Pretty random mix of releases this week. I’ll start with the coolest one to me. Mill Creek Entertainment releases the 2001 anime film Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis as a SteelBook® Blu-ray + DVD combo. I had never seen the film before and this release is quite impressive. Based on manga and anime which were also inspired by the 1927 German silent film of the same name the animated film tackles what it means to be human. The leader of the city of Metropolis has a robot named Tima created in his daughter’s image. His son wants nothing to do with it. A Japanese detective and his nephew, Kenichi, go to Metropolis to investigate a scientist who is mixing human parts and machine parts. Kenichi befriends Tima who is slowly questioning her existence. Her true reason for creation is revealed and Tima goes through a visually stunning transformation of power. The animation looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the Steelbook’s special features include interviews with the filmmakers, The Making of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, original Japanese audio, and multi-angle animation. If you are a fan of the film or anime in general, this is highly recommended.
Next is Believer, a solid Asian crime drama. Coming out of South Korea, the film is about a low-level gangster teaming up with a cop after a major fire kills a bunch of people. He wants revenge on head mobster Mr. Lee and helps the authorities to try to bring him down. No one really knows who Mr. Lee is and there’s a huge twist at the end. Unfortunately I saw that twist coming a mile away, but I still liked the movie. I like Asian crime dramas and this is yet another good one. The production is great. The direction and acting are very good as well. If you like movies like Infernal Affairs or Drug War than this is for you.
Third we have The Padre starring Tim Roth, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman and Valeria Henriquez. Roth plays a priest who’s secretly a con-artist trying to hide from Nolte, a former Marshall hunting him down. Guzman is a local Colombian cop. Henriquez is a 16-year-old girl trying to earn money to get papers to get into the US to find her sister. Roth and Henriquez try to hit the road to hide out while Nolte and Guzman follow suit. It’s from director Jonathan Sobol who made the royally underrated The Art of the Steal. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before but the acting and production are good. The ending is very solid and you can never really go wrong with Nolte, Roth and Guzman. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s not surprising, but I can see it getting some views on home video and later streaming.
Next is a 4K restored release of 12 Monkeys. This 1990’s Terry Gilliam flick has become a cult favorite starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe. This time traveling post-apocalyptic film has all the visual craziness of Gilliam but it’s also one of his most coherent narratives. Willis plays a prisoner from 2035 first sent back to 1990 and then 1996 to learn what caused a viral outbreak that would push mankind underground and make animals the dominant creatures. In 1990 he’s sent to a nut house where he meets Pitt. He returns back to his present and is sent to 1996 where Pitt has started a group of anarchist types. Stowe plays a doctor who first meets Willis in 1990. The film rides the line of whether what happens happens naturally or if things are influenced by others. Does Willis meeting Pitt cause damage or would it have happened regardless? I like the film, but have never been a diehard. It’s a film that made Pitt a favorite for a lot of people. This 4K restoration release also features audio commentary by Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven, a documentary on the making of, trailer, gallery and more. The film looks great and if you are a fan, this release is worth it for you.
Speaking of restored films, Shout Factory has out a 4K restored Dragnet Collector’s Edition this week. This 1987 reboot of the hit TV show sees Dan Aykroyd as the straight-laced nephew of straight-laced Joe Friday (from the TV version). Tom Hanks is the wild card partner and the legendary Harry Morgan reprises his role from the TV show as well. Christopher Plummer and Alexandra Paul also star. Hanks and Aykroyd have good chemistry and it is a nice play on the show, but I’ve never been a huge fun of the film. I like it, but somehow with two comedic giants it’s not that great of a film to me. I hadn’t seen it in years and rewatching it I forgot how much I liked Harry Morgan in it. But for fans this is the first time the film is on Blu-ray and the restoration looks great. The Collector’s Edition also has good bonus features including NEW Audio Commentary with Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball, interview with Alexandra Paul, original trailers and promos and more.
Now for some TV. Next is Murdoch Mysteries The Christmas Cases Limited Edition. This is a cute release featuring 3 Christmas themed episodes of Murdoch Mysteries. It also comes with Making Murdoch featurettes (16 min.) and a collectible Christmas card with a holiday greeting from Yannick Bisson, the star of the show. I genuinely like this Canadian period show and these Christmas episodes really work. Christmas and holidays in general are great period themes and even though this is in Canada, it feels very Dickensian. My favorite of the episodes was Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas where a thief seems to have super powers straight out of a comic book. Although the A Merry Murdoch Christmas is cool because I like anything involving Krampus. The last episode is Home for the Holidays where Murdoch goes to British Colombia and investigates a death at an archaeological site. The show is a great detective procedural and these Christmas episodes really work for me.
Speaking of restored and first time on Blu-ray, Charmed The First Season finds its way on Blu-ray for the first time. I was never a huge fan of the show but I know some people who loved it. I’m actually shocked it hasn’t been on Blu-ray before but the new release does look great remastered. The reboot is out now so it makes sense to release the original finally in high-definition. The cast would eventually change over the seasons, Shannen Doherty has a history of leaving shows, but this first season features the original trio of Doherty, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs. They play the Halliwell sisters who eventually become witches thanks to The Book of Shadows. Think of it as Supernatural but with the siblings having powers to stop bad guys. If you liked the show, definitely pick up Season 1 on Blu-ray.
Out this week is a Retro Afrika Collection of 3 Restored Apartheid-Era Sollywood films. If you aren’t familiar with this genre of film, they are independent films shot in South Africa with actors and directors you’ve never heard of and are films that by today’s standards are laughably bad. They are the definition of independent film. They are awfully bad but I respect them because the people involved were making do with what they had. They are barely watchable and I found myself laughing at them, but at least people were making movies with the limited resources available to them. Take Fishy Stones for instance, it’s a heist film that I laughed out loud at. After two thieves steal some diamonds, a cop car chases after them and one of the thieves has a revolver that never runs out of bullets. He fires out his window back at the cop car never once reloading. They have to dump the diamonds before they get caught and two other men find them. Gone Crazy finds a madman stealing a bomb to blow up the town and man is it good for a laugh. The acting is bad. The effects are bad. The bomb, the facility and locations are laughably bad. Umbango is probably the best of the bunch and is a 1980’s western. Westerns as a genre can be intentionally bad with bad guys getting shot and falling further than they have any right. This is far from great but feels like the most cohesive film and the performances are a bit better. Again none of these are great movies, but lots of love to the filmmakers, actors and those involved for doing what they did.
Last is Age of Consent, Cactus Flower Double Feature from Mill Creek Entertainment. This actually came out last week, but I didn’t get it until after its release along with a few other movies I just haven’t had time to get to yet. Age of Consent is one of Helen Mirren’s first films and wow was she a babe! She plays the muse of an aging artist who moves onto an island for inspiration. He meets Mirren’s character who is trying to raise money to leave. She steals food and sells it to him and eventually starts posing for his art. It was filmed on the Great Barrier Reef at Dunk Isle, North Queensland, Australia. James Mason plays the artist and it’s based on the life of Norman Lindsay. Cactus Flower stars Goldie Hawn (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance), Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman. Matthau plays a dentist who lies to Hawn about being married so that things won’t get serious. But when things do get serious he asks his assistant nurse (Bergman) to pretend to be his wife in order to show Hawn he is getting divorced. Of course the lies snowball and the ending you can see coming a mile away, but it’s a solid flick. It’s been a stage show as well and is one of Hawn’s earliest movies. It say it’s her first, but she was in one previously under a different name.