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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Croods 2, Fatale, She’s The Man, Crazy Samurai 400 Vs. 1 and more

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The Croods: A New AgeThe Croods was a big surprise for me. I was unimpressed by the trailers, and it wasn’t like Nicolas Cage was a big selling point. But I found the movie to be quite charming and funnier than I expected, and my family and I all enjoyed it quite a bit. Now we have the inevitable sequel, The Croods: A New Age. And, once again, I found myself less than excited to watch it. It’s not that I thought it wouldn’t be good per se, just more that I don’t think the film really needed a sequel. Well, I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised a second time around, as The Croods: A New Age, while maybe not quite as good as the first one, is still rather enjoyable. This time around, the Crood family meets the Bettermans, a more “evolved” kind of cave people, and of course… well, let’s just say things don’t go all that smoothly. It’s an easy film to watch, with lots of humor, and I enjoyed it, even if it’s not a masterpiece. Sometimes films can just be fun, and that’s okay. The Croods: A New Age is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD, and the 4K premium really brings the film’s visuals to life, with brilliant colors and razor sharp animated imagery, plus the surround soundtrack brings the aural landscape to life, and there’s a lot of activity so it’s a fun experience.

Fatale – Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy star in this year’s obligatory I-Had-An-Affair-And-Now-I’m-Caught-Up-In-Trouble-Because-Someone’s-Obsessed-With-Me thriller. This time around, it’s Ealy who is the victim when he gets involved with Hilary Swank. Adding an extra wrinkle is that Swank is a police detective who uses her influence to become assigned to an investigation with Ealy and make him very uncomfortable. I swore to myself I would stop watching these kinds of films a few years ago, because they’re always exactly the same. And I wish I could say Fatale was different, but it’s really not. Swank and Ealy are fine (although Swank’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it) and the film is easily watchable, it’s just not that interesting or exciting, and it certainly doesn’t feel fresh or new. If you want some comfort food, this will do, but if you’re looking for something that you’ll remember tomorrow, this isn’t it.

Scooby-Doo! The Sword and the Scoob – This newest Scooby-Doo animated direct-to-video movie is a nice change of pace from Warner’s more recent offerings that have relied on stunt guest casting like WWE wrestling superstars and the rock group KISS. This time around, Scooby and the gang end up in medieval times, at the hands of an evil witch. What follows is the usual hijinks that follow the Scooby gang, this time joined by Jason Isaacs and Nick Frost providing guest voices. The film is an enjoyable-enough entry in the Scooby franchise. It’s not one of the standout films in the series, but it’s fun enough and kids will like it.

She’s the Man: 15th Anniversary Edition – I have a little bit of a soft spot for She’s the Man, even though it’s a largely terrible movie. The reason is, when I reviewed it originally, I made a point of saying that this “Channing Tatum kid was going places,” because he was the only good part of the film. And it turns out I was right! The problem with the movie, which sees Amanda Bynes posing as her own twin brother in order to help the school soccer team win The Big Game, is that Amanda Bynes might possibly be the worst actress to walk the planet. I’ve honestly never seen a more laughable performance than her one in this movie. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Channing Tatum’s charismatic turn, the film would be unwatchable. But, the film has never been released on Blu-ray before, so Paramount has brought us a 15th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, so if you are a fan you can finally upgrade to high def. All the better to watch Channing Tatum in crystal clear imagery.

Crazy Samurai 400 Vs. 1 – This is an interesting film. Or is it more of a film experiment? This 90-minute action film is presented as one uncut scene, and it is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Is it good, though? Well, sort of. I mean, as far as action films go, it’s pretty unrelenting, and the uncut nature of the film means it is constantly going going GOING! At the same time, it’s kind of a little exhausting, because there’s hardly any plot or character development or… well, anything, honestly, other than sword fights. One guy against 400 opponents is impressive, and Tak Sakaguchi is unstoppable, carrying the action all on his shoulders. There’s no denying the technical artistry in pulling off this film, but it would be nice to see it have a little more to it than just non-stop, unending action. However, if non-stop, unending action is what you want, well, congratulations, this movie is for you!

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Rick & Morty Complete Seasons 1-4 – I’ve heard Rick & Morty compared to everything from Back to the Future to Doctor Who to Futurama to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and in reality, it is kind of a mash-up of all of those things, just in animated form and with a seriously PG-13 sense of humor. Unfortunately, it’s also not to my sense of humor at all. At. All. I know people love it, and the show has a very strong fan following, but I just don’t understand why. I find it incredibly annoying to watch and not funny in the slightest. But, assuming you are a fan, this new collection features all four seasons so far in one nicely-packaged Blu-ray box set that includes every episode plus bonus features across four discs. It’s a nice release for fans, I just wish I could count myself as one of them.
  • Cheer! Rally! Kill! 5-Film Collection – It’s kind of hard to argue with the idea of a five-movie collection all about cheerleaders and crime. This new Lionsgate collection features five direct-to-video films that are all about cheerleaders, but these aren’t Bring It On. We have cheerleaders being attacked, under investigation, engaging in sexual encounters, having their identity stolen, stalked, and more, over the course of five films. Those movies are: Identity Theft of a Cheerleader, The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders, The Cheerleader Escort, The Undercover Cheerleader, and The Wrong Cheerleader. (Not a lot of variety in the names there, huh, Lionsgate?) For the most part, the films star unknown actors, although Denise Richards and Vivica A. Fox show up in supporting roles in two of the films. The great thing about this set, though, is that these films scratch a very particular itch, so if you’ve got the hankering for some semi-trashy, slightly exploitative thrillers, you’ve come to the right place.
  • WB Archive Spotlight – This week we have three new releases from the Warner Archive, Warner Bros.’ print-on-demand service that brings you cult classics and well-loved films alike (check it out here). This week we get one more recent film (Ish. It came out in 1990.) and two Hollywood classics and all three films make their debut on Blu-ray. First up is the more recent film, Pump Up the Volume, a classic drama (with comedic elements) about alienated high school youth starring Christian Slater. Slater plays a high schooler who has a pirate radio show that is causing a stir among kids, parents, and teachers alike. Of course, nowadays, he would have a podcast and no one would care, so it’s definitely a product of its time, but it’s still a great film. I think you’ll find that anyone who was a high schooler at the time this movie came out was probably slightly obsessed with the film (and its soundtrack) back in the day. Slater’s performance is terrific, and the film just really captures the feel of high school in the early ‘90s. Moving on to the two older films, we have San Francisco and A Tale of Two Cities. A Tale of Two Cities is the 1935 adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic that was produced by David O. Selznick and starred Ronald Colman. It’s a solid adaptation of the story, and at just over two hours, it packs a lot in and doesn’t feel too long. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a 1936 film starring Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. The pair of leading men play two fellows who are competing for the affections of the same woman, a singing chanteuse. This is one of those films that are perfectly watchable, if a bit long, but it’s Gable and Tracy who carry the film more than the story or characters.
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up the week, we have a number of indie releases on DVD and Blu-ray. First up is Breaking Surface, a Swedish/Norwegian thriller in the vein of 47 Meters Down, just minus the sharks. In this film, we have a pair of sisters diving who get stuck underwater after an avalanche traps them. The film has some uneven moments, but it also has some incredibly tense moments. I wish the characters were a little more endearing, but this isn’t necessarily the kind of movie you watch for characters; rather you watch to get your heart pumping, and in that it succeeds. Next up is God of the Piano, another foreign film, this time from Israel. This intense drama is about a driven musician with some serious daddy issues whose own son is born deaf, thus threatening her plans to shape him into a successful musical force. There’s a lot at play in the film and the performances are uniformly terrific, while the 80-minute run time keeps things from dragging on too long. Not for everyone, but a deep film with a lot of heartbreak. Continuing the foreign theme, we also have an Italian film this week with Alone With Her Dreams, a coming-of-age drama set in Italy in the 1960s. In the film, 11-year-old Lucia is left to live with her grandmother while her parents travel to France to find work. Of course, it’s a difficult transition for her, and that’s the thrust of the film. Young Marta Castiglia gives an impressive performance, as she largely carries the film. It’s not a fast-moving, plot-driven vehicle, but it is an effective drama for people looking for something a little more thoughtful. Finally, we have Mayor, a documentary about a Christian Mayor of Ramallah, a Palestinian city near the West Bank. As if the middle east situation wasn’t complicated enough, imagine being a Christian mayor in that area of the world. This critically-acclaimed documentary tells the story of Musa Hadid and how he’s trying to make positive changes in his part of there world. It’s an interesting film that again doesn’t run too long, keeping it engaging throughout.

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