It’s a good release slate this week, with several brand new films hitting home video, alongside some TV season collections and some catalog gems. Read on to see all the awesomeness available to you!
Bodies Bodies Bodies – Before A24 came along, I never actually disliked a movie studio. Like, I never went, “Oh, Movie X is a Paramount film, I hate them.” But A24 has made an art form out of churning movies out that all feel like they come straight from the A24 factory, especially when it comes to their horror offerings. Because they all feel the same and I don’t like the style of film they make, I generally don’t like any of them. And while I didn’t hate Bodies Bodies Bodies, it’s far from a film I loved, either. The basic premise is a modern millennial version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, with a group of twentysomethings stuck in a big house during a hurricane. With no power and no cell service, they start dying off one by one, with the survivors turning on each other with each death. And I’ll say this: it is an easily watchable film for the most part. Pete Davidson and Lee Pace add some star power to the proceedings but it’s the core group of girls who have the most screen time. And that’s the problem; they’re all completely unlikable. And when they start to suspect each other, they just devolve into utterly detestable human beings, saying completely despicable things to each other. Like, who am I rooting for to live here? No one, if I’m being honest. And that’s a problem. Bodies Bodies Bodies comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and while the 4K visual upgrade does give us sharp imagery and bright colors, it can only do so much with a film that is lit only by cell phone flashlights and glow necklaces for large chunks of the running time. The surround soundtrack works well with some nice surround activity in the speakers, and the end result is the best you can hope for with a lower-budgeted movie. I’m sure there are people out there who will love Bodies Bodies Bodies, but I found it mediocre at best.
Orphan: First Kill – I’m not sure why Paramount felt that Orphan, a mildly successful horror film from 2009, needed a prequel thirteen years after the fact, but here we are. And while I barely remember the first film, I have to admit, I enjoyed this new prequel more than I expected to. Without wanting to spoil the original movie, this new entry follows Esther before the events of the original, as she ends up with a family for the seemingly first time. Only what seems like an idyllic household might not be quite so perfect after all. From there, we get to see Esther wreaking havoc while taking on some family members who aren’t as clueless as they seem. The movie has some good suspense in it and a decent amount of crazy scenes (but in a good way), and it doesn’t rely on blood and gore to keep things moving. It’s not a great movie, but for a decent way to kill 90 minutes, I found it fit the bill quite nicely.
Mack & Rita – You’ve gotta give Mack & Rita some credit; so many movies have done the “old person wakes up in a young person’s body” storyline, but I can’t think of any others that see a 30-year-old end up in a 70-year-old version of themselves… and be happy about it! The film starts off with You’s Elizabeth Lail as Mack, a young woman who is an old soul and who was raised by her beloved grandmother. One friend’s bachelorette weekend later, and Mack wakes up as a 70-year-old version of herself, letting her gallivant around as Diane Keaton, or Mack’s “Aunt Rita.” It’s a simple enough premise, and the terrific cast (that also includes Loretta Devine, Lois Smith, Wendie Malick, Amy Hill, and Dustin Milligan) is game, but the film’s script is awfully pedestrian. There are some fun moments here and there, but there’s just nothing special on the screen to make the film memorable at all. It’s an easy enough watch and you’ll chuckle a few times, but things just never quite come together the way you want them to.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank – I remember this movie when it was called Kung Fu Panda. And Kung Fu Panda 2. And Kung Fu Panda 3. Okay, maybe that’s a little of an oversimplification, but there is at least a passing similarity to the Kung Fu Panda movies, with a lead character who has to learn to be a samurai to fight off more powerful bad guys. The big difference here is that Hank is seeking the Samurai life out, as oppose to Kung Fu Panda where Po was more of a reluctant hero. Paws of Fury is one of those animated movies that kids will like, parents will enjoy enough to watch once, and just about nobody will be clamoring for repeat viewings of. It’s perfectly fine, with some okay humor and some solid action scenes. The voice cast is great, with Michael Cera, Ricky Gervais, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Yeoh, Mel Brooks, and George Takei all contributing. It’s an enjoyable enough film that is largely forgettable when all is said and done.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind – I’ll give Warner Bros. credit, they know how to keep a franchise going. Now the third entry in the feature length animated movie series, Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind presents us with another new adventure in the MK realm. This time around, we get a tale of Kano wreaking havoc and the men who will stand against him, Kenshi and Kuai Liang, who goes on to become game favorite Sub Zero. It’s a solid enough film for what it is; an anime-influenced action film without the budget constraints that come with live action. It’s also, like the previous films, extremely bloody and gory; although this is animated, it’s definitely not for younger kids. Mortal Kombat Legends comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray, and the 4K format treats it well. It’s not the most colorful film in the world (lots of blue, yellow, orange, and red), but the colors are quite vibrant and the blacks are deep and rich. The surround soundtrack is terrific, with a nice use of the satellite speakers. It’s a strong A/V presentation that brings the film to life nicely. Ultimately, Snow Blind is enjoyable if a little repetitive, but fans of the franchise will enjoy it.
Fall – While Fall borrows quite liberally from films like 47 Meters Down and Adam Green’s survival horror masterpiece Frozen (NOT the Elsa film), I have to admit I was blown away by Fall. It’s the simple story of two young women who climb to the top of an abandoned 2,000-foot tall TV broadcast tower, only to see the ladder break off, trapping them at the top in the middle of the desert with no way down. That’s all you need about the story but what you need to know is that the film is so tense and suspenseful that you’ll have a knot in your stomach for almost the entire running time. I was literally sweating while watching it, and part of the reason for that os because of the amazing cinematography. The making-of on the disc reveals how it was filmed, but there is a ton of practically-shot footage with the two leads actually quite high up in the sky, and the realism that comes with that is tangible and takes the film to a whole new level. With terrific performances by Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner, you can excuse what minor plot contrivances there are (like phones with batteries that are apparently powered by magic) as you get caught up in the sheer intensity of it all. This one is definitely worth tracking down for a real survival suspense thriller.
The Return Of The Living Dead: Collector’s Edition (4K Ultra HD) – The Return of the Living Dead movies are sort of the red-headed stepchild of the zombie genre. Because the zombies in the movies can kind of rudimentarily talk — and they often talk about eating brains — the films are considered horror-comedies and maybe dismissed a little too easily by genre fans. Rewatching Return of the Living Dead for the first time in many years, I was surprised by what a good zombie movie it really is. Yes, the zombies talk, and it doesn’t try to work in any kind of social commentary like George Romero’s films do, but it does give you some great zombie scenes, a lot of suspenseful moments, and a classic zombie formula with a group of characters getting whittled down as the living dead feast upon them. Honestly, I enjoyed it way more than I remembered. Now, fans can revisit the original movie with The Return Of The Living Dead: Collector’s Edition on 4K Ultra HD, a three-disc set that includes the film itself on 4K Ultra HD as well as two Blu-ray discs with the film and a ton of extra features. The set comes with no less than four audio commentaries, plus a feature-length documentary, a half dozen featurettes, and a workprint version of the film with some 20 minutes of deleted footage edited back in (sadly in standard definition only.) It’s an outstanding set that I can’t see any fans wanting to pass up.
Sweet Tooth: The Complete First Season – I’m a huge fan of Jeff Lemire’s comic book Sweet Tooth, but man, I was not sure how it would translate to a TV show. After all, several of the main characters are children who are animal hybrids, such as the titular Sweet Tooth, a young boy with deer antlers. That doesn’t exactly scream “TV viewers will love this!” Honestly, the story is complicated to try and boil down to a sentence or two, but suffice it to say that in a dystopic future, a lot of the humans on earth have died off, and the next step of humanity — the animal hybrids — are unsafe once humanity decides they might be at fault for the plague. There’s a lot more going on, with multiple characters in various settings, but you really need to get into the show to understand it all. While I was unsure of how it would translate, I have to admit I like the show quite a bit. Jim Mickle, an excellent filmmaker, directed several episodes and helped develop the show, and I can see how his input was a major influence on the show and its level of quality. While Sweet Tooth may not be mainstream viewing, it is exciting and heartfelt and unique, and that makes it worth a watch.
Rumble – The second animated movie this week to feature a character named Jimbo (the first being Paws of Fury, reviewed above), Rumble is actually a really fun animated movie that’s geared for kids but I think a lot of adults will enjoy, especially those who love WWE wrestling. The film focuses on the city of Stoker, where the World Monster Wrestling League is pretty much everything for the humans who live there. When the star wrestler decides to move on to greener pastures, young Winnie teams up with a befuddled monster named Steve to try and replace their all-star and turn Steve into a champion. While the relationship between Winnie and Steve is endearing, the film really focuses on the action and the fun, which makes the movie, well, a lot of fun. It’s not trying to be anything other than a family-friendly adventure movie, and in that respect, it totally succeeds. With a good voice cast that includes Will Arnett, Terry Crews, Tony Shalhoub, and Tony Danza, there’s a lot here to like.
Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie – I’ve loved Shaun the Sheep since he first appeared in the classic third Wallace & Gromit short film, A Close Shave. My kids enjoyed his TV series when they were young, and now this Blu-ray release of Farmageddon reminds us what a charming and funny movie it is. Released in 2019 (but virtually ignored or unknown in the U.S.), the film (which debuts on Blu-ray this week) sees a cute alien land near Shaun’s home and a lot of wacky hijinx ensuing, as usual. With almost no dialogue at all, the film relies heavily on visual gags and the sort of mumbled emotive language that’s populated the TV show. It’s a simple enough plot, but there are some really funny moments throughout, and it manages rot be great for the little ones while remaining equally charming for adults. Well done as usual, Aardman Animation!
Ed Sullivan’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Classics – Time Life has regularly put out some of the most comprehensive and amazing music-themed DVD box sets I’ve ever seen. This time, they put one out that is not only utterly fantastic, it’s one that really speaks directly to me and my love of rock n’ roll music. This new 10-disc set from Time-Life revisits one of the greatest talk shows of all time, The Ed Sullivan Show, and cultivates some of the biggest names in music history to give us rare live performances that haven’t been seen in decades. Here’s just a taste of the acts that are included here (and most of whom have several songs): The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Janis Joplin, the Jackson 5, Neil Diamond, and so many others. There are also a number of interviews from the History of Rock n’ Roll program alongside the whopping 128 uncut and rarely seen performances — over 16 hours worth of music! As a bonus, there’s even a comedy disc featuring well-loved comic legends on The Ed Sullivan Show, including George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller, Richard Pryor, and Joan Rivers, among others. With a 36-page booklet included in the set, this really is one of the best Time-Life sets I’ve seen yet. If you love music of any kind this is a set unlike anything else available on the market. I absolutely love it!
Time Traveler’s Wife: The Complete Series – I’ve never read Audrey Niffenegger’s smash hit 2003 novel that this show is based on, but I greatly enjoyed the 2009 movie starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. So I was excited to check out this HBO series that adapts the novel into a longer, six-episode run. Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong in the translation, and this new show is a bit of a disaster. Starring Rose Leslie and Theo James, the show takes the time travel conceit and makes it hard to follow, often confusing the viewer as to what’s happening when. And for some reason, the romance here feels way more creepy than it ever did in the film (they first met when Leslie’s Claire is a mere child. Ew.) I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a longer-running series or if it was always intended to be a six-episode mini, but either way, I think it’s better for everyone that there won’t be more of it.
Flash: The Complete Eighth Season – The Flash was one of my favorite TV shows for the first few seasons it was on. I can still enjoy it on some level, but eight seasons in, it’s really run off the rails. The show can still be fun, but it’s also a little bit off the deep end. The aren’t nearly as fresh as they were in the early days and some of the villains and storylines can get a little silly. Yes, there’s still some comfort to be found in our cast of characters and the supporting characters that round out the show, but I do find myself rolling my eyes a little bit more than I did in the early days. There’s a lot of speedsters and the mirror universe to contend with, and while those stories can be fun, sometimes I long for the simpler stories of the first season or two. This new Blu-ray (and/or DVD) collection includes all 20 episodes of Season Eight, and Flash fans will want it to keep their collection going.
No Escape – Sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways. I’ve been looking for No Escape to show up on one of the streaming services for the past few months, because something reminded me of the film a while back and I’ve been jonesing to watch it. And now, here we are, with the film getting its first Blu-ray release, courtesy of Unearthed Classics. Released in 1994, the film stars Ray Liotta as a soldier in the future who’s convicted of murdering his superior officer and dumped on an island prison for life. There he learns that there are two groups of prisoners: one group that is trying to lead a peaceful life and one that likes to put prisoners into gladiatorial battles to the death. Now, I know that No Escape is not cinematic greatness, but it’s one of those ‘90s sci-fi actioners that I really enjoy. It’s got a good cast (alongside Liotta are Lance Henriksen, Ernie Hudson, and the B-movie Kevins: Dillon and O’Connor) and some good action, and while the special effects are dated, the film screams ‘90s in all the best ways. It’s a little bit Lord of the Flies, a little bit Judge Dredd, and a whole lot of fun. Also, this Blu-ray comes with three new interview featurettes, plus a few archival making-of features. Very cool!
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- The Deer King – Former Studio Ghibli animator Masashi Ando makes his directing debut with the new anime feature film, The Deer King, and it’s clear that the Ghibli influence is strong in this one. In a dystopic fantasy-tInged future, a former soldier named Van slaves in a mine controlled by the empire. When a pack of wild dogs carrying a deadly virus attack the mine, only Van and a young girl named Yuna survive. They then head out into the world, Lone Wolf & Cub style (although Yuna is a young girl, not a baby), with bad guys hot on their heels. The film looks great, with gorgeous animation, as you would expect. But at nearly two hours long, the film has some pacing issues, and even though the relationship between Van and Yuna is at the heart of the movie, it never really won me over or got me invested. It’s an okay film that anime fans might gravitate towards, but I wasn’t bowled over by it.
- Guardians of Time – This new direct-to-video family adventure film explores what would happen if the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe opened up into a land that was more Lord of the Rings than, well, lions, witches, and wardrobes. In the movie, four teenage/child cousins find a portal to a mysterious world populated by dragons and other fantasy creatures, where they discover that they might be fabled warriors destined to save the realm. The film is a low-budget affair, but it has those special effects that look right at home in a SyFy channel, the ones that are kind of good and kind of bad at the same time. Like, clearly everything is shot on a green screen, but some of the dragons and other creatures look pretty good overall. It’s not a great film but it’s not terrible, either, and younger viewers will probably enjoy it more than their parents will. Worth a watch if there are kids in the house.
- Going Places – The Cohen Film Collection focuses on noteworthy films, with a special focus on foreign films, and an even more selective focus on French films. And sometimes it seems like they’re on a mission to bring us the complete oeuvre of Gerard Depardieu, who appears in one of their releases once again. Depardieu stars with Patrick Dewaere as a pair of ne’er-do-well drifters who roam around and harass women and commit petty crimes. Always on the run, they are content to just see the sights and make a nuisance of themselves. It’s not a particularly plot-heavy film, and I doubt it would get made in the era of #metoo, but it’s certainly an interesting movie. Apparently, this is the film that made Depardieu a star, and there are some familiar faces in the cast, including Jeanne Moreau and a young Isabelle Huppert. Foreign film fans will likely want to track this one down.