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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: John Hughes Collection, Do The Right Thing, Inside Amy Schumer, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In and more

John Hughes Five-Movie Collection – Does it get much better than this? This new five-film collection from Paramount gives us some of the best John Hughes movies, not only on Blu-ray but with digital copies included. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes Trains & Automobiles, Pretty in Pink, She’s Having a Baby, and Some Kind of Wonderful are now available in one nice, compact Blu-ray collection. I’m not entirely sure why The Breakfast Club wasn’t added to make it an even half-dozen (I’m pretty sure it’s in the Paramount catalogue), but still, I’m not complaining. I’m a huge John Hughes fan, and there isn’t one film in the bunch that isn’t a great slice of ‘80s comedy. Of course, Ferris Bueller and Planes, Trains & Automobiles are undeniable classics, but who doesn’t love some Molly Ringwald or Kevin Bacon as well? Also, kudos to Paramount for not only including digital copies (something they haven’t always done with catalogue collections in the past) but also keeping the price point low. This one is a hit! RECOMMENDED!

Do The Right Thing (4K Ultra HD) – I know Do the Right Thing is held up as a modern classic of sorts, but I honestly kind of hate the film. Seriously, it feels like just two hours of people yelling at each other to me. I get that there are some great performances and I think Spike Lee is an important voice in filmmaking, but as an actual viewing experience, the film is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. But since it had been a while since I’d seen the film, I thought maybe I’d gain a new appreciation for it with the new 4K Ultra HD version of the film from Sony. I’m sad to say that the film is just as grating as ever to me, only now it looks and sounds markedly better. The 4K Ultra HD format doesn’t transform the movie completely, but it does give it a nice sheen with brighter colors and improved contrasts, plus a surround soundtrack that offers some decent fidelity. I don’t know if I’ll ever like this film, but if you do, this is a nice new version of it on home video.

Inside Amy Schumer: The Complete Series – I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest Amy Schumer fan in the world. I think she can be funny sometimes, but I feel like she hits the same notes a lot. However, some of her best material came in her eponymous show, Inside Amy Schumer. The show is pretty much a typical sketch comedy, except it mixes in Amy doing stand-up, man-on-the-street interviews (which show off how quick her wit can be), and sit down interviews with people like strippers and unusually well-endowed men. It’s this mix that makes the show work. That said, the sketches are also pretty funny. There are a few misses here or there, but by and large, I find most of them pretty entertaining. I still think her stand-up is just okay, but I love her interviews. The end result is a fun half-hour show that’s extremely focused on sex; jokes about sex, sketches about sex, interviews about sex. It’s funny stuff, and there’s no shortage of R-rated material. This new DVD set collects all three seasons into one compact box set for the first time; perfect for fans of the show or of Schumer.

Love, Weddings & Other Disasters – Despite a great cast that includes Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Grace, and Diego Boneta, one has to wonder if the “other disasters” referred to in this film’s title refer to the plot, script, and finished product. Directed by Dennis Dugan — who usually directs Adam Sandler movies and it shows — the film is supposed to be a comedy, but I can’t recall laughing at all. The story is incidental; it’s a hackneyed film about four couples whose lives intersect occasionally, but it’s filled with barely likable characters, tired cliches, insipid jokes, and slapdash connections that make you wonder how or why any of these people would end up together. Simply put, this film is a mess.

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In: The Complete Series – Watching comedy from the past is always interesting. While I’m not old enough to have watched Laugh-In when it originally aired, I grew up watching it on Nick at Night repeats as a child. Laugh-In was basically one of the first sketch comedy shows, and it was filled with an amazing roster of talent, including Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Richard Dawson, Gary Owens, Henry Gibson, Ruth Buzzi, and many other comedy greats. Even better, the show also regularly featured HUGE guest stars, including Johnny Carson, John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Carol Channing, Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Joe Namath, Carroll O’Connor, Vincent Price, Debbie Reynolds, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, and many more. Laugh In may be dated but the humor is largely timeless, and I always have a lot of fun revisiting what was a huge part of my childhood. Now, while many of the seasons have been released separately on DVD before, this new box set (available exclusively from Time Life and Amazon) marks the first time the entire series is available in one huge box set. That means you get all 140 episodes on a whopping 37 discs, which also includes 89 episodes never before available in stores. There are also some cool extra features, most notably the 25th Anniversary Cast Reunion Special, the show’s pilot episode, and more. If you’re a fan of Laugh In, this is the single best way to revisit the entire series in one shot.

Redemption Day – Gary Dourdan, best known for his years as a regular on CSI, takes the lead role in this new action film. It’s a fairly familiar story; Dourdan plays a US Marine returning from duty whose wife gets kidnapped, causing him to become a one-man rescue squad. Unfortunately, despite welcome appearances by Andy Garcia and Ernie Hudson, the film can’t really overcome its low-budget origins. The resultant action scenes are few and far between, and the film drags for large portions. Dourdan is a likable enough lead and can carry the film, but the script and plot don’t really do him any favors. It’s a shame this wasn’t a film with a little more muscle behind it; maybe it could have been something interesting.

Fear of Rain – Katherine Heigl, Madison Iseman, and Harry Connick Jr. star in this new thriller about schizophrenia, paranoia, and people who may or may not be real. Iseman stars as Rain, a teenage girl suffering from severe schizophrenia. As a result, she has a hard time discerning what’s real and what’s not. This becomes especially problematic when she becomes convinced that a young girl is being held against her will in her neighbor’s house. Of course, the only person who believes her is a new boy at school… but is he even real? While this sounds like a by-the-numbers thriller, there’s actually a good amount of character development and drama at play, too. Heigl and Connick play Rain’s put-upon parents, and the film does a good job of showing the disorientation that comes with this particular disease. It’s not an out-and-out slam dunk, but it is a solid little thriller that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

Centigrade – This new survival thriller will probably fall into the love-it-or-hate-it category pretty quickly for most people. Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza star as an American couple traveling through Norway who pull over to wait out a snowstorm, only to wake up buried under tons of snow and ice. Trapped inside their SUV (and with Naomi very pregnant), it quickly becomes a situation fraught with fear, tension, and anger. Now, I like this kind of movie, but it requires a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief, as there were definitely times where I found myself thinking, “Well, why don’t you try doing this?” Also, the film is literally just these two actors inside an SUV for the entirety of the running time. People who don’t like small (or claustrophobic) films will probably get tired of this very quickly. So while I thought it was interesting, be aware of what kind of film you’re going into before you dive in.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Lady Sings the Blues – Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, and Richard Pryor star in this 1972 biopic of the jazz singer Billie Holiday, which makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Ross turns in a stellar performance (especially for someone who was a singer more than an actress) as we follow Holiday from her incredibly tough beginnings to her time as a shining star on the music scene to her ultimately tragic end. Directed by Sidney J. Furie, the film is surprisingly good, even almost 50 years later. It doesn’t seem as dated as many of the other films from the early 70s do, maybe because it’s a period piece of its own. With a good script, strong direction, quality cinematography, terrific performances, and a compelling story, this one is definitely worth watching.
  • Shogun’s Joy of Torture – Arrow Video continues to produce absolutely top-notch special editions of cult and genre films that rival Criterion’s status as the premiere destination for high-end releases. This week, they bring us the Japanese film Shogun’s Joy of Torture, directed by the prolific Teruo Ishii, well-known in his native country for shocking and occasionally exploitative films. This film tells three stories set in 17th century Japan, all with torture as a focus. Now, personally, I don’t really enjoy stories about torture; I find them rather disturbing, and this film is not easy to watch even though it is beautifully shot. If, however, you go for more extreme subject matter, this disc will suit you well. In addition to the film itself, there are a number of extra features including an audio commentary, interviews, a documentary, and a full-color collector’s booklet. The film itself wasn’t for me, but there’s no denying this is a superb release for fans of the movie or Teruo Ishii.
  • 2020 World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers – Are you a Los Angeles Dodgers fan? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up this new 2020 World Series release (released on Blu-ray and DVD). World Series 2020: Los Angeles Dodgers is an eight-disc box set which lets you relive the Dodgers’ journey to their exciting championship in a year where sports were anything but guaranteed. It includes each game from the World Series in their entirety, and also includes a pair of bonus games from the playoff run, giving you a heck of a lot of bang for your buck. With over 23 hours of. Total content, this is a must-have for die-hard fans of the Dodgers!
  • The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee – Paul Hogan stars in this meta-themed comedy in which the former Crocodile Dundee plays himself, Paul Hogan, on the eve of being knighted and trying to stay out of trouble so as not to cause any embarrassment. Of course, what happens is trouble follows him everywhere he goes. The film embraces the fact that Hogan is best known as Crocodile Dundee (there’s even a scene with people pitching a new Dundee sequel to Hogan), and it even manages some sociopolitical ideas into its various comedically-leaning scenes. Ultimately, the film is a bit uneven; there are some funny in-jokes and meta moments, but the film sometimes isn’t sure if it wants to be a goofy satire or a sharp political statement. Credit to Hogan — who at 80 years old barely looks like his Crocodile Dundee self — for trying something new and different, but I don’t know that it works as well as I’d hoped.
  • Elizabeth Is Missing – Speaking of 80-year-olds who haven’t been on screen in a long time, this week we also have Elizabeth is Missing, a PBS Masterpiece mystery movie starring Glenda Jackson, who apparently hasn’t been on screen in 27 years. She plays Maud, an elderly woman whose friend Elizabeth goes missing, but she’s the only one who suspects that something bad has befallen her. Of course, the fact that Maud is suffering from dementia doesn’t help, but Maud sets out to figure out what happened anyway. The film is based on Emma Healey’s bestselling 2014 novel of the same name, and while I haven’t read it, I can say that the film version is well-acted and put together well, making for an enjoyable enough viewing experience.
  • Betty White’s Pet Set: The Complete Series – Most of you know that Betty White has been acting on television since basically television was invented. She got her start in the ‘50s but didn’t become a household name until the 1970s. Well, before she hit it big in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she had her own series called Betty White’s Pet Set, in which she welcomed celebrity guests and their pets, and we’re not talking just cats and dogs here, folks. We see Betty interact with horses, snakes, penguins, kangaroos, cheetahs, and much more. And while this show started airing in 1972 (and isn’t what I’d consider as well-remembered), the wealth of celebrity guests is staggering. Look for familiar faces such as Carol Burnett, Doris Day, Jimmy Stewart, Mary Tyler Moore, Burt Reynolds, James Brolin, Vincent Price, Paul Lynde, Dennis Weaver, Johnny Mathis, Merv Griffin, and Rod Serling, among many, many others. Now the entire series has been collected into a six-disc collection from MPI home video, giving us all 39 episodes in one place for the first time anywhere. It’s kind of neat to see so many great stars in their much younger years, and White is a delight as always. Fun!
  • Iggy & The Stooges: From KO to Chaos – Wrapping up the week we have, Iggy & The Stooges: From KO to Chaos, and 8-disc box set from Skydog Records. This box set includes a whopping seven audio CDs and one DVD. The DVD is called Acoustic KO (a live acoustic performance by Iggy), while the discs are culled from a number of sources. The main thrust of the set is the Metallic KO release from 1976, which takes up three discs (you get two source performances and the final release (which originally pared down the two concerts into one album). Then there’s an audio version of the Acoustic KO that’s on the DVD, as well as two discs of rarities and a live reunion concert from Japan, all tied together with a detailed 48-page collector’s booklet. Admittedly, I’m not well-versed in the Iggy Pop catalog, but I am a music hound and there’s nothing I love more than a collection from an artist I love with tons of unreleased material in it. From what I can tell, only about a disc or two’s worth of material has been readily available before, making this set a must-have for fans of Iggy Pop and/or The Stooges.

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