It’s a huge week this week, with a combination of blockbuster hits, more TV-on-DVD, some great indie finds, and much more. Here’s what’s on tap:
I really liked Godzilla. Especially the three minutes of the movie that Godzilla was actually in. Yep, Godzilla‘s a great monster movie that’s just missing one thing: the monster the movie is named after. The special effects are terrific, the building tension is great, but by an hour and 45 minutes into a two-hour movie, when Godzilla had still only made a couple of cameo appearances, I was getting pretty pissed. This was a good-enough movie that could have been great if they had just put Godzilla in it. Sigh. File under”disappointed.”
I’m kind of going to skip right over any commentary on the first film itself because, well, it’s Ghostbusters. I mean, seriously, what am I gonna say about this film other than how brilliant it is and how much I love it? It just seems a bit pointless. That being said, this new 30th Anniversary Edition set includes Ghostbusters 2 for the first time on Blu-ray (also available separately) and comes packaged in a terrific hardcover digibook edition, which I love. There’s also a nice collection of extra features. It’s Ghostbusters. It’s Blu-ray. What more do you need to know?
One of television’s funniest shows returns to Blu-ray and DVD with The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Seventh Season. I’m still amazed that this show is such a big hit, because some of the humor is so intellectual and so over the heads of pretty much any other sitcom on TV. Of course, that’s why I enjoy it so much, but I’m really surprised that enough other people find it enjoyable to keep it on the air. Go, smart America! Season Seven doesn’t see too much change in the way of cast dynamics or storylines. But this show does what it does so well that you don’t really need massive change for it to be awesome. Even if you watched every episode as it aired (like I did), this is still a set worth owning, because this show is still funny on repeat viewings.
One of my favorite shows on TV, Castle remained funny, engaging, and filled with solid mysteries throughout its sixth season. Plus, it had a fun season-ending cliffhanger (of sorts). If you haven’t been watching this show, you really need to get caught up. Castle is, yes, another procedural show, but like its spiritual brethren, Bones, it manages to strike a very nice balance between mystery and humor. Fillion is at the top of his game as Richard Castle, a best-selling mystery pulp novelist who decides to shadow Detective Kate Beckett of the NYPD on her homicide cases after she becomes something of a muse to him. The interplay between Fillion and lead actress Stana Katic is the backbone of the show, and Fillion’s character is the master of the quick wit. And for those people who think that having two characters get together equals the death knell of a show, I would point to this season of Castle as an example of how good it can be when done right. Castle and Beckett’s romance didn’t make the show one ounce less enjoyable. Every season of the show has been terrific so far, so it’s hard to call it “the best one yet,” but it is equally as excellent as the previous seasons have been.
Another one of my favorite shows — and admittedly I’m a comic book geek — this show based on DC’s Green Arrow comic books is an action-packed hit. With great action, tons of in-jokes for the comic book crowd, a charismatic leading man, and a few twists and turns along the way, Arrow works on just about every level. Arrow is like Smallville on an adrenaline rush, and I love it. Season Two managed to even improve over an excellent Season One by upping the ante, adding new characters, and expanding they overarching mythology. If you’re not watching Arrow, you’re missing out on some of the most fun on television.
To call Eraserhead one of the worst films I’ve ever seen would be inaccurate, because it’s not really a film. Rather, it’s an experiment in atmosphere and surrealism. Out on Blu-ray for the first time from The Criterion Collection, I know that David Lynch’s debut film has its fans. But I am not one of them. I had never seen the film before but had heard about it in reverent tones for years. It turns out it is absolutely not my kind of movie. It’s nonsensical, grotesque, completely ridiculous, and serves no purpose that i can see whatsoever. Luckily, what I think doesn’t matter. If you’re a fan of the film, you’ll love this Blu0ray, which is packed with special features, including rare short films by Lynch.
The Battery is a terrific little indie zombie movie that isn’t really about zombies. The film follows two friends, Mickey and Ben, as they travel the countryside trying to stay safe, survive, and not get bored out of their skulls. It’s sort of a comedy, but it’s not trying to be Shaun of the Dead. It’s kind of like the first mumblecore zombie movie. In fact, zombies really don’t even appear all that much in the film. But for a movie that is ostensibly a comedy, there are some good surprises and some solid drama. And I really loved the final scenes of the movie. This is one that’s worth tracking down and checking out.
There are very few celebrities in the documentary filmmaking world. Many of them tend to be highly controversial figures, such as Michael Moore, or tend to focus solely on one subject matter, like music or politics. However, nobody comes close to garnering the respect that Ken Burns does. Whether he’s looking at America’s pastime, jazz music, or an architectural wonder, Burns has a way of creating documentaries that transcend the typical History Channel fare and become events unto themselves. The Roosevelts is one of Burns’s best epics a seven-part series that looks at FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt. With his usual blend of interviews, archival footage, and photographs, Burns crafts a compelling, moving series of tales that manages to bring these people to life over seven episodes and 14 hours. The Roosevelts is not only an incredibly powerful viewing experience, it’s extremely educational and would be right at home in a high school or college classroom. Really, though, this is a great series for anyone who enjoys documentary filmmaking at its best.
A TV series about Hannibal Lecter? Sure, why not. Hannibal was a bit of a slow starter for me, but it has definitely hooked me more as show’s gone on. The show works as sort of a prequel series to the events of Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal (the movie), and while I don’t typically care for prequels, it works well enough in these circumstances. Mads Mikkelsen is terrific (as always) as Dr. Lecter, and there are some nice in-joke nods towards the events of the films themselves. I also applaud the show for it’s top notch production values and it’s willingness not to soft-pedal things; this is a pretty intense and — at times — grotesque series. It’s also managed to garner a solid fan base, so it looks like it’ll be around for a while.
Essentially a TV version of 300, Spartacus is a fun show to watch but ultimately was never quite compelling enough for me to make it must-see TV. After the show’s original star Andy Whitfield died of cancer, and after a season of Spartacus without Spartacus actually in it, the show managed to wrap the entire saga up, and see the return of the titular character in the form of new lead actor Liam McIntyre. The show is essentially an action romp filled with extreme violence, nudity, and a gritty style of filmmaking that gives it an “extreme” feel. Much of it feels like it’s there for shock value more than anything else, but clearly the show was quite popular, so I guess there was an audience for it. For me, it was a fun diversion, but not much more. Now, the entire series from start to finish has been collected into one terrific Blu-ray (or DVD) set, loaded with extra features. There’s also a limited edition version which comes with a statue of Spartacus dueling which is pretty bad-ass. A great gift for the show’s hardcore fans! If you like blood, sex, and warriors, this is the show for you.
Hawaii Five-O could have been a complete disaster. Remaking iconic television rarely goes well, but in this case, CBS has done a bang-up job, largely thanks to the show’s casting, solid action sequences, and the interplay between Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. The show has lots of humor, solid mysteries, and doesn’t shy away from an expensive action sequence when it’s needed. The Hawaiian scenery adds to the show’s visual charms, and I understand the ladies don’t mind looking at Alex O’Loughlin all that much, either (at least my wife doesn’t seem to.) It’s not a perfect show, and the product placement is a bit out of control, but overall it’s a lot of fun. Season Four of Hawaii Five-O continued to present some great cop-action-stories of the week, while actually developing a bit of an underlying mythology, kind of like a genre show. It’s fun and has some substance to it, too. Cool.
CSI: The Fourteenth Season is the kind of season in which a few chinks started to show in the armor of the procedural juggernaut. Now, I like CSI, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan. I think it’s a good show, but I don’t watch it every week; I usually wait for the DVDs and just catch up from there. But Season 14 is… well, it’s the fourteenth season of a show. You’re never getting the best episodes ever in Season 14. With Ted Danson now firmly entrenched in the lead role, the show doesn’t feel the same as it used to. I’m not criticizing the show for changing, I’m just saying that it feels different. Luckily, Ted Danson is pretty good on the show, so even if it isn’t the CSI of old, it’s still pretty entertaining.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is a new Blu-ray of the film that sees it completely restored and remastered, and packed with extra features. There’s also a limited edition that comes packaged in a giant truck-replica box. Tobe Hooper’s debut film is a horror masterpiece, and this will be a nice addition to any fan of the film’s collection.
- Think Like a Man Too is a comedy sequel that I think very few people were asking for, judging by the box office receipts. Still, with a he cast that includes Dennis Haysbert, Jerry Ferrara, Michael Ealy, Adam Brody, Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, and Wendy Williams, there is some fun to be had.
- Petals on the Wind is the follow up to last year’s hit Lifetime movie, Flowers in the Attic. As someone who’s never read any of the V.C. Andrews books these movies are based on, I’ve actually enjoyed them quite a bit. Petals isn’t as good as Flowers, but it’s still interesting and has a pretty bold ending that I liked.
- Silent Night, Deadly Night: 30th Anniversary is an all-new high-def edition of one of horror’s most notorious cult classics. Perfect for Halloween AND Christmas!
- While Grimm: Season Three it isn’t exactly the rip-off of Supernatural I originally thought it was (there are some similarities, but the mood and style are completely different), it does play like a genre show for people who don’t like genre shows. It’s like Supernatural if it were made by the creators of The Ghost Whisperer. The show is fine, it really is. But after hearing people talking about it, I was hoping for more than just fine. Grimm is not a bad show, and it does seem to get a little better as it goes along but I was hoping for more out of the show than I ultimately got.
- About a Boy might be an odd choice of movie to turn into a TV series, but I really enjoyed About A Boy: Season One. It’s one of those shows that isn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, but it is charming, witty, and fun. David Walton and Minnie Driver are terrific in the leads, and the show is just nice and enjoyable.
- I’ve never been a big South Park fan (Season 17 is out on Blu-ray and DVD this week), but I always give it a try when it comes out on DVD (or in this case, Blu-ray) to see what I’ve been missing. Everyone goes on about how great their parodies are, but I’ve never found the show that funny. And, well, I still don’t. They get their parodies on the air quick, but the show is still mostly just construction paper cut-outs of kids swearing. Yay. I may not get this show, but fans will be happy to have another season’s worth of episodes to revisit. And hey, I guess that’s a good thing. Relatively.
- Marvel Knights: Eternals is another collection of Marvel’s motion comics, which are like animated comic books. This one brings Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.’s epic sci-fi miniseries to life, and it looks stunning. Im not 100% sold on these motion comics yet, but they’re kind of cool to watch.
- The Dead 2 is a sequel to The Dead, a low-budget zombie film that amassed something of a cult following, even though I wasn’t a f a of it personally. This film moves the action to India and manages to up the stakes a bit (with presumably a bigger budget), so it is more enjoyable. I don’t think it’s a great film, but it’s enjoyable enough, especially for fans of the first film.
- I realize that I’m not in MTV’s target demographic anymore, so I tend to ignore some — or most — of what they do these days. But when I got the chance to watch Awkward on DVD (Awkward: Season Three is out this week), I was intrigued enough by the commercials to sit down and give it a shot. It turns out that Awkward is smarter and funnier than about 99% of the programming on MTV. The show is your basic “trials and tribulations of a high school girl” show, and there are some flavors that recall My So-Called Teenage Life. But the show definitely has a funny bone, and it almost manages to be a satire of teen-based dramas without actually being one. Carrying it all is Ashley Rickard, who is utterly fantastic in the lead role.
- Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood and Cheryl Ladd star in The Perfect Wave, a faith-based movie that is based on a true story. For the first half of the film is pretty good, with a young man on a surf trip around the world. The last half-hour or so goes really heavy on the religion, which I guess is good for the target audience, but a little much for a casual viewer like me.
- Ben 10 Omniverse: Galactic Monsters is the latest release in Cartoon Network’s popular series. My son (who are six) absolutely love this show. As an adult viewer, the show is a lot of fun. It’s well written, and while there is a lot of cartoon fighting and violence, there is actually a larger story arc at work here, as well as some good humor. I might be wary of showing it to kidlets who are too young, but for the appropriate age, it’s a blast.
- Father Brown: Season One is a new BBC mystery series about a 1950s priest who also happens to be good at solving mysteries. As with most BBC mystery shows this one is charming and enjoyable, and has some solid mysteries at the heart of it.
- Based on the bestselling Inspector Banks novels by Peter Robinson, DCI Banks: Season 2 is more fine British mystery storytelling. Presenting three feature-length stories of murder, kidnapping, secret lives, and more. DCI Banks will keep you guessing right up until the end.
- Another British mystery show out this week — but with a decidedly different tone — is Death in Paradise: Season 2, which sees a stalwart British detective transplanted to an island vacation getaway. As you can imagine, culture clashes ensue, but the mysteries never take back seat. A fun show.
- There’s one more British mystery show out this week, with Scott & Bailey: Season 2. Imagine a British version of Cagney & Lacey crossed with The Odd Couple, and you get the gist here. As usual, it’s top-notch mystery television with great characters at the heart of it.
- The gorgeous Catherine Bell stars in The Good Witch’s Family, which is the fourth in a series of popular Hallmark Chanel films. This one focuses on a marriage, a new character, a run for mayor, and more. Fun stuff for the target audience.
- It’s time for everything to turn pink! Barbie and the Secret Door is the latest fairy tale CGI animated film for everyone’s favorite doll, and this time around, we get music, magic, mermaids, fairies, and lots of fantasy princess stuff. Perfect for young girls!
- Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave is another entry in the popular Thomas & Friends computer-generated cartoon series. As always, the film focuses on presenting positive messages and ideas and promoting learning and creativity, but the CGI nature of the show allows things to get a bit more creative and varied than the old models-only show did. This is one of the newer feature length-movies like The Lion of Sodor, not one of the collections of episodes and it’s a pretty enjoyable adventure for little ones.
- Denver the Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series collects all 52 episodes of the late ’80s cartoon series about a dinosaur in modern day dinosaur in California. Of course, “modern day” in this case means the late ’80s, so there’s some dating at work here. Still, this is a fun show for kids or a nice nostalgia trip for adults, or maybe even both.
- While there are a LOT of similarities between Slugterra and other shows like Beyblade, Pokemon, etc., Slugterra is a fun adventure show for kids. The various little creatures are actually the ammo for the weapons in the show’s universe, and each of them has a different ability or power. That’s new. I like that that the animation at least has a somewhat fresh feel to it, and if I was an eight-year-old boy, I would probably love this show. Slugterra: Return of the Elementals marks the home video debut of the big screen Slugterra film that got limited release last year.
- I’m a huge fan of the 1980s Vietnam show Tour Of Duty: Season One. And while it’s been released on DVD before, some of those DVDs are now out of print. (The third season set regularly sells for upwards of $100 online.) So for those who never shelled out for the original, more expensive sets, Mill Creek is now reissuing the show at a budget price. This is a great thing; I really love this show and it still holds up very well!
- The man who made his mother famous for eternity is the subject of James McNeill Whistler: The Case for Beauty. This PBS documentary by award-winning filmmaker Karen Thomas takes a look at Whistler as a man and an artist. Great stuff for art fans.
- Secrets of Her Majesty’s Secret Service takes you inside the secretive world of MI-6, Britain’s clandestine spy organization. Of course, no real SECRETS are revealed, but it is an interesting documentary about an amazing organization.
- Friend was an Asian action film that became a huge phenomenon in its native Korea. Friend II: The Legacy comes five years after the original film, and while it might not be a phenomenon, it will probably satisfy fans of the original.
- Burt’s Buzz is a new documentary about the reclusive founder of Burt’s Bees, the bee-based line of products that has become extremely popular over the years. Interesting enough stuff, but probably more so for people who like the line of products.
- Acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland brings us Burning Bush, politically charged drama set around the events of the Soviet occupation in 1969. The film is in Czech, but it’s a powerful drama based on real events.
- A heist film with a cast that’s better than the film, Armed Response stars Ethan Embry, Cary Elwes, Clea Duvall, Ed Begley Jr., Ving Rhames, and Vinnie Jones. Great cast, so-so movie, as is so often the case with these direct-to-video action films.
- Jungle Master is a new animated movie with the voices of Victoria Justice, David Spade, Josh Peck, Jon Lovitz, Christopher Lloyd, and Jane Lynch. The story is reminiscent of Epic or Avatar, but kids might like it.