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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Let Him Go, Greenland, Freaky, Elysium, The Parallax View, Wild Mountain Thyme and more

Diane Lane (left) stars as “Margaret Blackledge” and Kevin Costner (right) stars as “George Blackledge” in director Thomas Bezucha’s LET HIM GO, a Focus Features release.
Credit : Kimberley French / Focus Features

Let Him Go – If you haven’t seen Let Him Go starring Diane Lane and Kevin Costner yet, you NEED to make it happen. It’s absolutely phenomenal. Diane Lane’s performance — in a career full of great performances — is an utter revelation. Seriously, she needs to win ALL the Oscars for her role here. Everyone else in the film is terrific, too: Kevin Costner, Jeffrey Donovan, Lesley Manville, and Booboo Stewart all shine. The story is a simple one, and I don’t want to go into it too much here. This is a movie that needs no knowledge ahead of time. Just go into it, let it slowly burn towards its climax, and bask in the glory of sheer talent on screen and behind the camera. Every scene drips with tension, even the ones where the people are supposedly friendly, yet it feels as much like a beautiful drama as it does a thriller. The cinematography is breathtaking, the script is perfect, and it makes you wish there were more movies like this. I’m blown away. I know it came out in 2020, technically, but I can tell you already that Let Him Go will be in my Top 5 of 2021. And I won’t be surprised if it comes in at number one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Greenland – The last time Gerard Butler starred in a disaster movie, 2017’s Geostorm, it was… well, pardon the pun, but it was a disaster. So I was cautiously optimistic about Greenland, a new end-of-the-world thriller starring Butler and Morena Baccarin, mostly based on the terrific trailer. And it turns out, that trailer sold a film that is everything it promised and more. The story starts with a comet flying near the earth that soon turns into a series of ever-worsening comet-chunk-strikes on the earth. Before long, it’s clear that there is an extinction-level event on the way, but there may be one chance: bunkers in Greenland. From there, it’s a race for survival, and I don’t want to give away the twists and turns, but suffice it to say there are plenty. The film ratchets up the tension to unbearable levels, and then gives you a break just long enough to catch your breath before it ratchets the tension up again, usually even higher. Butler and Baccarin both are terrific, and the film will keep you glued to the screen for the entirety of its running time. RECOMMENDED!

Freaky – Vince Vaughn and Katherine Newton (who you might recognize if you’re a die-hard Supernatural fan) star in this fun slasher-flick-with-a-twist: it’s also a body swap comedy. Newton stars as a teenage girl who accidentally swaps bodies with The Blissfield Butcher, a vicious serial killer in the classic Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers mode. The rest is just as much chaos and comedy as you’d expect, especially with Vince Vaughn playing a teenage girl after she inhabits his body. My one complaint with the film is there are a few scenes that are more gory than they need to be. It feels like they’re trying to parody some of the more notorious slasher flicks, but it could have been toned down and the film wouldn’t have suffered any for it. Still, it’s an awful lot of fun. RECOMMENDED!

Elysium (4K Ultra HD) – I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of Neill Blomkamp’s films. Even his well-loved District 9, I just don’t really care for it. His follow-ups, Elysium and Chappie, weren’t my cup of tea, either. But Elysium always bothered me because I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that I didn’t like about it. And even now, watching it again, I still can’t quite figure out why it doesn’t work for me, save for the fact that I think Blomkamp’s essential aesthetic just doesn’t work for me. The film looks beautiful, and Matt Damon puts in some seriously hard work, but somehow it just leaves me feeling… unsatisfied. That said, though, if there was a film that was a great candidate for a 4K Ultra HD release that you might not have thought of, Elysium is it. The film shines in the premium high def format, with the gorgeous visuals nearly popping off the screen, thanks to deep, rich colors and image sharp clarity. The surround soundtrack is lush and active, bringing this dystopia future to life. If you are a fan of the film, this is definitely the version you want to own.

The Parallax View – The Criterion Collection brings one of the best 1970s paranoia thrillers to their ranks with this newly restored and remastered version of Alan J. Pakula’s classic, The Parallax View. Starring Warren Beatty as reporter Joseph Frady, who discovers a conspiracy that may have been involved in assassinating a presidential candidate. As Frady gets deeper and deeper into the conspiracy, the tension builds and builds, and the film is a masterpiece of tension and suspense. Beatty’s performance is terrific, and the film’s ending is a killer. This new Criterion Collection Blu-ray (also available on DVD) features a nice collection of extra features, including a new introduction, archival interviews with Pakula, and a couple of new featurettes. It’s not the most features-packed Criterion edition I’ve ever seen, but in this case it doesn’t matter, because the film itself is the star of the show here. RECOMMENDED!

Wild Mountain Thyme – This new romance film from the director of Moonstruck does for Irish families what Moonstruck did for Italian families. Starring Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, and Jon Hamm, the film is about a woman (Blunt) in love with a man (Dornan), who’s rather clueless about her affections and is instead focused on his father’s (Walken) plans to sell their farm to his nephew (Hamm). Don’t worry, it’s not as convoluted as it seems. This is one of those movies that isn’t quite a comedy but isn’t quite a full drama, either. It blends the two genres deftly and weaves back and forth between funny moments and truly moving moments. The performances are terrific across the board, and while the film isn’t a masterpiece, it is pretty enjoyable.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:

  • Love Story & Elizabethtown: Paramount Presents Edition – Paramount continues their nicely-packaged Paramount Presents line with two new romance films just in time for Valentine’s Day. First up is Love Story, the 1970 hit starring Ryan O-Neal and Ali McGraw that just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Now, some people think this movie is cheesy, but it was a big hit when it was released and even though I never saw it until about ten years ago, I actually really love it. It’s a great romance story that is both funny and moving. Then we have Elizabethtown, starring Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom, and directed by Cameron Crowe. Another film that has its fair share of critics, Elizabethtown doesn’t reach the heights of Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, but it’s a fun little film that’s an easy enough watch. Both films include nice gatefold slipcovers and a few fun extra features, but as usual with Paramount Presents, the lack of a digital copy is a huge disappointment. Get with the program, Paramount!!
  • Buried Alive – Frank Darabont has directed and/or produced some true classics in his time, most notable The Shawshank Redemption and The Walking Dead (which he created the television version of, not the comic itself.) But one of his earliest films has been long hard-to-find, the 1990 TV movie Buried Alive. Starring Tim Matheson and Jennifer Jason Leigh, this horror thriller sees Matheson as a man murdered by his wife and her lover… only the murder doesn’t take. Finding himself in a buried coffin, Matheson then has to escape so he can exact his revenge. Now, is this a full on Darabont masterpiece? No. It’s hampered a little by a TV budget and production levels. That said, it is easily better than most TV movies of the same era, and it’s not hard to see Darabont’s hand behind the camera is the reason why. I’m a little surprised this release comes from Kino Lorber and not Scream Factory, because it has a very Scream Factory feel to it. Extra features include a new interview with actor William Atherton and a feature commentary track by entertainment journalist Bryan Reesman, who always delivers a terrific effort. This is a fun little release!
  • The Little Prince – An all-star voice cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, and Marion Cotillard features in this new animated adaptation of one of the world’s most beloved children’s books. If you’re not familiar with the story of the little prince, there’s nothing I can do to boil it down into a sentence or two that will fully explain it to you, but suffice it to say it involves a young girl, a magic world, and, yes, a little prince. The film is directed by Mark Osborne, who also helmed Kung Fu Panda, so despite it mot being a major Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks release, the animation is still excellent and the story and acting are both terrific. It’s not easy to take a short book and transform it into an effective feature-length movie, but they’ve done a great job here.
  • Sputnik – There have been some strong film entries out of Russia lately, and Sputnik is another one that stands out. This sci-fi horror film takes the traditional alien-in-space thriller and moves it earthside, with a returning cosmonaut inhabited by a life form that only comes out at night. The film liberally borrows (or is inspired by) movies like Alien and The Astronaut’s Wife (more the former than the latter), but it mines them for good ideas and plays out like an homage more than a rip-off. The special effects are solid and the creature design is cool, and the fact that t’s in Russian actually kind of works to make it cooler, as long as you don’t mind subtitles (which I don’t.) Worth a look for sci-fi fans who don’t mind a new spin on a familiar story.
  • Jiang Ziya – This new Asian animated action epic is a sequel to last year’s Ne Zha, which was not your traditional release from the genre. While most Asian animated films are in the traditional hand-drawn anime style, these films are made with a 3-D CGI style, giving them some moments of anime inspiration but also a look and feel all their own. The story this time around focuses on a “celestial army commander” who spares a demon when he realizes its life is tied to that of an innocent little girl. This costs him dearly, and he’s banished to earth. Fast forward ten years, and he has a chance to redeem himself by making another terrible choice. Like the first film, the animation is impressive and the story moves along well enough for the most part. I actually think I liked this entry a little better than the first one, as the story is more centered, and overall I liked it a lot better than I do most anime releases.
  • The Mary Millington Movie Collection – I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of Mary Millington, so I was surprised to find not just a new Blu-ray release focusing on her, but an entire box set of Blu-rays cross my desk for review. It turns out, Millington was an adult film star in the UK in the 70s, so our UK readers might be more familiar with her than I was. She apparently starred in more explicit material as well as more soft-core erotica films, the type that were a staple of 1970s cinema, and that’s what this collection focuses on. This box set includes five films (remastered in 2K): Come Play with Me (1977), The Playbirds (1978), Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair (1979), Queen of the Blues (1979), and Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions (1980) as well as a 2015 documentary, Respectable: The Mary Millington Story. Now, these movies are obviously a product of their time, but watching them, I was struck by Millington’s on-screen charisma, and it’s easy to see why she developed a devoted fan following. And those fans will love this box set, which is limited to 3,000 numbered copies and also includes a gorgeous 80-page collector’s booklet.
  • The State Of Texas Vs. Melissa: Special Edition – This powerful documentary focuses on Melissa Lucio, the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas, for the murder of her two-year-old daughter. But the film isn’t a true crime expose; rather it’s an inditement of the legal system and how it treats minorities. There are many questions about this case and about how Lucio was treated due to her minority status that make you question whether justice is really being done here. I won’t make a judgment here, but you’ll definitely have an opinion if you watch the film for yourself.
  • Peggy Lee: Things Are Swingin’ – This 90-minute tribute to the late, great singer/songwriter compiles numerous TV appearances of Lee singing her biggest hits: Fever, I’m A Woman, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Unforgettable, and 13 others. You even get some duets with luminaries such as Johnny Cash and Eydie Gorme. It’s a pretty nice collection, even if there is a little variance in broadcast quality depending on the source of the clip, but overall it’s a great pick-up for fans of the talented performer.

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