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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Dune 2, Bob Marley: One Love, Kung Fu Panda 4, The Fall Guy, The American Society of Magical Negroes, Coup De Chance and more

Dune: Part Two

Due to a combination of the Memorial Day holiday in the US last week and some travel on my part, this week’s column includes releases from both last week (May 28) and this week (June 4). This means we’ve got a bunch of big titles out to go over, so let’s jump right into things!

Dune: Part Two

The Movie: Let me start off with a few positive things about Dune 2. First off, the performances are excellent across the board, especially from Timothee Chalamet, who carries the bulk of the load on his shoulders. Second, as you would expect from director Denis Villenueve, the film is absolutely stunning to look at. The special effects, the scale of the film, the scenery and vistas… everything is so darn impressive that your eyes can’t take it all in. He really is the next generation’s Ridley Scott, who never made a movie that wasn’t eye-popping and visually dazzling. Unfortunately, Villenueve brings some of Ridley Scott’s faults with him into his filmmaking, too, largely making movies that are overly serious and often slow or glacially paced. As much as I loved watching Dune 2 from a visual standpoint, from a story/character standpoint, the film left me cold. There are large sections of the movie where it seems like nothing happens, and when something does happen, it’s usually people arguing. The political subtext goes deeper this time – which is in line with the source material – but I suspect the source material takes the story to unsatisfying places. (I’ve heard from Dune readers that it does, but I’ve never read the books myself.) And while the filmmakers are clearly setting things up for a third film (which is almost guaranteed at this point thanks to this outing’s massive box office success), the ending of the film is completely unsatisfying.

The 4K Video/Audio: The film has been released on 4K UHD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD.) Not surprisingly, Dune 2 is the kind of movie that the 4K Ultra HD format was made for. Image clarity is razor sharp, and colors (even though a lot of them are variations on sand-brown) 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 technically impressive film.

The Special Features: There are eight making-of featurettes, all on the shorter side, but that add up to over an hour of bonus materials.

The Wrap-Up: I know for a fact that I’m in the minority with my opinions on Dune 2. Critics loved it, everyone I talked to about it loved it, all my contacts on social media posted about how much they loved it. So I’m not the majority opinion. Chances are good, then, that this release is worth your money. But for me, the film fell flat in more ways than one, and I found that to be a huge disappointment.

Bob Marley: One Love

The Movie: I’ve never been a particularly big fan of reggae music, so my knowledge of Bob Marley is limited to your general Wikipedia greatest hits: he was a beloved Jamaican musician who fought for peace and died tragically young. And after watching Bob Marley: One Love, I feel like I now pretty much the exact same things about the man. Let me say this: Bob Marley: One Love is a perfectly enjoyable movie. It’s an easy way to kill two hours, it’s a non-challenging watch, and there is plenty of Marley’s original recordings in the soundtrack to please fans. But I think the film was trying a little too hard to be everything to everyone to really succeed. It’s like the filmmakers wanted to give us a warts-and-all biopic but also not focus on too many warts so as not to cast any aspersions on Marley, and then also try to cover his whole life while at the same time focusing on the last few years of his life when he had the most impact. It’s too much and too little, meaning it just never gels to become really engaging, and it felt like a surface exploration of a complex man to me. That said, Kingsley Ben-Adir’s performance as Marley is absolutely astounding; the man oozes charm and charisma without ever feeling like you were watching anyone other than Bob Marley himself. From the accent to the physicality in Marley’s performances, Ben-Adir is simply magical. The supporting cast is good as well, but Ben-Adir is what makes the movie worth watching in my opinion.

The 4K Video/Audio: Bob Marley: One Love comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD in a Steelbook Case (as well as on Blu-ray and DVD), and Paramount has done a bang-up job with the A/V quality, giving us excellent color saturation and crystal clear imagery as well as an outstanding surround soundtrack that doesn’t miss a beat of a song. A lot of times, in a musical movie, that can come at the expense of surround effects, but this is a nice, immersive soundfield that also gives us lush music and clear dialogue. A terrific effort overall.

The Special Features: You get five making-of featurettes and a collection of deleted and extended scenes. All told, the extras run just shy of an hour.

The Wrap-Up: I’m glad that Bob Marley finally got a big-budget biopic and I do feel like I know a little more about him than I did before (despite my snarky comments at the top of the review), but not nearly as much more about him as I would have liked. Bob Marley: One Love is worth a watch for sure, but it falls short of being truly great.

Kung Fu Panda 4

The Movie: I’m going to make one complaint about Kung Fu Panda 4 before I give it some solid praise, so please make sure you read past the next sentence or two to get to the heart of the matter. Here it is: I wish the script was better. Honestly, that’s been my complaint about the franchise as a whole, but the script is simply… simple. There are so many opportunities for great dialogue or moments of humor beyond what’s on screen, but it always feels like the writers figure the action and visuals will carry the movie and don’t need to write clever dialogue. This is a shame, because aside from that complaint, I REALLY enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 4. The action sequences are completely astounding, and when the film is moving, it’s an absolute blast. There’s a chase sequence that is breathtaking, and the fight scenes are so much better than they should be considering they include a giant panda with a magic staff. This time around, the Furious Five are absent as Po sets off beyond the valley of peace to take on a wicked shapeshifting sorceress. Along the way, he deals with doubts about his future and meets Zhen, a fox thief who helps show him the ropes in the big city. Zhen is played by Awkwafina, who – for my money – makes just about everything she’s in better for her presence, and this film is no different. It’s also good to see Ke Huy Quan, fresh off his Oscar win, playing a new character. Kung Fu Panda comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD, as well as Blu-ray and DVD.

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

The Special Features: There’s an exclusive all-new short film to kick things off, a filmmaker commentary, a collection of deleted scenes, four making-of featurettes, a How to Draw feature, and one or two other goodies.

The Wrap-Up: My complaints about Kung Fu Panda 4 come from an adult perspective; most of the target audience for the film (kids and families) will just enjoy the frenetic action, the great visuals, and the familiar and new characters. I certainly enjoyed the film, I just think it could have been flat-out amazing with a better script.

The Fall Guy (Digital Release)

The Movie: Even though The Fall Guy is still playing in theaters (as of this writing), it has been released digitally for sale through your usual digital movie retailers. We’ll have a full home video release when the 4K/Blu-ray is released later in the year, but for now, we did receive a digital copy for review. So, I’ve now seen The Fall Guy twice, and I actually had a very different experience the second time around. The first time I watched the film, I enjoyed it but I was a little underwhelmed by it. It felt a little too long and the actors occasionally felt like they were ad-libbing their meandering dialogue a bit too much. But then I watched it again to check out the digital copy and I had a completely different experience. I really enjoyed the movie a lot the second time. I bought in more on the characters, the dialogue issues didn’t bother me, it didn’t feel too long anymore, and I just had a lot more fun with it in general. I don’t know why, either. I would chalk it up to having lowered expectations, but honestly, the trailer didn’t do much for me so my expectations weren’t that high to begin with. Whatever the reason, I now consider myself a Fall Guy fan, so I’m glad to have it in my digital library!

The Wrap-Up: Again, there should be a full home video release on 4K/Blu-ray/DVD in another couple of months, so we’ll dive deeper into extra features and such at that time. But for now, while I think The Fall Guy really benefits from a theatrical experience and suggest seeing it on the big screen if you’re able – the copious stunts play well on the big screen; if you would rather watch it from home, it’s available at online retailers now.

The American Society of Magical Negroes

The Movie: I saw the trailer for The American Society of Magical Negroes and I thought it looked funny, charming, and magical. Then I watched the film and guess what? It’s funny, charming, and magical! Honestly, I absolutely loved this movie! The story follows Aren, a young African-American artist who is recruited by a mystical society whose job it is to keep white people comfortable. Because when white people get uncomfortable, black people tend to die. Now, that sounds pretty heavy, but the film manages to keep a light tone throughout without losing the power of its message. Aren takes on a big case early on, helping a guy named Jason, a nebbishy and uptight white guy at a tech company. When he and Jason both fall for Lizzie (played by An-Li Bogan, who is a complete revelation), Aren’s duties come up against his feelings. What I love about the film is how deftly it traverses genres. At its heart, it’s a romantic comedy with dramatic undertones. It also has a strong undercurrent of political commentary, but the fact that it manages to make white people comfortable while satirizing and criticizing the idea of making white people comfortable is incredibly uncanny. Justice Smith plays Aren, and I’ve always been a little lukewarm toward him as an actor. This is hands-down his best role, and when he gives a climactic speech, I literally had tears in my eyes. But with all this important stuff going on, the movie never loses its sense of fun, magic, and wonder. It’s a beautiful movie and I loved it.

The Special Features: After a feature commentary with director Kobi Libii, you also get three making-of features.

The Wrap-Up: I will be shocked – shocked! – if The American Society of Magical Negroes doesn’t end up on my Top Ten Films of 2024 list at the end of the year. Right now, it’s one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP, and then tell a friend about it. And then tell another. This is a movie that deserves a wider audience. You heard it here first!


The Movie: It’s funny that we ended up with two films about imaginary friends in the span of just a couple of months, but in this case they couldn’t be more different. While John Krasinski’s big-budget movie IF is a family-friendly comedy, Imaginary is a tried-and-true horror movie. In the film, Jessica moves her family (her musician husband and two step-daughters) back to her childhood home – always a mistake; haven’t you ever watched a horror movie before? Soon after they arrive, youngest stepdaughter Alice begins to interact with an imaginary friend, a teddy bear named Chauncey. Well, it’s not long before creepy things start happening to the family, including Alice’s behavior becoming more and more strange. Now, I know critics weren’t overly kind to Imaginary, but I actually found it quite enjoyable. Is it a masterpiece? Of course not. But Blumhouse knows how to make slick, enjoyable thrillers and Imaginary is certainly that. The characters and script are solid enough to get invested in what happens, there are plenty of creepy moments, and the action keeps things moving at a good pace throughout. If you’re looking for a 90-minute horror quick-watch, Imaginary is just the thing.

The Special Features: There are four behind-the-scenes features as well as an audio commentary with the movie’s director and lead actress DeWanda Wise.

The Wrap-UpImaginary is the kind of movie that wasn’t a massive hit but was successful enough to spawn an easy follow-up film, and the premise lends itself to a franchise easily because you can always just pick up with a new family and a new imaginary friend. Like I said, it’s not a special film, but it’s a fun enough watch to make it worth tracking down.

American Hustle (4K Ultra HD Steelbook)

The Movie: A star-studded David O. Russell film, American Hustle (which makes its 4K Ultra HD debut this week in a sharp Steelbook Case edition) was nominated for a number of major awards when it came out in 2013. Rewatching the film 11 years later on 4K Ultra HD, I have to say, I’m glad American Hustle got shut out of all of the major Academy Awards, because I really don’t think it’s a particularly good film. Yes, without a doubt, all five lead performances are incredible (I count Jeremy Renner alongside Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence), but the film is… mostly unnecessary. I don’t really know how to explain that other than to say that it takes two and a half hours to tell a story that could have been told in an hour, easy. This could have been a Frontline special just as easily as a motion picture. Knowing what I know now, that really does seem to be a hallmark of most David O. Russell films: he never met a story he couldn’t tell in twice as long as it needed. But I think this one still stands out so much because of the calibre of the cast and just how ineffective the movie is. Honestly, aside from the performances and the “science oven” scene – which is still comedy gold – there’s not much about this movie that I like.

The 4K Video/Audio: American Hustle looks and sounds very good in the premium format. The color saturation is quite vibrant, image clarity is sharp, and shadow delineation is very strong, helpful in a film that takes features endless nighttime scenes and dark moments. The surround soundtrack isn’t the most immersive ever, but it does a great job of maximizing what it has to work with and extending the sounds of mayhem into your living room.

The Special Features: There’s a short making-of and 11 deleted scenes that were on the original release, and this 4K release adds another 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, but that’s all there is.

The Wrap-Up: I generally find David O. Russell films to be hit or miss for me; some I really enjoy, some I really don’t. American Hustle might be among my least favorite of his efforts. Come for the performances, but know that the lightweight storyline will leave you disappointed.

Coup De Chance

The Movie: I was actually surprised when I realized that Coup de Chance was a Woody Allen film. After all, not only does it not feature his usual star-studded cast of actors, but it’s also a French film. Like, it’s made in France and all the actors are French and the dialogue is French. So… that’s new for Allen. The film is a drama, something that Allen dabbles into – mostly effectively – every so often. The story starts with Alain and Fanny, two French average joes who reconnect after not seeing each other since high school. When their meeting turns into an affair, Fanny’s husband Jean gets wind of it and then decides to take matters into his own hands. (Sort of. I’m trying to be vague to avoid spoilers here.) The film then brings some serious twists and turns as we sit back and try to see who will survive what, as well as who we should even be rooting for. Frankly, it’s a better movie than anything I’ve seen out of Allen in several years. Maybe he should keep making movies in French.

The Special Features: There are no extra features on this release.

The Wrap-Up: I know most moviegoers have long since forgotten that Woody Allen has continued making movies well into his 80s. And honestly, based on most of his more recent works, there’s nothing wrong with that. But Coupe de Chance is an intriguing film that feels like it was made by a different filmmaker – or at least a revitalized one – and you might enjoy it more than you expect.

Creation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms

The MovieCreation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms is the first part of a planned trilogy  — hence the ‘I’ in the title – and it spent several months at the top of the box office charts in its native China. It’s based on a legendary Chinese myth/tale; my interpretation is that it has the same kind of canonical impact in China as something like The Odyssey does in the Western world. This is one of those effects-heavy epics that sees gods, men, and monsters all in conflict with each other. Effectively, there’s a magical scroll that can turn people (and monsters) into gods, which naturally everyone wants to get their hands on. There are good gods and bad gods, there are honorable soldiers protecting the scroll, and there’s lots and lots of CGI. As with a lot of these big-budget extravaganzas from China, the film looks great and has no shortage of action, but the characters are a little bland – yes, even some of the gods – and the running time is a little bit long (coming in at two-and-a-half hours.) It’s an entertaining enough watch, but you might find yourself checking your watch a few times.

The Special Features: Aside from the film’s trailer, there are no extras.

The Wrap-UpCreation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms is a movie filled with eye-popping visuals and high fantasy, which is enough for some people. It’s certainly enjoyable enough, but if we’re going to get two more of these movies, I wish it had been more memorable. I feel like it’s just a little too much of the kind of thing we’ve already seen multiple times from the Chinese film industry.

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