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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Barbie, Talk To Me, John Wick 1-4, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, The Shaw Brothers Classics: Volume 3, Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time and more

It’s a massive week this week. We’ve got one of the biggest box office smashes in years, a new horror box set, a martial arts box set, several new movies, some TV releases, some classic catalog tiles, two animated releases, and more. There’s something for everyone!


The Movie: Well. I mean… what’s left to say about BarbieBarbie, the movie that became a pop culture sensation, a box office juggernaut, and sure to be the driving force in Halloween costumes this year? Well, I guess the first thing I could say is how much I enjoyed the film. I know certain elements of society railed against the movie – largely because they’re small-minded, I suppose – but I loved it. It’s clever and funny and emotional and well-written and has a great message, and clearly it resonated with audiences. Margot Robbie is outstanding in the lead role, and Ryan Gosling shines in a role that honestly I was surprised to see him in. He seems like the kind of actor who might take himself too seriously at times, but his portrayal of Ken dispelled that notion for me. If I have one complaint about the film, it’s Will Ferrell. Now, I love Will Ferrell, but here he’s doing that thing where he sort of just says any wacky thing that comes to mind and they run with it. And it took me out of the movie a bit. The film worked so hard to create a realism even within a complete fantasy world, and Ferrell’s character is so outside of reality (in the real world) that it was jarring for me. It’s a minor complaint, but there you go. Other than that, Barbie is an absolute blast.
The 4K Audio/VideoBarbie is an extremely bright and colorful movie, so it’s no surprise that the 4K Ultra HD picture quality really emphasizes that. The High Dynamic Range ensures that colors really pop, while image clarity is clean and clear throughout. The movie has an almost 3D feel to it thanks to the vibrance of the colors. The surround soundtrack also does a great job of bringing the world of Barbie to your living room, using all of the speakers with regularity, while making sure that dialogue is clear and present front and center. The film’s music also sounds bright and full. It’s a terrific A/V effort.
The Special Features: There are six making-of featurettes, which add up to about 45 minutes of material. They’re pretty standard themed-cast-and-crew-interviews, though, and I wish there was something a little more in-depth included. Where’s the commentary track with Greta Gerwig?
The Wrap-Up: I know a lot of people chose to skip Barbie because they didn’t think it would be their thing. I would urge you to reconsider if you are one of those people. Especially if you have a wife, a daughter, a mother, or a significant other in your life who’s a woman; hell, if you’ve ever even met a woman, you should probably watch this movie. Bonus: you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

Talk to Me

The Movie: A few months ago, I kept hearing people mentioning Talk to Me on Social Media, and I couldn’t figure out why a forgettable 2007 Don Cheadle movie about a radio DJ was trending again. Turns out, this is a different Talk to Me, this time around a new Australian horror movie that is surprisingly good. The film stars Miranda Otto and a cast of largely unknown younger Australian actors, and it has a unique premise. One of the kids has a dismembered hand that supposedly was once attached to a medium. When you take hold of the hand and say, “talk to me,” a spirit will appear that only you can see. If you then say, “I let you in,” the spirit can enter your body. The catch? You have to disconnect from the hand in under 90 seconds or they will take hold of you permanently. It starts off as a party trick, but then – of course – things go wrong. Talk to Me is a great example of how a lower-budgeted horror movie can still be incredibly effective through a great script, good acting, some creepy make-up effects, and great direction. The film doesn’t have a ton of special effects or excessive jump cuts, it doesn’t rely on overt gore (although there are a few scenes as the film goes on that are kind of disturbing), it simply creeps you out. Big time. It all starts off pretty simple, but the intensity grows and grows as the film goes on, and I found it pretty riveting.
The Special Features: There is an audio commentary with the Phillipou Brothers, who wrote and directed the film, as well as a short 13-minute featurette, a collection of deleted scenes, and the film’s trailer.

The Wrap-UpTalk to Me was a surprise for me. I went into it knowing next to nothing about it, and I think that’s a great way to watch it. It’s creepy, it’s scary, it’s got great performances and a really effective portrayal of the supernatural that will put you on edge. It’s a great ride and a perfect watch for the Halloween season.

Paramount Scares: Limited Edition 4K Collection

The Movie: Okay, first let me say that Paramount has put together a pretty awesome collection of horror movies making their 4K Ultra HD debut with their new Paramount Scares 4K Ultra HD Collection. But I do have a few minor issues with it. First of all, the good news: this new box set gives us 4K UHDs of four great horror movies: Rosemary’s BabyPet SemataryCrawl, and Smile. It also includes the 4K debut of a fifth movie, one which was kept a “Secret Title” until the set’s release this week. And that’s where I found myself disappointed. The fifth secret title is the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sigh. Here’s the thing: not only do I not really like Sweeney Todd, it’s not even really a horror movie. I get that it has horror elements to it, but it feels like a weird fit in this box set. Rosemary’s Baby is one of the great horror movies of all time. Pet Sematary is a fun Stephen King-based thriller from the 80s. Crawl is a highly underrated trapped-with-alligators creature feature that I loved, and Smile was a big hit last year and is an effectively creepy horror flick that I enjoyed quite a bit. Sweeney Todd… meh. That said, this is still a pretty awesome collection. In addition to each film on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, there are great extra features and some physical goodies in the box itself (read on for full details). Also, each film comes housed in its own newly-designed digipak with new artwork, and they are sharp looking, featuring metallic highlights.
The 4K Audio/Video: Of course, the film’s vary in quality in terms of the 4K A/V quality, although they all look and sound great overall. Rosemary’s Baby looks rejuvenated in the 4K format, with brighter colors and better shadow delineation than I’ve ever seen on the film on home video. The surround soundtrack isn’t fully immersive, but there are some nice stereo effects to enhance the creepy factor. CrawlSmile, and Sweeney Todd are all relatively newer films (within the last 20 years), and so each of them offers very sharp imagery, prints devoid of debris or blemishes, and strong colors, along with fairly active surround soundtracks. Pet Sematary falls somewhere in between, as a 1989 film that wasn’t exactly a hugely-budgeted affair. The film looks and sounds good overall, but it’s the least noticeable upgrade of the five films in the set.
The Special Features: Each film has its own collection of archival extra features. Rosemary’s Baby includes a retrospective documentary, a shorter featurette, and a trailer. Pet Sematary includes an audio commentary with director Mary Harron, six featurettes, storyboard features, galleries, and more. Crawl includes an Alternate Opening with an introduction, three making-of featurettes, and a collection of deleted and extended scenes. Smile includes an audio commentary, two making-of features, a short film, and deleted scenes. Finally, Sweeney Todd comes with eight making-of featurettes, a press conference, a trailer, a photo gallery, and more. On top of all that, the set also includes a sticker sheet, a nice enamel pin, and a collectible Fangoria Magazine created especially for this release that includes classic articles about all five films in the set. There also digital copies for each film in the set.
The Wrap-Up: Anthology box sets are always tricky because it’s hard to find a collection of movies that aren’t directly related that everyone will like each selection equally. That said, Paramount Scares has way more good (Rosemary’s BabyCrawlSmile) than bad (Sweeney Todd.) I love the video and audio quality of the films, the packaging, and the extras, and I think any horror fan will decide this is a worthy addition to their collection.

John Wick: Chapters 1-4

The Movie: Much like Barbie above, there’s not a lot I need to say about the John Wick films – although I’m going to anyway. This week sees the release of the first four-film collection of the John Wick franchise, with Chapters 1-4 collected in a new Blu-ray box set (that also includes the films on DVD, giving you eight discs total.) In John Wick, Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a former mob legend/hitman who goes straight for the love of a woman. When his wife dies and his dog is murdered by a gang of mobbed-up thugs, he unleashes hell on the underworld. With gunfights, explosions, fisticuffs, martial arts, and car chases, the film is down-and-dirty action the way it used to be, not overly laden with CGI or wirework. Now, for the sequel, I have to admit I was a little disappointed in John Wick 2. For the most part, despite some neat additions to the mythos of John Wick’s world (expanding on the hotel concept from the first film), it sadly resorts to nothing but endless gun battles to carry the majority of the action. So much so that it gets kind of boring: headshot after headshot after headshot. There’s even a part of the film where John Wick has to get across the city with just one gun with seven bullets in it, and you think: Oh man, this is gonna be good! Until he shoots a bad guy, picks up his gun, and just carries on with seemingly unlimited ammo. Sigh. It’s not a bad movie, but it does cause fatigue and I was a little disappointed in it. I was nervous that John Wick 3 would be more of the same, but it was a real return to form for the series. Still ultra-violent, yes, but the film continued to build the John Wick universe mythology, while crafting action sequences that use multiple weapons, clever choreography, and a sense of fun to equal or surpass the excitement of the first film. In fact, the first major fight sequence of the film (in the antiques-type store) is one of the best fight scenes I’ve seen this decade. Now, I’m in the minority with Chapter Four, in that I really didn’t like it. It was way too long at almost three hours long, the violence became a it numbing and repetitive after a while, and it pushed my willing suspension of disbelief way past my limits. You don’t fall out of a fourth story window, bounce off a van, and get up and, well, do anything. Because you’d be DEAD. I get that action movie heroes are indestructible, but John Wick should have died at least seventeen times in this movie. There were parts I liked, of course, such as the overhead-shot gun battle in the house in France, but overall, I found it a disappointing effort.
The Special Features: All of the extra features from each individual film’s home video release are included. That includes a total of two audio commentaries, something like 35 making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, trailers, and more. You also get digital copies of all four movies. It all comes wrapped up in a box that includes seven different interchangeable cover art cards.

The Wrap-Up: In general, I really enjoy the John Wick movies. I don’t think I get quite as fanatical about them as many fans do, but I love action movies and these are mostly great action movies. This is a terrific box set that gives you the entire franchise to date, and it’s hard to argue with that.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

The Movie: This is one of those movies that I heard next to nothing about until about a week before it came out. Then I saw a bunch of TV commercials for it and then – bam! – it came and went in theaters. But here’s the thing: it’s actually a pretty fun watch. The film tells an untold story from the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, giving us the details of what happened on the Demeter, the doomed sailing ship that brought Count Dracula to the new world. While Stoker never expounded on what happened to the crew exactly, this film does, effectively giving us a trapped-in-a-location thriller with a very feral vampiric Dracula as the main villain. Now, you kind of know what happens to the ship, so there is a little bit of suspense that is lessened due to knowing the ending ahead of time. But the film does a good job of building the suspense, taking out characters one by one in a fun way, and building to a big climax. And while it does stay true to the novel, I think the film finds ways to keep things original and give viewers a satisfying ending. It has a few plot and script flaws – why couldn’t they just wait until sunrise to search the ship? – but overall, it’s a solid horror film that is an easy way to kill 90 minutes.
The Special Features: There are two making-of features, an audio commentary with ether director and producer, and a collection of deleted scenes.

The Wrap-UpThe Last Voyage of the Demeter isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a better film than you’d expect if you don’t look at it too critically. There are some scenes that are a bit mediocre, but there are some that are really thrilling too. It won’t blow you away probably, but I think you’ll enjoy watching it.

Justice League/RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part Two

The Movie: DC Comics continues its ongoing series of animated films with the second chapter of their latest new mash-up, in which the Justice League meets up with RWBY, the fantasy/anime-inspired characters created by Rooster Teeth that became an internet & video sensation over the past decade. In the first film, the Justice League found themselves mysteriously transported to Remnant, the RWBY world, and transformed into teenagers. Separated from each other, they met up with Ruby, Blake, Weiss, and Yang, and of course it wasn’t long before they were caught up in trying to stop a monster from destroying the world. While the first film did have a real ending and not a forced cliffhanger, there was a second half planned from the start. This time around, not surprisingly, the story is flipped. When the Justice League return to Earth, they find that the Grimms, monstrous baddies from Remnant, have wreaked havoc on Earth. So they call on the RWBY characters to help defeat them, bringing the RWBY-ers to Earth for this outing. As with the first chapter, the regular RWBY cast is all present, and we get new takes on Batman and Superman as younger characters via Chandler Riggs (best known as Carl on The Walking Dead) and Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars), respectively.
The 4K Audio/Video: New animation tends to shine in 4K Ultra HD, and this film is no exception. Colors look beautiful, with bright tones and vivid hues, while blacks are inky and rich, giving animation outlines a solid feel. Image clarity is also near-perfection. The surround soundtrack makes good use of the satellite speakers, making sure the action fills your room thanks to numerous discrete and directional effects. This is a great 4K effort.
The Special Features: Just two making-of featurettes, but hey, that’s better than nothing,
The Wrap-Up: Although I’m not an RWBY fan per se, I do love seeing mash-ups like these that introduce RWBY characters to Justice League fans and Justice League characters to RWBY fans. If you liked Part One, I would expect that you’ll enjoy Part Two just as much.

Rabbit Hole: Season One

The Show: I feel like Kiefer Sutherland is never going to do a comedy again. After he became such an icon with Fox’s 24 as Jack Bauer, he seems fated only to play deeply intense characters. But hey, nobody does I better than him, either, so I suppose there are worse things. His latest series, Rabbit Hole, is a tense technothriller-slash-murder-mystery that sees Sutherland as Joh Weir, a corporate espionage expert that sees himself framed for murder and ends up mixed up in a grand conspiracy that literally threatens the fate of the free world. It feels a bit like a mash-up between The FugitivePerson of Interest, and Enemy of the State. As always, Sutherland is terrific in his role, and the show is a non-stop mix of tension, mystery, technology, and political intrigue. It’s not a light watch, but it is riveting. This new 3-disc DVD set from Paramount/CBS collects the eight episodes that comprise Season One.
The Special Features: Three making of featurettes focus on the show’s storyline, the look of the show, and the show’s stunts.

The Wrap-Up: If you’ve been missing Jack Bauer’s exploits on 24 or even Sutherland’s role as Tom Kirkman on Designated SurvivorRabbit Hole will probably pull you in early on and not let go. Worth a watch, hopefully it won’t be too long before we get Season Two.

Titans: The Fourth and Final Season

The Movie: DC’s Titans is not a show I loved at first, but over the course of its four-season run, I came to really enjoy it. Available originally only through the DC Universe app, Titans then moved over to Max (formerly HBO Max), and of course, this week the fourth and final season is released on home video. What I came to like about this show is that it draws a lot of inspiration from the comic books upon which it’s based, without feeling like it’s restricted to copying stories out of the comics. Titans definitely goes in its own direction, while still feeling like the Titans we know and love. The cast (which includes Brenton Thwaites, Ian Glenn, Minka Kelly, and Alan Ritchson) does a nice job of bringing the characters to life, and the show’s aesthetic – while occasionally veering slightly into cheesy territory – feels appropriately comic-booky. This Season Four collection sees the team move from Gotham City to Metropolis, introducing Lex Luthor, giving us a murder mystery, and bringing Brother Blood in as a villain leading up to the finale. It’s an action-packed season with lots of the character moments that fans of the show have come to love.
The Special Features: Pretty standard stuff with three making-of featurettes,

The Wrap-Up: I’m not sure exactly why Titans is coming to an end. It seemed like a good fit as an original series on Max and I know it has a devoted fan base. Still, even tough it’s over, this new DVD set is a great way to complete your collection and revisit the Titans whenever you’d like.

The Shaw Brothers Classics: Volume 3

The Movie: B-movie cinema fans are probably familiar with the Shaw Brothers, who were effectively the Roger Cormans of the Asian action film scene in the 1970s, churning out low-budget action films one after another for an insatiable audience at the time. Shout Factory has been collecting the entirety of the Shaw Brothers Catalog in a series of fantastic (and chunky) Blu-ray box sets, and this week brings us volume three, giving us 11 films making their Blu-ray debuts on 11 discs, each loaded with extra features. The movies included this time around were all released between 1976 and 1979 and are: Killer ClansShaolin AvengersWeb of DeathVengeful BeautyDeath DuelLife GambleSoul of the SwordDeadly Breaking SwordClan of the White LotusShaolin Abbott and Shaolin Rescuers. Most of these are your typical period Asian action flicks from the ‘70s, set in Ancient China and featuring battling monks, warriors, and princes. Are any of them cinematic genius? Of course not. But were they influential and fun action epics that are worth revisiting? Absolutely, For my money, I enjoyed Death DuelVengeful BeautyWeb of Death, and Shaolin Rescuers the most, but there really aren’t any truly bad films in the bunch.
The Special Features: There’s a ton of great new extra features included in this box set! All eleven films include a cornucopia of bonus features, including at least one audio commentary (featuring film critics and historians), often two commentaries. Pretty much every film also includes a new making-of feature, usually an interview feature or a retrospective documentary. Then there are also trailers and a few random tidbits sprinkled throughout.

The Wrap-Up: The Shaw Brothers studio was a veritable factory of films, churning out multiple releases in a year on low budgets. Without the efforts of Shout Factory, a lot of these could have been lost to time, but now they’re preserved in these terrific box sets. If you have volumes 1 and 2, you won’t want to miss Volume 3.

Scooby Doo and Krypto Too!

The Movie: The last few years has seen Warner Bros. Animation focus their new Scooby Doo movie efforts on teaming the Mystery Gang up with various guest stars, like WWE wrestlers, the rock band KISS, and even celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentis. This newest movie sees Scooby and company team up with another well-liked cartoon dog, Krypto the Superdog. Krypto had his own cartoon series several years ago that I was actually a big fan of, and he more recently starred in DC’s Superpets animated movie, which was also a lot of fun. So as a huge Scooby-Doo fan, this is a team-up I was very excited for; obviously, Scooby and Krypto are kindred spirits! In this film, the Justice League has gone missing, so Krypto teams up with his sleuthing friends from Mystery Inc. to solve the mystery and find the missing superheroes. It’s more in the vein of Scooby-Doo shows than it is DC’s Superpets, but I still had a ton of fun with it. It’s a great mystery mixed with humor and all the classic Scooby-Doo gags, plus you get some superhero intrigue mixed in. Great for kids and adults alike!
The Special Features: There are no making-of features, but you do get three Scooby-Doo bonus episodes guest starring Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash.

The Wrap-UpScooby Doo and Krypto Too! Is a fun animated movie that both Scooby-Doo and Superman/Krypto fans can enjoy. And really, who doesn’t like Scooby Doo? I’m always happy to see Warner Bros. put out another original Scooby-Doo show or movie, and this one is no exception.

Ride On

The Movie: I’ve been watching Jackie Chan movies since the mid-1990s, and I can say he’s one of my absolute favorite actors. Not in terms of acting ability, but in terms of just the sheer enjoyment I get out of his movies, he ranks near the very top for me. So even though he’s aging these days and his martial arts prowess isn’t what it once was, I’ll still give any movie he puts out a chance. When I saw that he was teamed up with a horse in his newest movie, Ride On, I was… shall we say, less than optimistic? But, surprisingly, Ride On turned out to be a serviceable action/adventure film aimed at wider family audiences. Chan plays a washed-up stuntman eking out a living with his trained horse by posing for pictures in the crowded city center. But when some bad guys he owes money to try to force him to pay, his brawl with them (and his horse) goes viral and reignites his career. Of course, those bad guys are still out to get him… So, okay, Ride On isn’t cinematic genius. And sure, Jackie Chan looks like he’s never ridden a horse before in his life. But in the end, I found it an enjoyable-enough flick with a few solidly decent fight scenes that were reminiscent of Chan’s younger self, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
The Special Features: You get two making-of featurettes and a trailer.

The Wrap-UpRide On isn’t going to land anywhere near the top of any Jackie Chan “best of” list. But for an aging action star whose last several vehicles have been a pretty mixed bag, I was happy that this one was at least an enjoyable enough watch.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time 

The Movie: One of the most popular and influential anime series of all time has a new release out this week that will blow its fans away. Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time brings to a close the beloved anime series. The show gained acclaim and fan fervor through its blend of hardcore sci-fi action (Attacking creatures! Mech suits! Human pilots!) and a human story that remains front and center and lets you get involved in the characters. I’d seen bits and pieces of it over the years, but a couple of years ago I was able to dive into it more thoroughly with  a complete series release that came out. Now we have the concluding movie, which comes to home video in a standard edition and a limited edition 4K Ultra HD box set, which is a thing of beauty. For the film itself, it’s hard to explain it in just a few sentences. If you’re not familiar with the series, what I have to say won’t make any sense. But if you are a fan of the show, you’ll be happy to know that Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time serves as a nice wrap-up for the show. It packed the emotional punch you’ve come to expect and isn’t lacking on action or intrigue. The 4K Ultra HD collector’s set also comes packaged in a beautiful and simple stark white box that you’ll want on your shelf.
The 4K Audio/Video: This is the kind of movie 4K Ultra HD is made for. It looks absolutely stunning, with cutting edge animation matched up with vibrant colors, impeccable clarity, and deep black levels. The surround soundtrack is constantly active; subtle and nuanced, it gives your speakers a workout when required but isn’t afraid to let the quiet moments shine, too. A top-notch delivery.
The Special Features: It’s a mix of extras here, both digital and physical. There’s a press conference, an animation making-of, two short films, interviews with the voice cast, an intro for fans, trailers, and more. Then you also get a gorgeous 28-page booklet, a set of art cards, and a poster.

The Wrap-Up: Evangelion fans will want to make sure they’ve seen the three films that priced this one, but if you’ve been following the series all along, you won’t want to miss Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time. 

Robin Hood/The Black Pirate: Double Feature

The Movies: The Cohen Film Collection home video line specializes in classic films and foreign films mostly, and this newest release from the studio is one that will pair nicely with another recent release from the studio. Last week, CFC dropped a Douglas Fairbanks (senior) double feature of The Three Musketeers from 1921 and The Iron Mask from 1929. This week, we get another Double feature starring Fairbanks: Robin Hood and The Black Pirate. These two films come from 1922 and 1926, respectively, and both are silent film classics. Robin Hood was a physically technical marvel, featuring one of the biggest sets ever built in Hollywood at the time, while The Black Pirate was an early effort into Technicolor; and a color silent film is a rarity indeed. Both movies have been restored and remastered and Robin Hood was even scanned in 4K, giving both films new life on home video. The Black Pirate is a bit long for my tastes at a touch over two hours, but I was blown away by Robin Hood, which is a terrific adaptation of the classic legend.
The Special Features: There’s an audio commentary for The Black Pirate with a film historian, then there’s about 45 minutes of outtakes from The Black Pirate, with 18 minutes worth including audio commentary.
The Wrap-Up: I really appreciate how Cohen Media Group is bringing us these classic Hollywood films, on Blu-ray, packaged in themed double packs, and at an affordable price. This one is definitely worth tracking down.

Elmo’s Holiday Spectacular: The Nutcracker and Other Tales

The Movie: While it feels a little early for a Christmas-themed release from Sesame Street, the fact is that the holidays are right around the corner. This latest DVD release, Elmo’s Holiday Spectacular: The Nutcracker and Other Tales, once again offers up some serious bang for your buck. At over two-and-a-half hours of content for your little ones, this holiday themed release gives you an animated adaptation of The Nutcracker starring Elmo and his puppy Tango, as well as live-action segments with Elmo and guest starring Sheryl Crow and Maya Angelou. It’s hard to argue with that!
The Special Features: As usual with the Sesame Street DVD releases, there are no extra features. Still, with two-and-a-half hours of content, it’s kind of hard to complain.

The Wrap-Up: With familiar faces like Elmo, Tango, Cookie Monster, and Abby Cadabby alongside new characters such as a reindeer-in-training named Lightning, this terrific DVD is sure to thrill your little ones during the holidays!

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