Pretty wide range of releases including one of the biggest movies of the year, the live-action remake of Disney’s Aladdin. I hadn’t seen the original animated film in 20 years until recently (I’ll get to that next) so when I first saw this remake a lot of it was kind of new to me. I remembered the original had music and beloved songs, but I didn’t remember it being almost a full on musical so this surprised me when characters would just break out into song. I didn’t love it the first time, but I decided to give it a second try already knowing what to expect and I liked it a bit more. I still don’t really like it, but I’m also not a Disney diehard so movies like this aren’t for me in the first place. I still don’t love Will Smith’s Genie and the over use of CGI, but I did seem to like the two leads more the second time. I thought Naomi Scott had a solid enough voice for her performance. She’s absolutely stunning as Jasmine and her voice works enough for me. It comes across as a good stage voice which is very different than singing. Mena Massoud was good as Aladdin and although Marwan Kenzari is way too young to play Jafar based on the cartoon version, I thought his performance was good for what it is. Smith’s Genie is nightmare fuel and really is the biggest negative of the film. It’s probably not his fault especially since we are comparing his version to Robin Williams’ iconic version. But the movie made a billion dollars so people obviously were interested in it and I can see it doing well on home video as well. It sounds and looks great in HD and comes with deleted scenes, bloopers, behind-the-scenes and other bonus features. If you enjoyed it at the theater, you’ll enjoy it at home.
The animated Aladdin finds its way into the Walt Disney Signature Collection this week as well. The Oscar winning classic has been available before, but the Signature Collection usually brings more bonus features than previous versions and also adds a digital copy. As previously stated I hadn’t seen the film in decades so watching it now it felt pretty much brand new to me. I’m never going to be a guy who goes crazy over Disney films, but this is one of the better ones. Watching it recently I found myself liking it more than The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and other Disney films from the 1990’s that re-established Disney’s dominance. Everyone remembers Robin Williams as the Genie, but the fact that it won 2 Oscars for music makes so much sense watching it now. The film looks fantastic in HD. The colors pop and shine with long, swooping shots like the magic carpet ride. It sounds even better with all the songs you love filling your room. If you collect the Walt Disney Signature Collection releases then this one is highly recommended.
Sticking with films I haven’t seen in a while, Daybreakers gets a 4K release this week. I remember seeing it in 2009 or so when it first came out and enjoying it, but I hadn’t seen it since. Rewatching it now, it still holds up pretty well. At the time vampires were sparkly and love interests in Twilight and this didn’t fit into that box. It was like Stakeland, vampire flicks that went under the radar because teens & tweens wanted romance and not violence. Some of the special effects don’t quite look great by today’s standards, but I still like the flick. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a slightly in the future timeline where an outbreak turned most of humanity into vampires and the remaining humans are harvested for blood to keep vamps alive. Ethan Hawke plays a vampire scientist trying to create a synthetic blood to keep vampires alive. Sam Neill plays his boss with Willem Dafoe as a human with a secret I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it. The cast is good and the style is cool despite some of the effects looking bad today. The film looks and sounds even better on 4K and this is the type of older release that 4K really works well with. It comes with some decent bonus features as well. If are a fan of the movie this is the best it looks on home video. If you haven’t seen it and like under the radar mainstream horror, check it out, it’s a nice little (forgotten) vampire flick.
Next is The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, the Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language film that came out in 1973. I had never heard of this film, had no idea what it was and wish I had read the Blu-ray box before watching it. The back compares the lead to Woody Allen and that would have prepared me for my viewing. Louis de Funès is the lead and if you know who that is well this is 100% for you. This film was 100% not for me. It’s a slapstick 70’s flick that is completely absurd and not funny to me. It’s probably a cult classic to some people, but I’d never watch it again. Louis de Funès makes “funny” faces and there’s all kinds of slapstick with a car that has a boat on it, him being mistaken for Rabbi Jacob who he met in an airport bathroom, guys falling into bubble gum, and all kinds of other nonsense that did not work for me. If you love this film, it has gone through a 4K restoration and this release comes with an interview with the co-screenwriter and an essay. It just wasn’t my kind of thing.
The Third Wife is a Vietnamese movie that made me feel kind of dirty watching. It’s about a 14 year old girl in 19th century Vietnam that becomes the third wife of a rich land owner. She becomes pregnant quickly and yes they don’t show a lot but it’s still a 14 year old character with a man and she becomes infatuated with her husband’s second wife. I know the point of the film is to bring to light this type of culture and how women (especially young women) were treated, but beyond that I’m not exactly sure what I was supposed to get out of it. It’s not badly made or acted, but I always feel weird as an American watching something on someone else’s culture especially in the past. I know I’m supposed to feel a certain way about it, but if that’s what they did, that’s what they did, right or in this case way wrong in most eyes. But I did think the young lead actress was good and the film was shot beautifully.
On a lighter note, Hawaii Five-0: The Ninth Season is out this week. This was a show I watched when it first aired on TV, but after a season or two I waited for the DVDs. If you read me enough you know I don’t watch too many CBS shows unless I have to review them, but this is one I actually don’t mind getting. It’s one my parents like as well. It follows a simple formula of attractive people with an amazing backdrop with easy to follow storylines, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The ninth season starts with McGarrett getting himself caught to find a killer, a tourist being kidnapped and jumping into the jungle, but it may not be a simple kidnapping, McGarrett gets arrested while investigating the death of a Navy SEAL, a flashback style episode dealing with a cold case, there is a murder in an underwater lab, a hurricane hits, there’s a bank robbery, Joey Lawrence guest stars as a hacker. It’s not a great show, but overall I enjoy it.
I can say the same thing for SEAL Team whose season 2 hits DVD this week as well. I’m actually surprised this is a CBS show because it’s a lot heavier than the rest of their programming. It’s a show that is respected by veterans as well which surprises me because you don’t expect realistic writing from the network that gave us The Big Bang Theory and all its errors. This is probably the only CBS show that I’d consider actually watching when it airs during the year, maybe S.W.A.T. too. Each episode usually involves traveling somewhere to rescue someone or get intel on some group, but it’s an interesting show with a good cast. Season 2 sees the team taking on Mexican drug cartels, traveling to Saudi Arabia, Mumbai, the Gulf of Guinea, rescuing hostages of a hijacked plane, and more. It’s a pretty solid show surprisingly.
Last, but certainly not least we have Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame In Concert. This is an 11-disc beast of a collection showcasing the live performances of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. These have been available as individual releases, but now it all comes in one monster set of 164 performances. It’s packed with some of my favorite all-time bands like Pearl Jam, U2, Springsteen, Paul McCartney and much, much more. I’ve seen some of it through previous releases, but this is the way to watch all of it. Highlights for me are Cat Stevens’ performance of Father & Son, Pearl Jam bringing out their original drummer Dave Krusen to play Alive, Ozzy and Metallica doing Paranoid, Fergie shocking me with her fantastic female backing vocal on Gimme Shelter. I do wish they had Steve Perry sing with Journey and I didn’t love the Lorde with Nirvana performance either. I could just list everything in it, but there is so much it would be a page by itself. Pearl Jam dedicating Given to Fly to Michael J. Fox is worth buying this alone. The set is comprised of three separate collections: ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME IN CONCERT – ENCORE (2010-2013), ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME IN CONCERT (2014-2017) and the complete 25TH ANNIVERSARY ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME CONCERTS from 2009. I dug it and it will be something I watch over and over again.