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That Time of The Week: DVD and Blu-ray Reviews Aplenty

And here we are in November.  As we’re headed into the Holiday Season, here are some newly released titles to watch before shopping for gift giving bargains.

Remember, fire up that queue and prep that shopping cart.

It’s that time of the week…

 

A Ghost Story

Ever since someone decided that ghosts should be recognized by wearing their burial shrouds rather than remaining in the clothes they wore when alive as was originally the case, the common bed sheet ghost has become synonymous with the haunting entity in all kinds of audiovisual entertainment, just as it is also a classic in terms of last minute costume ideas. Due to its benign connotations, it may therefore at first seem like an odd choice of wardrobe for such a somber feature as A Ghost Story, but rather than the cuteness of a child-friendly specter, Casey Affleck’s portrayal of the afterlife version of the character of C returns us to the more eerie origin that is the burial shroud once he rises from the cold steel table of the morgue, wearing the sheet Rooney Mara’s character of M has just placed back over his face after identifying him.

What follows is a story that conveys a substantial amount of emotion in spite of being almost entirely without dialogue or overly dramatic outbursts. The emotion that is on display here is namely delicately sorrowful rather than bombastically outspoken. The infamously long scene where Affleck watches Mara as she sits on the floor and eats her way through an entire pie makes it is easy to write A Ghost Story off as self-important art house nonsense.

Fortunately, aside from Mara consuming the pie at a much slower rate than yours truly has been known to devour similar-sized baked goods, the interesting thing about a scene such as this is not how it may be an endurance test for the audience’s attention span, but rather how the character’s grief is conveyed through the manner in which she wolfs down a pie. As the way she stabs at the food gets increasingly intense, you sense the lack of joy the character is experiencing as she is eating, which then seemingly turns into an irrational type of anger, causing pointlessly quick overeating that only serves to makes her sick. And there has indeed been much criticism regarding the perceived pointlessness of this scene, but the pointlessness is the point; grief is a strange experience that takes you on an often incredibly irrational roller coaster of emotions as you try to make sense of things after suffering a loss that callously leaves you to process your bereavement without any specific guidelines for how to do it.

And there are several of these mundane moments in A Ghost Story that serve to emphasize the emotional divide between a wife who is grieving and her husband’s spirit who is looking motionlessly and silently on. A scene that perfectly captures this is when Mara mournfully holds the sheets of their bed the first time she has to change them after Affleck has passed away. This scene is once again very understated, but incredibly moving, as it shows how mundane tasks suddenly seem monumental because it marks the first time of doing something – anything – without your loved one being in existence. Eventually, a new routine is built, and the imagery of the sheets perfectly mirrors the unseen C’s postmortem garb to underline how the process the living goes through eventually creates a distance to the dead, whether intentional or not. As these events continue to rack up, the pacing of the story also changes with time becoming increasingly abstract, conveying how M’s progress in terms of her grieving process also inadvertently, but unavoidably affects C’s afterlife.

If you are looking for scares galore, A Ghost Story is unlikely to satisfy your needs since this is a different kind of ghost story. While it has some poetically chilling moments here and there, this is not the usual story of how the living deal with a haunting. Instead, this is a story of a ghost’s perspective and how he perceives this haunting. The film feels minimalist on multiple levels, which is not only in terms of the low key tone and production value, but also due to the choice to use the 4:3 aspect ratio with rounded corners; using this aspect ratio further emphasizes the personal nature of how grief and mourning is portrayed. A Ghost Story is therefore haunting in a manner that is seldom seen in modern cinema due to the existentialist questions that are raised, but it therefore also leaves an impact unlike most films of its ilk. Extras include commentary, roundtable, featurette and deleted scenes (– Leyla Mikkelsen/ Lionsgate / Released 10/3/17)

 

The Big Sick

What’s left to explore in the romantic comedy?

If there was ever a more formulaic and generally disappointing genre, I have not seen it. One of the more tired trends that has seen increasing popularity lately is using diversity as an easy device to move the plot forward without unpacking almost any of it.

Since there have been many half-hearted iterations of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?-style comedy (including the unbearable update, Guess Who?) it was a pleasant surprise to see such a fresh take in Kumail Nanjiani’s first feature. Based off of the true life story of how he and his wife met (she is a co-writer), it brings a cultural lens to the genre that moves diversity from mere trope to thoughtful aspect.

The Big Sick is a heartwarming and quirky boy-meets-girl-who-suddenly-goes-through-a-medical emergency story. Kumail and Emily (Zoe Kazan) have a blossoming relationship that he is quietly hiding from his devout Muslim parents, who are actively searching for a good prospect in order to set up a traditional [arranged] marriage.

As he and Emily fall into dischord after a difficult conversation about the future, she falls incredibly ill and has to rely on the decision-making of Kumail and her distraught parents Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter).

Navigating the situation together, the unlikely trio bonds in strange and wonderful ways.

Watching Kumail, Terry, and Beth handle the grief in their own ways is rich and intimate. The emotional anxiety of waiting for news from the hospital is compounded by meeting for the first time without Emily to manage expectations and interactions. Social graces are strained and snapped to great reward due to the great chemistry between Nanjiani, Hunter, and Romano. While early scenes lean on shallow racially tinged moments (Terry mentions that he always wanted to speak to a Muslim about 9/11, a heckler goes for anti-Muslim taunts, etc.) later in the movie we get a better look at how love plays the largest factor in bridging the gap.

This isn’t to say that the film isn’t without flaws. It is too long at the end and there are several places to tighten up the movie without losing any of the heart. Some of the speeches seem a bit clumsy and straightforward, like when Kumail questions his parents’ traditionalist view in the face of the options he feels that America offers. It is refreshingly earnest and personal, but there is a clunkiness that I wish had been ironed out in a thoughtful rewrite.

Performances across the board, however, combined that pure honesty with deft restraint and skill. Holly Hunter is dynamic as Beth, the family backbone. You can feel the electric charge from her body through the screen as she goes toe-to-toe with Kumail and questions why he is still around, as his view of his relationship to Emily clashes with hers. Ray Romano pulls out the bumbling awkward dad routine that made Everybody Loves Raymond such a success. But this one has a bit more of a wearied edge, with stress showing at the seams that he seems barely able to stay on top of. His desire to be friends with this unfamiliar man who keeps demonstrating how much his daughter means to him is clumsy in the most charming way.

Nanjiani does not always look comfortable with so much screentime, but he has an ease with the material that shows from both his comedy background and his personal experience. This movie should do much for his standing as an actor that deserves more substantial roles going forward.

Though we do not spend a great deal of time with his family, the comedic relief from his brother as straight man (Adeel Akhtar) and the stern but caring attitude from Bollywood legend Anupam Kher as his father create a brief but noticeable portrait of what Kumail could lose if he turns from his culture to follow his heart.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this movie, and the best reason to recommend it as relief from the traditional rom-com, is where the relationship building lies. Though her presence is always felt, the majority of this sweet film does not center on Emily and Kumail. Rather, it is on the idea that strong mutual love for a third party can unite complete strangers as it gives them something deeply familiar to relate with and relate to.  Extras include commentary, featurettes and a gag reel.  (– Kristen Halbert/ Lionsgate / Released 9/19/17)

 

War For The Planet of The Apes

When Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of The Planet of The Apes was released in 2011, it not only served as a fantastic prequel to the long running franchise, but also reinvigorated it, utilizing state of the art motion capture computer special effects.

The second installment, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes and this final chapter, War For The Planet of The Apes were both directed by Matt Reeves, and despite a solid entry into the mythology with Dawn, this latest installment is far less successful.

Part of the problem is the technology itself.  Whereas Rise ultimately focused on the human characters, and Dawn successfully looked at a world changed by the virus that gave the apes their intelligence, War feels both overlong and underdeveloped

The inimitable Andy Serkis reprises his role for a third time as ape leader Caesar, who struggles to find a way for the apes to peacefully live alongside the threatened human population.  This time out, the villain is The Colonel, leader of a rogue human military unit played with great effect by Woody Harrelson.  Also introduced in this chapter is mute girl, Nova played by Amiah Miller (and who’s character reappears in two of the original films played by Linda Harrison) and Steve Zahn as Bad Ape (who proves that he’s one of cinema’s most annoying character actors regardless of species).

Inherently, I found three major problems with the film.  First, it’s far too long.  At 140 minutes, the film struggles to keep the action moving.  And there’s a good reason for that.

Second, there’s no real “War” in War For The Planet of The Apes.  Melees?  Sure.  Skirmishes?  You bet.  War?  Not really.

Finally, far too often I felt like I was watching an animated film.  With the exception of a few human characters, and despite the use of motion capture, I far too often felt little attachment or worse, interest in the world presented.  There’s no real emotional weight.  Just lots of pixels working really, really hard.

And there’s the rub.  Far too often we’re now seeing films literally constructed piece by piece in a computer.  From environments to clothing to even the most smallest minutia of details.  Who is responsible?  The director?  The effects guys filling out the green screen on a computer?

It’s been said that, “a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare.”

How many will it take to make a summer tentpole?

Extras include commentary, galleries, featurettes, featurettes and trailers.  (20th Century Fox/Released 10/24/17)

 

Annabelle: Creation

If I recall correctly, I was about six years old when my mother was given a small, antique porcelain doll by our neighbors after they had gone through a bunch of stuff to declutter their storage space. What made this doll so special was that it seemingly kick-started my parents’ collection of vintage toys and antique knick-knacks. Once they began collecting, my parents would routinely go to flea markets and thrift stores with me in tow to hunt for new treasures, which would not only teach me how to haggle, but also how to estimate the value and age of old toys.

Eventually, my parents ended up having one of the largest private collections of vintage and antique toys in Denmark, and my mother actually ended up losing track of exactly how many dolls she had.

All I knew was that she probably had over a thousand dolls, and that they really freaked out my friends. Thus, whenever I had friends over for movie nights in my teens, they would at some point start daring each other to see who could stay locked up in the doll room the longest before wanting out.

Having grown up around the dolls, I never found them creepy, and I thought my friends were being silly, just as I never thought horror movies centering around dolls were particularly scary. While films like the first Child’s Play definitely deserves its status as a horror classic and the sequels that followed had varying degrees of entertainment value, personally, I never found the idea of an evil, sentient doll all that scary, and 2014’s Annabelle certainly did not manage to impress me either.

The two The Conjuring films have shown that the horror genre is still alive and well, as they have largely managed to both scare the average moviegoer as well as delight many long-suffering horror fans due to the high production value of the films, which is showcased by the good acting, the atmospheric set design and cinematography, and of course the highly effective editing and sound design. However, when the first of the inevitable spin-off films hit the big screen with the release of Annabelle in 2014, it got a less than stellar reception. The film about the demonic doll not only failed to impress critics, it also left many fans of The Conjuring disappointed, as Annabelle did not live up to the solid standard set by the first film about the supernatural misadventures of Ed and Lorraine Warren. It is therefore understandable that people would feel apprehensive about the prequel Annabelle: Creation, as the new film not only concerns the possessed plaything, but also focuses on the evil entity from the point of view of two young girls in particular.

As most horror fans can confirm, child actors in horror films can either be unbearably cringe-worthy or increase the eeriness of a film substantially, and the performances of Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson thankfully fall into the latter category. By putting these two girls – who have no idea who the eponymous Annabelle is or how the doll fits into it all – at the forefront of the film, their perspective is on the same page as that of the audience, since the girls know just as little as we do. While Bateman and Wilson are the standouts, the rest of the cast also does well to serve as contrasts to the main girls and their experiences; Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia work well as the mysterious Mullins couple, Stephanie Sigman steers clear of the worst cliches in her portrayal of the caretaker nun, and the varied ages of the orphan girls she looks after further help to give the audience a somewhat varied group of characters to invest in. Additionally, having the film play out on a remote farm in the 1950’s makes for a naturally eerie setting, just as the sense of being isolated from the outside world and thereby being unable to easily get help also looms in the subconsciousness of the characters – and by proxy the viewer – throughout the film.

However, the film is pretty straightforward in terms of its structure and style, but the overall production value manages to make the film an efficient slice of horror cinema. The obligatory exposition scene is also present, of course, but it is placed so late in the film and at a time where the audience will have been pulled far enough into the story that wanting an explanation and a conclusion to the story feels equally natural and necessary after the many well-executed moments of tension throughout the film. As such, the only significant drawback of the film comes at the very end, where the frustrating choice to link Annabelle: Creation up to the events of the first Annabelle somewhat detracts from an otherwise solid effort from David F. Sandberg.

The story of the doll’s creation and what made it into a conduit for a demonic presence is not only remarkably better than the first Annabelle film, it also manages to showcase a style and atmosphere that both emphasizes its stylistic and tonal connection with The Conjuring, all the while avoiding becoming too derivative of its source material.

Instead, Annabelle: Creation feels like a natural companion piece to the other films in this horror franchise, and while it hardly reinvents the horror genre, the film ultimately shows that good craftsmanship goes a long way in creating an effective horror film. As a result, Annabelle: Creation not only delivers the tension and scares it should, it also made me begin to understand why my mother’s doll collection freaked out my childhood friends, just as it also left me rather relieved that she stopped collecting old dolls altogether.  Extras include commentary, deleted scenes and featurettes.  (– Leyla Mikkelsen / Warner Bros. / Released 10/24/17)

 

Girls Trip

Who would’ve thought that a grapefruit as prop could elicit one of the raunchiest gags and loudest laughs from a female buddy ensemble comedy?

I certainly didn’t, and yet I was crowing with laughter.

Girls Trip surprises and delights on many levels, including a fairly decent balance between bawdy physical humor and more serious heartfelt moments.

Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) seems to have it all: fame, career success, and her position as one half of a popular power couple with her equally charming and successful husband Stuart (Mike Colter).

But when she is offered the opportunity to deliver the keynote at the mecca of #blackgirlmagic sites, the annual Essence Music Festival, she attempts to go for the whole package by inviting her estranged college besties “the Flossy Posse” to rekindle their friendship and celebrate sisterhood.

While it becomes clear that the years have brought struggles to each one, there’s no one like your friends to call you out and lift you up. The chemistry between wild child Dina (Tiffany Haddish), gossipy but loyal journalist Sasha (Queen Latifah), straight-laced mom Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and seemingly perfect Ryan is both fierce and fragile.

Director Malcolm D. Lee is no stranger to strong ensemble pieces, given the success of The Best Man franchise. His skill is evident in the balance between three incredibly popular and established lead actresses and a firecracker newcomer that gives each woman a chance to shine through both individual scene-stealers and excellent back-and-forth. With an unspoken understanding that more is hanging on this trip than a simple weekend among friends, the determination to make it work comes off earnest instead of contrived.

Each is fiercely loyal in their own way, and it grounds antics like a zip line peeing incident in friendship as much as hilarity. All four women do occasionally get boxed into their character tropes, with Latifah and Hall having to work through large stretches of one-dimensional writing that hammers their “career before everything” roles into the audience’s brains. Their dual dedication to keeping up perfect appearances in the face of financial insolvency (Sasha) and her husband’s infidelity (Ryan) can get tiresome, but the payoff is about right. Tiffany Haddish, however, is vibrant and amazing as Dina. Her performance will have every audience member pulling out their phones and searching for her stand-ups while wondering how Hollywood could have missed this comedic gem for so long.

The dynamic between Dina and Lisa is one of the most enjoyable, and their polar opposite personalities set up some of my favorite moments which include a hilarious and graphic instructional on the grapefruit as sexual aid. Haddish’s delivery, physicality, and relatability allow her to run away with many of the best scenes, but the duo of her with Smith in the straight man role garners the biggest belly laughs.

The tendency to lean into the complexities of navigating a transition from carefree college friendship to a more complex and burdened adult version makes the movie resonate, but it leaves little for the male characters to do except play the stagnate roles usually relegated to women in bonding comedies. Guys serve as simple window dressing in the form of vacation booty calls (Kofi Siriboe) or vehicles to move the plot along. Larenz Tate is an excellent actor but outside of his character Julian being an overly-obvious sweet and flawless foil to the philandering Stuart, he has little other agency. Stuart is a classic smooth talking cheater and there was no thought given to making him come off as anything but self-serving.

Rare is the comedy that utilizes a 2 hour runtime flawlessly. Girls Trip comes incredibly close to that small circle of films. Though it is not without missteps, this raucous celebration of friendship and sisterhood should rest comfortably at the top of the list for ladies night must-sees this summer, if not this year.  Extras include commentary, featurettes, music vido, outtakes and deleted scenes. (– Kristen Halbert / Universal / Released 10/17/17)

 

Beatriz at Dinner

When masseuse Beatriz (Salma Hayek) ends up attending the posh dinner party of her wealthy client Cathy (Connie Britton), an unlikely class showdown occurs, although the fireworks are perhaps not as intense as you might hope.

Beatriz is more than just a masseuse, she’s a holistic healer whom Cathy adores because of how she took care of their teenage daughter (now off at college) when she had Hodgkin’s Disease.

So Cathy barely hesitates to urge the casually dressed Beatriz to stay on to an important dinner after her car breaks down.

Beatriz overhears Cathy talking her reluctant husband into agreeing — he wants Beatriz to have her dinner in the kitchen — but things are about to get a whole lot more uncomfortable.

First there’s the awkward chitchat with Cathy’s well-heeled (literally!) friends, who quickly turn Beatriz’s talk about healing and old souls to the latest celebrity scandal.

Over cocktails, one of the guests mistakes Beatriz for “the help,” since she’s Latina, casually dressed and was “hovering.” He not only fails to apologize for the gaffe, but when she says she thinks she knows him, he quips, “Did you ever dance at Vegas?”

Over dinner, Beatriz slowly realizes that the man they’re toasting that evening, the same one who thought she was a maid, is Todd Strutt (John Lithgow) a Trumpian real estate mogul who thinks nothing of clearing out an endangered species for his new project.

We learn that Beatriz has suffered more than her share of loss in her life, from the devastation of her Mexican coastal village home town by a similarly greedy land baron, to the husband who left her. And her latest loss is a cruel one: Her neighbor strangled her pet goat to death because he hated the noise it made.

So it’s no wonder that Beatriz, who’s had more wine than usual, reacts when Strutt starts talking about the thrill of killing a magnificent beast while on safari.

It’s an interesting conundrum: Would you sit there and smile politely like the other guests? After all, the host is not only a client, but a friend. Or do you seize the opportunity to call out someone like that to their face?

As we realize the film is going to be about Beatriz the healer versus this icon of capitalism and greed, we root for her to get some kind of revenge, to strike some kind of blow.

He represents nearly everyone who’s ever done her wrong and we wonder if she’s going to throw aside her urge to heal and instead do some harm. There’s some interesting possibilities that run through your mind as you watch, up to and including her killing him.

As a dialectic on class warfare and the haves versus the have-nots, the film ends up being a fairly straightforward affair. It never veers into satire or absurdity, although maybe it would have benefited from a more surreal, Buñuel-esque take. Perhaps it, like Beatriz herself, is a little too earnest to take that leap.

Hayek is very good here and the scenes between her and Lithgow could very well end up being actor’s auditions scenes. But you just wish the film had gone a little farther and skewered its target a little more boldly. Extras include trailer.  (– Sharon Knolle / Lionsgate / Released 9/12/17)

 

The Beguiled

There are so many thing from the 70s that would not be served by an update: mood rings, pet rocks, and lava lamps. What made Sofia Coppola feel that a less famous Clint Eastwood film would be appropriate for a redo?

While we may never know for sure, the result is a muddled period piece fairy tale of the dangers lurking under the graces of these cloistered ladies.

Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is an injured Union soldier who finds himself at an all-female Southern boarding school begging for help and shelter as he recovers from wounds obtained as a deserter.

Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and her small brood of well-bred girls help as they can while he recovers.

When McBurney heals and is drawn closer to the dowdy Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) emotions flare and loyalties are tested.

This movie may have succeeded if not for an awareness of the source material. Given the pulpy, sexy, murdery movie it comes from this feels as if someone laced a bodice too tight around the script. Though scenes of McBurney flirting with the older girls run from explicit to tongue-in-cheek, there is always a restraint past what the period requires. It hangs like humidity over the entire film and takes away from a lot of the fun that could have been brought over from the original.

In general, it watches like a strange and sad children’s story of warning against temptation; as if McBurney were Snow White stumbling upon 6 female dwarves who get up each day to mine gentility instead of ore. It is suffice to say that Nicole Kidman has never met a period piece she did not like, or did not like her. It is nothing new for her to weave intensity with reserve and succeed wonderfully, but as she is so well-practiced it can be a bit boring to see.

One might forget if they are watching the stern mother from The Others or the character at hand, so similar is her approach. Elle Fanning may be falling into a trope of saucy innocent after her piece in Live by Night, which has faint echoes here. With that said, she still turns in a lovely performance and will not be anything but helped by being in this film. Kirsten Dunst has terrific range but seeing her as a sad sack character was at times more interesting as a study of the actress rather than actually engaging in terms of the plot.

The setting is more breathtaking than haunting, though there are echoes of the ghosts of better times throughout the old hallways. The peeling mansion sits on a sleepy but beautiful estate with sweeping canopies covered in Spanish moss and dappled sunlight across the grass. The detail given both to the worn and soft upper class dresses of the women, their clean but functional hairstyles, and the tarnished wealth of the set dressings give a full story of the occupants’ previous grandeur. It also gives unspoken depth to the relationship between Kidman and the girls. Who else would know from what heights they had already fallen save for the woman who protected them through all of it? Who else is more deserving of trust and devotion?

Sofia Coppola does not exist to push the envelope so much as softly and seductively pull it open with a particularly feminine slant. Because of that, her remake The Beguiled is less raunchy and less brutal than the original male-helmed version. This does not change the main driver of the movie, which is that the presence and potential attention from a man apparently undoes much of the sense of sisterhood that occurs in their absence, though man’s wickedness is also a driver for a united front.

The Beguiled is in no way a feminist movie, but if you are looking for a restrained period piece with a catfight or two played out as a battle of will and principles, Coppola has your number.  Extras include featurettes.  (Kristen Halbert / Universal / Released 10/10/17)

 

It Comes at Night

Marketing a horror film can be a tricky affair as it is difficult to keep the balance between selling the film for its actual premise and type of horror while also making sure it looks enticing enough to lure the unsuspecting, casual viewer into the dark of the cinema. With It Comes at Night, A24 seemingly focused on selling the film as a conventional horror, which frankly does this minimalist survival horror a great disservice; while the film is bone chillingly tense, the horror showcased in It Comes at Night stems less from the outside threats of a post-apocalyptic world and rather focuses on the horrors our paranoia and fear may result in under such dire circumstances.

As such, those who are looking for a frenzied zombie siege may find themselves disappointed by this tense slow burn of a horror film.

On the other hand, those who consider films such as The Babadook to be terrifying, exactly because of how it portrayed the horrors of the human condition in terms of grief and depression, will likely appreciate It Comes at Night for how it utilizes fear and paranoia to horrify its audience.

While its budget of $5 million is a substantial increase from the $30.000 budget of director Trey Edward Shults’ debut feature Krisha, $5 million is still a modest budget in terms of modern filmmaking. However, much like 2017’s Get Out never looked or felt like its similarly modest budget, the team behind It Comes at Night has also utilized their budget to its full extent. With the main location being a lonely house in the middle of the woods, the setting is naturally eerie, but it is rather the cinematography and lighting that helps to create the sense of isolation and fear. The camerawork predominantly focuses on two types of shots; wide shots and close-ups of the characters’ faces.

The former helps to create imposing and almost expressionistic visuals focusing on the mesh of the trees and shadows cast by the inside structure of the house, conveying how intimidating the outside world feels to the characters. In contrast, the close-ups of the characters’ faces are direct and raw, with the nighttime footage having the faces lit mostly by nearby lamps, allowing the viewer to make their own assumptions about what is going through the characters’ heads, just as the minimal lighting emphasizes that around the characters lies a darkness that is equally literal and and metaphorical.

With so much emphasis on the characters’ expressions and reactions, at lot of the film’s success of course rests on the quality of the performances. Much like the visual style of the film is minimalistic, the acting is equally toned down, creating a very realistic set of performances, which draws the viewer further into the narrative and thereby makes the story that much more devastating. Additionally, the shift between reality and dreams injects just the right amount of unsettling imagery into the otherwise mundane tasks the characters do.

Dream sequences are generally considered a cinematic faux pas, but the way they are handled in It Comes at Night is so subtle that they manage to add to the tension rather than becoming distracting. This is again thanks to Shults’ minimalist approach, where the observant viewer will notice that the shift between reality and dream is signified by the aspect ratio changing from 2.40:1 to 2.75:1 respectively. Furthermore, the frequency of the shifts increases as the story intensifies, eventually leaving both the viewer and certain characters unsure of what is real and what is a nightmare.

Standardized horror films with flat characters, exposition overload and jump scares galore are plentiful, and it is therefore understandable that some viewers will be less than pleased with It Comes at Night, simply because it does not offer what they are used to. However, for those who enjoy realistic performances that pull you into a film, are fine with not having everything explained and do not mind looking inward at the less desirable traits associated with human nature, It Comes at Night is likely to get under your skin and stay with you long after you have left the cinema.  Extras include commentary and featurette.  (– Leyla Mikkelsen / Universal / Released 9/12/17)

 

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

The two pint-sized troublemakers George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are the bane of the existence of their unusually grumpy elementary school principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms).

When another of the two imaginative pranksters’ many shenanigans get more out of hand than usual, Mr. Krupp is almost diabolically delighted that he finally has enough evidence to split up the pair and place them in separate classes.

However, all is not yet lost as George and Harold manage to hypnotize the principal and turn him into Captain Underpants – a super-powered, yet incredibly dimwitted comic book superhero the boys have created.

At first, George and Harold are having the time of their lives, but things soon take a turn for the worse when an actual threat presents itself in the form of the villainous Professor P (Nick Kroll), who has sinister plans for the elementary schoolers and their peers.

It is now up to George and Harold to find a way to stop Professor P, but are they capable of doing so, and will Captain Underpants be a help or a hindrance to their chances of success?

In terms of animation, 2017 has already had a fair few things to offer, and Captain Underpants turns out to be a mostly pleasant surprise in spite of its insistence of landing the laughs primarily via the means of nonstop toilet humor. While this is hardly a new approach for this type of entertainment, the frequency at which the jokes are delivered, their timing and how many of them actually land is rare, particularly for this type of comedy. As such, both children and adults alike should find themselves entertained by what fittingly has the importance of joy and laughter at its core. This is explored through both the imaginative minds of the two protagonists and the numerous laughing fits they end up having as a result of their creativity and friendship, which is in turn contrasted by the underlying reasons of exactly what may be the cause of Mr. Krupp’s unusually unpleasant demeanor.

Aside from the importance of joy and laughter, another core theme of the film is the importance of friendship. Since the definition of what constitutes friendship is dictated by the two boys’ perception of it, their fears of what may happen if they are placed in different classes is hilariously exaggerated in segments that mix in other types of visual elements to contrast the charmingly cartoonish computer animation. This creates fun and rather unique visuals, which further emphasizes the creativity of the two protagonists.  Extras include featurettes, deleted scenes, music videos, interviews, gallery and trailer.  (– Leyla Mikkelsen / DreamWorks / Released 9/12/17)

 

Wish Upon

In this teen horror, Clare (Joey King) has not had an easy life since her mother committed suicide when Clare was a little girl. With her grief-stricken father (Ryan Phillippe) resorting to scavenging discarded items to sustain them, Clare is particularly embarrassed by her father’s line of work when it brings him near her high school, as it gives her bullies extra fuel when taunting the creative outsider.

However, something interesting seemingly comes from her father’s scavenging and hoarding when he finds a strange, ornate box with Chinese writing and motifs. It turns out that the box grants wishes, and Clare happily wishes for things that seemingly improve her life, but she soon begins to realize that her wishes are fulfilled at a terrifying cost.

Teenagers have always been the target audience for the vast majority of horror films, and the safe thrill of a horror film has indeed remained a firm favorite for this demographic for several decades.

The high demand for horror films has at times resulted in highly enjoyable as well as truly terrifying films, but it is also a genre that is heavily plagued by poor execution (no pun intended) and unoriginal ripoffs. You would therefore be forgiven if watching the trailer for Wish Upon leaves you feeling like you are watching the sales pitch for generic teen horror no. 436, as the actual film is unfortunately as underwhelming and formulaic as the trailer suggests.

The film progresses exactly how you would expect, borrowing heavily from the Goosebumps story Be Careful What You Wish For for its central premise, just as the deaths are clearly inspired by the entertainingly morbid Final Destination franchise. However, Wish Upon does not possess any of the creativity associated with the Final Destination films, as the special effects are either poorly executed, poorly filmed, poorly edited or a combination of all three factors. This issue is further exacerbated by the lack of gore, which seems odd considering the 15 rating the BBFC has granted Wish Upon, but makes frustrating sense when you consider that the film was originally made for the American PG-13 demographic to get younger teens into cinema seats now that school is out for summer. To make up for this lack of of gore, a frustrating sound editing choice is utilized, as the filmmakers apparently deemed it fitting to use ear-shattering loudness in their misguided attempt to scare people via sound design rather than grizzly visuals.

Another problem that is symptomatic of poorly executed horror films is that the backstory for the narrative at hand is often the most interesting part of the film, and when the obligatory exposition overload scene begins, it does rather leave you feeling like you would much rather be watching a film about the origins of the demonic wish box than this bland high school horror.

This blandness is not only present in the story and structure, however, but also affects the acting; the lead actress is unfortunately not particularly convincing, which makes some scenes rather cringe-worthy as it feels like she has had very little direction for how to properly convey the significantly emotional reactions some scenes are obviously supposed to evoke. Her character motivations are also all over the place, as once she realizes exactly what happens after she makes a wish, she is initially mortified, only to eagerly make another wish moments later in spite of knowing the dire consequences of her actions. This in turn leads to one of the most hilariously unconvincing portrayals of a manic meltdown ever committed to screen, which again is over as suddenly as it was introduced in this tonal mess of a film that even has the nerve to attempt to set up a sequel.

Ultimately, Wish Upon is a deeply unimpressive and generic horror film that may give very young teens their first horror experience in a cinema, but it will also teach them an unintentional lesson about expectation management and dealing with disappointment. As for the more seasoned horror fans, it is advisable to steer clear of this one, as watching it is likely to leave them feeling like they would gladly pay the ghastly price the film’s demonic MacGuffin craves if it meant that they could be watching something more worthwhile instead.  Extras include featurettes and motion comics.  (– Leyla Mikkelsen / Broad Green Pictures / Released 10/10/17)

 

Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight’s story centers around the question of how can Optimus Prime, missing for some time now, bring his dead planet of Cybertron, back to life and make it a place the Transformers can once again live on?

When he finally rediscovers his home world he also discovers that HE is the reason for its destruction.

The secret to its revival lies in an ancient artifact that has been lost since the times of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

With the help of some new allies he now must enlist the assistance of old allies, along with some old adversaries as well, to complete his mission.

But at what cost!?!?

That sounds like an amazing movie. And some of it was but I really shouldn’t be saying only “some of it was” when a film like this should basically write itself and be awesome.

At it’s best is a beautiful action-packed car commercial. At it’s worst is what I imagine it is like to be on LSD, ecstasy and cocaine while participating in a demolition derby.

I love the Transformers films at their core. I played with the toys as a kid. I watched the cartoon every day after school. However this entire franchise has been a study in how to take a very simple concept and make it into an impossibly convoluted explosion filled child’s nightmare filled with supermodels, academy award winning and nominated actors and actresses, and crazy former child actors and former white rappers, with a smattering of cool, if not, overly complicated giant transforming robots punching each other. And The Last Knight suffers as its four predecessors have.

The original cartoon, on which the series is based, is good robots and bad robots that turn into vehicles and other objects, fighting for control over a planet’s wealth of energy to save their race. The good robots are assisted by a boy and his dad. The bad ones DGAF.

Simple. Yet somehow the screenwriters, and there are eight total for the franchise so far, feel the need to make these overly complicated plots and weird pseudo-complex stories that end up being entirely more confusing than they need to be while making the Transformers almost an afterthought in their own film.

Even the giant plot twist reveal comes across a “OH yeah, and that thing is kind of a thing but whatever, we’ll get to that in the next movie…”. Like it was an afterthought when it should have been a “HOLY F*CK, WHAAAAT!?!?!” moment. They, and in turn I didn’t care.

Look. I didn’t come into this Transformers film, or any of the other films in the franchise, for that matter, even remotely comparing them to even the most mediocre of cinema. I AM, however coming into them thinking of other similar films in this action genre. And I find them lacking.

Michael Bay gets so caught up in wanting to show us to show that a Transformers film can be “more than meets the eye” that he loses sight of what would make a Transformers film awesome in the first place. So much time is wasted in trying to create these strange subplots and weird character moments for the humans that at best, stall the film a bit and at worst completely derail the film completely.

Awkward humor, forced character empathy and terrible, kind of offensive stereotyping is often very off putting. It comes off as a strange time capsule of late 90’s early aughts sensibilities and aesthetics that just don’t work now. Many times throughout the film I was struck at how dated this film seems and how a lot of the humor didn’t land with me.

I just wanted to get back to the actual interesting plot of Cybertron coming to Earth to suck it dry as to rebuild itself.

I get it. Bay wants to show the conflict of two species vying for existence on a planet that may or may not be able to sustain their simultaneous existence. He also wants to show how the Transformers Civil War is ruining the Earth and our lives. Not to mention he wants to show us how different people forge out an existence in this war torn land from kids who have lost everything, to heroes who have to live with the life they choose, to the military and their fight against the machines as well. I get that, but making your punching, shooting robot films a two and half hours plus mess is not the solution.

I am a self proclaimed Michael Bay whore. I have loved his movies and commercials since his music video days. I know he is not Orson Welles. What he is a fun action film director, who, as I have discussed with many friends, is a much better cinematographer or second unit director than he is a director. His ability to coordinate and shoot an action sequence is the pinnacle of his craft.

Transformers: The Last Knight is a confusing, chaotic mess of a movie. Way too long and so strangely edited as to abandon entire story arcs only to return to them haphazardly, almost as an afterthought so much later on that you almost forgot that they were even there originally. It is as good as any of the other films in the soon to be eight movie franchise.

Though that isn’t saying much.

It definitely plays like a 2+ hour prelude to the next film, Transformers: What Fans Actually Wanted ‘The Last Knight’ To Be About.  Extras include featurettes.  (– Benn Robbins / Paramount / Released 9/26/17)

 

The Hero

Excellent character actors are a gift to any film. Their ability to seamlessly slip into a role and take on that particular persona allows for a richer story than your average cast member. But what of the actor who is so identified with that role that he is typecast for an entire career?

This is what happened to Sam Elliott, the mustachioed silver-haired lead of Brett Haley’s The Hero.

Audiences know him as the perennially deep-voiced cowboy in everything from The Big Lebowski to Thank You For Smoking.

This series of history of single-focus casting led to Haley writing a feature vehicle for the actor where he shines as the man behind the trope.

The Hero looks at the life of Lee Hayden (Elliott), an actor whose glory days of starring in Westerns are behind him, replaced by collecting checks for barbecue sauce voice-over work. He spends his empty days smoking heavily with his weed dealer (Nick Offerman). When a health scare comes his way, he is left to address the way he has been spending his years, and how he wants to be remembered for what he has left.

Sam Elliott is currently enjoying a wave of newfound and diverse popularity with roles in several projects, but his work in this film will solidify the idea that Hollywood has been missing out in not casting him in more creative lead roles sooner. Though the character of Lee Hayden shares some career trajectory similarities (and should, as it was written after Haley become friends with Elliott), there is nothing that yells “cowboy” in the way Elliot displays his range of talent. He draws out the anger from lost relationships, cheerful aloofness in spur-of-the-moment druggy euphoria, and remains empathetic even at his darker moments.

He is especially a joy to watch as the audience is “in” on the parallel nature of aspects of the story. It makes for a unique movie that could only be led by someone who had been typecast in the industry for a significant amount of time but has also obtained a fair amount of notoriety for playing that role to a T. It is the intimate entwined nature of the casting and storytelling that gives the movie more depth than it would have on its own.

Without the additional layers added by Elliott’s own career, the movie would be significantly less enjoyable. There are few real surprises in the movie; no twists and turns to take away from his personal journey. Even the supporting cast plays typical roles, which is a shame as the casting was very apt.

Offerman was more believable running lines before an audition than as the snarky drug dealer, but Laura Prepon was excellent as the beautiful younger love interest who addresses their age gap from several angles.

Unfortunately, as the distant and bitter daughter Krysten Ritter was not used to her full potential. But because we already have a relationship with the lead it almost does not matter as much that this time it is everyone else fulfilling a trope. Almost.

There is a particular scene where Lee Hayden accepts a lifetime achievement award and turns it into an opportunity to acknowledge who really drives fame and longevity in Hollywood. In fact, at several points the movie shares a lesson, but never in a way that feels too preachy.

There are inevitably more roles that will utilize Elliott’s cowboy drawl and stern gaze. But The Hero proves that he is not only destined for greater things; he is also absolutely deserving of the opportunity.  Extras include commentary and gallery.  (– Sharon Knolle / Lionsgate / Released 9/19/17)

 

Wonder Woman

Nearly eight decades after her introduction, Wonder Woman has finally become the title character of her own cinematic adventure.

Sculpted from clay by the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and brought to life by Zeus, the Amazonian princess Diana (Gal Gadot) grows up on the island of Themyscira as the only child among the warrior women.

She is keen to learn the art of fighting, but her mother is anything but supportive of her daughter’s passion, as she fears that should Diana learn what she is truly capable of it will draw the attention of Ares, the god of war, from whom the Amazons are hidden on the island paradise.

World War I is raging in the outside world, however, and the Amazons soon find the conflict on their doorstep when American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands in the waters near Themyscira. As German troops follow hot on Trevor’s heels, the Amazons are brutally exposed to the reality of human warfare, and Diana is compelled to join Steve in an effort to bring a conclusion to the War to End All Wars.

Since the inception of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) – the DC Comics equivalent to Marvel’s MCU – the films have largely failed to impress. With lukewarm reviews for Man of Steel, bad reviews for Batman v Superman and terrible reviews for the editing disaster Suicide Squad, many feel that all hope of saving this particular cinematic universe rests on the shoulders of Wonder Woman.

Thankfully, those shoulders are both capable and strong, and director Patty Jenkins’ effort breathes some much needed new life into the DCEU. Much like its predecessors, the film’s duration is similarly lengthy with its 2 hours and 21 minutes, but the amount of restraint applied to the editing establishes an excellent pacing, which ensures that the film moves along smoothly without neither pointless meandering nor frustrating leaps that distort the sense of time and continuity. The tone of the film also sets it apart from the rest of the DCEU as the film has more joy, color and hope than especially Zack Snyder has brought to the table with his much darker contributions.

Thus, Wonder Woman not only establishes itself as an individual film with its own distinctive identity, it also manages to be a welcome reminder of superhero films of yore. This is particularly evident in Gadot’s performance, which is refreshingly free from the angst-ridden self-doubt many took issue with in 2013’s Man of Steel. Instead, Gadot’s Wonder Woman has a personality, determination and sense of justice that is more akin to Christopher Reeve’s Superman.

Although Gadot completely stole the show with her charisma during her brief appearance in the finale of Batman v Superman, many were skeptical about her ability to properly evoke the strength and skill of Wonder Woman throughout a feature film of her own due to her slender frame. That skepticism is continuously brought to shame in Wonder Woman, as Gadot’s enthusiam shines through in her commitment to the action sequences, even if is she does not quite have the dramatic range to match her physicality. Her performance outside many of the action set pieces is therefore largely carried by her on-screen chemistry with Pine and how much his talent elevates what Gadot lacks.

However, this also means that once Gadot is on her own against the villain in the finale, the film does lose some steam. This is not only due to Gadot, but rather an amalgamation of her lack of range, a final showdown that feels all too reminiscent of about a dozen others, and the usual superhero movie problem of the underdeveloped villain. Throughout the film, the villainous characters are set up with the bare minimum of character motivations and even less character development, making them fall victim to the kind of superficial stock characters you suspect were selected from a mail order catalogue of pre-existing and easily interchangeable super villains.

With its classic structure of three clearly distinguishable acts and an organic sense of pacing, Wonder Woman will be a largely enjoyable experience for most viewers. The action set pieces are impressive and engaging thanks to the spirited efforts of Gadot in particular, while still avoiding to turn entirely into a one-woman-show; the presence of the human characters in moments of battle mostly feels worthwhile, creating a dynamic that makes you feel like something is at stake and that everyone makes a contribution although they are fighting alongside a vastly superior demigoddess.

With plenty of heart and just enough humor to not take itself too seriously, the course has been set for the DCEU to make a much greater impact, and while the final act unfortunately stumbles due to a severe case of superhero showdown fatigue, Wonder Woman is largely the divinely fresh breath of air people have been hoping for. Extras include epilogue, featurettes, extended and alternate scenes and blooper reel.  (– Leyla Mikkelsen / Warner Bros. / Released 9/19/17)

 

All Eyez on Me

Tupac Shakur was charming, intelligent, volatile and talented. That’s what director Benny Boom’s bio-pic keeps telling us.

Unfortunately, that’s just not what we’re seeing on screen in All Eyez on Me. Simply casting lookalike Demetrius Shipp Jr. isn’t enough, and frankly it’s hard to gauge his performance as the iconic rap star simply because he isn’t given much to work with.

With a talented ensemble including Danai Gurira and Kat Graham, Shakur’s mother, Afeni and girlfriend, Jada Pinkett, respectively, the film falters since it never successfully shows us what made Tupac special, it just assumes that we should accept it as fact. We see how Shakur deals with the likes of Dr. Dre, Suge Knight and Biggie Smalls, but everything happens without much drama.

The film never moves beyond a by-the-numbers portrayal and unlike it’s subject, it’s forgettable.

Extras include featurettes, audition tapes, round table and deleted scenes. (Lionsgate / Released 9/5/17)

 

The Mummy

The latest reboot of The Mummy opens the crypt into Universal Pictures’ new monster-centric franchise, Dark Universe. This solid start stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari and Russell Crowe.

Cruise plays soldier of fortune Nick Morton and is working in Iraq for the US government with his sidekick Sergeant Chris Vail (Johnson), when they steal a map from archeologist Jenny Halsey (Wallis). By unleashing an air strike on a small village, they uncover the tomb of Ahmanet, daughter of the Pharaoh cursed for taking revenge on her family and making a deal with the dark god Set.

When the tomb is extracted and headed to London for further examination, Ahmanet takes over Chris and starts to down the plane.

Here we get Tom Cruise at what he’s best at, an over the top plane crash scene with incredible stunts! While saving Jenny, it appears that Nick went down in the wreckage, but he finds himself alive in a morgue, unscathed. If you have been dying to see an older Cruise shirtless since Jack Reacher, here is your chance.

In all, The Mummy origin and reveal in the modern age is, believe it or not, a fresh take on the not-so-fresh embalmed corpses. Ahmanet has regenerative powers by sucking the life our of the living and she can control the undead, which she does frequently! Her army of undead walkers are fast and strong, in contrast to the meandering brain-hungry zombies on TV. Also, a key part of the story are the unearthed tombs of Christian crusaders in London who come alive in the third act and can even swim!

Dropping in some humor and jump scares, this year’s movie does hide some easter eggs from the previous franchise but sets itself apart by setting its own style and look. Jake Johnson plays his atypical role and lightens the load by dropping in some jokes and ‘reluctant sidekick’ banter.

Halsey and Nick also seek the help of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe), medical expert of all things occult, bump-in-the-night and evil. I hadn’t done too much research into the movie beforehand, so I was surprised they went with Jekyll and not Van Helsing (he’s coming later). Crowe is particularly paternal in this role, as the good doctor who has it all figured out. But watch out, if he doesn’t have his treatment he may let the other guy out!

There film’s patina was less colorful than Marvel or DC’s current offerings, the special effects were decent with some minor exceptions (yes, Virginia, there is a screaming cloud scene!) and plenty of action from the get-go.
In retrospect, Suicide Squad‘s Enchantress was aiming for the target (slight miss) at what we get here from Sofia Boutella’s Mummy. At no point in the 1 hour 50 minute movie was I ever bored, wishing for the story to get on with itself, or have any confusion as to what was happening. That’s not to say the movie was spoon-feeding the plot, it just meant it didn’t meander or take long to make it’s key points. Pacing was right on.

My criticisms are few, mostly with some CGI decisions when practical effects would have ‘fit’ the look of the movie a bit better. Look and design of main villain and undead characters were pretty great actually, and the large scale effects including the plane scene were exciting and scary.  Alex Kurtzman’s sophomore effort directing (following 2012’s People Like Us) delivers.  Extras include commnentary, featurettes and deleted and extended scenes. (– Clay N Ferno / Universal / Released 9/12/17)

 

Baby Driver

Has mainstream cinema become so awful that just mediocre films are lauded with universal praise?

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a familiar mash-up of dozens of films that’s mildly entertaining, but not original or electric enough to carve it’s own identity.

It might seem harsh, but Wright, who launched his career with the brilliant Shaun of The Dead has slowly become less impressive with each film and ultimately, Baby Driver, which at least is a step up from 2013’s The World’s End, is a disappointing addition to the once exciting moviemaker’s filmography.

Ansel Egort delivers a wooden and ultimately charmless performance as the title character, Baby, a getaway driver indebted to mob boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), who needs to complete one last job before he’s out.  Suffering from tinnitus from a childhood accident that killed his parents, Baby spends his life listening to music through his various iPods, blocking out the ringing.  The music he’s listening to becomes the soundtrack to the film.

Two of the film’s bigger co-stars, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm both seem to be trying to be interesting character actors when in reality, they’re just leading men with odd haircuts and fake tattoos.  Other cast members including Lily James as Baby’s love interest, Deborah, Jon Bernthal as criminal, Griff, and Paul Williams as crime boss, The Butcher, all deliver the best that they can with the material.

Martin Scorsese once responded to the notion that his only interest was cinema, that if that were true, “all of his movies would be about movies.”  Wright, like Quentin Tarantino and other modern directors seem to follow that path, reimagining the films, the shots, and the sequences they love into their own work.

As a result, Baby Driver is nothing more than cinematic junk food, a quick fix that’s neither satisfying or fulfilling and ultimately, forgettable.  Extras include commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, animatics, storyboard gallery, music video, and promos.  (Sony / Released 10/10/17)

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

When Disney decided to start building films based on popular rides (i.e. Mission to Mars, Tower of Terror, The Country Bears, etc.) not even they could have imagined the wild success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

Spanning 14 years, the antics of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) have kept audiences coming back for the formula of haunted pirate lore plus lavish action scenes plus slurred one-liners.

But just like a person can only ride the teacups for so many times before getting a bit nauseous, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales may make you ready to get off the ride.

This installation finds young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) searching for a way to free his father from the task of helming the Flying Dutchman.

Pirate lore tells of the Trident of Poseidon, a magical relic that can break any curse of the sea.

In his quest to track down Jack Sparrow to help him find it, Turner encounters the dreaded ghost Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) who is determined to take revenge on Captain Jack. With navigating help from witty astronomer Carina (Kaya Scodelario) and a few old friends, they race to beat the tides of a fate long coming.

We are in the fifth movie of the franchise and it is showing wear around the edges. While most of the assorted crew are back, the mirth and joy are not at the levels you would expect. Jokes did not land as well as they would have if this was the second or third outing. The action scenes are still relatively good, with an opening bank heist that reminds us of the grand scale of these movies. But we can see everything coming from a mile away and it is more exhausting than comforting.

When newcomer Carina says that she is following clues left by Galileo Galilei, who only mapped the stars to find this treasure, you could almost hear the eyes rolling in the theater. There are enough actual pirate and sea-faring legends to stretch out without having to dabble in actual history. New characters and settings are brought in for mere minutes without significantly adding to the story.

In a movie already 20 minutes too long, you are left wondering why the time was wasted on these distractions that do literally nothing for the story. These kinds of odd missteps show a lack of understanding from screenwriter Jeff Nathanson ,who is new to the series and does not seem to grasp the elements that have kept it worth the ticket price.

On the other hand, Carina’s character delivers the strong and independent female lead that we can always look forward to in this series. I still would have traded the care they gave her for better treatment on the story as a whole.

The ever-competing captains Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are back but both are just shadows of themselves. Depp does a better job of pulling out the charm as the story goes on, but Rush never seems to really engage with his role and turns in something a bit more paint-by-numbers. Javier Bardem seems to be having fun as Captain Salazar but there is nothing particularly memorable about his performance, nor that of the eager and puppy-eyed Brenton Thwaites.

Kaya Scodelario gave one of the best performances, and her sharp retorts along with passionate demands for respect as a scholar/scientist come across energetic and genuine. Hopefully she will be in whatever inevitably follows (stay till the end for a brief teaser).

Round and round we go on this journey, always starting at the same place (someone is mad at Jack!) and ending only a few feet before a full circle (someone is less mad at Jack and/or dead).

While this may not be worth the six years we’ve waited in line, I’m somehow still willing to get on for old times’ sake.  Extras include featurettes, gallery, bloopers and deleted scenes.  (– Kristen Halbert / Disney/Buena Vista / Released 10/3/17)

 

Cyborg 2087

None of Michael Rennie’s genre films comes close to Day the Earth Stood Still, but some, like The Power and Cyborg 2087 are worth searching out. Here, Rennie is determined and hard-edged as he works to disable technology in 1966 that would enable totalitarian terror 100 years later.

On his trail are two cyborg “tracer agents” sent by the evil future dictators. The concepts seem an obvious influence on the Terminator films, although Teenagers from Outer Space is closer to those films in terms of action and plot.

Here, cyborg technology is only incidental. The tracers are basically mute cops from the future. One of them even seems attracted to women! It’s really a time travel action movie, not a cyborg movie.

But whatever it is, it’s not very good.

Opening scenes are promising, with Rennie revealing himself immediately to the 1960s scientists. But after 25 minutes, everything degenerates into a repetitive cat-and-mouse chase. The supposed cyborgs seem odd but unmenacing. The overblown score becomes intrusive. Action scenes are plentiful, but the whole thing feels like it should have been a 50-minute Outer Limits episode, not a feature-length film. Extras include commentary.  (– David E Goldweber / Kino-Lorber / Released 9/26/17)

 

The Illustrated Man

John Stanley and VideoHound are both unusually specific and articulate about this one. Stanley says: “major disappointment, for producer Howard B. Kreitsek’s script fails to capture the poetry or imagination of Ray Bradbury’s famous collection. Jack Smight is too conventional a director to give this the technique it screams out for.”

VideoHound says: “The skin-art framing story tries too hard to be weird. Conversely, the short segments aren’t halfway weird or imaginative enough.”

I concur. And there is more. The focus is completely on Rod Steiger, in both the 1930s frame and the far-future sci-fi stories. But he’s always an angry annoying guy, with almost nothing sympathetic about him until the conclusion. Pacing is quick enough, but editing is poor. It takes nearly 30 minutes before the first story begins.

Two of the three stories end with anticlimaxes, and the one with a real climax is easy to guess. All three feel like cheap EC stories or failed Twilight Zone episodes.

Perhaps most disappointing, there are few closeups of the skin illustrations. The psychedelic Aztec-inspired designs are very good, but it requires freeze-framing to get a real look at them. A pretentious opening and closing are the final nails in the coffin. Claire Bloom is the best thing in the movie: seductive, teasing, wise, mysterious, and not quite evil.  Extras include featurette and trailer (– David E Goldweber / Warner Archive / Released 9/19/17)

 

Night of the Living Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition

In 1968 no one knew what to do with zombies. No one had made a serious zombie film probably since White Zombie.

So George Romero and his buddies decided that it was time for the dead to come back.

In order to do that and make the film serious and timely, they stuck a message into it. Racial tensions were high. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. It was time to make the zombies into political activists.

Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner, who co-wrote Return Of The Living Dead in 1985 and co-produced the remake of Night in 1990) are on their way to the cemetery to put some flowers on their father’s grave for their mother. Unfortunately for them, the cemetery is crawling with dead folks.

Literally.

Barbara is attacked, Johnny rescues her and is most likely killed. Barbara runs to a nearby house and finds Ben (Duane Jones), a young black man who immediately takes over the situation.

After they’ve boarded up the whole house (well, really Ben does all the work. Barbara is too distraught to do much), they discover more people in the basement. Why didn’t these folks run up to help Ben and Barb out? Because Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman) didn’t want to take the chance of letting any ghouls (they’re never called zombies) into his safe zone. Even though he heard a woman screaming and a lot of hammering, he wouldn’t allow anyone else to come up to help.

While the zombies are the main enemy, Harry is the real asshole of the film. He is every older, white man in America who will not come to the aid of the younger generation. Even his wife, Helen (Marilyn Eastman who later married Karl), seems to be against him. He feels that the safest thing to do is hole everyone up in the basement. But there is no way out if the ghouls get in there. But the Coopers’ daughter, Karen (Kyra Schon, Karl’s daughter), was bitten and she can’t be moved. So they’ll stay down there. Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley who later married Russell) aren’t so sure. They’re a young couple who happened to find the Coopers on their way to safety.

That’s the plot. Kinda thin, but there’s a lot going on in the subtext. Ben is in control (a running theme in Romero’s films: the black man in control) and Harry is scared and cowardly as shit. But he thinks he’s in control.

The zombies look pretty good for a 1968 black and white film. The gore was shocking at the time, but is more tame than most tv shows these days. And, as cheap and unprofessional as the film was, it looks great! The black and white photography, probably shot because B&W was cheaper, is perfect. It’s grainy, documentary feel makes the film all the harder to watch.

If you have not seen this film, go out and rent it now. It’s one of the best horror films of all time and is, strangely, a great film besides that. Yeah, the acting is a little shaky as is the dialogue, but sometimes those things don’t matter too much. And the ending will stay with you for days. (And don’t forget, George LOVES to show kids eating dead bodies.)

Besides, where else will you hear a cop say, “Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.”  (– Mark Wensel / Mill Creek / Released 10/3/17)

 

Dreamgirls: Director’s Extended Edition

Back in the early 60s, Barry Gordy started a record label that would change the way white people saw black music forever. He would actually get the music on the top of the pop charts, which was a pretty damn big feat back then. And he did it by controlling the singers with an iron fist.

Now, let’s fictionalize the whole thing and Barry Gordy becomes Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx), a small time music promoter who happens onto a group of girls who have a good look and a great sound.

The Dreams are Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) on lead vocals and Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) on backup. Effie has an amazing voice and Curtis falls for her almost instantly.

But does he love her or her voice?

He also helps to represent the biggest name in black music, James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). Jimmy is huge, but he’s never been on the pop charts. Curtis sees a way to finally do this, but he’s gotta be a cold-hearted asshole to do it. And he has to pay off a few DJs.

Things go right. Things go wrong. Deena replaces Effie as the lead singer of The Dreams (because Effie’s a big girl and her voice is TOO distinctive) and in Curtis’ life (ditto). Jimmy gets rid of his original manager (Danny Glover). Jimmy and the house writer/Effie’s brother, CC White (Keith Robinson), try to make more topical music. Curtis shoots them down. The 60s come to a close.

Everything about this story screams Motown, which I love. What I didn’t love was the tonal shift in the middle of the movie. The first half was pretty good. The music was all onstage or record. It was a good facsimile of the old Motown sides that The Supremes and Marvin Gaye were recording in the early and mid-60s.

Then things got weird. People started singing offstage when they weren’t before, including Curtis and CC. (I’m surprised Danny didn’t have a song.) Effie starts taking more of a center stage than she had before, as if the filmmakers decided mid-way through production that she was the star. She was amazing. No doubt about that.

But here’s something that I haven’t been able to say about a movie since 1988: Eddie Murphy was the best part. He was absolutely amazing. Not only was he a great performer onstage, but he was a great actor. It was really weird. He received a lot of notice for this one and we were all hoping that this role wakes his ass up to his potential. We all know he can do it. He just needs to believe that he can again. As of now, he still hasn’t. Not a great film, but it is kind of fun.  Extras include 2 cuts of the film, auditions and screen tests.  (– Mark Wensel / Paramount / Released 10/10/17)

 

Tobor The Great

Bill Warren once wrote, “Robots and little boys seem to go together the way horses and little girls do.”

True indeed, and some folks at Dudley Pictures Corporation and Republic Pictures knew it. Dudley was known for short documentaries about European and Asian countries. Republic was known for serials like Drums of Fu Manchu. But together they produced and distributed one of the first science fiction films (alongside Invaders from Mars) aimed specifically at children. For adults viewing the film many decades later, it helps to imagine the fears and hopes of the time period: on one hand the Reds who might be lurking anywhere about us in disguise, and on the other hand the prospect of imminent travel by rocket ship into outer space.

With all its flaws, Tobor does a fine job of conveying at once this fear and this hope.

I fear the film won’t entertain latter-day children as it did upon release. Pacing is very slow, and too many scenes are staid and talky. The opening and closing are both strong, but the entire middle hour has few highlights. The kid acts like an average six or seven-year-old, not like the 11-year-old genius he is supposed to be. Still, both adults and children might want to take a look. The most important aspect of the film is well done: Tobor is big, beautiful, strong, and sympathetic. It’s strange that he has emotions (or simulated emotions), and it’s far-fetched how he can read his controller’s thoughts, but the film offers just enough explanation to slip these things past us. Tobor is more streamlined and “robotic” than Robby, and he has a big head. He moves convincingly and doesn’t have silly powers like laser beams or flight. His fate at the coda is a little sad, but not entirely without respect.  Extras include commentary.  ( – David E Goldweber / Kino-Lorber / Released 9/12/17)

 

The House

Once upon a time, the name Will Ferrell guaranteed not only financial hit at the box office, but also a performance that was either so funny or so bizarre that it entered the zeitgeist without a moment’s hesitation.

In The House, we’re reminded that Ferrell is not only past his expiration date, but also startlingly a burden to watch onscreen. With his latest film, The House, we’re reminded that Ferrell, like Jim Carrey, before him, might simply be a footnote to the history of cinematic comedy. With a supporting cast that includes such amazing talent as Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel, Jeremy Renner, Alexandra Daddario, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Cedric Yarbrough and Michaela Watkins, The House’s flimsy, but potentially funny premise never gels.

Like Ferrell, it feels tired, with no surprises, obvious jokes and an undercurrent of overall bitterness. Ultimately, The House is shallow, forgettable and worst of all, unfunny.

Extras include featurettes, deleted scenes, extended/alternate scenes and gag reel.  (Warner Bros. / Released 10/10/17)

 

Rough Night

With a plot lifted directly from Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things with a generous helping of Bridesmaids, and Weekend at Bernie’s stirred in, Rough Night reunites a group of college friends (Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoë Kravitz) at a rented beach house in Miami for a wild bachelorette weekend.

With plenty of drugs and booze consumed, a stripper is accidentally killed. As the friends try and dispose of the body, a police officer arrives, begins acting sexually inappropriate, resulting in him getting knocked out by the girls.

As it turns out, the officer was the actual stripper. Who was the first person that was killed and who are the two new detectives at the door.

Antics and hijinks. Except it isn’t particularly funny or much of a thriller.

It’s a cookie-cutter plot, with situations and reveals that any regular cinegeek can see coming miles away. The girls unbelievably portray old friends and the forever mugging for the camera Kate McKinnon once again proves that she’s nothing more than a female version of the “more is more” school of comedy. Supporting cast is particularly solid with Demi Moore, Ty Burrell, Colton Haynes, Dean Winters, Bo Burnham and Eric Andre.

A lame attempt to gender switch a familiar stock concept, doesn’t make it fresh, liberating or pro-feminist; in this case it just makes a painfully crappy movie.  Extras include featurettes, deleted scenes, and gag reel.  (Sony / Released 9/5/17)

 

2 Broke Girls: The Sixth and Final Season

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.

In the Sixth and Final Season, Max and Caroline realize their dream of turning their cupcake window into a dessert bar…emphasis on bar. But in order to keep their bar up and running, they still have to work around-the-clock at the diner, even though it is far from their first priority – which frustrates Han and amuses Earl.

But busy as they are, Max and Caroline still make time to revisit old loves and welcome new ones.

Meanwhile, Sophie and Oleg are busy with their new love: their beautiful, bouncing baby Barbara.

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled as the finale promised a new direction for the characters.

Guest stars this season include 2 Chainz, Mercedes Ruehl, Telma Hopkins, French Stewart, RuPaul, Nora Dunn, and Ryan Hansen. Extras include deleted scenes and gag reel.  (Warner Bros. / Released 10/3/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • And the Two Openings: Parts One & Two: Max copes with the aftermath of her breakup with Randy, as the finishing touches are made on their new Dessert Bar; Sophie and Oleg prepare for the baby’s birth.
  • And the 80’s Movie: Max and Caroline plan to attract a more sophisticated clientele to their dessert bar, until a team of arm wrestlers become their latest patron; Oleg helps Max write sexy messages to Randy.
  • And the Godmama Drama: Oleg and Sophie plan to have Max and Caroline as their baby’s godparents, until Oleg’s domineering mother arrives, and fires the girls from their godmother duties.
  • And the College Experience: Max gives Caroline the party experience she never had when they’re invited to speak about their business at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • And the Rom-Commie: Earl’s long lost sweetheart from Cuba visits and asks him to take her on a tour of the country.
  • And the Sophie Doll: The girls take a bartending class to add cocktails to their menu; Sophie creates a creepy lookalike video monitor doll to keep tabs on her baby.
  • And the Duck Stamp: Max and Caroline’s dessert bar business booms after hiring a popular bartender; Han becomes addicted to the mixologist’s potent cocoa powder, and enters a stamping-drawing contest.
  • And the About FaceTime: Randy sets Caroline up with one of his co-workers when he and Max get tired of her being a third wheel on their FaceTime dates.
  • And the Himmicane: When a hurricane hits, Caroline is worried that a divorce party she’s planning for a wealthy couple will be ruined with the pair stuck in the dessert bar during the storm.
  • And the Planes, Fingers and Automobiles: Max and Caroline take a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles so Max can win back Randy.
  • And the Riverboat Runs Through It: Max and Caroline end up on a riverboat going to New Orleans when Max tries to reach Randy in Texas.
  • And the Stalking Dead: Max and Caroline are cast as zombie extras when they reach the movie set in Texas where Randy is working.
  • And the Emergency Contractor: When Max and Caroline get home from their road trip, Caroline discovers she likes the dessert bar renovations as much as she likes Bobby (Christopher Gorham), the contractor on the job. Also, Max rushes to Randy’s side when she hears he’s in the hospital in New York City, and Sophie joins a mommy group that cares more about partying than baby talk.
  • And the Turtle Sense: Caroline is excited about her first date with Bobby, until she realizes that Max will be left in charge of the dessert bar.
  • And the Tease Time: Caroline decides to take a burlesque class to spice things up with Bobby, while Max decides to give up sex altogether.
  • And the Jessica Shmessica: Caroline and Max meet Bobby’s family and discover that they still haven’t gotten over Bobby’s ex-girlfriend Jessica.
  • And the Dad Day Afternoon: Han tracks down Max’s birth father and the diner gang travel to Long Island to meet him.
  • And the Baby and Other Things: Caroline and Bobby have their first Fight when she encourages his sister to quit her job at the family company.
  • And the Alley-Oops: Caroline discovers Bobby’s secret obsession with Bowling and a new romance flares with Max and Bobby’s bowling team-mate Frank.
  • And the Rock Me on the Dais: Caroline runs into her ex-boyfriend Candy Andy while she and Max attend a press junket promoting a movie about Caroline’s life.
  • And 2 Broke Girls: The Movie: The girls face big decisions about their future as the film about Caroline’s life makes its premiere.

 

Arrow: The Complete Fifth Season

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.

In Season Five, newly appointed Mayor Oliver Queen finds himself challenged as he fights on two fronts for the future of Star City. With his right hand, John Diggle, back in the military and his sister Thea adamant about hanging up her vigilante hood as Speedy, Team Green Arrow is down to just Oliver and Felicity…but they’re no longer the only vigilantes in town.

Green Arrow’s public defeat of Damien Darhk at the end of Season Four has inspired a new crop of masked heroes to step up and defend the city, though their painful inexperience makes them obstacles rather than allies in the field.

The arrival of a deadly new adversary will force Oliver to confront questions about his own legacy, both as mayor and as the Green Arrow.

This season introduces such established DC characters as Wild Dog, Ragman, Tobias Church, Artemis, Adrian Chase, The Vigilante, The Human Target, Talia al Ghul, and Dinah Drake.

Extras include Comic-Con panel, featurettes, deleted scenes and gag reel. (Warner Bros. / Released 9/19/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Legacy: After Laurel’s death and the departures of both Diggle and Thea from Team Arrow, Oliver takes to the streets solo to protect Star City’s citizens as the Green Arrow.
  • The Recruits: Oliver recruits Curtis, Wild Dog and Evelyn Sharp for his team, but his training methods prove to be too much for some to handle. In flashbacks, Oliver continues his initiation into the Bratva.
  • A Matter of Trust: The Green Arrow is forced to face a powerful new drug dealer when Wild Dog goes off on his own.
  • Penance: Oliver and Lyla team up on a secret mission for Diggle. Felicity finds out and disapproves of the plan and opts to stay behind. When Tobias Church launches a deadly assault against the city, Felicity must decide if she wants to send the recruits out sans the Green Arrow.
  • Human Target: When Tobias Church captures and tortures one of Oliver’s new recruits, Oliver must turn to an old friend, Christopher Chance AKA the Human Target, for help. Meanwhile, Felicity’s worlds collide when Detective Malone joins the ACU.
  • So It Begins: Felicity and Curtis learn that Prometheus’s victims have a mysterious link to Oliver’s past that could up-end his new team.
  • Vigilante: Oliver discovers there’s a new vigilante in Star City when the bodies of two criminals are dropped at the SCPD. In flashbacks, Oliver faces Konstantin Kovar.
  • Invasion!: Oliver wakes up to a life in which his parents are alive and he is about to marry Laurel; Felicity faces a new threat with the help of The Flash and Supergirl.
  • What We Leave Behind: After the attack on Curtis, Oliver realizes Prometheus is planning to make a deadly move on all of Team Arrow; Felicity and Malone find a clue that ties Prometheus to Oliver’s past.
  • Who Are You?: Worried that Prometheus may be right about him being a killer, Oliver finds a ray of hope in the apparent return of Laurel. Felicity swears revenge against Prometheus for causing Malone’s death.
  • Second Chances: Talia al Ghul helps Oliver take down Kovar, but he isn’t sure he wants it when she reveals what she requests in return.
  • Bratva: A mission sends Team Arrow to Russia where Oliver encounters an old friend.
  • Spectre of the Gun: Following a traumatic attack on City Hall, flashbacks show how Rene became Wild Dog.
  • The Sin-Eater: Three of Oliver’s old foes break out of prison and form an alliance; Meanwhile, Lance is confronted about an old partnership.
  • Fighting Fire with Fire: When Vigilante attacks Oliver while he’s acting as mayor, Diggle leads the team on a mission to stop Vigilante for good.
  • Checkmate: Oliver gets closer to the truth about Prometheus; Helix refuses to continue helping Felicity until she does a favor for them.
  • Kapiushon: Prometheus goes to extreme lengths to destroy Oliver. In flashbacks, Oliver’s violent tendencies come to a head in a confrontation with Anatoly.
  • Disbanded: Diggle and Felicity are shocked by Oliver’s decision to ask the Bratva for help in taking down Prometheus.
  • Dangerous Liaisons: Oliver, Team Arrow, ARGUS and the SCPD kick off a citywide manhunt for Adrian Chase. Helix tells Felicity they have a way to find Chase but they will need something big, and illegal, from her in return.
  • Underneath: Oliver and Felicity get trapped in the bunker together, while Diggle and Lyla deal with marital issues.
  • Honor Thy Fathers: Oliver faces the forced release of criminals prosecuted by Adrian Chase, while a crate is delivered to Oliver’s office containing a corpse in concrete.
  • Missing: Black Siren returns to give Chase help; Felicity plans a birthday party for Oliver; Lance is angry with Rene for missing the custody hearing about his daughter.
  • Lian Yu: Oliver assembles a group of unlikely allies – Slade, Nyssa, Merlyn and Digger Harkness – to engage in an epic battle against Chase and his army.

 

Band Aid

Band Aid, the refreshingly raw, real, and hilarious feature debut from Zoe Lister-Jones, is the story of a couple, Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), who can’t stop fighting. Advised by their therapist to try and work through their grievances unconventionally, they are reminded of their shared love of music.

In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to turn all their fights into song, and with the help of their neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), they start a band.

A story of love, loss, and rock and roll, Band Aid is a witty and perceptive view of modern love, with some seriously catchy pop hooks to boot.

Cast also includes Susie Essman, Retta, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel, Brooklyn Decker, Chris D’Elia, Erinn Hayes, Jesse Williams, Jamie Chung and Colin Hanks. Extras include deleted scenes, outtakes, music video and trailer. (Shout! Factory / Released 9/5/17)

 

Dudes

Two city street kids, Grant and Biscuit (Jon Cryer and Daniel Roebuck), along with their best friend Milo (Flea), head west to look for the good life in California.

On the way, the threesome come across a vicious biker gang leader (Lee Ving) and a pistol-packin’ beauty (Catherine Mary Stewart), who takes them from heaven to hell in the story of reckless youth and killer reality.

Directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Penelope Spheeris, Dudes also features an impressive soundtrack featuring tracks by W.A.S.P., Sting, Steve Vai, The Little Kings, Jane’s Addiction, Faster Pussycat and more.

Extras include interviews, trailer, gallery and vintage featurette. (Shout! Factory / Released 10/10/17)

 

Ernie Kovacs: Take A Good Look: The Definitive Collection

All 49 existing episodes of this truly offbeat game show from television’s original genius! Take A Good Look is Ernie’s aphoristic “if a tree falls in the woods” answer to the panel quiz show. Ernie turns the secret guest show formula on its ear and almost inverts it.

In Take A Good Look, it is the host who gives the panel hints about the secret guest’s identity, and in the form of surreal sight gags, blackouts and sketches. The clues only really make sense if you know who the guest is to begin with. Throughout the series’ run, different approaches were taken to address this. Early on in season one, Ernie himself has trouble explaining the show’s formula to the home audience.

Throughout the show’s two seasons, panelists periodically complain to Ernie that the clues don’t make sense; there’s one show where Hans Conried protests, “Please, Ernie … tell them it’s rigged!”

All in all, it is Ernie who seems to be enjoying the game the most, making these crazy blackouts as well as the commercials for Dutch Masters cigars.

You watch the episodes of this game show and wonder “Did this really air on network television?” (Shout! Factory / Released 10/17/17)

 

Home For The Holidays

On the fourth Thursday In November, 84 million American families will gather together … and wonder why. After losing her job, making out with her soon to be ex-boss, and finding out that her daughter plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, Claudia Larson flies from Chicago to Boston to visit her parents for the holidays.

There, she gathers with her eccentric extended family for their their annual Thanksgiving feast. While she deals with their many problems and personal quirks, her parents immediately start treating her like a child. But a new visitor offers some interesting possibilities.

Masterfully directed by Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, Home For The Holidays boasts an all-star cast including Academy Award winner Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr., Academy Award winner Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Steve Guttenberg and Claire Danes. Extras include commentary, trailer and gallery. (Shout! Factory / Released 10/3/17)

 

Hype!

Drop into the Pacific Northwest in the early ’90s and watch a vibrant underground music scene explode into a global “grunge” media frenzy. Hype! follows the music from local bands playing for their friends, to Sub Pop Record’s brilliant exploitation of “the Seattle Sound,” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hitting #1 on the charts.

Questions of money, authenticity, and fame arise as “grunge fashion” hits the runways and a mass migration of wanna-be Seattle bands saturates the city. The Northwest experience is one of humor, loss, and epic irony.

With intense live performances by Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and many more, Hype! rocks the definitive story of the world’s last great local music scene. Extras include retrospective documentary, commentaries, animated Peter Bagge Hate short, additional performances, interviews, and trailer. (Shout! Factory / Released 9/29/17)

 

Just Shoot Me!: The Complete Series

From the co-creator of Modern Family, Steven Levitan comes Just Shoot Me!, about the inner workings of Blush, a high-style magazine owned by Jack Gallo (George Segal), who has hired his quick-tempered but talented daughter, Maya (Laura San Giacomo), to write for the publication. Challenging her at every turn is Nina (Wendie Malick), a vain and superficial former model.

Then there’s photographer Elliot (Enrico Colantoni), a man who is very popular with his portrait subjects as well as other women.

Completing the core staff is her father’s assistant, Dennis (David Spade), a glorified secretary who is generally disrespectful to one and all.

This complete series collection features all 148 episodes from the series’ seven brilliant seasons.

Guest stars include Brian Posehn, Rena Sofer, Rebecca Romijn, Tom Kenny, Brian Dennehy, Jenny McCarthy, Tiffani Thiessen, Cheri Oteri, David Cross, Tyra Banks, Cheryl Tiegs, Jay Leno, Brooke Burns, Jim O’Heir, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Ray Liotta, Amy Sedaris, Gina Gershon, Paula Marshall, Carmen Electra, Chad Everett, Dana Carvey, Ana Gasteyer, Kelsey Grammer, Mark Hamill, Ali Larter, Megan Mullally, Tom Poston, David Rasche, French Stewart, Jessica Walter, Robert Conrad, Robert Goulet, Victoria Principal, Alex Rocco, Kevin Sorbo, Fred Willard,Richard Burgi, Bernie Casey, Arye Gross, Kadeem Hardison, Nick Lachey, Martin Mull, Andy Richter, Pamela Anderson, Dean Cain, Hugh Hefner, Penn Jillette, Lucy Lawless, Brooke Shields, David Hasselhoff, Corbin Bernsen, Crystal Bernard, Kristanna Loken, Steve Carell, Lisa Edelstein, Andy Dick, Kenny Johnson, Neal McDonough, Bob Odenkirk, Harry Shearer, Eddie McClintock, Ed McMahon, Kathie Lee Gifford, Valerie Perrine, Morgan Fairchild, George Lucas, David Carradine, Jamie Farr, Melissa Joan Hart, Ashton Kutcher, Mindy Sterling, Kristy Swanson, Leslie Bibb, Buddy Hackett, Octavia Spencer, Dick Clark, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Snoop Dogg, Shannon Elizabeth, Dave Foley, Huey Lewis, Joe Rogan, Stephen Root, Nora Dunn, Judy Greer, Richard Kind, and Jon Lovitz. Extras include commentaries, interviews, and gallery (Shout! Factory / Released 9/5/17)

 

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