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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Black Adam, Halloween Ends, The Banshees of Inisherin, Prey for the Devil, Highlander, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, My Best Friend’s Wedding and more

Well, the studios are starting the year off with a bang. While some of these titles came out in late December, this week you can get some incredible releases, not new films and classic catalogue titles. Check out all the goodness below!

Black Adam

While it wasn’t the monster hit that DC had hoped for, Black Adam was a solid performer at the box office. And even though it seems like it was a one-and-done thanks to James Gunn coming in and dismantling the current DC film universe, there’s still some enjoyment to be found. Overall I liked Black Adam, even if it suffers from some of the problems that too often plague most DC films, namely that it’s too serious, it has too many characters, and the visual effects still occasionally seem off. That said, I thought Dwayne Johnson was excellent casting as Black Adam and he did a fine job, and the movie has a great supporting cast and some really fun action sequences. I think part of the reason the film didn’t do better is simply that most people have no idea who Black Adam is, unless you’re a die-hard DC comic book reader. Ultimately, it’s good and not great, but it’s worth a watch. Black Adam comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the 4K transfer and soundtrack are stellar; the film looks absolutely gorgeous with vibrant colors and razor sharp clarity, while the surround soundtrack boasts booming low end and excellent use of the surround channels. Black Adam is a fun movie that looks and sounds terrific on home video, and ultimately it’s a shame we won’t get to see any more of him on film.

Halloween Ends

I’ve had very mixed feelings about the current Halloween trilogy. First of all, I don’t love that the filmmakers felt the need to erase all of the continuity from the previous films except for the first one. I would have liked to have seen at least Halloween 2 be kept in the mix, because without it, Michael Myers is just a guy in a mask who killed three teenagers one night. (And while that’s obviously still terrible, it doesn’t quite justify the whole “evil boogeyman that everyone is afraid of” vibe the films portray.) That said, I found the first film to be okay, then I really liked Halloween Kills a lot (apart from the stupid name), and then I found Halloween Ends to be really uneven. There’s a subplot that I don’t want to ruin here that takes away from the power of the trilogy by taking the focus off of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, and while I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it, either. And as usual, the film is too gory, a mistake they’ve made in just about every Halloween movie since the first one, even though the original and best Halloween has virtually no blood or gore in it at all, something everyone on the planet seems to forget about when it comes time to making a new Halloween movie. Still, Halloween Ends does make for a true ending to the story off Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, and it will be interesting to see if the franchise continues from here. Halloween Ends comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and the premium 4K format offers up some nice picture and sound quality. It’s a very dark film, so color saturation is good but it’s not like the hues leap off the screen, however shadow delineation is strong, allowing you to keep track of the action in the many night scenes. The surround soundtrack does a good job as well, although this isn’t a movie packed with action scenes, it does create a nice, creepy atmosphere. All in all, it’s a good representation of a film that I liked but didn’t love.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Honestly, there’s no reason that The Banshees of Inisherin should work as well as it does. Directed by Martin McDonagh, the film sees Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reteam (they previously starred together in McDonagh’s well-loved film, In Bruges), this time as lifelong friends. The troubles start when Colm (Gleeson) decides he just doesn’t want to be friends with Padraic (Farrell) anymore, which Padraic has a hard time accepting. Add Padraic’s sister, a corrupt policeman, and the town idiot to the mix, and you have a surprisingly engaging film in which not much happens. But McDonagh’s script is sharp, Farrell and Gleeson (and Kerry Condon as Farrell’s sister) turn in excellent performances, and the film has a lot of heart, even if things get increasingly darker as the film progresses. This is a true dramedy, in that it has a lot of lighthearted moments in it, but there’s no mistaking that it’s ultimately more a drama than a comedy. Still, I ended up really enjoying it, and I won’t be surprised at all to see it get a lot of awards nominations in the coming months. Watch it now before everyone’s talking about it.

Prey for the Devil

When an exorcism movie’s most clever conceit is its title (“Prey” for the Devil? Or “Pray” for the Devil? Get it? Huh? Huh? Do ya get it?), you know you might have something to worry about. To be fair, Prey for the Devil isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a movie we’ve seen about a hundred times before. The major change this time around is that the film focuses on a nun instead of the usual priests, and she has to go to “exorcism school” thanks to a rise in possessions around the globe. This leads Sister Ann to a case of a possessed little girl that stirs up memories from her own past and her abusive mother. What you get then is every exorcism trope we’ve seen in these kinds of movies for the past 20 years. It’s entertaining enough, but it all just feels so familiar. Director Daniel Stamm previously directed the found footage movie The Last Exorcism, which is absolutely fantastic, and it’s a shame he couldn’t have found a way to make this one as memorable. One quick note, Lionsgate has loaded this disc with about four hours of extra features, one of which focuses on the real-world realm of exorcisms, so there’s a lot of extra bang for your buck.

Highlander: 30th Anniversary Edition (4K Ultra HD)

One of the truly great and beloved cult classic films of the ‘80s, Highlander returns to home video once again. Now, there’s been no shortage of releases of Highlander on home video, but that is because it’s a movie with a whole generation of fans that led the franchise to spawn three sequels, a TV series, comic books, games, novels, and more. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m a huge Highlander fan. This new 4K Ultra HD edition of the film is pretty damn awesome, made even more so by a Best Buy-exclusive Steelbook edition that’s also available (and includes four art cards in the gorgeous Steelbook package.) First you get the film itself, which brings us the saga of Conor McLeod, the immortal Highlander and his quest for mortality. While Christopher Lambert’s performance isn’t the high point of the movie, he somehow works well, even as a Frenchman who barely speaks English trying to do a Scottish accent. But since we have Sean Connery playing a Spaniard with his own actual Scottish accent, it’s all sort of a mish-mash of dialects anyway. (Don’t overthink it.) The 4K release gives the film a nice polish, with brighter colors and much clearer imagery than we’ve ever seen before, as well as a healthy dose of film grain. The surround soundtrack is solid, especially shining during the battle scenes and with the excellent Queen soundtrack, which soars here. Then you get a terrific collection of extra features (many of which are recycled from previous releases) that includes a newer hour-long retrospective documentary about the legacy of Highlander after four decades. There’s also a two-hour making-of documentary that doesn’t disappoint, plus a ton of interviews with cast and crew. It’s a terrific package all around, and I highly recommend it!

Star Trek: Prodigy

If this were a couple of years ago, I would have said that Star Trek: Prodigy — while ostensibly Trek’s “younger viewers” series — was the best Star Trek show on TV. But the franchise has been on fire lately, and I absolutely love me some Strange New Worlds. That said, Star Trek: Prodigy is absolutely fantastic. A CGI-animated series, this isn’t a kids’ cartoon. Instead, it’s a deeply layered animated adventure show that happens to be appropriate for all ages; in fact, it reminds me a lot of Star Wars Rebels and Clone Wars. The story follows a crew on non-Starfleet youngsters who find a Starfleet spaceship on a planet that they’re enslaved on and use it to escape. While on the run from the bad guys (and possibly Starfleet itself), they have to learn to become a crew and a family, with the help from a holographic Captain Janeway (voiced by Kate Mulgrew). The show works on every level: the characters are great, the voice actors are terrific, the action is fast-paced, there’s plenty of humor, the animation is gorgeous, and most importantly off all, it really feels like Star Trek. Don’t get caught up in this being a “kids’ show”; I promise you, if you’re a Star Trek fan, you will love Prodigy. This two-disc set contains the first 10 episodes of the season; I wish that Paramount/CBS had just waited to release the whole season at once, but anything that gets people watching this show more is a good thing. Highly recommended!

The Staircase

Colin Firth and Toni Collette star in this miniseries based on a true — and infamous — crime story. The series is a dramatization of the Michael Peterson case and the aftermath of it, in which Peterson’s wife was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home. Peterson claimed his innocence but the police investigated if he was a suspect in Kathleen’s murder. To help prove his innocence, Michael Peterson allowed a documentary crew to film his life and the investigation. This series gives us a dramatized version of those events with mixed results. On the one hand, both Colin Firth and Toni Collette are fantastic, and their performances definitely carry the show. It’s interesting to see Firth play such an unlikable character, different from his usual fare. But the show drags on a bit and could easily have lost a few episodes without any detriment; in fact, I think the show would have been better if it was more compact. There is a good series to be found here, but you have to sift through a lot of unnecessary material to get to it all.

My Best Friend’s Wedding: 25th Anniversary Edition (4K Ultra HD) 

It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since Julia Roberts’ rom-com was a smash box office hit. Yet, here we are, with My Best Friend’s Wedding getting its first new release on home video since a Blu-ray rerelease in 2015. This time around, the movie comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD. Honestly, I hadn’t seen this movie since it came out; I never really considered myself a fan of it, but I never disliked it, either. So watching it now, it was kind of like seeing it for the first time. It remains a perfectly enjoyable romantic comedy that Roberts shines in alongside a terrific supporting cast that includes Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, and Cameron Diaz. I wasn’t expecting much of an upgrade on 4K for a movie like this, but I was pleasantly surprised. The picture quality is excellent, with bright and vibrant colors, a super clean print, and excellent clarity. The surround soundtrack also does a great job of mixing the dialogue, surround effects, and music to strong effect. It’s a much better A/V presentation than I expected. This is a great way to revisit a fun little movie.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Terry Gilliam is an odd director, with a mixed filmography consisting of some movies that are absolutely brilliant (12 Monkeys) and other films that are, to me at least, just weird for the sake of being weird (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, for example), and a few that are a mix of both (Brazil.) I have to admit that I’m not an overly huge fan of Gilliam’s body of work, but I do love a few of his films such as 12 Monkeys. 1988’s Baron Munchausen is a fantastical adventure comedy about the real life Baron and his band of misfits and their oddball adventures around he world. Despite a strong cast that includes Eric Idle, John Neville, Sarah Polley, and Oliver Reed, the film has just never worked for me personally. But the Criterion Collection has inducted it into their hallowed halls, and I’m sure there are many Gilliam fans who will be t thrilled about that. In addition tot he film having been restored and remastered, it’s also available on either 4K Ultra HD or Blu-ray, and it comes with a nice collection of extra features as usual. For fans of Gilliam’s oeuvre, this is a top-notch release.

Silent Night Deadly Night Collection

This all-new Blu-ray collector’s edition comes from Lionsgate’s Vestron Video imprint, and it’s everything a fan of slasher films could want. The original 1984 cult classic Silent Night Deadly Night was once considered so extreme that it was notoriously pulled from theaters after just a week in release. And while, sure, a murderous Santa Claus might be considered disturbing, the film isn’t really all that controversial when you watch it through the lens of 30 years of horror films since. Both the first and second films in the franchise have gotten Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory (as well as two-pack releases), but the largely forgotten third, fourth and fifth films in the franchise have been almost impossible to find on home video. Until now, with this new three-disc set. Silent Night 3: Better Watch Out is the only real sequel of the three, with Killer Santa Ricky Caldwell returning after years in a coma and goes on another murderous spree, this time starting a blind woman he shares a psychic bond with. Silent Night 4: Initiation sees the franchise start to go a bit south with a reporter getting mixed up with a cult that’s making sacrifices at Christmastime. Finally, Silent Night 5: The Toy Maker stars Mickey Rooney as a toy maker who makes toys that kill his customers, which seems like a bad business plan to me. While the fourth and fifth films really veer away from the slasher ethos of the first few films, the franchise as a whole is low-budget B-movie fun. If you go into this set looking for great art or cinema, you’ll be very disappointed. If you want great cult classic ‘80s and ‘90s horror, you’ve come to the right place.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Paradise City – John Travolta and Bruce Willis — who both have made their livings via direct-to-video releases for the past several years — team up on this new direct-to-video action movie. Although, “team-up” is a strong word since they’re both just largely collecting paychecks here and barely feature on screen together at all. The main focus of the film is on other characters: Ian, who plays Bruce Willis’s son and is investigating his disappearance, and bounty hunter Robbie (played by the always-welcome Stephen Dorff.) The plot manages to be convoluted and uninteresting at the same time, and despite the presence of director Chuck Russell (The MaskThe Scorpion King), this is just another forgettable low-budget flick with nothing special in terms of acting, writing, or action.
  • Goodbye Don Glees – This week’s requisite anime title comes in the form of coming-of-age adventure, Goodbye Don Glees. Don Glees is actually a trio of teenagers who are accused of setting a forest fire. They set off on a quest of sorts to retrieve their drone which should have video evidence proving their innocence. From there, the film is really about the friendship between the three boys as well as their journey to find this drone. It’s not unlike an animated version of Stand By Me, although it’s not quite as effective as that classic. Still, I was surprised how much the film works and how well the characters are written; it’s hard not to get caught up in the boys’ adventure and their relationships. This one is different from the usual sci-fi or fantasy anime that I often review, but it’s quite enjoyable.
  • Memories of My Father – This 2020 Colombian drama is based on a book that details true events. It’s a powerful film, as the main character, a writer named Hector Abad Faciolince, who recounts the life and ultimate murder of his father, a professor who spoke out against the violence plaguing Colombia from the Medellin cartel. The film flashes between the past and present (with the present being the 1980s), and we see Hector’s father, the senior Hector, trying to male a positive change in the world, despite danger to himself. We also see Hector’s home lie and the relationship between his father and the children he loved, which gives the film a powerful emotional core. Javier Camera’s performance is excellent, although the film does suffer from some occasional pacing issues that tight editing could have helped with. It’s a solid film anchored by a great performance and a moving true story.
  • Big Trip 2: Special Delivery – A few years ago, we got a direct-to-video animated film that was touted as being “from a writer of Madagascar,” and the film didn’t venture far from Madagascar territory, giving us a story about a brown bear, a pelican, a wolf and a tiger going on an adventure together to return a misplaced baby to its parents. Apparently, the film was profitable enough to warrant a sequel, and so we get Big Trip 2: Special Delivery. This time around, the film basically copies the story of the first film (a bear and friends try to return baby to its rightful parents) but with all-new characters. SO it’s not really a sequel but more of a… rip off? I don’t quite get it. Jesse McCartney and Pauly Shore provide voices, and younger kids will probably find it mildly enjoyable, but parents will likely find themselves pretty bored.

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