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You are here: Sports Features Blu-ray/DVD Roundup for February 7, 2020

Blu-ray/DVD Roundup for February 7, 2020

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Welcome back to yet another look at highlights coming your way on Blu-ray and DVD. It is one of the busiest weeks ever, with nearly 20 new titles in just about every genre imaginable arriving for rental or purchase. 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!

After Class - A New York college professor gets into trouble at work due to his unusual teaching methods and decides to head home after learning about the imminent death of a family member suffering from an illness. His stay gets more complicated when he discovers that his sister, unable to cope to the stress of losing a parent, has unexpectedly gotten back together with her ex-husband. Overall, critics were very positive about this little independent comedy. One write-up suggested that while generally appealing, the movie wasn’t essential viewing.

However, all others found the feature to be a charming, accurate and well-acted story of a clan dealing with change and transition. It features Justin Long, Fran Drescher and Richard Schiff.

Arctic Dogs - In this animated family film, an Arctic Fox works in a post office mailroom, but yearns for a life of adventure as a courier. In order to prove his worthiness to the Husky sled dogs, he decides to take on a special delivery across the wintery wilderness all by himself. On the way, he uncovers a plot by an evil mastermind to melt the Arctic ice and take over the world. Reviews were very poor for this effort.

A few stated that the villain was so entertaining that his character alone made up for the film’s shortcomings. Still, almost everyone else complained that the animation wasn’t strong and that the end results were uneven and uninspiring. The voice cast includes Jeremy Renner, Heidi Klum, James Franco, Omar Sy, Alec Baldwin, Anjelica Huston and John Cleese.

Burning Kentucky - This independent feature is described as a southern-noir set in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. When a bootlegger’s house goes up in flames, the only survivor is his daughter. The son of the town’s sheriff soon begins dating the young woman and the pair comes under scrutiny from locals. Pressure intensifies as the two begin to learn more about what really caused the blaze that killed the young lady’s family.

This little movie played at a few film festivals over the past year and received an upbeat reaction from those who saw it, earning some awards. It hasn’t received many write-ups, but more will be able to see it now that it is debuting on disc. John Pyper-FergusonNick McCallum, Nathan Sutton, Augie Duke and Emilie Dhir headline the picture.

Doctor Sleep - One of the major releases this week is a sequel to the iconic horror film, The Shining. Also based on a Stephen King novel, the movie picks up many years after the events of the original, with a grown-up Danny Torrance living on the fringes of society. When he learns that a group of killers with similar powers are targeting a young girl who may be more powerful than all of them, he agrees to help her fight back. Remarkably, the press was reasonably happy with what they saw.

About a quarter of them commented that while it had its moments, the movie couldn’t match its predecessor and felt unnecessary, as well as a little drawn out. But more thought the cast was exceptional and so much fun to watch, that this outweighed parts of the story that didn’t work. It stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran and Cliff Curtis.

Dragonheart: Vengeance - Way back in 1996, Universal scored a minor hit with the fantasy flick Dragonheart, starring Dennis Quaid and a dragon voiced by Sean Connery. Since that time, there have been a number of sequels (featuring neither of the original stars), set in the same world and made for the direct-to-DVD market. The latest chapter tells the story of a young farmer who loses his family to raiders. Seeking revenge, he takes to the road, befriending a dragon and a mercenary who accompanies him on his journey.

No one has seen this effort, but it would be wise to assume that it probably is only for the biggest of Dragonheart fans (if there are still any out there). The cast includes Joseph Millson, Jack Kane and the voice of Helena Bonham Carter.

Everybody’s Everything - This documentary chronicles the life of musical artist Lil Peep, who died tragically of a drug overdose at age 21. He was noted for his remarkable blending of various music genres, including punk, emo and trap. Executive produced by Terrence Malick (Badlands, The Tree of Life, A Hidden Life), the film promises an intimate and humanistic portrait of a young man who seemed determined to create a sound that would satisfy and entertain all tastes. The picture impressed reviewers, receiving nothing but praise.

They stated that the man’s story was artistically presented, using techniques that would remind viewers of its producer. They also mentioned that it presented a full and detailed picture of the figure, his ups and downs in life, and the trials of being a young celebrity.

The Good Liar - An aging con man who lives off the fortunes of those he targets, finds a new mark in a recently widowed woman worth several million dollars. He charms her and the two begin a relationship, much to the chagrin of the lady’s son. However, as the two seniors get even closer and become more entwined, the scheme becomes even more dangerous and complicated than anticipated. Notices were decent for this thriller.

Those who didn’t care for it noted that while they enjoyed watching the leads, in the end they didn’t buy into what their characters were doing or the motivations for their actions. Still, the majority thought that while it was more cerebral than exciting, audiences would be engaged and intrigued throughout. It stars Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey and Jim Carter.

Grand Isle - A hurricane provides the backing for deceit and murder in this thriller. After a couple takes in a visitor during the storm and a tragedy follows, the survivors are visited by a suspicious detective determined to sort out what really transpired on the property. As more and more questions are raised and layers are peeled back, a clearer and more disturbing picture begins to appear. Sadly, this picture was not well received by critics.

In fact, there aren’t any positive notices out there yet. They criticized the movie for not fully embracing its B-movie potential and, for the most part, playing out in a disappointingly pedestrian manner. It features Nicolas Cage, KaDee Strickland, Luke Benward and Kelsey Grammer.

The House That Jack Built - Danish writer/director Lars von Trier has been prodding audiences for decades with projects like Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist and numerous others. His latest caused such a stir during its premiere in 2018 that, besides playing in North American cinemas for one night in November 2018, it has taken more than a year to find its way to disc uncut. Set in the U.S., it’s about a clever sociopath/serial killer who brutally murders victims of all ages and fashions them into art pieces. Apparently, audiences will need a strong stomach to endure it and press reaction has been polarizing.

Nearly half called the film tediously long, difficult to sit through, and narcissistic. Slightly more asserted that it was hard to watch and believed that was the point of the film, also noting there were deeper themes and ideas bubbling under the surface. The cast includes Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz and Uma Thurman.

The Hunt for Vlad the Impaler - Also known as Deliler, this foreign-language fantasy/action picture from Turkey involves seven Deliler warriors of the Ottoman Empire who are given an impossible task…to locate, fight and kill Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler. Given that the name of their unit roughly translates to the word “lunatics,” they might stand a chance in accomplishing their task. While the film was a big production in its homeland, it hasn’t been seen in this part of the world. That means that there aren’t any reviews available for it from these parts.

However, according to IMDB it did win plenty of awards in Turkey and even earned a Golden Palm for Best Actor at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Cem Uçan, Erkan Petekkaya and Nur Fettaholu headline the feature.

Last Christmas - This romantic comedy follows a young immigrant to the UK. She’s an aspiring singer struggling to succeed and disappointed to be working as an elf in a year-round Christmas store. When the holiday season arrives, the bitter employee finds her job even more annoying. All that changes when she unexpectedly meets the man of her dreams, who tries to help her find joy in life.

The movie is said to be inspired by the George Michael tune of the same name and its melody has split critics. About half thought the story was formulaic, but thought the leads were charming enough to earn the film a recommendation. Just as many complained that it was nothing more than a big budget version of a Hallmark TV-movie. It stars Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson and Michelle Yeoh.

The Mandela Effect - For those curious about the title, this term refers to a collective memory possessed by a large group of people involving events that did not happen or have been incorrectly remembered. In this independent sci-fi picture, a man attempts to get at the bottom of the phenomena. As his research continues, he uncovers more examples that eventually lead him to question reality itself. This feature played at a film festival or two and received a limited release, but there aren’t any write-ups available.

Curious viewers will have to take a chance and find out whether the movie can bend their brains. The cast includes Charlie HofheimerAleksa PalladinoRobin Lord Taylor and Clarke Peters.

The Nightingale - The latest from Aussie writer/director Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) is set in 1825, when parts of Australia were used as penal colonies for Great Britain. It follows a young Irish woman in Tasmania who finishes her seven-year sentence, only to learn that her master has no intentions of freeing her from servitude. After the protagonist’s husband arrives to get her, a brutal crime takes place. Seeking revenge, she enlists the tracking services of an Aboriginal.

Notices were strong for this picture. A small percentage had some issues with the pacing and thought it was too blunt and obvious in delivering its message. Yet far more thought that even if some elements didn’t work and that it was grim, the results were compelling and would cause much discussion between viewers. It features Aisling FranciosiSam Claflin and Baykali Ganambarr.

Playing with Fire - A stiff and officious fireman and his team of compatriots become the guardians of a group of children after a devastating wildfire leaves the kids temporarily under the unit’s care. As it turns out, keeping up with the youths and their needs end up being far more trouble than these tough-guys could ever have anticipated. The press completely roasted this family comedy. One or two suggested that it was specifically made for younger viewers and would serve them well.

However, the overwhelming majority called it painfully corny and thought that no adult viewer would care or connect to any of the characters being presented. John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haysbert and Judy Greer headline the film.

Rabid - This remake of the 1977 David Cronenberg horror picture of the same name involves a seamstress working in the fashion industry who harbors resentment at the attention her modeling friends receive. When she is scarred in an accident, the figure retreats even further, until a doctor proposes an experimental plastic surgery procedure. It turns her into a stunning beauty, but also causes an insatiable hunger for blood. Critics were divided on the end results.

About half claimed that it was inferior to the original and didn’t offer up much that was new or intriguing. Yet just as many thought the lead actress carried the film well, and noted that it did offer a variation or two on the original. The cast includes Laura VandervoortBenjamin Hollingsworth and Ted Atherton.

Serendipity - Artist Prune Nourry serves as both the director and subject of this documentary. The film introduces newcomers to the French-born, New York-based artist and her time creating works that deal with women’s bodies and female fertility. When she is diagnosed with breast cancer, Nourry decides that a documentary on her treatment process is the next logical step in her career. She also details the effect that the experience has on her continually-evolving artwork.

The picture generally earned good reviews. A group did feel that while the movie helped viewers understand her treatment process, it also felt like a blatant advertisement for the artist. Still, most thought it made for an intimate and interesting introduction to Nourry’s work.

Trauma Center - A woman who witnesses a crime and takes a bullet in the leg is assisted by a veteran policeman who takes her to a hospital. However, it isn’t long before the killers realize that the slug in her appendage will be traced back to them. They arrive at the infirmary and trap the woman and detective inside a locked-down isolation ward. This action/thriller got a limited release last month, but very few people reviewed it.

The write-ups that have appeared are fairly tepid in their reactions. One wrote that it was a reasonable, competently made little B-movie. Other notices weren’t as favorable, suggesting that the movie was routine and completely forgettable. Bruce Willis, Nicky WhelanSteve Guttenberg, Tito Ortiz and Texas Battle are lead performers in this picture.

Waves - Set in South Florida, this arthouse drama follows the lives of a suburban African-American family, led by a well-intentioned, but forceful father. Their dreams, struggles and daily lives are captured as they come together following a tragic event and must find a way to heal from the experience. The press generally had very good things to say about the picture. A small percentage did criticize the second half of the movie, suggesting the latter sections weren’t nearly as gripping as the beginning.

However, the majority said that while not every beat hit the mark, there are magnificent moments and that the feature is worth seeking out. It stars Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Lucas Hedges, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Sterling K. Brown.

White Snake - This animated family adventure film from China presents a new take on one of the country’s most famous fairy tales. It begins with a snake catcher rescuing a young woman suffering from amnesia. Romantic feelings develop between the pair as the hunter escorts the lady and tries to help her find out who she is. Their discovery leads to an unexpected hitch in their relationship.

Overall, the press was upbeat about this feature. A minor contingent had some complaints about the story and characters not translating well in this part of the world. However, most thought that the animation was outstanding, and that the movie served as an interesting introduction to a celebrated folk tale. Apparently, this release includes both the original Mandarin audio with English subtitles, and an English-language version of the film.

Blasts from the Past!

Arrow Video released a couple of elaborate Limited Edition Blu-rays over the past year for a couple of cult horror films. Now they’re being re-released as Special Editions. The New York-set, parasite horror/comedy Brain Damage (1988) is the first. It originally came out as a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack, but now arrives as a Blu-ray only.

It includes all of the original bonuses, including a director commentary, a great documentary on how the movie was made, featurettes on the make-up and visual effects, a discussion with the still photographer, a look at the locations used and how they’ve changed, and a lengthy Q&A with the director from a screening of the film.

The same goes for their Special Edition Blu-ray of Evil Ed (1995), about an editor cutting violent footage who becomes mentally unhinged. Like the previously released combo pack, this version is a Blu-ray only, but includes the same extras; a director and editor intro to the film, interviews with the creators, an extensive documentary on the production, deleted scenes, as well as clips showing how this new, improved and uncut version of the flick was put together.

Kino is releasing plenty of Blu-rays as well. It’s a great week if you’re hoping to pick up some Spike Lee movies - they have five of his features. The first is Lee’s star-studded Clockers (1995), a crime drama about the murder of a drug dealer. The prime suspect in the case and two police detectives must find the truth about who is really responsible for the slaying. This disc comes with a film critic audio commentary and trailer.

They are also putting out Crooklyn (1994), Lee’s semi-autobiographical portrait of life in Brooklyn during the ‘70s. The release includes a trailer. Jungle Fever (1991) is also coming your way on Blu-ray. This is a drama that explores interracial relationships. Mo’ Better Blues (1990) is a drama starring Denzel Washington about a musician struggling to choose between two girlfriends.

This title also includes a film historian commentary track. And Summer of Sam (1999) follows several characters in New York in 1977 at the height of the “Son of Sam” murders. This Blu-ray comes with a new interview with co-star John Leguizamo, and a commentary track featuring Spike Lee and the actor.

And that’s not all Kino has in store. When I was a kid, I really wanted to see the strange, sci-fi romantic comedy, Heartbeeps (1981). The movie had the backing of Universal Pictures and starred Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as two robots who fall in love, decide to ignore their programming and try to run away together. I never got the opportunity to see it and apparently it isn’t great, but it does look like a fascinating oddity.

At least I can now catch up with it on a Blu-ray that probably makes the movie look better than it did at theaters. Bonuses on the release include a new audio commentary with the director, and the film’s trailer.

The Oscar (1966) is a drama about an actor who celebrates after being nominated for an Academy Award. Viewers find out that he has stepped on just about everyone in his quest for fame and fortune. The movie was nominated for a couple of Academy Awards and arrives on Blu-ray with a new 4K restoration. It also includes a film historian audio commentary, another track featuring fans Patton Oswalt, Josh Olson and Erik Nelson, and a bunch of trailers.

Universal is giving Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971) a high definition upgrade. This is a Rankin-Bass stop-animation hour-long TV special about the title rabbit trying to get a job as the next Easter Bunny. The set includes both a Blu-ray and DVD of the program.

And Scorpion is putting out a Blu-ray of the ‘80s sex-comedy, Fraternity Vacation (1985). It’s set during Spring Break and involves members of an Iowa fraternity who befriend a nerd in order to win themselves a nice trip to Florida. While at a resort, they all compete to bed a woman. The movie features Tim Robbins, Amanda Bearse, John Vernon and Barbara Crampton in supporting roles.

You Know, For Kids!

If you’re looking for some kid-friendly entertainment, there is plenty to choose from. Highlights are presented below.

Arctic Dogs

Blaze and the Monster Machines: Knight Riders (Nickelodeon)

Bob the Builder: 20-Episode Can-Do Crew Pack

Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)

Llama Llama: Family Fun Collection (with Llama Loses a Tooth book)

Looney Tunes Parodies Collection

Peppa Pig: Peppa Celebrates

Playing with Fire

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mania

Sonic Boom: Season 1, Volume 2 (With Knuckles and Tails Figures)

On the Tube!

And here are the week’s TV-themed releases.

Bob the Builder: 20-Episode Can-Do Crew Pack

Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)

Keeping Faith: Series 2

Masterpiece: Howard’s End (PBS)

Masterpiece: Sandition (PBS)

My One & Only (Hallmark)

NOVA: Decoding Da Vinci (PBS)

Sonic Boom: Season 1, Volume 2 (With Knuckles and Tails Figures)

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series

By Glenn Kay
For the Sun