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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Jackie Chan Collection, Detective Knight: Redemption, Men At Work, The Last American Virgin and more

Battle Creek Brawl

Well, it’s a tiny week this week. Sometimes it’s more a matter of the studios being closed for the holidays and not sending out review copies more than it is the fact that nothing is out, but this is everything I have to report on this week. There are a few great titles, though!

The Jackie Chan Collection: Volume 1 1976-1982

Shout Factory has a gorgeous new box set out this week for fans of one of the world’s most popular martial arts actors, Jackie Chan. Featuring six films on Blu-ray, the set isn’t a 100% comprehensive collection of every single Chan film, but it does pick most of his more popular or successful films, also focusing on ones where he plays the lead role. The six movies included are: The Killer Meteors, Shaolin Wooden Men, To Kill With Intrigue, Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin, Dragon Fist, and Battle Creek Brawl. These are almost exclusively period films, which was Chan’s stock in trade early in his career, so you get a lot of movies set in pre-industrial China (while Battle Creek Brawl takes place in 1930s Chicago.) Now, I love me some Jackie Chan, and while these movies are before the height of his career that he would hit with things like Police Story 1 & 2, Rumble in the Bronx, and the like, it’s still a lot of fun to go back and see a young Chan at work, especially since I had never seen any of these films prior to this. I enjoyed all of them, but for me Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin and Battle Creek Brawl were the two standouts. Still, I’m excited that this is just Volume 1, as Volume 2 will hopefully move into some of Chan’s excellent ‘80s work (much of which finally breaks out of the period settings, which I prefer.) This set comes with a number of extra features for the Chan fanatic, as well. Each film includes a new audio commentary by either David West, critic and author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction to the Martial Arts Film or by veteran Hong Kong film critic James Mudge, and then most of the films also include an additional interview featurette or two. Dragon Lord also offers two different cuts of the film, one running 90 minutes and one running 103 minutes. Battle Creek Brawl is the most loaded film, however, as it also includes an 85-minute documentary on Jackie Chan’s rise in the 1970s, as well as including an archival interview with Chan himself, one of the only times he appears in the extra features. All in all, it’s a terrific box set and a must-have for fans of the Chan Man.

Detective Knight: Redemption

The second film in a trilogy, this direct-to-video actioner stars Bruce Willis as Detective James Knight, a cop who is in custody due to the events of the first film (Detective Knight: Rogue, which was just released two months ago on home video.) In this sequel, Knight is offered his freedom to bring down a madman named Conlan who leads a group of criminals called the Real Santas of Christmas, who rob banks and kill people, mostly to cause havoc. It’s pretty boilerplate stuff, and sadly the film doesn’t have much to offer, aside from One Tree Hill’s Paul Johannsson as the bad guy, who is always a fun screen presence. The script is mostly dialogue with just a couple of action scenes, and Willis is hardly in the movie. It seems like he loaded up on direct-to-video roles before he retired for health reasons, and it’s clear that he’s not at full strength here; it’s most notable in his speech, which sounds slow and slightly slurred. It’s a bit sad to see the once mighty powerhouse Willis ailing visibly on screen, and it doesn’t help the film any at all. I wish I could say that Willis was going out on a high note, but this trilogy is nothing all that exciting.

Men at Work: MVD Rewind Collection

Men At Work is something of a cult classic ‘90s gem. It’s not a laugh-out-loud comedy per se, but as written and directed by Emilio Estevez, it’s an endearing little oddball comedy that gets more and more over-the-top as it goes. Estevez stars with is brother Charlie Sheen, one of the few times they shared the screen together, as two slacker-ish garbage men who discover a dead body and get wrapped up in a conspiracy that could land them in some pretty hot water. The film can be a bit oddball at times, but that’s part of what makes it endearing, and the supporting cast (Keith David, Leslie Hope, Dean Cameron) bring a lot to the proceedings. This new Blu-ray from MVD’s Rewind Collection comes with all new artwork and a slipcover, but unfortunately no extra features outside of a trailer, which is a little surprising for an MVD Rewind release. Still, if you’re a Brat Pack fan from way back like I am, Men at Work is a lot of fun to watch.

The Last American Virgin: MVD Rewind Collection

Also from MVD’s Rewind Collection this week is a slightly lesser-known film from 1982, the comedy/drama The Last American Virgin. While it doesn’t feature any huge actors in the cast, fans of ‘80s films will recognize Diane Franklin from Better Off Dead and Steve Antin from The Goonies in lead roles. The film follows high school friends who are determined to lose their virginity, but while it sounds like a precursor to American Pie, it hues much more to the dramatic side of things. There are some laughs, sure, but the film delivers real characters dealing with heartbreak and emotions. It’s obviously not on the same level of popularity as films like The Breakfast Club or Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but it’s a surprisingly good little film. It also boasts an amazing soundtrack, with songs by U2, The Cars, Journey, Blondie, REO Speedwagon, and many other ‘80s staples. This new MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray includes a nice slipcover with new artwork, but like Men at Work above, there are no extra features, which is disappointing. While not a household name, The Last American Virgin is a fun trip back to the early 1980s.

Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted

Gerry Anderson is best known as the creator and producer of “Supermarionation,” which brought the world the classic puppet-based kids TV series The Thunderbirds. He also produced popular TV shows like Space 1999 and UFO, as well as other puppet-based shows like Stingray and XL5. And if you’re looking for a career retrospective that dives deeply into those shows, well, you’ve come to the wrong place. This film, while it does touch on those shows, is really about Anderson’s life more than his career. It dives into his contentious marriages and divorces, his estrangement and reconciliation with his children, and his eventual illness and death. The film is produced by Jaime Anderson, Gerry’s youngest son, and Gerry Anderson himself (who died in 2012) appears via archival interviews (as well as some deep fake-created video interviews using original audio, which are a bit odd.) The film spends a lot of time on Anderson’s relationship with Sylvia Anderson, his second wife, and it doesn’t try to paint her in a good light. So this really is a warts-and-all look at a cult figure in TV history, and I suspect that fans will learn a lot about the man that they didn’t know before.

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