While there aren’t any out-and-out HUGE releases this week, there are a number of interesting releases that are worth checking out. Take a look!
The Last Duel – I know this will come as a surprise to some people, but I’m not generally a Ridley Scott fan. He makes beautiful-looking films but they often lack heart and I find that they often come up short for me. So nobody was more surprised than I was when I actually really liked The Last Duel. A two-and-a-half-hour medieval action/drama about a woman being sexually assaulted sounded like about the last thing I wanted to watch, but it turned out to be a surprisingly good film. First off, one thing the marketing never made clear (or even attempted to) is that the film is told Rashomon-style, meaning we see the events from the perspectives of each of the three major players. The story follows the wife of a knight who is assaulted by her husband’s best friend, which leads to a duel that will determine her guilt or innocence. We see things first from Matt Damon’s perspective as the loving husband, then from Adam Driver’s perspective as the womanizing inner-circle lothario, and then finally from Jodie Comer’s perspective as the woman who is assaulted. The film doesn’t linger on the rape; this isn’t a titillating or exploitative movie. It’s more about the society at the time and how she is perceived in her insistence on demanding justice in a time when that really didn’t happen. The film is based on a true story, and between the compelling narrative, the excellent performances from all three leads, and the Ridley Scott visual flair, the film is actually really good. It underperformed at the box office, but it’s definitely worth tracking down on home video.
Dear Evan Hansen – I was originally surprised that Dear Even Hansen wasn’t a big box office hit. After all, it’s based on an incredibly popular and award-winning Broadway play, and the trailers were pretty impactful. Then I saw the reviews for the film and I figured maybe it just didn’t click with audiences. And then I actually saw the film and I think now I get it. The film is about a teenager with a social anxiety disorder who writes letters to himself. When he meets a classmate who takes one of his letters and then commits suicide, he gets mistakenly identified as the deceased student’s best friend, which brings him a lot of social attention. The problem is, at a certain point, defending or justifying Evan’s actions gets harder and harder to do, making the lead character of the film not all that likable. Ben Platt, who originated the role on broadway and who I generally like, looks about ten years past being a teenager. And the songs in the film — because it is a musical — just didn’t quite click for me. I had high hopes for this film, but I was definitely disappointed in it.
Copshop – The first ten minutes or so of Joe Carnahan’s latest action thriller had me pretty worried; with candy-colored opening credits and some try-too-hard dialogue, I thought that Copshop might be a disaster in the making. However, once things get moving, the film quickly morphs into an intense, riveting shoot-em-up that I ended up absolutely loving. Frank Grillo plays a criminal on the run from other criminals, so he punches a cop and gets himself locked up in a small town jail. However, the assassin that’s after him (played by Gerard Butler) follows suit and ends up in the cell directly across from him. And that’s just the start. Let’s just say things get pretty explosive from there. The film perfectly balances rapid fire dialogue with some stunning action scenes, and once it gets going things never let up. Alexis Louder is an absolute revelation in the film; while Butler and Grillo are ostensibly the big name draws, Louder’s character is front and center in the action and she turns in an amazing performance in a film genre that isn’t always known for amazing performances. I really enjoyed Copshop, and if you like a good action film, you’ll definitely want to watch it ASAP. RECOMMENDED!
Cry Macho – Clint Eastwood may be two hundred or so years old, but that doesn’t stop him from making new movies. His latest effort, Cry Macho (which he stars in and directed), shows that while his peak may be in the past, he can still make a solid film. In this drama set in the late ‘70s, Eastwood plays a washed-up rodeo star tasked with “rescuing” his former boss’s teenage son from a hard-partying mother who may be leading her son astray. As Eastwood and the teenager travel, they also bond, and that’s the crux of the film’s narrative. Now, I like Eastwood; I think he’s a good actor and a good director. And Cry Macho is definitely a solid film, but it falls somewhat into that “just okay” category. It’s not bad in any way, but it’s also not great. It moves a little slowly, and while the characters’ interaction does grow on you, it takes a little too long to get there. Worth a watch, but not something you have to rush out and watch right away.
The Card Counter – Written and directed by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), The Card Counter is movie about poker that isn’t really a movie about poker. Oscar Isaac stars as Will Tell, a former army soldier who was one of the torturers at the Abu Ghraib prison and who has a hard time living with himself. He’s largely shut off to the world, until he meets Tiffany Haddish’s La Linda, a poker money manager, and Tye Sheridan’s Cirk (pronounced “Kirk”), the son of a man Isaac served with. This young man wants revenge on the officer who trained them to torture people but never faced any consequences. Together, using poker winnings to fund the trip, they set out in search of the officer, although Isaac hopes to dissuade Cirk from his mission. Schrader’s script keeps the film moving, and the pairing of Oscar Isaac, Tye Sheridan and Tiffany Haddish is certainly an interesting one, although it works well here. The Card Counter isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s an engaging watch and one of the better films I’ve seen from Schrader in the past several years.
The Wolf of Wall Street (4K Ultra HD) – Much like I mentioned with Ridley Scott above, I’m also not a particularly big Martin Scorsese fan. I recognize that he’s an incredibly talented director, but he tends to make movies that just aren’t my thing more often than not. And on paper, The Wolf of Wall Street — a three-hour spiritual update of Oliver Stone’s classic Wall Street — should not have been a film that I was going to love. Too long, too much talk about stocks and money, and too much Jonah Hill… it checks all these boxes. However, I absolutely love the film; it’s electrifying and thrilling and funny and fascinating all at the same time. Go figure. Now the film has made its debut on 4K Ultra HD, and it offers up a nice upgrade over an already terrific looking film. Colors are incredibly brightly saturated and the imagery is razor sharp, making a slick-looking film seemingly pop off the screen. The surround soundtrack doesn’t get an upgrade from the previous Blu-ray, but honestly, that’s nothing to complain about because it’s a terrific and immersive mix. If you don’t already own The Wolf of Wall Street, this new version is a must have.
Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy – While none of the three animated movies in this deluxe box set were huge box office hits a la the latest Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks film, each one is an excellent film that received no small amount of critical acclaim. The one you’re most likely to have heard of is The Secret of Kells, which was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2010 and put Cartoon Saloon (the production company behind the films) on the map. Also included in this Blu-ray set are Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers (the latter of which is making its Blu-ray debut here), as well as a number of bonus features. The films are a little hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go: they are traditionally animated features with serious story topics that aren’t the usual comedies or action films we’re used to seeing. Instead, they tell quietly adventurous stories that bring to mind Studio Ghibli, only without all the bizarre weirdness that makes me not like most Ghibli films. They’re beautiful to look at and filled with memorable characters, and they aren’t big-budget marvels but they are quite enjoyable. This new box set includes all three films on Blu-ray, bonus features like animatics and interviews, and physical goodies like a 40-page book with some cool concept art in it and a mini-poster. This is a terrific set and a great way to discover some new animated films the entire family can watch that you have’t seen a hundred times already.
Rick & Morty: Season 5 – I’ve heard Rick & Morty compared to everything from Back to the Future to Doctor Who to Futurama to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and in reality, it is kind of a mash-up of all of those things, just in animated form and with a seriously PG-13 sense of humor. Unfortunately, it’s also not to my sense of humor at all. Like, in any way, shape or form. I know people love it, and the show has a very strong fan following, but I just have never gotten quite why. I know I’m well I the minority, but the show just isn’t for me. However, assuming you are a fan, this new collection features the entirety of Season Five, which includes 10 episodes (and even a Thanksgiving episode!) This season also comes in a Steelbook case, which is always a nice bonus. It’s a nice release for fans, I just wish I could count myself as one of them.
Beavis & Butthead Do America: 25th Anniversary Edition – It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the heyday of Beavis and Butthead. Hell, it’s kind of hard to believe that Beavis and Butthead even had a heyday, but they did, and it culminated in a feature film that grossed over $60 million at the box office, Beavis and Butthead Do America. Now, I enjoyed Beavis and Butthead back in the day, so I was quite curious to see how I’d feel about this movie some two decades on since the last time I saw it. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t quite hold up as well as you’d want, but it’s also not a complete train wreck. There are still a good number of laughs to be found, and the supporting cast that includes Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Robert Stack, and Cloris Leachman only add to the fun. Amazingly, this release marks the film’s first time on Blu-ray, and it includes a digital copy, so fans of the teenage duo can finally add it to their collection in a better way.
Harold & Maude: Paramount Presents Edition – Harold & Maude is the latest entry in the excellent Paramount Presents line of Blu-ray releases, which sees some of their most popular and well-loved movies released on Blu in nice gatefold packaging with one or two new extra features and a digital copy. This 1971 Hal Ashby film stars Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort as the titular couple, a twentysomething fascinated with death who ends up with a woman about to turn 80 years old; the pair both frequent funerals and end up hitting it off. It’s not exactly your typical rom-com (and honestly, it’s not even really a romance, more of a friendship), but the film has remained pretty well-loved and critically acclaimed over the past 50 years. I’d never seen the film before, so I was interested to finally check it out, and I found it to be a unique and engaging film. It’s a little bit a product of its time, but it still holds up relatively well and I found a lot to like about it. This new edition gives you a digital copy of the film as well as a couple of extra features, and fans of the film will enjoy its deluxe gatefold packaging and artwork.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- The Jesus Music – I’ve actually never heard contemporary Christian music referred to as “Jesus Music,” but I guess the name makes just as much sense as anything else, so why not? Now, I don’t listen to Jesus music personally, but I still found this new documentary quite enjoyable. Featuring some of the biggest names in Christian music (so big, I recognized most of them), the film tells the story of Christian music through the lens of artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, Tobymac, CeCe Winans. Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, and many others. The film is a history lesson, from the genre’s humble beginnings to what it is now, a multibillion dollar industry with several legitimate celebrity acts at the forefront of it. Obviously there’s some religious themes present, but the film is more about the transformation of the genre than the “Jesus” aspect of it. Worth a watch.
- God’s Not Dead: 4-Movie Collection – A second religious-themed release hits shelves this week with the God’s Not Dead 4-Movie Collection. This quadrilogy of Christian films each takes on a different thematic issue dealing with modern Christianity, and (almost) each one features some known talent in the main roles. The first film was an actual box office hit, and that of course spawned several sequels. This new DVD set includes God’s Not Dead (starring Kevin Sorbo, Melissa Joan Hart, John Corbett and Isaiah Washington) God’s Not Dead 2 (starring Melissa Joan Hart and Jesse Metcalfe), God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (starring Megan Alexander), and the newest film, this year’s God’s Not Dead: We the People (starring William Forsythe, Isaiah Washington, and Antonio Sabato, Jr.). Admittedly, I find the films a little “us against them” in terms of mainstream christianity being the only perspective that is portrayed as being good, but I’m not really into religious movies so I’m not the target audience. The demographics who lean towards faith-based films will probably get exactly what they’re looking for with these films.
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion – I really wanted to lead off this review by talking about the dichotomy between a really great thriller and a really pedestrian title for said thriller like Broadcast Signal Intrusion, which is one of the worst movie titles of late, in my opinion. However, Broadcast Signal Intrusion manages to not only have a terrible name, it’s also a lackluster thriller. The film’s premise is quite intriguing, as we follow a man who becomes obsessed with random video footage he’s discovered of people wearing white masks that are effectively creepy. He begins to go down a rabbit hole of trying to find out what it all means and if it might tie in to more sinister events. The problem is that the film never quite gels; the mystery doesn’t to a satisfying conclusion and the thrills promised by the intriguing premise start to peter out a little too early. It’s a moody and occasionally creepy film, it just never moves the needle into truly interesting territory.
- World Series 2021: Collector’s Edition – Are you an Atlanta Braves fan? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up this new 2021 World Series release (released on Blu-ray and DVD). World Series 20201: Atlanta Braves is an eight-disc box set which lets you relive the Braves’ journey to their exciting championship in a year where sports were anything but guaranteed. It includes each game from the World Series in their entirety, and also includes a nice collection of extra features, including the complete NLCS Game 6, The 2021 World Series feature-length documentary (which is a worthwhile movie in its own right), and multiple audio options for each game such as TV, home radio, away radio and Spanish-language broadcast, all of which gives you a heck of a lot of bang for your buck. With over 22 hours of total content, this is a must-have for die-hard fans of the Braves!
- Waltons Homecoming – I had no idea there was any kind of Waltons remake in the works, so when I first saw this DVD I assumed it was just a repackaging of an original Waltons TV movie. Instead, it’s actually a remake of the original Waltons film that came out 50 years ago, and it doubles as a remake/reboot of the series as well as a Christmas movie, because it takes place at Christmastime and features some holiday-friendly themes. The film stars Logan Shroyer and Bellamy Young and it manages to capture the feeling of The Waltons while also updating it in terms of production value and performances. I’ve never really watched much of The Waltons beyond an episode here or there, but I found this an enjoyable-enough film for the season that I think fans of the show will genuinely enjoy. Good night, John Boy!
- RWBY: Volume 8 – From the creators of the hit web series Red Vs. Blue comes RWBY: Volume 8, the latest entry in the hit anime franchise. When it first came out, the series had some fans divided as a lot of people liked the characters and dialogue, but fewer people liked the animation. And while it’s still quite stylized, it seems like the fans have won out as we are now eight seasons (or volumes) into the RWBY run. I can’t say I’m a die-hard fan of the franchise, but I also sit down and watch each time a new installment comes out, so clearly I’m a little bit interested. The show definitely builds on its own continuity, so I don’t know that you can just jump right into things with Volume 8 (I think I missed a couple of volumes and I was a little confused). This newest set includes some nice extra features, including a special bonus of Justice League Vs. RWBY art cards by comic book superstar Mirka Andolfo. Cool!
- My Life is Murder: Series 2 – Lucy Lawless returns to series television in a leading role in this second season of this hit Australian series. Part drama, part comedy, all mystery, the show sees Lawless as a retired police officer who keeps getting sucked into solving crimes, thanks to her old boss and a new and young police analyst who wants to learn from the best. It’s a great mix of serious crime-solving, dramatic moments, and great comedy, all of which is anchored by Lawless, who has a been an amazing television personality for the better part of three decades, and it’s not hard to figure out why. She’s so easy to watch and personable; this is a great show on its own merits, but I doubt I’d enjoy it quite as much without Lawless in the lead role.
- Disciples of Shaolin – 88 Films has kind of come out of nowhere as a new boutique home video distributor (that I believe is a part of the MVD umbrella) that specializes in cult classic films on Blu-ray. Their latest release is the 1975 Shaw Brothers actioner Disciples of Shaolin. 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. The film follows a young man who ends up in between two rival mill owning competitors, and while he just wants a pair of shoes, he gets sucked into bigger and bigger trouble. It’s a fine movie for what it is, and if you like ‘70s era B-pictures, you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a terrific package for fans, though, with two audio commentaries, interviews, plus a booklet and a mini poster.
What’s New on Home Video – December 14th – The Last Duel, Dear Even Hansen, Copshop, Rick & Morty, & More!
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