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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Love and Monsters, The Furies, Memories of Murder, Ancient Aliens and more

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Love and Monsters – One of the shames of the pandemic crippling movie theaters is that a lot of really great movies got regulated to very limited releases, or no release at all until home video. Love and Monsters is one of those great films. The Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien stars as Joel, a young man who’s spent the last seven years living in an underground bunker after giant monsters have taken over most of the world. When he finds out his girlfriend is only 85 miles away, he decides to set out across the surface to go and find her. There’s only a few problems: he has no experience fighting monsters, he’s terrified of them, and he’s most likely going to die a horrible death. That all sounds kind of serious, but make no mistake: Love and Monsters is a Fun film. Fun with a capital F. I absolutely loved this movie! The monsters are terrific, the action is great, there’s tons of humor, the film has a real heart to it (as well as a nice message about overcoming life’s challenges), and Dylan O’Brien is absolutely terrific in the lead role. I watched it with my 14-year-old daughter and we both had a blast with it. Love and Monsters comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the 4K format does it well. This is a bright, colorful movie, and the deep color saturation really brings this overgrown, monster-filled world to life. The top-notch surround soundtrack also makes good use of the various speakers and the nice low end gives the action some real heft. It’s a great presentation of an even better movie. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Furies – The first of two Criterion Collection releases this week, this 1950 western stars Barbra Stanwyck and Walter Huston. Directed by Anthony Mann, this drama tells the story of a ranch that serves as a battleground between the father and daughter who run it. There are other siblings as well, but its Barbra Stanwyck’s Vance who goes up against Walter Huston’s T.C., and it’s their rivalry and relationship that drives the film forward. Both Stanwyck and Huston are incredible, and while this wasn’t a film I was familiar with before this disc crossed my desk, I can see why Criterion deemed it worthy of inclusion. As usual, the film has been completely restored and remastered, and it’s also wrapped up in a truly gorgeous package, appearing like a box set because it actually comes with a copy of the full-length novel by Niven Busch that the film was based on. There are also a handful of supplements that come on the disc; it’s not the most robust package Criterion has ever put together, but for a non-blockbuster film that’s 70-years old, they definitely found some nice extra features, including a commentary and some archival making-of material, plus a full-color booklet with essays. Another terrific release from Criterion!

Memories of Murder – The second Criterion release this week is Memories of Murder, an intense film from Bong Joon-Ho, director of recent Oscar-winner Parasite (among many other notable films.) This 2003 mystery/thriller (with a touch of social commentary thrown in) is based on real events, portraying the investigation into what is considered Korea’s first serial killer. It’s a look at the hunt for a killer who is assaulting and murdering young women, and we watch as a seriously overwhelmed police force tries to solve a case when they have no idea how to even proceed. As the film starts, the police are bumbling and ineffective, and as it progresses, things come more into focus and the film’s tone gets more serious and foreboding. It’s an incredibly impactful experience, and it shows Bong’s talent in myriad ways. It’s easy to see why he’s become one of the world’s more renowned contemporary directors. Again, the film has been remastered and restored, overseen by Bong himself, and there are some excellent bonus features, including three audio commentaries, and interview with Bong Joon-Ho, and an interview with Guillermo del Toro. Definitely track this one down if you’re a fan of Bong’s more recent films.

Ancient Aliens: Season 13 – I can’t believe this show has been on for 13 seasons now. I don’t even know what to say about it anymore. Honestly, I find Ancient Aliens mildly interesting but that’s about the extent of it. It explores everything surrounding the possibility of aliens visiting earth in the past, and while some of it comes off as the theories of crazy people, most of it is approached from an academic point of view. I’ve made this complaint before, but while Ancient Aliens is easily watchable, the lack of any concrete answers or hard evidence can get frustrating, and it keeps the show from being something I can get it. This three-disc collection includes 16 episodes and comprises the whole season (whereas the past several seasons have been split into two volumes.) If you’re a die-hard fan, this latest season will round out your collection.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:
  • The Penthouse – ‘80s star and direct-to-video stalwart Michael Pare stars in this new thriller along with Nicholas Turturro. It’s a fairly simple premise, wherein a couple who are new to their fancy condo comes up against a neighbor who has committed a crime and wants to make sure they didn’t witness anything they shouldn’t have. From there, what follows is a strictly by the numbers low-budget thriller that really doesn’t do anything all that interesting. Frankly, the film kind of meanders along until its climax, which then lacks any real impact. Pare gives a solid performance, but there’s really not much else to recommend about this film, unless you’re just looking for something to throw on in the background while you’re doing something else. 
  • White Shadow – Executive produced by Ryan Gosling, White Shadow is a harrowing and disturbing drama about a real tragedy that I had no idea was happening in the world: the hunting of albino people in East Africa. It turns out, witch doctors use their body parts in a number of “cures” and potions, and in turn, they are often “disappeared” and sold off to witch doctors. This film tells the story of a 13-year-old albino African boy who goes to the city to try and stay safe with his uncle after his father’s murder, only to discover that the city is every bit as treacherous as the Tanzanian bushlands. While not told specifically based on a particular event, the fact that this happens anywhere in the world is incredibly disturbing, and the film is obviously a very serious affair. For me, it lost focus a bit in the second act, but it culminates in a powerful climax. The film was nominated for multiple international film festival awards and is presented in Swahili (with subtitles). If you’re looking for something engaging yet serious to watch, this will fit the bill. 

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