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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Jackass Forever, Spider-Man No Way Home, Turning Red, Moonfall, Cyrano, Heavy Metal and more

Spider-Man from Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.

Well, after a couple of small weeks with very few big-name releases, this week sees a bunch of A-list tiles dropping. And I finally got my review copy of Spider-Man: No Way Home, so there’s a bunch of exciting stuff to cover this week. Read on!

Spider-Man: No Way Home

I’ve heard many people describe Spider-Man: No Way Home as the Best Marvel Movie Ever! I really enjoyed the film, but is it the best Marvel movie yet? Not for me, at least. Now, I’m going to try and keep this spoiler-free, because while I’m sure everyone reading this website knows about the various characters and actors appearing in No Way Home, I always assume there are people who haven’t yet seen the film and have thus far avoided spoilers, and I don’t want to be the guy to ruin that. But suffice it to say, No Way Home draws together characters from all corners of the Marvel Universe, including Dr. Strange (he was in the trailer plenty, so no spoiler there) and all of the previous Spider-Man movies that have come before it. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and even with so many characters to manage, I feel like the film gives them all just the right amount of screen time. There are a few plot points I didn’t love (way too spoiler-y to get into here), but by and large, I enjoyed the film quite a bit. And Tom Holland remains absolutely amazing in the title role. He’s just so darned likable! The film comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it looks and sounds utterly fantastic. The colors saturation is off the charts, image clarity is razor sharp, and the surround soundtrack utilizes all of the speakers to place you right in the middle of the action. It’s a fantastic A/V presentation of a visually stunning film.


Turning Red

Disney/Pixar’s latest film doesn’t break any new ground, but it is a lot of fun. The movie focuses on 13-year-old Mei, who not only is dealing with middle school and overbearing parents, but also occasionally transforms into a giant red panda. It takes a little while for the film to get interesting (and it tries a little too hard in the beginning to be high energy and humorous), but once things get going, it’s an enjoyable ride. The giant red panda conceit is a nice metaphor for puberty and that awkward middle school phase most of us go through, and there are some truly funny moments. There’s also a really funny running joke about a boy band called 4-Town which bonds Mei and her friends, and the characters will grow on you throughout the film. The home video release comes with a number of extra features, including multiple featurettes, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary. Disney/Pixar films don’t really need a lot of promotion because everyone wants to see them anyway, but if you watch this one, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


Jackass Forever

Whenever I watch a Jackass film, I always feel like I have 20% less brain cells than I did before I watched the film. Yet I keep watching them every time a new one comes out. Why? Because they’re just so damn funny. Now, do I love everything in the Jackass films? Definitely not. Admittedly it’s been a while since I saw the previous three, but I feel like this one had a few more gross-out gags than the other movies, which isn’t really my thing. But the pranks and the physical stunts are so ridiculous and over the top that I can’t help but laugh throughout them. There are a few new faces in the crew but all the mainstays like Johnny Knoxville, Wee-Man, and Steve-O are all well-represented. Look, it’s as simple as this: if you like the other Jackass films, you’ll like this one. If you don’t like them, you still won’t. Me, I had a lot of fun with it.


Moonfall

Roland Emmerich has pretty much settled into making movies about destroying the earth at this point in his career, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Because I love me some disaster movies and Roland Emmerich makes some of the best ones out there. Moonfall is his latest, and it posits the idea that the moon is not just a moon, but instead perhaps it’s an alien base of some kind. The problem with that is. that it’s moving closer to earth and threatening to destroy our planet. Enter the Ragtag Team of Scientists Who Are Earth’s Last Hope, and kickstart the fun and the special effects. Moonfall isn’t one of Emmerich’s better films, unfortunately, but it’s still a pretty fun ride. Part of the problem is that — while I’m never one to nitpick realism in disaster movies — the film plays SO fast and loose with the laws of physics and nature that it gets a bit ridiculous at some points. But the destruction sequences look great, the special effects are fantastic, and the characters are likable. You’ll have fun watching it, but it won’t blow you away like some of his best films. Moonfall comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and honestly, it’s the kind of movie that the premium 4K format was made for. The film looks stunning, with every cel of the film a visual marvel. Image clarity is so sharp it’s uncanny, colors bring the various explosions and spaceships to life in vibrant ways, and the surround soundtrack threatens to blow you off your couch at times. It’s a reference quality disc for sure, even if the movie isn’t quite the best.


Cyrano

Peter Dinklage stars in Joe Wright’s update of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac tale, only in this version, Cyrano is a little person rather than a man with a comically large nose. It’s also a much more serious version of the story than some previous adaptations; this one is based on the musical stage play. It’s a solid film; honestly, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. For one thing, I question whether it needed to be a musical or not. Now, admittedly I don’t always love musicals so maybe I’m a bit biased, but I also wasn’t overly impressed by the songs. They all sort of fall into that melodramatic ballad formula, and I would have like to see some more upbeat, poppy songs a la Hamilton or Moulin Rouge. Cyrano is always a story that can be ripe for humor (even though it has tragic parts) and the film downplays that quite a bit, only letting the humor out on rare occasions. That said, Peter Dinklage is great, as is his Roxanne, the relatively new Haley Bennet. Ben Mendelsohn shines — as always — as the bad guy, which adds to the proceedings. Ultimately, Cyrano is a good film that could have been great, but I suspect if you love musicals, you might enjoy it more than I did.


Heavy Metal (4K Ultra HD)

The most famous animated film of the 1970s, the sci-fi/fantasy anthology Heavy Metal makes its 4K Ultra HD debut this week. As a special bonus, the film is available in a Steelbook case and comes with a Blu-ray of Heavy Metal 2000, the follow-up film from the turn of the millennium. When it hit theaters back in the 70s, Heavy Metal was considered groundbreaking and edgy; an adult-themed anthology of sci-fi stories replete with nudity and a hard rock soundtrack. I would imagine that younger audiences watching it for the first time today might find it a little tame by today’s standards, but there’s a generation of fans out there who truly love this film. The sequel was a little less well-received, but it has a few good segments in it. Heavy Metal appears in 4K ultra HD for the first time and it’s quite a revelation. The film has been restored from the original camera negatives, and it looks cleaner and more colorful and vibrant than I’ve ever seen it. The surround soundtrack has been remixed by none other than Ivan Reitman (a producer on the film) and the sound effects have all been updated and upgraded, allowing the Dolby Atmos mix to really shine. And while Heavy Metal 2000 only appears on Blu-ray and not 4K Ultra HD, it is the first time it’s been available on Blu-ray, so that’s a big deal for fans as well. All in all, this is a terrific package of a true cult classic, one of the best I’ve seen in a while.


The Great: Season Two

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult return for the second season of the Golden Globe-winning The Great, a series about Catherine the Great on her way to becoming, well, Catherine the Great. But this isn’t just a rehash of the popular drama The Crown; whereas that show is uber-serious, The Great is more of a black comedy than anything else, and I suspect (and the show sort of confirms) that it’s veeerrryyyy loosely based on history. This isn’t a show that’s trying to act as a docuseries in drama form; it’s meant to have fun with Catherine the Great’s life and her rise to power, and it wants to make the proceedings soapy, scandalous, and sexy. And for the most part, it works. Fanning and Hoult are terrific (as is Gillian Anderson, who’s along for the ride), and whereas I personally find The Crown boring as heck, this show moves at a good clip and keeps things interesting. Fans of history should check it out but be aware that it’s not particularly concerned with factual accuracy.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • For All Mankind – The Criterion Collection has been slowly adding 4K Ultra HD releases to their slate, and they’re doing a terrific job with it. Their latest releases is the excellent documentary For All Mankind, which is released as a dual threat package, containing the film on both 4K Ultra HD as well as on Blu-ray. The 1989 film is an exploration of the NASA moon landing missions, starting with Apollo 8 but focusing mostly on the historic Apollo 11 mission that saw Neil Armstrong take that historic first step on the moon. Jim Lovell, made famous by the movie and events of Apollo 13, narrates the film, and the only voices in the movie are those of the astronauts and mission control personnel, who feature in an incredible amount of archival NASA footage. And that’s where the 4K remastering really shines. Although most of the footage is from the late 1960s and 1970s, it looks absolutely astounding here. The clarity and crispness of the imagery is beautiful, and you’ll have a hard time believing this footage is 50 years old. The surround sound isn’t quite as active because mostly you’re hearing people’s voices, but there are a few nice moments to be found. Still, it’s a beautiful film that looks and sounds better than ever.
  • Expired – Ryan Kwanten, Hugo Weaving, and Jillian Nguyen star in this new science fiction drama that is ultimately a little disappointing. The film takes place in the future, with Kwanten as an assassin who reaches out to Weaving’s doctor after he starts getting weaker and weaker. Of course, the weakness is related to a semi-romantic encounter he had with named April. They develop a relationship, but the mysterious malady afflicting Kwanten might end things before they begin. I wanted to like Expired; Kwanten is always a great screen presence and Hugo Weaving is a welcome addition to any cast. Unfortunately, the film moves at a slow pace, and the script doesn’t do it any favors, with overly dense and metaphoric dialogue that is both unnatural and cringey at times. This is really the epitome of direct-to-video mediocrity, no matter how much I hoped it would be better.
  • Jigsaw & Dementia – Cohen Media brings two cult classic films to Blu-ray for the first time this week, with the thrillers Jigsaw and DementiaJigsaw is a 1962 British film noir directed by era-mainstay Val Guest, and starring Jack Warner and Ronald Lewis. The film sees a body discovered in a coastal beach house, and a pair of police detectives trying to solve the crime. On the surface, that doesn’t sound like the most exciting film in the world, but in actuality it’s a cracking-good mystery with lots of suspects and a genuine sense of keeping you guessing until the end. While it’s light on star power, the cast is strong and the film is very enjoyable. Dementia, meanwhile, is a much… less successful film, at least for me. It’s basically a journey through one night with a mentally ill woman, and it’s less a movie or a story than a series of images meant to evoke emotions. The film was rereleased two years after it’s 1955 debut with added narration (by a young Ed McMahon, of all people!) and retitled Daughter of Blood. Both versions of the film are included on this new Blu-ray, so for fans of this kind of filmmaking, there’s a lot of bang for your buck.
  • Why Is We Americans? – Produced by Lauryn Hill and award-winning director Oren Moverman, this new documentary focuses on one family in particular and their impact on the city of Newark, New Jersey. The Baraka family has been a powerful presence in Newark since the 1960s, and they’ve been both powerful agents for change and also tragic victims of violent crimes. The film recounts their journey through the years, spanning civil rights, personal activism, and art, as well as heartbreak and murder. It’s a powerful story about equality, justice and economic injustice, and it’s hard to watch it and not be impressed and moved by the Baraka family. It’s these kinds of stories that are so important in today’s society, and I can see this being a film college educators might show to their classes.
  • My Afternoons With Margeuritte – Gerard Depardieu stars in this French drama from 2010 as Germain, a simple man who is considered unintelligent in the small French town in which he lives. One day, he sits on a park bench next to the elderly Margueritte, who is reading aloud from her book. As Germain continues to meet with Margueritte, they not only develop a friendship, but Germain begins to realize he’s not the simpleton people make him out to be. It’s a simple story and not a complicated film, but it is sweet and moving. Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus (as the titular Margeuritte) are wonderful opposite each other and they really carry the film. If you like simple movies with strong characters and don’t mind French titles, you’ll want to check this one out.

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