After a few small weeks of releases, this week is jam-packed with movies new and old, lots od TV releases, and a couple of amazing archival releases. Read on for the full scoop!
Trolls Band Together (4K)
The Movie: One of the first casualties of COVID cancelling movies at movie theaters back in 2020 was the first Trolls sequel, Trolls World Tour. But the new sequel, Trolls Band Together was released to the masses and promptly grossed over $200 million worldwide. Now, I know the first Trolls movie didn’t get the critical acclaim that movies like Pixar’s flicks typically do, but it’s a favorite in our household. The humor is goofy and funny, the characters are endearing, and the songs are fantastic. So I was excited to come back to this world for Trolls Band Together, even if my expectations were a little tempered. Luckily, while Trolls Band Together might not be a masterpiece, it’s still an awful lot of fun. The characters and actors have all returned, and so has that same sense of goofiness mixed with earnestness. There is a good amount of jokes that are pop-culture savvy, especially the numerous jokes aimed at boy bands, which of course ties into the movie’s plot. This time around, Poppy discovers that Branch was once a part of a boy band with his brothers, one of whom has been kidnapped. Poppy and Branch set out to rescue the missing Floyd and reunite all four brothers. It’s a fun adventure that won’t tax your brain but will leave you smiling.
The 4K Audio/Video: Trolls Band Together comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the 4K Ultra treatment is outstanding. Colors are unbelievably vivid, and image clarity is so sharp it’s dazzling. The surround soundtrack is also a wonder, filling your speakers with bright music, discrete sound effects, and a booming low end. It’s a fantastic audiovisual presentation all around.
The Special Features: You get an original short film, a series of deleted scenes, a few more kid-friendly features, and sing along mode for all 14 of the movie’s songs. Not a treasure, but better than nothing.
The Wrap-Up: I really enjoy the Trolls movies. I know they aren’t the powerhouse franchise that some other animated movies become, but I’ll keep watching them as long as the studio keeps making them.
Conan The Barbarian & Conan The Destroyer (4K Ultra HD)
The Movies: Arrow Films has become one of my favorite (if not my favorite) home video studio in recent years, taking a max of cult and popular films and putting them out as loaded special edition releases. This week, we get new 4K Ultra HD versions of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, two of the films that helped make Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name. Now, I’ll admit, for as big of an Arnie fan as I am, it has been several years since I’d watched either of these movies, and I think I kind of half-remembered them as being, you know, just okay. But boy, was I wrong. Conan the Barbarian is an epic that skirts the line between fantasy-action masterpiece and cheesy cult classic, but it does so wonderfully. Conan the Destroyer is the lesser of the two films, but it adds a little more fun to the proceedings and I still found it immensely enjoyable. Of course, you may know all that already, so then the real attraction here is the Special Edition releases themselves, which come in beautiful packaging and loaded with extra features. (NOTE: I only received Blu-ray discs for review, so I can not comment on the 4K audio/video quality as I normally would.)
The Special Features: On Conan the Barbarian, there are three cuts of the film, two audio commentaries (including an archival one with Schwarzenegger and director John Milius, an archival feature-length documentary from 2000 featuring interviews from all the major players, ten all-new interview featurettes detailing the making of the movie and its legacy, a series of archival featurettes, outtakes, an original EPK that runs about half an hour, an archive gallery, and more. Then there are the physical goodies, which include a poster, six postcards, and a lengthy book. Conan the Destroyer isn’t quite as packed, but it still gives you four audio commentaries (three archival and one new), five new interview featurettes, two archival featurettes, and more. Plus you get a poster, six postcards, and a book. Amazing stuff!
The Wrap-Up: Whether you’re here to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in his early-career glory or because you truly love these films, I can highly recommend Arrow Video’s terrific Special Edition releases of both Conan movies. The films are fantastic and these are hands down the best versions released on home video yet.
Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part One 4K
The Movie: In the DC Comics universe, Crisis on Infinite Earths was a huge mega-event in the 1980s that aimed to take all of DCs many multiversal earths and condense them into one cohesive universe. Written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by the legendary George Perez, it’s considered a classic of the Bronze Age of comics. Now, personally, it’s never been a series that resonated with me, and frankly, I always found it kind of confusing. My hope was that thew new DC Animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part One (out this week in a sharp 4K Ultra HD Steelbook edition!) would streamline some of that confusion and give me a really exciting movie. As Part One of a planned trilogy, the film focuses on The Flash, who’s bouncing around through time periods in his own lifetime. This leads to the discovery that there’s an antimatter wave destroying the multiverse, and Flash must team with heroes from many alternate earths in order to stop it. The film brings together threads from the last eight DC animated movies, which all were apparently laying some groundwork for this massive trilogy. For my money I found it perfectly serviceable. Honestly, the last several DC animated movies haven’t really blown me away, and this one is no different. It’s perfectly fine, it’s just not that exciting. I will say that it does a good job of wrapping up the main story while also setting up a cliffhanger that leads into the next film without leaving the story feeling unresolved.
The 4K Audio/Video: Justice League: COIE Part One comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD). The film looks and sounds great. For example, blacks are deep and solid and image clarity is sharp, while colors are nice and vibrant. The surround soundtrack does nice work as well, with a generous spreading out of surround effects through each satellite speaker
The Special Features: There are two featurettes that run about 10 minutes each: Infinite Primer and The Selfless Speedster. They’re brief but enjoyable.
The Wrap-Up: Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part One is a solid enough animated film, and it does feature some nice animation. Fans of DC Comics and their animated movies will probably find a lot to like here. I enjoyed it overall, but at the end of the day, it just didn’t blow me away.
Special Ops: Lioness
The Show: Zoe Saldana, Dave Annable, and Nicole Kidman star in this intense action series from Paramount+. Created and largely written by Taylor Sheridan, the mastermind behind the Yellowstone juggernaut franchise, the show focuses on Saldana’s Joe, a special ops team leader who recruits a new undercover operative shortly after losing one in an op gone bad. Determined to keep this one alive, Joe puts her new recruit through the ringer, all while trying to bring down a terrorist mastermind. I was mildly interested in Special Ops: Lioness when I first saw the trailers for it, but I never got around to watching it until this review copy showed up. And I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It’s not dissimilar to something like Reacher or The Terminal List, and it kind of fits into that whole Tom Clancy vibe. It’s also incredibly intense. This is not a lighthearted show, and there are some moments that will have your heart rate going through the roof. It also has some incredible action sequences; this show clearly has a high budget and it shows on screen. If you’re looking for a new action/thriller/drama to binge, you will definitely want to check this show out.
The Special Features: There are four making-of featurettes that total over 90 minutes of material: Behind the Story, Embedded With Special Ops: Lioness, Battle Forged Calm: Tactics & Training, and Inside the Series. Not bad!
The Wrap-Up: Zoe Saldana is a great actress, despite what those T-Mobile commercials would have you think, and she’s utterly fantastic here. With a great supporting cast, excellent scripts, great production values, and a level of intensity you don’t find all that often, Special Ops: Lioness is a great viewing experience.
Magnum PI: The Final Season & The Complete Series
The Show: The CBS reboot of Magnum P.I. was a solid hit for the network, lasting five seasons, and that’s no small feat in this day and age. With the show coming to a close, CBS/Paramount has two new releases for fans: Magnum P.I.: The Final Season and Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series, a massive 24-disc box set that includes all 96 episodes of the show. There’s not much new to report here; the show was always an enjoyable-enough action/adventure/mystery romp. The biggest issue that I had with it personally was that it never really felt like Magnum, it’s always felt much more like another typical CBS procedural. Jay Hernandez has more charm than most of your typical CSI or NCIS leads, but that’s about the major difference, aside from a few aesthetic trappings. Season Five kept to the procedural format, with Magnum, Higgins, and company getting caught up in new mysteries every week and just the occasional carry-through plot lines here and there. It’s a perfectly enjoyable show for what it is, I just never found anything all that special about it. Still, if you’re a fan, this is your chance to either finish your collection with The Final Season DVD release, or to get the whole kit and kaboodle in one fell swoop with The Complete Series box set.
The Special Features: Each set comes with its own respective extra features. The Final Season includes the usual features, which are simply deleted scenes. The Complete Series collects all of the extra features from each of the previous five seasons’ DVD releases, giving you over two hours of extra features. These include a half-dozen featurettes, a video diary, gag reels, Deleted & Extended Scenes, and a crossover episode of Hawaii Five-O.
The Wrap-Up: While five seasons is on the shorter end of a run for a CBS procedural (I’m looking at you, NCIS!), it’s hard for fans of the show to complain when they got almost a hundred episodes. Now they can relive them all over again on DVD with either Magnum P.I.: The Final Season or Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series.
Billions: The Final Season & The Complete Series
The Show: Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis anchored the hit Showtime series Billions, but like all shows, eventually it had to come to an end. Much like Magnum above, this week gives us Billions: The Final Season, for those of you who have been collecting it all along, and Billions: The Complete Series, a huge box set comprised of 84 episodes on 28 discs. The show, which has found quite an audience, was about drama and high stakes manipulation in the world of high finance. Unfortunately, for me personally, this was one of those shows that I could always appreciate more than I actually liked. The production values were terrific without a doubt and the actors were always firing on all cylinders. So I can’t say it wasn’t a good show, it was just a show that I personally could never get into it. I don’t generally love stories set in the financial world, and while there are some good narratives here, I could never really relate to the characters and find the ones I could really resonate with. Again, the show definitely had an audience, but like its spiritual brethren Succession, this show was about a world that I just couldn’t connect with or find much interest in.
The Special Features: The Final Season includes two making-of featurettes, while The Complete Series includes almost 20 short making-of featurettes.
The Wrap-Up: Premium cable shows seem to either run for a half dozen seasons or get canceled after one, so for Billions to last seven seasons on Showtime, it’s clear that it had a devoted fan following. Said fans will be thrilled with either of these DVD offerings that allows them to revisit the world of Billions whenever they want.
The Raid: Redemption (4K)
The Movie: This British/Thai action film burst onto the movie scene out of nowhere back in 2011 and became sort-of this century’s version of Die Hard. (Not that it’s as good as Die Hard, just that it became a fan favorite and inspired many other movies which copied its formula.) And that’s for good reason: It’s one of the most intense, balls-to-the-wall action films of the past two decades. The “story” (for lack of a better word) involves a SWAT team that goes into an apartment building controlled by a crime lord, who basically sets a building’s worth of criminals upon them once they reach the sixth floor. But that’s really just an excuse for several absolutely mind-blowing action scenes. It’s the perfect mindless thrill ride, and the cinematography and choreography just make it near-perfect. This week, Sony gives us a new version of the film on 4K Ultra HD in a sharp-looking Steelbook case, the perfect release for fans who have been itching to revisit this high-octane thriller.
The 4K Audio/Video: The Raid comes to 4K Ultra HD, and this new version sees the film getting a nice upgrade from the Blu-ray and DVD releases in the past. The Dolby Vision treatment benefits the film nicely, with rich and even blacks and strong contrasts. Color saturation is strong, with the predominantly dark interior scenes not seeing the various hues getting lost in the crush. The Dolby 5.1 surround soundtrack isn’t a masterpiece, but it does feature some nice directional effects in the surround speakers and a strong balance that keeps it from becoming overwhelming, even with that powerful bass channel. It’s a very strong overall presentation.
The Special Features: I believe all of the extra features here are carried over from the original release, but this disc is still loaded. You get a commentary track with director Gareth Evans, a series of behind-the-scenes video blogs, two interview featurettes, two featurettes about the film’s music, and more!
The Wrap-Up: The Raid: Redemption wasn’t able to turn into a franchise (although it did spawn a disappointing sequel), but that’s okay. Not every movie needs to become a franchise. The Raid can stand alone as simply an incredible action movie that defined a decade of action filmmaking. This new Steelbook 4K version of the film is the perfect way to add it to your collection.
Journey to Bethlehem
The Movie: Yes, I know it would have made more sense to review this Christmas-themed film in December, but I just got my review copy a few days ago so I can’t do much without that. Journey to Bethlehem is a new retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, this time told as a musical with current pop-styled songs in the soundtrack. Now, on the surface, that sounds cringeworthy, but the film is the directorial debut of Adam Anders, who was one of the musical masterminds behind the songs on Glee, which had some moments of pop culture brilliance. And while I’m not a religious viewer, the film is bright and lively and colorful and the songs are actually pretty solid. If you are looking for a new Christmas movie to add to your holiday rotation, I think families could have a lot of fun with Journey to Bethlehem.
The Special Features: There are about a half dozen short featurettes, plus three deleted and extended scenes. Plus you get a digital copy.
The Wrap-Up: Journey to Bethlehem probably isn’t for the most traditional religious families, but if you want to relive the story of the nativity in a movie that has modern pop sensibilities and manages to remain respectful of the source material, this film is worth watching.
Stephen King’s Thinner
The Movie: In the 21st century, we’ve seen Stephen King movies like The Mist and Doctor Sleep and 1408 prove that great movies can be made from the bestselling author’s books. So it’s easy to forget that for many years, a movie adaptation of a King novel was pretty much tantamount to a garbage flick. Or at least that was the perception. I maintain that there were a few good movies sprinkled in throughout the dregs that took up most of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Stephen King’s Thinner – out this week in a new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition from Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint — isn’t one of the best King adaptations, but it sure isn’t one of the worst. Directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play), the film stars Robert John Burke as an obese attorney who gets cursed by a gypsy to lose weight. Which sounds like a curse I would like, except in this case, the weight loss won’t stop and Burke’s Billy Halleck begins to waste away to nothing. Burke never became a mainstream star, but supporting cast embers Joe Mantegna, Bethany Joy Lenz, and Kari Wuhrer add some familiar (and welcome) faces to the proceedings. It’s not a horror masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable enough flick.
The Special Features: This is a pretty packed disc. You get no less than three audio commentaries, two of which are new, and two of which (one new and one archival) feature Joe Mantegna. There are also three new interview featurettes (including one with director Tom Holland) that each run around 15 minutes per, plus an archival 20-minute featurette. You also get trailers and a stills gallery.
The Wrap-Up: Stephen King’s Thinner is one of the more forgotten King adaptations, so I’m glad to see Scream Factory giving it a new life on home video with this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. If you’ve never seen it or it’s been a long time since you watched it, I’d give it a spin. I think you’ll enjoy it.
The Movie: As I tried to boil the plot of Wolf Pack down into a sentence or two, I realized there’s no easy way to do that. And usually, that’s the kiss of death for an action film, because it means that the plot is so convoluted that it overshadows the action. Such is not the case with the new Chinese action flick Wolf Pack. What you need to know is that the story sees a physician getting mixed up with a mercenary group whose activities lead to the uncovering of a conspiracy. But what you really need to know is that Wolf Pack is an hour and forty-five minutes of non-stop, high-budget action that is absolutely heart-stopping. We’ve got all kinds of military action, gunfights, vehicle action, hand-to-hand combat, you name it. The adrenaline kicks in early and never lets go, and the result is a film that can rival any of the latest Hollywood action blockbusters.
The Special Features: The fact that you only get the film’s trailer is a bit disappointing.
The Wrap-Up: I was excited abut Wolf Pack because the trailer for it looked pretty good, but I’m very happy that it turns out to be an action-packed thrill ride that doesn’t fall apart due to a terrible story or bad acting or anything like that. Check it out if you’re an action junkie like me.
Your Lucky Day
The Movie: There is so much to unpack with Your Lucky Day, I don’t even know where to start. First of all, the film’s electric lead actor, Angus Cloud, sadly passed away recently of an accidental overdose. That’s a shame for obvious reasons, but also because his performance here is terrific. The film was also originally a short film, but writer/director Dan Brown (not the Da Vinci Code guy) has now expanded it into a feature-length film. And also, the film itself is dizzying, and I mean that in a good way. A lot happens in the beginning that I don’t need to explain here, but ultimately it ends up with a winning lottery ticket (of over $100 million) leading to a hostage situation in a convenience store, which then leads to our ensemble of characters going through moral quandaries and also trying to survive as things escalate and get more and more tense. It’s a tour-de-force, with plot twists aplenty, and Cloud anchors it all in the lead role. The supporting cast is largely unknown, but Brown coaxes good performances out of everyone, and the film is engaging from start to finish.
The Special Features: Sadly there are no bonus features.
The Wrap-Up: Your Lucky Day isn’t the kind of film that’s going to get a lot of press, but it is the kind of film that is worth your attention. It’s a nail-biting little thriller that will take you by surprise.
The Sea Shall Not Have Them/Albert R.N. Double Feature
The Movie: Cohen Media Group has done great job in recent years of taking lesser-known foreign films and semi-forgotten classic-era films and releasing them on Blu-ray and DVD for home video. This week, we get a new double feature from the studio featuring two war-based films, The Sea Shall Not Have Them and Albert R.N. This is actually a double feature subtitled Two British Wartime Classics Directed by Lewis Gilbert. The first movie, The Sea Shall Not Have Them is a terrific drama about a downed World War II plane carrying soldiers, a VIP, and some highly sensitive information. As they try to keep their dinghy afloat (and their spirits up) while awaiting rescue, we learn about them as people and become invested in the characters. The film stars Michael Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde, and Bonar Colleano, and it’s a terrific little drama with suspenseful elements. Albert R.N., meanwhile, also takes place in 1944 and see a group of P.O.W.’s in a German prisoner camp suspect there is a spy in their midst after several escape attempts are foiled, and so they devise a dummy called “Albert” to help aid them in their next escape. Again, it’s an enjoyable movie with a cast that lacks big names but not talent.
The Special Features: There are no extras but that’s not surprising with little-known older films like this. Two for the price of one movies lessens the sting of that a little bit!
The Wrap-Up: Both films included here are solidly good wartime classics. Are they masterpieces? Not really. But you do get two highly enjoyable films with a common theme for the price of one, and that’s hard to argue with.
What’s New on Home Video: January 30th, 2024 – Trolls, Justice League, Conan, Magnum, Billions, The Raid, & More!
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