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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Scream, Death on the Nile, The Long Night, The Handmaid’s Tale and more

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream.”

It’s a relatively small week this week but with a few big titles, including not one but two recent box office hits and some popular TV shows. Check it out!

Scream

Okay, I won’t go on a rant about how this movie should have been called Scream 5 and how I hate when franchise reboots/sequels have effectively the exact same name as previous movies (see: Hellboy, The Batman, The Predator, The Suicide Squad, etc.) Because as much as that annoys me, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I was thrilled to have a new Scream movie on big screens. And judging by the healthy box office receipts, I wasn’t alone. What makes it better is just how great Scream 5 is; I had a blast watching this movie. The film serves as a “requel,” or a legacy sequel, wherein a franchise tells a story with all new characters but brings in legacy characters to keep old-school fans satisfied. And in typical Scream fashion, the film lays out all the rules of a requel and then plays them out on screen in true Scream meta style. It’s incredibly knowing and clever about the Hollywood rules of horror filmmaking, and I have a hard time believing anyone who loves the original films won’t love this one, too. Honestly, I think it’s my favorite of the series since the first movie. Whether you’re an original Scream fan or a newer fan to the franchise, Scream 5 is absolutely fantastic and I think you’ll have a blast watching it.


Death on the Nile

Kenneth Branagh returns as Agatha Christie’s famed detective, Hercule Poirot, in this follow up to Murder on the Orient Express. He also returns as the film’s director, and he delivers a film that is right on par with the first one: good, but not quite great. This time around, Poirot is on a wedding cruise in Egypt with a wide array of guests when someone is murdered on the boat. With no small number of suspects, Poirot must work his way through the guests and sniff out the killer. Overall, I liked the movie, but it’s not perfect. It suffers from a bit of a slow first half; once the murder occurs things pick up and it becomes much more engrossing. The star-studded cast brings a lot of fun to the proceedings, with familiar faces such as Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, Sophie Okenedo, Rose Leslie, and an almost unrecognizable Russell Brand. If you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one too. I liked it quite a bit, it just burns a little too slow in the beginning to push it into “excellent” territory.


The Long Night

Slasher films fell out of favor largely because they were the same thing over and over again. Well, now we have the same problem in horror films, except now it’s that Uber-pretentious A24/Hereditary/Midsommar style of filmmaking that’s getting run into the ground. Enter The Long Night, a new horror film that does the same thing I’ve seen a dozen times already over the past five years. Slow pace? Check. People wearing animal skulls? Check. Upside down imagery for no reason? Check. Unnecessary chapter titles? Check. Minimalist soundtrack performed largely on one instrument? Check. Boring as hell? Check. The film follows a young couple, Grace and Jack (who of course, are arguing, because god forbid anyone get along in a movie these days) who come to stay at a Texas house while investigating Grace’s long-missing family’s past. Cue a weird cult of people who show up to menace them and trap them in the house. Cue also a loose plot held together by questionable logic and imagery that’s there more to create a vibe than to have any actual impact. I’m sure people who love this current horror-nouveau style will like it, but I find these movies both insufferable and interminable, and unfortunately The Long Night checks both those boxes for me.


The Handmaid’s Tale: Season Four

After a two-year break, Hulu’s hit series based on the Margaret Atwood novel returns to home video. I always find it interesting when TV shows go multiple seasons when they’re based on a single novel; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Now I’ve never really gotten sucked onto the world of The Handmaid’s Tale but judging by the show’s popularity (and the number of Handmaid’s Tale Halloween costumes the past couple of years), nobody’s complaining that they’re getting more of June Osborne and company. This fourth season sees June and some of her fellow Handmaids on the run, and their journey takes them across the country, sometimes coming across people willing to help them, other times running up against danger even worse than what they’re running from. It’s a tense and harrowing season, and if you get stressed out easily you may want to take the ten episodes of Season Four one at a time rather than binging the entire thing in a couple of marathon sessions.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection – Sometimes classic TV releases are just thrown together to make a quick buck, and sometimes they’re actually treasure troves of material for fans. This newest Honeymooners DVD release from MPI Home Video is the latter, giving Honeymooners fans the chance to complete their DVD collections for real. While the original show aired from 1955-56, the cast reunited in a series of four hour-long specials from 1976-1978, two decades after the original show aired. This DVD collects all four specials: Second HoneymoonValentine SpecialChristmas Special, and A Christmas Carol. While the specials aren’t quite the same quality as the original episodes and the cast is obviously older, it’s still really fun to revisit these characters and actors in another time. Honeymooners fans will be thrilled to own these little-seen (since the time they aired) specials, and there are even some nice bonus features, including a behind-the-scenes featurette, a retrospective feature, and some Honeymooners-themed comedy skits starring some of the cast members. It’s a great package for fans of the show!
  • Ultraman: UltraSeven X and Ultraman: Superior 8 UltraBrothers – Specialty distributor Mill Creek continues their excellent line of Ultraman franchise home video reviews with two releases this week: UltraSeven X and Ultraman: Superior 8 UltraBrothers. Both releases are on Blu-ray, which is always welcome (there were a couple of releases a few months back that were DVD-only due to issues with their source materials). While the earlier releases saw a lot of the original shows from the 1960s and ‘70s, the more recent releases have moved into the show’s more current iterations. UltraSeven X is from 2007 and is sort of a remake/reboot of 1967’s UltraSeven. The show follows an amnesiac man who discovers he can transform into Ultraman and take on giant kaiju monsters. There are twelve episodes of the series, all included here on Blu-ray. Meanwhile, Superior 8 UltraBrothers is not a TV series but rather a movie from 2008, and it includes, yes, eight different Ultramans (Ultramen?): Ultraman, Ultraman Moebius, Ultra Seven, Ultraman Jack, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Dyna, and Ultraman Gaia. It’s like the equivalent of the Marvel Universe coming together in Avengers: Endgame, just in the Ultraman universe (and with about a millionth of the budget.) While both these releases are on Blu-ray (yay!), these entries don’t include digital copies — which many of the earlier releases from Mill Creek did — and I’m not sure why. But aside from that, they are typically high quality releases. Ultrafans, make sure to add these to your collections!
  • Desperate Riders – The latest low-budget (and low star wattage) western from Lionsgate, the tepid Desperate Riders is probably only for the western die-hards who are tired of rewatching the classics in their collection. Starring Trace Adkins, Victoria Pratt and (in a supporting role) Tom Berenger, the film sees a hero and a young man riding with a female sharpshooter to rescue the young man’s mother from a Real Bad Dude who intends to marry her after murdering her husband (because that usually spells romance.) After a mildly action-packed opening, the film slows down considerable until the climax, which tries to offer up some surprises, but by then, you’ll probably be past caring. The film just doesn’t offer much; it’s not well-written, it’s slow-paced, and the acting is okay at best. Unless you just can’t live without a new western film to watch, this is an easy one to skip.
  • WB Archive Spotlight – We have three new Blu-ray releases from the Warner Archive, Warner Brothers print-on-demand service that is available at at www.wbshop.com/warnerarchive or at online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold. This month we get a nice variety of titles with A Star is BornThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and Captains of the Clouds. First up is A Star is Born, the original 1934 version starring Janet Gaynor, Frederic March, and Lionel Stander. Directed by the great William Wellman, the story is pretty familiar by now: a young woman comes to Hollywood to become a star and finds aid with a washed-up (and alcoholic) actor, which leads to success and heartbreak. While this is the first version of the film, it’s probably the least known compared to the 1954 version with Judy Garland, the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and of course the most recent version with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Still, it’s a solid film that set the groundwork for numerous great remakes. Next up is The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, a fascinating film from 1962 that receives an equally fascinating Blu-ray release. The film was originally released in Cinema, which was a sort of proto-IMAX format that utilized three projectors to create a larger, curved picture for audiences. The film tells the “true” story of The Brothers Grimm, and then uses stop-motion animation to mix in three of their lesser known fables: The Dancing PrincessThe Cobbler and the Elves, and The Singing Bone. The film has been entirely restored an remastered, and this two-disc set includes two versions of it: a regular version, and a “Smilebox” version which replicates the Cinema experience. There’s also a 40-minute documentary on the restoration of the film and the process of replicating Cinema for modern home video audiences. The film itself is solid but not great, but as a piece of Hollywood history, this is an exceptional package. Finally, we have Captains of the Clouds, a World War II movie that is elevated thanks to a lead role by James Cagney and direction by Michael Curtiz, who also directed Casablanca. Released in 1942, the film follows the Royal Canadian Air Force and a couple of pilots who must prove their worth when they’re deemed to old to join the war effort. It’s a touch on the long side and it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a decent enough viewing experience.
  • 2LDK – This 2003 Japanese film hits US home video for the first time, and it’s a pretty engaging watch. The film is only 70 minutes long, and that short running time only enhances the film’s intensity. The story follows two roommates, Lana and Kimi, who are both actors and have wildly different personalities. When they find out that a major role they’ve both auditioned for comes down to just the two of them, things ignite and it becomes a wild night that both may not survive. The film is set entirely in one apartment and only features the two characters, so the short running time works in its favor, as there’s no time for anything other than the conflict between these two. Apparently, the film was shot in eight days and in sequential order, which I think adds to the immediacy and intensity of the film. It’s a quick watch but a fun one.

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