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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Flashdance, Avatar: The Way of Water, Gorgeous, The Weapon and more


Well, it’s not a huge week and we have one digital-only release (which we only cover on special occasions, like when it’s one of the three biggest movies of all time), but there are some gems here for those who like to discover new things. Read on to see what’s available!

Avatar: The Way of Water

While the physical home video release on disc has yet to be officially announced, James Cameron’s megahit Avatar: The Way of Water is now available for purchase digitally through all of your usual streaming services. Normally I don’t cover digital-only releases, but since Avatar 2 was a juggernaut of a blockbuster, it seemed too big to ignore. And personally, I feel like Avatar: The Way of Water has been ignored enough already. I know that sounds silly when the film made almost $700 million domestically and topped $2 billion worldwide, but there was very little discourse about Avatar 2. It seems like a lot of people and critics sort of defaulted to summing the film as, “Great visuals, too long, the story was so-so,” and left it at that. Well, I’m here to present a different point of view — I am obsessed with Avatar: The Way of Water. Like, seriously, I love, love, love, love, LOVE it. I don’t think the film got nearly enough attention for just how amazing it is. Literally every single scene in this movie contains something you’ve never seen onscreen before, and it’s absolutely mind-blowing. And maybe it’s because I’m a parent and this story focuses heavily on family, but I didn’t find the story lacking at all. I found it engaging and moving and exciting, and I was completely sucked into the film for its entire three-hour-plus running time. At this point, I am ALL IN on the world of Avatar; it’s my new Star Wars, my new Lord of the Rings. Give me ALL the Avatar, James Cameron! All of it! I’m here for it, and at this point I can not wait for the next films in the franchise to come out. While the film is only available digitally at the moment, there will be a home video release on physical disc soon I’m sure, but for now, if you haven’t seen the film yet or just want to revisit the world of Pandora because it is so freaking amazing, you don’t have to wait any longer.


Paramount celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Flashdance, a quintessentially ‘80s film if ever there was one, with a brand new 4K Ultra HD release, marking the film’s first release on that format. Jennifer Beals stars in (and became a sensation in the ‘80s because of) this story of a young female welder who dances at night but dreams of getting into a prestigious dance conservatory. Cue lots of ‘80s music, dance montages, and “You can do it!” moments, but also a surprising amount of more serious moments dealing with sleazy customers, misguided friends, and the death of a mentor. Watching the film for the first time in probably two decades, I was struck by how impressive the cinematography is and how many iconic screen moments there are, plus the wealth of songs that became truly legendary because of the film, most especially “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara and “Maniac” by Michael Sembello. The new 4K Ultra HD sees the film presented in the highest quality A/V yet on home video, and it is a nice upgrade. The fact is that the film is 40 years old, and while some older movies can look brand new in 4K, Flashdance doesn’t quite hit that level. It does, however, boast clearer imagery than ever before and improved colors, giving the film new life. The surround soundtrack is similarly limited by the age of the film, but the music sounds absolutely fantastic and that’s really the driving force of the film. There are a few extra features, including an interview with director Adrian Lyne, but this edition does include a digital copy, which the previous Blu-ray release did not, so that’s a nice inclusion. All in all, a terrific release for a classic ‘80s film.

Gorgeous: Special Edition

88 Films continues its line of excellent special edition releases of Asian action cinema on Blu-ray with Gorgeous, a 1999 film starring Jackie Chan, Shu Qi, and Tony Leung. The film sees Chan playing an industrialist named C.N. Chan who falls in love with Shu Qi, who mistakenly thinks she is being wooed by Tony Leung’s gay hairdresser character but quickly realizes he’s not interested. However, Chan’s business rival sets out to humiliate him, and naturally, action-packed chaos ensues. Interestingly, Gorgeous is not one of Chan’s better-known films, even though it’s surprisingly good. I had never seen it before this release, but I think it’s fantastic. The action is terrific, with Chan utilizing his signature style but also venturing out into some lesser-seen methods, while everyone else brings their own brand of explosiveness to the action scenes. And with the romantic subplot present, the film almost ventures into rom-com territory, save for the sheer amount of butt-kicking taking place. This new Blu-ray special edition comes loaded with extra features, including three audio commentaries, three making-of featurettes, all-new subtitles, a 28-page booklet, a poster, and more. It’s an absolute must-have for fans of Jackie Chan or Asian action cinema in general.

The Weapon

The Weapon is one of those direct-to-video action movies that boasts a lot of big-name talent (Cuba Gooding Jr., Sean Patrick Flanery, Bruce Dern, Jeff Fahey, Richard Grieco, and AnnaLynne McCord) who are mostly just there in small supporting roles, while the film’s lead is actually the largely unknown Tony Schiena (who also directed the movie). Schiena plays Dallas, a mysterious bad-ass who is taking down mob operations and saving people from being trafficked, all while the mob and the cops want to get their hands on him. There’s a weird narrative device that shakes up the linear nature of the plot, and that makes the story less cohesive than it should be — and this is not exactly a plot-driven movie. Unfortunately, the film falls victim to the same issues that plague most low-budget actioners, in that it uses poorly-written dialogue to try and fill in the running time since the budget won’t allow for endless action scenes. There are a few decent fights (Schiena is apparently an experienced martial artist), but there’s really nothing here you haven’t seen a million times before, usually done better.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Action Movie Night: 4-Film Collection – Mill Creek continues their specialty in repackaging catalog titles in a variety of formats with this nice, low-price-point four-movie collection. Action Movie Night: 4- Film Collection collects ConspiracyThe ContractorThe Hard Corps, and Vertical Limit, which is a slightly odd line-up of movies, only because the first three films all fall into the “direct-to-video actioner featuring a one-man army” category, while Vertical Limit was a big-budget theatrical release about a mountain climbing expedition gone wrong. So, yes, they are all action movies, but Vertical Limit (which is easily the best film in the group) doesn’t really fit with the rest. Conspiracy is a 2008 Val Kilmer film, The Contractor stars Wesley Snipes and hails from 2007, and The Hard Corps features Jean Claude Van Damme and is from 2006. Conspiracy is the best film of those three, but they’re all fairly typical lower-budgeted action movies that rely on their big-name stars to carry them. Vertical Limit is the star movie here. Still, you get four movies on two Blu-ray discs for under $20 and there are a lot of well-known faces in the casts, so it might be worth it if you’re looking for some cheaper binge-watching options.
  • The Mission – This documentary feature film had an opportunity to be an absolutely fascinating film but ultimately falls short, and whether that’s the fault of the filmmakers or the subjects is up for debate. The film follows four young members of the Mormon Church (also known as the Church of Latter Day Saints) as they prepare for and embark upon their two-year mission to spread the gospel of their religion around the world. In this case, we follow two young men and two young women as they head off to Finland to share their views on faith with a populace that, frankly, isn’t all that interested in hearing it. As the first time a non-Mormon film crew has been allowed this kind of access and with the fact that it was filmed over two years, this could have been a truly captivating glimpse into a religion that is notoriously closed off to strangers. Unfortunately, the film never really probes very deeply; even when things get interesting or controversial, the film changes subjects before it can really explore what’s happening. The end result is a mildly interesting but frustrating documentary experience.
  • Chess Story – Despite the bland title, this World War II-set film skirts the line between drama and psychological thriller. The story sees a prominent Austrian named Dr. Josef Bartok taken prisoner by the Nazis, who want him to unlock funds they need to fuel their war crimes. When he refuses, he is put into solitary confinement in a commandeered hotel room, where he salvages his sanity by diving into a chess strategy book and memorizing everything there is to know about chess. But the mental toll is still damaging, and the film explores his psyche in largely-mesmerizing style. Oliver Masucci turns in a terrific performance as Bartok, and the film has some gripping and engaging moments. There are a few points at which I found it a little slow, but then the tension would ratchet up again and draw you right back into the proceedings. This is a German film with English subtitles, but if you like international cinema and want something a little different from the norm, Chess Story will fit the bill quite well.

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