Well, after several very small weeks of releases, this week sees a number of high-profile titles dropping (a few of them came out last week but I hadn’t received my review copies yet.) I think it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone this week!
M3gan – A surprise horror hit, M3gan is really more of a sci-fi thriller with horror leanings than a true horror movie. The film is basically a 21st-century update of Child’s Play, with the titular M3gan being a super-intelligent child’s companion “toy,” or more accurately, a personal robot. She can learn like a real person, but – of course – that learning process starts to become a bit warped and, well, people start dying. The great thing about M3gan is that the film knows exactly what it wants to be. It’s not trying to be super-serious or have any great big message (aside from that A.I. might still kill us all), but it’s fun and fast-paced and it isn’t afraid to get silly from time to time. Alison Williams is good in the lead role, and while I found the little girl character in the film (that M3gan bonds with) a little bit on the annoying side (through no fault of the actress; it’s a scripting issue), I could still enjoy the movie quite a bit. M3gan is a fun watch that is an easy way to kill some time; it’s not a classic, but considering it made almost $100 million at the box office, I don’t think it will be long before we see a sequel.
A Man Called Otto – Well, I wasn’t expecting A Man Called Otto to leapfrog onto my best films of the year list, but I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t in my top 10 at the end of the year. What a beautiful, charming, funny, and heartwarming film this is. Tom Hanks stars as Otto Anderson, a Grumpy Old Man who is very concerned about the rules in the neighborhood he lives in and patrols regularly. When a lively new family moves in across the street, Otto finds himself continually sucked into things he doesn’t want to be involved in. That’s a very simplistic description of a very layered film, but suffice it to say, I highly recommend you watch this movie. It was sadly ignored for Oscar nominations but I would have given it nods for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress (for Mariana Trevino, who is an absolute revelation.) It’s so much more than the ads made it out to be, and I loved it. Track down A Man Called Otto; you’ll thank me for it!
The Whale – Brendan Fraser took home the Academy Award for Best Actor for the latest Darren Aronofsky drama, in which he plays a morbidly obese homosexual teacher who tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter as his health declines. And it’s a well-deserved award; beyond just how he physically adapts to acting in a fat suit that replicates weighing 600 pounds, his performance is raw, heartfelt, emotional, and moving. It’s a really impressive role for a guy who’s never gotten the recognition he deserved as an actor; better late than never, I guess. The film is adapted from a play, and that’s really the one fault with it; it feels like it was adapted from a play because it all takes place in one location. And while Darren Aronofsky is an incredible director and the story fits quite well in its solitary location, it is still noticeable. Still, despite the heavy dramatic nature of the film, I liked it a lot. Hong Chau (who got nominated for Best Supporting Actress) is outstanding, as is Stranger Things’s Sadie Sink and even Ty Simpkins, best known as the young boy from Iron Man 3. I was afraid this would be one of those depressing, boring films, but thanks to great performances, excellent direction, and an amazing musical score, The Whale is a triumph that is definitely worth watching.
Babylon – I don’t even know where to start with Babylon. Director Damian Chazelle made a huge impact with his first two films, Whiplash and La La Land, both of which I love. Then he followed those up with First Man, the Neil Armstrong biopic that I found painfully dull. Now, he gives us Babylon, which is… an experience. Literally, just in the first five minutes of the film, we get to see a man covered in elephant diarrhea, an orgy, and a naked obese man getting urinated on by a prostitute. That’s just the first five minutes of a three-hour film, which takes on a journey into yesteryear Hollywood, on the eve of silent films transitioning to sound films. Honestly, I absolutely hated the first hour and a half of the film, save for one pretty impressive scene where Margot Robbie’s character tries to get one line right through multiple takes. At a certain point, there was a part of the story that I got caught up in a little, but then it quickly veered off the rails again into insanity and it lost me. Part of the problem is that there’s nobody to root for in this film; even characters who start out as likable eventually become monsters, save for Brad Pitt’s character, who keeps his dignity intact while he’s on screen. It feels like Chazelle was trying to make a Baz Luhrman movie, and the editing, cinematography, and music are so frenetic and hyper-stylized that the film is, quite frankly, exhausting. Babylon comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the 4K is available in a sharp-looking Steelbook case. It’s unfortunate that I disliked the film so much, as it looks and sounds fantastic in the 4K format. If you’re a fan of the movie, this is a great release, but for me the film itself is something I never need to experience again.
Air Force One: 4K Ultra HD Steelbook – Oh, how I miss Wolfgang Petersen films! It’s been 17 years since we’ve had a mainstream Hollywood movie from the director of action classics like In the Line of Fire, Outbreak, and Enemy Mine. One of his best films was Air Force One, which sees Harrison Ford playing the President of the United States (I’d vote for him!). When Air Force One (the plane that transports the president) is hijacked by terrorists (led by Gary Oldman), President Indy Solo has to go into action and fight back. It’s an utterly fantastic action romp and now it’s been released on 4K Ultra HD in a snazzy new Steelbook case with gorgeous new movie-poster styled artwork. This is the kind of movie you want to watch in 4K, as colors are more vibrant and image clarity is sharper than any previous home video release. The surround soundtrack has a ton to work with, giving you discrete sounds from all directions. Sadly, the extra features are lacking on this release, but other than that it’s hard to complain about this terrific edition of Air Force One.
The Mask of Zorro: 4K Ultra HD Steelbook – The first of two swashbuckling Antonio Banderas-starring Zorro films is still the best one, although I love both films quite a bit. The Mask of Zorro is released on 4K Ultra HD this week in a 25th Anniversary Steelbook Edition, which features some snazzy new cover art, and I for one am glad to see it. I’ve been a huge Zorro fan since I was a kid, and I really love this movie. I feel like it hasn’t hung around in the public consciousness all that much, which is unfortunate because it’s a really fun movie with outstanding action sequences. The movie benefits nicely from the 4K Ultra HD upgrade, despite being 25 years old at this point, as the increase in image clarity and the much more deeply saturated colors give the film new life. The surround soundtrack works well; as the action scenes come to life and utilize all the surround speakers, giving the action a nice sense of depth. The Mask of Zorro is a true action/adventure classic and I hope people pick up this great release and rediscover it.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Season One – Okay, admittedly you don’t have to work overly hard to get me interested in a Star Trek show, but I absolutely LOVE Strange New Worlds. The show spins out of Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, which re-introduced Captain Pike, Number One, and Mister Spock to the current Star Trek universe. They were so popular in that season (largely due to Anson Mount’s absolutely delightful portrayal of Captain Pike, the most Kirk-esque captain we’ve had since Kirk himself) that they earned a whole new show, which gives us the adventures of the Enterprise in the years before Captain Kirk took over. The show is unabashedly Star Trek and I want more, more, more of it. It’s the most fun iteration of the franchise in years, and it really captures the spirit of the original series. That’s never more obvious than in the episode where the crew are transformed into characters out of a medieval fairy tale; if that doesn’t have The Original Series written all over it, I don’t know what does. The characters are terrific, the scripts are sharp, and the show is just filled with fun and adventure. Honestly, I can’t get enough of it and I can’t wait for season two!
Inland Empire – Oh, David Lynch, how you vex me. Look, I’ll admit it, there are things I don’t like in movies. Dreamlike imagery, ambiguous narratives, surrealism… these are not things I like in my films. So, obviously, you can figure out how I feel about most David Lynch films. But while he has made a couple of more coherent movies that I can enjoy in some fashion, Inland Empire is another story. Clocking in at three hours long, Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan star in this film about “a woman in trouble” but I’ll be damned if I can tell you any more about what the film is actually about, because as far as I can tell, it isn’t about anything at all, except about two-and-a-half-hours too long. Still, I know that Lynch has his devotees, and The Criterion Collection has rewarded them with a new edition of Inland Empire on Blu-ray. In addition to the film itself being restored and remastered, you also get a nice collection of extra features including three shorter films, interviews with Dern and MacLachlan, additional scenes, and much more. It’s a terrific release, even if the film is absolutely not for me. If you like Lynch’s works, then this is definitely one you’ll want to add to your collection.
Seriously Red – This quirky Australian dramedy gives us a glimpse into the world of celebrity impersonators through the eyes of Red, an adult woman who’s a bit of a mess and who – after drunkenly losing her job – stumbles into a potential new career impersonating Dolly Parton. Written by and starring Krew Boylan, who plays the titular Red (and by extension, Dolly Parton, sort of), the film isn’t just about the impersonator circuit, but also about the people, the relationships, and the lifestyle. There’s an Elvis impersonator (played by Rose Byrne, of all people) and a Kenny Rogers impersonator who never comes out of character and wants Red to tour with him as his Dolly, all of which leads to some interesting moments. The real heart and soul of the film, however, is Boylan, who is one of those screen presences that you can’t help but be dazzled by. Her performance is layered and heartfelt and I doubt the movie would have worked as well with anyone else in the role. Seriously Red is a different kind of movie, but it’s absolutely worth a watch.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- The Good Fight: The Final Season – At this point, I bet most viewers have forgotten that the Paramount+ series The Good Fight was a spin-off of The Good Wife (if they even remember The Good Wife at this point, which feels like it came out 20 years ago at this point.) And while that original show might be long over, The Good Fight has been carrying on strongly, finally wrapping up now with its sixth and final. This streaming-first show focuses on Christine Baranski in the lead role as a lawyer working at a prestigious African American–owned firm that’s gained attention for tackling socially challenging cases. This season, Diane takes on a new perspective, the firm gets some new partners, and the final episode couple of episodes see some harrowing events that I won’t spoil here. And then you have the usual cases that come and go with every episode, most of which are quite interesting, especially the football-related case around mid-season. As with the previous years, there’s a great supporting cast (including a few new players this season) and the writing on the show is really sharp, although it definitely is not for people who want their TV to remain apolitical. This latest DVD collection includes the entire final season (10 episodes), and it’s a pretty easy binge-watch. Fans will want to finish out their collection with this nice DVD set.
- Sadness and Joy in the Life of Giraffes – Based on the play by acclaimed Portuguese playwright Tiago Gomes Rodrigues, this unique movie from Portugal was an award winner in its native country. The story follows a 10-year-old girl who wants to understand how the world works for a school project. So she sets out to get the help of the Prime Minister. Okay, that doesn’t sound completely out there but, oh yeah, did I mention that she’s accompanied on her journey by her depressed teddy bear companion named Judy Garland, who is played by a man in a bear suit? Yeah. That’s where it takes a weird turn. The film is anchored by young Maria Abreu, who gives a terrific performance, and while the story is pretty offbeat, it’s hard not to find moments of enjoyment in the film. It’s not a complete slam dunk for me as it is quite weird at times, but I think there is a fan base for this film out there.
What’s New on Home Video – March 21st, 2023 – M3gan, A Man Called Otto, The Whale, Babylon, Star Trek, Zorro, & More!
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