Up first is Blood Relatives. This vampire flick from Shudder gets some originality points from me. Vampire movies have become a dime a dozen, but this one brings something I don’t think I’ve seen before, a Jewish vampire. Maybe there have been movies with a Jewish vampire lead, but this one stood out. The vamp was turned during World War II and uses all kinds of Jewish slang which stands out in today’s world. What’s also different is he has a daughter. Vampire films have shown kids before, Blade is half vamp/half human, his mother being bitten while pregnant, but this is a human impregnated by a vamp giving birth to a half breed. The daughter tracks down her father and has different abilities than him because she’s half human/half vampire. He wants nothing to do with her at first because he lost his family 80 years ago, but soon the paternal instincts kick in to help show her the ropes. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s just different enough in a genre lacking originality.

Second we have Joseph W. Sarno Retrospective Series: Moonlighting Wives/The Naked Fog. If you are familiar with Sarno’s work, you know it’s pretty much softcore porn or at least softcore for the time period. The films sort of have a plot, but it’s really about topless women shot stylistically. The Naked Fog opens with a woman going to a party with her boyfriend. The women there immediately take off their tops while dancing. She leaves and starts relationship after relationship while trying to be a writer. Moonlighting Wives is about prostitution, sex, and elite clients. You really don’t watch them for their stories though. Sarno does paint a beautiful picture especially the shore line scenes in The Naked Fog. If you are a fan of his, this is a great collection and The Naked Fog hasn’t been available before on home video.

A Handful of Water finds a young Yemeni girl befriending an older man mourning the loss of his wife. The girl’s family will be deported, but she keeps escaping the police. She is accidentally hurt when the man mistakes her for a robber and their friendship begins. He finds new life through the girl while he hopes to help her get to family in England. I thought the young actress was very good and the film doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. The actor is good as well and the film is quick and never wanders. It reminded me of a more dramatic A Man Called Otto. For a film I knew nothing about, it worked for me.

Pilgrimage says it’s a remarkable imagining of the historic voyages of 16th-century explorer and writer Fernão Mendes Pinto, one of the first Europeans to sail to and travel the Orient which I would be interested in because I love history. But then at times it breaks out into song. It has a lot of positives like costuming and production design, but the film itself is just bizarre to me. Choral renditions of Portuguese singer-songwriter Fausto’s progressive 80’s pop album Por Este Rio Acima just happen to happen randomly as characters begin to sing. Honestly, the first time it happens (I believe on the ship) it caught me off guard and I was genuinely confused at what was happening. But others clearly enjoyed it more than me because it was Portugal’s entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 2019 Academy Awards. If you cut the oddity of musical element, it’s a pretty good historical time piece, but alas it’s not the case.

The next few releases come from Mill Creek Entertainment. First is The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek. This was awesome. I binged it over 2-3 days because it’s over 8 hours long, but I loved it. It’s an unauthorized look at the history of Star Trek with cast interviews, producers, writers and more. If you are a Trekkie and haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. Each episode tackles something specific. The first is about the original series and Lucille Ball pushing for it. The second is the 1970s animated series that really wasn’t for kids. Third is the movies starring the original cast. Fourth is Star Trek: The Next Generation. They continue into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Enterprise and more. They talk briefly about the newer streaming shows, but I believe this might have come out before those. The in-fighting between cast, writers, showrunners and the studios is fantastic. It’s hosted by Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher on ST:TNG) and has archival footage of Gene Roddenberry, interviews with the late Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Jeri Ryan, Kirstie Alley and more. If you are a Star Trek fan this is a must own. I really, really dug this and learned a lot.

Second we have Becoming Evil: Serial Killers Among Us. I’ve enjoyed previous releases and this one tackles unsolved cases. If you are into true crime podcasts this is right up your alley. Historically we don’t know the true identities of Jack the Ripper, Zodiac and others, but nowadays we have amateurs trying to solve cases and you see that in this collection. There are serial killers today getting away with it and I know Boston (where I am) has had one for a decade leaving the bodies of murdered gay men by the shoreline. This five part series tells you about other cases and how/why they haven’t been solved. If you’ve enjoyed the Becoming Evil series, definitely check this one out.

Last we have The Thing Steelbook. This was released last week, but I didn’t get my copy until after its release. This is a Walmart Exclusive Steelbook for the 2011 version of The Thing. When this prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing was released over a decade ago I wasn’t a fan, but it has grown on me over time. If you watch it as a standalone film and then try to notice the things that will eventually connect to the better, original film it’s at least watchable. This Steelbook is pretty impressive though so it’s worth adding to your collection. Mill Creek has put out some quality Steelbooks over the past few years and I hope they continue. It does make for a good addition to Carpenter/Kurt Russell’s film, but just don’t expect it to be the cult classic that one is.

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