character which feels real and it’s very effective, and I really enjoyed the film overall.

Also Available This Week on Home Video –

  • The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4 – This fantastic new release from Cohen Media marks the fourth volume in an absolutely terrific series. With this disc, you get two Buster Keaton classics, Go West and College. It’s funny to me that Cohen chose to wait until the fourth volume to include what I consider to be two of Keaton’s best films, but I guess that’s all subjective. Go West sees Keaton as a young man trying to make his way in the big city, only to end up on a ranch, and then… well, sort of back in the city. College, meanwhile, is nothing short of a physical comedy masterpiece, with Keaton as a college student trying his hand at a number of collegiate athletics that he is ill-suited for. Seriously, it’s genius. There are a few extra features, but the real attraction is the two main films which have been restored and remastered and look better than any previous version. Definitely recommended for fans of Keaton or classic silent comedies.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Twelfth Season – I used to dislike Spongebob Squarepants, but then my kids started watching the show and I’ve grudgingly come to like it — at least sort of. It’s still far from my favorite kids’ show, but I can at least now see the appeal. I even find it funny sometimes. This newest collection was a particularly big hit with my kids, as it collects all of the episodes featured in Season Twelve, rather than being a release with just a few episodes on it. It’s a much more rewarding viewing experience to be able to tackle a whole season versus just chunks of it every few months. This three-disc set contains 27 episodes, giving Spongebob fans enough material to binge for a good long while!
  • Sudden Fear – This terrific thriller starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, and Gloria Grahame makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Cohen Media. Released in 1952, Crawford plays an actress who marries the questionable Jack Palance, only to discover that he’s plotting her murder. It’s a neat little slice of Film Noir heaven, with all of the main actors firing on all cylinders. But the film stops short of melodrama, instead allowing the performances and plot to carry the tension through to the very last frame of the film. It’s not one of the more famous classic Hollywood film noirs, but it’s definitely one that’s worth seeking out, especially since it’s now available in a restored and remastered Blu-ray.
  • The Last Shift – Richard Jenkins is one of those actors who has sort of waffled between being an award-winning household name and a character actor “that guy.” I’ve been a big fan of his for years, and his performance in The Last Shift is one of his best yet. In the film, he plays an unassuming man who works at a quick order restaurant who’s getting ready to retire and take care of his ailing mother. Enter Jevon, a young African American man on parole, who starts working there as part of his release conditions. The two develop a relationship, and despite some somewhat-forced sounding dialogue about racial tensions, what they learn from each other about economic status and class warfare is much more valuable. It’s a dialogue-heavy drama, which may not be your cup of tea, but it’s extremely enjoyable for the performances alone, and because the characters draw you in.
  • The Climb – This is a bit of an odd one for me, in that I don’t really know if I liked it or hated it. Written and directed by Michael Angelo Covino, The Climb stars Covino himself and Kyle Marvin, who is apparently his real-life best friend (as well as his co-writer) as two best friends who exist in a somewhat toxic relationship. Covino’s Mike is a think-for-yourselfer, while Marvin’s Kyle is a milquetoast, and the two go around and around in a yin and yang of friendship in which you question whether they should be friends or not. There are many uncomfortable moments, which isn’t my favorite kind of movie, but the script is sharp and Covino and Marvin have good screen presence together. I guess ultimately I didn’t really love the film, but I didn’t hate it, either.
  • Yellow Rose – You probably haven’t heard of this film or anyone in it, but I believe there’s an audience out there for it. It’s a drama about a Filipino teenager who longs to become a country singer, all while her personal life is falling apart (her mother gets arrest by ICE, for example). It’s a combination of coming-of-age drama, social commentary, and character study, and while it’s a more dramatic film than what I usually go for, there’s no denying the talent both on screen and behind the cameras. Eva Noblezada has the lead role and carries the entire movie on her shoulders, and she does so in spectacular fashion. If you can’t get sucked into her performance, you might be watching a different movie than me.
  • Mean Man: The Story Of Chris Holmes – Chris Who? That’s what I asked myself when this disc first crossed my desk. Chris Holmes is who, and it turns out he was the lead guitarist for hair metal band W.A.S.P. back in the ‘80s. After reaching major musical success, Holmes battled addiction and lost his main source of income (his songs’ publishing rights and royalties), resulting in him joining the 9 to 5 working world. Now, he’s created a new band and is gaining traction in Europe, and this film documents Holmes’ journey from the heights of his success to the lows of his post-W.A.S.P life. It’s an interesting film and a cautionary tale, and it’s 80-minute running time is the perfect length to keep it interesting. Worth a watch, especially if you like a good documentary about real people in interesting circumstances.
  • Lena & Snowball – When you look at a DVD cover with a teenage girl and a lion cub looking bright and happy on the cover, and then you see that the marquee star of the film is Robert Knepper (best known as T-Bag on Prison Break), it’s a weird juxtaposition. Of course, Knepper plays the bad guy, which makes sense, in this film about a teenager who befriends a rare white lion cub, and then has to try and save it from the poachers that want the cat for nefarious purposes. Honestly, it’s a pretty by-the-numbers family film involving animals and bad guys, and we’ve seen it a hundred times before. That said, it’s also competently made and acted, and Snowball the lion is awfully cute. It’s been done, but younger viewers will definitely enjoy it and parents watching along won’t be miserable.
  • Down Home Blues: Miami, Atlanta & The South Eastern States (Blues In The Alley) – Our final title this week is a CD-only music release, but it’s a pretty good one and I felt like it warranted inclusion. This various artists release is a three-disc set focusing on American Blues music. It includes a whopping 83 tracks that work through the history of Blues music, with rare and archival tracks by artists such as Ray Charles (very early in his career), Earl Hooker, Richard Armstrong, Willy Brown, Poor Jim, Jerry McCain, and Frank Edwards. Now, most of these guys aren’t household names, but this set is like a history lesson and musical compilation all in one. Focusing on the blues scene in the southeastern United States, the tracks range from the 1940s to the early 200s, giving you a wide range of songs, styles, and even audio quality. With a 78-page collector’s booklet included, this Anthology-style set is a valuable resource if you want to dig into the history of the blues in America.

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