New Blu-ray & DVD releases for the week include some Disney, some TV, some restored films on Blu-ray and Nic Cage! I’ll start with the Disney films.
Has The Lion King been released on home video before? Yup. It’s been released on Blu-ray before, but this week brings us Disney’s The Lion King The Signature Collection. Like me I’m sure you’ve seen the film already. It’s one of Disney’s modern classics with a fantastic story and even better soundtrack. The film follows Simba, a lion cub who wants to be king and has adventures with Timon and Pumbaa, It is the fifth film to join Disney’s The Signature Collection. What does that mean? It means some great bonus features. It comes with a brand new sing-along version, audio commentary, archival footage of five original story pitches and my favorite feature, rare footage of the actors recording their roles, matched with the final animation. I hadn’t seen the film in probably 20 years and never actually owned it on home video so this is a great piece for the collection. It seems to come with a lot more than The Diamond Edition and it comes with a digital copy as well to add to your Disney Movies Anywhere collection.
Also from Disney this week is DisneyNature’s Born in China. Narrated by John Krasinski (The Office), it is the seventh theatrical release from Disneynature. It takes viewers to extreme environments in China to watch three animal families – a panda bear mother, a 2-year-old golden snub-nosed monkey, and a mother snow leopard. I’m not the biggest animal lover in the world, but I have to give props to Disneynature for this one. It is an incredibly intimate film that puts you right into the lives of these animals. The Blu-ray looks absolutely beautiful and the HD footage is breathtaking. Families will love the film and love the animals. The bonus features show what the film’s crew went through to get the footage. From going through a bamboo forest to fighting the cold elements to getting soaked to get video of a crane chick. I may not be the target audience for a movie like this, but I respect the crew and what they did to accomplish getting this film made. If you’ve enjoyed the previous films, you’ll love this one as well.
Third we have Dean. Comedian Demetri Martin wrote, directed and stars in the film, a personal take on loss and dating. Martin plays Dean, an illustrator working on his second book trying to deal with the loss of his mother, his father wanting to sell their family house, a new love interest and figuring out what’s next in his career. He escapes to Los Angeles to avoid his father, get over his break up and hopefully find some motivation for his drawings. Most of his recent illustrations deal with death and grief and he needs a new look at life. In LA he runs into old friends and meets a new woman played by Gillian Jacobs who seems to be the go to Hollywood indie actress in movies about comedy and life. He ends up staying in LA longer than expected because of her, but realizes life doesn’t change or go away if you are avoiding it. The film is decent enough for a smaller movie. I wanted a bit more from it and thought it was similar in tone to The Big Sick. I wanted something similar to Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice which was a favorite from 2016. It rides the line of comedy and drama, but doesn’t quite get me to where I wanted to be at the end which is truly caring about the characters especially Dean. There’s too many unnecessary characters and substories, but for a first time out, I still recommend the film to indie film lovers and fans of Demetri Martin.
Next is Inconceivable starring Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon, Faye Dunaway and Nicky Whelan. Whelan plays a young mother trying to escape an abusive relationship and moves to another area. She befriends some local moms including Gina Gershon and everything seems fine, for a while. Her character may not be exactly what she tells people and the film end up more like a stalker/single white female type movie than anything else. Nicolas Cage plays Gershon’s husband, but he doesn’t have a huge role overall. Those, like me, who have to watch Nic Cage films because we like to hurt ourselves, might be a bit disappointed he doesn’t get to do more. Whelan plays a great crazy bitch, but the film is completely generic. Even as they try to unwrap her character and “surprise” the audience with all the layers and craziness I just didn’t care that much. It’s a movie I call “Smart for Dumb People”. If you think this movie is smart and layered, you aren’t the brightest bulb in the world. I can see people checking it out on Netflix if it goes that route, but there’s a reason you’ve most likely never heard of the film.
Robert DeNiro’s Ronin gets a 4K restored Blu-ray release this week. I remember liking the film when it came out, but hadn’t seen it in years. Rewatching it now I didn’t remember Sean Bean was in it. I remembered DeNiro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, but not Bean. It’s almost 20 years old, but the film still has one of the best car chase scenes of all time. We tend to forget about it, but it’s up there with anything in a Jason Bourne film. There are some good action sequences and it came out when De Niro was still doing solid work, but the car chase is why you watch it. It doesn’t quite have the action scenes of say, Heat, but it’s still a good action film overall beyond the chase scenes. This new version looks and sound fantastic and it comes with some pretty cool bonus features. A good addition to your action collection.
Continuing the 4K restored releases we have The Slayer. I was not familiar with this film at all and I’m not even sure if I understood it. A brother and sister along with their significant others take a trip to a small island. The sister is an artist and paints pictures that eventually become murders on that island. Overall I understood that, but I guess it’s the ending and creature part I didn’t quite get. It seems to have a pretty decent cult following online so I’m thinking there is a group of people totally ready to get this new collection. It has some great bonus features including commentaries with the writer/director, the lead actress, and a hometown screening event. I thought that was the coolest part of this new release.
Also out this week is New Battles Without Honor & Humanity, a 3 film series from Japan in the 1970s. I had never seen any of the films before, but I enjoy Asian crime dramas so I liked these quite a bit. These three movies aren’t connected to Battles Without Honor & Humanity, the five film series, in terms of story and characters, but they are similar in tone and they star Bunta Sugawara. Yakuza films are usually good and I tend to enjoy them. These have some great violence, realistic violence that we don’t always get nowadays. Think about the old American mob movies and the hits and assassins in those, these are similar, but I think these are even more violent. Plus they have incredible style and substance. I’m never bored with Yakuza films because they tend to have a good balance of story and action. I’ll be telling friends about this collection because like me, they like Asian crime dramas as well. A pretty awesome box set.
Now for a run of TV releases. First we have Delicious Series 1. I had no idea what it was about, but saw that it starred Iain Glen of Games of Thrones. Looking at the DVD cover art I expected a restaurant/hotel type of comedy/light drama with exes and family involved. Boy was I wrong. It’s only 4 episodes and in the first episode they kill off a main character, I won’t spoil it by saying who. The next three episodes deal with the dead person’s secrets and how everyone’s lives are connected. It gets pretty heavy pretty quickly, but I did like the show a lot. Glen is one of my favorite actors going and the actress playing his daughter is really good as well. There is constant bickering between his ex-wife and his current wife, the staff, where all the money went and two characters get together who really shouldn’t! At only four episodes it’s an easy binge and every episode leaves you wanting to see the next one. It wasn’t what I was expecting in the slightest, but I still liked it a lot.
Next is The White Princess, the follow-up to The White Queen. I’m a big fan of current shows like Game of Throne and Vikings and previous shows like The Tudors and The Borgias so this is right in my wheelhouse. This is the story of the marriage of Elizabeth of York and King Henry VII, the last king to win the crown through battle, the Wars of the Roses. If you thought Game of Thrones was full of backstabbing and hatred, wait until you see this. Both sides of the marriage despised each other and the mothers controlled everything. It was good to see Michelle Fairley again in a period piece. The set design and production value are through the roof. Costuming is gorgeous and the sets are flawless. It’s only 8 episodes, but it looks like it cost a fortune to make. If you like period dramas like me, you’ll like this a lot. Now that Game of Thrones is over for a while, this is a good way to fill in some time.
Almost done I promise. Next is NCIS Season 14. NCIS (this original one with Mark Harmon) is my mom’s favorite show on TV although she can admit it’s losing some of its draw. She doesn’t like that Michael Weatherly is gone and doesn’t seem to like Wilmer Valderrama’s character all that much. She still likes Gibbs and Abby, but thinks it’s almost time to end the show. I only watch the show when I get it on DVD and to me it’s the same thing every year. But it still does solid rating and I don’t see CBS ending it for another couple of years. With 14 seasons in the bag, I’m sure you know whether or not you like the show. My mom will keep watching them as long as they keep making them.
Second to last is Elementary Season 5. This is another show I only watch on DVD. Sherlock is the much better show, but we are lucky to get one or two episodes a year out of that. Jonny Miller is decent enough and Lucy Liu does play a good second fiddle I just wish there was more to the show. Even though it wants to base itself on the Sherlock Holmes mystique, it’s just another detective show to me. I did like the episode involving the reality TV show murder, but overall it’s just another TV crime procedural to me.
Last, but certainly not least, is Star Wars Rebels Season 3. I really like this show and it fits perfectly into Star Wars canon. I’m usually not a CG animation fan, but it works really well here. Because it’s a Star Wars story with Star Wars characters, the CG actually helps bring something to the characters that live-action may not have been able to. Ezra is more powerful than ever and the Ghost crew is better because of it. The stories connect so many things in the Star Wars universe connecting Rogue One, A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith etc. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD tries to do the same thing, but Star Wars Rebels is a lot more entertaining. Plus David Oyelowo has an amazing voice for animation. Just like Rogue One added a bit to the Star Wars Universe, Star Wars Rebels adds even more for the die-hard fan. Highly recommended.