New Blu-ray & DVD releases for the week include some 4Ks, some TV, and some overseas releases. I’ll start with the 4Ks.
Out this week we get 4K releases of two box office disappointments. Jason Mamoa was coming off his Game of Thrones popularity with the remake of Conan The Barbarian. I remember watching it years ago when it came out and thinking it was unnecessary. Rewatching it now, it’s still unnecessary, but seemed a bit better than I remembered. It’s not great, but does have good violence. Mamoa does have charisma, but it’s tough topping an Arnold classic. Maybe if you aren’t familiar with the original and really like Mamoa you might like this. The 4K looks fantastic though. The blood and violence look pristine. Fantasy films looks great in 4K. It has also some great bonus features including The Conan Legacy and Staging the Fights which I recommend watching. The other disappointment is The Legends of Hercules starring Kellen Lutz. Trying to build off his Twilight popularity, Lutz was cast in yet another Hercules movie. My biggest issue with this film is the action. They go for CGI over quality fight scenes. It’s supposed to be about swords and hand to hand combat, but it doesn’t look like any of the actors were taught any. Lutz isn’t the best actor in the world, but it’s certainly not his fault this movie doesn’t work. Sure he lacks the charisma of Mamoa, but the film has a lot of flaws. It goes for over the top instead of realistic looking action. The 4K does look fantastic as well though and comes with commentary and making of.
Sticking with action we have Cartels starring Steven Seagal, Luke Goss and MMA star Georges St-Pierre. The only good thing about the film is that Seagal isn’t the main action force in it, Goss is. Seagal was once an action king, but at his age, thankfully only gets a couple of fight sequences. Although even in the little fighting he does do, it’s laughable. He has a one on one at the end of the movie and would have gotten destroyed in real life. The film is also known as Killing Salazar and was made years ago. Goss plays a US Marshall whose job it is to protect a drug kingpin named Salazar who is turning informant. There are double crosses and people trying to kill and protect Salazar. You get what you expect out of Goss who is known for these smaller action films. It’s nothing original or groundbreaking, but I do have a soft spot for smaller action flicks. Not overly using Seagal was smart. I also was caught off guard when a name appeared on the opening credits. One of the executive producers was someone I knew through friends who had passed a couple of years ago.
I’ll stay with action, but it also leads into the foreign releases. Next is The Prison. A former police officer is sent to a prison filled with convicts he helped put in there. This isn’t your ordinary prison though, it’s pretty much run by the inmates and prisoners leave and do jobs for kingpins and people running the jail. It doesn’t quite have the violence/action of the prison scenes in The Raid 2, but it does have some good violence. There are some scenes with a table saw and some eye popping stuff. I liked the film, but wanted a bit more from it. I think it had too many characters or layers maybe. There were too many people trying to be top dogs when the major bad guy was really good and had a history with the police officer. That should have been the main story. You had too much going on with the prisoners going outside committing crimes and also substories within the prison. But it’s still a solid flick and if you like Asian crime dramas you should like it.
Speaking of Asian crime dramas, the well-known Hana-bi, also known as Fireworks, hits Blu-ray this week. Takeshi Kitano stars, wrote and directed this film from the late 1990s. He plays Nishi, a cop who turns to crime after a shoot out. His leader is shot and end ups in a wheelchair and one cop is killed. Nishi suffers from depression and ends up being a bodyguard to a crime boss and doing some questionable things. He owes money to the boss and tries to make money to pay off his debt and also to support the widow of the dead cop. Kitano is great in the role and the film has a lot of style. It looks great on Blu-ray and I can see fans of the film (there are many) swooping up this new release. The film has a big following and Kitano is a master at these movies. If you are a fan, pick up this Blu-ray.
Glory is a film out of Bulgaria. The movie starts out simple enough with a stuttering railroad worker finding millions in cash on the line. He turns the money in and becomes a local hero. He gets a press conference, an award and a new watch. His watch, which was engraved from his father, is taken from him and lost. The woman in charge of the publicity and who took his watch is trying to get pregnant and doesn’t want to put up with the stuttering “hero”. As he feels ignored and locals mock him for not taking the money, the film shifts and gets super dark. A news reporter uses him to go after the railroad system and the man gets caught in the middle. The ending you won’t see coming and is pretty open to interpretation. Once the movie turns, it gets really interesting and isn’t the friendly feel good movie you expect. The lead actor and actress are both very good and it has good style. You’ll hear a lot about this movie come award season.
Now for the TV releases of the week. The Heart Guy Series 1 is yet another solid comedy/drama out of Australia. To me it’s a mix of Rake and 800 Words. Rodger Corser plays Hugh Knight, a heart surgeon who gets himself into trouble and has to take a “sabbatical” in his small hometown. Knight has the cockiness and charm of Rake’s Cleaver Greene. He thinks he’s smarter and better than everyone else. He likes his booze, his drugs and his women just like Cleave. After a woman is found passed out at his apartment, he rushes her to the hospital and is forced to take a year off. He’s sent to his hometown to be a general practitioner and can’t perform surgery. His mother is into the local politics, his father wants nothing to do with him. His brother is married to his ex and his adopted brother might be more than a brother. It has that big fish in a small bowl vibe of 800 Words. It has the charm and small town characteristics you expect. Everyone knows each other’s personal business. Everyone gossips and knows who is shagging who. The pig getting a fake human heart episode was hilarious. I also really like the art episode with the giant wine bottle that looked like a penis. Corser is a convincing leading man and the cast if full of great supporting characters. The storylines all connect and it’s an enjoyable binge. I’m looking forward to watching more of it in the future.
Code Black Season 2 is out this week too. Medical procedurals are a staple of television and this one is pretty good. It’s not all-time great, but it’s solid. Rob Lowe joined a cast that already included Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman. My mom likes the show quite a bit. Episodes in season 2 involve Lowe’s character dealing with a promising soccer star who suffered an injury, a haunted theater catching fire on Halloween, a Russian sailor needing help on a submarine in US waters, a cop with an explosive bullet in their leg, construction workers being trapped in a crane, and a virus hitting the hospital and working with the CDC. If you like medical shows, you should like this. The cast is good and the stories are what you expect in a show like this.
Madam Secretary Season 3 is out as well. Téa Leoni plays
Elizabeth McCord, the Secretary of State. It’s not as good as House of Cards or The West Wing, but Leoni is pretty good. The season starts with McCord pushing the president to change their stance on climate change. There is a bombing in Angola, a CIA operative is captured by French intelligence, someone with ties to the Saudi government helps bomb an Illinois coffee shop, Elizabeth is gifted a horse from Mongolia, China wants to back out of her climate change treaty, Jay is kidnapped in France, and she tries to get NATO to help in stopping Russia from invading Bulgaria. I can’t straight binge this entire series in a row, but it’s a good watch overall.
Last we have The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson:
Johnny and Friends: The Complete Collection. This is a monster 10 disc collection which is a must own for Carson fans. Six discs are the Johnny and Friends discs that include bits with Robin Williams, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Burt Reynolds, Steve Martin and Rodney Dangerfield. The Martin stuff is great because he had been banned from the show for years. The Seinfeld stuff is pre-sitcom Jerry. Carson was always great with Robin Williams because he never know how to handle the late Williams or what he would get out of him. Three discs are The Ultimate Carson Collection which breaks down into “The Best of the ’60s & ’70s,” “The Best of the ’70s & ’80s” and “The Best of the ’80s & ’90s”. You get some funny Carnac bits and the legendary Bette Midler finale. The tenth disc is all about Christmas with 3 Christmas episodes never released before. I’m too young to truly remember Carson in his prime so I thoroughly enjoy these collections when I get them. Carson is an icon and seeing someone today like Jimmy Fallon sitting in a chair Carson made famous is pretty sad. Carson would let the guest shine, but was also funny himself. Maybe it was a simpler time when you didn’t need to really mock people, do karaoke in cars or make everything super political, but I just love these Carson discs. The talent back then were so much funnier, more interesting and more into being there. Whatever they were there to promote was irrelevant. They were there to entertain the audience and Carson. There’s nothing like it on TV today and I miss it.