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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Last Looks, CSI Vegas, Up All Night, Oranges and Sunshine, Spiritwalker and more

Last Looks

It’s a small week with only one major title to anchor it this week, but unfortunately, I have not yet received my review copy of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Sigh. But there are a few other really interesting gems to be found. Read on for more info!

Last Looks

You probably haven’t heard of this movie but I highly recommend you track it down. Charlie Hunnam stars as a disgraced police detective who is hired by a movie studio to help clear the name of their big TV star, played by Mel Gibson. However, there are a number of concerned parties who would prefer that the crime not be solved. It’s sort of a Neo film-noir black comedy, reminiscent of a Shane Black film or something like The Player, and it’s absolutely terrific. Mel Gibson is in rare form, playing a British actor who is playing a southern-fried judge; Charlie Hunnam underplays his role in just the right way; and Morena Baccarin being in the cast is always a bonus. There’s a lot of inside Hollywood humor, plus a really good central mystery, interesting characters, and strong performances all around. I didn’t know what to expect from Last Looks, but I absolutely loved it. Definitely take the time to track it down.


CSI Vegas: Season One

With the number of TV reboots coming down the pike, it was only a matter of time before the juggernaut that is CSI was going to get relaunched. After all, it was not only a massive network hit, but it also kicked off the whole forensic procedural genre that has ruled the television landscape for the last 20 years. This newest iteration of CSI returns to Las Vegas, and sees William Petersen and Jorja Fox return from the original series. They’re joined by a new cast of supporting characters that are eclectic and varied, much like the original show. The formula hasn’t changed much; each episode follows a number of different mysteries, using the latest forensic technology to solve the crimes, and doing so with a neat visual flair. I’ll be honest, I was a huge CSI fan in the beginning, but I burned out on the franchise around the time of, I dunno, CSI: Des Moines or whatever it was. After a nice long break from the shows, it’s nice to kind of get back to basics and I found myself enjoying the show quite a bit. Worth a watch if you’re a fan of the franchise or the procedural genre.


Up All Night: The Complete Series

It’s funny sometimes to look back at TV shows that didn’t make it. On paper, Up All Night seems like a surefire hit: written and produced by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels, and starring perennial TV favorites Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, and Maya Rudolph, it seemed like a surefire hit. The show is about a couple with a newborn who have to switch from partying with their famous friend to raising a baby, and of course, there’s a lot of humor based around babies and just how inherently all-consuming they are. And if I have to pin it down, I guess I’d say the reason the show didn’t succeed is simply because it wasn’t exceptional. Honestly, it’s a funny enough show; I chuckled while watching it. But is it laugh-out-loud funny? Not really. I suspect that if it had lasted more than one-and-a-half seasons, it probably would have shaped up to be pretty darn funny, but I guess it just never got the chance. This new Blu-ray collection from Mill Creek includes the entire series on three discs, totaling 35 episodes over one full season and one half season. Not a comedy smash hit, but it’s a fun enough show to get through in a few binge sessions.


Spiritwalker

This visually exciting Korean action film took me a little bit by surprise. I love a good Asian action movie, but there are so many of them that — like any genre — you end up watching a lot of bad ones to get to the good ones. Spiritwalker follows a man who wakes up with amnesia… and then wakes up again every 12 hours in a new body. And of course, there are various not-so-nice people pursuing him, leading to a mystery of his own identity as well as a race to stay alive. There are a few impressive visual effects sequences as well as some kick-ass action scenes, but the central concept and story are also intriguing enough to keep you engaged from start to finish. That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of slow moments in the middle where things bog down a bit, but they don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film. This is one of the better action films I’ve seen recently, and it’s worth a watch for sure.


Oranges and Sunshine

This drama starring Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving is based on a true story, and it’s not a happy one. Watson plays real life crusader Margaret Humphreys, who almost single-handedly discovered one of the biggest scandals in British history: that the UK government was departing thousands of “undesirable” children to Australia under false pretenses. While they were promised the titular “oranges and sunshine,” instead many of them met with hard circumstances, abuse, and poverty. Humphreys not only discovered the secret but worked to reunite thousands of children with their real families. It’s a hard story to watch, but it’s also uplifting to see justice be done. The film is solidly good-but-not-amazing; it’s a bit slow in places, but Watson’s performance carries the day. While the film came out in 2011, this marks the first US Blu-ray release that I’m aware of. Oranges and Sunshine a solid drama that tells an incredibly important story, and I think some people will find a lot of value in watching it.


Also Available on Home Video This Week:
  • Through The Decades: 1980s and 1990s – Mill Creek specializes in low-priced film collections and catalog releases, and with these two new Through the Decades collections, they offer up some pretty interesting mixes of films. Of course, neither one is stocked with blockbusters and full-on A-list titles; that’s just now how these 10-films-for-$20 types of collections tend to work. But honestly, I found these two collections to feature a stronger line-up than the previous two decades collections from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Frankly, there are more solid films in these releases than I expected. Through the Decades: 1980s gives us 10 films: standouts RoxanneBlue SteelSuspectLittle Nikita, and the little seen The New Kids, as well as PunchlineBand of the Hand (a fun B-movie action flick), Vice VersaLike Father Like Son, and Who’s Harry Crumb?. Meanwhile, Through The Decades: 1990s includes another 10 films: standouts Donnie Brasco (one of my absolute favorite films), The Devil’s OwnAnaconda, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, as well as HousesitterThe MatchmakerWhite PalaceOne True ThingThe Freshman, and The Deep End of the Ocean. Sure, the genres are a little eclectic; I don’t know how much crossover there is between Anaconda fans and The Deep End of the Ocean fans, but still, for getting a ten-pack of films for a low price, you don’t have to like every film in the collection. These are a fun and inexpensive way to binge watch some great movies.
  • Servants – I don’t often get movies to review that are set in a Czechoslovakian seminary, and when I do (or at least, films of a similar ilk), they’re usually heavy dramas. Servants is a drama, yes, but it’s a drama with real thriller undertones. The film is set in 1980, when the Communist regime was invading all areas of Czechoslovakian life, including the priesthood. The film, which is shot in moody black and white, follows two priest candidates who have to choose between collaborating or resisting and finding their lives in danger from the government. Yes, the film is in Slovak with English subtitles, so this isn’t a mainstream thriller, but it’s an intense film with some very strong performances. It’s also only an hour and 20 minutes, which keeps the story moving at a healthy pace, rather than dragging like some foreign dramas can. This one won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking to branch out into foreign films a little more, Servants stood out to me as being better than many of the others I’ve watched recently.

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