It’s a pretty big release slate this week, however, it’s largely populated by catalogue titles, with numerous new home video versions of old films. There are some new movies and shows in the mix, though, and such a wide range of genres available that there’s sure to be something for everyone!
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: 35th Anniversary Steelbook Edition – As much as it pains me to admit that one of my favorite movies of all time is 35(!) years old this year, it’s is true. Which means I’m old. BUT! I remain young at heart every time I watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which remains to this day my favorite comedy movie ever. It is literally perfect. There isn’t a single scene in this movie that doesn’t work, and I’ve watched it a million times and I will watch it a million more. Luckily, now I have the film in a case that will hold up to repeat viewings with Paramount’s new 35th Anniversary Edition, which comes in a sharp-looking Steelbook case. It also includes a digital copy of the film, so if it’s not in your library already, you have no excuse now. And while the disc doesn’t include any new extra features, there are a handful of fun extras ported over from previous releases, so this is the best version of Ferris Bueller available to date. Obviously, this one comes… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Space Jam (4K Ultra HD) – Now, I’ll admit that I am not the biggest fan of Space Jam in the world. It came out when I was a little too old for it, and in fact I never saw it at all until a few years ago. However, I have a few friends about a decade younger than me who are all incredibly HUGE fans of this movie. There is definitely a generation out there for whom this is their holy grail of childhood movies. So, with the new Space Jam film dropping in theaters (and HBO Max), Warner has delivered a new 4K Ultra HD version of the original Looney Tunes/Michael Jordan jam. Now, the film is 25 years old, so the upgrade to 4K doesn’t make it look brand new, but it sure does look good. The expanded color saturation really enhances an animated film like this, and colors are so vibrant they nearly pop off the screen. Image clarity is sharp as well, and the overall picture quality is terrific. The surround soundtrack is a solid effort, giving your rear speakers a decent workout, even if its not the most nuanced mix I’ve ever heard. The 4K release also includes the film on Blu-ray and a digital copy, so it’s a great way for fans to own it if they don’t already.
Defending Jacob – This six-episode miniseries starring Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery originally debuted on Apple TV+, which means not as many people saw it as, say, Stranger Things. So I’m glad it’s getting a home video release, because it’s really fantastic. Evans and Dockery play the parents of a teenager who is accused of murder, complicated by the fact that Evans is a lawyer who may or may not have disposed of potential evidence. The show is literally about the title, Defending Jacob, as it spends most of its time preparing his defense and investigating the case, more so than giving us a trial or things like that. If I have one complaint, it’s that the ending is probably a little divisive and not everyone will love it, but I checked and it is actually the same ending as the book the show is based on, so that’s true to the source material. Even with the ending maybe being a little unsatisfying, the show is definitely worth watching; it’s gripping, dramatic, well-acted, and it will have you glued to your seat from start to finish. RECOMMENDED!
Chaos Walking – Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley team up for Chaos Walking, a new film based on a Young Adult novel. The story tells us of a planet of humans in the future where all the women have been killed and all the men suffer from a virus that makes their every thought known to everyone around them. When Daisy Ridley’s spaceship crashes on the lane, Holland must help her survive (which she barely needs him for) and guide him to a piece of equipment that will help her get off the planet. The film has an intriguing concept but it seems like a lot of important info was left on the cutting room floor; I can’t help but think the film probably is much better as the book it’s based on. But director Doug Liman (the Bourne franchise, Edge of Tomorrow) knows how to craft an action scene, and there are a few really good ones. But the film flags in between, and there are some deeper issues of masculinity and femininity that I don’t think are addressed, for better or worse. It’s an interesting film, and it makes a decent watch, but it definitely feels like a movie that could have been better.
His Dark Materials: The Complete Second Season – I was never a fan of The Golden Compass, the 2007 film that adapted Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book for the big screen. I know the books are incredibly popular, however, so I was intrigued when HBO announced a new series that was supposed to adapt the book series but do a better job of it. And now that I’ve dug into the show, I just have to wonder… why exactly are these books so popular? Or is it just that it’s unadaptable? After HBO hit a home run with Watchmen, I expected this series to be equally as amazing — or at least close to it — but I honestly don’t care for it it at all. I find the whole world confusing, the storyline even more so, and I don’t like any of the characters in the show at all. Maybe if I’d read the books I’d feel differently, but a good show or movie doesn’t require foreknowledge of the source material. I’m sure this show has its fans, but I am definitely not one of them. This Season 2 collection features just seven episodes, but it does also include a nice collection of extra features, so there’s some bang for fans’ buck.
Drunk History: The Complete Series – I know Drunk History had a pretty big fan following, and I can see why with its plethora of big name guest stars. But personally, I’m just not a fan. There’s not a whole lot of Comedy Central’s original programming that I like these days, as they clearly are targeting a much younger frat-boy demographic than I fit into. Still, if you like the show, this new box set includes all season does bring you all 70 episodes from all six seasons, spread over 11 discs. With so many notable guest stars, such as Billie Joe Armstrong, Tiffany Haddish, Bill Hader, David Harbour, Bob Odenkirk Juno Temple, Michael Cera, Ed Helms, Ronda Rousey, Elizabeth Olsen, Liev Schreiber, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dave Grohl, and Patton Oswalt (among many, many others), even if I’m not a big fan of the show overall, I can appreciate seeing people I really like in a unique setting.
Stardust – Not to be confused with the 2007 fantasy film of the same name, this new film is a biopic of David Bowie that focuses on the years when, as a young twentysomething, he first came to America to promote his The Man Who Sold the World album, and how it led into him creating his famous Ziggy Stardust persona. Unfortunately, what should have been a vibrant, exciting look at a man who was fascinating is instead a plodding, uninspired film. Johnny Flynn is fine as Bowie, but he’s nowhere near as electric as, say, Tarin Egerton was in Rocketman. Marc Maron plays an American promoter who hit the road to try and get Bowie off the ground, and he’s easily the best part of the movie. Sadly, he can’t save it, and as someone who doesn’t know a lot about Bowie but wants to, I wish this film had been more interesting or engaging.
Silat Warriors: Deed of Death – No, the’s not a typo, this film is called Silat Warriors (not Silent Warriors). It’s a Malaysian action film about a man out to rescue his younger brother, who’s fallen in with the proverbial Wrong Crowd. As can be expected, this unleashes a flurry of violence as his family is threatened and many, many bad guys try (and fail) to keep him from pulling his brother out of a bad situation. The film title’s “Silat” refers to an Asian martial art, and we get to see lots of examples of it in the form of numerous furious action scenes, which showcase some truly impressive fight choreography. The film’s story is solid and there’s a strong family theme throughout, and I found it to be quite an enjoyable action flick. If you’re looking for some hard-hitting flying fists, this one is worth checking out.
Mortuary – This 1983 cult classic horror film gets a new Blu-ray release courtesy of MVD’s excellent Rewind Collection, which brings us lesser-known but well-liked films in spiffy new versions. Mortuary is a slasher flick firmly in the ‘80s mode, but it’s got such a loopy story that it would be hard to describe it in a sentence or two. (In that way, it reminds me a bit of the early Phantasm films). What’s more important to know is that Mary Beth McDonagh is a likable lead, who’s joined partway through the film by a young Bill Paxton, whose part grows and grows as the movie goes on. It’s Paxton who really makes this film worth watching, and even though the story is all over the place, the film is still a pretty good time, especially if you have an affinity for ‘80s horror flicks.
The House on Sorority Row – Another 1980s cult classic horror film gets a new Blu-ray version this week with Scorpion Releasing’s 2-Disc set of The House on Sorority Row. There are actually echoes of I Know What You Did Last Summer in the film, with a group of sorority sisters planning a huge party before year end and pranking their uptight house mother and accidentally (maybe?) kill her. Shortly thereafter, a mysterious figure starts killing off the girls one by one, in classic slasher fashion. The film is a low-budget affair, but it has that ‘80s aesthetic that for some reason works so well for slasher films, and I had a lot of fun with it. The release includes a plethora of extra features, including two audio commentaries, an alternate ending, and over two hours of interviews with cast and crew, including actress Harley Jane Kozak. This is one of those films I remember seeing in video stores back in the day but I’d never seen before, so this was a lot of fun to watch, and the Blu-ray package is terrific.
Wildcat – This is a hard film to review. On one hand, this dramatic thriller about a female journalist and injured Marine being held captive and interrogated (as well as tortured) is an effective thriller, with a sense of tension that literally never lets up. On the other hand… man, is it a tough watch at times. Taking place almost entirely in one room, the film doesn’t fetishize the violence and torture; aside from one or two quick shots, most of the torture itself happens off camera. But that doesn’t make what happens any less disturbing. It’s an incredibly taut and claustrophobic film that will leave you feeling ill at ease for most of its running time. However, it’s also quite gripping, and the performances by Georgina Campbell and Luke Benward (and Mido Hamada as one of their captors) are all exceptional, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in their plight. A worthwhile film, but be aware that it’s not for the faint of heart.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- My Brother’s Keeper – TV stalwarts Joey Lawrence and Keshia Knight Pulliam add some recognizable names to this faith-based drama, but it’s less-known actor T.C. Stallings who takes the lead role as a soldier suffering from PTSD and relying on a church-based counselor to help him deal with it. Of course, elements from his past pop up, threatening to derail the progress they’ve made. This is a solidly Christian film, and I think the faith-based audience will find a lot to like, with a positive message, very strong performances (Stallings is terrific), and enough conflict to giver the film some heft, but no so much as to lose the message of the film. People not into faith-based films will probably find it a bit heavy handed, but the target audience should enjoy it plenty.
- The Last Time I Committed Suicide – A serious ensemble cast graces this little remembered film from 1997. With the likes of Keanu Reeves, Thomas Jane, Claire Forlani, Adrien Brody, Marg Helgenberger, Amy Smart, and Gretchen Mol in the cast, the film certainly isn’t lacking for star power. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate to a great movie. The film is based on a letter from young Neal Cassidy (a supporting player on the beat poet movement) to his friend Jack Kerouac, and it details his inability to deal with his girlfriend’s suicide attempt. The film is kind of messy and weirdly organized, making it occasionally hard to follow. The performances are all good, but the film as a whole is pretty lackluster, despite all the likable faces on screen.
- 42nd Street – The classic broadway musical gets a new version on home video, but it’s not the movie from 1933. Instead, this new Blu-ray from MVD presents London’s West End’s performance of 42nd Street, recorded live. Now, it’s no secret that musicals aren’t my go-to genre. I don’t hate them or anything, but I certainly seek them out. But it’s hard not to be impressed by the live version of 42nd Street. The musical numbers are all showstoppers with amazing choreography and impressive stage set-ups. The music is lively and bouncy, and the live performances are all larger than life. It’s a fun spectacle that’s worth giving a spin.
- Halifax: Retribution – Rebecca Gibney and Anthony LaPaglia star in this seven-episode crime drama. Now, over the past few years I’ve become a really big fan of Australian television, so I was really looking forward to this show, especially because I’m a big fan of Anthony LaPaglia. But somewhere along the way, something kind of went wrong. The story follows a police officer who recruits a forensic professor to help catch a serial sniper threatening the citizenry, which certainly seems like it would be an exciting watch, But the show lacks any real energy, and Gibney and LaPaglia seem a little bit like they’re sleepwalking through their performances. I don’t know why the production is so lackluster, but I found it fairly disappointing.
- Garfield: The Grumpy Cat Collection – All right, admittedly I don’t watch a ton of kids cartoons anymore, but this set is too fantastic too pass up. What sounds like just another collection of random episodes is actually a collection of the three seasons of the classic Garfield and Friends Saturday morning cartoon. You get 50 episodes on six discs filled with everyone’s favorite sardonic, lasagna loving orange cat. I always loved this cartoon, especially Lorenzo Music’s great voice work as Garfield. He’s the perfect embodiment of the character, and this show really captures the flavor of the comic strip. It’s a fun show, and getting six discs worth of episodes for under $20 is a hard bargain to pass up.
- Ten Minutes to Midnight & The Ringmaster – MVD brings us two new horror movies this week. First up is Ten Minutes to Midnight, a new vampire thriller that’s better than a lot of low-budget horror fare hitting video these days. Caroline Williams stars as a radio DJ doing her last broadcast while a hurricane envelops the station. Unfortunately, she’s been bitten by a rabid bat, and she’s starting to turn into a vampire. I won’t tell you what happens from there, but I found the structure quite satisfying, giving us a lot of time to get to know the character without skimping on the horror elements. It’s a cool little flick that I think horror fans would do well to track down. Then there’s The Ringmaster, originally titled Finale. The film starts off interestingly enough with two girls working in a lonely gas station on the night of a football final match in Denmark. Unfortunately, once they are abducted to become unwilling participants in a web show for deprived viewers, it devolves largely into torture porn, which is a genre I just find completely unappealing. This one’s only for fans of that particular genre.
- Acorn Media Spotlight – Acorn Media specializes in bringing us the best TV shows from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, and I love whenever I get new shows to dig into from them, because they are so often of such high quality. This month, we have some notable releases, starting off with Soulmates: Season 1, a really cool romantic anthology show with a sci-fi twist. The show takes place 15 years in the future, where a test has been created to identify your soulmate. Over the six episodes, we follow six different sets of characters in the aftermath; some couples coming together and some falling apart. The show isn’t exactly star studded, but there are some recognizable faces, including Malin Akerman (Watchmen), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), JJ Field (Lost in Space), and Sarah Snook (Predestination). It’s a really neat premise and while not every episode is perfect, they’re all quite enjoyable. Following that, we have A Suitable Boy, a terrific drama about a young woman in 1951 India, right after the country became independent. Lead character Lata decides not to marry the boy her mother has picked out for her, instead pursuing her own romantic relationships, which causes no small amount of family distress. The show has a good amount of drama, romance, and a wide array of characters, and I found it quite engaging over its six episodes. Hopefully we’ll see more of it in the future. Next up is The Other One: Series 1, a unique show about a woman and her daughter whose husband/father dies suddenly, leading them to discover that he had another family: a long-term mistress and his daughter with that woman. What follows is revelations and conflicts aplenty, but what sounds like a melodrama is actually a comedy, with situations that are offbeat and funny, such as both daughters being named Cathy. What’s better is that even though it’s a comedy, there are moments of real emotion and drama, so while you’ll find yourself chuckling on the regular, you also find yourself caring about the characters. A fun watch and I look forward to more. Finally, we have Cold Call, a chilling four-episode series about a mother whose life gets turned upside by a scam phone call that turns her world upside down. It’s one of those shows that is definitely based on events that could happen in the real world, and it’s almost a little frightening to see how one wrong move can send your life into a spiral. Not recommended for people with lots of anxiety, but a good viewing experience!
- WB Archives Spotlight – The WB Archive continues to bring us print-on-demand goodness on Blu-ray, and this week we have several new titles. The first one is Drunken Master II, which I’m surprised wasn’t given a full retail release, considering how popular Jackie Chan’s movies remain. This one is (obviously) the sequel to Drunken Master, and it deals with Chan fighting thieves out to get Chinese national treasures, using his martial arts style that requires him to be just a little bit drunk (or at least pretending to be.) But the story isn’t what you come to a Jackie Chan film for, you come for the martial arts mayhem, and this film is simply incredible in that regard. It’s filled with Chan’s trademark insane choreography, and watching it is a visual marvel. I loved this movie and I love it every time the WB Archive delivers us another Chan flick. Next up, we have The Yearling, starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman. You know, it’s interesting, when you think of classic Hollywood films, it’s often screwball comedies or film noir or big budget musicals, but rarely do family films come to mind. I don’t know of that’s because they were made less often than today or just that none of them were great enough to stick in the public consciousness, but The Yearling is one of those rare memorable family films from yesteryear. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the film is the simple story of a farm family whose young boy “adopts” a baby deer while they face both hard times and good. It’s nothing terribly complicated, but it is moving and heartfelt, and Peck and Wyman are both excellent. I feel like this is one of those films a lot of kids saw in school back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, so there are some nice memories here. Following that, we have Chain Lightning, which I was excited to watch because it stars Humphrey Bogart, and I’m a huge Bogey fan. This was one I’d never seen before, which made it even more exciting. The film sees former a military pilot take a role as a test pilot for a commercial aircraft company, and while there, he runs into an old flame which may or may not reignite (I don’t want to spoil it for you.) While this isn’t one of Bogey’s upper-tier classics, it’s a solid romantic drama (with some exciting moments thrown in) that is still enjoyable to watch. And Bogart is fantastic, as always! Wrapping things up, we have Ziegfield Follies. The famed 1945 musical is considered by many to be one of the greatest musicals of its era, and it’s not hard to see why. The film sees a director — in Heaven! — crafting the ultimate musical movie on earth, which leads to numerous terrific song and dance sequences. With a cast that includes William Powell, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire, Lena Horne, and Gene Kelly, the film is a star-studded affair. It has a few pacing issues and musicals aren’t my favorite genre, but it’s certainly an impressive example of the genre at its biggest.