It's a particularly strong week for DVD and Blu-ray with a trio of 2021 Oscar-winning titles and the thoroughly enjoyable "Godzilla vs. Kong" coming to digital.
- Godzilla vs. Kong - There's a lot to love in this cinematic showdown between two of cinema's most beloved creatures of mass destruction. It's mostly a popcorn film but there's just enough character development to give the story an emotional center to go along with the mayhem that the title promises and the film certainly delivers. What they've done with Kong in this film is special and should be looked to by other franchises like the Transformers where giant, non-human characters are the reason people pack the theaters. Physical release is on June 15.
2021 Oscar Winners
- Minari - Steven Yeun stars as Jacob, the son of immigrants, who wanted more from life than he was initially given. He wanted his piece of the American Dream. Based on his own childhood experiences, Lee Isaac Chung's "Minari" tells the story of Korean American family who struggled to realize their father's dream of being a farmer in Arkansas in the 1980s. It's also arguably the best film of 2020 (even if it didn't make it into theaters until 2021). The Oscars got the Best Picture award all wrong but at least Youn Yuh-jung was our Best Supporting Actress. Nobody messes with grandma.
- Raya and the Last Dragon -"Raya and the Last Dragon" is an Asian-inspired story of a young woman who is forced to embark on a magical adventure to save her people. It's beautiful and smart without being too complex for younger audiences. It is a plea for unity that doesn't stray away from how difficult it can be to put your trust in someone who has been deceptive in the past. (Full Review)
- The Father - It might have made for an abysmal finish to this year's Oscars and the sentimental favorite was Chadwick Boseman but I find it hard to argue against Anthony Hopkin's performance as Anthony, an elderly man who is nearing the end of his days. Anthony is stubborn, paranoid, slipping into dementia and adamant that he won't be taken from him home to live in an assisted-living facility. His grasp on reality is fading and he's an untrustworthy guide as he navigates the audience through a series of interactions with his daughter (Olivia Williams). It's a really good film.
- The Alienist: Angel of Darkness - Set in New York during the mid-1890s, "The Alienist" is a period detective drama. The first season focused on the murders of young men. The second season focuses on a missing child and a new killer. What sets the series apart is its focus on the inequity between the classes. The cast includes Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning (who sees her role expanded in this season).
- Hunted - Influenced by folklore (red hoods and wolves) "Hunted" is a pretty looking revenge film that sees Eve (Lucie Debay) lured in by an act of kindness that turns into a horrific night in the forest. Debay is good, the script is of paint-by-numbers variety.
- The Nest - Writer/director Sean Durkin ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") returns with a film about a family's disintegration. Rory and Allison (Jude Law and Carrie Coon) have moved from New York City to a home outside of London with their two children. The unseen fragility of their relationship comes into focus as the drama unfurls. "The Nest" should have been included in more Oscar conversations as Law and Coon are fantastic.
- The Prince's Voyage -French director Jean-François Laguionie's (“The Painting") newest animated feature sees an old monkey prince landing on an unknown beach where he is taken in by a pair of scientists who had been banished from the known world for their belief that other monkey civilizations existed.
- Shithouse - While the name of the film suggests something comedic and crude, director/writer/star Cooper Raiff’s coming-of-age drama is actually a kindhearted exploration of a possible relationship that develops between a freshman college student and his wiser, slightly older resident assistant.
- Son - A mother wakes in the middle of the night and finds a group of strangers surrounding her child's bed. There's something sickly and unwell about the boy and the mother is suffering through a bout of PTSD that may be connected to a religious cult or a sexual assault. Nothing is particularly clear. What is clear is that the boy needs blood, someone else's, to stay alive.
- Star Trek: Lower Decks - This animated series from Mike McMahan("Rick and Morty") focuses on the low-ranking crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos. The series takes place just after the film "Star Trek: Nemesis," which featured the Next Generation crew. It's more comedic than the live-action series but not nearly as goofy or loopy as you might expect.
- Tom & Jerry: The Movie - “Tom and Jerry: The Movie” should probably be called “Kayla: The Movie.” Tom and Jerry are essentially supporting characters who act as agents of chaos to disrupt the story of Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young woman who lies her way into a job at a prestigious hotel that is about to host a high-profile wedding.
- Mission: Impossible: 25th Anniversary Edition - On the surface this edition of "Mission: Impossible" might not seem all that necessary seeing as it has the same bonus features of the Blu-ray released in 2007. If you've upgraded (or intend to upgrade) to the 4K that Paramount released in 2018, you can stop reading. However, if you're sticking to Blu-ray releases, this release is leaps and bounds better than the 2007 release which is best described as a hot mess.
- Flowers of Shanghai - Any examination of contemporary Asian cinema will lead to Hou Hsiao-hsien's "Flowers of Shanghai," a tale of courtesans and their wealthy patrons. It's an exquisitely shot period drama that explores the lives of the glamourous brothels that existed at the end of the 19th century in Shanghai. The gloss and beauty a mask to cover the cruelty of a life of servitude.
- It Happened Tomorrow - This 1944 comedic fantasy sees Lawrence Stevens (Dick Powell), a lowly obituary writer, gifted a newspaper that magically reveals tomorrow's top headlines. Constantly one step ahead, Stevens sees his career as a journalist take flight. There's a "Twilight Zone" flair and twist to the film. A bit of romance as well. A real crowd pleaser.
- Last Action Hero 4K UHD - Director John McTiernan ("Die Hard," "Predator") reteamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger for this action film satire that sees a young boy pulled into the cinematic universe of Jack Slater a fictional hero played by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Which is to say that Schwarzenegger is playing a fictional version of himself playing a fictional character. Don't over think it. The film was crushed by the success of "Jurassic Park" (it still earned $137 million) the film has gone on to be something of a fan favorite.
- Stanta Sangre 4K UHD - Alejandro Jodorowsky's tale of a boy who grows up as part of his parents' circus sideshow. It's a strange life and years later the boy, now a man in an asylum, is still recovering from a series of traumatic events (namely his father cutting his mother's arms off). Jodorowsky makes incredibly weird films with striking cinematography that makes his work perfect for 4K UHD. I'm curious to see what Severin films have done with this art house favorite.
- Snoopy Collection - I growing up, one of my most beloved possessions was a stuffed Snoopy doll. I loved the "Peanuts" gang and . This set includes the four features "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," "Snoopy, Come Home," "Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown," and "Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!"). I fondly remember watching all four films numerous times through out my childhood and while they are a little rough around the edges I can happily report that they are still quite good.
- Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection - If director Bill Rebane's career were a dinner party the guests would be Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ed Wood, Roger Corman with a cameo from George A. Romero (swap out Romero's love for Pennsylvania with Rebane's devotion to Wisconsin). This set from Arrow Films includes "Monster a Go-Go!," "Invasion from Inner Earth," "The Alpha Incident," "The Demons of Ludlow," "The Game," and "Twister's Revenge."