As most of the studios have already put their biggest titles out for the year, this week sees a smaller release slate, despite the proximity to the holidays. Here are some of the last big releases of the year:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles –
There are so many things to dislike about this movie, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I should start by saying that I’ve been a fan of the franchise since the original black-and-white comics in the ’80s, and this clearly is NOT a movie made for fans. It’s made for eight-year-old boys who aren’t particularly familiar with the franchise, but even on that level, it’s pretty bad. Poor writing, terrible characterizations, and those hideous Turtle designs (seriously, who thought they were a good idea?)… it’s all just a mess. And when your bad guy’s big, nefarious plot is to poison the entire city of New York — the very city WHERE YOUR ENTIRE ORGANIZATION AND ALL OF YOUR EMPLOYEES LIVE — you have to wonder if anybody’s even paying attention. If you’re a TMNT fan like I am, a little part of you will die when you watch this movie. I highly recommend watching the current (and quite terrific) Nickelodeon cartoon instead, which gets everything right.
What’s this? A Woody Allen movie I actually like? Don’t worry, I’m as surprised as you are. Much of the credit goes to Emma Stone and Colin Firth (clearly playing the Woody Allen character here, but with a very British air), who are both terrific in the lead roles. A strong supporting cast of lesser-known actors, a sharp script, and the duo’s on-screen chemistry make Magic in the Moonlight a delight to watch; enjoyable, funny, charming, and romantic. If you’re like me and just don’t really care all that much about Woody Allen films, this most recent one of his will definitely defy your expectations.
This dramedy starring Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, and Luke Wilson is a really good film. It’s not blow-you-away good, but it’s a really strong drama with some great moments of humor. However, I really want to draw your attention to one thing in particular: Bill Hader. His performance as the suicidal gay twin brother of Kristen Wiig is ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL. Honestly, it’s a complete revelation. He never once drops into flamboyant caricature, but you also never for a moment question his character’s sexuality. He’s funny, challenging, dramatic, warm, brusque, and confused all in turns, and it’s one of the best performances of the year. There’s also a moment in the middle of the movie — I don’t want to give it away, but it involves a Starship song — that’s probably my single favorite movie scene of the entire year. This is one of those under-the-radar gems that you should definitely check out.
Scott Bakula stars in this cult classic horror/mystery movie from the early 90s, directed by Clive Barker. Between this and the recent release of Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Barker as a movie director, and I actually wish these films had done better so he’d have made more movies. This noir-soaked tale of illusionists, cults, murder, and demons is a fascinating movie that’s unlike most other horror flicks. It’s much more original, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Fans of the author will probably already know about this film, but if you’ve ever seen it, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:
- Despite a star-studded cast that includes Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, and Jane Fonda, This is Where I Leave You was DOA at the box office. Even though it shares a surface similarity to August: Osage County (a dysfunctional family reunites at a funeral), the film just couldn’t get people interested. Now you have a chance to see if the movie lives up to its terrific cast.
- What if Halle Berry made a TV show and nobody cared? That may be overstating things, as the show has been renewed for a second season, but Extant has to be one of the least-talked about Summer shows in recent memory. Extant: Season 1 includes every episode plus about 90 minutes of special features, so you can decide for yourself if it deserved more hype than it got.
- From Glen Morgan, one of the driving forces behind The X-Files, Intruders: Season 1 is the much talked-about, mixed-feelings-receiving BBC genre show that divided audiences and critics alike. Described as “paranormal thriller about a secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of the living,” the show is a dense, multi-layered supernatural drama that takes a while to start making sense Still, if you stick with it, it is a rewarding viewing experience.
- Aubrey Plaza voices the titular character (recently revealed to be worth some $100 million) in Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, a direct-to-video holiday movie starring the internet’s most famous cat. Somehow, the filmmaker’s have shoehorned a very traditional christmas story about learning the meaning of the holiday into a film with an internet cat sensation. Interesting. I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen far worse.
- PBS devotes a solid info-packed hour to the late comedian in Richard Pryor: Icon, a biography of the popular and controversial figure that packs a lot into its 60 minute running time. It traces his life, his career, and his success, without shying away from issues like his drug use. Fans of Pryor’s will definitely want to watch this one.
- I’m not a huge anime fan, but I am a huge fan of Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series. A mixture of space opera, western, comedy, noir film, and jazz music video, Cowboy Bebop is one of the most unique, fun, and coherent animus out there. Now released in a nice collection that includes every episode of the series, this is one of the few anime titles I’ll recommend even to people who don’t like anime. Check it out.
- Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine star in Stonehearst Asylum, a Lovecraft-inspired thriller set in an asylum. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s creepy and atmospheric, and the cast really elevates it. For those of you who like gothic horror and scary locales, this film is a solid little undiscovered gem.
- Great cover art, not-so great movie. The Device is a movie about an alien pregnancy or two. Oh, and about a million low-budget sci-fi cliches. I mean, there’s worse out there, and die hard SyFy movie fans might like it, but it’s pretty generic.
- You throw Rufus Sewell, Colm Meaney, and Jennifer Carpenter into a movie together and I’m pretty much going to watch it. Add in a concept like “Six girls born on the sixth day of the sixth month. Their 18th birthday is approaching. One will emerge,” and you’ve got me intrigued. The Devil’s Hand isn’t anything groundbreaking, but for a direct-to-video horror film, it’s surprisingly good.
- Despite a title and cover art that makes Cam2Cam seem like a found footage movie, it is not. Which makes it much better. It’s still a rather pedestrian thriller at heart, but I like lead actress Tammin Sursok and the film is a quick 90 minute watch.
- A triof of new PBS titles hits this week, and they are all pretty darned interesting. Makers: Women Who Make America 2 is a two-disc, six-hour program devoted to women n business, politics, science, and Hollywood. It’s not feminist propaganda, but rather a thoughtful exploration of women’s impact on the world. And with interviewees including Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler, Jane Lynch, Shonda Rhimes, Joan Rivers, Sarah Silverman, and Alfre Woodard, you know you’re in for some good television. Similarly, Finding Your Roots: Season 2 sees a number of popular celebrities researching their family trees and coming up with some genuinely interesting results. This season has Stephen King, Derek Jeter, Anderson Cooper, Ben Affleck, Tina Fey, Jessica Alba, Deepak Chopra, and a ton of other famous faces, and it’s fascinating stuff. Finally, Nova: Emperor’s Ghost Army explores the famous Chinese tombs that house armies of Terra Cotta soldiers. With new technology used to explore their origins, this is pretty interesting stuff.