After a huge release slate last week, things slow down a bit this week. There are a few cool new collections and a slew of horror releases for the upcoming Halloween holiday. Here’s the full list:
Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection –
This amazing Blu-ray collection presents eight of Steven Spielberg’s most acclaimed and popular films, with a few lesser-seen gems thrown in for good measure. In addition to the ever-present Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, you also get some Spielberg films that aren’t as prolific in this type of movie collection. Duel is Spielberg’s first film, a terrific TV-movie about an innocent man being chased by a maniacal truck driver. It’s highly worth seeing and you’ll be surprised how often you see it quoted as an influence on filmmakers. That was followed up by his proper film debut, The Sugarland Express, a moving drama (with moments of action and social commentary) starring Goldie Hawn. 1941 is the World War II comedy that has always dogged Spielberg as being both a flop and publicly derided film, but its nice to have it included here anyway. Finally, Always is a sweet romance film with a supernatural twist starring Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter. While these films only encapsulate Spielberg’s Universal output, it’s still a terrific box set that is worth owning.
You’ve probably heard of Showtime’s hit horror series by now, but if not, you’re missing out. This mash-up of The X-Files and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen sees a team of intrepid adventurers fighting supernatural creatures in 1800s England. With a stellar cast that includes Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, and Billie Piper, and production values that make the show look more like a movie than a TV Series, Penny Dreadful is a terrific amount of fun. Dark fun, but fun nonetheless. Timothy Dalton is fantastic as usual, but it’s Josh Hartnett that’s the real surprise here. His wooden style of acting is gone, replaced with an easy charm and a depth that we’ve never seen from him before. All put together, the show is quite outstanding. Check it out.
The cover art mimics the classic movie poster of The Bachelor, but it’s rather insulting to put Two and a Half Men on the same pedestal as that classic movie. I’ve reviewed almost every season of this show, and I am quite literally out of new things to say about it. It’s a not-so-funny sitcom that is somehow still extremely popular, even if many of the other shows on TV are funnier. With Ashton Kutcher now firmly entrenched after taking over for Charlie Sheen after his much-publicized meltdown, the show is… well, largely the same. It’s still a bunch of jokes about sex, relationships, and some lowest-common-denominator fare. Ashton Kutcher’s character is different from Charlie Sheen’s, for sure, but the show as a whole is still pretty crass, and ultimately just okay.
Collecting five previously released Marvel motion comics featuring everyone’s favorite mutant, Shout Factory’s Marvel Knights: The Wolverine Collection is not quite an animated movie, and not quite a comic book, but rather somewhere in between. As with many of these motion comics, the stories are great, but the voice characterizations of our beloved characters don’t sit 100% well with me This set includes: Wolverine: Origin, Ultimate Wolverine Versus Hulk, Wolverine: Weapon X – Tomorrow Dies Today, Wolverine Versus Sabretooth, and Wolverine Versus Sabretooth: Reborn. The bottom line here is that of you like the original comic books, you’ll like this animated release, because they are the comic books exactly, only more so. I like these motion comics for what they are; a mildly entertaining diversion. They won’t replace either animation or comic books for me, but they’re kind of different, and kind of neat. Kind of.
Also available on Blu-ray and DVD this week:
- Werewolf Rising is the latest in a string of direct-to-video werewolf films we’ve seen recently. In this one, an unfortunate combination of weak writing, poor acting, and an extremely low budget combine to make this one of the weaker entries in the genre that I’ve seen in a while. For werewolf die-hards only.
- I’ve really enjoyed several Australian thrillers over the last few years, and with both Hugo Weaving and Ryan Kwanten in the cast, I expected Mystery Road to be another success. Unfortunately, despite being well-acted, the film is dreadfully slow, and it doesn’t live up to the promise the trailer attempts to deliver. Too bad.
- Brian Austin Green, Man Suvari, and Robert Picardo star in Don’t Blink, a fun thriller that will appeal to fans of slasher films and pick-the-victims-off-one-by-one-thrillers. With some surprisingly good performances, the biggest concern here is that the ending leaves things largely unanswered, which will frustrate some viewers. Still, it’s kind of different and fun.
- Secrets of Iconic British Estates is a nice new box set from PBS that collects five previously released Secrets Of programs and adds a gorgeous hardcover book as a bonus. The five locations explored in this set are: Highclere Castle, famous the world over for stepping in as Downton Abbey; Hampton Court Palace, notable for the lives of King Henry VIII and his six wives; Althorp, both the childhood home and final resting place of Princess Diana; Chatsworth, forever associated with Georgiana Cavendish, the scandalous eighteenth-century duchess; and the Manor House, which looks at life amongst the servants and high society of these estates.
- The gorgeous Catherine Bell stars in The Good Witch Collection, which is a series of five popular Hallmark Channel films. This box set includes only four of the films, though: The Good Witch’s Garden, The Good Witch’s Gift, The Good Witch’s Family, and The Good Witch’s Charm. The first movie is missing from this set, which is pretty annoying. I’m sure it’s a rights issue, but the box set is just missing a really important chunk.
- Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in the BBC’s TV series The Honorable Woman, a slow-burning series that is part thriller, part drama. Likely appealing to the fans of Homeland, the show explores a family that appears to be using their philanthropy to help foster positive relations in the middle east but in reality might up to something different. It’s interesting stuff, and the terrific performances make up somewhat for the slow pace in the beginning.
- Tickety Toc: Christmas Present Time is a new Christmas-themed DVD of the popular series for pre-schoolers. It’s set in the world behind a clock, where Tommy and Tallulah are always racing around to get the next chime out, but of course, crazy things happen and it’s always an adventure. They also have a dog train (or is it train dog?) named Pufferty, that young ‘uns will undoubtedly like. The show is geared for pre-schoolers, and while you might think the focus is on telling time or math, the show focuses more on social issues such as friendship, helping others, politeness, and so on.
- Chuggington: Chuggineers Ready to Build is the latest collection of another popular kids’ show. This show is sort of hipper, more fun version of Thomas & Friends. A cast of computer-generated train characters get into mischief and have various adventures, and along the way they usually learn a little something, too. There’s also a really good voice cast in this show. It’s some of the better voice work I’ve heard on a kids’ show. Chuggington is a fun little show, and this new collection will be sure to excite your children.
- The newest entry in the hit kids cartoon series Lalaloopsy hits DVD with Lalaloopsy Babies: First Steps. This movie is kind of a prequel of sorts, with viewers getting a glimpse of the Lalaloopsies as babies. My daughter loves these dolls and this show, and even my son will watch it sometimes, so that makes it a winner in my book.
- Chinese Puzzle is the third in a series of romantic dramedies that began in 2002. The French equivalent of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise movies, this final(?) chapter is filled with romance, longing, charm, and hour, although it might pay to track down the first two films before jumping into this one, even though it can stand on its own.
- James Remar, Bruce Davison, and Dean Stockwell star in the faith-based Persecuted, a thriller about a man who refuses to support sweeping legislation that would threaten the Christian religion, nay to find himself hunted by sinister government forces. It’s heavily Christian and more than a little paranoid, but since the faith-based genre is usually so saturated in romantic dramas, this is a nice change of pace for the target audience.
- Vinnie Jones, Mischa Barton, Luke Goss, and Danny Trejo? All in one movie? That’s like the direct-to-video trifecta! Throwdown is an extremely by-the-numbers actioner, but it’s quick and fast paced and I’ve seen much worse.
- A cast of no-names leads Devil’s Deal, a western horror movie with a budget that’s more horrifying than anything that appears on screen. Again, this is one of those movies that does nothing new or interesting.
- Daniel Tiger’s Happy Holidays is obviously a holiday-themed kids’ release. The new Daniel Tiger show is the first official spin-off show from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and young ‘uns will love it.
- With a villain with a name like Gerold Geronimous Goblynch, you kind of know what to expect from When Santa Fell to Earth. Still, as far as family Christmas fare goes, this is a nice change of pace from the usual homogenized Chrstmas junk.
- Brooke Shields, Drake Bell, and Matthew Lillard provide voices for Under Wraps, a new family animated film out just in time for Halloween. This is a fun little movie in which a kid accidentally turns his parents into mummies and then has to work with his antagonistic sister to save them. I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen much, much worse, too.