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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The 355, Belfast, Legacies and The Pilot

Belfast

It’s a particularly tiny week this week but there are a few big-name releases hitting the shelves. Here’s what’s out:

Belfast

Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar-nominated ode to childhood in Belfast comes to home video this week, and I have slightly mixed feelings about the film. Set in 1969 Belfast, when the conflict between Catholics and Protestants led to violence in the streets, the film follows young Buddy and his family, including his older brother, hisfather who works in England, his housewife mother, and his kindly grandparents. The film is shot in black-and-white, and it looks absolutely gorgeous; the cinematography is truly a thing of beauty. And the performances are fantastic across the board: Catriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, and Ciaran Hinds are all just terrific in their roles. But Branagh drops us into the middle of the country’s strife with little-to-no context, and if you’re not familiar with the history of the Catholics and Protestants and Ireland’s political and economic troubles, it takes a little while to get up to speed. And also, if I’m being honest, I found the film just a little on the boring side. There are great moments and nice character beats throughout the movie, but it’s not a film where a lot happens, and occasionally I found myself checking my watch. It’s a good film for sure, I just don’t think it’s a great film.


The 355

For a while when it was in production, The 355 was referred to as the “female Expendables,” as it brings together an international cast of female actors for an ass-kicking action film. I don’t know if that’s really an accurate comparison; as much as I love The Expendables movies, The 355 has a very different feel. Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyongo, and Fan Bingbing star as spies/agents from various international agencies who must team up to stop a deadly device from getting into the wrong hands. That’s a simplification of the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away and, honestly, the plot isn’t the most important part of the movie. And I say that as a compliment; I absolutely loved The 355. But it’s an action flick, and the action is spectacular. Anybody who thinks women can’t be action stars or who don’t watch action movies starring women need only to watch The 355 to see how wrong they are. All of the women are incredible: they engage in fist fights, foot chases, gun battles, and general espionage, and they make it look easy… all while wearing high heels! I wish the film had done better at the box office because this has the makings of a great franchise. Maybe if enough people watch it on home video we’ll get another outing, so check it out ASAP!


Legacies: The Complete Third Season

This is the second spin-off show from The Vampire Diaries, although it seems pretty far removed from that original show. In this series, the offspring of some of the original characters from The Vampire Diaries and its first spin-off, The Originals, attend The Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted, where vampires, werewolves, and witches mix, mingle, and get into LOTS of trouble. This is a CW show, and it’s right up the CW audience’s alley: if you’re looking for a sleek, edgy, filled-with-beautiful-people version of Harry Potter, you’ve come to the right place. Okay, that’s a broad comparison, as this show has a totally different feel than Harry Potter, but it’s hard to deny there are some similarities as well. Still, it’s a fun show that requires no real knowledge of The Vampire Diaries, so it’s worth checking out. This third season set is available on Blu-ray via Warner Bros.’ print-on-demand service, the Warner Archive (www.warnerarchive.com).


The Pilot

There’s a 15-minute action sequence that kicks off The Pilot that is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in quite some time. A World War II dog fight between a Russian fighter jet and a Nazi tank convoy that turns into an aerial dogfight, all filmed with real vehicles instead of CGI? Yes, please! After that, the film becomes a survival adventure, as we follow a lone Russian pilot who has crashed in the remote woods of snowy Russia and has to make his way back to civilization while avoiding German troops who are out to get him. And while the rest of the film isn’t as action-packed as that first 15 minutes, it is nonetheless a gripping adventure that will keep you glued to the screen from start to finish. Now, this is a Russian film, so yes, there are subtitles. But if you’re planning on letting that deter you, don’t. First of all, you’d be missing out on a terrific film. Second of all, this is not a dialogue-heavy film, with large chunks of it following our character by himself in the woods, so there’s minimal reading involved. Trust me, it’s worth it; I really enjoyed The Pilot and I think you will too.

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