Well, after we had no column last week due to the Memorial Day holiday in the US and a few other logistical reasons, we’re back this week with a vengeance. It’s a super-sized week with box office hits, catalog classics, pioneering anime, and more! Dig in!
Uncharted – Hands down one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, Uncharted is — in a word — fun! In fact, it’s an inordinate amount of fun. Based on the popular video game series, and dispelling the myth that you can’t make a good movie based off of a video game, the film follows Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake, a young man who gets roped into an adventure across the world looking for Magellan’s gold by Victor Sullivan (played by Mark Wahlberg) a shifty financier who may or may not be trustworthy. Uncharted falls squarely in the category of fun adventure films like the Indiana Jones franchise and the National Treasure movies, and I watched the whole movie with a big smile on my face. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg are terrific together and have great chemistry, and the supporting cast is also quite strong. The action set pieces are huge and dynamic, but there’s enough story and character to get invested in the characters. Plain and simply, I loved this movie. Uncharted comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it looks and sounds utterly fantastic in the 4K format. It’s a colorful film and the vibrant hues pop off the screen, while imagery is razor sharp. The surround soundtrack is a marvel, with discrete sound elements in every channel and a booming low end. This is a movie you’ll want to bust out to show off the home theater with again and again because it’s just so much fun to watch.
The Untouchables (4K Ultra HD) – One of the absolute best movies of the ‘80s — and one of my all-time favorite films — Brian DePalma’s crime saga makes its debut on 4K Ultra HD this week. Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, and Andy Garcia, the film tells the (loosely) true story of Elliot Ness and his Untouchables, his group of mafia-busting police officers. It’s an absolute masterpiece of a film, one that earned Sean Connery an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and it culminates with an absolutely mind-blowing train station shoot-out finale that famously pays homage to the Odessa Steps sequence from the 1925 Russian silent film Battleship Potemkin. (A little film history for ya, there.) If you’ve ever seen The Untouchables, I can’t possibly recommend watching it highly enough. And if you haven’t seen it, this new 4K is definitely the way to watch it. While the film is 35 years old so it doesn’t look brand new, I’ve seen it a million times and this is easily the best it’s ever looked and sounded on home video. The imagery is crystal clear and the colors are lifelike and natural, while the surround soundtrack utilizes the satellite speakers well. Plain and simply, this release is a must-have for any cinephile.
The Contractor – Chris Pine stars as a former soldier who takes up work with a covert government special ops group. On his first mission, things go severely wrong and he finds himself on his own in a foreign country, desperate to return home to his family. I was excited to watch this film because I love a good action movie and I always enjoy Chris Pine, and it was solidly good, but it fell far short of great. It’s a bit of a slow burn in the beginning before it moves into pretty much non-stop action, but it’s an awfully dark film. Not so much in terms of content, but in the mood of the film. It’s a lot of dour people in tough circumstances, and while that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of humor, obviously, the film just feels So. Incredibly. Serious. at all times. Honestly, it feels like a bit of a slog at times. But Kiefer Sutherland and Ben Foster are terrific supporting players and there are some great action sequences, so it’s definitely worth a watch, I just wish it was a film I could have gotten really excited about. The Contractor comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it looks and sounds very sharp in 4K. It’s not a colorful film, but shadow delineation lets all of the night scenes remain easy to view, and colors do get more vibrant during the daylight scenes. The surround soundtrack will occasionally have you ducking your head as bullets whiz by, and that’s always a good sign. It’s a very strong A/V presentation for a solid if unexciting film.
Grease 2 – Grease is the word! (In my head I was singing that as I typed it. My hope is that you were singing it while you were reading it as well!) The original Grease is a classic, one of the most popular musicals of all time. And I’ll be honest, Paramount has released it on various home video formats approximately one million times. So I’m happy that they decided to change things up a bit this week with the Blu-ray debut release of Grease 2. Now, the film was kind of doomed to failure from the start. I mean, here you have Grease, a ridiculously popular and successful movie, and then for the sequel, you lose your main stars, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Never mind the fact that it would probably be hard to carry on the story of Danny and Sandy, the fact is that audiences weren’t excited to get a couple of little-known actors as the new leads four years after the original was a big hit. But that aside, Grease 2 actually isn’t a disaster. Is it as good as the original film? Obviously not. But it does have a young Michelle Pfeiffer and some of the songs are still pretty good, if not as classic as the original film’s. The movie obviously does have its own fan base, though, as this new Blu-ray comes in a limited edition Steelbook case which is quite nice and features terrific, colorful artwork. The film also looks and sounds better on Blu-ray than DVD by a good amount, so that’s a nice bonus. Not a must-have, but fans of Grease 2 will be very happy with this release.
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse – I don’t regularly watch Teen Titans Go or DC Super Hero Girls, but as a dad, I’ve of course seen episode of both. So I thought this new crossover movie would be a lot of fun — and it is — but I was a little disappointed by how much of a crossover it really is. Honestly, this is a DC Super Hero Girls movie with a little bit of Teen Titans thrown in. It’s a perfectly fun film, but TTG fans will probably be disappointed by how little the Titans show up. There is a great little crossover nod in the very last scene of the film, but I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say any more. The film is feature length and features all of the family-friendly humor and action you’re used to from both shows, so kids will love it and parents and adult fans should enjoy it as well. Worth a watch, but I still feel just a bit let down by the “crossover” nature of the film.
The Boys: Seasons 1 & 2 – Of all the comic books I would have thought you could make a TV series out of, The Boys would be one of the absolute last. After all, Garth Ennis’s unique spin on superheroes is one of the most depraved and twisted comics of the last 20 years. So the idea that Amazon Prime of all places would decide to make it into a series was almost unfathomable. But here we are, with Season Three having just dropped a few days ago. To help people get caught up, Sony has given us The Boys: Seasons 1 & 2 on Blu-ray (as well as DVD). This 6-disc set includes the first 16 episodes of the series, and while it definitely doesn’t hit the highs (or, I guess, the lows) of the comic book, this sure isn’t a show for kids! Showing us a world where superheroes are controlled by corporate interests and a small group of specialists works to keep things under control and safe for the public (err… sort of), the show is irreverent, dark, funny, offbeat, and often action-packed. It’s a lot of fun, but you definitely have to tap into the more R-rated side of your personality. If you don’t have Amazon Prime or just want to have the physical media copy of the show in your collection, this new release is for you.
Eraser: Reborn – I’m always wary of direct-to-video sequels to movies that came out decades ago. While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1996 action thriller Eraser wasn’t a masterpiece, it was a solid action flick that was still more fun than most. Eraser: Reborn falls somewhere between being a typically bad direct-to-video action film and a half-decent new franchise starter. On the plus side, the film (released by Warner Brothers) obviously has a bigger budget than many no-name actioners these days; that results in some actual action sequences (some of which are quite good), rather than people just talking for 90 minutes like is so often the case. On the other hand, the film is pretty cliched and really doesn’t do anything new. A steel-jawed special agent helps a witness start a new life but, of course, the bad guys find them anyway and they go on the run and have to fight back. The cast is solid but not great, and lead actor Dominic Sherwood (who looks like a cross between Sebastian Stan and the Property Brothers) seems like he has potential but isn’t quite a great actor yet. It’ll kill 90 minutes for you, but you’ll forget it pretty much as soon as its over.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- Lucifer: The Complete Fifth Season – What happens when the devil comes to Los Angeles for a little business and pleasure? Well, all hell breaks loose. Literally! (Ha ha, I couldn’t resist.) The best part about the show is actor Tom Ellis, who is perfectly cast as Lucifer. He’s got the whole “devilish grin” thing down pat, and he really is what makes the show work. This fifth season originally aired on Netflix (whereas it was on network TV previously), so if you’ve been waiting to get caught up, this 4-disc set includes all 16 episodes of Season 5. And it is a juicy season! We get to see Lucifer’s twin brother wreaking havoc on earth and there just might be a little development in the potential romance between Lucifer and Chloe. Once again, this is a show I enjoy visiting on home video, although I wish they’d put it out on Blu-ray and not just DVD.
- Ray Donovan: The Movie – I always wanted to like Ray Donovan, but I could never quite get there. I’m a big fan of Liev Schreiber, and the concept of a Hollywood-based “fixer” seemed interesting enough. And it’s not like I ever truly disliked the show, I just wished I liked it more. And while it was never a true smash hit, it ran for seven seasons it was always one of those shows people liked, even if it was never my cup of tea. With the show ending a couple of years ago, though, I think there were still some loose ends to tie up, and so now we get Ray Donovan: The Movie, which aims to give us one last hurrah in 100-minutes. And here’s what I’ll say about it: if you like the show, you’ll probably really enjoy the movie. It falls squarely in the same territory as the show but brings a big family-driven plot line dealing with the past that fills in some blanks from the series. If this is the last of Ray Donovan, I think it’s a fitting finale.
- GKids Anime Spotlight – GKids has been a prime spot for high-quality anime releases over the past several years, and this week they give us not one but three new Blu-ray releases: 5 Centimeters Per Second, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices. These three films come from director Makoto Shinkai, who made a splash with the recent critically-acclaimed anime movie Weathering With You. The three movies (with some of the most unwieldy titles I’ve come across in recent years!) represent some of his earliest works, and they all feature his hallmark traits: strong character relationships, a sense of heightened reality that borders on sci-fi (and sometimes moves into full sci-fi territory), and beautiful animation. My favorite of the three films was The Place Promised in Our Early Days, which sees three teenagers in an alternate version of Japan who becomes obsessed with a mysterious tower across the border. It’s got a strong narrative and great characters, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The other two films are also pretty good, but my anime fandom is pretty limited, and while they looked terrific, I didn’t get as engaged in the narratives. Still, fans of Shinkai’s work or high-quality anime films will enjoy these releases that each come with a nice collection of extra features and gorgeous slipcover art.
- Kinky Boots – From Paramount’s catalog collection comes the Blu-ray debut of Kinky Boots. While the original film came out in 2005, it was originally only released on home video on DVD. Now — largely due to the success of the Broadway adaptation, I suspect — the original film is finally available on Blu-ray as well. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor in an early role along with Joel Edgerton and Nick Frost, the film is a fun dramedy about a man who inherits his father’s failing shoe company and the drag queen (Ejiofor) who comes in to help him diversify his product line and stay n business. It’s one of those Plucky Little Outsider Saves The Day kind of movies that the Brits do so well, and it’s quite a good watch. The cast is terrific and the story will have you smiling. If you’ve never seen the original film, this new Blu-ray release (which includes a digital copy, yay!) Is the perfect way to do so.
- Row 19 – This Russian horror film had a really effective trailer so I was pretty excited to watch it. The film follows a woman who, as a young girl, was the only survivor of a plane crash. Obviously afraid of flying, she is now traveling by plane with her own young daughter to visit her father. As the flight continues, ghostly specters start to show up and more and more things go awry. It’s a pretty neat concept for a horror movie, and honestly, it’s a perfectly watchable film. There’s a good ending, too, but the problem is that even at under an hour and half, the film often seems to drag a bit. There’s not enough scares to keep things tense throughout, and while there are a few truly creepy moments, there’s also a lot of what feels like filler. The film looks great and the lead actress’s performance is extremely strong, but the movie as a whole just doesn’t live up to its own concept.
- Poupelle of Chimney Town – Another anime title out this week, Poupelle of Chimney Town comes to us from Shout Factory and animation studio Studio 4C, and it’s definitely a more fantasy based story. Young Lubbicchi lives in Chimney Town, which — as the name indicates — is filled with smoke-spewing chimneys from factories. But he dreams of seeing the stars above that his father told him about. When he meets Poupelle, a man-monster literally made out of garbage, they strike out on adventure together to see the night sky. As I’ve said before, I’m not an overly huge anime fan, although I enjoy the occasional film, and this one was solidly okay for me. The animation is absolutely stunning; seriously, it’s a gorgeous film with some incredible landscapes. But the story is a little simple and while the characters are endearing enough, I never got truly caught up in their adventure. If you are an anime die-hard, though, you’ll probably find a lot to like here.
- Ultraman Mebius Collection – Mill Creek continues its top notch releases of the entire Ultraman catalog with this new multi-disc set, which includes both the entire series of Ultraman Mebius as well as four spin-off movies. This is another one of the DVD-only releases (many of the previous sets were on Blu-ray), but my understanding is that that’s because the studio hasn’t had access to high-enough-quality masters to support a Blu-ray release. You get six discs of content, including a whopping 50 episodes(!) and four spin-off movies: Ultraman Mebius and Ultra Brothers, Ultraman Mebius Side Story: Ghost Rebirth, Ultraman Mebius Side Story: Armored Darkness, and Ultraman Mebius Side Story: Hikari Saga. This entry in the franchise comes from 2006 and is pretty much straight along the Ultraman formula (Ultraman variant versus giant monsters), but fans will enjoy it, especially as one of the newer entries in the series. There are no extra features to speak of, but with over 24 hours of episodes and movies to enjoy, it’s hard to complain. Ultrafans, this one is a natural for your Ultracollection!
- Human Lanterns – 88 Films has been putting out a huge number of cult classic martial arts films, most of which come from the famed Shaw Brothers studios that were huge in the 1970s. This week brings us the Blu-ray Collector’s Edition release of Human Lanterns, a 1982 flick that has been released before on DVD but only in heavily censored versions. This new Blu-ray presents the film in an uncut version, running almost 100 minutes. Now, I’ve liked most of the films I’ve seen from 88 Films’s Shaw Brothers releases, as they’ve been fun action films. This one, however, takes a much darker turn, combining martial arts with a horror element and a serial killer story that gets pretty nasty in places. It’s not my cup of tea, but I can see why it’s one of the most notorious entries in the Shaw Brothers Catalog. This smart new Blu-ray release not only gives us the uncut film, but also some nice extra features such as an audio commentary, a featurette, and a few interviews, plus great cover art.
- The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) is a cult classic horror film featuring, you guessed it, zombies. This Spanish/Italian co-production stars Arthur Kennedy and has now been released as a Blu-ray special edition from Synapse Films. While this isn’t a movie I was familiar with, some research has told me the it’s widely consider one of the most underrated zombie films out there. I can see why; the film eschews the silliness of some of the lesser horror movies but still adopts the social commentary of the best films (such as George Romero’s masterpieces), and the result is a pretty serious, grim zombie movie that has an intense climax. This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray includes a number of great extra features including a documentary about the director, making-of featurettes, and it offers restored sound and picture to boot. Fans will be pleased with this release for sure.
- Elmo: Potty Time Plus – A great new release for the preschool set, Elmo: Potty Time Plus is the latest collection of Elmo-centric Sesame Street episodes/segments. This themed collection obviously takes on a theme but it’s not a full-on instructional video for potty-training kids. Instead, it’s a collection of segments ealing with healthy habits and routines, such as going potty, the morning routine, bedtime, and the like. You get lots of singing and talking with guest stars like Stephen Curry, so little kids should enjoy it. With two hours of content, it’s hard to find anything to fault about this collection for parents or kids.
- The Diary of Anne Frank – This isn’t one of the more known adaptations of the famous work, as it’s a TV movie from 1967 that is based on the long-running play (which of course is based on Anne Frank’s actual diary.) It features a pretty good cast for a TV movie, including Viveca Lindfors, Max Van Sydow, Theodore Bikel and Diana Devila as young Ann. It’s obviously a fairly stark production (although just a tad long at 2 hours and four minutes) but it’s still a powerful story told through good performances, and I love home video releases like this precisely because we get to rediscover movies like this that legitimately haven’t been seen in 40 years.
- Scarf Face – This new documentary looks at the world of competitive eating. If the names Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi don’t ring a bell, then you should probably watch this documentary. And if they DO ring a bell, you’ll definitely want to watch it. We learn about the duo’s rivalry, the corporate interests invading the sport, and the competitive eating culture and circuit on the whole, and it’s really interesting stuff. With a tight 1 hour and 17 minute running time, the film is the perfect length to keep your interest without losing you.
- Megadeth: A Night in Buenos Aires – This concert video comes from 2005 and features the band ripping through 19 of their biggest hits and most loved songs in Buenos Aires. There are well-known songs like Peace Sells and Symphony of Destruction to satisfy the casual crowd, while a ton of deeper cuts will keep the die-hard fans happy. While I’m not overly well versed in Megadeth’s catalog or live shows, they sounded really tight to me and had great energy on stage, making this a disc I think a lot of fans will enjoy.