This week we find some Disney, some horrific deaths and lots of detective stories heading our way. First is Cinderella which gets an Anniversary Edition Walt Disney Signature Collection Blu-ray release. The timeless animated film is celebrating its 70th anniversary and joins other Disney films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Bambi, The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid in the Signature Collection. Like most of those I hadn’t seen Cinderella since I was a kid so watching this new Blu-ray is kind of like watching it for the first time. Like most of those I didn’t remember this being as musical as it is. This new Blu-ray looks gorgeous and sounds even better. The music is flawless and all the characters sound perfect. The coloring is great and there are some fantastic sets in the film. The best part of these Signature Collection pieces are the bonus features. This is jam-packed with bonus features we’ve seen in previous versions, but also some new stuff like insight into its production with storyboards, archival photos, sketches and transcripts and much, much more. I may not be a Disney diehard like other people, but I respect what these films accomplished and mean to film history. This new release is the best version so far.
Sticking with Disney, next is the live-action Dumbo. I haven’t seen the original, animated Dumbo in decades. I remember liking it as a kid because it was colorful and musical and fun. I wouldn’t use any of those words to describe this new live-action version from Tim Burton. It’s honestly the opposite of those things. I don’t remember humans being major characters in the animated film and this sees Colin Farrell returning from the War minus an arm and reuniting with his two kids at the circus after their mother passed. Farrell replaces Timothy Q. Mouse as Dumbo’s trainer. This also adds in Michael Keaton as a bigger promoter wanting Dumbo for his act at Coney Island where he wants Eva Green to ride Dumbo. Basically Disney took the heart & soul of the animated film and replaced it with humans, greed and bullying (yes bullying happens in the original but man does this beat you over the head with how we treat animals). It took away the music and lightheartedness as well. But it did add a subplot agenda to let girls know they can be scientists if they want to be. Farrell’s daughter character wants to be like Marie Curie and figure out science-y stuff because you must have an agenda in a movie about a flying elephant. It’s completely forgettable and the CGI animals are pretty laughable especially when Dumbo is flying. There are a few references to the original with the pink elephants, a mouse in a hat and other small bits. I don’t think it was the hit they were expecting with it barely doubling its budget on the worldwide box office. The Blu-ray does come with solid bonus features including deleted scenes, Easter Eggs on Parade, bloopers and more plus the film does look pristine and sounds top-notch in HD, I just wish it was a better movie.
Now for some non-family friendly films. Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper gets a fantastic 4K restored 3-disc release this week. Fulci may be best known for some horror favorites, but this film is pretty darn gritty and gives a total New York vibe. It’s shot on the streets of New York in the early 1980’s long before they were cleaned up for tourists. Jack Hedley plays a detective hunting a serial killer who makes duck noises on the phone. There are some brutal and I mean brutal death scenes which makes sense because of Fulci’s horror background. The gore might rival that of horror flicks and was a pleasant surprise in a detective drama. This new restoration looks great and sounds great and comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and CD soundtrack. Plus it’s also jam-packed with bonus features including a slew of interviews, commentary, and a look at NYC then and now. This is the version to own of the film.
Sticking with uber violence, next is Heroes Shed No Tears, an early John Woo film starring Eddy Ko. It has gone through a 2K restoration and is hitting Blu-ray for the first time in the US. The film actually sat on the shelf for a few years before Woo became a household name overseas. Even being one of his earlier films you can tell it’s a Woo film. There is a scene where a bird flies through it. It has plenty of guns and explosions and has a frenetic pace at times. Ko already had a solid resume at this point and is great in the role. Take the violence and body count of Rambo: First Blood Part II and a similar story of 3:10 to Yuma and you have this film. Ko and a small team must capture a drug lord and get him over the border while his squad and hired guns hunt them down. It has over-the-top violence and action sequences and I dug it. I’ve somehow never seen it before so I’m glad it came my way. The restoration looks pretty solid and it comes with an interview with Eddy Ko and a new essay. If you are a fan of Woo, this is a must own.
Next is Maze, based on the true story of a prison escape in the early 1980’s of IRA prisoners. Inmate Larry Marley designed an escape of 38 IRA prisoners from what was the most state-of-the-art and secure prison in Europe. It’s like The Great Escape meets The Shawshank Redemption. Marley bonds with a prison guard while keeping track of distances, schedules, deliveries and more. He orchestrates a small fight so that British loyalists would be moved to a different location so they wouldn’t rat out the IRA members. He tracks food deliveries and shift changes, who works on weekends and who doesn’t all while trying to make sure no one on either side gets hurt. As an Irish-American I really like Irish history especially during The Troubles and I found this story pretty fascinating. I won’t spoil if anyone makes it out because if you aren’t familiar with the story you should watch it unfold. It’s a good film for those of us who like this time period in Irish history.
Sticking with true crime, next is Manhunt starring Martin Clunes. This 3 episode series is based on a true story about a French girl found dead in a park in London. Clunes leads a team of investigators who try to piece together if this murder is a lone killing or connected to previous murders. At first there doesn’t seem to be a motive and it might have been a random murder, but slowly through evidence, pieces start to come together to point to one man. Using CCTV footage from buses and buildings and the latest technology at the time (early 2000s), Clunes must fight those in his department and other departments to prove it’s one man. Other departments have their own suspects, but Clunes wants to focus all resources on a wheel clamper. Clunes is a TV staple overseas and he’s great in the role. It’s a quick binge I did it in one night and it’s funny how technology has changed even since these murders happened. You can never go wrong with Clunes doing crime work so if the series continues I’d watch more of it.
Next is Marcella: Season 2. Anna Friel returns as DS Marcella Backland, a London police detective haunted by violent blackouts. Season 2 starts with an ear being found in a wall and Marcella knowing the victim. Being cleared to go back to work after the incident in season 1, she still has to deal with her attack and the new case which sees a boy in a car as well. Symbols to ward off evil are found with different bodies. She uses hypnosis to try to figure out the cause of her blackouts and things in her past are still causing her troubles today especially at home. Her cases and her family all get thrown together and like the first season, there seems to be a lot going on. Even though it’s 8 episodes, there are a ton of stories overlapping especially through season 1 and at times you forget what the major theme of the season is. But Friel is great and overall I don’t mind the show, I just wish it was more streamlined in its storytelling.
We also have Poldark The Complete Collection. I wasn’t familiar with this in the slightest. It’s about a British soldier returning to Cornwall after the American Revolution. He is wounded but his family thought he was dead. His estate is in ruins, the woman he loves is engaged to another man and his father is dead. His love’s fiance is his cousin out to ruin the family. We see him struggle to regain his family’s fortune while trying to keep his marriage together as well. Along with all the drama, you get a breathtaking setting on the Cornish coast which has some beautiful shots throughout the series. Aidan Turner plays the lead and people will definitely cheer for him although his tone struggles at times. He’s very morose and continuously heavy, but you understand what his character is going through. Eleanor Tomlinson is quite good and is used to period dramas having played Isabel Neville in The White Queen. It has the period drama of Downton Abbey with the romance of Outlander. I guess this is a remake of a 1970’s version and is based on a series of books as well. At over 25 hours it takes quite a bit to get through, but the story is good enough, the writing is very good and the acting is good as well to keep you going. If you are a fan, here is the entire series in one collection.
Last we have Furie. After watching this I have to say that Star Wars: The Last Jedi killed off the wrong sister. Veronica Ngo stars as a debt collector whose daughter is kidnapped. She hunts down the people who took her and the entire child kidnapping ring. Ngo played Paige Tico who dies early on in The Last Jedi with Kelly Marie Tran playing Rose Tico who goes on to save Finn. Ngo is a total badass and that movie would have been way better with more of her in it. She’s great in this and does some fantastic fight choreography. The knife fight on the train is great as are all her fights. I had no idea what to expect with this movie but I dug it. Think of it as a female Taken. This is the movie Peppermint was hoping to be. It’s a just a nice, surprise little movie with good fight choreography, a simply story and quick runtime. I can see it gaining popularity on home video and streaming like The Villainess.