We’ve got a massive release week this week, as studios gear up for Halloween, and the start of the fourth quarter of the year, where holiday shipping kicks home video sales into overdrive. We’ve got blockbuster movies, beloved TV series, big-name star anthologies, indie hits, and more!
The Suicide Squad – While there were one or two parts I liked, The Suicide Squad confirms what I’ve been saying about James Gunn for a while now: he likes making mean, nasty, unpleasant movies that aren’t very good. (And then one time he accidentally made a classic called Guardians of the Galaxy.) So, after the controversy at Marvel, Gunn signed on to direct a sequel to DC’s breakout hit, Suicide Squad (and I hate, hate, HATE the fact that we have two movies three years apart that have effectively the exact same name.) Supposedly this is neither a sequel nor a reboot (nor a remake… so what the hell is it?) But the film perfectly showcases Gunn’s mean streak, giving us a film devoid of any heart that pretends to be about heart. I liked the one action sequence with Harley Quinn in the middle of the film, and I think David Dastmalchian is a super-underrated utility player who makes every movie better (he plays Polka Dot Man), but ultimately I found this to be yet another James Gunn movie I didn’t like. On the plus side, The Suicide Squad looks and sound quite excellent on the 4K Ultra HD format, with terrific sharpness, strong color saturation, and deep black levels. The surround soundtrack is extremely active and really utilizes the rear channel speakers well, so the A/V portion of this disc is top notch.
Old – So, this is a hard film to talk about without giving things away. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest is another thriller, this time about a family and a couple other groups of people who find themselves on a secluded beach which seems to be aging people at a freakishly fast rate. The film’s trailer was terrific, but as with many of Shyamalan’s latest efforts, I think there will be some people who really enjoy this film and an equal amount who won’t. Based on a book by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters, I think what will ultimately decide it for most people is the third act. Shyamalan’s third acts tend to either work for people or they don’t, and I think this one will split down the middle. I think the film is pretty good overall, but it’s not Shyamalan at his best. Old comes to home video in the Ultra HD 4K (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and the 4K format does the film well. The bright beach scenes look vibrant and lifelike while the darker scenes never feel obscured, thanks to strong shadow delineation and contrasts. The surround soundtrack doesn’t have an overly huge amount of material to work with, but it brings the beach ambience to life nicely. An unshowy but high quality A/V presentation.
Stillwater – What an interesting movie. Imagine if Amanda Knox’s father was a salt-of-the-earth type average Joe who went over to Italy and ended up trying to solve her case on his own. That’s sort of what happens in Stillwater, except it’s not a pure mystery film. The mystery sort of happens as a backdrop. Matt Damon turns in a performance that is not flashy or showy but is absolutely terrific as the father of a college-age girl who has been imprisoned in France for murdering her roommate. When a new lead in the case leads to hope for her acquittal but the French law refuses to investigate, Damon starts to look into the case on his own. Along the way he becomes friends with a French woman and her young daughter, and also tries to reconnect with his own daughter. It’s part drama, part mystery, (with a few lighthearted moments thrown in) and I actually really liked it. It’s not an action-packed thriller, but I found it quite engaging and it felt different from anything else I’ve watched recently. Definitely worth a watch.
The Protege – I’ll watch Michael Keaton in anything, because I truly believe he’s one of the best actors in the world. And it’s to his credit that even in a perfectly by-the-numbers action film like The Protege, he takes what should be a completely bland part and makes it rather captivating. The film follows Maggie Q as a woman who is a deadly assassin (raised to be a deadly assassin by her father figure Samuel L. Jackson), while Keaton plays the deadly operative on the opposite side of things (although he’s not quite good guy or bad guy). The film is enjoyable enough; it’s an easy watch with some good action sequences. But there’s really nothing about it that feels fresh, new, or original. I like Maggie Q a lot and of course Keaton is terrific, so I liked the film overall, but it feels like one of those movies that will kill 90 minutes and then you’ll forget about the minute it’s over. The Protege comes to home video in the Ultra HD 4K (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it benefits nicely from the premium format. The film has a lot of night scenes but shadow delineation is clear, while the image clarity is exceptional. The surround soundtrack is pretty beefy, giving us a nice low end and some good use of the satellite speakers. A good presentation of an okay film.
Star Trek: The Original Series Steelbook Collection – I’m not always the biggest fan of repackaging existing material and throwing it out on the market for the holidays, but sometimes a repackaging is done so well, you just have to admire it. Such is the case with the new Star Trek: The Original Series Complete Collection on Blu-ray. The original series’ three seasons were originally released in complete season Blu-ray sets, then collected in a full series set. Now we get them in a sparkly new Steelbook collection that gives us all three seasons in one set, with each season in a beautifully designed steelbook case housing its multiple discs. Each steelbook has gorgeous artwork that represents the characters and events of the season. There isn’t any new content on the discs, although they are loaded with all of the original extra features from the original releases, giving you hours and hours of extras to pore through. Still, there are plenty of people out there who have never picked up the whole series on Blu-ray, and if you haven’t yet, this is definitely the way to do it.
Superman: The Complete Animated Series – On the heels of the Batman Animated Series in the early 1990s, which became a massive success and revolutionized animated television shows, DC and Warner decide to try the same approach with their other biggest superhero, Superman. Now, I’m a huge Superman fan, but back in the day, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this show. I found it a little less exciting than I would have liked, and it wasn’t Batman: TAS, which to my mind could not be topped. But in revisiting the show over the years, I’ve found it’s actually a terrific series. It really captures the true spirit of the character, with Superman being his upstanding, non-edgy, powerful self, not the grim and humorless Superman that Zack Snyder brought us in his DC live action movies. With great voice work by Tim Daly, Dana Delaney and Clancy Brown and a slew of terrific guest stars, the show is actually quite a bit of fun. Its a shame it didn’t run longer, but this new collection marks the first time you can get all 52 episodes in one set on Blu-ray (and digital!), and there are some nice extra features thrown in as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Stand: The Definitive 2-Series Collection – Stephen King’s The Stand is one of my favorite books of all time, easily in my top five. So I will watch or read any adaptation of it there is, and this new collection from Paramount gives us not one but two TV miniseries adapting the novel. The first one is the famous ‘90s miniseries starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, and Rob Lowe. Despite some of the limitations of budget-related conceits (some of the special effects look their age), I find that the original miniseries really holds up well still. Then we have last year’s Stand miniseries that aired on Paramount Plus and featured another all-star cast, including James Marsden, Amber Heard, and Whoopi Goldberg. While certainly a darker take on the tale, I also enjoyed this version quite a bit, although I did have a few issues with it. The story is told non-linearly, which means there are some things revealed before they should be, in my opinion, and I didn’t love that. But overall it was still a worthwhile version of one of my favorite stories ever. This new Blu-ray collection includes both versions of The Stand in their entirety, and that’s pretty darn cool.
Audrey Hepburn: 7-Movie Collection – So often, when studios collect a movie star’s films into one collection, it’s hodgepodge of a few marquee titles and then a bunch of lesser known films that are added as filler. But Audrey Hepburn had a surprisingly small filmography compared to some movie stars, and she spent a lot of that time making really good films. Thus, when you look at the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection, it’s an impressive roster of films considering they all come from one studio. This new Blu-ray collection gives you six heavyweights (with one lesser-known title thrown in): Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, Funny Face, Sabrina, War and Peace, and Paris When it Sizzles. I mean, the set would be worth it for Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, and Funny Face alone, but it really shines when you put all seven films together. Sabrina is an underrated classic, My Fair Lady is a beloved film, even War and Peace might not be the definitive film in the set, but it’s a terrific inclusion. Even better, this set includes digital copies of all seven movies, which is somewhat of a rarity for older, classic Hollywood films. I’m incredibly impressed with this set and it comes RECOMMENDED!
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: The Complete Series – While I was already an adult (supposedly) when the Jimmy Neutron show started airing in the early 2000s, I have to admit that I always found it a surprisingly fun and clever show. I don’t remember watching it much at the time, but once I had kids and was constantly in search of things for them to watch, we discovered Jimmy Neutron and had a lot of fun with it. Over the course of three seasons, the boy genius and his inventions were involved in no small amount of trouble, and the show had such a fun vibe that it’s hard not to like. And while the early-era CGI has aged a little bit, it still holds up relatively well. This new box set marks the first time the entire series has collected into one place, and it’s a great way to revisit a series that you might have liked and maybe now your kids will too.
- Survive the Game – Bruce Willis and Chad Michael Murray made a movie together a couple of years ago in which Chad Michael Murray’s home was invaded by criminals. It was called Survive the Night. Now, we get both actors teaming up again, this time for a movie in which Chad Michael Murray’s farm gets invaded by a couple of criminals. It’s called Survive the Game. I’m not sure what’s happening here, as the films are unrelated, but it’s an oddball circumstance. Regardless, the resulting film (which sees Willis in more of a supporting role once again) is a by-the-numbers thriller that has some good suspense, a few good action scenes, and likable stars, even if it’s ultimately nothing special. It’s a decent way to kill a couple of hours, but not much more.
- I Spit on Your Grave & I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu – It’s hard to talk about I Spit on Your Grave without discussing its impact and reputation more than the film itself. It’s also hard to watch it. A rape/revenge thriller that has been called at best exploitative and at worst a travesty against humanity, it’s not a particularly easy film to sit through. Now, some 40 years later, writer/director Meir Zarchi is back with the first official sequel to the original cult classic. This film sees original actress Camille Keaton reprise her role, this time around abducted (along with her adult daughter) by the families of the men she killed in the original film. Both films are available on Blu-ray this week, and while I can say the new film will probably not come close to the controversy of the original, it’s also not much better of a film. You’d think 40 years would have brought some enlightenment to Zarchi, but it’s really just more of the same.
- Warning – Direct-to-video movies are always hit or miss, but I’ve watched quite a lot of them that I’ve really enjoyed, so I’m always game when a new one comes along that piques my interest. With a cast including Thomas Jane, Alice Eve, Annabelle Wallis, and Alex Pettyfer, that’s exactly what Warning did. It turns out to be an anthology film, with a number of short stories tied together by a science fiction theme about humanity and technology and bookending chapters. There are several intriguing concepts throughout the vignettes, but unfortunately they often fall short of delivering on the promise of those concepts. It’s like the filmmakers had all these big questions they wanted to tackle, but didn’t know the answers to any fo them. Disappointing.
- The Colony – Also in the sci-fi vein this week we have The Colony, a film which on the surface sounds like a knock off of The 100 (and which isn’t actually all that off base.) Set in the distant future, man has left earth due to wars and pandemic and general badness, but now they want to come back. When an expedition crash lands on the planet, they discover survivors of a previous expedition, humans under the age of 30, and it becomes a race for survival. While not an exceptional film, I liked The Colony. It has some flaws, but the general storyline is good, the sci-fi trappings work well, and the suspense and action pieces of the film both come together nicely. There are some performances that could be better, but if you’e looking for a nice bit of dystopia future to journey through, this will do the trick.
- Saving Sloan – This month’s requisite “girl with a horse” movie, Saving Sloane is unfortunately one of the weaker entires in the genre. The film sees a teenage girl who keeps getting in trouble end up being sent out to the country, where she bonds with an “unrideable” horse. But the script is as basic as they come, the characters are paper thin, the plot is predictable, and there’s just very little about the film that is redeeming or interesting in any way. With new horse movies out literally every month, this is an easy one to skip and wait for the next one.
- Classic Hollywood Spotlight – MVD has four new DVD Releases this week that shine the spotlight on classic Hollywood cinema. First up is the Paul Newman Trilogy, a collection of some early rarities from Paul Newman’s career. These are effectively short movies; they were created for various television anthologies in the 1950s. According to the press materials, these haven’t been seen since 1957, which is kind of cool. You get three stories, each starring a young Newman, about a variety of topics: teenagers suspected of murder, a family business up against mobsters, and a self-centered man in the army. They’re solidly okay shows overall, but there’s no denying Newaman’s talent and magnetism on camera. Next we have Tab Hunter Confidential, an excellent documentary film about the late 1950s heartthrob who lived in Hollywood’s heyday as a closeted gay man. The film was released in 2016 but never received a Blu-ray release so now it’s available in high def for the first time. The film includes interviews with Hunter himself and it’s a really interesting look into the life of an actor and the classic Hollywood scene. Next up is The Last Days of Patton, a TV movie from the 80s that saw George C. Scott reclaim his Award-winning and iconic role of General George S. Patton. This film, though, focuses on the last few months of Patton’s life (and also a glimpse at his younger years through flashbacks). I don’t believe it’s an official sequel or follow up to the actual Patton film, but Scott still gives a terrific performance and it does make kind of a nice bookend with the original film. Finally, we have The Power and the Glory, a 1961 adaptation of Grahame Green’s original novel. While this was a TV movie and not a theatrical release, it boasts a powerhouse cast including Laurence Olivier, Julie Harris, and — once again — George C. Scott. Like the Paul Newman Trilogy, this TV movie probably hasn’t been seen since the 1960s, so it’s cool to have it available again for ready viewing.