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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Star Trek, 1883, NCIS Hawaii, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Paradise Highway

Well, it’s a smaller week this week (due to the Labor Day holiday in the U.S.) but it’s packed with some giant releases. Check out the goods below!

Minions: The Rise of Gru

It feels like it’s been a really long time since the last Minions movie (largely due to movies disappearing for a year or so thanks to COVID), so the timing was perfect for another adventure. This latest prequel adventure to the Despicable Me movies once again focuses on the Minions, although young Gru takes on a much bigger role this time around. And while on paper, a full-length film about a bunch of little yellow bananamen who don’t even speak a coherent language should not work, these movies continue to amuse the heck out of me. In this entry, young Gru wants to join the villain group The Vicious 6, but things don’t exactly go according to plan, leading to him going on the run and the Minions doing their best to help him. As always there’s great physical humor and jokes that both kids and parents will laugh at. Is it cinematic genius? Of course not. But is it a lot of fun? Absolutely. Minions: The Rise of Gru comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the premium 4K format is definitely the way to go if you have the capability. The film looks absolutely astounding, with crystal clear imagery and colors that seem to leap off the screen, all coupled with an incredibly immersive surround soundtrack. The disc also comes with two new Minions mini-movies, Post Modern Minions and Minions and Monsters. Lots of fun to be found here!

Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture 6-Film Collection (4K Ultra HD)

While there is no shortage of packaged collections of the various Star Trek movies, this newest box set is one of the most exciting collections yet. The first six Star Trek movies — or all of the original cast films — are collected on 4K Ultra HD for the first time in this terrific new set from Paramount. Previously, the first four films were released in a 4K box set, and in my review of that set, I vocally took issue with Paramount for not excluding Star Trek V and VI. Well, they must have heard me, because now they’ve fixed their mistake. But this isn’t just the six films; oh no, you also get three directors’ cuts included. This set features Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the original cut and the Director’s Edition, which has been unavailable on home video for many years), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Director Cut, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Director’s Cut. Of course, you also get Star Trek III, IV, and V, and all six films are packed with all of the numerous extra features created for previous home video releases of the films. There are also several new extra features created for the Motion Picture Director’s Edition. The 4K Ultra HD format does make some nice improvements in the A/V quality of the films, although seeing as how they’re all 30-40 years old, it’s not a complete transformation. Brighter colors, deeper blacks and sharper imagery are evident, but don’t expect the films to look like they were made yesterday. The surround soundtracks remain solid if not groundbreaking, with nice action front rear channels. So while upgrading to 4K Ultra HD isn’t an absolute necessity if you have the Blu-ray releases, these versions are still the best the movies have looked on home video, and the Director’s Cuts and all the extra features (plus the included digital copies) make this a must-have for Trek fans.

NCIS Hawaii: Season One

I’ve always found the NCIS franchise to be perfectly serviceable television. I’m not a die-hard fan, but they’re easy shows to watch; who doesn’t like watching an ensemble of capable actors solve a mystery from time to time? Now, maybe it’s because I just spent a week in Hawaii on the exact island where this show is set, or maybe It’s actually a different vibe to this take on the franchise, but I really enjoyed NCIS Hawaii: Season One. The show doesn’t veer from the traditional formula at all: a Naval Criminal Investigative Services Team tackles murders that are in some way related to the Naval armed forces, only this time it’s in Hawaii, a locale CBS doesn’t seem to want to relinquish its stranglehold on (see: Magnum P.I., Hawaii Five-O, etc.). Vanessa Lachey plays the head of the unit, which is a nice change of pace for her, and the remaining cast, while not made up of big names, is affable and gels nicely. As usual, we get a little bit of a glimpse into their personal lives each episode but the main focus is on the crimes and the investigations. At the end of the day, it’s nothing new at all, but I definitely will watch more of this version of NCIS than I have of the other ones.

1883: A Yellowstone Origin Story

Yellowstone has become nothing short of a pop culture phenomenon. A show that not too many people were talking about in its first season has become a ratings juggernaut and something that comes up in water cooler conversation as often as not. It’s even popular enough to spawn a spin-off show, or more accurately, a prequel. 1883 is a Paramount+ exclusive prequel series that takes place in — obviously — 1883 and sort of loosely sets the stage for the events in the modern day show. So it’s a western with loose ties to Yellowstone, but it also stands on its own. The show focuses on 19th century ancestors of the Dutton family and the people in their orbit, as they head across country and settle in to become ranchers. With Sam Elliott, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw in the cast, there are recognizable faces and talented enough performances to easily get into the proceedings. The show is gruff and rough, and it’s an unabashed western (unlike Yellowstone, which is more of a modern show with western trappings), and while I can’t say I out and out loved, I can see how fans of the source series will likely want to embark on this journey as well.

Paradise Highway

Juliette Binoche, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Grillo star in this dark drama about human trafficking and difficult choices. Binoche plays against type as a truck driver who has been blackmailed into transporting cargo for less-than-savory types. When said cargo is revealed to be a teenage girl (and a few other plot elements move things along), the pair go on the run together to keep the younger woman safe. It’s hard to argue that there is talent to be found here; Binoche is always a terrific actor, even if I have a hard time buying her as a truck driver, while Frank Grillo, who plays her brother and the leverage being used against her, is terrific as always. And writer/director Anna Gutto has a sure hand behind the camera, even if the script is one of the bigger issues with the film. But at the end of the day, the film is just too long and too flawed to really be great.

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