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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Mortal Kombat Legends, Sundown, Oh God Collection, Great White, Elstree 1976 and more

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It’s not a huge week this week, but there are some huge releases, spearheaded by the much-talked-about Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. I have… a few thoughts about it.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League – Few films got as much buzz last year as Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The four-hour version of the film removed much of Joss Whedon’s influence and restored the film to an epic-sized, bloated four-hour running time. Personally, I liked the film just fine the first time. Do I think this new version is better? Ultimately, yes, it probably is. I like the tone and humor of Whedon’s version better, but there’s no denying there’s some pretty cool stuff in the extended version. But there are still a lot of flaws as well. Here are my the thoughts that occurred to me as I watched the film:

  • Justice League: Now with 30% more grimacing!
  • Fun drinking game: take a shot every time one or more heroes strikes a heroic pose and holds it as they prepare to take on a bad guy. (Just kidding. Don’t do that. You’ll die.)
  • I still hate Cyborg’s design. “Hey, let’s glue lots of little triangles and cubes all over him!” I’m not saying they have to stay true to the comics, but I think a design more like the comics would have worked better where he’s got one human arm and leg still, and then cybernetics on the other half of his body. He just looks… ugly.
  • Also, Steppenwolf was already one of the dumbest looking villains in recent history. Adding thousands of spiky metal bits to him did NOT make him look cooler.
  • Speaking of Steppenwolf, why did they need to pay Ciaran Hinds (google it, you know him) to do the voice? His voice was completely unrecognizable anyway.
  • What the actual $%#& was up with the songs in the first half of the film? They were horrendous, and they actually distracted from the film. “Our gooooods wiiiiilllll outliiiiiive uuuuussss…” Ugh.
  • Not to mention the arctic fishing village singing girls scene. It was like Zack Snyder said, “Hey, how can I make this movie more like The Hobbit? I know! More singing! Oh, and let’s add an hour to it!”.
  • The Flash is still the best part of the film.
  • Batman’s costume is stupid. Ben Affleck looks seven feet wide, and not in a good way.
  • Speaking of Batman, are we ever again going to have a film Batman whose voice doesn’t sound like a hoarse lion who’s gargling glass?
  • Mera has a British accent? Okay, sure, why not.
  • The many, many scenes of sad Lois would have worked MUCH better if they had earned it. Their relationship was such an afterthought in Man of Steel and BvS that it range extremely false  here.
  • Darkseid looked stupid. Why was he all wrinkly? Why did his armor have 375,000 individual components to it? Why does DC think many, many little parts makes everything look cool?
  • DC’s CGI still sucks. There were a solid amount of bad CGI moments here. And any time a character moves in a superhuman way, it looks fake (except The Flash.) Like, whenever someone super-jumps or gets thrown or moves at fast speed, it looks terrible.
  • MINOR SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD: I actually really liked the coda. The post-apocalyptic dream was cool, the dialogue between Bruce and the Joker was great. A neat possible future.
  • I love that the film included the Martian Manhunter, as he’s one of my favorite characters, but I don’t like that he took away the nice scene between Lois and Martha Kent. But his bit at the end was awesome.
All that said, I think most fans will really like this version, which hits home video on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray this week, although there’s no digital copy included which is really poor form, Warner Bros. I know it’s because they want to drive more people to HBO Max subscriptions (where you can watch this as well), but I really don’t like that precedent.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms – I’ll give Warner Bros. credit, they know how to keep a franchise going. With the Mortal Kombat feature film just a few months behind us, the studio has quickly followed up with a feature length animated movie, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms. This is a sequel to the animated film Scorpion’s Revenge that came out a year or two back. Joel McHale and Jennifer Carpenter lend their voices to the proceedings, which sees the usual storyline of a super-powered martial arts battle royale to determine the fate of the realm. It’s a solid enough film for what it is; an anime-influenced action film without the budget constraints that come with live action. It’s enjoyable if a little repetitive, but fans of the franchise will enjoy it. Mortal Kombat Legends comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray, and the 4K format treats it well. It’s not the most colorful film in the world (lots of yellow, orange, brown, and red), but the colors are quite vibrant and the blacks are deep and rich. The surround soundtrack is terrific, with a nice use of the satellite speakers. It’s a strong A/V presentation that brings the film to life nicely.

Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat – Lionsgate continues their terrific Vestron Video imprint with the Blu-ray release of the 1989 cult classic, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat. This horror-comedy stars David Carradine, Morgan Brittany, and Bruce Campbell and it’s… well, it’s unique. With western overtones alongside the other genres represented here, the movie focuses on a small town full of vampires who are trying to live a normal-ish life. However, when a family arrives (as well as Bruce Campbell as a descendant of Van Helsing), things start to go a little haywire. I’ll be honest, there are parts of the movie that made me laugh and there are parts that made me cringe. It’s an uneven film and it’s too long by about 15 minutes, but it also has its charms. This new Blu-ray edition comes with a nice collection of extra features, and I know the movie has it’s die-hard fans, so this will be the perfect release for them.

The Oh God Collection – George Burns’s name isn’t quite as ubiquitous in the 80’s when I grew up; a time when the Oh God movies were big box office hits and you could catch reruns of The Burns and Allen Show on late night TV. Which is why I’m doubly glad to see the Oh God Collection hit Blu-ray this week from Shout Factory. Not only did I love these movies as a kid (with George Burns playing God himself), but it’s nice to remind people of what a long-lived comedic talent Burns was. This three-disc set includes the entire trilogy of films: Oh GodOh God Book II, and Oh God, You Devil, all of which make their way to Blu-ray for the first time. Now, the first movie is easily the best of the the three, but I honestly have a soft spot for each film, even the third one which sees Burns playing both God and the Devil. Sure, the films have aged a bit, but they’re still a lot of fun. There are a few extra features, such as classic TV appearances from the cast and new commentaries with a historian and theologian. This is a fun series of movies to revisit.

NCIS: The Eighteenth Season & NCIS: New Orleans: The Final Season – The CBS juggernaut franchise NCIS continues to power along with two new DVD Releases this week: NCIS: The Eighteenth Season & NCIS New Orleans: The Final SeasonNCIS: The Eighteenth Season makes the show one of the longest running series in TV history, as it just never seems to end. While the previous season had more of a through-line with a terrorist-hunting storyline, this one returns a bit more to that traditional crime-of-the-week format, although there are some plot lines that carry through here and there. NCIS: New Orleans, while absolutely a successful show, always felt like the youngest child in the franchise, never quite hitting the heights of NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. The show, which saw Scott Bakula in the lead role and had more of a Louisiana bayou flavor to it, has come to an end after seven seasons. I always liked Bakula, and the supporting cast was good, but I can’t say I’m shedding any tears that it’s come to an end.

Great White – In case you don’t know this about me, I absolutely love shark movies. There’s been such a proliferation of bad, cheesy, low-budget shark films over the last decade or so that I don’t watch all of them (nor do I want to), but whenever a real shark movie comes along — something more serious than SyFy fare like Six Headed Shark Attack or whatever — I’m there. Great White is the newest shark flick to hit home video, and as much as I want to say it’s a slam dunk, sadly it’s not. The film follows a group of friends whose plane crashes and leaves them stranded on a life raft miles from land, with a pair of hungry Great White Sharks circling them. Unfortunately, the film fails to give us character see care about at all and it has too many long stretches without any action. It just never gets interesting or exciting in any way, which is a shame, because usually I love movies like these.

Elstree 1976 – If the name of this terrific documentary sounds familiar to you, you might be a Star Wars fan. Elstree Studios was where much of the first film was shot back in 1976 and this film — rather than trying to be a catch-all doc — focuses on the bit players and the faces we never see. It features interviews and recollections from actors who wore costumes and masks: creatures, stormtroopers, imperial officers, and the like. It’s fascinating stuff for Star Wars fans, and it’s pretty interesting even if you’re not a die-hard. The film actually came out back in 2016 but was only available on DVD. This week’s new release makes the film’s debut on Blu-ray. It’s a great Star Wars documentary that gives us a look at things other than the stuff we’ve seen a million times before.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Bugsy Malone – Well, this is an interesting one. I’ll be honest, this was a film I’d only heard of but knew next to nothing about: take a young Jodie Foster, a young Scott Baio, and you put ‘em together in a musical about one of the most notorious gangsters of the 20th century (played by kids) and what do you get? 1975’s Bugsy Malone. But that’s why I love Paramount’s well-curated Paramount Presents line of Blu-ray releases. While their focus is on catalog favorites and big hits, they’re starting to reach out into wider territories, bringing us films that were critically acclaimed or loved by audiences without being huge box office monsters. Directed by Alan Parker, who knows a thing or two about musicals (having also directed FameEvitaPink Floyd: The Wall, and the excellent The Commitments), the film is really unique. It tells us the tale of adult gangsters but played by tween-age actors. It’s not the story of young Bugsy Malone, rather a fully formed gangster tale, just with kids acting as the adults. Not sure how this ever got greenlit, but it’s so audacious as to be enjoyable.
  • Habit – Bella Thorn and 90’s alt rocker (and occasional actor) Gavin Rossdale star in Habit, a new comedy that’s best feature is the fact that it’s only 80 minutes long. The film follows Bella Thorne and her friends who lose $20,000 and a stash of drugs from their drug dealer, go on the run, and dress up as nuns to hide themselves. What sounds like it could be a fun comedy is instead a crass, insipid, vacuous, and somewhat exploitative movie that is filled with bad people doing bad things. It’s over quickly, and that’s good, but it’s not really a good movie in any way.
  • The Murders: Season 1 – This kind-of-forgettably-named show offers up some much less forgettable mysteries. New from the Sundance Channel, this original Canadian crime drama follows a rookie police detective who makes a mistake on her first day that causes her partner to be killed. From there, we see her trying desperately to redeem herself while she and her new partner solve crimes. Each episode focuses on a new crime, but there is an underlying serial killer plot that makes its way t through the season, as well as plot lines dealing with Kate’s personal life and her relationship with her mother. I found The Murders intriguing; its not outstanding, it’s also certainly not bad. I enjoyed how the show gives us time to get to know the characters and the crimes are generally interesting, but I can’t say I was quite riveted or captivated by the show, either. Ultimately, I’d say it’s a solid mystery series with some potential room to grow.
  • Backstrom: Series 1 – Swedish crime dramas have a reputation for being dark, moody, desolate, depressing, cold, and humorless… and it’s a reputation that is well deserved. I’m not saying that Sweden hasn’t produced many fine films and TV shows, as they certainly have, but this genre of TV does tend to fall onto the bleaker side of the spectrum. Usually. Backstrom, however, seems to want to buck those trends. Oh, sure, it’s still a solid murder mystery, but this time around the lead detective is completely arrogant and thinks of himself as a rock star, instead of being tortured and broody. There’s humor in the show, and the breezy pace is a stark contrast to the usual measured Swedish procedurals (at least the ones I’ve seen.) With an intriguing central mystery that ties in to the 2004 Thailand tsunami and a fresh twist on the Swedish crime-drama genre, I found Backstrom to be quite entertaining. It is in Swedish (with occasional English) but don’t let that stop you from giving it a chance.
  • Return of Swamp Thing – The original Swamp Thing movies are low-budget creature feature flicks that aimed higher than their origins, and I have to admit to having a real soft spot for them, despite their inherent cheesiness. This week, Lightyear Video brings us a new 30th Anniversary Edition of Return of Swamp Thing, the infamous sequel that sees Swampy landing no less than Heather Locklear. The film is campy fun, and Locklear’s presence makes it even better. This new Anniversary Edition DVD comes with several new extra features, mostly interviews with the crew who made the film. My biggest complaint is that it’s only available on DVD and not Blu-ray, when this is the kind of movie that screams out for a Blu-ray release fort the die-hard fans. (There was a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray a few years back from MVD, so I’m not sure if that had something to do with it.) Still, it’s a low-priced release and it’s a lot of fun.
  • Indie Spotlight – We have a few indie releases out this week, and it starts with a great sci-fi B-movie release. Escape from Area 51 is the kind of low-budget B-movie that turns people into B-movie fans in the first place. Starring Baywatch alum Donna D’Errico as a sexy alien prisoner at Area 51, the film sees her escape and go on the run while trying to rescue a fellow alien and get back to her home planet. The film isn’t great, but it’s fun, and it knows exactly what audience it’s trying to appeal to, which I respect. This Blu-ray release also includes a prog-rock heavy CD soundtrack as a bonus which includes not only a Flock of Seagulls song but also a song by Prog Collective featuring William Shatner! Awesome! Next up is Crazy Nights, a 1978 exploitation film that apparently has quite a controversial history. Starring singer/performer Amanda Lear, the film is like a soft-core exploitation porno musical, extremely light on story but filled with dazzling imagery, sexy ladies, and cabaret pop music. It’s not exactly a great film, but it is a snapshot of the late ‘70s exploitation era, which makes it rather fascinating. Switching from B-movieland, next up is Harry and Snowman, a documentary from 2015 that makes its Blu-ray debut this week. This is a terrific film about a Dutch horseman in the 1950s who bought a plow horse who was literally slated for the glue factory for $80, and within two years turned him into a champion show-jumping horse. The film focuses on the man, Harry deLeyer, as much as the horse, Snowman, and we get to hear from Harry himself as well as several of his kids. It’s an excellent story and the film is made in such a way as to keep it interesting from start to finish. Finally this week, we have Higher Ed, a film by writer-director Jean Claude LaMarre that has literally been sitting on the shelf for 20 years. This stoner comedy stars Pras (from the Fugees), Aries Spears (the comedian, best known for Mad TV), Hill Harper (from CSI: NY) and Leila Arcieri (who was the next “it girl” for about a minute in the early 2000s.) The basic plot involves a drug dealer going on the run from a gangster and hiding out on a college campus where, of course, there are lots of drugs. It’s not a particularly clever film, but it’s only 75 minutes long and I do like some of the people in the film. But I’ll be honest: there’s a reason it sat on the shelf for 20 years.

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