New Blu-ray & DVD releases for the week include some stuff for kids, some television releases, some horror, the return of Jason Bourne and more.
First we have Jason Bourne. I’m a big Matt Damon fan and thoroughly enjoyed the Bourne Trilogy so I was looking forward to the fourth film even after a big delay. Unfortunately I didn’t love it. It’s a perfectly fine film that fans will enjoy, but I wanted more. It’s slow at first, but it is saved by the ending. The first 3 films were based on books by Robert Ludlum. This film has no original source material (that I know of) so it feels more like a rehashed version of the second and third films. There are story angles and scenes that feel identical to previous films. A major character dies quickly. Tommy Lee Jones is pretty much replacing Brian Cox’s character or even Joan Allen or Chris Cooper. I will say that once it got to Las Vegas the film got really good. Vegas forward saved the film from being mediocre to a decent Bourne flick. There’s some good action and a great car chase. The franchise is known for its chase scenes. It’s funny, Matt Damon looked like he got back into ridiculous shape to play the character yet for most of it, he doesn’t do much fighting. There’s a few fighting sequences, but nothing crazy like the first films. There’s no jumping through windows or punching guys with books or anything like that. There’s nothing exactly wrong with it besides being heavily influenced by the two films Paul Greengrass directed, but I guess I’m disappointed overall. Still worth adding to your collection if you own the first three films. The 4K does look absolutely amazing and is worth the upgrade. The fight sequences especially in Las Vegas look awesome in 4K and the sound will blow out your windows.
Next we have The Secret Life of Pets. Now this has its own full review which you can read, but since it comes out this week, I’ll mention it here too. It’s hands down my favorite animated film of the year and I’m no animal lover. It is absolutely adorable. I’m a grown man with no kids and I thought it was super cute. Your kids will love it. The voice cast is great. The animation is fantastic. There are jokes in it for adults without being too raunchy for kids. The 4K looks stunning and sounds just as good. It makes a great holiday gift so pick it up for your family.
Third is Little Men. It’s one of those films that you question why it was made. It wasn’t bad, but what am I supposed to get out of it? It’s a classic New York coming of age film where a boy meets another boy and they become friends. His father (Greg Kinnear) is a struggling actor. The new friend’s family runs a shop that Kinnear’s father owned the building to. The father dies and Kinnear and his family need the people to pay their rent or move out. Plus the boys want to get into a prestigious school and be actors and artists. It’s authentic I guess, but it’s no something I ever need to see again. It reminded me of The Squid and the Whale so if you liked that, you’ll probably like this. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t see what I’m supposed to get out of it. It’s well acted and directed, but it’s a one time viewing for me.
Another film that has good acting, but is something I don’t need to watch again is Knucklehead. It’s about a mentally disabled boy who thinks medication will make him better. His brother disappears and he struggles on his own. He thinks a doctor he sees advertisements for can help him and writes him letters. He deals with everyday life in Brooklyn wanting to be normal like those around him. It’s heavy on the drama, but Gbenga Akinnagbe is pretty fantastic in the lead role. It checkmarks all the tropes you expect in a New York drama, a pregnant friend, guns, a tough mother and life on the streets. I don’t know what I would get out of a second viewing, but the film is still recommended because of the performances. It is very heavy on the drama so expect emotions.
Next is In Order of Disappearance. Stellan Skarsgard continues to be an underrated actor and he’s fantastic in this. He plays a small town road plower whose son turns up dead. The police believe it’s an overdose, but he knows better. As he digs deeper, he realizes his son was murdered and it unravels into a man vs. gang type action flick. Skarsgard is great and handles the action well. It’s a foreign film with a lot of style and great production. There’s the local mob and also the Serbian mob dealing cocaine through the small airport. Skarsgard wants the local kingpin dead and starts dropping bodies on his way up the ladder. It’s beautiful to look at and the snowy scenery adds to the tension. If you liked Easy Money, you’ll like this. Fans of Skarsgard should definitely watch it and I could see it being remade by Hollywood. I definitely recommend it.
Sixth we have Beauty and the Beast The Final Season. It’s not a show I kept up with. I’ve liked Kristin Kreuk since her Smallville days, but I always seemed to miss episodes of BatB and never caught up till they hit DVD. The final season starts out with Vincent and Cat married and someone trying to kill Vincent on their honeymoon. Most of the next few episodes deal with the couple trying to balance their normal lives with the danger around them. This danger leads to Vincent hiding out and Cat almost losing her job. As secrets unravel, they think they must hide together. The finale finds them risking their lives to stop beast makers once and for all. The show was never my favorite, but it’s easy to watch and Kreuk is enjoyable. I think it wrapped up well and fans should be happy with the ending. If you are a fan, pick up the final season.
Next is The Unspoken. It’s from a producer of Insidious and an executive producer of Paranormal Activity so right there I had low expectations. But you know what? I actually kind of liked it. I’m not a fan of today’s jumpscare horror, but this was entertaining enough for a straight-to-video watch. I like Neal McDonough, but he’s not really a lead in this. He plays a cop (local sheriff if I remember right) and has some scenes, but not many. I’m not too familiar with the lead (Jodelle Ferland), but I thought she was pretty solid. Sure it leans heavily on today’s horror tricks, a weird kid, a marble rolling under a door, the local kids being bad and the house being an urban legend, but for some reason, I honestly didn’t mind it. I’m going to look for more of Ferland because I thought she was quite good. If you are a fan of today’s paranormal horror, you should like it.
Sticking with horror we have Dead Rising: Endgame. This is based on a video game, but I can admit I’ve never played it. It’s a zombie flick with some great kills, but overall it’s nothing original or groundbreaking. The kills were surprisingly good though and I did like some of the effects. Unfortunately they underused Dennis Haysbert and Billy Zane. Zane is barely in it and Haysbert plays a generic general type. Jesse Metcalfe is the lead and you can see why he’s in straight-to-video type films, he’s not very good in it. Maybe it’s the movie itself, but he did come across as stereotypical playing a reporter trying to figure out military secrets during this apocalypse. But it does have some style since it’s based on a video game and to repeat myself again, the kills are good. The worst Resident Evil film is way better than this, but if you like the game, I guess check it out.
Next is BrainDead which I had never even heard of till it came my way. It’s a show that wants to be a comedy that’s also sci-fi mixed with the political world of House of Cards and The West Wing. As much as I like Tony Shalhoub, this is a bit too biased for me. It’s about a government employee who discovers that the cause of the tensions between the two political parties is a race of extraterrestrial insects eating the brains of the politicians. It should be perfect satire for today’s political climate, but to me it’s very one sided. Sure they take shots at liberals and the Democrats, but I thought they made Republicans look far worse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Republican, but I loathe pandering and a lot of it felt like pandering to me. I did like some of the special effects and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is always good, I just wish it was more balanced. There’s something here and at times does have great satire, but I just wish it was more down the middle.
Second to last is Call of Heroes. This one is pretty cool. It’s an Asian action flick and the action sequences are really good. Sammo Hung did direct the action! Commandant Cao enters a small town and murders three citizens. The town folk arrest him and plan to execute him the next day. But he is the son of a general who threatens to destroy the town if his son isn’t released. The local sheriff, a wanderer and the villagers prepare to fight back and boy they do. There’s some fantastic fight sequences including one on thousands of clay jars. There’s some great wire work, some great sword and weapon fighting and lots of action. If you like Asian action period dramas, then definitely pick this up. We here love them especially anything associated with Sammo Hung. Definitely recommended!
Last we have The Secret Agent. Toby Jones continues to be one of my favorite actors going, but this took a while to get going for me. I loved the production value. It’s totally Victorian London. The coloring is grey and muddy, buildings look old yet new at the same time. The Russian embassies look rich and lavish. Clothing is spot on as well. Jones runs a shop, but is actually an agent. The Russians want him to place a bomb to push the London authorities’ fight with anarchists. They want the anarchists to be seen as terrorists and Jones’ Verloc doesn’t want to kill anyone, but must consider it to keep his identity. It is based on a book, but I’m not familiar with it. I don’t know if I loved it because it was slow. The performances are good. Jones is always good and Vicky McClure is great as his wife, but I wanted more from it. It’s still relevant today in how people of better means use lower class citizens to their advantage, but I was expecting more drama and suspense. It’s far from bad, but I’ve quite enjoyed the recent British dramas I’ve watched lately so I guess I expected to love this. Still a decent watch though.