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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Blue Beetle, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Gran Turismo, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, Scrooged, Terms of Endearment, Fargo and more

We’ve got an exciting week of releases this week, with superheroes both costumed (DC Comics) and non-costumed (Tom Cruise). There’s also a few exciting catalogue classics hitting shelves on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD. Read on for the full slate of new titles!

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One

The Movie: You won’t find many people who are bigger fans of the Mission: Impossible franchise than me, so I’ll tell you right up front that this is a pretty glowing review. Tom Cruise’s signature action franchise has been getting bigger and better for the past decade-plus, and Dead Reckoning Part One is yet another thrilling, huge spectacle of an action film. I could try and explain the plot to you, but let’s be honest, all you really need to know is that Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force are on a globetrotting adventure to save the world. That leads to fistfights, gun battles, undercover infiltration, and a few high-octane set pieces that really up the action ante. Now, no movie is perfect, and there are a few flaws in this effort. One, like most of the Mission: Impossible films, there are a few points where you find yourself saying, “Wait, what’s happening again?” I feel like the plots are always just 2% more convoluted than they need to be. There may have also been a decision made in terms of one character and their story arc that I didn’t fully agree with, but to to say more would be to venture into spoiler territory, which I won’t do. But suffice it to say, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you watch the film. Still, overall, MI: Dead Reckoning is a thrilling ride that lives up to the quality of the franchise we’ve gotten so far.

The 4K Audio/Video: The film has been released on 4K UHD as well as Blu-ray and DVD. Not surprisingly, MI: Dead Reckoning is the kind of movie that the 4K Ultra HD format was made for. Image clarity is razor sharp, and colors boast an impressive range of dynamic hues. Shadow delineation is strong as well, making sure that none of the action is obscured just because it takes place at night. Meanwhile, the surround soundtrack offers up a wide range of discrete sound effects sprinkled throughout the various channels. It really is like the film is happening in your living room. It’s a terrific A/V presentation of a terrific film.

The Special Features: Director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton provide an audio commentary, and then you get half an hour of making-of features in the form of six short featurettes that range from four to nine minutes each. So it’s not the features-packed disc I would have liked, but it’s got some extras, at least.

The Wrap-Up: I don’t think the filmmakers did themselves any favors in regards to box office grosses by calling the film Part One, especially since it doesn’t end on a traditional cliffhanger. Like, yes, it’s clear there’s more to come when the film ends, but the main conflict of the movie is resolved by the end. I was a little surprised that Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning didn’t make a bigger splash at the box office, but again, I think the Part One moniker scared off some of the more casual viewers. I would expect Part Two to make a bigger impact in theaters, but we’ll see. Either way, I can’t wait for it.

Blue Beetle

The Movie: One of the last DC movies to hit theaters before James Gunn’s Phase Two (or whatever they’re calling it) becomes the new paradigm, Blue Beetle is a fun super hero film that is – like most DC films these days – still something of a mixed bag at the end. The film follows young Jaime Reyes who comes into possession of an alien scarab device; a weapons system that fuses to his spinal cord that allows him to grow exo-armor and also create almost any kind of weapon he can imagine. Of course, the big bad company that originally had the scarab isn’t happy that Jaime unlocked it when they couldn’t, and so now they want it back. On the one had, the film works in the way it uses a lot of humor and also focuses on Hispanic family life, as Jaime’s extended family is a big part of the movie. On the other hand, like so many DC films, it’s also falls short in many ways. The script is as pedestrian as it comes, and despite a few nice character beats and some humor, Blue Beetle just feels way too much like a “been there, done that” proposition. There just wasn’t enough here to set the movie apart from a dozen other films just like it. Xolo Mariduena (from Cobra Kai) is pretty great in the lead role, and I was pleased to see Elpidia Carrillo (who starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Predator) play Jaime’s mother, but I could have done without George Lopez in a major role. He never makes anything better.

The 4K Audio/Video: Blue Beetle is a bright and colorful film, an the 4K Ultra HD format treats it well. Everything looks bright and vivid and shiny, the way the filmmakers likely intended, and it’s a nice visual treat to watch the movie. The surround soundtrack is also constantly active, giving each speaker its own discrete sounds and activity, creating a nice, active soundfield throughout. A very strong 4K release overall.

The Special Features: There’s a 45-minute four-part making-of documentary that’s pretty solid, and then Xolo Mariduena hosts a two-part featurette that looks at the scarab and a few of the action scenes involving it, and there’s a final featurette focusing on Jaime’s grandmother, who plays a big role in the film.

The Wrap-Up: I don’t want to damn Blue Beetle with faint praise, because overall I did enjoy the film. It’s a fun, if slight, superhero adventure that might have led to a franchise if it had performed better at the box office (and Phase Two wasn’t looming.) Still, it’s worth a watch, even if it’s largely forgettable after you finish it.

Gran Turismo

The Movie: It’s November, which means the year is coming to an end soon, and Gran Turismo is still sitting easily in my Top 10 films of the year list. Which is a little surprising, only because director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) is not a director I particularly care for. I know people love District 9 but I’m just not a fan. But Blomkamp branching out beyond the sci-fi genre is apparently a good thing, because Gran Turismo is a blast. The film isn’t really based on the Gran Turismo video game that ruled the platform systems back in the early 2000s; rather it’s based on real-life events that involved the Gran Turismo game. It turns out that so many people were playing and winning at Gran Turismo — which was the most realistic racing simulator ever created — that Nissan decided to test out a group of GT video game champions as real race car drivers for their team. This movie tells the story of the group of young people that went through the Gran Turismo Academy, trying to turn their video game skills into a race car driving career. And it’s everything you would want out of a sports movie: uplifting story, interesting characters, real-life consequences, and thrilling race sequences. If there’s one place where the film really benefitted from having Blomkamp’s sci-fi background, it’s the racing sequences, which are both adrenaline-fueled and exciting and also visually thrilling, as the film often shifts back and forth between the simulated training devices and the real racing. It’s a fantastic effect and you’ll find your heart pounding during every racing scene. What more could you ask from from a racing movie.

The Special Features: There are five making-of featurettes focusing on the racing, the cast, the cars, the stunts, and the story of the film’s protagonist, Jann Mardenborough. Then you also get a collection of deleted and extended scenes.

The Wrap-Up: Even if you’re not a big Formula 1 racing fan – and I’m not, so I get it – I can’t recommend Gran Turismo highly enough. It’s got humor, it’s got emotions, it’s got thrilling action sequences, it’s got David Harbour and Orlando Bloom! It’s got a little bit of everything! I loved it and I think you will too.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

The Movie: I’m not a huge fan of sequels that are made a couple of decades after a franchise’s last entry. It’s almost impossible to recapture the magic of a film or film series when everyone involved is ten or twenty years older and the world has changed in dramatic ways. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 hit theaters 21 years after the original film became a box office sensation, becoming one of the highest grossing independent films of all time, and now it’s on home video. Most of the original cast has returned, as this third outing sees Toula and her husband – along with her extended family – return to Greece to track down her late father’s childhood friends for a big reunion. And ultimately, the film is… solidly okay. Look, it could have been a train wreck, and it isn’t, largely because Nia Vardalos is so much fun and the cast is clearly having a good time being reunited once again. But the script isn’t a masterpiece, and much of the charm of the first film feels recycled here. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not a great movie either. I’ll say that the more you like the original film (and especially the lukewarm sequel from 2016), the more you’ll probably like this one.

The Special Features: There’s a decent little collection of extra features here, including a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a commentary track with writer/director Nia Vardalos

The Wrap-Up: I can’t blame the powers that be for making another sequel to one of the most successful comedies of all time, and I can’t even say it’s a complete failure. It’s an enjoyable-enough film in places that will have you chuckling from time to time, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

Terms of Endearment (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: One of the powerhouse films of the early 1980s, James L. Brooks’s dramedy was a touchstone for successful comedy/dramas for years. It doesn’t seem to have held up within the pop culture lexicon, however, as I would suspect most of today’s younger viewers have never even heard of the film. Starring Shirley Maclaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, and Danny DeVito, the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture. In it, we follow mother and daughter Aurora and Emma, who disagree on how daughter Emma should live her life. There are marriages, break-ups, new relationships, terminal diseases and more, all spread throughout the film’s two-hour-plus running time, and not surprisingly, the performances and script really carry the movie. I have to admit, I had never actually seen Terms of Endearment until now, when Paramount has released the film’s inaugural 4K Ultra HD release as part of their prestigious Paramount Presents collection, wherein they give us new, upgraded versions of the studio’s most beloved and crowd-pleasing catalog titles. I can see why the film gained so many plaudits, but I can also say that it’s now 40 years old and it might not necessarily wow new viewers the way it did in 1983.

The 4K Audio/Video: Paramount has done a nice job of bringing Terms of Endearment to 4K Ultra HD, with a transfer that’s been supervised by James L. Brooks himself. Image clarity is at the mercy of the source material, but close-ups especially are nicely clean and clear. The colors really stand out the most, however, giving the film a new life on 4K. The soundtrack isn’t an especially overdone affair, but you get clean and clear dialogue with no crackle or hiss, and the music comes through sounding full and effective. Overall, it’s a very strong effort for a classic film.

The Special Features: There’s a Filmmaker Focus feature on James L. Brooks that was newly created for this release, plus an audio commentary track with Brooks himself.

The Wrap-Up: Terms of Endearment may not be the pop culture touchstone it once was, but it’s still an excellently written and terrifically acted movie that’s deserving of this terrific home video release. Maybe it will capture a whole new audience now.

South Park: The Streaming Wars

The Movie: I’ve never been a big fan of South Park, something I’ve made clear in numerous reviews of the franchise over the years. But I also recognize that the show’s quick turnaround production time means they can tackle subjects in a much more timely way than many other TV shows can. South Park: The Streaming Wars is a two-part episode that aired after the 25th Season’s COVID Special (I believe; I’m not an expert on the South Park release schedule) that has now been released as its own stand-alone Blu-ray release. The “film” — which runs 99 minutes total — sees the town of South Park fall under a drought, leading to Randy and Steve realizing that they have all the water needed due to their elevation over the town. They start “streaming” the water to the townspeople, but then other townspeople move in and create their own “streaming” services and, well, you can see where they’re going with this. As with most South Park episodes, there are a handful of funny jokes to be found here, but also a bunch more jokes that are just lowest common denominator humor, something I’m rarely a fan of. Give South Park credit for basically taking potshots at Paramount+, the streaming service which exclusively aired these episodes and is part of the parent company that owns South Park, but other than that, it’s really just more of the same.

The Special Features: There are no extra features on the Blu-ray disc.

The Wrap-Up: Really, what this boils down to is how much you like South Park. If you’re a fan, you will probably find this timely deconstruction of the seemingly endless streaming services currently taking up our internet bandwidth. If you’re not a fan, I doubt this will be the thing to win you over.

Scrooged (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: Bill Murray’s frantic Christmas comedy makes its 4K Ultra HD debut just in time for the holidays. Even though it was released in the ‘80s (1988, to be specific), the film feels like a ‘90s movie in terms of its attitude, aesthetic, and humor. It’s become kind of a holiday favorite these days, but it’s also a film I’ve kind of become a little divided on. On the one hand, I can get into its dark humor and its take on the late 1980s culture. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like it’s so cynical and “edgy” that it can be kind of hard to take. Sometimes when watching it, I just feel like I need to take a breath. Still, when the holidays come around, every once in a while it’s fun to see Bill Murray’s take on one of the most enduring Christmas stories of all time. Now the film has been released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time, offering up an upgrade over previous home video versions. Read on for more details!

The 4K Audio/Video: The film’s distinct visual style comes to life in 4K Ultra HD, largely thanks to improved color saturation that doesn’t try to brighten things too much or wash out the colors in an attempt to artificially spruce up the proceedings. Image clarity is sharp, while the print is almost completely free of any blemishes or artifacts. The surround soundtrack is a little more limited, offering up nice stereo separation, but it’s not the most immersive mix I’ve ever heard. But dialogue is clean and clear, and the low end has a nice oomph to it thanks to the discrete bass channel. Overall, it’s a nice upgrade if not quite an essential one.

The Special Features: Things kick off with an audio commentary by Richard Donner, and then you are treated to five making-of featurettes as well as a series of ShoWest clips with Bill Murray. These are all newly-released extras, and since previous releases of the film had no extras included, they’re a welcome addition.

The Wrap-Up: Don’t get me wrong, Scrooged is still a fun and twisted take on a classic Christmas story, with Bill Murray at his most manic and Richard Donner directing, but it’s become more of a “once every few years” holiday viewing experience for me than an annual tradition. Still, if you’re going to watch it this holiday season, this is the best version on home video yet.

Fargo (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: It’s been almost 30 years since Fargo came out, so you’ve probably had enough time to decide if you like the film or not. Somehow, I feel like I still haven’t figured that out for myself, though, even in all that time. Like, I do like it, but I stop short of loving it, and I’m never quite sure why. It’s a perfectly good film, and there are parts I love; but I generally don’t love that many Coen Brothers films, and while this is one of their better ones, it’s not a movie I hold in overly high esteem. That said, I know that it’s a movie that a lot of people really love, and it even eventually spawned a TV series that lasted five seasons. With this new 4K Ultra HD release of Fargo from Shout Factory, I had the chance to revisit the critically-acclaimed film for the first time in several years. It’s still filled with great performances by Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, and many others, and the script does offer up some impressive moments of character-driven dialogue. Do I love it now? I do not, but maybe I like it a little bit more than I did before.

The 4K Audio/Video: This is one of those movies that clearly benefits from the 4K upgrade, but it’s not a completely transformative experience, either. Image clarity is sharp and colors are naturalistic and lifelike, while the print is nice and clean. Black levels are solid and there’s a nice depth of field that makes the film feel very textured. The surround soundtrack focuses largely on dialogue and music, and both come through well with no muddying. I wouldn’t say it’s like watching a completely new film, but it does look better than previous home video versions.

The Special Features: This is a nice collection of extra features, starting with an audio commentary by Director of Photography Roger Deakins. You also get an interview with the Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand, a making-of featurette, an article from American Cinematographer, a still photo gallery, and a couple of trailers.

The Wrap-Up: Fargo will probably never be my favorite movie, but it is a classic that a lot of people love, and I’m okay with that. This new 4K Ultra HD version offers up a slight upgrade over previous home video versions for the die-hard fan.

The Good Fight: The Complete Series

The Show: At this point, I bet most viewers have forgotten that The Good Fight was a spin-off of The Good Wife (if they even remember The Good Wife, which feels like it came out 20 years ago at this point.) And while that original show might be fading from memory, The Good Fight just finished a successful six-season run on the Paramount+ streaming platform. In a nutshell, the series focuses on Christine Baranski in the lead role as a lawyer working at a prestigious African American–owned firm that’s gained attention for tackling socially challenging cases. Over the course of the six seasons of the show, there were a variety of storylines that ran throughout a seasons, and then you had the usual legal cases that came and went with every episode, most of which were always quite interesting. Also a common theme each season was a great supporting cast (including a few new players every season), ensuring that were always characters you could root for (and a few you loved to hate!) The writing on the show was really sharp, although it definitely was never a show for people who want their TV to remain apolitical. This latest DVD collection includes the entire six-season series on 18 discs in a fairly compact case with a nice slipcover. ,

The Special Features: You get extras for each season that include deleted and extended scenes and gag reels, and then there’s a wrap-up featurette called The Good Fight: A Farewell.

The Wrap-Up: The Good Fight is a pretty easy binge-watch. I can’t say I was in the market for another law-centric series to watch, but if you are, this one is pretty good. And now you can watch the entire series from start to finish in one convenient box set.

Warhorse One

The Movie: I’ve said before that war movies are hard to do on a low budget, because the requisite action scenes that you need to convey wartime battles are hard to pull off on a low budget. But occasionally, you can work around that. Take Warhorse One, for example, which sees an American soldier trying to get a dead missionary’s six-year-old daughter out of Afghanistan in the waning days of the US occupation of the country. It doesn’t require massive tank battles or helicopter explosions since it’s one man and a little girl trying to sneak out of a war-torn country. Yet somehow, despite the fact that a big budget isn’t required, Warhorse One still manages to fall short as an action film. Johnny Strong, who’s become something of a force in direct-to-video movies, takes on the lead role, and he’s serviceable enough. But the film drags way more often than it should (the two-hour-plus running time is a killer), and the few action sequences there are just never feel particularly exciting. Maybe it’s a budget issue, maybe it’s the director, but either way, the film just never captured my attention.

The Special Features: There is a director’s commentary track and the film’s trailer, which is better than nothing!

The Wrap-Up: Warhorse One continues the trend of direct-to-video action films being disappointing, and I wish that wasn’t the case. It’s not the worst movie in the genre by far, but it will leave you wishing it was 30 minutes shorter and 50% better.

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