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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Arthur The King, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, Cry Baby, Into The Blue, Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning and more

This week sees a couple of big releases, but really has a focus on indie and foreign films. So there’s a little something for everyone! Read on to see what you might discover on home video shelves right now!

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: Before Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire dropped, I went back and rewatched the entire series of Monsterverse films. While I’ve long held that Kong: Skull Island is a gosh-darned masterpiece, the rest of the films that featured Godzilla all left me underwhelmed when I first watched them. On my second viewing of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla Vs. Kong, I found that I enjoyed them much more than I did the first time around. (I still think Godzilla is just okay.) So maybe that bodes well for Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, which I found fairly disappointing upon my first viewing. Maybe there’s a second viewing in my future where I’ll really enjoy it. But for now, it was… just okay. This time around, Godzilla and Kong team up to fight a new menace that populates the depths of the Hollow Earth (you know, the under-earth world where Kong lives now that is populated by all kinds of creatures.) As with the previous film, the best part of the movie is the climax, which features a three-way tussle between mega monsters. As per usual, the special effects are unbeatable, and the action is fun, but the rest of the movie feels a little on the cheesy side, plotwise. It’s not terrible, and I suspect I’ll like it better on second viewing, but I really wanted to be blown away by it and I wasn’t (except on a visual level.)

The 4K Video/Audio: Not surprisingly, this huge-budget mega-spectacle looks and sounds utterly incredible in 4K Ultra HD. It’s like you have been transported to the Hollow Earth while watching the film, with colors that are incredibly vibrant that add to the depth of the images. Image clarity is razor sharp and black levels are deep and inky, and watching it all in 4K is like being in the theaters all over again. The surround soundtrack takes advantage of every speaker in your array, creating an immersive, in-depth aural experience that puts you in the middle of a giant monster battle in a way that you have to hear to believe. A top-notch effort for the A/V presentation.

The Special Features: There are no less than 14 short featurettes about the making of the film, mostly focusing on the design, creation, and filming of the monsters and their battles. Most of them run four to six minutes, giving you over an hour of documentary material. There’s also a commentary track with director Adam Wingard and several key crew members.

The Wrap-Up: I know I tend to be too hard on these movies, and I usually like them better the second time around, so take what I say with a grain of salt. There’s still fun to be had here and dazzling visual effects, plus the 4K Ultra HD presentation is worth the price of admission alone, if you have the capabilities. I’m glad the movie did well in theaters, too, so that we will likely get another chapter that will maybe be the one to finally blow me away.

Arthur The King

The Movie: I saw Arthur the King’s trailer a few months ago, and it was one of those movies that I had no clue about; I hadn’t read about the production of it or had any knowledge of the true story it’s based on, so it caught me completely unawares. And I was completely taken by said trailer; I really wanted to see this movie. The film tells the story of Michael Light, a highly competitive adventure racer who always finishes in the top but never wins the big prize. (Adventure racing is an ultra-grueling multi-day race that includes running, biking, and kayaking over hundreds of miles of forest and jungle.) With one last chance to win a race, Michael and his team are befriended in Santo Domingo by a stray dog who becomes an unofficial fifth member of the team. As you watch the film, you’re struck by the fact that some of what happens seems so unbelievable that it could only happen in a movie; then you remember it’s a true story and your mind is blown. (And the end credits feature photos of the real Mikael and Arthur, and you can see them going through everything in the film. Amazing!) It’s a heartwarming story about teamwork, drive, determination, and the bond between humans and dogs, and I found it incredibly enjoyable.

The Special Features: There are three audio commentary tracks on the disc, including one with the film’s director and Mikael Lindnord, the real-life subject of the film, which is quite cool. There are also three behind-the-scenes featurettes that run a little less than half an hour total and are quite enjoyable, giving us more info on the real story of Mikael and Arthur.

The Wrap-Up: I know people are sometimes hesitant to watch dog movies because it seems like bad things always happen to them. I’m not going to spoil the ending here, but I will say that the film has a lot of heart and you will definitely not regret watching it. I highly recommend Arthur the King for something truly different, and something the entire family can watch and enjoy.

Cry Baby (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: There are some movies that you just never get around to watching in your life. Everyone has them; sometimes they’re huge blockbusters, sometimes they’re critically acclaimed darlings, and sometimes they’re Cry Baby, which is released on 4K Ultra HD this week courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Even though I’ve always been a Jonny Depp fan, I somehow never got around to watching Cry Baby before now. But as soon as I started, it began to dawn on me why I’ve never watched it: It’s a John Waters film. Now, I know Waters has his fans, but I am decidedly not one of them. Still, I decided to power through this story of Jonny Depp as Cry Baby, a sensitive musician punk from the wrong side of town falling in love with Amy Locane’s Allison, a “square” from the richer part of society. And almost instantly, I regretted it. Waters’ style is to celebrate everything grotesque and to revel in the shocking and the unexpected. And sure, that makes for films that are unlike anyone else’s, but it also makes for films that I truly don’t enjoy. Honestly, I think Cry Baby might be one of the most awful films I’ve ever suffered through. I usually try to find something positive to say in my movie reviews, but I struggle to think of a single moment of this film that I liked. That said, for fans of Waters’ oeuvre (and Cry Baby in particular), the film now comes on 4K Ultra HD, giving you an upgraded version of the movie to watch at home.

The 4K Video/Audio: Cry Baby was not a big budget film to begin with, so the 4K Ultra HD presentation does offer up some audiovisual sparkle, but it’s not a revelation on video or anything like that. Image clarity is nice and sharp and the print is free of any blemishes or artifacts, and that’s what you would hope for. The color saturation is solid, although I find the whole film looks a bit too warm; I suspect that might be Waters’ filmmaking at work more than an issue with the transfer, however. The surround soundtrack focuses mostly on music and dialogue, both of which sound great, but I wouldn’t expect to find a ton of surround activities in your speakers.

The Special Features: There’s an audio commentary with participation by director John Waters, an archival making-of feature, a new retrospective feature, and a series of interviews with cast and crew members, including Amy Locane, Traci Lords, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, and many others.

The Wrap-Up: I believe that every movie – no matter how bad it is – has its fans, and I know Cry Baby is one of those movies because this is the third or fourth time it’s made its way to home video. Personally, I can’t understand what draws people to it, but if it falls in your wheelhouse, I’m happy that this new version is available to you.

Into The Blue 

The Movie: I’m not sure exactly why MGM is releasing a new Blu-ray edition of Into the Blue this week; the movie wasn’t a big hit, nor is the original Blu-ray (released in 2006) particularly hard to find. Apparently, the 2006 version was in the early days of Blu-ray and the coding and authoring isn’t as good as it could be, so while I didn’t do a direct comparison, I would imagine this new Blu-ray release offers up an improved audiovisual experience over a disc that’s nearly 20 years old. The movie itself is an enjoyable-enough drama/thriller starring Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, and Scott Caan. Walker and Alba play a couple who are just scraping by, but Walker believes there’s treasure to be found in the waters off Jamaica, where they live. When Caan and his new girlfriend come to visit, the group discover a crashed plane laden with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of drugs. Unfortunately, some very bad people want those drugs back, and thus the action begins. There’s nothing out-and-out bad about the film, but you do want to reach through the screen and slap Caan’s character around several times. The script is nothing special, so the end result is an easily watchable (and also easily forgettable!) film, with equal amounts of scantily clad Walker and Alba; something for everyone!

The Special Features: There’s an audio commentary with director John Stockwell, a 20-minute making-of, and about 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. New to this disc are the film’s trailer and about five minutes of test shots for the production.

The Wrap-Up: I’m not sure if there was a legion of Into the Blue fans out there clamoring for an updated version of the film on home video, but it’s here. If you like the movie or the actors involved, it might be worth a revisit.

Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning 

The Movie: I’m not terribly into Digimon; If you had asked me any time in the last 20 years, I would have told you that Digimon probably died out back in the 90s in the wake of the original Pokemon/Dragonball Z craze. Turns out that, Like both Dragonball and Pokemon, it’s still going strong. Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning is a new film that follows the original six films in the Digimon Tri series, which were surprisingly in-depth, complex movies. While the subtitle The Beginning makes it sound like this might be a prequel, it’s not; it’s a tried and true follow-up/sequel. Taking place ten years after the conclusion of the previous films, this one sees the kids from the original movie all grown up. One day, a huge Digitama shows up in the sky and a mysterious young man named Lui appears, proclaiming himself to be the first DigiDestined. What does that mean? Who is he? These are the questions the film explores the answers to. Like I said above, I’m not really well-versed in this universe, so maybe the original show was more complex than I imagined, but these aren’t just little kids’ films anymore; they have real characters and storylines and some pretty incredible animation. Fans of Digimon should be very excited to have a new movie hitting Blu-ray this week.

The Special Features: There’s an introduction by the movie’s director, but that’s it.

The Wrap-Up: Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning is clearly designed to be the first film in the next iteration of this franchise. I don’t know if it’s scheduled to run for another six films, but whatever the plan is, clearly fans have more to look forward to.

Blind War 

The Movie: Chinese film star Andy On takes the lead role in this new action thriller from China. In it, On plays Gu, a disgraced SWAT team captain who takes responsibility for a failed mission that left him blind. As he acclimates to civilian life, he finds his other senses heightened, which is super helpful because his daughter gets kidnapped by human traffickers. Using his enhanced senses (but no sight), Gu sets out to save his daughter… and kill lots of bad guys while doing so. Effectively, it’s Taken if Liam Neeson was blindfolded. Now, few people do action films like the Chinese film industry does, so there are some dazzling action scenes. But surprisingly, there are also one or two that feel a little more by-the-numbers than usual. The main problem with the film is that the story beats just aren’t interesting enough to get any kind of emotional investment in the characters or the movie. It’s perfectly serviceable as an action flick, but I doubt people are going to fall in love with it.

The Special Features: Just the movie’s trailer (and a few other trailers) are included.

The Wrap-Up: Blind War has its moments, but like any movie with a blind protagonist taking out multiple bad guys, it requires a healthy dose of willing suspension of disbelief. Once you get past that, you can have a relatively good time with it.

Edge of Everything 

The Movie: Kicking off what seems like a themed-week of releases that deal with identity, self-exploration, and (in some cases) sexuality, we have Edge of Everything, a teen coming-of-age drama. In it, young teen Abby is forced to live with her father and his much-younger girlfriend when her mother dies unexpectedly. Needless to say, it’s not a great situation, and Abby begins to act out. Enter Caroline, your typical rebellious teen, who strikes up a quick friendship with Abby. They hit the town together in a way that puts Abby into some undesirable situations, and as Abby grows and becomes more mature (she’s 14 for half of the film, 15 for the other half), you feel for her, especially when she finds herself in situations a 15-year-old shouldn’t be having to deal with. It’s not an easy movie to watch, but it does feature some great performances by the two lead actresses and probably reflects some people’s real-life experiences more than some of us would like to admit.

The Special Features: There are no bonus features on the DVD.

The Wrap-Up: Edge of Everything is a drama in every sense of the word, and there are some unpleasant scenes. But ultimately, you root for Abby to survive and come out the other side of her trials and tribulations, and that’s effective storytelling at work.

Io Capitano

The Movie: This interesting new film from director Matteo Garrone (the acclaimed Gomorrah) received a 2024 Academy Award nomination for Best International Feature, and it’s not hard to see why. Filmed completely on location in some extreme areas and with a cast made up of non-actors, the film captures a harrowing journey in a way that feels raw and immediate. The story follows two teenage boys, cousins, who leave Senegal for the brighter futures of Europe. Along the way, they deal with harsh climates, corruption, human trafficking, dwindling funds, and more. It is, in short, harrowing — in every sense of the word. The inexperienced actors don’t feel inexperienced, the feel real and authentic, and the cinematography captures the grandeur and horror that occurs on a journey for which the wanderers are woefully underprepared. It’s a story that gets more tense as it goes, and you will really not be sure about how it’s all going to end until it is actually over.

The Special Features: There is a Q&A with the director and cast members, and the film’s trailer.

The Wrap-Up: Io Capitano is obviously a foreign film, and I know not everyone goes for that, but if you’re open to it, this is a movie that spans genres and will likely surprise many viewers. Worth tracking down for something different.

The Sales Girl 

The Movie: I don’t get a lot of movies from Mongolia to review, so I was a little surprised when I did get one and it largely takes place in a sex shop. In Sales Girl, unassuming Saruul is a college student who covers for one of her friends for a month as an employee in a sex shop. The store’s owner is Katya, a brash and ballsy ex-ballerina who takes Saruul under her wing and tries to teach her to live the life she wants to lead instead of the one society expects from her. In some ways it’s an unlikely-friendship movie, and in some ways it’s a coming-of-age movie, but however you classify it, it’s hard to deny that it’s an enjoyable movie. There are a few dark moments; you can’t make a film about how great sex is without touching on some of the unpleasant stuff that come with it, but largely it’s a solid drama with many lighter moments that makes for an overall moving experience.

The Special Features: There are no extras with this one.

The Wrap-Up: If you’re looking for a titillating sex comedy a la early Judd Apatow movies, then you’re in the wrong place. But if you want an understated movie with a lot to say about human sexuality and individual identity, then check out The Sales Girl. 

Don’t Look at Me That Way 

The Movie:  Speaking of movies that explore sexuality, 2015’s Don’t Look at Me That Way (which makes its US DVD release debut this week, courtesy of IndiePix Classics) comes from Germany. It begins as a relatively standard discovering-their-sexuality tale of new neighbors Hedi and Iva, two women who start as strangers but become lovers. So far, so good. Then Iva’s father enters the picture, and Hedi’s eye begins to wander, and that’s where the movie veers from the norm. Hedi is already sort of the chaos agent in the relationship; as her and Iva’s relationship hits a rocky point, Hedi’s interests turn towards Iva’s father, which has all sorts of uncomfortable written on it. What made me struggle with the story even more, however, is that I could never quite figure out why most of the characters made the choices they did. I don’t know, maybe something is lost in translation, but it seems like script doesn’t give us enough of the characters’ psyches in order to understand their motivations, and so the second half of the film just feels… well, weird. And uneasy.

The Special Features:  There are no features on the disc.

The Wrap-Up: Ultimately, Don’t Look at Me That Way wasn’t my cup of tea, but it does present some challenging material in an engaging way. If you’re looking for a movie that reaches outside the norms of its genre, this might be right up your alley.

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