SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) With just a week left until Father's Day, I thought I'd take a look at some of the recent Blu-ray and DVD releases as well as a smattering of books and more than a few movie-related accessories.
Recently in Theaters
"12 Strong" transports its audience to a foreign landscape and leaves them there with the characters in hopes that somehow there will be a happy ending. The story follows the first group of Army Special Forces to go into Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Pena and explores the chaos of war on a smaller scale than we're traditionally offered.
I have to tip my cap to Paramount Pictures. We are living in an age where cinemas are filled with sequels and reboots, but Paramount has bucked that trend by releasing a series of original films like "Mother," "A Quiet Place" and my favorite film of 2018. "Annihilation." Based on Jeff VanderMeer's novel, "Annihilation" was directed and adapted by Alex Garland ("Ex Machina") and stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac. The narrative focuses on a group of military scientists as then enter an area known as "The Shimmer." What follows is a mix of science fiction and top-shelf horror as Garland leads us through a landscape that is often beautiful, but equally horrific. Best Buy has an exclusive on the 4K release, which is absolutely the best way to see this film outside of a movie theater.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther” stars Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Angela Bassett. The narrative takes audiences to Wakanda, a technologically advanced civilization hidden away in Africa, and follows its young leader T’Challa (Boseman) as he tries to determine his nation’s place in a quickly evolving world.
"Early Man" wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I thought I was in for a story that resembled "The Croods," a humorous look at the origins of mankind with the British twist that Aardman Animations ("Wallace and Gromit," "Shaun the Sheep") are famous for. Instead we've been given a look at the origins of football (or soccer to the less civilized world). There's still that caveman element, but it's more bonkers than you might think. that's a good thing.
“Game Night" is black comedy about a game night gone terribly wrong.. It stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and was directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein ("Vacation”). Mark Perez’s script gives McAdams and Bateman just enough material to make the film a more enjoyable experience than I was expecting. If you like Bateman's films as of late, then you'll enjoy this as well.
Every six or so months a small faith based film grabs the attention of the genre's fan base and has a remarkable run at the box office. The most recent example being "I Can Only Imagine," a film that explores the true story behind MercyMe's hit song. The film brought in $83 million on a $7 million budget. If you're looking for a little affirmation, you'll find it here.
I saw "Thoroughbreds" at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago and was instantly won over by its cast and dark sense of humor. The film stars Olivia Cooke as Amanda, an emotionally barren teen, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily, a teen overflowing with emotion. Together the girls plot to kill Lily's father with the help of a clueless drug dealer (Anton Yelchin in one of his last roles).
You might also want to consider the better-than-expected reboot of "Tomb Raider" with Alicia Vikander. Whereas the Angelina Jolie were below-aveage action films, Vikander was given a better script to work from that feels more grounded than the previous effort. It's still a popcorn film, but not nearly as mindless as you might think. It wasn't a hit in America, but overseas the film did alarmingly well.
Prior to "Detectorists: Series 3" arriving at my doorstep it never occurred to me that there would be a subculture of people obsessed with metal detecting. Taking that one step further, I never would have guessed there was a TV series about people obsessed with metal detecting starring Toby Jones. Well, much to my surprise, that's exactly what the "Detectorists" is. Actually, that's selling the show a bit short, seeing as it is as much a character study of the British working class as it is about friends with a metal detection hobby. It’s incredibly smart, often funny and, sadly, this is apparently the final season. Highly recommended.
There are many generic crime dramas that populate the television landscape with the only difference between them being the members of the cast. They entertain, I suppose, but rarely serve any other purpose. “East West 101,” an Australian series, bucks that trend as it offers a thrilling journey that scraps the belly of Sydney’s underworld while also being brave enough to touch on race relations in a post-9/11 world. If you thought fearmongering ended at the U.S. border, “East West 101” proves otherwise.
"The Last Ship" is a post-apocalyptic series that finds mankind's last hope for survive trapped on a U.S. Navy destroyer. Based on William Brinkley's novel and produced by Michael Bay, the fourth season of "The Last Ship" was just release. The series is scheduled to wrap up with its fifth season, which will air on TNT later on in 2018.
Fans of contemporary British detective dramas will want “Midsomer Murders: Country Case Files” in their collections. This set culls together all 15 episodes from the drama’s seasons 15 -18, covering Neil Dudgeon’s performance as John Barnaby as he takes over as Detective Chief Inspector.
Netflix changed the way we watch and receive television series and "Orange is the New Black," a series based on Piper Kerman's memoir, "Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison," has played a major role in that. This week sees the release of the program's fifth season.
Going clean for a club owner up to his neck in drugs and violence was never going to be easy, but STARZ's "Power" finds James "Ghost" St. Patrick giving it his best shot. He's not very successful. The fourth season of this popular crime thriller was just released this week. The fifth season is set to debut on July 1, 2018, with a sixth season to follow.
Major changes are coming to "Suits," USA Network's legal drama, as season eight will see series regulars Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle not returning. Markle , as you might know if you pay any attention to media in any form, have something else to occupy her time. This dramatic situation is explained in the seventh season of "Suits," which was released this week, as well as the set up for a spin-off series based around the popular character Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres). There might also be a wedding, which always proves to be a defining moment in series as it wraps up one era and prepares to enter the next.
After more than a decade away, "Will & Grace" returned with a ninth season with the core four Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally reprising their roles. The world has change dramatically over the past 12 years, due at least a little in part to the series introducing gay characters into a mainstream television series, and while I can say that the characters are certainly older and wiser is certain aspects, that doesn't mean that the new episodes are dull and uneventful. In fact, "Will & Grace," considering the contemporary political environment, might just be what the television landscape needs to help society move towards a less contentious place.
Released in 1988, "Coming to America" found Eddie Murphy at the height of his popularity. The film tells the story of Akeem (Murphy) an African Prince who travels to Queens, New York, following his 21st birthday in hopes of avoiding an arranged marriage. Joined by his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem finds employment at a fast-food restaurant, but his efforts to fit in aren't exactly successful.
"The Great Silence," a Spaghetti Western from 1968 featuring the great Klaus Kinski, tells the story of a group of refugees who are tormented by a group of bounty hunters. "The Great Silence" is something of a legendary film in that its American release required director Sergio Corbucci to shoot an alternate ending that betrays the script's primary inspiration, the deaths of Che Guevara and Malcolm X. Previous releases featured the alternate ending without the audio, it was believed to be lost, but a new sources was found and the ending is presented with sound for the first time on this 50th Anniversary edition that also features a new 2K restoration.
"Jerry Lewis: 10 Film Collection" is the a perfect gift for those who have a taste from comedies from the 1950s and 1960s. This set includes: "The Stooge" with Dean Martin, "The Delicate Delinquent," "The Bellboy," " Cinderfella," "The Errand Boy," "The Ladies Man," "The Nutty Professor," "The Disorderly Orderly," "The Patsy" and "The Family Jewels."
Last week saw "Peter Pan" join Disney's Signature Collection. The video and audio is ported over from the previous Diamond Collection release, which looks great (but a 4K release of this and other Disney classics would be more welcome). There are essentially two new bonus features. A four-minute interview with Director of Walt Disney Archives Rebecca Cline and Walt Disney Archivist Edward Ovalle and an eight-minute interview with actors Kathryn Beaumont and Paul Collins. If you don't own the film, you really should. If you already have the Diamond Collection release, there's not a lot here that you don't already have.
"Elvis Presley: 5 Film Collection" is another gift perfectly suited for those nostalgic decodes gone by. This set includes "Blue Hawaii," "Fun in Acapulco," "G.I. Blues," "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and "Roustabout."
While the Blu-ray release of a musical from 1954 might not seem like an incredibly anticipated release, the Warner Archive Collection's release of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is something of a dream come true for many fans. Previous releases were pieced together from the best elements that were available, but the resulting image quality was merely passable rather than a true representation of the film's theatrical presentation. Warner could have simply cleaned up the existing master for this Blu-ray release. Instead they were able to locate an undamaged print that had long since been forgotten. The results are, I'm absolutely pleased to announce, astounding. Throw out those dated DVD copies, this is an essential upgrade.
Five years before "Coming to America", Eddy Murphy teamed up with director John Landis and Dan Aykroyd in "Trading Places." The story sees two wealthy and bored brothers who decide to ruin the life of a stockbroker (Aykroyd) and give his life of relative luxury to a homeless con man (Murphy) just to see what would happen. I was introduced to "Trading Places" via the edited-for-television version of the film. Needless to say, the theatrical version is not nearly as tame. Nonetheless, "Trading Places" is surprisingly relevant some 35 years after it was made. That can't be said for the majority of films to come out of the 1980s, let alone one that was released in 1983.
Cohen Film Collection recently added “The Two of Us,” a tale about a young Jewish boy who is sent to live with his parent’s Catholic friends during the Nazi occupation of France. Released in 1967, “The Two of Us” is based on director Claude Berri’s own experiences as a child. This new transfer improves upon the strong Criterion DVD release. The bonus features leave much to be desired, but Criterion’s release wasn’t brimming over with extra content either.
4K UHD Catalog
With "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" scheduled to open on June 22nd, Universal went back to the vaults to give the Jurassic franchise an upgrade wit the "Jurassic Park: 25th Anniversary 4K UHD Collection." All four films have been improved in detail and color range.
"Die Hard" looks marvelous in 4K as we see increased detail and improved color range. Keep in mind that visually "Die Hard" is a fairly dark film and as such the HDR upgrade won't be as pronounced as it would be in a film like "Gladiator" where much of the action takes place during the day, outside and under a bright sun. "Die Hard" looks spectacular and, while I never saw the film in theaters, I can't imagine that the film has ever looked any better.
"Game of Thrones: Season One" makes its way to 4K with an expanded range of color and increased detail. Because of the technology used, the image quality of "Game of Thrones" will improve with each 4K release. The leap between theBlu-ray and this 4K release is noticeable, particularly in the color aspect.
2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the popular film adaptation of “Grease,” the popular high school musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I've owned "Grease" on VHS, DVD and a previously released Blu-ray, but none of those versions look or sound as good as this new release. If you have a 4K television you're particularly in luck because the 4K presentation shows off the film's colors and adds a noticeable amount of detail to the proceedings.
“Saving Private Ryan,” is one of the most intense and realistic war films ever made. It begins with an intense recreation of the assault on Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The previous Blu-ray release from 2010 was rather good (once they fixed the audio synch issues that were present on the first pressing), but this new 4K release improves upon that release not only in its additional detail, but also from a color grading that offers a deeper range of colors without upsetting the blown out look of the cinematography.
In my estimation,"Source Code" is decidedly underrated as this thriller from Duncan Jones starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a man who wakes up in a different body and is tasked with finding a bomb hidden on the train he is currently traveling in. Shot on a variety of formats, something that is rather unusual in a feature film, but the image of this release is still appealing and makes for a recommended title to add to your 4K collection, particularly if you don't already own the Blu-ray.
Last Christmas I was introduced to The Folio Society, a book publisher that publishes gorgeous illustrated editions of classic books. These hardcover releases are a grade above a traditional hardcover releases and feature original artwork from renown artists. If you've ever dreamed of having a library full of beautiful books, The Folio Society is there to help you achieve that dream.
One of the new additions to their collection is Hermann Hesse's classic modern novel "Steppenwolf"with illustrations by Dan Hiller. Hesse's novel explores a man's conflicting sense of spirituality and carnality. Unable to find balance, the man turns his thoughts to suicide, but a pamphlet given to him by a stranger leads him on to a different path.
Other recent additions to The Folio Society's library of titles are Ray Bradbury's dystopian classic "Fahrenheit 451" with illustrations by Sam Weber, "I Am Legend" from Richard Matheson and illustrations from Dave McKean and Captain Charles Johnson's 1724 work "A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates" with original woodcut illustrations from the era.
"Fahrenheit 451" is a sci-fi masterpiece about a future where firemen are tasked with finding and burning books.
"I Am Legend" tells the story of Robert Neville, the last known man alive, who lives in a world entirely populated by vampires .
"A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates" includes the biographies of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd and Major Bonnet and tells their sensational stories. The book was a wonderful success in England and is considered one of the inspirations behind the writing of J. M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson. As for author Captain Charles Johnson, nothing is known about the man. Many suggest that Johnson was actually Daniel Defoe, the man behind "Robinson Crusoe."
T-Shirts, Games and Accessories
Of course when it comes to movies and pop culture there are are plenty of other options outside of books and movies. There's a wide range of items from recent franchises like Ready Player One, Star Wars, Marvel and Jurassic Park items including one-of-a-kind items, T-shirts, enamel pins, a variety of games for the whole family and even a Han Solo card game that is similar to that game Han plays in the film to win the Millennium Falcon from Lando.
Fandom needn't end at adulthood. There are plenty of gift ideas out there, hopefully this guide has helped you think of a few.
Need a few more ideas? Last month I put together Playing Solo: A Guide to all things "Solo: A Star Wars Story, a guide to celebrate the release of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" as well as Mother's Day gift guide: Movies, television and more, a guide to celebrate Mothers (but there's plenty of dad-appropriate gifts as well). The same could be said about my Valentine's Day at the movies, the playground and on the bookshelf guide. It has everything from "It" to "The Quiet Man." If you want to go back even further, you can find all of my holiday guides included at the bottom of Post-Holiday Gift Guide: Treat yourself.
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