There are a few big-screen hits anchoring this week’s releases, and we also get some excellent catalogue re-releases, meaning there’s a little something for everyone!
The King’s Man – I really enjoyed the first two Kingsman movies, and they were big hits, so I was really excited for The King’s Man, even after a two-year delay due to COVID. Even though I think prequels are one of the most unnecessary genres in Hollywood, I liked the idea of Ralph Fiennes taking us on this journey of how the British spy agency was created. And ultimately, I enjoyed the film, but I have mixed feelings about it. For example, its almost more of a war movie than a spy movie, and the first half an hour gives us kind of a primer on the causes of World War I. That’s a bit odd. And it’s almost an hour in before we get any of the action sequences that made the Kingsman movies so much fun. But Ralph Fiennes is just so outstanding in the lead role and the story moves along well enough that even though it doesn’t really feel like a Kingsman movie, it’s never unenjoyable. With a terrific supporting cast including Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, Harris Dickinson, and a completely unrecognizable Rhys Ifans, the film works better than it should, but not quite as well as I wanted. Like I said, I enjoyed it quite a bit overall, but it never quite feels like a Kingsman movie.
House of Gucci – I’ve never been an overly big Ridley Scott fan, but I find some of his more recent films to be more enjoyable than I’ve expected. I wouldn’t have guessed that a two-hour-and-forty-minute biopic of an Italian fashion empire’s family would fall into the “good” category of Scott films, but I actually liked House of Gucci quite a bit. The film tells the story of Maurizio and Patrizia Gucci, husband and wife who start off as lovers ostracized from the Gucci family only to become cold-hearted strangers who only care about money, which eventually ends with somebody’s death. (I don’t want to give away spoilers; I know these were world news events, but they also happened 25 years ago and many viewers may have no idea what happened.) Lady Gaga and Adam Driver are both terrific in the lead roles, and the impressive supporting cast includes Jared Leto (completely unrecognizable here), Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, and Jack Huston (who steals the show, in my opinion.) The film is a little longer than it needs to be, but it’s quite an interesting story and I found it gripping from start to finish. Worth a watch for sure!
American Underdog – Kurt Warner has long been one of my favorite athletes. I loved watching him play in the 2000s, and I enjoy him now as a television personality and a truly good guy. There aren’t a lot of athletes whose stories I think are worthy of a biopic, but Warner is one of the exceptions. An undrafted quarterback who married a woman with two kids (one of whom was blind) while working at a supermarket and trying to get into the NFL against all odds, Warner went on to become a superstar in the league. Zachary Levi does an excellent job of bringing a younger Warner to life in the film, and we follow his life though his last year of college to his breakthrough in the NFL. The film touches on the deep faith that Warner and his wife have, but it’s not what I would call a Christian film. Really, anyone who enjoys football or just a feel-good sports story will enjoy this movie. I liked it a lot.
The Green Mile (4K Ultra HD) – Frank Darabont’s second prison-set film based on a Stephen King novel, The Green Mile was not entirely the critical success that The Shawshank Redemption was, although it actually was a bigger box office hit than the near-universally loved Shawshank. The Green Mile brings a supernatural element to 1930s prison life with John Coffey, a mountain of a man who affects the prisoners and guards at a prison in mysterious ways. Now, I’m not usually one to praise three-hour films — as there are so few films that earn that running time — but The Green Mile is an absolute masterpiece. If you’ve never seen it before, well, there’s no better time to track it down, now that Warner Brothers have released it in a new 4K Ultra HD version. The film looks and sounds terrific; even at 20 years old, the 4K upgrade brings new life to the A/V aspect of the film. Image clarity is razor sharp, blacks are deep and rich, and colors — while not overly vibrant — are natural and realistic. The surround soundtrack is subtle and nuanced, but it utilizes all the surround channels well and has a nice low end. This is easily the best home video version yet of this wonderful film.
Escape From L.A. (4K Ultra HD) – John Carpenter’s 1996 sequel to 1981’s cult classic Escape From New York also makes its 4K Ultra debut this week. Kurt Russell returns as Snake Plissken, and while Escape From L.A. was a box office bomb, I think there’s a strong case to be made for the second film to start to grow its cult following. When the movie came out, I was extremely disappointed in it, largely because I’d spent the previous ten years becoming the biggest John Carpenter fan in the world and loving so many of his movies. I think my expectations were way too high at the time. Revisiting it on 4K, I absolutely loved it this time around. Sure, the special effects in the surfing scene are STILL terrible, but the movie is a lot more fun than I remember and it’s a worthy follow-up to Escape From New York. The 4K Ultra HD upgrade gives the film new life in the A/V realm, with brighter colors, more consistent blacks, and sharper image clarity, while the soundtrack brings the action right to your living room through all of the satellite channels. The biggest disappointment is that there are no extra features, made worse by the fact that Shout Factory released a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray loaded with extra just a few years ago. Still, I urge you to revisit this under-appreciated B-movie gem.
Miller’s Crossing – Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Turturro star in this early Coen Brothers hit from 1990. I can be very hit or miss with the Coen Brothers, but it’s not hard to see why The Criterion Collection elected to include Miller’s Crossing in its hallowed ranks. The film isn’t quite as precious as many of the Coen’s later works, and instead is a gripping crime drama about two warring criminal gangs and the one man who was playing both sides. It’s a tense and electrifying film, with excellent performances from the entire cast. Now, the Criterion Collection has released a new Blu-ray edition of the film, that features remastered and restored picture and sound, as well as insightful extra features such as new interviews with the Coens, Gabriel Byrne, and John Turturro, and more. Another worthy entry in the Criterion line-up!
Alligator: 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition – 1980’s Alligator is a cult classic in the creature feature world, and I love it! Written by John Sayles, who would go on to become an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right, the film features a giant alligator wreaking havoc on Chicago after escaping from the sewers it’s lived in since it was flushed down the toilet as a baby. The film hits on lots of the best creature feature tropes, but it also has lots of fun, such as when the oversized alligator (which has grown due to ingesting an experimental growth formula) kills a child in a swimming pool at a party. The special effects are dated but also surprisingly good for 1980, and while the influence of Jaws is easily felt (Robert Forster plays a beleaguered policemen who no one wants to believe), it’s hard to deny how much fun the film is. Now the movie makes its 4K Ultra HD debut, and the film looks and sounds pretty good overall. This is a low budget movie that’s four decades old, so it doesn’t exactly look like a blockbuster, now but the picture quality is sharp overall with nice colors, and the surround soundtrack keeps everything clean and clear. A fun watch with a great new home video release.
Shattered – While Frank Grillo and John Malkovich take up most of the real estate on the cover of the new Blu-ray, they’re really supporting players in this new psychosexual thriller. Meanwhile, Cameron Monaghan, Sasha Russ, and Lilly Krug are the real stars of the film, which is a little hard to describe without giving anything away. Suffice it to say that a rich guy falls in love with a mysterious girl, which eventually spells trouble for him and his ex-wife and child. The film tries to mix together social commentary on wealth, Basic Instinct-mode sex, and multiple twists and turns, and the end result is pretty mixed. On the one hand it’s an easy film to watch, and the twists get more ridiculous as they go along. On the other hand, the acting isn’t great, and, well, the twists get more ridiculous as they go along. It’s not a great film, or even a particularly good one, but it’s an easy enough way to kill 90 minutes.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- Side Out – Mill Creek specializes in budget-priced catalogue and cult classic releases, and this week sees the Blu-ray debut of Side Out, one of the quintessential volleyball movies of the 1990s. Starring C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton (of TVs thirtysomething), and Courtney Thorne-Smith, the film sees a California transplant take up volleyball to have some fun and impress a girl and then end up in a tournament with a washed-out, gambling-debt-laden ex-pro. It’s totally formulaic of ‘80s/‘90s sports movies, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. It’s got a rocking soundtrack, lots of beach bodies, and some great volleyball action, so what’s not to like? Plus, you can find it for under ten bucks pretty easily. Lots of fun, and a great throwback!
- Fallen – This Italian movie tells the story of a disgraced priest who suffered a tragedy when he made a mistake during an exorcism. Years later, under self exile on a farm in the middle of nowhere, he discovers demonic creatures are attacking and gets a second chance to save himself and his daughter. It’s actually not a bad concept for a film, it’s just a shame that the execution is so poor. The film is badly written, the characters are unlikable, and the action scenes aren’t good enough to make up for the various flaws. Then the film tries to shoehorn in a twist ending, and the whole thing just feels like a missed opportunity. Maybe we’ll get an American remake one of these days that will do a better job with it.
- Liar’s Moon – MVD brings us another cult catalogue release as part of their MVD Rewind Collection with Liar’s Moon, a romantic drama starring Matt Dillon and Cindy Fisher. The film is a Romeo and Juliet-type story about a teenage boy from the poor side of town and a rich teenage girl who is the daughter of the town’s banker. As adults conspire to keep them apart, the pair fall in love and move to Louisiana, where they can get married without parental permission. When they get pregnant, things become more complicated as the parents go to some extreme measures to break them apart. It’s a melodramatic film that’s anchored by some good performances, even if it feels a little bit hamfisted in this day and age. But it also has some sweet and romantic moments that still hold up well. This new MVD Rewind Collection edition comes with some great extra features, though, including a feature-length making-of documentary that’s as long as the film itself, which os pretty impressive for a movie that few people remember all that well. Fans who watched this on repeat on HBO back in the ‘80s will love this new editions.
- The Legend of the Stardust Brothers – Maybe the cult-iest of all the cult films I’ve watched in recent years, this 1985 film makes its US home video debut this week on Blu-ray and DVD. There’s a bit of a complicated story behind this movie. See, back in the early 1980s, Macoto Tezuka, the son of anime legend Osamu Tezuka, teamed up with producer Haruo Chikada, who had created a soundtrack for a film that didn’t exist. Needing a film to go with it, they created The Legend of the Stardust Brothers, a fictional pop music biopic drama. The end result is an energetic and chaotic low-budget movie with a unique energy and some incredible music for the time. It’s not the kind of film you can just sit down and watch if you want a straightforward movie, but if you watch it as a slice of B-movie history, you might just have a lot of fun with it.
- Dancing Pirate: Special Edition – I’m a little pressed to understand why pirates would trick a dancing instructor into being a part of the their crew, but that’s just what happens in 1936’s Dancing Pirate, which makes its Blu-ray debut this week courtesy of Film Detective. The film stars Charles Collins, who is not really remembered today but holds his own well in this musical affair. Rita Hayworth also makes a blink-and-you’ll miss-it appearance as a dancer, which adds a little Hollywood history to this little-known film. This new Special Edition Blu-ray is a treat for fans, though, as it includes a surprising number of extra features, including an all new audio commentary, two interview featurettes, and an essay booklet inside the Blu-ray case. The film is more a curiosity than a truly great work, but it’s a nice package altogether.
What’s New on Home Video – February 22nd, 2022 – The King’s Man, House of Gucci, American Underdog, Escape From L.A., & More!
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