DVD/Blu-ray Roundup for Dec. 8th

Welcome back for another look at highlights arriving on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s another busy edition with plenty of flick in a wide variety of genres. And as always, remember to click on any links to read full-length reviews. So if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try!

Big New Releases!

DVD-ant-manAnt-Man – The latest entry in the Marvel cinematic universe follows a thief turned superhero who uses a special suit that allows him to shrink to insect size. He’s tasked with helping the inventor keep the discovery from a nasty businessman who wants to militarize the technology. Reviews were generally good for this action picture, saying that the finale was impressive and the lead was charismatic enough to help the film overcome a few lags. It stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll and Michael Pena. To read a full length review of the movie, simply click here.

DVD-cinderellaCinderella – Disney adapts one of their most famous animated films to live-action in this fairy tale from director Kenneth Branagh. Of course, it features the familiar title character enduring hardships from her wicked stepmother and nasty stepsisters, crashing a palatial ball and impressing a young prince. The press liked what they saw, writing that this update was endearingly straightforward and didn’t alter the important elements that have withstood generations. The cast includes Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham Carter. If you’d like to read more about the movie, click here.

A Faster Horse – If you enjoy cars, you might be interested in this documentary about the Ford Mustang. Released in part to celebrate the vehicle’s 50th anniversary, the flick follows the process of how it was created, offers trivia and fun facts, and attempts to explain how the car has remained popular with consumers, even today. There aren’t many notices for the film as of yet. While most suggest it’s a well made picture, some have stated that it feels more like a commercial than a traditional non-narrative feature. Sounds like it may be best suited for car fans.

DVD-jellyfish-eyesJellyfish Eyes – A child learns that he can communicate with a fantastic creature in this live-action effort (with some animated characters) arriving from Japan. The boy discovers that every kid in town has a creature for a friend. Together, they team up to stop a nasty character who is collecting negative energy as part of an evil plot. This film has played on the festival circuit over the past year and a half. Reviewers on this side of the world thought the movie had an interesting pop-art look, but disliked the overly simple story and underdeveloped characters. Still, it has its fans and the title is being released on the art-house Criterion label, which suggests it may be worth a look.

DVD-knock-knockKnock Knock – This horror/thriller follows a family man whose spouse and children are away. When two women knock on the door and ask for help, he does his best to assist them, but soon finds his life in danger. Critics weren’t overly impressed with this chiller from director Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno). They liked the cast and the attempts at satire, most felt that the writing missed the mark, the story lacked tension, and the plotting fell apart by the climax. Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas and Colleen Camp headline the movie.

DVD-minionsMinions – The little yellow blobs from Despicable Me get their own spin-off film in this prequel. It finds the characters attending a super-villain convention in the hopes of scoring a job. They join an evil mastermind plotting to take over the world in London, but soon question whether they’re with the right employer. Reviews were split – while many enjoyed the fast-pace and zany sight gags, just as many found it slight and unmemorable. It features the voices of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush and Steve Carell.

One Eyed Girl – This Australian drama/thriller involves a bizarre religious sect. When psychiatrist suffering from personal troubles crosses paths with the charming group leader, he decides to give their lifestyle a try. He soon comes to regret his choice after discovering they are a Doomsday cult. This one did well on the festival circuit. While some found the lead’s behavior hard to relate to, others found it interesting and at times very creepy. The cast includes Steve Le Marquand and Sara West.

DVD-partisanPartisan – Here’s another Aussie thriller about a group of unusual persons. Set in an isolated commune, the story involves a boy who wants to leave, much to the consternation of his domineering and gun-toting father. Conflict builds, leading the two on a path towards violence. Reviews were a little more positive than negative, although reaction was all over the place. Some found it too arty and too difficult to take seriously, while just as many found it to be a curious and unique effort with great performances from leads Vincent Cassel and Jeremy Chabriel.

DVD-tomorrowlandTomorrowland – Based on a specific area in the Disney-theme parks, this adventure follows a brilliant kid who learns about an otherworldly land of the future. She attempts to find it in the hopes of saving the world. It didn’t make much of an impact at the box-office this summer, nor did it score strongly with critics. While all thought it was well-produced and impressive to look at (enough for about half to give it a recommendation), others found the narrative muddled with plot holes and also found the Disney merchandising tie-ins a bit overbearing. It stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie and Brittany Robertson. To read a full-length review, click here.

DVD-transporter-refueledThe Transporter Refueled – After three theatrical films, the makers of this action series proposed starting a new line of adventures featuring a new driver. This time out, he is hired to assist three female customers on a bank heist. Things quickly go wrong, and he must use his special skills to not only avoid the angry women and a Russian mobster, but also come to the aid of his visiting father. The press told readers not to expect another follow-up – they stated that while it had a couple of enjoyably silly chases, it was an otherwise flat, dull and dopey B-movie. The cast includes Ed Skrein, Gabriella Wright, Loan Chabanol and Ray Stevenson.

Walt Before Mickey – This indie effort tells the story of a young Walt Disney, covering his beginnings ten years before he created his family empire. The drama got terrible notices upon its limited release. Almost every review I found called it dull and hammy, suggesting that the dialogue was also awkwardly written. Additionally, several thought that it did little more than fawn over its subject. Now viewers can make up their own minds. Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jon Heder and Jodie Sweetin take on the lead roles.

Blasts From the Past!

There’s a whole heck of a lot of older titles arriving on Blu-ray. Frankly, it’s almost ridiculous. If you haven’t picked up any of the other movies yet, you can now pick up the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 2 Collection, which contains Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ulton and Ant-Man. It’s designed to look like an “infinity stone orb” (essentially, a space rock) and comes with a 2 1/2 hour disc of never-before-seen extras.

MCDGAPA EC005Shout! have a couple of bad cult films arriving on Blu-ray. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987) brings together the gross trading card characters that served as a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids toy line – in this live-action misadventure, they help a young boy fight bullies and win over a love interest. Truthfully, the movie is an awful and at times surreal experience… hence the underground following. Extras include numerous interviews with cast members, an assistant director and the make-up effects crew.

Women’s Prison Massacre (1983) is an Italy/France co-production about a reporter who attempts to expose a corrupt politician, only to be set up and thrown in prison instead. She must endure a riot, brawls and other inhumane punishments. This is an incredibly trashy B-movie from Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror, Cruel Jaws). If you’re already familiar with his other titles, you may want to give it a try – others need not apply.

Harold Lloyd in SPEEDY (1928). Courtesy Harold Lloyd EntertainmeClassic cinema star Harold Lloyd is perhaps most famous for comically hanging from the hands of a clock-tower in Safety Last! (1923). Criterion are releasing a Blu-ray of Speedy (1928), which is also considered one of his very best. In it, he plays a man determined to stop a rail company from putting the last horse-trolley service out of business. As expected, the movie features all kinds of crazy physical gags and stunt-work. Aside from the exceptional restoration on the movie, the disc includes a documentary on its production, a film historian audio commentary, a newsreel with Babe Ruth (who also appears in the feature), deleted scenes, another Lloyd short and some home movies narrated by his daughter. If you like old-time comics like Charlie Chaplin, you can’t go wrong with this release.

On the other end of the spectrum, Severin are bringing the European horror title Count Dracula (1970) to Blu-ray. Jess Franco directs Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski and Herbert Lom in this retelling of the famous story. The movie is famous for a rumor that suggest notoriously odd actor Kinski (playing Renfield) ate real flies on camera. Expect it to be a bit more explicit than other genre titles of its era. They’ve also got the a trashy double feature disc containing Axe (1974) and Kidnapped Coed (1976) aka Date With a Kidnapper.

DVD-battles-without-honorWhile Japanese filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku may be most familiar to North American audiences as the director of the cult classic Battle Royale (2000), interested parties can pick up a new set on Bu-ray from Arrow. It’s called Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Complete Collection and it contains a 5 film Yakuza gang series (made between 1973-1974) that is reported to be effective and highly influential. The specific titles include Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Hiroshima Death Match, Proxy War, Police Tactics, and it ends with Final Episode: Last Days of the Boss. Additionally, it includes a cut that takes all of the first 4 films and edits them together into one extended feature. Sounds interesting.

Kino Lorber has a huge slate of Blu-rays coming your way as well. Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976) stars Marjoe Gortner and Lynda Carter in a modern (well, 70s modern) Bonnie and Clyde B-movie update. It’s directed by Mark Lester (Commando). The Crooked Way (1949) is a gangster film noir. Chuck Norris fans can now pick up the sequel, Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection (1990). It also features Billy Drago.

MSDFOWA EC002The Fourth War (1990) is a Cold War thriller from John Frankenheimer about two military border commanders with a personal vendetta who poke and prod each other until they snap and take drastic action. Roy Scheider, Jurgen Prochnow and Tim Reid headline the feature. F/X2 (1991) is a sequel to the 1986 sleeper hit that brings back actors Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy. Brown must use his film F/X background once again to help stop a killer. It isn’t nearly as much fun as the first one, but interested parties can now complete the series on Blu-ray.

Moana With Sound (1926) is a classic documentary (with some narrative flourishes) from Robert J. Flaherty (Nanook of the North) that captures the life of residents in Samoa. This is the original film with a score that was added to prints for a 1980 re-release. Armchair film historians may want to check it out.

DVD-remo-williamsRemo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) was based on series of popular pulp novels and served as an attempt to create a new kind of James Bond-ish hero – this time an American working class cop turned assassin. Despite hiring director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever) and boasting a couple of nifty action scenes (one involving a fight on The Statue of Liberty), this flick didn’t really gel and flopped at the box office. Now cheesy movie fans can give it another look. It stars Fred Ward and Joel Grey as his Korean trainer (in a really ill-advised role).

But that’s not all. They’ve also got Salaam Bombay! (1988), the critically acclaimed drama about homeless boy in who finds work in a circus. The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989) is an Australian-produced war movie featuring Wings Hauser and R. Lee Ermey. Finally, viewers can pick up a Blu-ray of the F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Sunrise) Oscar winning adventure film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931).

And there’s still more. Sony are releasing the Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life) classic You Can’t Take It With You (1938). This Best Picture Oscar-winning effort stars Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. It’s a comedy about a man from a wealthy, snobbish family who falls for a woman with very different, and very eccentric relatives. The picture has been re-mastered and restored for Blu-ray.

You Know, For Kids!

Well, it’s a bit of a slow week, so it looks like those in t he mood for family entertaining be stuck with the Despicable Me spin-off. Better than nothing, I suppose.


On the Tube!

Below you’ll find the latest releases from TV. If you remember talk show host Merv Griffin, you may be interested to see a series of discs that highlight some of his biggest interviews. Including below is an interesting conversation he had with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now). Even in this short clip, some interesting tidbits are revealed. Further down in the opening to the early 70s show Barnaby Jones. It’s a program about the exploits of a private eye, which I only mention because if you only watched the opening credits, you’d have no idea what the program was about. Enjoy!

Barnaby Jones: The Complete Series
CPO Sharkey: The Best of Season 1
Cracked: Pushed to the Edge (BBC)
Doc Martin: Six Surly Series and The Movies
Doc Martin: Series 7
Dora & Friends: Season 1
Family Guy: Season 13
Hannibal: Season 3
Ken Burns: The Civil War (25th Anniversary Edition – Re-mastered for Blu-ray)
The Merv Griffin Show: Best of the 60s
The Merv Griffin Show: Best of the 70s
The Merv Griffin Show: Best of the 80s
Under the Dome: Season 3
X-Files: The Complete Series (Blu-ray) – Each of 9 Seasons available individually

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