Even smaller than last week’s barren release slate, this is probably the single smallest release date of the year. Still, if you got some gift cards over the holidays that you’re itching to spend, here’s what you can spend them on:
The Equalizer –
Denzel Washington keeps the hits coming with The Equalizer, an update of the popular 1980s television show starring Edward Woodward. The movie has little in common with the show, but that doesn’t take away from it being a highly enjoyable action thriller. Washington plays Robert McCall, an everyday joe who works at a home improvement store who has a shadowy past. And when trouble comes knocking, he just can’t help himself from stepping in and protecting the helpless. The film doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s nice to see an action movie that isn’t afraid of the action, yet still finds time to make the characters somewhat interesting. The ending sets things up for a franchise, so I hope Denzel decides to revisit this role.
Kevin Smith continues his forays into the horror genre with Tusk his follow up to the controversial but surprisingly good Red State. While it’s billed as a horror/comedy, the comedy is largely absent. Partially because the movie is just trying to be scary, and partly because it’s just not that funny. It’s not a bad film per se, but I will say this: it’s a very intense film. I’ve never watched The Human Centipede because I’ve always found the concept too disturbing. Tusk doesn’t stray too far from that wheelhouse, and I found watching it to be quite unpleasant. In a way it succeeds because — unlike most horror films — it really has an emotional impact, as the events of the film are quite horrifying. But it’s hard to say I enjoyed the film. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t think I’ll ever need to watch it again.
It didn’t take long for me to get completely sucked in to the world of Banshee. There are almost no recognizable faces in the cast, except for Frankie Faison and Ivana Milesevic, but everyone in the cast is terrific, especially Antony Starr in the lead role and Ulrich Thomsen as the town bad guy. The show looks terrific; the production values here are exceptionally high. It often looks look more like a feature film than a TV show. Banshee didn’t get a ton of buzz during its first two seasons (probably because it aired on Cinemax, which hasn’t gotten a name for original dramas just yet), but it should have. Banshee is a bit of a sleeper hit. I’d bet a lot of people haven’t even heard of it, but it’s a very addictive, enjoyable show.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Reach Me has a ridiculously star-studded cast for a movie you’ve never heard of, featuring Sylvester Stallone, Tom Berenger, Lauren Cohan, Kevin Connolly, Kelsey Grammar, Thomas Jane, and Kyra Sedgwick, among others. I first came across this film on Kickstarter, where the producers were seeking additional funds to finish post-production. Now that I’ve had a chance to see it, I can sort of understand why it wasn’t released theatrically. It’s not a bad film, but it just doesn’t feel like something you need to see in theaters.
- Lifetime continues their trend of hollywood-starlets-died-too-early TV movies (as begun in Anna Nicole) with The Brittany Murphy Story, a biopic of the late actress. As Murphy was a personal favorite of mine, I was interested to see what Lifetime could bring to her story. Mostly, they brought melodrama and TV movie cliches. Her story is interesting enough, but this isn’t a great film, certainly not to capture Murphy’s too-short legacy.
- Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer star in Elsa & Fred, a charming late-in-life romance movie that co-stars Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Noth, and Scott Bakula. It’s a charming little film (thats actually a remake of a 2005 Spanish film) that benefits from delightful performances by MacLaine and Plummer. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but the target audience will love it.
- Red Vs Blue: Season 12 is the latest collection of the hit internet animated series that’s created using in-game footage from the Halo series of video games, and it’s all re-dubbed to some very comedic effects. It follows a group of hapless soldiers stationed on an alien planet, and for the most part they’re a bunch of dimbulbs which, of course, leads to hilarity. Not every joke hits, but man, I do find this show pretty funny sometimes. The creators also do a good job of keeping the humor universal; I’ve never played a minute of Halo, and I still enjoyed the heck out of this show.
- Tom Hughes and Noel Clark star in I Am Soldier, a solid action drama about recruits in the British special forces. It’s a pretty gritty effort and it doesn’t pull any punches. It’s much better than most direct-to-video action movies, probably because it was released theatrically in its native UK. Worth a look.
- App tries to combine horror movie with actual mobile apps by having a companion app that “interacts” with the movie. Of course, the “first second screen movie” is in Dutch, which makes interacting with the app while watching the movie a bit difficult. Ultimately, both sides of the film are just okay; not terrible, not great.
- PBS continues their cooking show domination with Moveable Feast With Fine Cooking – Season 1. Hosted by Pete Evans, Australia’s top celebrity chef, the show takes a journey across America looking at innovative dishes served in exotic locales, and also offers up tips on how to recreate the dishes at home. If you’re into cooking shows, you’ll enjoy this one
- Kevin Sorbo anchors a no-name cast in One Shot, although he has only a few scenes and is clearly there just for a paycheck. This movie is basically about a sniper on an alien planet, but the production values are low, the acting is poor, and the script is weak. For die-hard SyFy junkies only.
- Cinedigm continues to service the Spanish-language market with the release of the telenovela Que Pobres Tan Ricos (The Poor Rich Family), which is sort of like an over-the-top Spanish version of The Odd Couple meets Downton Abbey. I mean, it’s typically zany telemundo, but if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s nice to have the episodes on DVD.