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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: House Party, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, The Remains of the Day and more

Well, it’s a small week this week, but more to the point, it’s kind of a small month for home video releases. This is kind of the quiet time of the year for new videos, with the studios ramping up for the much busier summer season. Still, there are a handful of quite notable titles this week for your viewing pleasure.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

I’ll be honest, with it being some 12 years since the last Puss in Boots movie (and 13 since we’ve had a Shrek movie, which is where Puss in Boots got his start), I expected the film to fall flat at the box office. However, the demand for kids’ movies is perennially strong, and a familiar and popular brand is a big plus, so Puss in Boots: The Last Wish had a sizable box office haul. This time around, Puss has lost his lust for adventure, but he also realizes he’s burned through eight of his nine lives, so he sets out to find a mythical wish-giving star that can restore his lives. But can he succeed when his zest for life is waning? Well, I think the answer to that is fairly obvious, but I’m not going to spoil it here. As usual with these movies, the voice cast is made up of huge stars and longtime favorites, with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek returning in the lead roles, but new additions Florence Pugh, John Mulaney, Olivia Colman, and Ray Winstone also joining the fray. PIB: TLW hits home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and, not surprisingly, it looks and sounds utterly fantastic in the 4K format. Colors pop off the screen, imagery boasts near perfect level of detail, and the black levels are deep and inky. The surround sound brings the action to life utilizing all the speakers and really gives your system a workout, as well. Much like the first Puss in Boots film, The Last Wish is exactly what you’d expect it to be: not a masterpiece but it has a lot of fun moments and both kids and parents will find things in it to enjoy. I found it to be quite fun, and it’s nice to see that some franchises aren’t just completely forgotten.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Musical biopics are pretty cookie-cutter these days, and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing. In the case of the new Whitney Houston biopic, it’s a good thing. Sure, the film follows a pretty tried-and-true formula, but there’s so much to cover in Houston’s life that trying to spin it into some groundbreaking narrative innovation would be unnecessary. Basically, we move through Houston’s life and career, stopping at seminal moments before moving on to the next one. The film doesn’t look to lionize her, nor does it try to victimize her; it does a nice job of balancing both the good and the bad that led to her highest of career highs and the lows that ultimately led to her death at too young an age. At the heart of the film is Naomi Ackie, who turns in a stellar performance as Houston. She lip-synchs to Houston’s original vocals, which was absolutely the right move here because it would be very hard to try and replicate her vocal ability. But she captures Houston’s spirit in every scene she’s in, and she really carries the film as she’s in virtually every scene. It’s a powerful performance and it would be hard to imagine anyone else in the role, Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be a huge Whitney Houston fan to enjoy this movie. I like most of Houston’s big hit songs but have never owned a single one of her albums, but her fame was so huge and her story so compelling that you’ll be hard-pressed not to get wrapped up in her story no matter how you feel about her music. Definitely worth a watch!

House Party

I feel bad for House Party. Despite a pretty funny trailer, the film was barely marketed at all (at least that I saw) and it died a pretty quick death at the box office. But I actually found the film to be surprisingly enjoyable. This update on the 1980s’ classic comedy (that originally starred Kid ‘n’ Play and spawned three sequels) sees best friends Kevin and Damon in trouble: Kevin needs $10,000 to enroll his young daughter in an elite pre-school so his ex doesn’t try to get sole custody, and Damon is living with his aunt after being kicked out of his house. They’ve also just been fired from their house cleaning job, leaving them desperate. Desperate enough to decide to throw a house party filled with celebrities in the house they just cleaned, which happens to be owned by Lebron James. Not surprisingly, the party starts to get out of control, and things go a little crazy from there. The film isn’t particularly original or groundbreaking, but it’s a lot of fun due to a solid script, a few unexpected left turns (koala bears and Illuminati, anyone?), and a great cast. Jacob Latimore and Tosin Cole are both terrific in the lead roles, and there are some fun celebrity guest stars such as Kid Cudi, Mya, and – of course – Lebron James, who’s quite funny. Don’t go in expecting comedy genius and I suspect you’ll have a pretty good time watching House Party; I know I did.

The Remains of the Day (4K Ultra HD)

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m not a complicated man. Sure, I watch all kinds of movies, but I love my action and sci-fi and superhero epics more than anything else, while period dramas tend to fall a lot lower on my list of preferred genres. So, while I know it’s an oversight, I’ve always avoided The Remains of the Day, the acclaimed Merchant Ivory production that was nominated for eight Oscars in the early 1990s. But with the new 30th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD of the film upon us, I knew it was time to finally sit down and watch it. And – of course, who didn’t see this coming? – it turns out it’s an incredibly impressive film. Anthony Hopkins stars as a by-the-book butler who takes his devotion to his employer to fanatical levels. But as he gets on in years, he realizes that this devotion has cost him a lot in his personal life, including a relationship with a housekeeper played by Emma Thompson. It’s not an action romp, there are no spaceships or superheroes, but the film is incredibly effective. Both Hopkins and Thompson are utterly fantastic, and the story is simple but endearing and will draw you in. The Remains of the Day is presented in 4K Ultra HD for the first time and it looks and sounds quite good. Colors are bright and vibrant with natural flesh tones, while image quality is clean and crisp. The surround soundtrack isn’t overly active, as the film is predicated largely on dialogue, but it does offer up some nice moments of atmosphere that enhance the drama. This is a terrific presentation of a terrific film.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Fill ‘Er Up With Super: Collector’s Edition – I’m probably more in tune with French Cinema than the average American moviegoer, but even so, my knowledge of French films isn’t all that expansive. So it’s not a huge surprise that I’d never heard of Fill ’Er Up With Super, even though it’s been voted on of the best French films of all time in critic and audience surveys in the past. This 1976 cult classic ostensibly tells the tale of a car salesman who has to cancel a holiday with his wife to deliver a car to a rich buyer in the French Riviera, so he invites a friend along for the ride. They pick up a pair of hitchhikers along the way, and the rest of the film is a bonding journey between the four men. It’s not a plot-driven movie, but the four actors were all friends in real-life, and they worked together to write the script (and I would presume also ad-lib a lot of the dialogue), all while under the eye of director Alain Cavalier. It’s a loose film with an easy vibe and I found it quite enjoyable. This new Radiance Films Blu-ray release includes a number of extra features as well as a booklet with information about the film, which is a nice bonus. If you like exploring foreign films, I would definitely recommend checking out Fill ‘Er Up With Super.
  • Running the Bases – Faith-based movies are always a tough sell for me as someone who is not a religious person. Sometimes they’re decent, but often they’re pretty cringey. Running the Bases falls somewhere in between. It tells the story of a winning small-town baseball coach who gets the chance to coach at a much bigger school, so he uproots his family and takes the new job. Unfortunately, he comes up against a lot of opposition to the way he wants to do things, which is to focus on building young men of character as well as good baseball players. The solution? Faith in god, of course. The film runs a little over two hours, which is way too long for a film like this in my opinion. It does have a few decent performances and it works in a little comedy, but it also hits the faith message pretty hard. If you’re hoping for a baseball story that just touches on religion, you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed. It’s not a terrible film and will probably appeal to religious families – especially those into sports – but outside of that, it will probably be hard to find a fan base.
  • Sci-Fi From the Vault & Thrillers From the Vault – New from Mill Creek this month are two new collections of classic genre B-movies, all of which are appearing on Blu-ray for the first time. Sci-Fi From the Vault is a four film, two-disc set that includes Creature With the Atom BrainIt Came From Beneath the Sea20 Million Miles to Earth, and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy RockIt Came From Beneath the Sea is probably the best-known film in the bunch, notable for being a Ray Harryhausen film, meaning the stop-motion giant octopus is a cut above most of the other films made at the time. Meanwhile, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock is a sci-fi/comedy that’s pretty silly but is notable for starring Lou Costello of the legendary comedy duo Abbott & Costello. Meanwhile, Thrillers From the Vault gives us eight films on four discs, almost all of which star legendary horror stars Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. The films included are: The Black RoomThe Man With Nine LivesThe Man They Could Not HangBefore I HangThe Boogie Man Will Get YouThe Devil CommandsThe Return of the Vampire, and Five. Now, these are all low-budget B-movies from the 1950s, so this isn’t a set chock full of classics, but if you like some good B-movie fun, this will fit the bill. I particularly enjoyed post-nuclear disaster drama Five and the Lugosi-starring The Return of the Vampire, personally. Both sets offer up a good number of films making their Blu-ray debuts for a low price, so while they’re not for everyone, if this is your kind of thing, you do get a lot of bang for your buck.

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