This week has some really interesting releases, including some great new catalog titles and a couple of lesser-seen but worthwhile newer films. Check out the full slate of releases below!
Devotion – Based on a true story, Devotion tells the story of Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in Navy history and his fellow fighter pilot and friend, Tom Hudner, who flew together and became friends during the Korean War. Jonathan Majors (so great as King in the Marvel movies) and Glen Powell (so great in Top Gun: Maverick) take on the lead roles here and both are terrific, although it’s weird to see Powell playing another pilot right after Top Gun: Maverick. The film focuses on the friendship between the two and the racism that Brown dealt with as he tried to simply get treated as a Navy pilot and nothing more. It’s an interesting film; on the one hand, it looks great and it’s well-acted, and it will hold your interest throughout. On the other hand, there’s just something missing from the movie and I can’t quite put my finger on what. I enjoyed the film, but it never moved past ‘good’ into ‘great’ territory for me. And I wish I could nail down what it is that’s missing, but I can’t, it just doesn’t really get there for me. Devotion comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it does look and sound quite spectacular on 4K. It boasts razor sharp imagery and a surround soundtrack that makes it feel like aerial battles are being fought right in your living room. I wish I liked the film itself a little more, but ultimately Devotion is still worth a watch.
Training Day (4K Ultra HD) – Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Training Day came out, but the film that earned Denzel Washington his first Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award is now two decades old. But the film feels as.fresh as ever, and the new 4K Ultra HD release gives it a nice new upgrade. It’s funny, I was never all that big of a fan of the film when it first came out, and I wrongly believed that Denzel earned his Oscar more because he played a bad guy (against his usual type) than anything else. Watching the film for the first time in many, many years, I realize how wrong I was about that. Washington’s performance is a crackerjack; the way he spews that rapid fire dialogue and the way he bounces back and forth between friendly and funny and cool and menacing is absolutely incredible, and he definitely deserved that award. The film as a whole is just great, too, I definitely appreciate it more now than I did when it came out. The 4K Ultra HD release really gives the film a makeover. I compared it to a standard high def release and the difference in color saturation and image clarity is astounding. It makes the film look a whole lot more enticing. Training Day is a terrific film anchored by a white hot performance by one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and this is the best it’s looked on home video yet.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 4K Ultra HD Steelbook – The original Leatherface classic is back! MPI Video has delivered what is – in my opinion – the ultimate home video version of Texas Chain Saw yet. First of all, let me get this out of the way: I’m not an overwhelmingly huge fan of TCSM. It’s a seminal film in the horror genre and I recognize its importance, and I don’t hate it or anything, but every TCSM film I’ve ever seen always leaves me feeling like I need to take a shower. They’re just a bit too brutal and gruesome for my tastes. I lean more towards the Halloween brand of horror, personally. That said, this new release is absolutely outstanding. Offering both a 4K Ultra HD disc and a Blu-ray disc, the whole package is wrapped up into a gorgeous Steelbook case, which is always a bonus. The 4K Ultra HD upgrade is a worthwhile one. Now, look, the film was made in the 1970s with a budget of about $35, so you can only do so much in terms of A/V upgrade. But the picture looks crisper, cleaner, and more vibrant than I’ve ever seen it before. The surround soundtrack won’t compare to a 2020s-era big budget actioner, but it does utilize the rear speakers enough to give you a solid atmosphere, and the sound of the chainsaw is powerful enough to send chills up your spine. Where the set really shines is the extra features. On the 4K disc, you get a whopping four commentary tracks, including ones with director Tobe Hooper, Leatherface actor Gunnar Hansen, actress Marilyn Burns, and many others. Then, on the Blu-ray disc, you also get dozens of featurettes and interviews and trailers and galleries, most of which have been released previously but are still a welcome addition. But then, the crown jewel of the extras is a brand-new feature-length making-of documentary called The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is pretty awesome. This is a jam-packed release packed with extras, an upgrade picture and sound experience, and a collective steelbook case, making it a must have for fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin – Season 1 – The original Pretty Little Liars was a soap opera-y mystery based on a popular series of books that fit right in on a network like ABC Family, which ironically housed many shows that weren’t really family fare. It was incredibly popular, running for seven seasons and spawning a few spinoff shows, none of which fared very well. Now, HBO Max has taken the reins and has relaunched the show entirely with Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, a new spin on the story of five friends who are texted by a mysterious tormentor who knows… well, knows what they did last summer. In this case, though, it seems too be tied to a secret each of their mothers held when they were in high school, adding another layer to the mystery. Now, whereas the original show was like the 90210 mystery club, this new iteration is clearly leaning much heavier into the horror genre, giving it a much darker and more menacing vibe. And the end result is… solidly okay. On the one hand, it’s definitely grittier and less frothy than the original. On the other hand, it’s a bit too grimdark for my tastes. Also, some of the writing is a bit precious, such as the one movie buff character who keeps dropping self-aware movie opinions, such as how Ari Aster is a god and Hereditary is a perfect movie. First of all, that’s just not true, and second of all, it’s like it’s trying to be meta and not meta at the same time, and it just feels a little obnoxious. Ultimately I wasn’t won over by the show, but your mileage may vary.
Kubo and The Two Strings and The Boxtrolls (4K Steelbook Editions) – I’m a huge fan of Laika Studios, and so I’m thrilled they’ve chosen to continue to release their films as Limited Edition Steelbooks. Kubo and The Two Strings and The Boxtrolls come to home video once again in the premium 4K Ultra HD format (with Blu-rays included in each release as well) that are both packaged in separate Steelbook cases that feature absolutely gorgeous artwork. Seriously, even if you already own the films, the Steelbooks are so pretty that you’ll want them again just for the collectability. Laika Studios specializes in stop-motion animation movies that look absolutely amazing; I swear with some of them (especially Kubo), you’re convinced you’re watching CGI. As for the films themselves, Kubo and the Two Strings is an absolutely amazing action/fantasy movie that might seem like it’s a kids’ film because it’s animated, but adults will love every bit as much. In this movie, young Kubo goes on a quest with his monkey companion and his two-string “guitar,” which I recognize doesn’t sound like an incredible film. But there are action scenes in this film that rival anything in the latest Marvel blockbuster, and there’s so much heart in I that you’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love with these characters. If you’ve never seen Kubo and the Two Strings, I can’t recommend tracking it down highly enough. Now, I’ll be honest, as much as I like Laika’s films, I’m not really a fan of The Boxtrolls. As usual, the animation is top notch, but I found the story and the general aesthetic of the whole Boxtrolls world to be not to my tastes. Hey, you can’t win ‘em all. Both films look and sound absolutely stunning in 4K Ultra HD, so the upgrade is definitely worthwhile, and each disc also comes with a number of making-of special features, all wrapped up in their super-cool Steelbook cases. If you’re a fan of either of these films, these new versions are both top notch!
Northern Shade – I hadn’t heard of this movie before the review copy crossed my desk, but it’s a pretty intriguing release. The film takes place during COVID, and it follows an ex-veteran named Justin as he tries to find his brother and save him from of a militaristic domestic terrorist group that he’s fallen in with. He’s aided by an ex-cop named Frankie, who has her own reasons for joining the search. With the film utilizing COVID as a plot point and the topic of extremism/domestic terrorism a very timely one, the film feels quite contemporary and that works towards its favor. Apparently, some one-third of the cast and crew of the film is veterans, which gives everything a real sense of authenticity, but – if I’m being honest – also results in some of its flaws. Director Christopher Rucinski has a sure hand behind the camera, but there are some occasional pacing issues, the script isn’t perfect, and there are a few performances that are a little on the mediocre side. Luckily, the two lead actors, Jesse Gavin and Titania Galliher, are both quite good, and they really carry the film. Overall, though, the film is a pretty tense affair and it does get you engaged pretty early on, and those qualities way outweigh my few niggling complaints. Northern Shade is definitely worth a look.
Invincible Compendium & Invincible # 1 Collector’s Editions – While not an actual home video release, I wanted to mention a few of the products available from Skybound to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Invincible, the hit Image comic book that went on to become an incredibly popular animated series on Amazon Prime. I’ve been a huge fan of the Invincible comic book since the very first issue hit shelves, and now that it’s been 20 years since it came out, Skybound is celebrating that anniversary with some new comic book releases. First off, there are two Collector’s Edition reprints of #1: one is a straight Facsimile Edition which reprints #1 in its entirety, while the other, the Undeluxe Edition, presents the artwork inside in black-and-white, the way it was originally drawn. Then, there’s the Invincible Compendium 1 Hardcover, which is a whoppingly massive new hardcover version of the previously paperback-only collection that includes the first 48 issues of the comic book in one gorgeous volume. It’s a similar size to the popular omnibuses that DC and Marvel have made a huge part of the bookstore shelves, and it’s one of the best reading experiences you could ever ask for. If you love the Invincible animated series but have never read the comic book before, do yourself a favor and check these out. You’ll thank me for it!
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- B’Twixt Now and Sunrise – Back in 2011, Francis Ford Coppola made a low-budget movie called Twixt that was focused a lot on dreams and was in fact based on some of the dreams the director had had. Now, some 12 years later, the director has decided to revisit that film and has given us B’Twixt Now and Sunrise, a re-edited director’s cut of the film that he bills as The Authentic Cut. It’s actually a few good minutes shorter than the original release, which is sort of a blessing in my eyes because I never cared for the original film. The film sees Val Kilmer as a writer doing a book signing in a small town who gets sucked into the world of the weird and bizarre, much of it entwined in dreams. A lot of the more fantastical sequences were shot on green screen to give them an unearthly quality, but the end result is that the film looks like something out of an early-era, low budget Doctor Who episode. I can’t say I remember enough about the film to directly compare both versions, but the fact that this one is only 79 minutes versus the original’s 88 minutes means it’s at least a more compact affair. I can’t say it’s a good film now, but it might be worth a look for Coppola completists.
- The Retaliators – A dark and brutal film, The Retaliators is being marketed as a bit of a hard rock who’s who, with cameo appearances (and music) by Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee, Five Finger Death Punch’s Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory, and Chris Kael, Papa Roach, Jaya of The Hu, Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills, Eva Under Fire’s Amanda Lyberg, and a number of other musicians. But honestly, all of that takes a back seat to the fact that this is an incredibly violent and bloody film. When a pastor’s daughter is murdered, he is approached by a man who offers to let the pastor have one minute with the killer, who he has captured and restrained. The only rule: he can’t kill the guy. Well, as you can imagine, it’s not that simple, and things escalate from there, resulting in a bloodbath of violence that seemingly used more money on fake blood than most movies use on special effects. I can’t say I really liked the film, but I can’t say I hated it either; it’s never boring, I can tell you that for sure. But I would say this one is definitely geared more to hardcore horror fans and is not for the faint of heart.
- The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: The Complete Season 9 and The Complete Season 10 – Because the show aired over half a century ago, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is not exactly a big part of the pop culture conversation today, so it’s easy to forget what a huge part of early American television the series was. Starting in 1952 and running for a whopping 14 seasons (with over 400 episodes!), the show was a prototypical family comedy with parents Ozzie and Harriet raising their two young sons, David and Ricky. The twist here was that the family on screen was played by the real life Nelson family. America got to watch the boys grow up, and Ricky Nelson became one of the first teen heartthrobs of the television generation. While there have been a smattering of home video releases over the years, most of them were just random collections of episodes with no semblance of order to them. A few moths back, MPI Video finally answered fans’ requests with the first two official releases of the show, followed up with the next six seasons, and now we have two more seasons! Wow! MPI is clearly fast tracking the releases to try to get the whole series into fans’ hands without a giant wait in between each release. So this month delivers The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet: The Complete Seasons Nine and Ten, each released as their own complete season set. Both of these sets includes all of the episodes from their respective seasons, and while the shows have some various minor video issues here and there, I was surprised by the high audiovisual quality of most of the episodes, especially for a show that premiered 70 years ago. The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is a fun and wholesome family comedy that is a nice snapshot of a different time in America’s history, and I’m glad to see MPI Video finally giving this touchstone of American pop culture the release it deserves.