This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Oblivion, The Place Beyond the Pines, Community …

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

This week: Tom Cruise and his old school sci-fi, a bizarro season of Community, and Ryan Gosling goes gritty again.

OBLIVION is like the year’s forgotten sci-fi movie, cast aside once all those shiny summer toys arrived. It deserves a fresh set of eyes, if only because it’s Tom Cruise’s best movie in way too long. Based on the graphic novel, he plays a tech in the year 2077 assigned to watch over the drones protecting giant power stations which generate power from sea water for the planet’s few survivors after an alien invasion. Or so he’s told. Crafty little tale is a real throwback to ‘70s sci-fi, to the point the action scenes feel tacked on to satisfy a modern audience. Smart script, satisfying twists, believable effects … don’t know about you, that’s all I require of good science fiction.

Ryan Gosling reunites with ‘Blue Valentine’ director Derek Cianfrance for another bleak, slow-moving drama with THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. Gosling plays a carnival daredevil who discovers he had a son with his fling last year (Eva Mendes) and turns to robbing banks to pay support. The second half of the film shifts gears to focus on a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) who can’t muster any feelings towards his son or wife (Rose Byrne). The two kids meet up 15 years later in the film’s third act.

► The ‘Paradise Lost’ trilogy is pretty much everything you need to know about the West Memphis Three, but Amy Berg’s WEST OF MEMPHIS condenses it into one potent, truly incredible documentary. True story of three teens sent to prison for the murder of three young Arkansas boys, despite some shaky evidence. With one of them on death row, and a retrial looming, they spent 18 years in prison before they were freed. It is impossible to look at the U.S. justice system the same way after this story.

► Once COMMUNITY calls it a day, which shouldn’t be long now, Season 4 will be the red-headed stepchild season. Creator Dan Harmon was gone and the show took a noticeable header, thereby proving that assholes make the best TV shows. Several of the show’s regular writers, producers and directors are also MIA, giving it an off-kilter vibe even after NBC did its usual screw job (the Halloween episode aired in bloody February), but it’s still ‘Community’ and it’s still better than 99% of other network TV. Episodes like ‘Basic Human Anatomy’ and ‘Heroic Origins’ recall old glory, at least.

► My dad was an unabashed boob man, which explains why we went to see every Adrienne Barbeau movie of the early ‘80s. Not a bad deal when it was ‘Escape From New York’ and ‘Creepshow,’ but SWAMP THING was like his holy grail. That’s the one Adrienne let the puppies out. It didn’t matter this wretched Wes Craven adaptation of the DC comic was an embarrassment, it had Adrienne and the twins. In related news, my dad thinks ‘The Cannonball Run’ is one of the greatest movies ever made.

► Lost amongst the sheer amount of awesome he put out last year, Matthew McConaughey plays a fugitive living on a small island on the Mississippi river in MUD. His story is told by two young boys, who discover him hiding out from bounty hunters after the death of his ex-girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon). The follow-up to the amazing ‘Take Shelter’ from director Jeff Nichols.

► ‘Every Legend Has a Beginning’ … hoo boy. Look, if you’re antsy to discover the old BATTLESTAR GALACTICA because the new one was so great, let me prep you: Adjust your expectations. Lower. Lower still. Keep going. There, now you’re ready for Baltar, Muffet and the worst of bad ‘70s cheese in the rush to cash in on ‘Star Wars.’ The precursor to the even worse ABC series, but it was all worth it to get the remake 25 years later, which gets my frakking vote as best sci-fi series ever.

► Another month, another Bruce Lee boxed set. And another one without ‘Enter the Dragon,’ thereby rendering it useless. What Shout! Factory’s BRUCE LEE LEGACY COLLECTION has are the old chestnuts ‘The Big Boss,’ ‘Fists of Fury’ and ‘Way of the Dragon’ on blu-ray along with the wretched ‘Game of Death,’ which borders on unwatchable save for a classic fight with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lee filmed before his death. Two well-worn documentaries and a bonus disc with new interviews is a tough sell for nearly $80.

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