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New DVD, Blu-ray and digital release highlights for the week of October 5 - 11, 2020

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Charlie Plummer and Katherine Langford in Spontaneous (Photo: Paramount Pictures){ }

It's the first busy week in recent memory as numerous series, feature films and even a pair of notable digital titles kick off the first week of October.

"Mulan" is now available for those who wanted to own the film without the strings of Disney+ tied to it. The film sees Mulan (Yifei Liu), a young woman, disguising herself as a man to take her father's place when he is is conscripted to join the Chinese Imperial Army. There are aspects of the film that I'm quite fond of, but there are shortcomings as well. You can find my review here.

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This week's significant digital release is a dark romantic comedy. "Spontaneous" stars Charlie Plummer and Katherine Langford as budding lovers who find themselves in the middle of a pandemic that causes their fellow high school students to spontaneously explode. Literally explode. No one knows why and they'll just have to live without knowing. Directed and adapted by Brian Duffield from Aaron Starmer's novel, the film is a dark comedy with more splatter gore than an '80s midnight movie marathon. It breaks more cinematic rules than it follows. It's more fun than it is sickening, but it's still pretty gross.

I loved "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It's one of the few television series that I've watched from start to finish numerous times. So, when it was announced that Patrick Stewart would be returning to the role of Captain Picard in the aptly titled "Picard," I was thrilled. There were so many possibilities where the show could go. While flawed, the first season of the show was largely enjoyable as it weaved together a narrative that brought back familiar story elements and characters in an unexplored corner of the Start Trek universe.

Released via Netflix in 2018, "B: The Beginning" makes its way to Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory. The series follows Keith Flick, a investigator who has just rejoined the royal police forcer, as he tracks a murderous maniac known only as Killer B. The narrative is further expanded by the general chaos caused by an evil organization Market Maker, essentially a band of clowns who look to disrupt life as much as possible, and Koku, a young man who can transform into a winged being. Visually, "B: the Beginning" is gorgeous spectacle.

Written and directed by David Ayer ("Suicide Squad," "Fury"), "The Tax Collector" is an action drama that sees a pair of gang enforcers, David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LaBeouf), running into trouble when Conejo (Jose Conejo Martin), the rival of their boss, shows up in Los Angeles.

Rising action star Max Zhang stars opposite MMA fighter Anderson Silva in "Invincible Dragon." Kowloon (Zhang), a disgraced police detective, is asked to help investigate a series of murders that have targeted policewomen. His investigation leads him to Alexander Sinclair (Silva).

Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden" is a magical tale about Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), a spoiled little girl, who loses everything when her parents die of cholera. Sent to live with her reclusive uncle, Archibald Craven (Colin Firth), Mary finds herself in a house full of secrets. Director Marc Munden and screenwriter Jack Thorne expand the awe and wonder of the original story into something more supernatural. Different isn't always better, but it can be interesting in unexpected ways.

"Save Yourselves!" sees know-it-all couple (Sunita Mani, John Reynolds) going off grid in hopes of repairing their failing relationship. Disconnected from the world, the pair are completely unaware that an alien invasion has taken place. It's a goofy, satirical sendup of Millennials.

Based on the 1983 cult classic, "Valley Girl" is a jukebox musical that celebrates the songs of the '80s as it tells the story of Valley girl Julie Richman (scream queen Jessica Rothe) and her unexpected romance with punk rocker Randy (Josh Whitehouse). Oddly enough, this version of "Valley Girl" seems to be disinterested in telling the "Romeo and Juliet" inspired story and exists only to loosely tie a bunch of hit songs together. It might work as a live performance, but it feels incredibly flat as a film. Remember "Rock of Ages"? No, of course you don't.

"Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna" is the conclusion of the story arc that was started in the first two seasons of the Digimon television series and was later continued in "Digimon Adventure tri." It's essentially the franchise's walking-into-the-sunset moment.

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While most of this week's horror titles are decidedly not for children, there's at least "Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo!." This particular mystery sees the gang capture the Haunted Scarecrow at Elvira’s Halloween of Horrors Parade in Crystal Cove only to discover there's something more sinister hiding in the shadows.

AMC's "Eli Roth's History of Horror" finds the horror fan/writer/director/producer sitting down with genre icons Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Peele, Jason Blum, Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Rob Zombie, Jack Black, John Landis and Jamie Lee Curtis to talk about slasher film, creature features, the zombie apocalypse and demonic possession in cinema. It plays out like an elaborate podcast where all the guests just happen to be famous.

"To Your Last Death" is an animated horror film (not for kids) that sees a family brutally killed by their demented patriarch. It's only survivor, Miriam DeKalb, is given the opportunity to re-live the event while retaining her knowledge of how it happened. Features the voice talents of genre stalwarts William Shatner, Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise, and Bill Moseley. It's a hyperactive carnival ride of gore.

With "The Pale Door" co-writer/director Aaron B. Koontz looks to sew together the horror and western genres in a story that begins with a family home burned to the ground by thieves leaving brothers Duncan and Jake to fend for themselves. Later in life the boys take part in a train heist that eventually leads them to a town populated by mysterious women who aren't what they initially seem.

"The Deeper You Dig" sees Ivy, a psychic turned tarot card reader, and Echo, her 14-year-old daughter, living a fairly simple life. That life is shattered when Kurt, a man looking to restore a nearby farm house, kills Echo . Kurt tries to hide what he had done, but the spirit of Echo torments him in hopes of leading Ivy to the truth. Written, shot, directed and starring John Adams, Toby Poser and their daughter Zelda Adams.

"Yummy" is a Belgium horror comedy that sees a couple traveling to Eastern Europe for low-cost plastic surgery and accidently unleash a zombie apocalypse. As you do.

This week's catalog releases include 4K editions of Martin Scorsese's adaptation of "Shutter Island" starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a U.S. Marshal investigating the disappearance of a patient from Ashecliff Hospital, a care facility for the criminally insane. Initially released exclusively as a steelbook in February, this repackaging throws in a digital copy as well as the solid Blu-ray release. The video and audio presentation of the 4K is first rate.

Warner Bros. is also bringing Zach Snyder's cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller's "300" to 4K. Snyder's film is stylized, to say the least, and as a result the film is always going to have a certain cartoonish look (it is based on a graphic novel). Still, 4K improves upon the previous Blu-ray release in every imaginable way. More detail, a wider range of color and a lossless soundtrack that is demo worthy. If you're a fan with 4K capabilities, this is a worthy upgrade.

Paramount given the original Star Trak films (1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" through "2002's "Nemesis") in this "Star Trek: 10- Movie Stardate Collection." I haven't looked at the set first-hand, but it appears to include the previously available theatrical cuts. They've added digital copies. I keep hoping we'll get a 4K set with the director cuts of the first two films, but that doesn't appear to be in the cards.

The Criterion Collection released "Pierrot Le Fou" on Blu-ray in 2009. It was an impressive release with visual elements approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard. Director Jean-Luc Godard used a variety of filters on many of the scenes during the post-production process and there has been a considerable amount of debate what is and isn't accurate to the original (presumably director intended) version. Initial reviews suggest that this release largely mirrors the Studio Canal release (Sam Fuller scene is not green tinted). The good news here is that you won't have to pay the exorbitant prices that the original Criterion Blu-ray was fetching.


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