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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris, Thor: Love & Thunder, Outlander, The War of the Worlds, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Bullet Proof and more

It’s another big week, with a massive blockbuster summer hit, a giant TV show box set, some underground/cult stuff, and much more. Read on!

Thor: Love & Thunder

While one of the biggest box office hits of the year, Thor: Love & Thunder received some mixed reactions from audiences. And while overall I liked the film quite a bit, I get why it wasn’t universally beloved. The previous film, Thor: Ragnarok, is hands down one of my absolute favorite Marvel films, easily in my Top 5. It balanced the humor and the epic-scale action perfectly. This film doesn’t get the balance quite right. It tries WAY too hard in the first act to shoehorn in the humor, and not only are the jokes not as funny, it’s just too much and it feels downright silly, which Ragnarok never did. Once things settle down, the film improves dramatically. Christian Bale is downright creepy as Gorr the God Butcher, Natalie Portman is great, and the interplay between Thor and Jane Foster brings back the magic that we got in the first film. I did, however, really like the ending of the movie, and the after-the-credits scenes are worth stocking around for. Like I said, overall it’s a good film, but it’s definitely an uneven ride.

War of the Worlds/When Worlds Collide: Paramount Presents Edition

The Paramount Presents imprint from Paramount has brought us a nice collection of classic and fan favorite films, and now it packages two great classic sci-fi films together for the first time. The marquee movie here is obviously War of the Worlds. I remember watching this movie when I was a kid and it absolutely enthralled me; I think it was one of the very first science fiction films I ever saw, and it launched a lifelong love affair with H. G. Wells’ story of the Martians invading earth, which eventually became a passion for other things like Mars Attacks and Close Encounters and so much more. And even all these years later, it remains a taut masterpiece of sci-fi, with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson trying to survive a Martian invasion over the course of a well-paced 85 minutes. This package adds the 1951 film When Worlds Collide (also produced by George Pal), which doesn’t hit the heights of War of the Worlds, but is still an enjoyable sci-fi romp. In it, a runaway star is hurtling towards earth, and we follow a group of people trying to surviver by building a rocket to another world. War of the Worlds comes on 4K Ultra HD, while When Worlds Collide is more of a bonus film, included only on Blu-ray. The 4K upgrade to War adds a nice A/V sheen to the film, mostly coming forth in brighter, more vivid colors that really give the film a nice pop. The surround soundtrack isn’t overly nuanced or detailed, but it does give the film a little depth and it sounds nice overall, especially considering the film is almost 70 years old. The extra features are all for War of the Worlds, but you do get two audio commentaries, two featurettes, and the original (and infamous) on-air radio broadcast of WOTW that caused a panic in some parts of the country in 1938. All in all, it’s a terrific releaser for fans of classic science fiction.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

When I first saw the trailer for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, I thought to myself, “I absolutely want to see this movie!” It looked utterly charming in every way, and I actually went to see it in theaters, despite not being a big-budget spectacle. And I’m happy to report that it is indeed utterly charming. The film follows Lesley Manville’s Mrs. Harris, a working class housecleaner in 1950s London who decides she wants to own a Christian Dior gown, so she scrimps and saves up just enough money to go to Paris and buy one. However, her humble upbringings don’t fit in with everyone’s idea of what Dior represents, and she has to win over factions who would rather send her on her way. The film has good supporting characters and subplots, and Lesley Manville gives an excellent performance, as usual. It’s one of those movies that just makes you feel good while watching it; it doesn’t have superheroes or explosions, but you’ll watch it with a smile the whole time (although occasionally it will tug at your heartstrings, as well.) Give this one a watch for something a little different; I strongly suspect you’ll have a great time watching it.

Outlander: Season Six

Six seasons in and Outlander remains one of the best shows on television. It seems a little late to try and explain the show’s concept to you (and you really do have to start at the beginning to really appreciate the sixth season), but in a nutshell, the show is about a World War II nurse who gets mystically transported back in time to the 1700s in the Scottish Highlands and meets the love of her life. While this sounds like it could be weepy melodrama, it’s anything but, filled with action, humor, romance, drama, and mystery. And with lavish production values, the show looks like a feature film. No wonder this is such a big hit for Starz. This sixth season sees Claire and Jamie in the United States still, and with the Revolutionary War on the way, there’s a lot of unrest. Claire went through some serious trauma in Season 5 and she’s dealing with the repercussions of it now, while Jamie is trying to navigate the politics that he knows are going to inevitably lead to war. It’s a tense season (when is it not?), but we still get the romance that we love from the show. The season ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, so the arrival of Season Seven can’t get here soon enough!

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Complete Collection

I’ll be honest, Aqua Teen Hunger Force was never quite my thing. The adventures of Frylock, Meatwad and Master Shake interacting with their crazy neighbor as well as various bad guys, celebrities, and such has its fun moments, but I never got caught up in the fandom of it all. It’s not that I dislike the show per se, it’s just always been kind of a limited dose thing for me; I find bits and pieces of it funny, but sitting and watching multiple episodes was never particularly appealing. Still, the show ran for eleven seasons and 139 episodes (plus a spin-off movie) so it’s hard to deny that it has its die-hard fans. Now, for the first time, the entire kit-and-caboodle has been collected into one massive 20-disc box set. It includes all 139 episodes, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (the theatrical film released in 2007), a few off-shoot show episodes (like a “prequel” special and the like), as well as a ton of extra features, including featurettes, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and much more. It really is a great collection for fans of the show!

Bullet Proof

Vinnie Jones headlines this new direct-to-video action film from Lionsgate. The film focuses on co-writer/director/star James Clayton, whose character decides to rip off a psychotic mob boss (Vinnie Jones). But when he pulls off the heist, he realizes that the mob boss’s wife has stowed away with him, sending the pair on the run as an assassin and various henchmen try to recapture Jones’s wife. On the plus side, where many direct-to-video action movies seem to forget the actual action due to budgetary concerns, Bullet Proof doesn’t have that problem. It’s got plenty of action. On the minus side, the action is all there is to the film, giving us cardboard-cutout characters that it’s hard to care about even a little. The film is ultimately a perfectly typical DTV actioner; I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen worse. Worth a watch if you’re bored, but I wouldn’t go out of your way for it.

Ozzie and Harriet: The Complete Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Seasons

Because the show aired over half a century ago, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is not exactly a huge part of the pop culture conversation today, so it’s easy to forget what a huge part of early American television the series was. Starting in 1952 and running for a whopping 14 seasons (with over 400 episodes!), the show was a prototypical family comedy with parents Ozzie and Harriet raising their two young sons, David and Ricky. The twist here was that the family on screen was played by the real life Nelson family. America got to watch the boys grow up, and Ricky Nelson became one of the first teen heartthrobs of the television generation. While there have been a smattering of home video releases over the years, most of them were just random collections of episodes with no semblance of order to them. A few moths back, MPI Video finally answered fans’ requests with the first two official releases of the show, followed up this month with the next FOUR seasons! Wow! So now we also have available The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet: The Complete Seasons Three, Four, Five, and Six, each released as their own complete season set. Each of these releases includes all of the episodes from their respective seasons, the first time there has ever been complete season collections available. And while the shows have some various minor video issues here and there, I was surprised by the high audiovisual quality of most of the episodes, especially for a show that premiered 70 years ago. The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is a fun and wholesome family comedy that is a nice snapshot of a different time in America’s history, and I’m glad to see MPI Video finally giving this touchstone of American pop culture the release it deserves.

The House of the Lost on the Cape

Based on a Japanese novel but — to my eyes, at least – heavily inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli — The House of the Lost on the Cape is a new anime film about a young girl, a young lady, and a grandmother who are not related but come together as a family. It’s also about a magical house and fantasy entities (and a big sea dragon shows up as well), as you’d expect in an anime film. Now, I’ve stated many, many times before that I’m only a casual anime fan, and an anime film has to really standout for me to get excited about it. This one is interesting, in that I found the family aspects of the film the most effective; the fantasy/mystical elements didn’t do much for me. The film has a real heart, but sometimes it gets lost amongst all the fantasy elements. Still, the film looks great and is well-animated, and I think anime fans will find a lot to like overall.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Rain: 90th Anniversary Edition – This 1932 film starring Joan Crawford and Walter Huston comes to Blu-ray for the first time with this new 90th Anniversary Edition from VCI Entertainment. The film has been restored and remastered and is billed as the original, uncut 94-minute version. I’m not overly familiar with the history of the movie, but I assume it was cut at some point for broadcast or theatrical reissue. Rain sees Crawford playing a prostitute and Huston as the missionary trying to save her soul, all while a group of people are stuck on there island of Pago Pago during a monsoon. What makes the film interesting, especially considering the era in which it was made, is that Crawford’s prostitute is the hero of the film, while the religious missionaries are clear the antagonists. I suspect it was a reaction to the events in the U.S. at the time (such as prohibition), but it’s still an interesting and brave take for a movie in 1932. The newly remastered release looks and sounds quite impressive for a 90-year-old film, making this new Blu-ray quite a treat.
  • Preman: Silent Fury – This new Indonesian action film doesn’t feature any stars known outside of its native country, but it does give the action genre a real run for its money. While comparisons to The Raid are inevitable, that’s more because of the martial arts action in a crime setting than any real similarities. In this movie, Sandi, a deaf gangster has to protect his son when he witnesses a brutal killing by a mob boss. With hired killers out to take out his son, Sandi goes into overdrive, fighting off bad(der) guys while also dealing with his own trauma that manifests itself in a unique and unusual way. The film isn’t perfect, but it is rather exhilarating, with action scenes that really pack some punch. The story isn’t the highlight of the film, but there’s enough of a narrative and enough character development to enjoy the action while still feeling caught up ion the lives off the characters. Worth a watch for action junkies looking for something new.
  • Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon – I’m not sure how familiar younger viewers will be with the name Randy Rhoads, but people of a certain age will remember him as a guitar god who died too young and became a guitar legend. Rhoads, best known for being the guitarist for Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne, tragically died in a plane crash at 25, depriving us of what might have been a long and productive musical career. This new documentary focuses not solely on Rhoads, but the start of Quiet Riot and his transition to working with Ozzy Osbourne. There are times when it feels like it’s focusing too much on the other acts than Rhoades, but it does all tie together. The film is largely made up of archival interviews and footage, along with some newer interviews, but it is narrated by Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns, which gives it a nice ring of authenticity. The lack of any of Rhoads’ music is a disappointment (although very common in music documentaries), so while it might not be a perfect film, it’s still worth a watch for fans of Rhoads’ or the ‘80s metal scene.
  • The Chocolate War – Ilan Mitchell Smith, John Glover, and Wallace Langham star in this 1988 drama about conformity and bullying in a Catholic School. While a chocolate sale is the impetus for the events of the film, the story focuses more on a student at a Catholic School who doesn’t want to partake in a chocolate sale at the school, leading to bullies trying to force him into line with the approval of a less-than-savory schoolmaster. 1980s teen actor Keith Gordon (Christine) moves into the director’s chair for the first time here, and the result is a film that is intriguing if not a complete slam dunk. The drama is real and the performances are all terrific, and that’s good. The characters don’t all feel fully realized at times, though, and there are some pacing issues, but I found it an interesting movie for the most part. This new Blu-ray release comes from MVD as part of the their terrific Rewind Collection, which includes a number of extra features, including a commentary and interview featurette with Gordon, a mini-poster, and more.
  • Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki – This 1992 Japanese horror film has nothing to do with the Evil Dead franchise, just to get that out of the way right off the bat. I should also mention that I haven’t seen the first Evil Dead Trap, although I get the impression the two aren’t that closely related. The film follows Aki, a film projectionist, and her friend Emi. When a serial killer is killing prostitutes, it seems like Aki might be the killer without knowing it, as she keeps waking up covered in blood at the crime scenes. To say more would give away the film’s twists and turns, of which there are a few, but this is definitely a film for a certain kind of horror fan. It’s a little bit all over the place, the tone is quite dark, and it does feel a little bit dated. This is the very definition of a cult classic, and while ultimately it didn’t do much for me overall, I can see a lot of horror movie fans who will take to it.

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