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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Evil Dead Rise, The Man From Toronto, Big George Foreman, Chevalier, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Truman Show and more

The Truman Show

Even though it’s a holiday in the U.S., there are a few titles hitting shelves today, and they’re pretty much all A-list titles. They’re not all A-grade films, but they’re big releases nonetheless. Check out the full slate below!

Evil Dead Rise (4K) 

The Movie: I’m going to sound a bit like a grumpy old man here, but I just don’t like the new Evil Dead movies, and it’s because they really have no sense of what makes The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead. (Or maybe it’s really that I only actually like certain aspects of the original Evil Dead movies and I just don’t want to admit it. But we’ll ignore that for now.) Like, I complain about how incessantly gory the new films are — and Evil Dead Rise is really, really gory — and then I realize, it’s not like the original films weren’t overly gory. But there was a cartoony nature to the gore and violence in the originals that gave it a different tone. That, along with Bruce Campbell’s over-the-top performances gave the films a horror comedy vibe that is completely missing from the new ones. Evil Dead Rise sees the film’s setting move to an urban environment for the first time (not counting Army of Darkness’s medieval village), as the creeping demons infect a mom of three in a rundown apartment building, trapping them with their aunt/her sister, who’s come to visit at the worst possible time. What follows is the usual creeping dread, ultra-vomiting, crawling on walls, and death and mayhem, all in full gore mode. Beyond the excessive blood and guts, the movie also feels a bit cookie-cutter. It’s like the casting directors went on Instagram to see what teenagers look like and ended up with a slightly androgynous Justin Bieber lookalike for a brother, a possibly non-binary person for a sister, and — of course — a little girl with long blond hair. Because every horror movie nowadays has to have a little girl with long blond hair. But if said little girl can’t figure out that her mom is not her mom after climbing up the wall and on the ceiling, I mean… how am I supposed to root for these people to survive? Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell acted as producers on this film, but they’re clearly not disturbed by letting the franchise go I’m a completely different direction.
The 4K Audio/VideoEvil Dead Rise comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and I will say that it looks and sounds quite good in the premium format. Even though it’s a very dark movie, top-notch shadow delineation means you never lose sight of the action. Colors are solid, although it’s an intentionally drab film except when there are buckets of blood gushing forth, but image clarity is razor sharp. The surround soundtrack ups the creepiness off the film by filling your room with various sound elements and spooky noises, increasing the tension of almost every scene. It’s a very effective presentation.
The Special Features: Aside from the requisite digital copy (which I don’t consider a special feature), there are surprisingly no extra features on this release. Seems like a misstep to me, or it seems like Warner Bros. Is giving up on producing extras, which would be a real shame.
The Wrap-Up: Fans of the first Evil Dead reboot will likely enjoy this one, as I think it might be a stronger film than that one. But fans of the original franchise looking for a similar kind of movie will be disappointed. Or maybe they won’t be and it’s just me.

The Man From Toronto

The Movie: Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson in an assassin-buddy comedy? Well, sign me up for that! The Netflix film has now made its way onto home video, and while it’s not an action/comedy masterpiece, it is a pretty fun romp. In the film, Harrelson plays an assassin known as The Man from Toronto whose reputation is so ominous that people will give up information just from hearing what he plans to do to them. Through a mix-up, Kevin Hart gets mistaken for The Man from Toronto and swept up in an assassination plot, all while trying to stay alive, keep his girlfriend in the dark, and not get too many people killed. It’s not the most original set-up for a film, but it doesn’t need to be. Buddy action/comedies are formulaic for a reason: because they work. Hart and Harrelson together are a lot of fun, the supporting cast is strong, and the action sequences — especially a big one at the end — are pretty impressive. It’s not a home run but it’s at least a triple.
The Special Features: Not a lot, but you do get a half dozen deleted scenes. They are described on the packaging as “Hilarious” but I’ll let you decide that for yourself.
The Wrap-Up: I found The Man From Toronto to be a good time, and I won’t be surprised if we see a sequel. Check it out for a good way to kill a couple of hours.

Big George Foreman

The Movie: A biopic of two-time world heavyweight boxing champion (and grill salesman par excellence) George Foreman, Big George Foreman comes from Sony’s Affirm Pictures, which is their faith-based film division. However, if you’re not a fan of faith-based films (as I am not), don’t let that put you off of watching Big George Foreman, because it’s a really good film. Much like last year’s excellent Father Stu starring Mark Wahlberg, it’s not a film about Jesus, but rather the true story of someone who had a religious part of their lives. This film manages to span Foreman’s life in just over two hours, from his impoverished childhood to his criminal teenage years to his start in boxing to his first heavyweight championship, and then it takes a left turn when he leaves boxing after finding god and becomes a teacher and community youth leader. But financial troubles lead him back to the ring and his unprecedented return to boxing. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers biopic, but its an interesting life and Khris Davis gives a terrific performance in a lead role spanning over 20 years of Foreman’s life. And while Foreman’s faith plays a large role in the movie, it never feels like the film is preaching or overplaying the god factor. There’s also a terrific supporting cast that includes Forrest Whitaker, Jasmine Mathews, Sullivan Jones (who kills it as Muhammad Ali), and Shein Mompremier, Erica Tazel, and Sonja Sohn. All in all, it might not be anything revolutionary, but it’s an extremely enjoyable film about a guy whose life was much more interesting than I ever knew.
The Special Features: There are two featurettes — one that looks at the making of the film and one that explores Foreman’s relationship with Muhammad Ali — as well as deleted scenes and a short outtake reel.
The Wrap-Up: I generally don’t love religious-based movies, but I very much enjoyed watching Big George Foreman. Check it out regardless of your religious affiliation.


The Movie: I’ll be honest, everything I knew about Jospeh Bologna, the Chevalier before this movie came out could be summarized in the sentence I just typed. Turns out, he’s a famous composer, a rival of Mozart’s, and also a bi-racial man who had to make it in high society at a time when people of color simply did not exist in that world. Typically, I don’t love period dramas, but I was really taken in by Chevalier. The film adopts a little bit of a Bridgerton approach, in that it stays true to its period trappings but has a sense of irreverence that lets you know it isn’t worried about being as uptight about the details as people were back then. Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (completing a trifecta of music-based films after also featuring in Elvis and Cyrano) stars as Chevalier, while his able supporting cast includes Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Martin Csokas, Minnie Driver, and Alex Fitzalan. While a film that largely includes competing operas, love affairs, and French revolution may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, I was surprised by how quickly I got wrapped up in it; a credit to the script, the performances, and the lush production values. The fact that there’s a still-relevant social examination of racism — a major factor in Chevalier’s life — just give the film another layer.
The Special Features: There is just one, a solid 15-minute making-of feature.
The Wrap-UpChevalier sadly didn’t make a blip at the box office and probably is destined to be largely ignored, but it’s actually very good. Seek it out if you’re in the mood for a strong drama with some moments of humor and a compelling real-life story.

National Lampoon’s Vacation (4K) 

The Movie: There are some times when you get a movie to review — usually catalogue titles — when it feels like there’s nothing left to say. I mean, do I really need to tell anyone how great National Lampoon’s Vacation really is? Sure, nowadays it’s Christmas Vacation that gets all the attention once a year, but the original film is still where it all started and is still my favorite of the series. Chevy Chase is at his finest here as the hapless Clark Griswold, you’ve got original kids Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron, John Candy shows up, Christie Brinkley steals the show in her cherry red Ferrari… the film just has everything. Now, as part of Warner Bros. 100th Anniversary celebration, in which they are re-releasing or upgrading some of their most popular titles, we get the 4K Ultra HD debut of National Lampoon’s Vacation, and it’s a great way to revisit this comedy classic.
The 4K Audio/Video: As a 40-year-old comedy, the film gets a nice little A/V bump from its 4K upgrade, but it’s not a complete visual transformation. The print is nice and clean and free of blemishes, while color saturation is definitely more vibrant. Image clarity is good, but you can still tell it’s a film from the early ‘80s. The surround soundtrack isn’t super immersive, focusing mostly on dialogue and music, but there are some occasional effects spread around to create an atmosphere. This is also, notably, one of those 4K releases that doesn’t include a Blu-ray Disc, just the 4K disc and a digital copy.
The Special Features: I have a hard time believing there haven’t been special features made for previous releases of Vacation, but they are not here, save for a pretty terrific audio commentary with the late Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, and Marty Simmons.
The Wrap-UpNational Lampoon’s Vacation deserves a space in most everyone’s movie collection, and if you don’t already own out, this is a nice version to include.

The Truman Show (4K Ultra HD) 

The Movie: One of Jim Carrey’s first — and most successful — forays into dramatic roles, The Truman Show worked so well because it blended both comedy and drama, allowing Carrey to work within the framework he’d created for himself while branching out at the same time. The movie tells the story of one Truman Burbank, a man whose entire life is a TV show — only he doesn’t know it. Raised since birth in an entirely created existence, it isn’t until the perfectness of his life starts to crumble that Truman begins to question his reality. At the time of its release the film was seen as an exploration of the ultimate form of reality TV, a genre that was still burgeoning at the time. Looking back 25 years later, with reality TV such a constant presence on the airwaves, the film doesn’t feel quite so prescient, but it doesn’t matter because the bones of a good story are there and that’s all that matters. The Truman Show works not because of what it has to say about the world, but because of what it says about one man in this extraordinary circumstance. If anything, I like the movie better now than I did at its release.
The 4K Audio/Video: Like Vacation above, the 4K Ultra HD provides a solid upgrade, even if it can’t make the film look brand new. What I noticed was nice, sharp details and overall great clarity, plus a little more pop in the color saturation. The surround soundtrack doesn’t have a ton to work with as there are no car chases or explosions, but dialogue sounds clear and natural, the score sounds lush and full, and there are some nice surround effects in scenes where a little more is happening, especially towards the end of the movie.
The Special Features: This is a pretty standard set-up. You get two making-of features, a collection of deleted scenes, and a photo gallery.
The Wrap-Up: Still one of Jim Carrey’s finest roles, This new 4K Ultra HD version of The Truman Show is a great way to revisit a really strong film from the ‘90s.

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