We get a wide array of releases this week on Blu-ray and DVD. There is a lot of drama, some comedy, some horror and more. I’ll start with the film I was looking forward to the most out of the bunch.
First is Shot Caller starring Game of Thrones’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau along with a slew of other familiar names like Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Omari Hardwick, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan and Benjamin Bratt. It was a bit of a disappointment because it seemed to happen so fast and doesn’t bring much originality to the prison drama genre. Coster-Waldau plays Jacob, a businessman who is sent to prison because he killed his friend in a car accident. Jacob was considered drunk while driving and pleads to a little time. While in prison he wants protection and gets involved with crimes while locked up giving him more and more time behind bars. Eventually he gets out and continues being a criminal while a free man. Despite having a great cast, we’ve seen this movie a thousand times before. It all seems to happen extremely fast too. One minute Jacob is a scared new inmate in jail for an accident, the next he is shanking guys, getting into fights, smuggling in drugs and becoming a shot caller. The cast is fine, I just wish there was a bit of originality to the movie. I don’t see myself watching it again.
Next we have God of War. In 16th century China, pirates rule the coastline and a young general is sent to defeat the pirates after months of standstills by other men including Sammo Hung. After a quick victory, the young general is seen as a bigger hero and is allowed to pick his own men to train in his own army to take on the pirates that escaped. I’m not sure if this is based on a real life general, but even if it isn’t, it’s still a solid film. The costume and set design are through the roof. Asian period epics sure know how to make things pretty. From the soldiers wardrobe to the town designs, it looks fantastic. Plus the action sequences are great. They mix hand to hand fighting with arrows and spears and hand cannons. The final battle on the pirates’s boat is pretty incredible. Sammo Hung doesn’t get a lot of film time, but he’s still great at his age. The battle before the final ship battle is pretty sweet too. If you are a fan of Asian action period films you’ll like this one a lot, I did.
Third we have Red Christmas which was a nice little surprise. It has some good gore/kills and kept me paying attention throughout the film. Dee Wallace is still a Horror Queen and isn’t giving up that title anytime soon. Wallace plays a mother who brings her kids home for Christmas. There is squabbling among them like any family during the holidays. A stranger shows up unexpectedly and they invite him in. When he starts talking about an event in the past, he is asked to leave. Dejected, he seeks revenge on this family and that’s when the killing starts happening. It has solid gore which I quite liked. With lesser known horror films I want quality gore and death. This provides it. Wallace’s son in the film is a character with Down’s Syndrome. I thought the actor was fantastic. He was pretty badass. Normally characters like this are just there for protection or getting in the way, but he was a very fleshed out character and plays a major role in the film. Genre fans should like this one quite a bit.
Next is the biggest release of the week Girls Trip. This was a surprising hit at the box office and I can kind of see why. It reminded me of Bad Moms a lot, a movie I didn’t particularly care for, but my sisters loved. One of my sisters and a cousin saw this at the movies and thought it was the funniest movie of the year. I don’t quite get the appeal but I’m not sure I am supposed to. The films stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah and they have great chemistry. Even though I may not have found it all that funny, I understand why others might. I did think the Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes on the bonus features were funny though. Movies like this are like Caddyshack or Stripes to men, certain humor works on certain people differently. I found it predictable, my sister found it hilarious. Just like Bad Moms Christmas, I expect a sequel to this within a year or two. It made way too much money for them not to go back to the well.
Sticking with comedy, Vice Versa finds itself on Blu-ray this week from Mill Creek Entertainment. Yes, the 1980s movie starring Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold. It’s your classic body switcheroo story. Reinhold plays an executive who doesn’t have much time for his 11-year-old son (Savage). A magical skull makes them switch bodies and now Savage learns why his dad is always stressed and Reinhold sees what his son is missing out on. I probably haven’t seen the film in 30 years and it doesn’t exactly hold up well. You get exactly what you expect out of it, but it is a nice trip down memory lane. There were a bunch of these movies and they were all the same, but Savage and Reinhold have good chemistry together. If you haven’t seen it in forever, give it a watch.
Anna Friel stars in Marcella Season 1, the latest cop drama out of England. Friel plays DS Marcella Backland who rejoins the police force after some new serial killings are similar to previous killings she worked on. Her separated husband works for a company and the daughter of the company’s executive is killed. Overall I liked the show, but there’s a bit too much going on. Her kids go to boarding school and don’t know why their parents split up. There’s a prisoner doing work release that was Marcella’s main suspect in the original crimes. He’s being talked to by a grad student that wants to do a paper on him. The murdered daughter was having an affair few knew about. Her brother has 2 friends that come and go. The company has issues with a development and a politician. There’s another cop that has feelings for Marcella. It’s just a lot for 8 episodes. Friel is great and the writing is good, I just wish some of the side stuff was cut. Some of it plays out, but her kids at boarding school doesn’t do much. But if you like British cop shows, you should like this one as well.
Moka is your classic revenge film. A mother isn’t happy with the police investigation of her son’s death and starts investigating herself. Leads take to her a mocha colored Mercedes in Evian. She goes there and finds the car for sale. She starts becoming chummy with the owners trying to find more information on the people who ran over her son. The film has a slight twist to it and I’m glad it does. For most of the film it wants you to believe certain people are involved, but adds a twist to keep it from being unoriginal. The backdrop is beautiful as well. The lead actress takes a boat across a beautiful lake and she goes hiking with the woman she believes killed her son. The countryside adds appeal to the film. I don’t know if I’m super familiar with the actors in the movie, but the lead Emmanuelle Devos is very good and you understand why she’s taking matters into her own hands. It might not wow too many people, but it’s a solid movie.
Second to last is America: Promised Land from The History Channel. This 3 hour special takes a look at America’s immigration and how things like war, disaster, land and opportunity shaped our nation. You learn how wheat shaped Kansas. You see the rise of Boston’s first Irish mayor. The Spanish bring cattle to Texas. It’s a pretty fascinating look at the US and how things can be effected and shifted because of the times and the economically and political climate. There is a mix of interviews, re-enactments, graphics and more. It’s a really interesting and educational show.
Last we have Man with a Camera The Complete Series from Mill Creek Entertainment. Charles Bronson starred as Mike Kovac, a freelance photographer in New York City and former combat photographer. The show ran from 1958-1960. He would get the photos others couldn’t through his contacts or help from his immigrant father. I wasn’t familiar with the show, but there are a lot of guest appearances that I was surprised at. Yvonne Craig (TV’s Batgirl), Angie Dickinson, George Wallace, Harry Dean Stanton, Gavin MacLeod and more guest starred. But the show is all Bronson’s. We think of him as a super tough guy, and he is, but he shows a lot of range in this and was every bit of the leading man. I can see a lot of people adding this to their collection.