It’s a relatively small week this week, as the studios are still suffering from the post-holidays release hangover. Still, there’s a couple of notable titles hitting shelves this week. Read on to see what’s out there!
House of the Dragon – HBO’s new Game of Thrones prequel series hits home video this week, with a release that curiously is not labeled as “Season One.” I’m sure that’s just an oversight, as I can’t imagine HBO is going to let the Game of Thrones license juggernaut lapse, but I was surprised not to see it anywhere on the home video packaging. Now, I’ve always been a pretty casual fan of Game of Thrones. I watched the first six seasons or so, usually when they hit home video, but I was never so moved by the show to call myself a die-hard fan or wear the t-shirts or anything like that. But I was at least a little excited to get in on a new show from the ground floor and maybe become a bigger fan through it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the result I got from it. Here’s the thing: this show looks absolutely stunning. Every single scene could rival anything in the biggest blockbusters in theaters. But personally, I found the show a little on the dry side. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s just so incredibly mired in politics and killing that it forgets to have any fun. At least the original Game of Thrones had Tyrion Lannister to keep things enjoyable. This show, which takes place almost 200 years before GOT, focuses on the House Targaryen and the political, romantic, and familial chaos that ensues around them. It’s a complex and layered show, and I suspect that the die-hard GOT fans will probably like it way more than I do. House of Dragons comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it is an absolutely impeccable A/V presentation in 4K. The imagery is stunning, with deep black levels, vibrantly saturated colors, and razor-sharp picture clarity. The surround soundtrack ekes every possible nuance out of the surround speakers, creating a living atmosphere around you. It’s an incredible experience from the A/V perspective. I just wish I could have gotten sucked into the show itself a little bit more.
She Said – If there’s one genre of movies that I am pretty much 100% guaranteed to love… it’s disaster movies. But if there are two genres of movies that I am guaranteed to love, it’s disaster movies and journalism movies. You give me a film about journalists digging for the truth and breaking a big story and I am 100% sold. She Said, which sadly underperformed at the box office, focuses on the breaking of the Harvey Weinstein/Miramax story that led to the larger #MeToo movement. Thanks to the courageous work of two female reporters, Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twhoey (and I’m sure countless others, but the film focuses largely on these two principals), the story of Harvey Weinstein and his rampant sexual abuse of women in Hollywood is peeled back and revealed. The film plays out like a mystery, as the two journalists first start to suspect something is off, and then as they dig deeper and deeper, they keep uncovering more and more abuses. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan are both fantastic as Kantor and Twohey, respectively, and the supporting cast (which includes Ashley Judd playing herself and telling her own real story) is terrific as well. While it’s horrible that these events happened in the first place, watching the NY Times reporters doggedly uncover the truth is both a powerful reminder of the importance of investigative journalism and a compelling narrative film in its own right.
And Just Like That: The Complete First Season – Sex and the City went off the air years ago but continued on with two movies that did pretty well at the box office. And then it went dormant for a few years, but in this day and age of rebooting or relaunching any television or movie property that has any kind of pulse left in it, it was inevitable that the show would return once again. This time around, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristen Davis return (Kim Cattrall is sadly absent this go around) as Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda. The conceit is that this time they’re no longer bonding over life and romance in their thirties, but instead learning how to be friends and navigate their worlds in their fifties. And I give the show credit for not trying to sweep the women’s ages under the rug and pretend they’re all just still thirtysomethings running around together. Personally, I always liked Sex and the City; I wasn’t a die-hard fan, but whenever I’d watch it I found it to be a fun, frothy show with good dialogue and lots of sex and romance. The new show didn’t blow me away, but I’m probably not the target audience, either. I found it enjoyable enough, especially thanks to a terrific supporting cast that includes familiar faces like Sara Ramírez, Sarita Choudhury, Nicole Ari Parker, Willie Garson, and Evan Handler. This new two-DVD set includes all ten episodes of the first season of the new show; I don’t know if there’s more coming but I suspect another season will be dawning upon us soon. Fans of Sex and the City will probably enjoy And Just Like That as well.
Dragons Forever – One of Jackie Chan’s pre-Hollywood films comes to home video this week from 88 Films in a beautiful box set that includes the movie in a two-disc set along with art cards, a poster, and a comprehensive full-color book. Dragons Forever was the third film that Chan made with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, the three of whom would become known as the Three Brothers or the Three Dragons after they had a number of hit films together. In this one, Jackie Chan plays a lawyer who falls for a client, and Hung and Biao are his friends/employees who are both working covertly to help him win a big case. Through a series of misunderstandings, they get pitted against each other (in mostly comedic ways) en route to trying to bring down a major criminal and drug dealer. Now, I’m a huge Jackie Chan fan and I will watch any movie of his I come across and this was one I hadn’t seen before, so I was excited to watch it. Ultimately, it’s an okay film with some outstanding action sequences. The film has a lot of flaws; Chan’s character is a little more weaselly than you’re used to seeing him, the Yuen Biao character is awfully silly (and there’s a subplot with him questioning his existence that detracts from the film), and the script doesn’t do the film any favors. That said, the female characters actually do more than just act as damsels in distress here and – as I mentioned – the action scenes are utterly fantastic, with that signature Chan mix of hard-hitting martial arts and physical comedy. This terrific box set includes three different cuts of the film plus a number of making-of features, as well as the aforementioned poster, art cards, and a really fantastic (and chunky) book filled with making-of info and film analysis. It’s all wrapped up in a beautiful slipcover with terrific artwork, making this a no-brainer for Jackie Chan fans.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- The Gang of Four – Cohen Media Group specializes in bringing critically acclaimed – and often foreign – films to home video. This week, they deliver the Blu-ray debut of Gang of Four, a 1988 film about a group of young girls studying drama under the tutelage of a very demanding instructor. The film is by acclaimed French director Jacques Rivette, and while I can appreciate it as a well-made piece of cinema, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something. The film is slow and takes its time with everything, and while there is some impressive cinematography for what is ultimately a drama, I felt like the film never really found its center. There are some unusual turns here and there and I feel like this is one of those movies where there’s more going on than what’s on the surface… but I couldn’t figure out what. Admittedly, it is in French and I watched it with subtitles, but I think I just wasn’t ready for a deep reading of a film when I watched this. If you’re looking for something more artful and challenging than the latest sci-fi blockbuster, this will likely fit the bill.
- 200 Meters – This tense Jordanian drama focuses on a father trying to get to his son when an emergency occurs, only to be blocked by Israel’s West Bank Wall. Now, I know American viewers don’t tend to gravitate towards movies about the conflict in the middle east, but this is more a drama about a father trying to get to his son, something that many people can relate to, than a treatise on the politics and strife in that part of the world. Ali Suliman gives an incredibly affecting performance as the dad who will go to extreme lengths to try and find a way across the border, and there are parts of the film that are more thriller than drama. If you like foreign films and want something a little off the beaten path, then 200 Meters is worth tracking down.
- Being Thunder – This new documentary focuses on Sherente, a Native American “two-spirit genderqueer” teen from the Naragansett tribe of Native Americans in Rhode Island. Sherente performs in traditional Native American ceremonies and dances (many of which are contests) in New England at annual tribal events. Unfortunately, as with much of the rest of the world, there are people within the tribes who are closed-minded about gender fluidity, and Sherente faces prejudice from their own people. This film documents their journey, their art, and their struggle with people from their own tribe who don’t accept them. It’s a bit heavy, but it’s an important subject matter and it’s a unique area we don’t often see in LGBTQ+ documentaries.
- Old Friends: A Dogumentary – Okay, I’m a dog person. I think most people are either cat people or dog people, and I’m 100% a dog person. So, you tell me you have a documentary (or DOGumentary, as the title states) about elderly dogs finding a home at a sanctuary for older dogs, and I’m of two minds about it. On the one had… YAYDOGS!!! On the other hand, the idea of elderly dogs without homes makes me sad, and I don’t want to be sad. But I plunged into Old Friends anyway, and I’m ultimately glad I did. The film chronicles the efforts of Zina and Michael Goodwin, who started a dog sanctuary for elderly dogs whose owners can no longer care for them and would probably not be able to get adopted in shelters. It’s grown into an impressive facility with medical care on-site and lots of technology and medicine, all funded by donations and volunteers. It’s not a terribly deep documentary, but it’s cool to see that there is a place like this out there, and dog lovers will enjoy it.