It’s a pretty jam-packed week, with some big box office hits, some great catalogue releases, and one bona fide internet sensation. Check it out!
The Bad Guys – I wasn’t really expecting a lot out of The Bad Guys. Despite the fact that it was a huge hit, I chalked that up more to the fact that there aren’t that many kids movies out right now than anything else. But it turns out, I really enjoyed the film. The story of a group of master thieves who try (sort of?) to turn good, the film is really a lot fun. What I especially liked about it is that — while it is somewhat funny – it doesn’t try to force the humor. There aren’t a ton of Uber-current pop culture references, nor do they try to jam in a gag a minute. Instead, the filmmakers chose to give us a good heist movie with likable characters and a story that keeps things moving at a fast pace. Sam Rockwell is terrific as Wolf, the leader of the crew, and he’s ably supported by Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Marc Maron, and Zazie Beetz as his cohorts and associates. It’s not a masterpiece or anything like that, but I found it really very enjoyable and endearing, and I think both kids and adults will enjoy it. I also really liked the animation style, which is firmly CGI but has some touches inspired by 2D animation to give the film a unique feel. The Bad Guys has been released on on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD, which is an absolutely fantastic way to view (and hear) the film. The animation looks spectacular, with colors that are bright and vibrant alongside deep, inky blacks. The surround soundtrack has plenty to work with, and it keeps all of your speakers active at all times. It’s a terrific presentation of a surprisingly good film.
Morbius – Okay, I know Morbius has become the latest butt of internet jokes and memes, and that’s fine, I guess, but honestly, the film is perfectly decent. Is it great? No. Is it a solidly enjoyable vampire/superhero film? Yes. It’s an origin story, sure, and it’s a little light on content, so it’s not like there aren’t criticisms to be found. The film’s climax happens and I thought there was more to come because it just didn’t seem that big, only to quickly realize that that was the end of the film. But it’s an easy way to kill 90 minutes, and it never slows the action down enough to become boring. I don’t know what people were expecting or why people have decided it’s SO bad, but my advice to you think Morbius is truly awful is to watch more movies, because you clearly haven’t seen truly awful yet. Morbius hits home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and it shines in the premium format. There’s a lot to like visually in this film, and the daytime scenes look bright and colorful, while the many nighttime scenes never lose visual acuity in the dark, boasting excellent shadow delineation. The soundtrack has a lot to work with and is very good as well. I know people are going to continue to pile on the movie, but if you just watch it as a movie and not hold it up to the standards of proper Marvel Studios fare, I think you’ll see it’s a perfectly decent viewing experience.
The Northman – Okay, let me be perfectly upfront here: I don’t like Robert Eggers’ films. The director previously brought us The Witch (which I found interminably boring) and The Lighthouse (which I just flat out hated), and while my dislike for them is no secret, they remain critically well-regarded films. Now we have The Northman, which sees Eggers take on a brutal Viking tale of revenge while continuing his quest to make movies I absolutely hate. And he 100% succeeded. Not only is the film waaaay too long at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it’s also mostly angry muscle men screaming savagely at each other, alternating with angry muscle men sitting around fires and having many, many visions and omens. Oh, plus there’s a whole bunch of brutal and gory violence, too. I actually lost track of the beheadings in the film, and that includes at least one horse (but I think it was like two or three.) Legitimately, there were only two scenes in the film I liked; one, a fight between our main character and a ghostly knight, and the other a scene between the main character and his mother. That’s not a great ratio, folks, when you only like two scenes in a two-hour-plus film. The Northman is available on Blu-ray and DVD, as usual, but also 4K Ultra HD, which is definitely the way to go if you have the capability. This is the kind of film that the premium format was made to showcase, in terms of both sound and picture. The one good thing I can say about the film is that it is quite visually stunning, and the 4K format gives us razor sharp imagery that still preserves the often dreamlike quality of the film. The surround soundtrack uses both atmospheric effects and discrete sound placements to put you in the action, and from an A/V perspective, the film and the 4K disc is a success. From any other viewpoint, though, the film is just unpleasant from start to finish.
Father Stu – Mark Wahlberg turns in an absolutely magnificent performance in this new dramedy that’s based on the true story of Father Stu, a man who went from being a scrappy ne’er-do-well to a man of faith. I don’t generally go for faith-based movies, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and while there is a large component of the film that deals with religion, this isn’t a Christian movie per se, at least not in the traditional sense. In fact, it’s more of a biopic of a regular guy who drifts through life as a boxer, an actor, and a grocery clerk on his way to finding his true calling, and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Wahlberg gives his best performance since Boogie Nights and Father Stu is actually — ironically — somewhat reminiscent of that earlier movie, at least in tone and vibe, if not content. Mel Gibson shows up as well as Stu’s father, and he also gives an excellent performance. Honestly, I know the subject matter may turn some people off, but it’s really a great film that I think most people will like. There’s a lot of humor as well as some dramatic moments, and Wahlberg is just so likable while remaining rough around the edges that you just don’t want to take your eyes off him. Father Stu is definitely worth checking out.
Shaft – The Criterion Collection always does a great job of selecting titles for their catalogue. Whether it’s noteworthy critically-acclaimed films, foreign films in need of a new audience, or culturally significant films, they know how to make a great home video release. Now, personally, I totally understand why Shaft was selected for inclusion; easily the most successful and popular of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, it made a star out of Richard Roundtree, launched a franchise (and eventual remakes with Samuel L. Jackson), and tackled some social commentary topics. That all said, it’s not a film I’m particularly fond of. There are some great scenes, sure, but I find it a tad on the slow side and while it’s definitely a snapshot of a particular era, I find it a little too mired in the ‘70s for me personally. Regardless, the Criterion Collection special edition (available on Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD) comes with remastered and restored sound and picture, as well as a bevy of special features. This time around, not only do you get the usual interviews, essays, and making-of features, you also get a complete second movie, with the sequel Shaft’s Big Score! included as one of the bonus features. Hard to complain about getting two films for the price of one! Another stellar release from Criterion.
Aquaman: King of Atlantis – I was expecting another DC Universe animated movie when I saw a new Aquaman DVD in my review pile, but it turns out instead to be an animated miniseries that leans towards younger viewers that debuted on HBO Max. Now, the complete miniseries has been edited to a full-length movie that has been released on DVD for home viewers. The film isn’t breaking any new ground, story-wise, with Aquaman up against the usual threats and villains (such as Ocean Master) and helped by his romantic interest, Mera. But this version of Aquaman leans heavily into the humor, silliness, and surreality of the character and his surroundings. The animation style is very reminiscent of Cartoon Network shows like Steven Universe, so that gives you some idea of what you’re getting here. The movie is fun; it’s not great, it’s not terrible. There were parts I enjoyed and parts I didn’t, but kids will probably enjoy it and parents will find it more fun than some other kids fare along the same lines.
Also Available This Week:
- Ip Man: The Awakening – After Donnie Yen starred in a trilogy of very popular films about the real-life grandmaster who at one point trained Bruce Lee, the studio behind the films clearly didn’t want to let the franchise die. I don’t know how much of what goes on in these films is based on true events anymore, but clearly historical accuracy isn’t the focus here. Instead, we get a drama/action hybrid that focuses on the early days of a young Ip Man, before the events of the trilogy. Here, he goes up against a human trafficking ring. Again, I don’t now if there’s any basis in reality for this, but sure, why not? It’s an engaging series and a perfectly fine if unexceptional prequel film, although I don’t know that the series really needed to continue after a pretty solid trilogy.
- Uncle Sam: Special Edition – Blue Underground has made some real headway into bringing out fantastic special edition releases of cult horror movies, and their latest release is Uncle Sam, a 1996 low-budget flick from the creators of the popular Maniac Cop trilogy. This one sees an army soldier killed in action during Desert Storm who comes back to life on July 4th starts killing unpatriotic townspeople. So, yes, we get a zombie dressed as Uncle Sam killing people, and if that doesn’t tell you what you’re in for, I don’t know what will. The film includes Isaac Hayes, Robert Forster, Timothy Bottoms, and P.J. Soles as cast members, and it’s one of those films that wasn’t really filmed as a comedy but somehow turns into one when you watch it, which I see as a good thing. It’s not a horror masterpiece, but it’s the kind of movie that will make for a fun time to watch with a bunch of friends on a Saturday night. This new Special Edition release includes the film on both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, and also includes a number of extra features. It’s a terrific package for fans of the film with a lot of bang for your buck.
- Vampire’s Kiss – Vampire’s Kiss is one of Nicolas Cage’s earlier films, the one in which he notoriously ate a live cockroach on film. This week, it makes what I believe is its Blu-ray debut courtesy of MVD, who gives the film their signature MVD Rewind Collection treatment, meaning we get the movie accompanied by some cool bonus features. The film sees Cage meet a beautiful woman who appears to be a vampire, leading him to think he’s become one, too. The film hinges on the fact, though, that there’s a real question as to whether he is actually a vampire or just believes he’s become one. It’s a genre-mashing movie that incorporates horror and black comedy, all centering around one of Cage’s most manic performances. It’s a fun film that I’m betting not a lot of people have seen. The extra features on the disc aren’t overly copious, but the standout is an audio commentary with Nic Cage himself. Score!
- King Ralph – The first of several new catalogue Blu-ray releases from Mill Creek this week, King Ralph is a fun John Goodman comedy from the early ‘90s. I always enjoy Mill Creek’s catalog releases, as they give me a fun and affordable way to revisit films from the past that weren’t quite huge hits but are memorable enough to be worth revisiting and often aren’t available on streaming services. King Ralph sees Goodman playing a very John Goodman-esque American everyman who becomes the king of England through an unusual circumstance that wipes out the royal family. The usual fish-out-of-water hijinks ensue, and while the movie is definitely a little dated, it still holds up as a fun comedy that will have you smiling, if not laughing out loud. This was a fun one to revisit.
- Heart and Souls – Likely the least-remembered of the the Mill Creek catalogue releases this week, Heart and Souls stars a pre-Marvel Robert Downey Jr. as a young man who has had “invisible friends” since he was a youth. Now in his twenties, he discovers that they’re ghosts who need his help to move on. The film also stars Charles Grodin, Elisabeth Shue, Kyra Sedgwick, Alfre Woodard, and Tom Sizemore, making it a pretty star-studded affair. Directed by Ron Underwood, who scored a huge hit with City Slickers a couple of years prior, Heart and Souls doesn’t hit the heights of that comedy smash, but it is a pleasant and enjoyable movie with some sweet drama and a lot of likable characters. It’s not a must-see film, but if you’ve never watched it, you’d probably enjoy checking out this new Blu-ray.
- Assault on Precinct 13 – Easily my favorite of the Mill Creek catalogue Blu-rays this week, Assault on Precinct 13 is the 2005 film starring Ethan Hawke and Laurence FIshburne. It’s a remake of one of John Carpenter’s first films, the cult classic 1976 version of Assault on Precinct 13. While many remakes can be a waste of time, this one is actually very good. While it lacks Carpenter’s signature panache, as a straightforward action film, it’s incredibly effective. The story of a group of criminals and police who have to team up to defend a police station against a vicious criminal organization intent on killing someone inside on the eve of the station’s shut down, the film is tense, taut, and exciting, and I really like it. It never got the attention it deserved, but if you’ve never watched (or even if you have), I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a great little action flick that’s a lot of fun.
- Through the Decades: 2000s and 2010s – The Mill Creek parade continues! The distributor specializes in low-priced film collections and catalog releases, and with these two new Through the Decades collections, they offer up some pretty interesting mixes of films. Of course, neither one is stocked with blockbusters and full-on A-list titles; that’s just now how these 10-films-for-$20 types of collections tend to work. But honestly, I found these two collections to feature some really great entries. You probably won’t love every film in each set, but I bet you’ll find 5 or 6 movies you enjoy in a collection that can be had for a 20-spot. Through the Decades: 2000s gives us 10 films: standouts Spy Game, Baby Mama, The Hitcher, Cry Wolf, and The Shape of Things (a fun sleeper with Paul Rudd), as well as Nurse Betty, One Night at McCool’s, The Emperor’s Club, 21 Grams, and State of Play. I absolutely love Spy Game (Redford and Pitt in a highly underrated thriller) and The Hitcher remake, and there really aren’t any out and out terrible movies in the bunch. Meanwhile, Through The Decades: 2010s includes another 10 films: standouts The Adjustment Bureau (a movie I’m actually a huge fan of), Contraband, Safe House, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and The Thing (the 2011 remake/prequel, which is actually very enjoyable as a standalone movie), as well as MacGruber, The Dilemma, The American, Your Highness, and Black Sea. While I’m not a fan of MacGruber or The American, I like almost every other film in the set. Sure, the genres are a little eclectic; I don’t know how much crossover there is between Baby Mama fans and The Hitcher fans, but still, for getting a ten-pack of films for a low price, you don’t have to like every film in the collection. These are a fun and inexpensive way to binge watch some great movies.
- The Beatles and India – This new documentary focuses on the Beatles’ time in India, which influenced them both personally and musically, most especially George. Now, I generally am not a huge fan of music documentaries that don’t feature a band’s music, as is so often the case with the genre these days. But this film has enough archival footage, photos and interviews with the band (and the people who were in India with them) that you can excuse the lack of actual Beatles songs. The film looks at the Beatles’ journey to India along with giving some info about the country itself, and the result is a documentary that was surprisingly better than I expected. It’s not groundbreaking new information, but it was more insightful and interesting than “non-official” docs tend to be. And as a huge Beatles fans, I’m always excited to watch anything worth actually watching about them, which The Beatles and India certainly is.
What’s New on Home Video – June 21, 2022 – The Bad Guys, Morbius, Aquaman, Shaft, The Northman, Father Stu & More!
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