The focus this week is on new titles, with a few TV-on-DVD and catalog offerings thrown into the mix. Take a look at what’s on shelves this week!
Lightyear – Okay, so Lightyear wasn’t a box office hit. In fact, it was one of the lowest grossing Disney/Pixar films to date. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter, because it’s also hands-down one of the best films of the year. The film is posited as the Buzz Lightyear movie that Andy saw before Toy Story that led to him wanting the Buzz Lightyear toy, but effectively it’s just a big science fiction adventure starring Buzz Lightyear and none of the other Toy Story characters. But here’s the thing: it’s absolutely fantastic. The story is great, going in a completely different direction than I expected. The characters are strong, the action set pieces are excellent, and the film has a lot of heart, with Buzz Lightyear going through a smilier journey of growth to the one his toy would go through in Toy Story. Chris Evans takes over for Tim Allen as this younger Buzz and he does a great job, while Keke Palmer brings a lot of energy to the proceedings as Buzz’s junior partner. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this movie wasn’t a big buzzy hit; I think kids and adults will absolutely love it. I know I did. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Real Genius (4K Ultra HD) – Sony Pictures brings a perennial favorite to the 4K Ultra HD format this week with the inaugural 4K release of Real Genius, the classic ‘80s comedy that helped make Val Kilmer a household name. The story of a group of super smart college kids who discover their professor has them working on a weapon for the government, the film introduces us to Kilmer’s hard-partying Chris Knight, a genius who’s more interested in girls and parties than books and science. The film was never a huge box office smash, but it definitely developed a huge fan base on home video and is now considered one of THE defining cult classics of the ‘80s. This new 4K Ultra HD release gives us the best version of the film to hit home video yet, with upgraded sound and picture that helps the film shine. It doesn’t look brand new, as its age shows quite a bit, but it looks more bright and colorful than ever, and the surround soundtrack opens things up a bit to give the film more atmosphere. There are also a couple of new extra features, including the “long-requested balloon chair scene” as well as the TV cut of the film, which adds in some extra scenes (but cuts out the swearing and such). There’s also an archival director’s commentary as well. Real Genius is a great snapshot of the ‘80s and ‘80s cinema, and it’s a really fun time.
Magnum P.I.: Season Four – The CBS reboot of Magnum P.I. continues going strong, with the fourth season making its way to DVD just in time for the new television season to start. There’s not much new to report here; the show to me has never really felt like Magnum, it’s always felt much more like another typical CBS procedural. Jay Hernandez has more charm than most of your typical CSI or NCIS leads, but that’s about the major difference, aside from a few aesthetic trappings. Season Four keeps to the procedural format, with Magnum, Higgins, and company getting caught up in new mysteries every week and just the occasional carry-through plot lines here and there. It’s a perfectly enjoyable show for what it is, I just still don’t find anything all that special about it. If you like most of CBS’s other shows, you’ll probably like this one, but if you’re looking for something different, you’re in the wrong place.
Young Sheldon: The Complete Fifth Season – I have to admit, I’m a little floored that Young Sheldon has lasted five seasons (with no signs of slowing down that I can see.) I get that people miss The Big Bang Theory; I’m one of them, it was a show that I loved. But Young Sheldon has never felt like a show that we needed, and it’s definitely never been a show that I’ve enjoyed. I always try and give it a few new episodes every time I have to review it, and say what you want about The Big Bang Theory, it was a heck of a lot funnier than this show is. The cast here tries to do their best with weak material, but the writing is sophomoric, but the supporting characters just aren’t interesting enough to make up for the fact that Sheldon Cooper by himself can’t really carry a show, as a kid or an adult. I know a lot of people watch Young Sheldon, but it’s just not for me.
Flowers in the Attic: The Origin – I’ve actually never read any of the Flowers in the Attic books but at this point I’ve watched a number of the Lifetime adaptations and movies and I find the general franchise pretty enjoyable. The latest entry in the series is Flowers in the Attic: The Origin, a TV miniseries that serves as a prequel to the original book/film. Based on one of the novels that was published after V.C. Andrews’ death, this seven-hour miniseries dives into the origins of Olivia and Malcolm Foxworth, setting the stage for the events that would eventually plague the Dollanganger children in Flowers in the Attic. The cast in this series is pretty impressive, including Kelsey Grammer, Max Irons, Jemima Rooper, Alana Boden, Kate Mulgrew, Paul Wesley, and Harry Hamlin, so there are a lot of familiar faces to take you through the story. As with all of the Flowers in the Attic adaptations in the recent series, there’s no shortage of melodrama here, but it’s an interesting enough story and there are plenty of juicy moments to keep you watching. Worth a look if you’re a fan of the Flowers in the Attic cinematic universe.
Drive (4K Ultra HD) – Not to be confused with the overrated Ryan Gosling vehicle from 2011, this Drive is a 1997 sci-fi actioner starring Mark Dacascos, Brittany Murphy and — of all people — Kadeem Hardison. The film is basically Rush Hour if Jackie Chan’s character was an enhanced super soldier and Chris Tucker’s character was a dreadlocked average joe. In this case, Dacascos is the super-soldier, who goes on the run from the corporation that created him and meets up with Hardison’s Malik, giving the film a frenetic, action-never-lets-up aesthetic with a dose of buddy film humor. Now, I love chase films and I love ‘90s action movies, so this chase-film action movie from the ‘90s was a lot of fun for me. It’s a direct-to-video offering and it gets a little silly at times, but I have to say, it’s fun in a way that a lot of action movies today aren’t. MVD released the film a year or two ago as part of their excellent MVD Marquee Collection, and it must have been popular because now it’s being rereleased in the premium 4K Ultra HD format. With new high def scans of the film, it can’t quite overcome its low-budget origins, but it still looks and sounds better than any previous home video version of the film. There’s also terrific collection of extra features including an audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and more, but the most exciting addition is the restored Director’s Cut of the film, which fans should enjoy. For any ‘90s action junkies like me, this one is definitely worth tracking down!
Canadian Bacon – Raise your hand if you had no idea that before he became known for documentary films like Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore made good old-fashioned fiction movies? Yeah, me neither. But Canadian Bacon, a (deservedly) mostly-forgotten comedy starring John Candy from the mid-90s, was written and directed by Moore himself. I wish I could say this is some hidden gem of a movie, but honestly, all I could think while I was watching it was how glad I was that Moore moved into documentaries. The film sees a president whose ratings are flagging who starts a cold war with Canada. Enter John Candy and his cronies who take things a bit too far and basically invade our neighbors to the north. Despite a good cast that includes Candy, Alan Alda, Rhea Perlman, Kevin Pollak, and Rip Torn, the film is just… well, stupid. It’s loud and brash and obnoxious and over-the-top, and while sometimes that can be a good thing, this isn’t one of those occasions. The film makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of MVD’s Marquee Collection, which gives it nice new packaging but sadly no extra features. John Candy fans might want to revisit this film, but personally I didn’t enjoy it.
Also Available on Home Video This Week:
- Spitfire Over Berlin – Period war films are a hard genre to pull off on a low budget. By their very nature, they require a good amount of action, but because the films are low budget, the action is either missing or looks quite bad. Spitfire Over Berlin lacks the action, and the result is a movie that finds itself falling into “boring” territory way too often. World War II daredevil pilot Edward is tasked with getting photographic evidence that will prove a squad of American soldiers is heading into an ambush. The film, then, mostly sees Edward in his cockpit by himself, talking to a taped-up photo of a woman. There is a recurring flashback theme that adds a little action to the proceedings, but the film’s script just doesn’t give it enough meat to keep it interesting for the film’s admittedly-brief 80 minute running time. The film tries, and it’s not terrible, but it’s just not exciting or interesting enough to ever edge into the “good” category.
- Sniper: The White Raven – Speaking of war films, this new one comes from Ukraine, which feels a little too timely for comfort. The film is set during the 2014 invasion of Ukraine by Russia, so it’s not a period piece and as a result it feels incredibly current. When Ukrainian soldier Mykola’s pregnant wife is killed during the invasion, he sets out on a mission to get revenge on a Russian sniper who’s death could turn the tide of events in Ukraine’s favor. The film is a solid entry in the war genre; it’s not action-packed but it does have a few tense action scenes, and the budget isn’t exactly huge, but it doesn’t look like a cheap direct-to-video title, either. The film’s script focuses on making sure that Mykola is less an action hero and more of a person, so there’s some solid drama to be found, but there are times when you wish there was a little more action to go with it. Ultimately, it’s not a great film but it’s not a bad film, either.
- Massacre at Central High – This 1976 cult classic is the kind of movie that epitomizes drive-through movie theaters in the 1970s. A low-budget action/horror hybrid starring Robert Carradine and a bunch of other sort-of recognizable faces, the film is about a student who’s been victimized by violent bullies at the overrun Central High who leads his fellow students to fight back. And in this case, fighting back ends up with several people dead. The film is uber low-budget, but it revels in slasher-like kills and topless actresses, giving those drive-in audiences in the 1970s exactly what they wanted. The film makes its Blu-ray debut this week courtesy of Synapse Films, and I’m sure it will be a nice nostalgic flashback for many people who were teenagers in the 1970s.
- Invisible Imprints – This important one-hour documentary takes on the theme of racism, but within a very specific framework. The film follows twelve Boston-based spoken-word poets and dancers as they take their live performances on the road. They follow the Great Migration Trail from Jackson, Mississippi to Chicago, performing a show called Invisible: Imprints of Racism, which also sees them doing a discussion with the audience after the conclusion of the performances. So while we see clips from the show, we also hear from the people involved and see their interactions with people who are finding an artier way of having difficult discussions. It’s a powerful live show and this film lets us meet the people who are bringing an important message to people across the country.
What’s New on Home Video – September 13th, 2022 – Lightyear, Real Genius, Magnum P.I., Young Sheldon, Drive, Flowers in the Attic & More!
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