This week sees some exciting new releases, with LOTS of TV-on-Video to keep you busy as well as some new and classic film releases. Check it out!
DC League of Superpets – On paper, DC League of Superpets makes perfect sense. Take superheroes — incredibly popular right now — and combine them with the aesthetics and humor of something like the hit Secret Life of Pets franchise. How can you go wrong? I suspected that maybe I was about to find out when I sat down to watch the movie, but it turns out that DC League of Superpets is delightful! Sure, it’s an all-ages family film, but in a time when DC is working so hard to make all their film and television properties dark and gritty, it was a welcome breath of fresh air. Dwayne Johnson plays Krypto, Superman’s super-powered dog, while Kevin Hart and some well-known supporting actors play a group of pets imbued with super powers. When Lex Luthor’s super-smart guinea pig captures the Justice League, the Superpets have to go into action, save the day, and learn a few lessons about themselves along the way. The film isn’t overly clever, but it’s fun, it’s bright and action-packed, and it does have some great humor. (Plus, Keanu Reeves as Batman is an absolute gem!) I really enjoyed the film and I think families will be able to sit down and watch it and — no matter what age they are — enjoy it thoroughly. DC League of Superpets comes to home video in the premium 4K Ultra HD format (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it looks and sounds superb in 4K. Colors pop off the screen, blacks are endless, and image clarity is razor sharp. The surround soundtrack will give your speakers a full work out with active, nuanced surround channels. It’s a terrific way to view a really fun film.
I Know What You Did Last Summer: 25th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD – I Know What You Did Last Summer was the first major post-Scream horror movie, and while that might not resonate as much 25 years later, it was a really big deal at the time. When Scream came out in 1996, the slasher genre was all but dead, and Scream completely reinvigorated it. 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer was not only the first slasher film released after Scream, it was made in the wake of Scream’s success, so it brought a lot of the same qualities to the screen: a popular and pretty young cast, a dash of humor, and some good kills that weren’t overly gory. With Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. in the cast, it was a lot of fun, mixing some post-Scream sensibilities with good old-fashioned slasher tropes. I love this movie; it’s one of those slasher films that you can watch again and again and have a great time with every time. Now, on its 25th Anniversary, the film is being released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time. The audiovisual upgrade is definitely noticeable, even if the film does show its age a little bit. Imagery is super clear with excellent shadow delineation (a must-have for a film where large portions of it occur at night), while colors are strong and clarity is terrific. The surround soundtrack won’t win any awards, but it does create a nice, tense atmosphere throughout the film. As a bonus, the release includes some new extra features, like never-before-seen deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a digital copy. This one’s a must for my collection!
Star Trek Picard: Season Two – Star Trek: Picard got a LOT of attention from the fan community for giving us the return of the fan-favorite Captain Picard and the Next Generation universe. For my money, I was hugely disappointed in the first season. It was way too dark (with almost no humor) and almost all of the characters were unlikable, and I didn’t really care all that much for the story. So I went into Season 2 with no small amount of trepidation. And then that rarest of things occurred: a show actually went in and fixed most of its mistakes from the season before! Season Two of Picard sees the captain and his crew transported back to 21st century Earth to try and right a cosmic wrong. It brings back Q and The Borg, yet still has its own driving story arc. Even though there are huge stakes for the galaxy, this season is definitely more fun and less grimdark, with new supporting characters that help bring a little lightness to the show’s tone. There are also some great Trek easter eggs for the die-hard fans. It’s still not a perfect show but, man, is it loads better than Season 1. With Season 3 promising a huge TNG cast reunion, I’m very hopeful that it will return with a bang!
Superman & Lois: The Complete Second Season – Even though I’m a huge Superman fan, for some reason I wasn’t all that interested in Superman & Lois when it debuted on TV a couple of years ago. But of course, once I watched it, I absolutely fell in love with it. I really, really enjoy Superman & Lois, and this second season builds on the groundwork laid in Season One. In this version of the Man of Steel, Clark and Lois have two teenage sons: twins Jonathan and Jordan. Jonathan is the all-American good-looking quarterback, while Jordan is the broody, moody, troubled son. The show starts with the family moving back to Smallville so Clark can connect with his sons more as they come of age. What I love about this show is how the family drama and the characters come first and the Superman stuff comes second. That doesn’t mean there isn’t action or sci-fi; there’s plenty. But it’s a show where you care about the characters first and foremost and not it’s not just about the special effects and explosions. In Season Two, the show picks up right after the first season, with Jordan and Jonathan continuing to try and fit in, Lois facing new challenges in her journalism career, John Henry Irons and his newly arrived daughter Natalie trying to figure out their place in our world, and Clark trying to balance fatherhood and superheroing. There are some big events and some splashy moments, but as usual, this show succeeds on the strength of the cast, the writing, and the characters. And I absolutely love it!
Winning Time: Rise of the Lakers Dynasty – The Complete First Season – HBO’s hit drama season tells the true story of the L.A. Lakers rise from a bottom-of-the-league team to an NBA powerhouse, and how their doing so helped revitalize basketball as a sport with the whole country. The show focuses on Magic Johnson (a huge part of the proceedings) and Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as coach Jerry West and Buss’s daughter Jeanie (who is now the owner of the Lakers, if I’m not mistaken). There’s also a huge supporting character group of basketball players, office personnel, millionaires, and others who round out the roster of people who made this dynasty happen. The cast is terrific, with John C. Reilly and Jason Clarke surrounded by a bunch of less-well-known but equally talented co-stars. I have to say, I liked the show, but I didn’t fully love it. And it’s hard to explain why; I like the show’s breaking-the-fourth-wall conceit, and it doesn’t rely on a ton of basketball to keep it interesting. It’s more of just a vibe or a tone kind of thing. I enjoyed the show, but it feels weirdly polished and a little lifeless, even though it’s clear everyone involved is having a good time. Still, it’s worth watching as a good dramedy, and even more so if you happen to be a basketball fan. This three-disc set (available on Blu-ray or DVD) contains all 10 episodes from the first season.
Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood – I have always absolutely loved Dexter. I’m a die-hard fan, no two ways about it. What makes the show so great is how it works on so many different levels. It’s intense and funny and thrilling and suspenseful and you cannot stop watching it the minute you start. You might sit down with the intentions of watching a single episode, but I dare you to try to watch just one episode and not end up sitting through an entire disc (or season). So now, to help you indulge on your Dexter obsession, we have Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood, which collects all eight seasons on Blu-ray (or DVD, if you prefer) and then adds on the single season of the new series that followed up on Dexter’s adventures eight years after the original show went off the air. And while follow-up series can be tricky, I felt like New Blood started a little slowly before quickly picking up steam and becoming quite engrossing. This massive 28-disc box set includes all eight seasons of there original show alongside all ten episodes of New Blood, along with some archival extra features. Sadly, there’s no digital copy included, but the box set is put together quite compactly and won’t take up too much space on your shelf. I’m a huge fan of this show and I’m a also a big fan of studios putting out comprehensive box sets that include the entirety of a franchise, and this one does that with style. Great stuff!
Melrose Place: The Complete Series – Massive box set alert! You know it’s the fourth quarter of the year (translation: holiday $$ for the studios) when the BIG box sets start hitting shelves. This week, Paramount/CBS gives us the whopping 54-disc behemoth Melrose Place: The Complete Series, which collects all seven seasons of the quintessential ‘90s primetime soap opera into one set. Spinning out of the success of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place was kind of like the grown-up version of 90210, following a cast of characters who shared an apartment complex and the relationships and drama that came with them. The stellar cast over the years included Courtney Thorne-Smith, Heather Locklear, Grant Show, Andrew Shue, Josie Bissett, Doug Savant, Jack Wagner, Marcia Cross, Rob Estes, Lisa Ring, and so many other familiar faces. This box set gives fans all seven seasons in one box, with seasons 1-3 included one oversized case within the box and seasons 4-7 in another. There are also all of the original bonus features from the original seven box sets released in the 2000s, making this a one-stop shop for fans of soapy melodrama, pretty cast members, and steamy romance. Fun!
Twilight Zone (Reboot): The Complete Series – Sadly, the CBS All Access original reboot of The Twilight Zone (the fourth iteration of the venerated series) only lasted two seasons, which at least now have been collected into a new box set featuring all 20 episodes on Blu-ray or DVD. Hosted by Jordan Peele, the show was an hour-long sci-fi/suspense/drama/thriller that carried on the traditions of the original series but updated it for modern audiences. Each season consisted of 10 episodes, and each episode featured different flavors of sci-fi, paranoia, tension, and uncertainty. CBS pulled out all the stops by making sure each episode included well-loved cast members: look for everyone from George Takei, Morena Baccarin, and Damon Wayans, Jr. to Topher Grace, David Krumholtz, and Ethan Embry to Adam Scott, Zazie Beetz, and Kumail Nanjiani. While it didn’t seem to make much of a splash with audiences, I found it to be a fun new take on one of the most beloved shows of all time. And, sure, the original Rod Serling series will still always be my favorite, but this was a highly enjoyable series to dive into.
Kung Fu: The Complete Second Season – Speaking of rebooted TV shows, the classic Kung Fu show from the ‘70s got new life as a CW series in 2021, and it returns to DVD this week. Starring Olivia Jiang, the show sees a young woman who goes off to a monastery in China when she finds herself at an impasse in her life. Returning home, she finds that her city has been overrun by crime, and she uses her kung fu skills to help clean things up while dealing with triads, family drama, new romance, and more. Being a CW series, the show is easy to watch; it’s slickly edited, populated with a young attractive cast, and has a pretty modern vibe and tone to it. I do want to give the showrunners credit, too, for using an almost entirely Asian cast for a show about Asian characters. Unlike the original Kung Fu in which David Carradine played a half-Chinese man, the cast here brings a good dose of Asian representation to the screen. This second season collection includes all 13 episodes from the second season on three discs, and it’s a great way to get caught up before diving in to the third season.
Also Available on Joe Video This Week:
- Into the Deep – This new thriller features an attractive young cast and not much else, making for a pretty shallow viewing experience. When Jess meets Ben at a party, she eventually wakes up on his boat in the middle of the ocean and is only mildly perturbed that she’s effectively been kidnapped. Soon they get romantic, but things become complicated when a mysterious young woman named Lexie washes up on her jet ski and joins the pair. What could have been an effective Dead Calm-style thriller is instead a mostly uninteresting drama that just never gets going. The script doesn’t work well, and the characters’ actions are pretty questionable to anyone with half a brain. All of which is forgivable if the film is exciting and suspenseful, but unfortunately, Into the Deep fails on that front, too. The cast is pretty and does their best with the material, but it’s one of those films that just fizzles out rather than ever giving viewers something to sink their teeth into.
- They Crawl Beneath – This new low-budget creature feels like a one-act-play version of Tremors. Newly-dumped police officer Danny and his Uncle Bill are working on a car in their garage when an earthquake hits, trapping Danny under his car. Making matters worse, deadly worm creatures with hallucinogenic venom have emerged from the ground fissures, and Danny has to fight to survive. Now, I can get behind a good, low-budget creature flick, but the emphasis there has to be on the word ‘good’. The problem here isn’t the budget; the practically-created worm creatures actually look pretty good. But the story is weak, the film almost never leaves the garage, and the writing just isn’t interesting enough to keep us engaged when the worms aren’t onscreen. Characters make stupid decisions that make you roll your eyes rather than rooting for them, and the whole thing — while it has its fun moments — just never pulls together enough to win you over. Worth a watch if you like creature flicks and have a low bar for quality, and the creature effects are impressive for a low-budget flick, just don’t expect too much.
- Cinematographer – One of the most important roles on a filmmaking crew is the cinematographer (also known as the director pf photography or DP), who is as responsible — and often even more so — for the look of a film as the director is. But what exactly does a cinematographer do? And who are they? This new documentary looks at a handful of prominent cinematographers as they discuss their craft. The film runs a little over an hour and features input from cinematography names like Donald M. Morgan, Owen Roizman, Jack Green, and George Dibbe. Are they household names? No. But did they shape the look of some of the films you love? They sure did. Definitely worth a watch for fans of movies about filmmaking.