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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Forever Purge, Zola, Breakdown, Mona Lisa, Crocodile Dundee Trilogy, and more

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Breakdown

This is one of those weeks that doesn’t really sum up neatly. We’ve got a little bit of everything this week, so fans of any genre should be able to find something to watch!

The Forever Purge

I really like The Purge films. They’re not cinematic masterpieces or anything like that, but they’re a lot of fun in the same way the Resident Evil franchise was a lot of fun; each film upped the ante, and even long after the series should have come to an end, the films remain entertaining. After the first Purge movie was basically a home invasion movie that largely wasted the fantastic concept of the purge itself, each of the four films following have really given us a look at society at its worst, all in a hyper-edited, super-stylized, violent cinematic interpretation. But I also like that each film since has also thrown in a heavy dose of social commentary, usually focusing on racism and the rich-vs-poor dichotomy. This newest entry, which sees a massive group of “patriots” deciding that the purge should keep on going so they can rid the country of all the minorities they don’t like, focuses on immigration, white supremacy and extreme nationalism, and while the message is a bit heavy handed, that doesn’t make it any less effective. With Josh Lucas and Will Patton anchoring the cast, I found this one to be another extremely enjoyable dystopic-future romp.

Zola

So, this is a movie that started as a series of tweets. Yes, on Twitter. No, I’m not kidding. In fact, it all started with this one: “”Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this b—h here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” And what followed was over 150 tweets about a stripper on a road trip with a group of virtual strangers. And honestly, to say any more than that would ruin the fun and suspense of Zola, but trust me, it’s all there. While not a perfect film, it’s pretty impressive that co-writer/director Janicza Bravo was able to translate a crazy story told via tweets into a functioning narrative. I guess if Disney can make blockbusters out of three-minute theme park rides, anything’s possible, right? I’ll say this: the film’s ending maybe leaves a little to be desired, but the ride there is sure crazy enough to make it worth watching.

Breakdown: Paramount Presents Edition

Among the many great semi-forgotten action movies of the ‘90s, we have the excellent thriller Breakdown, starring Kurt Russell. Directed by the I-wish-he-made-more-movies Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3, U-571), the film sees Russell as a man driving through the desert with his wife when his car breaks down. When he goes for help, his wife disappears, and then this average Joe has to try and find her and rescue her all by himself. Russell is fantastic, as he was still in his prime here, and Mostow directs the film with a sense of urgency and suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. This new Paramount Presents Edition gives the film nice new artwork under a sharp gatefold cover, includes a few new extra features, and give you a digital copy of the film alongside the Blu-ray. RECOMMENDED!

Mona Lisa

The Criterion Collection brings us a new Blu-ray version of Mona Lisa this week, the debut film by acclaimed director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview With the Vampire). Starring Bob Hoskins (in an award-winning performance) and Michael Caine, the film sees Hoskins as a low-level mob enforcer tasked with chauffeuring/protecting a prostitute as she visits various clients. And, of course, though they loathe each other at first, Hoskins starts to fall in love. This sounds like a fairly cliched plot, but the movie isn’t really about plot. It’s about these characters and their interactions, and that’s where the magic of the movie lies. The film comes to Blu-ray having been restored and remastered under the approval of Jordan himself, and it includes several extra features, mostly cast and crew interviews and an audio commentary that includes the late Hoskins, which is a real treat. This is an excellent addition the The Criterion Collection.

Crocodile Dundee Trilogy

It’s hard to explain the massive success of the Crocodile Dundee movies to audiences who weren’t around to experience them. For example, if I told you that Crocodile Dundee 2 grossed $25 million MORE than the original Die Hard at the box office, you probably wouldn’t believe me, but it did. These films (mostly the first two) were a cultural phenomenon back in the ‘80s. Now Paramount has collected the Dundee movies into one Blu-ray collection for the first time, and the collection also includes digital copies of the films. I found re-watching the movies quite interesting. As someone who loved them as a kid, I will say that they’re still quite enjoyable overall. But they definitely haven’t aged all that well, and there are a few cringey moments throughout. The first film is the best but the second film is a worthy successor, while Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (the third film) is probably where they tried to continue the franchise past its shelf life. Still, if you’re a fan of the movies, this is the best collection to date.

Batwoman: The Complete Second Season

It’s not often that a TV series changes its lead actor in just the second season, but that’s what happened with Batwoman when Ruby Rose decided she didn’t want to continue in the main role after the first season. The showrunners wisely decided to change the character entirely, so exit Season 1’s Kate Kane and enter Season 2’s Leslie Ryan, played by Javicia Leslie. And while Lesie brings a new energy to the show (and probably a few more acting chops), the end result is still an uneven (although occasionally exciting) show that didn’t need a major cast change while it was still finding its footing. Batwoman has some moments that are good superhero action and adventure, but it also has a lot of talking (and then more talking). It’s not a bad show per se, but there are times when I wish it would just move a little bit more. Perhaps Season Three will see the show finally settle into its own identity.

The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection: Uncensored

Time Life has made an art form in recent of years of crafting box sets around actors and celebrities who are larger legends than just a few movie roles or music albums. Available exclusively through Time Life’s website (you can find it directly at TimeLife.com/RichardPryor), the new The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection: Uncensored is a massive box set filled with a huge amount of Pryor material that isn’t readily accessible like his movies are. This 13-disc box set is anchored by Pryor’s four feature-length stand-up comedy specials (there’s a clip from one of them below!) Then you get the 1977 NBC TV Special and four episodes of The Richard Pryor Show (which counts the legendary Robin Williams among its guests). Then you get the feature film Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, (written and directed by Pryor), plus two feature-length documentary films: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic and I Am Richard Pryor. Additionally, you get a number of television appearances by Pryor on shows like The Merv Griffin Show, The Late Show with Johnny Carson, and more. Finally, there is a cornucopia of random Pryor materials: outtakes, deleted scenes, interviews, lost footage and more. Add to all that a nice booklet with photos and text, and the end result is a box set unlike any other for Richard Pryor fans!

Lady of the Manor

Melanie Lynskey is one of those actors who is not really a household name, but trust me, you know here. And if you’re like me, you love her. She’s a fantastic, versatile actress who has appeared in tons of movies and TV shows and is always one of the bright spots of whatever she appears in. In Lady of the Manor, she finally gets a leading role (alongside Judy Greer, another not-quite-household-name actress whom I love) in this new comedy written and directed by Justin Long and his brother Christian. The film sees a slacker/drug runner named Hannah end up staying in a historical manor through a series of events I don’t need to explain here. She’s hired on to play the ghost of the original lady of the manor, but there’s one catch: there really is a ghost of the lady of the manor, who takes umbrage at Hannah’s presence. The film is… interesting. It kind of meanders along before taking a bit of a left turn into a pseudo-mystery in the last act. Some of the bits are funny, some seem a little sophomoric. The film has a lot of great parts, but it never quite gels into a true stand-out. Still, with Lynskey and Greer, plus Ryan Phillippe and Justin Long himself in the cast, there’s a decent amount to like overall.

Alone in the Dark: Collector’s Edition

Shout Factory’s excellent Scream Factory imprint brings us another excellent Collector’s Edition release this week with Alone in the Dark, a 1982 cult classic (not to be confused with the godawful video game of the same name by shlock director Uwe Boll.) Starring Jack Palance, Dwight Schultz, Martin Landau, and the great Donald Pleasance, the film sees a group of psychotic mental patients getting loose during a blackout and going on the hunt for their new doctor. While that makes it sound like a Rob Zombie-style grindhouse flick, it’s got a much more fun sensibility to it than that. Sure, it has some gory moments and isn’t shy about killing people, but the actors are clearly having fun playing these psychos and the film never tales itself too seriously. This new Collector’s Edition comes with awesome new cover art and plenty of extra features in the usual Scream Factory way, so fans will definitely want to track it down.

Throw Down

The Criterion Collection brings us another film this week, with the release of acclaimed director Johnny To’s award-winning Throw Down. Released in 2004, the film is an offbeat dramedy about three people from different walks of life (an alcoholic former judo champion/bar owner, a fighter, and a singer) who find each other and, at the same time, find something more. Now, this sounds like a pretty straightforward film, but Johnnie To infuses it with the same kind of energy he brings to his much more well known action films (too numerous to name here) and the occasional judo match (it makes sense when you watch it.) I wasn’t familiar with this film before now, but I did find it overall quite enjoyable. This new Criterion Collection Blu-ray has been restored and remastered from an audiovisual standpoint, and it includes several extra features including new interviews and a short documentary.

Kubo and the Two Strings: Laika Studios Edition

The latest Laika Studios special edition Blu-ray has been released, and this time it’s my favorite of their films, Kubo and the Two Strings. Laika Studios specializes in stop-motion animation movies that look absolutely amazing; I swear with some of them (especially Kubo), you’re convinced you’re watching CGI. Along with studio mate films like Coraline and ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings is an absolutely amazing action/fantasy movie that might seem like it’s a kids’ film because it’s animated, but adults will love every bit as much. In this movie, young Kubo goes on a quest with his monkey companion and his two-string “guitar,” which I recognize doesn’t sound like an incredible film. But there are action scenes in this film that rival anything in the latest Marvel blockbuster, and there’s so much heart in I that you’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love with these characters. While the film has been released on home video before, this is a new Laika Studio edition that includes new artwork, a nice slipcover, and some new extra features including making of featurettes, test footage, photo galleries, storyboards, and more. If you’ve never seen Kubo and the Two Strings, I can’t recommend tracking it down highly enough. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Equalizer: Season 1

While more people today might remember the Denzel Washington Equalizer movies than the 1980s TV series with Edward Woodward, it’s the TV show that is the genesis of this new reboot. Queen Latifah stars as the titular Equalizer, who once again answer’s the question of “Who do you go to if you can’t go to the cops?” She’s actually a former government special operative who acts as a vigilante justice-dispenser of sorts. Week to week, the show has its fair share of fun action moments, even if the dialogue sometimes borders on the painful. But Queen Latifah is in top form in the lead role, the cases are interesting, and the bouts of action can be quite exciting at times. Is it as good as the original show? Probably not, but with three decades between them it’s really not that easy to compare the two.

Also Available on Home Video This Week:
  • Blue Bloods: The Eleventh Season – Boy, CBS really knows how to keep shows alive for an inordinately long time! Blue Bloods returns to DVD for its eleventh(!) season. As I’ve said before, I’m a huge Tom Selleck fan, but I’m not a regular watcher of the show. I do like to drop in and check out a few episodes here and there when I get the DVDs. Season Eleven sees the show keeping up its status quo; while there are a few minor narrative through-lines that bridge episodes, for the most part, the show works on an episode-by-episode basis, with a new central issue or crime or mystery each episode. This season gives us only 16 episodes due to COVID reducing the shooting schedule. While I can’t say for sure where Season 11 ranks in the overarching run of the show, I enjoyed the individual episodes once again and I can’t see any reason the show will start to flag in popularity any time soon.
  • The Vigil – You don’t see a lot of horror movies set in the Orthodox Jewish community, but The Vigil checks that box. The film focuses on a young Jewish man tasked with watching over the body of a recently deceased member of the community. This is done to keep the spirit free from demons or other evil spirits. Of course, when the body you’re watching over already HAD a demon infesting it, well… you can imagine how things go from there. It’s a neat concept for a film, and it has a few effective moments, but it also feels like all mood and atmosphere and no substance. And jump scares. Lots of jump scares. (Which is not one of my favorite techniques.) The Vigil is the first film from writer/director Keith Thomas, and I can see some raw talent, but I hope his future films might be more well-rounded.
  • Hardball – Paramount’s catalog release strategy doesn’t always make sense to me. Here we are, twenty years after the release of Hardball, a drama starring Keanu Reeves and Diane Lane about a hard-living man who takes on coaching a baseball team in the projects in order to get a loan. If you’ve ever seen a sports film before in your life, you can figure out that it doesn’t take long for him to start to want to change his life. But here’s the thing: the film never got a Blu-ray release (it came out in 2001, well before Blu-ray’s advent), so now it’s been released as a catalog title on Blu-ray, which is great, but there’s no digital copy included. For a film that wasn’t a big hit and has been released with no fanfare or special edition status, wouldn’t throwing in a digital copy for the few people who even still care about this movie have just made sense? I just don’t get it. It’s a good flick, but a mediocre catalogue home video release.
  • Dementia 13: Director’s Cut – Dementia 13 would be a completely forgotten film if it weren’t for one thing, and one thing only: the director. This is the first feature film by Francis Ford Coppola, so instead of fading into obscurity, the movie has lived on as a cult classic, getting a new home video release every few years or so. This latest release is easily the best home video version of it yet, coming in as part of Lionsgate’s Vestron Video imprint. The film came out in 1963 and was part of Roger Corman’s producing empire, which is what led to Coppola’s new Director’s Cut, in which he apparently stripped out the parts of the film he didn’t personally direct. Is it a better movie? I dunno. I mean, it’s not a great film in either version, although this new remastered Blu-ray certainly looks better than some of the previous versions. It also includes a digital copy for the first time, so if you’re a Coppola completist or a Corman die-hard, you can now add it to your physical and digital libraries.
  • Twist – Wrapping up the week, we have this new modern-day retelling of Oliver Twist starring Michael Caine, Lena Headey, Rita Ora, and Raff Law. This new version takes the classic Oliver Twist tale and updates it with a heist, graffiti tagging, a hip soundtrack, and even some parkour gymnastics. The film honestly isn’t that good, but Michael Caine does bring his signature flair to the role of Fagin, and that’s kind of fun. I feel like this film wants to be the 2020s version of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio, but it’s pretty shallow. There are some fun moments and some slick visuals, but it’s not a particularly deep movie overall. Still, I’ve seen worse.

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