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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Ticket To Paradise, Carrie, The Velvet Underground, Coraline, Better Call Saul, Creepshow and more

Another relatively small week, but there are a few good titles to be found in this week’s home video offerings. Check out what’s available below!

Ticket to Paradise

Sometimes a movie delivers exactly what the trailer promises, and Ticket to Paradise is one of those movies. The trailer promised a fun, lighthearted rom-com with some major star power, and that’s exactly what I got. In it, we see George Clooney and Julia Roberts as long-divorced parents of college graduate and soon-to-be-lawyer Lily. When Lily meets a local guy on vacation in Bali and decides to get married and stay there, the two parents fly there to secretly try and break up the wedding, all while mostly despising each other. The film isn’t a comic masterpiece, but it’s enjoyable and funny and filled with beautiful scenery, and Clooney and Roberts’ chemistry and comedic timing are absolutely perfect. The film does a nice job of taking its time thawing out the pair of them so when they start to reconnect, it feels natural and not forced as a plot point to get us to a happy ending. With a great supporting cast and a setting that’s different from the usual rom-com, Ticket to Paradise feels both familiar and fresh, and honestly, what more could you ask for from a romantic comedy? This one is definitely worth tracking down for a good night of movie fun.

Carrie (4K Ultra HD)

Carrie is such an odd movie to me. I mean, I get that it’s a ‘70s horror classic, and I do like it quite a bit, but it feels like at times it’s two different films. The first twenty minutes is pretty unsettling, but then the next hour is like an afterschool special teen drama. And then there are the final 20 minutes, which is an absolute masterpiece. The slow motion and near-silent sequence of Carrie unleashing her powers and the devastation she causes is like a master class in filmmaking and an easy seven steps above what 99.9% of the horror genre typically offers. It’s an odd dichotomy between horror and teen drama, but somehow it works. Aside from the fact that there’s a lot of inappropriate slapping in this movie (the gym teacher slaps two students and John Travolta slaps his girlfriend three times!), it still holds up as a pretty great movie, even if it does have its flaws. This new 4K Ultra HD edition sees the film get an A/V upgrade, although with the film being nearly 50 years old, it’s not exactly a complete facelift. Instead, you get a slightly sharper picture and more vibrant colors, plus a pretty clean workprint. The surround soundtrack doesn’t really feel all that different from the previous Blu-ray, to me, although there might be a little more fidelity to it. The disc (which includes a Blu-ray disc as well) is loaded to the gills with extra features. All the better toooo… watch the uber-creepy five-minute long opening credits sequence which is just one big slow-motion journey through the girls’ locker room, I guess? Yeesh. Ok, all the better to watch the other 95% of the movie, which is still creepy but in a different way.

The Velvet Underground

Todd Haynes is known for making challenging dramatic films like Far From Heaven, but last year he dove into documentary filmmaking with The Velvet Underground, a deep dive (that also serves as something of an art installation) into the influential 1960s band. While music documentaries can often be a bunch of talking heads interviews strung together, Haynes instead utilizes a host of visual tricks to make the film something deeper. While we do hear stories about the band and learn about their history and influence, Haynes also uses things like split screen editing, music, and artsy imagery to give us a sonic whirlwind of a film that is less a documentary and more of an experience. Now, I’m not overly familiar with the Velvet Underground beyond a few of their more well-known songs, so getting to dive into the personalities that drove the band and experience some of what made them so influential and special was a neat experience. Haynes is no stranger to dramatic films but this is his first documentary, and I was impressed with how he put it all together. As a Criterion Collection release, the film gets a top-notch audiovisual remastering and the disc also comes with a nice collection of extra features. Even if you’re not a fan of the band per se, this is definitely a film that’s worth a look.

Coraline & ParaNorman (4K Steelbooks)

I’m a huge fan of Laika Studios, and so I’m thrilled they’ve chosen to release two of their best films as Limited Edition Steelbook editions. Coraline and Paranormal come to home video once again in the premium 4K Ultra HD format (with Blu-rays included in each release as well) that are both packaged in separate Steelbook cases that feature absolutely gorgeous artwork. Seriously, even if you already own the films, the Steelbooks are so pretty that you’ll want them again just for the collectability. Now, ParaNorman didn’t generate much buzz at the box office, but critics were kind to it and it’s easy to see why. It’s clever and charming, and of course the animation is gorgeous. It’s a shame that it fell under the radar. Coraline, though… Coraline is a masterpiece. Based on a kids’ book by Neil Gaiman, the film is an adventure story that also serves as a meditation on childhood and parenting, and it’s equally fun, scary, emotional, and thrilling. I absolutely love Coraline and will recommend it to anyone I can whenever I get the chance. Both of these terrific new Steelbook editions are worthy additions to any movie fan’s collection!

Better Call Saul: Season Six

As someone who’s never quite gotten around to watching Breaking Bad past the first season, I’m more of a casual Better Call Saul fan than a die-hard devotee. The show follows Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman, who would eventually become Walter White’s lawyer, in the time before he got caught up with White’s criminal empire (aka the events of Breaking Bad). In this sixth and final season, the show actually ends up serving as a bit of a bookend to Breaking Bad. The first nine episodes take place about four years pre-Breaking, wrapping up plotlines from Season Five. The last four episodes, however, actually take place in 2010, happening after the events of the finale of Breaking Bad, with Saul/Jimmy in hiding. While the show has never been the cultural phenomenon that its predecessor was, it’s a well-liked show and it’s well-made. But, as with most prequels, at a certain point, it becomes untenable to keep things up, and this felt like a good place to bring the show to a close. No, Better Call Saul was never Breaking Bad (and hopefully most people didn’t expect it to be) but it carved out its own identity, and that’s a good thing.

Creepshow: Season 3

Loosely based on the old EC comics like Tales From the Crypt, 1982’s Creepshow film was a horror anthology that became a cult classic and spawned a sequel. Fast forward a few decades, and now we have Creepshow the television show, an anthology series, with each episode featuring completely new horror-themed stories. This new collection of the Shudder series features all six episodes of season three, each of which includes two short stories. With guest stars such as Jonathan Schaech,, Ethan Embry, James Remar, Mark Hamill, Danielle Harris, Ron Livingston, and Michael Rooker, the show is a lot of fun. Horror anthologies can be tricky, but this one does a nice job of giving us solid stories, good casts, and short form storytelling that keeps things moving nicely. While it’s not going to revolutionize the television landscape, it’s an easy show to throw on and have a good time watching. There’s also a really nice collection of extra features, including interviews and making-of material. Horror fans will have a really good time with this release.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • The Minute You Wake Up Dead – Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser, and Jaime Alexander lend some star power to this rather pedestrian crime/suspense film. The movie follows Hauser’s Russ, a stockbroker who did well for himself and has now opened up a practice in his small hometown. When things go south financially for some people, Russ gets a threatening phone call which is quickly followed up by a murder. Okay, as far as direct-to-video movies go, that’s a solid enough premise. Unfortunately, the film devolves a bit from there, with plot and pacing issues as well as dialogue moments that aren’t exactly Oscar-caliber. The film isn’t terrible, it’s just rather predictable and not that interesting. Hauser, Freeman, and Alexander all give their roles the requisite oomph, with no one phoning it in, and it’s their presences that carry the film through the slower moments. Ultimately, however, at the end of the day it’s just another so-so direct-to-video film that never elevates above the pieces it’s made up of.
  • The Ambush – I don’t get a lot of movies from United Arab Emirates across my plate, and typically when I do get films to review from that part of the world, they end up being intense dramas. The Ambush is a flat-out action film, however, which I guess isn’t a surprise when you find out it’s from director Pierre Morel, who also directed Taken and From Paris With Love. The film follows three UAE soldiers who are ambushed by rebels and find themselves stranded and under attack. It’s an intense film experience, with almost everything taking a backseat to unrelenting action and violence. On the one hand, that’s great, because I hate when action movies have no action. On the other hand, the film lacks any real character development or plot, and it often feels like Blackhawk Down (a film I don’t care for), where the non-stop action becomes almost numbing. Now, there’s a lot less characters to deal with here so its easier to keep track of what’s happening to whom than it was in Blackhawk, so the end result is a solid action film that will definitely never bore you.
  • Medieval – For a direct-to-video action film (or at least a film that barely had a theatrical release), Medieval has a pretty impressive cast, which includes Ben Foster, Til Schweiger, Sophie Lowe, Michael Caine, and Matthew Goode. The film is based on a true story, telling us the story of Jan Zizka, excellently played by the criminally underrated Ben Foster, one of my favorite actors. Now, if you’re asking yourself, “Who the heck is Jan Zizka?” well, you’re not alone, because I had no idea, either. Turns out, he was a middle ages military leader who supposedly never lost a battle. The story is actually kind of big to boil down to just a sentence or two, but let’s just say there’s lots of fighting, kidnapping, conspiracies, the Catholic Church, and no small amount of blood and guts. This is a battle heavy film, and director Petr Jakl doesn’t shy away from showing us see people getting killed in fairly gruesome ways. Still, for an overlooked period action film, I was impressed by the scope of the action, the top-notch cast, and the film as a whole. Worth a look for sure.
  • A Fish in the Bathtub – Cohen Film Collection this week gives us the Blu-ray debut of A Fish in the Bathtub, a 1988 dramedy starring real life Husband-and-wife Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara (also known as Ben Stiller’s parents.) The film sees Stiller and Meara as a couple who have been married for 40 years but clearly can’t stand each other, and most of the film is the two of them trying to find ways with the various arenas in which they piss each other off. I find these movies often off-putting because it’s hard to really root for either character when they’re both so flawed. But Still and Meara are both strong actors and they manage to give their characters enough heart to keep them from being so unlikable that it makes the film completely unlikable, too. I didn’t love the movie, to be sure, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected after a tense first few minutes that led me to believe I was in for 90 minutes of two people yelling at each other. Good to watch for the performances, but A Fish in the Bathtub will probably appeal to a very particular type of audience member.
  • Can’t Be Stopped – This new documentary tells the story of the real-life graffiti crew Can’t Be Stopped, more commonly known as C.B.S. Centrally located in Hollywood, California, the graffiti taggers got their start in the 1980s and soon gained notoriety in the California culture. Led by the patriarchal figure known as ”Skate,” C.B.S. was hugely influential on the graffiti scene. Now they are profiled in a documentary film which tells the crew’s story and includes interviews with actual members of the group as they detail their history and culture. The film runs a touch longer than I feel it needed at 1 hour and 42 minutes, but overall, I found it pretty interesting and since there aren’t a lot of documentaries set in the graffiti world, people who find that subculture interesting will want to check this one out.
  • Blood & Diamonds – Italian filmmaking in the 1970s gets a lot of attention for their Giallo (aka horror) movies, but there was also a thriving action scene in Italy at the same time. Blood & Diamonds is a 1977 film starring Claudio Cassinelli, Martin Balsam, and Barbara Bouchet. In this film, Cassinelli’s Guido is a mafia member who is set up by his own gang and sent to prison, only to vow revenge on the men who wronged him. Directed by well-loved action director Fernando Di Leo, the film is a gritty actioner filled with double crosses and violence. Now, 88 Films – who has been bringing out high quality releases of cult classic films – has given us the film on Blu-ray for the first time, wrapped up in a gorgeous package and loaded with extra features. The film itself is quite good although obviously a bit dated, but there’s no denying that this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is the best version of the movie you could possibly ask for. Fans of the film or the genre will want to seek this one out ASAP.

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