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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Almost Famous, 48 Hours, House of Wax, Percy vs Goliath, SpongeBob Squarepants and more

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After a couple of bigger weeks, this week slows down a bit again in terms of home video releases. Still, there are a couple of interesting releases out, most notably a hit kids movie and some great catalogue releases. Also, I’m going on vacation in a couple of weeks and so I’m reviewing all the titles that come in before I go, so any that aren’t actually out this week, I’ll denote as such by adding their release date after their name.

Almost Famous (4K Ultra HD) – I am so beyond happy to see Almost Famous get a 4K Ultra HD release. Not only does it look and sound terrific in the premium format, but this is one of those movies that is just so good that it deserves a little new exposure to remind people of how great it is and find a whole new audience. I think for most of us, we saw Almost Famous when it came out 20 years ago, loved it, and then sort of forgot about it. But watching the film again for the first time in several years, I fell in love with it all over again. Based on writer/director Cameron Crowe’s own teenage years as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, the film follows young writer William Miller as he tours with up and coming rock band Stillwater and gets a crash course education in music, love, groupies, touring life, drugs, and more. The cast is terrific, especially Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup, and there are about a million familiar faces in the film as well. The soundtrack is outstanding, too, really capturing the ‘70s rock era. I’m not even a fan of that era of rock music and I love this soundtrack! Now, Almost Famous has been released in a Steelbook 4K Ultra HD release that give the film an audiovisual facelift, and it’s a terrific presentation. The film manages to look brand new while still retaining the ‘70s aesthetic, so it doesn’t feel inauthentic or false. The soundtrack gives us rich, warm music and nice surround effects, and the whole thing brings the film to life in top-notch fashion. With a digital copy, the sharp-looking steelbook case, and an A+ movie, this one easily comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

SpongeBob Squarepants: Sponge on the Run – After 2015’s Sponge Out of Water was a massive box office success, a sequel was inevitable. However, this latest SpongeBob movie was hamstrung by COVID, meaning its theatrical release was pretty non-existent, instead premiering on streaming. Now, I’ve never been a huge SpongeBob fan but my kids love him, so I’ve sort of gotten used to him over the years. I enjoyed Sponge Out of Water quite a bit, but I don’t know if this film works quite as well. Yes, gags like Keanu Reeves’ head showing up are fun (it makes sense in the film. I mean, sort of), but the film doesn’t feel as cohesive as the previous effort. Despite guest stars like Awkwafina, Snoop Dogg and Tiffany Haddish, the film just isn’t as gleefully fun as the last one was. That said, kids and SpongeBob fans will probably enjoy it more (and I did enjoy it, I just didn’t love it), so it’s still worth checking out.

48 Hours & Another 48 Hours: Paramount Presents Editions – One of Eddie Murphy’s first big hits, 48 Hours is the quintessential buddy cop movie, with Nick Nolte’s gruff-and-tumble cop teamed up with Murphy’s fast talking, wisecracking criminal to bring down a killer. It was released in 1982 when Murphy was still mostly known for Saturday Night Live, and it helped cement his status as a movie star. It’s also a really fun, classic ‘80s action comedy, the kind that would become Murphy’s bread and butter for the next decade or two. 1990’s follow-up, Another 48 Hours, was made after Murphy had already become the biggest box office star in the world, and it shows. It’s still an enjoyable film, but it lacks the raw energy and vibe of the first film. Both movies have gotten new Blu-ray releases courtesy of Paramount’s relatively new Paramount Presents line, giving each film a new transfer, cool gatefold packaging, a new extra feature, and a digital copy. It’s not the ultimate presentation of the films, but they are both high quality packages and if you don’t already have the movies in your collection, this is a great way to pick them up.

House of Wax: Collector’s Edition – I never realized how much I did not want to die by being covered in hot wax until I watched House of Wax, the 2005 remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic. With a very pretty cast of then red-hot TV actors (Chad Michael Murray, Elisha Cuthbert, Jared Padalecki, and, um, Paris Hilton), the film was part of one of the waves of post-Scream horror revivals. As such, it’s not a masterpiece, but honestly, considering the state of horror today, I feel like I actually enjoyed it more this time around than I did 15 years ago. The film has now gotten the Collector’s Edition treatment from Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint. This means that in addition to great new cover art, this Blu-ray also includes a nice collection of extra features including four new cast/crew interviews (including Paris Hilton!), as well as a plethora of archival extras. House of Wax isn’t a truly great horror film, but it’s fast-paced, creepy, and largely enjoyable, and this new home video version is the best one yet, so it’s a nice pick-up for fans.

Percy Vs. Goliath – Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, and Zach Braff star in this new legal drama which treads familiar ground but is no less enjoyable as a result. Walken plays a farmer who comes under the wrath of megacorporation Monsanto, who sues him for $150,000 for using some of their genetically modified seeds. Never mind the fact that it happened unwittingly. So Walken teams up with Braff and Ricci, an idealistic lawyer and activist, respectively, to try and fight this ruthless corporation with literal billions of dollars at their disposal. The film is based on a true story, and while it’s not truly electric and a little by-the-numbers, it’s hard not to enjoy a solid regular-guy-vs. corrupt corporation film, and this one definitely fits that bill. Walken is surprisingly normal in his role, while still delivering a terrific performance, and Braff and Ricci are welcome additions to the cast. It’s a simple enough film, but it’s worth watching.

The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films (7/20) – I love documentaries about Hollywood. I will watch just about any film about making movies, but I especially like the ones that tackle a really big story (rather than, say, just a making-of a particular movie), and that’s what The Go-Go Boys is. This excellent doc tells the story of Cannon Films, the independent powerhouse that brought us a slew of low-to-mid-budget films with huge box office stars in the 1980s and 1990s (think Superman IV and Over the Top, to name a few). Run by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the film looks at both the studio and its films as well as the two diverse personalities who ran the company, the Israeli cousins Golan and Globus. Filled with movie clips, interviews with a number of recognizable stars and filmmakers (including Golan and Globus themselves) and an unprecedented look at an excessive era of moviemaking, the film gets the tone perfectly right. It’s a cross between a criticism of the Hollywood excess of the time and a devoted fan tribute to a lot of really bad but cult-classic-status movies. It’s fun and fascinating and it’s most assuredly worth watching. RECOMMENDED!

Dead & Buried (3-Disc Limited Edition) (7/20) – Blue Underground has spent the last few years taking cult classic horror films and giving them Uber-deluxe collector’s edition releases. Their latest effort is Dead & Buried, a 1981 horror flick starring Robert England, James Farnetino, and Melody Anderson. The film sees the sheriff of a small seaside town trying to solve a series of murders of tourists to their locale, who then seem to be coming back to life. I don’t want to say much about the story because there are some neat twists and turns along the way, but you don’t need to know much about it ahead of time. I had never seen the film before but I found it pretty enjoyable; of course, it’s a little dated, but with special make-up effects by Stan Winston, it’s still a lot of fun. And this new Collector’s Edition is absolutely astounding. Under the Limited Edition 3-D lenticular cover (there are three different ones to choose from) is a three-disc set, with the film itself on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, as well as a bonus CD soundtrack. Then there are the extra features. This set includes no less than four audio commentaries, seven making-of featurettes, an image gallery, a collectible booklet, and more. It’s the ultimate package for fans of the film.

A Cinderella Story: Starstruck – 2005’s A Cinderella Story was a cute but forgettable modern update of the Cinderella fairy tale starring Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray. This year’s new A Cinderella Story: Starstruck has no relation to that film, save for the title. This one also serves as an update of Cinderella, although this time the setting has been given a small town/western flavor. Bailee Madison stars as Finley, a small-town farm girl who really wants to be a movie star. When a film production comes to her town, she’s determined to get involved, but a bad audition leads her to go undercover as a cowboy named Huck. Of course, that doesn’t help her when it comes to her growing attraction to the film’s lead actor. I’ll say. This; there’s nothing really special about ACS: Starstruck, but it’s perfectly enjoyable for what it is. I could have done without the musical numbers that are peppered throughout the film (although there’s only a couple), however. Still, for the tween market it’s aimed at, they will probably find it quite fun, and parents who enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies will find it easily watchable as well.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
Held – This new horror-thriller sees a couple getting away to a remote house to try and revive their strained marriage. Unfortunately for them, a disembodied voice traps them in the house and starts giving them instructions that they have to obey in order to avoid getting nasty electric shocks. Now, this is kind of a neat premise for a film; it — or variations of it — have been done before, but I always like to see what different directions people will take with it. Unfortunately, Held doesn’t live up to the premise. The acting is okay at best, the story has some notable flaws, and the climax is a little unsatisfying. It’s not a terrible film by any stretch, but it’s not particularly great, either.
Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up the week, we have a handful of new indie releases out this week, kicking off with a new horror flick from a notorious B-movie director. Hanger is directed by Ryan Nicholson, who has developed a cult following for churning out low-budget films that specialize in gore and extreme circumstances. I’m not a Nicholson fan, personally, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. Hanger sees a man who, as a fetus, survived a back alley abortion, and now he’s all grown up and back to kill the pimp who forced his mother to try and abort him. Yep, it’s pleasant stuff. As usual, the film focuses on shock and gore rather than any kind of quality, and while I know Nicholson has a devoted fan following, he just doesn’t make the kind of movies I care for. Switching gears completely, next up is Rose Plays Julie, a new drama starring Ann Skelly, Orla Brady, and the always-terrific Aiden Gillen. The film concerns a young woman who was adopted and has tracked down her birth mother. The film at times plays more like a drama and at time more like a thriller, but either way it relies heavily on mood and atmosphere, with large swaths of quiet blanketing the movie. It was interesting, but a little too subdued for my tastes, although the performances are all quite excellent. Next up is Lily’s Light: The Movie, an interesting new musical kids movie that blends live-action and animation. I can’t really judge this movie objectively because it’s clearly aimed at little kids, and I wasn’t captivated by talking pigs, gremlin-like creatures, wizards, and the like. But I kept getting caught up in the technical side of things. It’s weird, the live action sequences look like they were shot on the set of Barney, while the hybrid/animation sequences actually have some visual flair to them. What I suspect is that the target audience (which I assume to be around kindergarten age) will probably enjoy its bright, colorful, musical nature. Finally, this week we also have Power of Moths, a short documentary feature (running just over 40 minutes) about a place in Belarus (formerly part of Russia) where people with disabilities take to the stage and star in theatrical production. Their roles on stage become a huge part of who they are and how they deal with life. It’s a moving film and features people from several different countries on stage, and the short running time makes it an easy watch.

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