Well, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Black Friday in the US are usually pretty heavy with home video releases but most of the big ones have already come out. Here’s what’s on tap this week:
Mad Max Anthology (4K Ultra HD) – This awesome new box set from Warner Bros. marks the first time that all four Mad Max films have been brought together in the premium 4K Ultra HD format. You get the original trilogy, but you also get the excellent Mad Max: Fury Road as well. This four-disc set sees each film upgraded to 4K Ultra HD, and the end results are quite good. The original films look better, although its not like they look brand new, seeing as how the films are around 35-40 years old. Nice, bright colors and sharp imagery are the highlights, while some natural film grain remains to give the films a cinematic feel. Mad Max: Fury Road, as the newest film from just a few years ago, looks utterly spectacular. The surround soundtracks give your rear speakers some good activity to play with, even if they’re not the most subtle mixes I’ve ever heard. The set doesn’t include much in the way of extra features, unfortunately, with just a few extras on Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. That is a disappointment for me, but the included digital copies for each film are a very welcome addition, so overall this is still a great way to get a terrific action/sci-fi franchise in your collection.
Star Trek: Discovery: Seasons 1-3 – I wasn’t a fan of Star Trek: Discovery in the beginning, but I have since become a huge fan of the show. Season One took a while for me to come around to, but by the end of it, I was hooked. Season Two was terrific and Season Three just continued that trend. Each season focuses on a different central mystery, while still exploring space and time and coming up against various challenges, and I’ve found the entire series exciting and captivating, just like I want my Star Trek to be. This new collection collects the first three seasons, bringing you up to speed on the whole show so far just in time for the now-airing Season Four. There’s also a a nice collection of extra features (although no digital copies, unfortunately). This new set is available on either Blu-ray or DVD (although the Blu-ray version is the way to go for my money), and whether you’ve been watching the show on Paramount+ (or Netflix in Europe) or not, it’s worth picking up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Addams Family (4K Ultra HD) – In the wake of two animated films that both defied expectations and became box office hits, the original 1990s Addams Family movie has been rereleased on home video, this time in 4K Ultra HD. This is called the “More Mamushka” version, which includes a second cut of the film that adds a few minutes of footage back into the film. This is a pretty excellent release. Not only is the picture quality absolutely terrific (with bright colors and sharp clarity, plus natural film grain), but there are a number of extra features included. The surround soundtrack is the same as the previous Blu-ray releases, but I have no complaints about it. The film itself holds up well as a sharp comedy with throwbacks to the original series yet a sense of humor that is right on point. It’s a fun movie and a terrific release that fires on all cylinders. Fun!
The Haunting of Bly Manor – Netflix’s hit series comes to home video on Blu-ray and/or DVD this week, so those of you who don’t subscribe to the streaming service can finally see what all the hubbub is about. A follow-up (but not a sequel) to The Haunting of Hill House series (also on Netflix), this next chapter in the Haunting anthology series once again sees a family and various other people interacting with some supernatural forces. Mike Flanagan, who created the show and also wrote and directed the excellent Doctor Sleep, returns to run the show, although he hands off most of the writing and directing duties to his staff. I think Flanagan is incredibly talented, and his influence is easily felt here. The show manages to be creepy without resorting to cheap scares, and the characters and central mystery are interesting enough to keep you invested throughout nine episodes. Definitely worth a watch.
Kevin Can **** Himself: Season One – Annie Murphy, who was so excellent on Schitt’s Creek, returns with a new show, the challengingly titled Kevin Can **** Himself. The show is a deconstruction of sitcoms and their tropes, most notably the useless husband and the super-accommodating wife. The show goes back and forth between a traditional three-camera sitcom set up, where everything is bright and sparkly, and a single-camera set-up that reveals more of the truth: that Murphy’s Allison is largely miserable. It’s an incredibly interesting experiment, but the end results are mixed. At times, the concept is brilliant and it really makes some good points about the traditional American sitcom. But at other times, the dichotomy between the two set-ups is jarring, and the show can get a little darker than expected. Murphy is terrific in her role, but there aren’t a lot of likable characters on the show and at times it’s hard to find people to root for. There are eight episodes in the collection, and I can see how some people will really like this show. I’m still a little bit on the fence, myself.
Also Available on Home Video This Week:
- Emily in Paris: Season One – The newest show from Sex & The City creator Darren Starr, this series follows a midwestern American girl who is hired by a marketing firm in France to bring an American point of view to their work. The Netflix series was a pretty big hit from my understanding, and I have to believe a second season is coming soon. For my money, I can see why the show works with audiences, and most of it has to do with actor Lily Collins, who is quite good in the lead role. The show itself is a pretty shallow and predictable fish-out-of-water tale, and it’s not particularly thoughtful or creative. But Collins carries the show on her shoulders and its light and frothy enough to make for an easy viewing experience. Emily in Paris is nothing special, but it’s a fun enough way to kill some time.
- Mom: Eighth and Final Season – The hit Anna Faris/Allison Janney show comes to a close with its eighth season, which is a remarkable run for a sitcom. Especially one that I don’t think is particularly good. Admittedly, I’ve never overly fallen for shows about people who don’t like each other or are complete train wrecks as human beings. I’ve also long found Anna Faris to be one of the more annoying actresses in Hollywood. So I’m not predisposed to like this show to begin with, but then you add in writing that is not particularly smart, clever or funny, and I still find very little to like about it. What I can say is that fans of the show who have been adding the individual seasons to their home video collection will be happy to finish their collections this week.
- Never Back Down: Revolt – The original Never Back Down is a bit of a guilty pleasure movie for me: it’s The Karate Kid meets The OC, and while it’s not great filmmaking, I have a real soft spot for it. So I would probably be one of the people who’s more happy about a Never Back Down sequel or franchise than most people are. Or at least I would be in Sony had made any attempt whatsoever to keep true to the spirit of the franchise. Instead, they’ve churned out a low-budget action film with NOTHING to do with the story, characters, vibe, or spirit of the original film. This film takes on a female protagonist who gets mixed up in a human trafficking scheme and must fight to find freedom for her and a bunch of other women. It’s serviceable enough for what it is, although it’s not a good film, but it should be called anything other than Never Back Down. It’s cheap marketing, and I don’t care for it.
- Raging Fire – Asian film superstars Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse take to the screen together in the new action thriller Raging Fire. Yen plays a decorated police officer whose latest operation is taken down by a group of criminals that includes someone with direct ties to his past. This leads to a clash between cops and criminals that goes beyond good guys vs. bad guys by introducing a personal element, which drives much of the film’s emotion. It’s not non-stop action, as the film takes time to develop characters and give us an actual plot, but when the action kicks in, it’s pretty explosive. This is one of the better Asian action films I’ve seen this year, and fans of the genre (or action films in general) would do well to check it out.
- The Dogs of War – Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger and JoBeth Williams star in this little seen action drama from 1980. While it is technically an ‘80s film, it’s clearly a product of the ‘70s, as it fits right along side movies like The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now (although not as good as either of those films). Walken plays a mercenary who gets detained, beaten, and forced out of a fictional African country and returns with instructions to depose the country’s leader. Walken is suitable intense in the lead role, and Tom Berenger is a welcome presence. It’s a solid film, although I can see why it wasn’t a big box office hit. It has some really good, intense moments, but it also has periods where things slow down a bit. This new Special Edition from Ronin Flix marks the film’s debut on Blu-ray and also includes several new interviews with cast and crew by way of extra features.
- The Chinese Boxer – This 1970 action flick gets a Blu-ray debut courtesy of 88 Films, who adds a commentary track, featurette, and interview to the extra features of this new release. Produced by the Shaw Brothers, a name well known to people who grew up watching cheap chop-socky movies on Saturday afternoon television. The Roger Corman of the Asian action film scene, the Shaw Brothers churned out low-budget action films for an insatiable audience at the time. This is one of the more solid films from their catalog, at least from the handful that I’ve seen. It’s a fairly straightforward good-guys vs. bad-guys story, but the action is pretty fierce in places and it’s not one of the more cheesy films I’ve seen from the Shaw Brothers (although, of course, it is still somewhat cheesy.) Fans of the genre should enjoy this one.
- The Spore – This interesting new horror film is sort of an anthology, but not really. We follow a diverse group of characters in a small town as a flesh-eating fungus works its way through the residents. The stories start off pretty unconnected, but as they’re all dealing with the same infection, it’s not like your traditional anthology where the stories are completely unrelated. The film starts off a little slow and then gets more and more intense as it goes. And while there are no recognizable stars or much of a budget for the film to work with, it actually works quite well. Luckily a movie like this doesn’t require a big budget to be effective, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film despite its limitations. Horror fans may want to track this one down.
- Christmas Spotlight – There are no less than seven Christmas movies out on DVD this week, with five of them being a sort-of-series of Hallmark-type films. First up is the original film A Gift From Bob, a sequel to A Street Cat Named Bob. In this follow-up, Luke Treadaway (who I enjoy quite a bit) returns as a street-living musician who’s in danger of losing his companion cat at Christmastime. It’s pretty predictable fare and not quite as fresh or charming as the first film, but then again, if you enjoyed the first film, you’ll probably like this one too. It’s charming enough to be fun. Next up is Ace and the Christmas Miracle, a slightly less effective film that involves, sort of, a talking horse. And said horse is voiced by Jon Lovitz. The plot is surprisingly convoluted to try and explain here, but it is nice to see Brande Roderick (of Baywatch fame) in front of the camera again. It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but adults and more discerning older kids will probably find it a bit of a chore to sit through. Finally, we have five Christmas In The… movies hitting DVD this week: Christmas in the Smokies, Christmas in the Pines, Christmas in the Rockies, Christmas in the Wilds, and Christmas on the Coast. Each of these romantic Hallmark-Christmas-style films takes a pair of easy-on-the-eyes actors and puts then in a different locale to find love over the Christmas holiday. The films mostly feature little-known actors or “Hey, I know that actor from somewhere…” faces, but there are a few recognizable names to be found, such as former wrestler Trish Stratus (Rockies), Barry Corbin and Jill Wagner (Smokies), Jillian Murray (Pines), Laura Vandervoort (Wilds), and Bonnie Bedelia (Coast). Now, I’m famous for my love of Hallmark Christmas movies, so I’m not a hard sell on these, and while they’re not the best movies in the genre, they’re all perfectly enjoyable romantic holiday movies. How can you go wrong with that?
- Sergei Eisenstein Double Feature: October & Alexander Nevsky – Okay, I’m not the guy who can do a deep dive into Russian cinema fro the early 20th century, so I’ll keep this pretty simple and not try and sound more academic than I am. Sergei Eisenstein is best known for his groundbreaking and iconic film The Battleship Potemkin, which was famously aped in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. Eisenstein, of course, went on to make other films, including 1928’s October, and 1938’s Alexander Nevsky. October is a more free-form, experimental film detailing the Bolshevik Revolt in Russia, while Alexander Nevsky is a more traditional narrative telling the tale of Russia fighting off invading German forces in the 1200s. Alexander Nevsky worked much better for me as I found it easier to follow; October features no real characters and is instead supposed to represent “the spirit of Revolution.” I can’t say I quite got that one. However, film historians and fans of classic cinema will probably find these films interesting and instructive, even if only from an academic point of view.
What’s New on Home Video – November 23rd – Mad Max, Star Trek, Addams Family, Bly Manor, & More!
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