Well, with the fourth sales quarter officially in gear and the new TV season on the horizon, we’ve got a huge week of releases! Check it out and see what’s up your alley!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier –
As Marvel seems to be able to do at will, this is a sequel that is as good as if not better than the first Captain America film. This movie raises the stakes by changing the whole of the Marvel Universe with some major changes to the mythology, while still fitting in tons of great Captain America action. With a mix of amazing action scenes, high-spectacle special effects, humor, and drama, this one hits it right out of the park. Oh yeah, and having Robert Redford in the cast? Sheer brilliance. This is one of my top films of the year, and it probably will be one of yours, too.
Tying in very closely with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I understand why some people stopped watching this show early on, as it definitely needs a few episodes to find its footing. But around halfway through the season (especially once it ties its events to what happens in Cap 2), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. became one of the best shows on TV last season. Great action, cool sci-fi, character drama, lots of humor, and some serious twists and turns made this must-watch TV every single week! If you haven’t checked it out yet but are a fan of Marvel’s movies, you really need to pick this set up and start binge-watching. NOW!
JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movies are some of the most fun, exciting, and invigorating experiences I’ve had in a movie theater in a long time. The first Star Trek film was a sci-fi masterpiece, and Into Darkness does not disappoint. Not even a little bit. It’s pretty rare when a sequel is every bit as good as its predecessor, but Star Trek: Into Darkness manages to achieve that feat. Now, both films are packaged together in a new set called the Star Trek Compendium. But rather than just a cheap repackaging, this set actually offers up about five hours of new extra features. Into Darkness had exclusive extra features at every retailer in the world, meaning if you wanted all of them, you had to buy about 10 copies of the movie. Now you can have them all in one place. It’s a great set for Trek fans!
Am I the only one who thinks that Pumpkinhead’s head doesn’t really look like a pumpkin? Just curious. But I digress… As the only film directed by the late, great creature wizard, Stan Winston, Pumpkinhead is a dark, effective creature/horror flick. Lance Henriksen leads the charge in this revenge-driven monster movie, and while a series of crappy sequels have diluted the franchise to straight-to-video drivel, the original film still packs a punch. This inaugural Blu-ray Edition includes a commentary track by co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and creature and FX creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis. There is also a terrific six-part documentary that chronicles the making of the film from start to finish and pays tribute to Stan Winston. Wrapping things up are some behind-the-scenes footage and a still gallery, making this a pretty great disc for a pretty good movie.
You wouldn’t expect a found footage movie about Bigfoot to be written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. You also wouldn’t expect said movie to be any good. But Willow Creek is both of this things. While the plot is something we’ve seen dozens of times before (all the way back to The Blair Witch Project), it’s the acting and the suspense that wins the day here. There’s a shot in the film that is one uninterrupted take for about 15 minutes, with the two main characters inside a tent just listening to the increasingly strange sounds outside that is both nailbiting and masterful. You don’t see stuff like that in films these days. This is one of the rare found footage horror movies that’s not just good, but is really good.
I’ve been a fan and a champion of Supernatural since the very first episode. For nine seasons now I’ve been proclaiming my love for what I consider one of the single greatest TV shows of the past couple of decades. It almost gets a little tiresome, actually, continually having to try to convince people what they’re missing out on. But, of course, I don’t give up, because Supernatural is such a great show. With a few major shake-ups to the show and some neat novelty episodes, Season Nine was as sharp as ever. Supernatural remains one of my favorite shows on TV. How many shows can make that claim?
Homeland has become a critics’ darling, but when I first heard about the show, I had no interest in watching it whatsoever. A possible terrorist and a possible nutcase CIA agent? Doesn’t sound that exciting to me. But you can only hear critics rave about a show so many times before you find yourself curious enough to check it out. So I sat down to watch Homeland, and I can say that it certainly is a high quality show, but man, is it a slow burn. Without a doubt, the show gets more interesting as it goes. Each episode reveals more and more of the story, and as you watch it, you do get more enveloped in it. And season three is probably the strongest one yet. It certainly ends with a bigger bang than any of the previous ones. Homeland is a worthwhile show that picks up steam as it rolls downhill, but be aware that you probably won’t be hooked right away if you start watching it. And you definitely want to start with season one.
Going into Season Five, The Vampire Diaries continues its run into interesting territory. A few story threads from season four carry over, while new stories develop. New characters are added (or changed) and a few characters are killed, and the show manages to remain somewhat unpredictable as ever, even if it’s lost a little of its luster by now. Despite a few story elements that feel like they’ve been “borrowed” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, the show remains a soapy slice of genre fun, filled with romance, bloodletting, and even werewolves on occasion.
I’m a huge Tom Selleck fan, and I have been since I was a kid, so of course I was going to watch Blue Bloods. And with a supporting cast that includes Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynihan, and Will Estes — all actors I like — I assumed this show would be a slam dunk. And it isn’t; at least not quite. Instead, four seasons in, it remains a very solid cop drama, with relationships at the heart of it, but ultimately, I can’t get passionate about the show. I’m not sure what it is, either. The quality of the writing and the acting is very good, and the production values are good, but I never feel like this is must-see TV for me. Still, fans of the show get a good fourth season, with a few new storylines along to keep things interesting.
Set squarely in the ’80s and with a comedy dynasty cast that includes George Segal and Wendi McLendon-Covey (one of the most underrated comedy actresses today), The Goldbergs is a lot of fun. It’s a funny, goofy sitcom that anyone can enjoy, but for those of us who gee up in the ’80s, there’s an extra slice of funny watching all of the things we know and love reappear in the TV screen. This isn’t one of those shows that’s particularly deep or sentimental, but it will make you laugh, out loud and often.
The premiere episode of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is an extra-long adventure that introduces us to the newest incarnation of everyone’s favorite sci-fi icon. As with most of the first episodes with a new Doctor, it takes a bit to get into it, mostly because The Doctor is running around like a discombobulated idiot for the first half of the show. But once it gets moving, it’s a lot of fun, and Jenna Louise Coleman is a vision, as always! Comes with some cool extra features, although remember that it will be included in the inevitable season set.
This engaging low-budget action film stars the lovely Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever, Power Rangers) as a mysterious girl on a mission of revenge. It’s one of those movies that’s easy to for it to slip under the radar, but I really enjoyed it. It’s got a few neat twists and turns, the performances between Vincent and co-lead Jason Wiles are terrific, and the film has a cool sort of neo-noir/slightly supernatural flavor to it. If you like tracking down movies that are a bit off the beaten path, I recommend this one.
Also available on Blu-ray and DVD this week:
- Sony capitalizes on Godzilla mania with a triple dose of the big green guy on Blu-ray: Godzilla 2000; Rebirth of Mothra / Rebirth of Mothra II / Rebirth of Mothra III; and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla/Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack all out in high def. Interestingly, these aren’t strict classic Godzilla flicks, but the more recent ones, which die-hard fans might decry, but more casual fans will probably enjoy. Cheesetastic!
- Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, and Aaron Paul star in the moving comedy A Long Way Down, about four people who meet while all attempting to commit suicide at the same time and form a sort of familial group. By turns funny and moving, it’s a charming little film that will win over more people than it won’t.
- David Duchovny, Hope Davis, Timothy Hutton star in Louder than Words, an unusually sentimental film for Duchovny. While the story germinates from a couple who loses their young daughter it’s more a film about how they use that tragedy to create something positive and change people’s lives. Dramatic and uplifting, this will play well in faith-based markets, even if it’s not a religious film.
- It’s hard to say what’s more bombastic in the new Blu-ray of Any Given Sunday: 15th Anniversary Edition: Oliver Stone’s direction or Al Pacino’s performance. Still, if you’re a football fan who likes to watch every game cranked up to 11, Stone’s take on the world of profession football is a fun if draining experience.
- Much like Willow Creek above, The Hunted is a found footage horror movie that is actually really good. Very similar in tone and story to Willow Creek, this one takes the approach of following a couple of hunters in prime deer territory that are haunted by an otherworldly… something. But again, with strong performances, some really creepy moments, and great sound design, I liked this film quite a bit.
- Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star in Words & Pictures, a heavy-handed but beautiful drama about teachers who are battling each other (and their own personal inner demons) at a prep school. The performances steal the show here, as Binoche and Owen are both fantastic, but it’s not exactly light viewing material. And sometimes, that’s okay.
- Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch – A Witch & A Werewolf is a new hour-long movie based on the hit Hub Network TV series. I’m a huge fan of Ashley Tisdale’s animation voice over work, and she does a great job as Sabrina in this film. Plus, I have a soft spot for anything Archie-related. Sure, it’s very squarely aimed at young girls, but it’s fun for the target audience.
- From the makers of Restrepo, Korengal is a sequel documentary that picks up where the first film left off, following soldiers in the war-torn middle east. The tag line states that This Is What War Feels Like, and they’re not kidding. This is an intense film.
- There are three Perry Mason Double Features out this week, each collecting two of the Perry Mason TV movies from the ’80s. Previously only available in more pricey box sets, these second three volumes are a more affordable way to complete your collection. Included in this wave are: The Case of The Scandalous Scoundrel/The Case Of The Avenging Ace; The Case Of The Lady in the Lake/The Case Of The Lethal Lesson; and The Case Of The Musical Murder/The Case Of The All-Star Assassin.
- Not to be confused with anything Star Trek related, Borgman is a dark, intense Dutch thriller. Described as “surreal” and “a dark suburban fable,” I would say both of those descriptors are right on par. This isn’t light or easy viewing, but fans of something a little darker will enjoy it.
- Narrated by Jeremy Renner, The World Wars commemorates the 100th anniversary of WWI and 75th anniversary of WWII by giving us three-decade looks at the lives of some of the most important men in both wars: Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Benito Mussolini, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and George Patton. Some may complain about the dramatizations, but it does make things somewhat interesting.
- Dynasty: The Final Season – Volumes 1 & 2 wraps up the whole shebang. Ahhh, Dynasty. The Colbys and the Carringtons. Joan Collins, Linda Evans, John Forsythe, Aaron Spelling… How is it that this show and Dallas managed to stay on the air at the same time for so many years when they’re almost the same show? I don’t know, but I can appreciate the over-the-top soap opera nature of Dynasty. Cliffhanger endings? Check. Great guest stars? Check. How could you not have a good time with this show? Sure, it’s ridiculous and shallow, but at least it’s fun. Soap fans, prepare yourself for another round of Dynasty!
- Curse of Oak Island is an intriguing reality series about a pair of brothers trying to find out the secret behind an island that people have been searching for treasure on for over 200 years. When a 250-foot man-made shaft was discovered on Oak Island in 1795, it began a quest that would last for centuries. This five-episode series is quite intriguing, but it would have probably made a btter two-hour special. Still, worth a look for fans of treasure hunting drama.
- Doc McStuffins: School of Medicine is the latest DVD collection of the popular Disney Junior show for that’s really cute. My daughter enjoys it quite a bit. Doc McStuffins is a little girl who interacts with her stuffed animals that basically come alive in a Toy Story fashion. Every episode, one of them is ailed by something like a missing button, a tear, or fear of the dark, which Doc McStuffins quickly fixes. Mostly she fixes them by singing to them, but the musical numbers are cute and not too frequent, so it’s not too bad.
- Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella: 50th Anniversary Edition sees the fairy tale brought to life in a classical fashion. Starring Ginger Rogers, Walter Pidgeon, Celeste Holm, and Lesley Ann Warren, this musical is very theatrical but will surely be extremely popular with fans of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic – Spooktacular Pony Tales is a Halloween themed disc of the uber-popular cartoon show that has won over little girls and grown men (Bronies) alike. At this point, I’ve watched the show a lot, as my young daughter really enjoys it, and while I’m far from becoming a Brony, at least I can understand what my kids like about it. It’s humorous and smart, colorful and action-packed, and it doesn’t pander to its young audience. I’m not saying I’m suddenly a superfan, but I at least get what the kids see in it, which is something.
- The Secrets of Westminster is a 60 minute documentary that takes viewers inside Westminster Abbey. If you’ve ever wished you could see more of it than what’s in movies or documentaries, well ,now’s your time. This film not only takes you further into the building, but also into the history of it, which is pretty cool.
- I’m generally over food documentaries by now, but Fed Up offers up a new take: it’s a food conspiracy documentary. Narrated by Katie Couric, the film looks at how the American people have been lied to about nutrition and exercise by the U.S. government and the food industry. I buy it, sure, but I’m not sure how much I care.
- Leapfrog Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade is one of the latest animated Leapfrog films, this time about math. The show is simple animation, but it manages to take concepts of math and money and make them fun and easy to understand for the young ones.
- Also focusing on math is Peg & Cat: Chickens on the Loose and Other Really Big Problems. This show has becoming quite popular with kids of late, and this DVD offers up some good value; you get eight episodes and almost two hours worth of shows. Pretty cool!
- Narrated by Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw, Teenage is actually an exploration of the creation of the teenage subculture that’s become a standard part of society. It’s actually quite interesting to see how the idea of the “rebellious youth” came about, and the film is better than I expected it to be.
- Nickelodeon: Let’s Learn – Patterns & Shapes is a new DVD from Nickelodeon geared squarely at the pre-school set, with a heavy emphasis on learning basic concepts. In this case, that’s patterns and shapes. The disc contains episodes of Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Ni Hao Kai Lan, and Team Umizoomi. Sure, each of these shows deals with learning in most all of their episodes, but these episodes do seem to have a more basic learning building block at the core of them. What’s great is that kids love these shows, so they won’t be like, “blah, a boring educational DVD.” It’s shows they love, and there are some basic skill building lessons on patterns and shapes included.
- Gael Garcia Bernal stars in the documentary Who Is Dayani Cristal?, directed by Marc Silver. The films uses the discovery of a body of an unidentified immigrant found in the Arizona Desert as a touchstone to explore immigration and the hard, dangerous journey many immigrants take to get into the US.
- If you’re like me and are concerned about the dwindling honeybee populations, Bee People is a very interesting watch. Less about the bees themselves and more about the movement and the people who are trying to help them, it’s still an important and engaging film to watch.
- Finally, Sex in the Wild is not a titillating Cinemax drama, but rather a PBS documentary about animal mating habits and rituals and, yes, sex. This isn’t really a family documentary, but you do get four episodes total, giving you four hours of exploration of the animal kingdom at its most… um, primal.