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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Marksman, The Mauritanian, Justice Society: WWII, King Kong, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Shrek and more

The Marksman

The Marksman – Liam Neeson’s newest film is billed as an action thriller, but it’s really much more of a hybrid film, kind of a drama/suspense/action movie. Drawing inspiration from movies such as Harrison Ford’s Witness and Kevin Costner’s underrated masterpiece Perfect World, the film sees Neeson as an aging rancher and former Marine marksman living near the Mexican border who comes across a mother and her young son on the run from a drug cartel. When the mother is killed, Neeson reluctantly agrees to take the young boy to his family, pursued by both the cartel and US government agencies. The film gives equal time to the grizzled veteran developing a relationship with the orphaned boy as it does to the moments of danger and pursuit, and the result is a well-balanced film that I really enjoyed. Neeson is terrific as usual, and the film does a great job of interspersing the action well enough that the film is allowed to be a character piece while still keeping you engaged with some really tense scenes. This one is definitely worth tracking down. RECOMMENDED!

The Mauritanian – Tahir Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Shailene Woodley star in this new drama that has gotten some real critical acclaim. It’s hard to gauge how successful the film was beyond critics in the post-COVID box office word, but I hope people will discover this film on home video, if for no other reason than some truly excellent performances. Directed by Kevin McDonald (who seems so specialize in based-on-real-events films), The Mauritanian is based on the real story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a man who was imprisoned for years at Guantanamo Bay and eventually started legal proceedings to fight for his freedom. Obviously, I can’t tell you what happened, but Tahir Rahim’s performance is absolutely masterful, and Benedict Cumberbatch also shines in a supporting role. The film can be a tough watch at times, and it doesn’t try to paint Gitmo in a positive light, but I think that makes it an even more important film to watch. If you like a good, moving, and engaging drama, check out The Mauritanian.

Justice Society: World War II – The latest DC Universe Animated movie sees The Flash travel through time and/or dimensions to an alternate World War II in which the Justice Society is fighting to prevent the Nazis taking over the world. The Justice Society in this iteration includes Wonder Woman (voiced by Castle’s Stana Katic), The Black Canary, Hourman, Hawkman, and the Golden Age Flash. I generally enjoy the DC animated movies, but I have to say this one didn’t do all that much for me. It’s totally fine, it just never got me all that interested in the story or the characters, and I found it a little uninteresting. There is a Kamandi short film included which I enjoyed quite a bit, so that’s a nice bonus, especially for comic fans who like Jack Kirby’s DC work, but the main film just wasn’t my favorite. Justice Society: World War II comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the premium format does work well for the animated feature. Color saturation gives the film a nice vibrance and the black outlines and shades are deep and inky. The surround soundtrack utilizes all the channels well and gives you a real sense of immersion. A terrific presentation of an okay film.

King Kong: Collector’s Edition – Shout Factory brings their signature Collector’s Edition style to the 1976 King Kong film, the last of the major King Kong movies that had never gotten a really good home video edition. While it’s definitely inferior to the 1933 classic, I have a soft spot for this version of Kong because it was the first one I saw as a kid, and those images of King Kong (or a man in a monkey suit, at least) atop the World Trade Center are etched into my brain. Regardless of if you love this film or not, this new Collector’s Edition from Shout Factory is top-notch, offering up new cover artwork wrapped around a great presentation of the film. With a collection of extra features that includes two audio commentaries and multiple crew interviews (plus a newly scanned film negative), this is easily the best version of the film available. Like I said, it’s not a masterpiece by any stretch, but I know a lot of people enjoy this film like I do, so this is a welcome addition to any King Kong kollection.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Criterion doesn’t stray into mainstream fare all that often, but when they do, they don’t mess around. This month, they induct one of the quintessential ‘80s comedies into their hallowed collection with 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I think it’s safe to say that Fast Times launched the genre that we now think of as ‘80s comedies. Would we have the likes of The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off without Fast Times? I don’t know, but I kind of doubt it. Launching many a career, including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, and Eric Stoltz (as well as director Amy Heckerling and screenwriter Cameron Crowe), the film isn’t necessarily my favorite of the high school comedies of that decade, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable. The new Criterion Blu-ray sees the film restored and remastered from an audiovisual standpoint, and it also includes a nice collection of extra features including the TV cut with alternate and deleted scenes, an audio commentary with Cameron Crowe, and multiple featurettes. If you’re a fan of the film, this is absolutely the version you want to own.

Shrek: 20th Anniversary Edition – It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Shrek came out and instantly became a pop culture juggernaut. Spawning three sequels and a slew of merchandise, Shrek was a huge hit and became a mainstay of pop culture for at least a decade. While he’s faded a bit from the spotlight since the last film came out in 2010, but perhaps this new version of the film on home video will reignite some of it. This new version marks the franchise’s first release in the premium 4K Ultra HD format, and it’s a nice upgrade for the film. While it looked great on Blu-ray, the 4K release sees colors really pop, bringing the already colorful world of everyone’s favorite ogre to life in a new way. The surround soundtrack gives your speakers a decent workout, even if it’s not the most nuanced track I’ve ever heard. This disc also comes with an incredible amount of extra features; they’ve all been released previously, but that’s because the original Shrek release (and concurrent box set) were loaded with extras to begin with, so I don’t think there was a lot more for them to add. Shrek is a heck of a lot of fun, and this is a nice version to own.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:
  • Man With a Camera: The Complete Series – Did you know that Charles Bronson headlined a TV show? Because I didn’t know that. Well, apparently he did, and it was Man With a Camera. The show sees Bronson as “a New York City freelance photographer who specializes in getting difficult shots other camera men cannot,” which of course leads him to help solve crimes and get himself into trouble. I’m kind of surprised the show wasn’t a bigger hit (it only lasted a season) because it seems like the kind of thing that would have been successful back in its time. Still, this complete series set gives you a fun show and guest stars like Angie Dickinson, Sebastian Cabot, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Erwin, Tracey Roberts, and Jesse Kirkpatrick. Plus it’s available at a low price point so it’s a neat little find.
  • Morgue – Morgue is a Spanish-language horror film set in Paraguay that was originally released in 2019. The film follows a young security guard named Diego who is involved in a hit and run accident. The next day, he is called on to work security at a hospital where in the morgue there is a body that was involved in… you guessed it! A hit and run accident. From there, Diego is beset upon by creepy occurrences and strange happenings. Now, this is a decent premise for a film, but here’s the problem with a film where you have just one main character in a largely empty building: things can get really boring really quickly. While there are some creepy scenes to be found, there are long stretches in between, and those stretches are just not very interesting. I wish I could say the film worked better than it does, but ultimately it just falls flat. 
  • Send It! – Michael Jai White and Denise Richards show up in supporting roles in this new kiteboarding movie, but the main cast members are largely unknown. Kiteboarding is a newer extreme sport, kind of like surfing or water skiing but with a kite attached to give the boarders some major air. This film is kind of your typical sports/coming-of-age/road trip movie, as we follow young Billy as he leaves his Texas hometown to compete in a major Kiteboarding Championship. Along the way he meets drifter/loner Sky who joins him on his trip, and the two form a friendship that challenges Billy’s usual way of doing things. I’ll say this: there’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about this film, but it does what it does well and is a pretty enjoyable little flick. Sometimes the familiar is a good thing, and even though you can generally figure out where the film is going right from the start, it’s still a fun watch.  
  • Lapsis – I’m not entirely sure how to explain this film to you, so I’m going to let the official description do some of the heavy lifting for me: “New York, an alternate present: the quantum computing revolution has begun and investors are lining their pockets in the quantum trading market. Building the network, though, requires miles of infrastructure to be laid between huge magnetic cubes by ‘cablers’ – unprotected gig workers who compete against robots to pull wires over rough terrain.” Enter Ray, a delivery guy who gets a “medallion” to “cable” through means that may not be aboveboard. Ray is desperate to help out his younger brother, who has a mystery disease, but he quickly finds himself in over his head in a world that is much more dangerous than he first suspected. I’ll be honest, the film is a little confusing. It has some interesting scenes and some heady concepts, but I’d be lying if I said I completely followed it from start to finish. It does a good job of world building, but it lacks a satisfying ending and it might be a bit too complex for some people. Approach with caution. 
  • Freedom – This German film takes a familiar Hollywood trope — the absent parent — and turns it on its side. So often in mainstream filmmaking, it’s the dad who up and runs out on his family. In this movie, it’s Johanna Wokalek’s Nora who just up and leaves her husband and two young children. Why? Well, that’s what the film is about. What’s driving her in her search for “freedom” and what does that word even mean? In Nora’s case, it takes a while to find out, although there are definitely some sexual encounters and soul searching along the way. I feel like this is one of those movies that has a lot going on below the surface and probably explores deeper themes than I picked up on; I’m not so good with subtext and film interpretation. If you like a challenging movie and don’t mind subtitles, you might want to check this one out. 

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