Not a lot in the way of exciting releases this week, but there are some solid entries for fans who don’t mind digging a bit. Here’s what’s on tap this week:
The Hundred-Foot Journey –
Helen Mirren delivers another terrific performance in this lighthearted film that plays like a cross between Chef and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Dueling restaraunteurs equals new friendships and blossoming romances; that’s the basic plot line, but the film isn’t predicated on its story or any kind of plot twists. Instead, it lives and dies on its characters and the performances, all of which are very enjoyable. This is a quiet little film that doesn’t really do anything new, but somehow none of that detracts from your overall enjoyment of it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I originally started watching Justified solely on the basis of Timothy Olyphant, because I think he is just such an incredibly cool actor. I didn’t even know what the show was about when I watched that first episode. (I actually thought it was a western; which ultimately, it kind of is.) Over the past five seasons, it’s become one of my favorite shows, even if its been a little uneven over its run. The fourth season was a nice return to form after I found the third season a bit disappointing, and Season Five was even better, coming closer to the heights reached in Seasons One and Two. This is the penultimate season of the show, as the upcoming one will be its last, but this is a great way to revisit 13 episodes of great television.
I initially wasn’t sure whether I was ready to (or even wanted to) watch a tribute to Robin Williams. I was also concerned that this might be a blatant cash grab, but it’s anything but. Instead, this is a loving and in-depth profile of the beloved actor that was made with true care and respect. Part biography and part tribute, this one-hour special traces his life and career back to his childhood, and also finds time to focus on things like his work with the troops. With extensive footage from one of his final interviews and also interviews with some of his close friends that were conducted after his death, this special might make you sad, but it will really make you feel like you’ve celebrated the wonderful life of a wonderful person. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
This is as cult classic as a title can get, but Legacy of Rage is a neat little gem that I’m happy to see rereleased on DVD after being out of print for several years. The first film from Bruce Lee’s son Brandon (who would achieve fame just a few years later in The Crow, sadly his last movie), Legacy of Rage is a blatant attempt to cash in on Bruce Lee’s legacy (by the filmmaker, not by Brandon Lee, who always wanted to escape his father’s shadow.) Still, there’s no denying that Lee’s charisma is on full display, and some of the action scenes are a lot of fun to watch. For fans of the very limited Bruce & Brandon Lee film legacy, this is a must have.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Despite some good marketing, As Above, So Below was DOA on its arrival at the box office. I think it’s largely because the public is tired of the whole found footage style of filmmaking. Perhaps this could have been a good horror film if it was shot in a traditional style, but the shaky camera and illogical moments of recording take too much away from it. Too bad because its a neat concept and a likable cast of recognizable (if not big name) actors.
- With the big-budget big-screen adaptation from Disney hitting theaters this month, it was perfect timing to release Into the Woods: The Original Broadway Production. This is simply a recorded version of the actual broadway play with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason rather than an adaptation of it, so for those of you who want to see the original but can’t make your way to New York City, this perfect.
- Samuel Jackson has a supporting role in Kite, a frenetic action film about a child assassin in a dark near-future world. Based on a hit anime series, this is an odd film, with moments of bad dialogue and slow pacing, but also some cool action scenes and an interesting concept. Ultimately its a mixed bag, but it’s at least worth a watch for people who like action movies and crime dramas.
- Originally a web series and now a Comedy Central Show, Broad City: Season 1 stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (who also created it) as they try to muscle in on the territory pioneered by shows like Workaholics or Girls. Basically, if you like pot smoking and lowest-common-denominator humor, you’ll like this show. Me, not so much.
- Robin Wright Penn headlines The Congress, along with Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, Jon Hamm, and Danny Huston. The story of an aging actress who allows a movie studio to digitize her likeness and use it in any way they wish so she can care for her ill son, this slightly sci-movie is no Gattaca or even Sim0ne. Instead, it’s a deep and introspective look at youth, beauty, and the world’s fascination with celebrity. Interesting stuff, if a bit heavy for Friday night viewing.
- The surprisingly good Field Of Lost Shoes ostensibly stars Jason Isaac, David Arquette, and Lauren Holly, but the film really centers on a squad of young teenage soldiers in the Civil War. It serves as both a gripping dramatic portrayal of young men from different backgrounds fighting for their country and also as a bit of historical education about a real life battle in the Shenandoah Valley.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Showdown in Dimension X collects the final 12 episodes from Season Two of the current TMNT animated series on Nickelodeon. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Ninja Turtles fan and that I absolutely love this cartoon. With 12 episodes on two discs, this is a really terrific collection that no TMNT fan would be without.
- My kids absolutely love Disney Mickey Mouse: Season 1, even if its taken me a little while to warm up to it. Basically a modern take on classic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy cartoons, this is like Disney by way of Ren & Stimpy. But like I said, my kids think its utterly hysterical, and anything that makes them laugh that hard is okay by me.
- In the past, I’ve been hard on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (which sees its Season Four release this week), and largely because of the whole Brony phenomenon. (For those of you who don’t know, there is a subculture of 20-something adult males who are really, really into this new My Little Pony cartoon. But by this point, I’ve watched the show a lot, as both my young daughter AND my young son really enjoy 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. This latest release includes the entire fourth season, rather than just a couple of episodes of pony-esque goodness.
- Happy Days: Season 6 offers up more of the gang that all of America loved in the 70s and 80s. This is one of the last seasons with the whole cast intact, and it remains a pretty great show at this point. This season also featured Robin Williams’ last appearance on the show as Mork from Ork before he went on to his own spin-off and worldwide fame. The original music has been replaced, but fans of the show should still be happy to see this set as it looked like season four might be the last set the studio released.
- When a television show lasts a record-setting 20 seasons, there’s a reason for it. Gunsmoke is one of the most successful TV shows of all time, and it’s not hard to see why. It had a little of everything: drama, action, romance, and character. Gunsmoke: The Eleventh Season – Volume One isn’t all action and violence. Its main focus is on the characters in this small town and what they have to go through to survive. Before Gunsmoke, western shows were mostly was considered stuff for kids of the stereotypical “Cowboys & Indians” variety. This one really did set the bar for the genre.
- A huge line-up of musical acts is on display in Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years. Hosted by Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow, this musical feast falls heavily on the country and blues side of things, but it’s got a pretty great roster of acts, including Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, The Foo Fighters, Jimmie Vaughan, Alabama Shakes, and many, many others.
- Two cult classic horror films make their long-awaited Blu-ray debut with the Tales From The Crypt/Vault Of Horror double feature from Scream Factory. While TFTC is probably more well-known for the long-running TV series, this anthology film and its sequel are well loved horror movies from the 70s. With stars including Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Patrick McGee, Tom Baker, Denholm Elliott, and Curt Jurgens, these films may be dated but they’re still fun for horror fans.
- Previously released as a box set, the Perry Mason Movie Collection: Double Features 10, 11, and 12 are now available as separate releases, with each one including two movies. I love these films, as I grew up watching Perry Mason in reruns and was probably old enough to watch these movies as they aired on TV, which was very exciting at the time. These three double features include the following movies: The Case of the Glass Coffin/The Case of the Fatal Fashion; The Case of the Heartbroken Bride/The Case of the Skin Deep Scandal; and The Case of the Fatal Framing/The Case of the Reckless Romeo. Great stuff.
- Are you a San Francisco Giants fan? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition. While there was a one-disc highlights film released last week, this eight-disc box set includes every single game of the World Series in its entirety. There’s also an entire bonus disc filled with goodies from extra interviews to audio clips and much more. A must-have for die-hard fans!
- Secrets of the Dead: Resurrecting Richard III is an interesting 60-minute documentary about the discovery of the bones of Richard III, considered on of England’s most evil kings. There are a lot of questions about his body and his death, and this special attempts to answer some of them.
- The packed DVD collection Zane Grey Theatre: Season 3 collects the third season of the western anthology show based on the works of writer Zane Grey. With two bonus TV episodes plus a bonus movie, this set also sees guest spots by notable acting alumni such as Barbara Stanwyck, David Niven, Eddie Albert, Walter Pidgeon, Danny Thomas, James Coburn, Edward G. Robinson, James Whitmore, Micky Dolenz, DeForest Kelley, Michael Landon, Rita Moreno, and Dennis Hopper. This is pretty much a must-have for fans of classic Hollywood and westerns.
- Cantinflas is a biopic starring Michael Imperioli and Oscar Jaenada that tells the story of Mexicos most famous film star, Mario Moreno, whom I’ve never heard of. Apparently, he’s best known here for starring in Around the World in 80 Days but in Mexico he was a pretty big deal. Its standard biopic stuff, but it was fu to learn about a movie star I knew literally nothing about.
- The newest collection of the hit kids cartoon series Lalaloopsy hits DVD with Lalaloopsy Girls: Welcome to L.A.L.A. Prep School. 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.
- I’m a little bit over documentaries about the planet and the environment, but Sand Wars bucks the trend by tackling a subject I’ve never seen before: sand. You may not realize how much sand is being consumed on this planet on a daily basis, and how much of it is disappearing. This sobering documentary will open your eyes to yet another threat our planet s facing, but it’s one you’ve never even thought about.
- I’m also over political and economic documentaries, but again Pay 2 Play is a pretty good effort. Filmmaker John Ennis follows the trail of money in politics and explores what people outside the money system can do to lead. With interviews with people such as Robert Reich, Marianne Williamson, Noam Chomsky, and even Jerry Springer, this is an interesting film for people who find the subject matter interesting.
- Pei-Pei Cheng stars in two cheesy 1970s chop-socky flicks in Martial Arts Double Feature: Kung Fu Girl/Whiplash. These aren’t great films, but for fans of the genre who like hard-to-find movies, this should be right up your alley.
- Not a movie about Native Americans, Apaches is instead a French crime drama about a group of teenagers who steal from the wrong empty mansion and end up on the wrong end of a crime lord. Fast-paced and gripping, I enjoyed this film regardless its not being in English and cast of unknowns. You most likely will too.
- Lionsgate has three new exercise DVDs out this week to help you goth off the winter bloat. Be Fit In 30 Extreme is a 30-day workout broken up into three 20-minute workouts with hosts Scott Herman and Susan Becraft. The workouts are solid and the short nature of the routines is a positive. WWE Power Series: Triple H is for people looking to get BIG and get big fast. It’s 100 minutes of intensity that is all about building bulk. Meanwhile, WWE Fit Series: Stephanie McMahon focuses on burning calories, getting lean, and increasing flexibility, giving you 70 minutes of workouts.
- PBS’s popular show for pre-schoolers comes to DVD with Julius Jr.: Snow Monkey Adventures. This one’s a bit too young for my kids, but its a cute little cartoon as far as I can tell. This disc also comes packaged with a cool-looking little PVC figure that seems like it would be worth the price of the disc alone.
- I don’t know how much American Masters: Bing Crosby – Rediscovered actually “rediscovers” Bing Crosby (it’s not like he’s some forgotten star), but it’s an excellent biographic documentary that explores the life and career of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. The film does delve more deeply into Crosby’s life and personality (which is where I guess the title comes from), so fans of the performer will want to check this one out.
- To Kill a Man sounds like your typical revenge action flick, but it’s far from it. This Spanish-language film is a much more ruminative exploration of the psyche behind revenge and murder, and it delves into some surreal and unorthodox territories. Alas, it’s also somewhat more dull than a typical revenge action flick, so I’m not sure how effective it ultimately is.
- When you’ve got Steven Seagal, Stephen Lang, Ted Levine, Vinnie Jones and AnnaLynne McCord in the same film, you know it’s a bloated direct-to-video action flick. This one at least stars George Eads from CSI, but even he can’t save the poorly titled Gutshot Straight.
- Yet another run the endless parade of possession films, Speak No Evil does absolutely nothing to set itself apart from the pack. It’s neither terrible nor good, but instead just completely and overwhelmingly average.
- The popular British pig family returns in the birthday themed Peppa Pig: Bubbles. Not my favorite kids show, but good enough for the younger ones. It’s cute enough to be endearing, I guess.
- Drawing With Mark: Let’s Go to the Zoo & Zoo Stories and Drawing with Mark:Take Flight, As The Wheels Turn, and Fire Station both offer up instruction for drawing cartoon characters and objects for young kids.