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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Promising Young Woman, Rad, Wonder Showzen, Don’t Tell A Soul, Tropical Heat and more

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Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman – I would have been really curious to see how Promising Young Woman performed at the box office if the 2020 season hadn’t been cut short by COVID. Because I’ll be honest, the trailer for PYW really had me uninterested in seeing the film. But having now watched it, I can say I was absolutely blown away by it. What looked in the trailer to be an over stylized, grisly revenge thriller is anything but. In fact, it’s a beautiful blending of genres: black comedy, moving drama, suspense thriller, and character study, all wrapped up in one. The story follows a young woman who is out to get some sort of justice for her friend who was sexually assaulted in med school and eventually took her own life. This includes pretending to be drunk at clubs to lure “nice guys” into a moment of reckoning when they try and take advantage of her. But here’s the thing: there is barely a moment of violence in this film. It is not an action movie or a straight-up thriller, although it certainly has moments of tension and unease. And it will make you think. A lot. But it will also make you laugh a lot, and you’ll find yourself charmed by some of the characters. Carey Mulligan is — not surprisingly — outstanding in the lead role and Bo Burnham is a revelation in a dramatic role, while the choice to cast well-known “good guys” as the lecherous men (Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield), is nothing short of brilliant. I absolutely loved Promising Young Woman; it’s a stunning debut for writer/director Emerald Fennell and I can’t wait to see what she does next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Wonder Showzen: The Complete Series – What looks at first glance to be a kids’ show is anything but. MTV’s cult hit show may not have had a long run, but it has a legion of devoted fans. Wonder Showzen is sort of a sketch show, but think of it more as a collection of the best — and most twisted — internet videos you’ve seen recently, collected in one place. You get live-action bits, animated shorts, puppets, and more, all boiled down into short segments designed to make you laugh while pushing as many buttons as possible. It’s clearly not for everyone, and it’s most DEFINITELY not for kids. Trust me, this show goes lots of places you wouldn’t want anyone of a delicate sensibility to see. This new DVD set collects the entire series — all 16 episodes — on four discs. Fans of the show will be happy to have the episodes to relive over and over, and the generous helping of extra features will give you some new material to dig into as well.

Don’t Tell a Soul – Rainn Wilson stars alongside young actors Fionn Whitehead and Jack Dylan Grazer in this new thriller that is a pretty good watch. When two teenagers are caught stealing money to help their ill mother, they are chased into the woods by a security guard. During the chase, he falls into a deep well and is trapped. When one of the teens begins communicating with the trapped guard, they develop a tenuous relationship that might lead to rescue, and might lead to something much worse. While Don’t Tell a Soul doesn’t reinvent the genre, it’s a neat concept for a film, and it has its share of tense moments. There are some nicer twists and turns along the way, and Rainn Wilson turns in an excellent performance as the security guard. It’s a lo-fi thriller but it delivers on its premise and will keep you interested until the end.

Rad – Long unavailable on home video (and a staple of the bootleg market) ‘80s BMX biking classic Rad makes its way to home video this week, and Mill Creek has given it the deluxe treatment, bringing us a Blu-ray version of the film encased in a gorgeous steelbook case. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Rad is maybe the height of ‘80s-ish ‘80s cinema. Our hero, Cru Jones, is the best BMX racer in his town, and he’s got a shot at the gold! But his big bad mom wants him to go to college! Oh no! I kid, because this movie is so quintessentially ‘80s, but I also love it. It’s a fun movie that takes me back to my childhood, and the new Blu-ray version is the best the film has ever looked, especially since most people have been watching pirated copies for years. I love when Mill Creek really “gets” a movie, and this is a release I think a lot of people have been waiting for. Well done, Mill Creek!

Tropical Heat: The Complete Series – Also from Mill Creek this week, we have a new television series box set with the release of Tropical Heat: The Complete Series, a 10-disc box set of the cult classic mystery show. Airing from 1991-1993, the show was reminiscent of Silk Stalkings, just set in a much more exotic locale, this time Key Mariah in the Florida Keys. The show follows an ex-DEA agent who relocates south and teams up with a travel agent to solve mysteries for a wide range of clients, often with no help from the police. The show starred Rob Stewart and Carolyn Dunn, and it wasn’t afraid to get steamy when it needed to, giving it that vibe that is a lot of fun: a solid mystery show that doesn’t take itself too seriously so that it’s cheesiness works for it instead of against it. This new DVD collection marks the first time the show has been available in one set, and it features all 66 episodes plus the Chris Cross TV-movie. Fans of the show will be thrilled to be able to relive it after it’s been in TV limbo for several years.

  • Mill Creek Spotlight – The Mill Creek deluge continues this week with a number of new catalogue Blu-ray releases. Mill Creek specializes in bringing out new editions of popular and cult classic films for a low price point, and it’s hard to argue with that! This week, their catalog titles kick off with The Babe, the John Goodman biopic of Babe Ruth. Co-starring Kelly McGillis, Trini Alvarado, and Bruce Boxleitner, the film is your standard biopic, although it does a nice job of showing Babe Ruth as the gruff, hard-drinking man he was, and not canonizing him. Goodman’s performance is terrific, and while the film is not a — pardon the pun — home run, it’s a solid watch. Next up is another biopic, Gorillas In The Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver as ape expert Jane Goodall. While I’ve always felt the movie lacks a little something, it was great to revisit it thanks to an amazing performance by Weaver and some spectacular footage of Gorillas. It’s actually a better film than I remember it being. Following that, we have the My Girl Double Feature, which features My Girl and the wholly-unnecessary My Girl 2 in one package. My Girl features a young McCauley Culkin and Anna Chlumsky and it’s a cute little coming-of-age film (with a serious vein running through it) that I think a lot of people remember fondly. My Girl 2 isn’t a terrible film, it’s just that there was really no need for a sequel and it feels kind of like a movie that was churned out just to capitalize on the first one’s success. Still, getting two films for the price of one is hard to argue with! Finally, this week we get a new release of Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain, which I believe actually marks the film’s debut on Blu-ray. This movie also stars Anna Chlumsky as well as Christina Ricci, and it’s also a fun little family film with a dash of coming-of-age-ness thrown in, although this one has a treasure hunting element to it. This is the kind of disc I can see parents who grew up watching it buying to show to their kids, and that’s always a fun thing. 
  • Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up this week, we have a handful of indie releases to spotlight. First up is That Click: The Legendary Photography of Douglas Kirkland, a new documentary that is pretty fantastic. You may not know the name, but I can guarantee you know the images; Kirkland was a photographer who spent 60 years photographing the most famous movie stars and movie casts in the world. This film looks back at his career, his photos, his legend, and the people he captured, and it’s quite fascinating. The film features interviews with famous names such as Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams, Baz Luhrmann, Paris Hilton, and Andy Garcia, among others. Definitely worth a watch! Next up is Little England, a dramatic movie from Greece set in the days around World War II. This heavy drama is about a family on the Greek Island of Andros, where two sisters fight for romance with the same man in a culture where being married off to sailors and leading largely loveless lives is the norm. The film has garnered some notable international acclaiming, making a splash at the Greek version of the Oscars as well as other international festivals. I can’t say I got entirely caught up in the film, but period dramas aren’t really my thing. If you like that genre, you might want to track this one down. Next up is Mambo Man, a Cuban film based on a true story. This is an interesting film about a small-time hustler in modern day Cuba who wants to be (and acts like he is) a much bigger deal than he is. Through a number of circumstances, he gets an opportunity to break big, and this leads to protagonist JC on the run for funds and his big shot. The movie was filmed in Cuba, which is fascinating in and of itself, and it also features a number of famed Cuban musicians including members of the Buena Vista Social Club and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Worth a look. Next up, we have another foreign film, the Iranian drama Yalda: A Night for Forgiveness. This heavy drama takes a very serious subject and puts a new spin on it, framing the determination of whether a person lives or dies through the lens of reality television. I have no idea if this kind of show really exists in Iran or not, but the film follows a woman who has been sentenced to death for murdering her husband. On a live TV show, Yalda faces off with her husband’s daughter, who has the power to exonerate her for her crime. It’s not a light film, that’s for sure, but people looking for a deeper, more dramatic viewing experience might want to track it down. Finally this week, we have Mafia Inc, a French/Italian/Canadian thriller about a Canadian mob boss trying to legitimize his criminal empire by investing $180 million into a bridge in Italy. It almost sounds like comedy, but trust me, it’s not. The film is quite engaging, with crime and mafia elements driving the action on screen and some solid performances anchoring the proceedings. It’s in three languages but is also subtitles and it’s a pretty enjoyable film overall. 

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