A couple of huge franchises top the list this week, followed by a wide range of genres making their way to home video.
Godzilla Vs. Kong – When I voiced my opinions about Godzilla Vs. Kong on social media earlier this year, I got a lot of responses along the lines of, “But it was fun! What did you expect, an Oscar-winning movie?!?” And my answer is: no, of course not. But I expect a film to be good. There seems to be this thing people do where we excuse terrible movies as long as they have some semblance of fun to them. And hey, I get it; I love fun movies! But why can’t movies be fun and good? Because GVK is an absolute mess. The creators of the Godzilla franchise seem to be on a mission to prove that they can write the absolute worst human characters in cinematic history. Well, mission accomplished, gang! You can rest easy now! Great job! Yes, the fights between Godzilla and Kong are fun, but there’s two whole other hours of movie I have to deal with around those scenes, and they’re dreadful. What makes it worse for me is that I consider Kong: Skull Island a near-masterpiece; I wanted a real sequel to that movie, not a Godzilla/Kong mash-up that sees Kong take a back seat to a big lizard. Sigh… what could have been. Here’s the good news: GVK has been released on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital) and it looks and sounds absolutely unbelievable in the premium 4K format. Colors are so deep and vibrant they nearly pop off the screen, image clarity is absolutely razor sharp, and the surround soundtrack is both booming and powerful while also nuanced in its use of the surround channels. It’s an audiovisual treat for sure! It’s just a shame the movie itself wasn’t better.
Indiana Jones: 4K Ultra HD Movie Collection – There’s no shortage of ways to own the Indiana Jones franchise on home video, and I’ll bet most people reading this already own the films in some format or another. Now, however, the greatest adventure movies of all time make their 4K Ultra HD debut. Of course, the main question here is: is this set worth the upgrade? After all, the films are all 30-40 years old, so how much improvement do we get in the new format? Well, I’m happy to report that Paramount knows what Indiana Jones means to fans, and they took their time to do this right, with each film’s final presentation approved by Steven Spielberg. So often with catalogue titles, you get minor upgrades in A/V quality when they come to 4K, but the Indy films look and sound practically brand new. The images look so crisp and clean, while the improved colors add new life and the enhanced shadow delineation lets you see more of the action in darker scenes than ever before. And then there’s the Dolby Atmos surround soundtracks, which are phenomenal. It’s like they took every sound effect and background noise and placed them by hand in all the different speakers. It’s the most immersive these movies have ever sounded since they were in theaters. Now, unfortunately, a lot of extra features from the previously released versions are not included here, which is a major oversight in my opinion, although the included digital copies are a nice bonus. Still, even with that major flaw, I have to say that this set comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Voyagers – Neil Burger has been quiet for a while, but when I found out Voyagers was directed by him, I was super excited. After all, he brought us Limitless, The Illusionist, and The Upside — all excellent films — and even the first Divergent movie which I enjoyed quite a bit. Now he returns to sci-fi with Voyagers, which stars one of my favorite young actors, Tye Sheridan (Mud, the latest X-Men films), as well as Colin Farrell and Lily-Rose Depp. Voyagers is a sci-fi film about a group of young cadets heading to colonize a planet that’s 86 years away from a slowly-dying Earth. Of course, you get a bunch of young people together in a confined space — especially when you stop taking the medicine that filters out negative emotions — and, well, you can probably imagine how well things go. The comparisons to things like Lord of the Flies and The 100 are hard to avoid, but Burger brings his usual flair to the proceedings, and the terrific cast really helps you stay engaged in the proceedings. It’s a good film that keeps things moving and looks terrific; hard to argue with any of that!
The Lovebirds: Unrated – I sometimes don’t quite understand Paramount’s marketing plans. For example we have The Lovebirds: Unrated released on DVD this week. The film was scheduled for theatrical release last year but instead went straight to streaming in May of 2020. Now, over a year later, Paramount has finally released the film on DVD. It’s almost like they forgot about it and then went, “Oh, hey, we should probably put that out on home video, I guess…” The film stars Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae as a couple who get mixed up in a murder, which of course causes no small amount of stress on their relationship. I’m a huge Kumail Nanjiani fan, so I’ll watch just about anything he’s in, and I found The Lovebirds to be a pretty enjoyable film. It’s silly but it’s funny, and Nanjiani and Rae play off each other terrifically. Chances are good many of you have already seen the film since it’s been on Netflix (or whatever service) for a year, bu if you haven’t seen it yet, now you can check it out on home video.
Anything for Jackson – I’ve kind of given up on horror movies these days because there are just so many bad ones, and then comes along a movie like Anything for Jackson which reminds you the genre still has a little gas in the tank. The film sees an elderly couple kidnap a pregnant woman and perform a satanic ritual on her in order to put the soul of their tragically deceased grandson (the titular Jackson) into the baby’s body. Now, anyone who’s seen a horror film knows exactly how that’s going to work out, but it’s what director Justin Dyck does while getting to the climax that makes the film interesting. First of all, even though the grandparents involved are unquestionably the “bad guys” of the film, they’re not actually bad guys; they’re just grieving. Instead, there is a coterie of satanic demons that comes to visit the protagonists as they await the birth of the baby that are increasingly more disturbing. The film’s cast is very strong (especially for a group of unknown actors), and the creepy factor starts in the very beginning and just never lets up. Definitely worth a look for horror fans tired of the same old dreck.
Also Available on Home Video This Week:
- Resurrection – Roma Downey and Mark Burnett continue their quest to bring religious-themed programming to audiences who crave that sort of material. This DIscovery+ movie is actually a re-edit of the first four episodes of the pair’s AD: The Bible Continues miniseries from a few years back. Those episodes have been cobbled together pretty seamlessly into a 90-minute movie that follows the disciples of Jesus Christ in the days after his execution at the hands of the Romans. There was a lot of fear and persecution, and then there was the resurrection which led to the birth of the church that follows Jesus. Not surprisingly, Jesus’s resurrection is a centerpiece of the film. Now, I’m not an expert on faith-based films or the original miniseries this was derived from, but my understanding is that they deleted some scenes as well as added some to make this play out more like a film and not just half a miniseries, and it certainly works. Religious movies aren’t really my thing, but it’s well-made with good production values and it works well as a film, so people seeking faith-based movies will want to check it out.
- Rock Dog 2: Rock Around the Park -The first Rock Dog animated film was kind of like a mash-up of Kung Fu Panda and Sing (if you can imagine that.) At the end of the day, it was a relatively typical tale of following your dreams and such, but the talented voice cast (which included Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Eddie Izzard, Mae Whitman, Kenan Thompson, and Lewis Black) kept things fun. Now, we get a direct-to-video sequel which sees all of the big name voice talent gone. To be fair, the voice actors who take over are all perfectly good, but the recognizable voices are gone, which might make some parents less interested in watching. This time around, Bodi and his band go on tour with popular musical act Lil’ Foxy, and then come up against the usual trappings of fame. Will it corrupt them? Or will lessons about humility and friendship win the day? Well, I’ll let you guess which one it is, but the film is a decent enough outing for kids, even if some of the charm from the original is gone this time around.
- The Great War of Archimedes – What at first glance looks like just another war movie is actually much more of A Beautiful Mind meets Tora Tora Tora. This new Japanese film starts off with a massive battleship battle at sea before calming things down. From there, we follow a young navy man who is a mathematical genius, who works to prove what things will work and what won’t in the Japanese Navy, all the while fighting superior officers who want things to go only one way: theirs. It’s an interesting film. On the one hand, it could have been incredibly boring; there’s a lot of talk about budgets and timelines and the like. However, the filmmakers frame the action (or lack thereof) in an interesting enough way to keep your attention. On the other hand, the battle sequences are pretty darn cool, which makes the lack of them throughout much of the film all the more noticeable. Overall, I liked The Great War of Archimedes, but I wasn’t blown away by it.
- Salvador Dali: In Search of Immortality – I’ve been a fan of surrealist painter Salvador Dali since I was a kid, often visiting the Dali Museum in Tampa, Florida, which was only an hour or so from where I grew up. So I was particularly interested in the new documentary Salvador Dali: In Search of Immortality, out this week on DVD. The film breaks the artist’s life up into three periods: 1904-1929 (diving into Dali’s youth and early years), 1929-1982 (detailing most of Dali’s work and life as an artist), and 1982-1989 (shedding some light on the mercurial artist’s final years). Even better, the film manages to fit all that seamlessly into just under two hours, preventing an overly long documentary that spirals into boredom. We see a lot of imagery and archival footage, and while it’s not glued-to-your-seat riveting it’s an interesting enough film that really is like an art history lesson on a true master.
- Baphomet – The second film this week dealing with pregnancy and Satan, Baphomet takes a much different approach to the horror genre than the aforementioned Anything for Jackson. In this film, a family celebrating their daughter’s pregnancy in their rural cabin is interrupted by a cult of Satan Worshippers who want the dwelling for themselves (it is sacred to them for reasons that eventually become clear). When the family refuses, the cult curses them, and of course, things get bloody from there. Baphomet is, unfortunately, much more of what I’m used to from horror these days, with no shortage of blood and guts, a weak script, poor acting, and a story that doesn’t completely fail but also doesn’t ever quite work. But hey, at least there’s a shark attack!
- Indie Spotlight – Wrapping up this week, we have a number of new indie release titles out. First up is Sin (Il Piccato), an Italian film giving us a look at the life of Michelangelo in the aftermath of his completion of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Bankrupt and obsessed, the artist finds himself caught up in the dealings of the notorious Medici family and trying to complete a new commission. The film is a bit on the long side, coming in at about two hours and fifteen minutes, but it is well made and lead actor Alberto Testone is undeniably powerful as Michelangelo. Worth a watch if you like foreign films and history. Next up is Beate, one of my favorites of the indie releases this week. This is another Italian film, but it’s a little lighter subject matter than Sin. If you’ve ever wanted to watch a film about nuns and female factory workers teaming up to make lingerie, then I have exactly the film for you. The movie has a bit of a Full Monty or Made in Dagenham vibe to it, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. I found it quite enjoyable. Moving into the documentary realm, we have Tina Barney: Social Studies. This surprisingly interesting film runs only an hour, but it’s quite good. Barney is a photographer who decides to photograph the upper crust moneyed peoples and locales of Europe. It’s a real look into how the other half lives, but these aren’t celebrity cribs; no, think more like the manse of Downton Abbey and you get the picture. The short running time works for the film, keeping it brisk but engaging the whole way through. Next up is Omertà: The Act of Silence, a low budget mob/crime drama that blends a message about faith throughout the proceedings. Now, I mentioned earlier that religious films aren’t really my thing, but I don’t hold that against the movie. However, it is shot rather pedestrian-ly, the performances are fine but nothing special, and the film is too long by far at two hours-plus. Not my cup of tea, unfortunately. Returning to the horror genre, we have Face of the Devil, which I have to admit has one of the better horror-related DVD covers I’ve seen in recent months. The film is a Spanish language horror flick that treads on familiar ground, with a group of seven mostly attractive friends traveling into the jungles of Peru, only to be beset upon by a supernatural force. There’s nothing too original about the film and the pacing lags a bit in places, but it does have some effective moments, and I’ve seen worse. Good for fans of B-movies. Finally, our last DVD of the week is Last Request, a new drama from Nigeria. Now, I will admit that my knowledge of the Nigerian film scene (or “Nollywood,” apparently) is extremely limited, but from what I’ve been told, the film’s stars, Bimbo Akintola and Antar Laniyan, are huge box office stars there, and the film won Best Director at the 2019 African Film Awards, so it’s got a real pedigree. And if you don’t mind subtitles and a heavy tone and subject matter, you’ll enjoy this film. The movie follows a family whose patriarch is diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor, which causes no small amount of turmoil within his family. Although the subject matter and the general aesthetic is heavier than what I usually like to watch, both Akintola and Laniyan give terrific, emotional performances, and it’s easy to get sucked into the drama. Recommended if you like a film that gets real deep, real quick.
What's New & Noteworthy on Home Video June 15th, 2021 - Godzilla vs. Kong, Indiana Jones & More!
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