This week’s home video release slate sees some recent theatrical hits, some classic catalog titles, and a few off-the-beaten-path discoveries. Read on to discover all the new releases!
80 For Brady – Football movies have never done particularly well at the box office, and while 80 For Brady wasn’t exactly a record-breaker, it did perform relatively well overall and drew people into theaters, largely due to the presence of its four legendary stars: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno. The film is based (veeerrrry loosely) on a true story: four New England-based octogenarian friends decide to travel to Texas for the Super Bowl after the Patriots advance to the big game. There’s a back story about how one of the women had cancer and as she was convalescing with her friends by her side, they fell in love with Tom Brady and the Patriots team, even though they were never football fans before. The film then becomes a road trip comedy, with any number of speed bumps on the foursome’s way to getting in to the big game. The film is exactly what you would expect it to be from the trailers: it’s simple, it’s funny, it’s a little cringey in places, it doesn’t really take any chances, and it has four great actors having fun together. It’s not trying to be edgy or cutting, it’s just four friends who are unlikely to travel to a Super Bowl hitting the road and getting into mild trouble and adventures. I was a little surprised that Tom Brady (who was a producer on the film) doesn’t actually appear more on screen than he does, but the movie isn’t really about him, despite the title. Ultimately, 80 For Brady is one of those films that I can only describe as “cute,” and I think that’s perfect for the film that it is.
Champions – Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, and Ernie Hudson star in this uplifting sports dramedy that gives us a story we’ve seen a million times before but does it with heart and humor, resulting in a film that will put a smile on your face. Harrelson plays Marcus, a self-destructive basketball coach who runs into a police car and is sentenced to community service. In this case, said community service is coaching a team of intellectually-disabled young athletes. What follows is Hollywood Formula 101: slowly but surely the players start to win Marcus over and he begins to not only help them start winning games, but also comes to care about them as people. So while the story is nothing new, the film is successful because it’s put together really well. Directed by Bobby Farrelly (of the Farrelly Brothers), the film employs disabled young actors, which gives the film a lot of realism and heart. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson shines at the center of it, playing one of those characters who is a jerk with a heart of gold, and half the fun of the movie is watching him transform. There’s a fun romantic sublot involving Harrelson and Kaitlin Olson, who plays one of the players’ sister, and Cheech Marin and Ernie Hudson add always-welcome familiar faces. The movie isn’t anything original or groundbreaking, but sometimes that’s okay; Champions is a perfectly enjoyable, warm and humorous film in its own right.
Deep Impact (4K Ultra HD) – Back in 1998, there were two competing asteroids-headed-for-earth movies, Deep Impact and Armageddon. Both were successful, but Armageddon was a box office smash directed by Michael Bay, while Deep Impact was the lesser-grossing of the two. Now, personally, I love both movies, so I’m not going to say one is better than the other, but I do think that Deep Impact never quite got the credit it deserves for being a really great disaster movie in the classic vein. The film sees a reporter getting wind of an ELE – extinction level event – in the form of a comet heading for Earth that is expected to hit and cause mass destruction. The story then follows the classic disaster movie formula with a diverse group of characters all dealing with different parts of the impending catastrophe: the reporter who has to decide if she should reveal the truth; the president, who tries to decide which people can be saved; and a group of astronauts who try to divert the comet, among others. The cast is stellar, with Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau as well as a number of other recognizable faces along for the ride. The film is tense, exciting, emotional, dramatic, and well-crafted; there are some special effects sequences that still hold up well today. This week, Deep Impact makes its debut on the 4K Ultra HD format, and it’s the kind of film you want to see get the 4K upgrade. The visual quality of the movie gets a nice level-up, with very clear imagery and bright, vivid colors that take advantage of the Dolby Vision process. The surround soundtrack hasn’t been upgraded to an Atmos mix, but it is still a pretty strong surround sound effort, utilizing the various speakers regularly throughout the film, especially during the action/disaster sequences. I’ve always loved Deep Impact and I think it holds up extremely well, so I’m happy to see it make its way to the 4K format.
Justice League X RWBY: Superheroes & Huntsmen, Part One – DC Comics continues its ongoing series of animated films with a new mash-up, in which the Justice League meets up with RWBY, the fantasy/anime-inspired characters created by Rooster Teeth that became an internet & video sensation over the past decade. In this new film, the Justice League finds themselves mysteriously transported to Remnant, the RWBY world, and transformed into teenagers. Separated from each other, they meet up with Ruby, Blake, Weiss, and Yang, and it’s not long before they’re caught up in trying to stop a monster from destroying the world. Now, I’ve seen a little bit of RWBY but it’s been a long time, so I wasn’t particularly dialed in to the world and characters, but where the film works is it makes the characters accessible to all fans, whether you’re a fan of the Justice League or of RWBY (or both.) The film is directed by Kerry Shawcrosss, a longtime RWBY director, while it’s written by Meghan Fitzmartin, who has written several other DC animated movies, so the marriage of the two universes working as well as it does isn’t that surprising. The regular RWBY cast is all present, and we get new takes on Batman and Superman as younger characters via Chandler Riggs (best known as Carl on The Walking Dead) and Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars), respectively. I wasn’t sure I would like this film as someone who’s not an RWBY fan, but I found it a neat new take on the Justice League and I’m looking forward to Part 2.
Jesus Revolution – The latest faith-based film to cause a splash at the box office, Jesus Revolution is based on the true story of the Christian Calvary “revolution” of the 1970s. It follows Pastor Chuck Smith (played by Kelsey Grammar) who takes a chance on a hippie named Lonnie, allowing him to preach in his church despite the misgivings of the more traditional parishioners. There’s a second story involving a young man on his way to the military who falls in with the wrong crowd and finds Jesus after a near death experience. These stories intertwine to dramatize how the Christian faith was somewhat updated and brought in a new young crowd in a time of turmoil in our country, the Vietnam War era. Now, I’ve reviewed my fair share of faith-based movies, and they’re typically not my cup of tea as I don’t ascribe to any particular religion, so mostly what I look for is how well the film is made and will people who like these kinds of movies enjoy it? And in this case, I think they will. Grammar and the rest of the cast are a cut above the level of acting we get in these movies typically, and the film doesn’t feel like a low-rent drama overstuffed with preaching; it’s a biopic-styled drama, and I think the target audience will find a lot to like about Jesus Revolution.
His Dark Materials: The Complete Third Season – I was never a fan of The Golden Compass, the 2007 film that adapted Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book for the big screen. I know the books are incredibly popular, however, so I was intrigued when HBO announced this series that was supposed to adapt the books but do a better job of it. Now that the show has concluded its run after the third season, I just have to wonder… why exactly are these books so popular? Or is it just that they’re unadaptable? After HBO hit a home run with Watchmen, I expected this series to be equally as amazing — or at least close to it — but I honestly don’t care for it at all. I find the whole world confusing, the storyline even more so, and I don’t really like many of the characters in the show at all. Maybe if I’d read the books I’d feel differently, but a good show or movie shouldn’t require foreknowledge of the source material. I’m sure this show has its fans, but I am sadly not one of them. Which is unfortunate, because the cast is terrific, especially James McAvoy and young Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson. This final Season 3 collection (available on Blu-ray or DVD) features the final eight episodes, and it does also include a nice collection of extra features, so there’s some good bang for fans’ bucks.
Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 3 – I’ve been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember, and one of the things I’ve always loved about Trek at its best is how humorous it can be. In previous reviews, I’ve crowed about how much I love Lower Decks, and that hasn’t changed in the excellent third season. Under the guidance of Mike McMahon, one of the showrunners on Rick & Morty, Lower Decks gives us a look at the lives of four “lower decks” officers on the USS Cerritos, a pretty low-ranking ship in Starfleet. Returning this season are uptight Ensign Boimler, rebellious Ensign Mariner, geeky cyborg Ensign Rutherford, and overly enthusiastic Ensign Tendi, who of course find themselves in all sorts of trouble. There’s also a number of great guest stars this season, including Trek alumni such as Armin Shimerman and Nana Visitor (who play Quark and Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine); James Cromwell as Zefram Cochrane; and J.G. Hertzler as General Martok, among others. What’s great about the show is that while it’s a comedy, it’s never short on Trek-style exploration and action. It actually stays very true to the Trek aesthetic, it just has a lot of fun while doing so. And the comedy is loving, not spiteful; the show often makes fun of Trek tropes, but in a way that is never mean-spirited. Not to sound cliche, but Lower Decks doesn’t laugh AT Star Trek, it laughs WITH Star Trek. I love it and I can’t wait for Season 4!
The Thing (2011): Steelbook Edition – Mill Creek specializes in new, updated, and budget-priced catalog titles that have been neglected or ignored by their parent studios. Once in a while, they get a movie or TV show that has a little more of a fan base than their usual fare, and when they do, they like to dress them up with a fancy new special edition. Thus is the case with 2011’s The Thing, the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror/sci-fi classic. Now, the original The Thing is one of the most well-known and well-loved cult classic films of all time, and fans of the film tend to have a religious devotion to it. So, when this prequel was released in 2011 with no involvement from John Carpenter and no cast members from the original participating, Thing fans largely decried this follow-up movie as, well, garbage. Except they’re wrong. The Thing (2011) is actually quite a good sci-fi/horror thriller in its own right; it only suffers on direct comparison to the original. Of course, no film that was not directed by John Carpenter was going to come close to the original; but if you just watch this movie on its own merits — as a story of a bunch of scientists stuck in an arctic research station with a shapeshifting, murderous alien — I maintain that it’s highly enjoyable. I think this is a vastly underrated movie because too many people got caught up in comparing it to the original. This new edition from Mill Creek comes on Blu-ray in a fantastically-designed Steelbook case that comes with an acetate slipcover that adds another dimension to the gorgeous artwork. There’s not a lot new in terms of extra features – just two very brief featurettes – but you do get about half an hour of existing featurettes and deleted scenes. But Mill Creek also did a remastering pass on the print, meaning you get a slightly upgraded visual presentation of the film, and that’s never a bad thing. If you’ve never seen The Thing (2011), I’d definitely recommend checking it out, and this is easily the best home video version to do so with. If you saw the film and hated it originally, I’d recommend you revisit it; I really do think it’s a better film than most people realize.
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal: The Complete Second Season – Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars, returns with the second season of his latest animated epic: Primal, which comes to Blu-ray and DVD with a two-dsic set that includes all ten episodes from Season Two. The show is pretty simple: a caveman (“Spear”) and a Dinosaur (“Fang”) pair up after the loss of their respective families and try to survive in a slightly mythical prehistoric world. If you know Tartakovsky’s works, you know he doesn’t typically pull any punches, so if you think a show with a caveman and a dinosaur is probably pretty brutal, you are dead on. In fact, at times I feel like the show should have been called Brutal, because it’s also an apt name and descriptor for the show. But the animation is absolutely gorgeous, the action is visceral, and the characters manage to become engaging despite not a single line of dialogue between them. The Season One finale set up a new storyline that carries into Season Two, as Spear and Fang search for Mira, a female companion who they get separated from. I can’t say the show is entirely my cup of tea (although I appreciate how well it’s made), but I can see it developing a huge fanbase, so this new collection is a great way to get caught up.
My Happy Ending – Andie MacDowell takes the lead role in My Happy Ending, a film which takes a comedic approach to patients bonding in a cancer ward, but she is upstaged by supporting players Miriam Margolyes and Sally Phillips. Largely that’s because MacDowell’s character, a self-centered American actress convalescing at a British chemo clinic, isn’t particularly likable. She instantly bristles at the idea of sharing a room with other patients and acts pretty much like a Karen, which doesn’t really endear her to the audience. Margolyes and Phillips – as fellow patients — are much more likable, but it doesn’t really help the film overall. The script is not very strong and you can see the character arcs coming a mile away. Sometimes familiarity in movies like these is welcome, and sometimes it feels tired. This is one of those instances where it’s the latter. My Happy Ending does have some laughs and will definitely elicit some tears, but ultimately it just never gels to become more than the sum of its parts.
What’s New on Home Video – May 2nd, 2023 – 80 For Brady, Champions, Justice League X RWBY, The Thing, & More!
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