After a few quieter weeks, this week sees every kind of movie you can imagine hitting shelves. We’ve got horror movies, 80s cult classics, dramas, animated films, superheroes, and much more. Here’s the full breakdown:
The Babadook – Sometimes, there’s a backlash that comes from hearing too much good buzz about a movie before you see it. I had heard numerous positive comments about The Babadook overt the past few months, so I was super excited to watch it. And ultimately, I was a little bit let down by it. To be fair, it is a really good movie and I did like it, but did I love it as much as I wanted to? No. I give the film credit for focusing on characters first, and the idea of a special needs child causing so much exhaustion in a mom is something I’m not unfamiliar with. There are definitely creepy moments aplenty. But the ending is a bit of a let down, and — if I’m being honest — the exhaustion the mom feels from the child’s constant tantrums are mirrored in the audience; it gets hard to watch after a while. The Babadook is a fresh horror flick and a good movie, but it’s not quite the second coming of horror I wanted it to be.
Big Eyes – Tim Burton’s latest movie is his least Burton-esque film yet. A fairly straightforward based-on-a-true-story movie, the film tells the tale of Margaret Keane, the painter behind the famous “big eyes” paintings of the 1950s and 60s, and her husband Walter Keane, who took credit for the paintings and became an international celebrity while doing it. Honestly, the most outlandish thing about the film is the performance by Christoph Waltz as Walter Keane. I love Waltz, but he does feel here like he’s doing a bit of the same thing he always does at this point. Amy Adams is utterly fantastic as always, however. Ultimately I enjoyed the film, but I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk.
Batman vs. Robin – The latest DC Universe animated film sees the Batman mythology continue from the Son of Batman animated film. Most of the DC animated movies are standalone films, but the last couple of Batman ones have developed a sort of universe, an overarching storyline based on the latest comic books. And while I am NOT a fan of the Damian Wayne character at all (he’s Batman’s son who becomes Robin, and he’s a complete dick), this is still a pretty good flick. Based on the Court of Owls storyline by Scott Snyder, this one is action packed and also filled with Gotham City mythos, mixing in the history of the city with the character that develops from it throughout. Another solid entry in the DC canon.
Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection releases a new Blu-ray edition of Sullivan’s Travels, the classic Preston Sturges comedy starring Joel McCrae and Veronica Lake. This is one of those movies thats been on my list to see for years, yet I’d never actually watched it until now. What I found is a charming little movie that has a nice Capra-esque message to it. It’s not as delightful as something like It Happened One Night (which is a spiritual brethren to it), but McCrae and Lake are likable leads, the story is fun, and the message is obvious and subtle at the same time. With a handful of extra features as we’ve come to expect from Criterion releases, this is a worthy addition to your collection.
JAG: The Complete Series – Right off the bat, let me just get this out of the way: the first season of JAG does not have Catherine Bell in it. So if you take in this huge box set in chronological order, be aware that there were a couple of other leading ladies on the show before She Who Is Oh So Beautiful joined the cast. Sigh… Anyway, on to the show itself. I’ll be honest, even though the series ran for a ridiculously long nine seasons, I had never seen a single episode before the show hit DVD. Basically, JAG boils down to Law & Order in the Navy. David James Elliott’s “Harm” and his female compatriot (eventually Catherine Bell) investigate all manner of crimes in the military and generally tend to solve them. The show’s not bad, and it’s not great; I can see how it would build a loyal following, but I can’t say it got me all hot and bothered (a suggestion for that: Catherine Bell). That said, it’s kind of hard not to get a little sucked into JAG after watching numerous seasons of it for review. I’m still constantly amazed at how long this show was on the air and I doubt I’ll ever consider myself a true fan, but I’m beginning to understand why it endured. It boils down to a simple formula more than anything else: take one part soap opera, one part legal drama, one part CSI (or NCIS more accurately), and one part Top Gun and mix them all together for a homogenous but not entirely un-entertaining show. Of course, for me the brightest part of the show has always been Catherine Bell. The rest of the cast is fine in their roles, but Bell always managed to be both insanely gorgeous and charismatic as well.Ultimately, JAG is actually pretty decent, but for the most part it’s an average drama that’s just very watchable.
Class of 1984 – I absolutely LOVED this movie. This is ’80s action/exploitation filmmaking at its finest. Starring Riptide‘s Perry King at a school that is overrun by a ruthless (if slightly comical) gang, the film also features a very young Michael J. Fox in one of his first major roles. This is one of those movies that almost borders on science fiction, as it’s an exaggerated vision of high schools gone wrong, but it’s much more along the lines of something like The Warriors than it is actual sci-fi. The film doesn’t pull any punches; so many movies from the early ’80s are just cheese, but this one actually manages to be gritty and fun at the same time, all boiling down to a rip-roaring finale that kicks some major ass. This is one of those cult classics that deserves to be a much bigger cult classic. I absolutely loved it.
Metal Hurlant Chronicles: The Complete Series – Metal Hurlant Chronicles is an odd creature. I wasn’t familiar with it beyond a cursory familiarity, but the cover art looked neat and it stars some great sci-fi favorites like James Marsters, John Rhys Davies, Michael Jai White, Rutger Hauer, Kelly Brook, Michael Biehn, and many others. So I popped it in, and what I got was a heavily sci-fi themed anthology show that is sometimes really fun and sometimes really cheesy. Turns out, it’s base loosely on Heavy Metal magazine, with each episode adapted from a short story in the magazine’s storied run. The first episode doesn’t set the bar high, but it gets much better from there. The show has a neat visual design, even if some of the more extravagant special effects are a bit cheap looking. The episodes are very Twilight Zone inspired in that most of them have a twist ending of sorts. The show isn’t great, but it’s fun and I enjoyed it to an extent.
I Am Steve McQueen – It’s about time there was a proper documentary on screen legend Steve McQueen and I Am Steve McQueen delivers in spades. This feature-length film gives us a good look at McQueen from both sides of the lens: his terrific movie career alongside his mercurial personal life. Alongside clips of the late actor, interviews with Robert Downey Jr., Pierce Brosnan, Zoe Bell, Bruce Brown, and Randy Couture highlight the film and the actor’s impact on cinema. There are a ton of other notable interviewees — including McQueen’s relatives — making it a somewhat star-studded affair. But the focus remains on McQueen, an it’s nice to see his screen legend grow with this terrific film.
The Missing – While I generally avoid shows or movies that involve bad things happening to kids, since The Missing stars James Nesbitt (of whom I am a huge fan), I decided to give this Starz Channel miniseries a shot. Over the course of eight episodes (told in two time periods: 2006, when a couple’s young son is abducted, and 2014, where the beaten-down dad is the only person still looking for him), what starts off as a seemingly straightforward kidnap drama becomes an enticing and addictive mystery. Each episode introduces some new twist: what’s the connection between those two characters? Is this person as innocent as they proclaim? Why does that character end up in jail? I can’t say much more without giving away any major plot points, but The Missing is a terrific crime drama that will keep you guessing up until the end.
Also available this week on Blu-ray and DVD:
- Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess, and Ryan Kwanten are all underrated actors in my opinion, so the chance to see all three of them in this true-story-based crime drama seemed like a real treat. Oh yeah, and Anthony Hopkins is in it, too. Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is based on the real-life kidnapping of beer heir Freddy Heneiken in the mid-70s. It’s a solid crime thriller, even if the pacing is a bit uneven, but Worthington, Kwanten, and Sturgess are all terrific, as I expted.
- What an odd double feature Carrie / The Rage: Carrie 2 is. If the version of Carrie that was on here was the original Brian DePalma film, this would make perfect sense. As it stands, however, Carrie 2 is a sequel from 1999 (albeit a weak one) to the classic original, while the version of Carrie that appears here was actually made in 2002, three years AFTER Carrie 2. Neither film is as good as DePalma’s original, and I think this double feature is best for Stephen King or Carrie die-hard fans only.
- Eddie And The Cruisers / Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives is a better double feature from Shout Factory. Featuring the classic music mystery film from the ’80s and it’s less-classic sequel, this is still a terrific collection, with both films making their Blu-ray debuts. Eddie and the Cruisers was a bona fide hit and a well-loved ’80s classic, and its great to revisit it and see why.
- Teen Titans Go!: Appetite For Disruption – Season Two Part One is out this week, as the popular kids’ superhero cartoon has been rebooted and this is the latest collection. This zany, anime-inspired cartoon follows a young superhero team made up of Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy, and Starfire (kind of a mini Justice League of sorts). After ending in 2009, the show is back, and it features the same voice cast as the original series, which fans are sure to love. This two-disc set includes 13 episodes, which is a nice improvement over the four-episode discs the original show would pump out.
- Good night, John Boy! Take a trip back to the frontier with Little House on the Prairie: Season 5 – Deluxe Remastered Edition. This is this season of the show’s first release on Blu-ray, and with its remastered and restored picture, it has honestly never looked better. Plus, it’s Little House on the Prairie. What’s not to love?
- After a long wait since the last season, Foyle’s War: Set Eight continues the popular British show’s run on DVD. This is top-notch mystery television with spies, murder, and nazis! This is a fun show that a gone from being a curiosity of British television to something akin to must-watch viewing, Fans will be thrilled to have the latest set available for home viewing.
- Enter the Dangerous Mind is a well acted but extremely dark and intense film about mental illness that stars Scott Bakula, Nikki Reed, Thomas Dekker, Jason Priestley, and Jake Hoffman. It’s not exactly Friday night popcorn fare, but for those who prefer their movies more challenging and emotionally draining, this one will fit the bill.
- Fans of Asian action cinema will know the name Panna Rittikrai, acclaimed fight choreographer, director, and mentor to action legend Tony Jaa. His final film, Vengeance of an Assassin, is exactly what you’ve come to expect from Rittikrai’s films: over-the-top action, negligible plot, and fists-a-flying. I enjoy Rittikrai’s films, and even if this one isn’t his best work, it’s still enjoyable for what it is.
- Yes, French filmmaking legend Jean Luc Godard is still making movies, and Goodbye to Language 3D is his latest. The title isn’t just a metaphor, either, as the film is virtually devoid of the spoken word. While I’m not a huge fan of 3D overall, this is one of those movies where the 3D works hard to become an integral part of the film. I’ll be honest, this is way too artsy even for me, but fans of the director’s work and really obscure, ethereal fare will probably enjoy it.
- Battlestar Galactica‘s Jamie Bamber stars in John Doe: Vigilante, an uneven thriller about a man pushed too far who takes the law into his own hands. But this oddly-structured film isn’t some Charles Bronson revengefest. It’s a clear social commentary on crime, the justice system, and the media. Unfortuantely, it’s a bit too uneven, as it tries to play out as part drama, part thriller, and part found-footage social commentary. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great, either.
- Lifetime continues their trend of hollywood-starlets-died-too-early TV movies (as begun in Anna Nicole) with Whitney, a biopic of the late singer Whitney Houston. 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 Houston’s too-short legacy.
- That Man from Rio / Up to His Ears is a double feature of films from French director Phillippe de Broca. The two movies collected here are comedic adventure movies that take us around the world. That Man From Rio is much more of an adventure film with comedy mixed in, while Up to His Ears is more of a comedy film with some adventure thrown in Both are a lot of fun, although I preferred Up to His Ears just a touch more. Either way, this is a great double feature and the films look great.
- A cast of mostly unknowns anchors Echoes, a haunted dreams horror film that’s surprisingly decent. While it doesn’t exactly break new ground, it benefits from stronger performances than you usually find in the horror genre, as well as some genuinely creepy moments. It won’t keep you up at nights (like it does the main character), but it’ll give you some good thrills and chills while you’re watching it.
- Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers and Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Hall of Famers are the two latex multi-disc collections of the classic Hollywood roasts specials. Going back to the origins of the celebrity “roast,” these two collections include dozens of Dean Martin’s classic comedy roasts, with Dean Martin and an all-star gaggle of Hollywood pals making fun of some of the biggest stars of the time (while the Hall of Famers disc roasts one notable baseball luminaries). While I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole “roast” phenomenon, for throw-back Hollywood celebrity goodness, it doesn’t get much better than this.
- In case you’ve been missing Chuck Norris’s hit TV character, Walker Texas Ranger: Flashback presents one of the show’s two-hour episodes that are now being released as a series of stand-alone movies. This latest DVD is currently exclusively available at Wal-Mart, and is a nice treat for Walker: Texas Ranger fans. If you already have all of the season sets, you won’t need this, but if you’re on a budget, these are a welcome treat.
- I have to say, as far as kids shows go, The Wild Kratts: Shark-Tastic is one of the better ones. It manages to combine animals and superhero-style adventures into one fun animated series that is both entertaining and educational. And, of course, not only do I find it enjoyable, but my kids also really like it, which is what’s really important. The show focuses on the Brothers Kratt, animal experts and adventurers, who use creature power suits to take on the traits of various animals and interact with them in their habitats. Along the way, a variety of villains, predators, or obstacles will show up, and the Kratt Brothers have to save the day. The show mixes in humor, action, and cool suit designs, plus it has a good supporting cast of characters that kids will like.
- Roadside is a pretty good low-budget thriller that’s a perfect watch for those nights when you have nothing else to watch. It’s a simple story: a couple are held hostage by an unseen man in the woods outside their car with a high powered rifle. They have to try and figure out how to survive and escape while under the scope of a rifle they can’t escape from. The acting is okay but not great, but the film is tense, taut, and doesn’t try to stretch things out too long. For a low budget, no-name flick, it’s pretty enjoyable.
- Veronica Mars and Private Practice‘s Chris Lowell makes his directorial debut with Beside Still Waters, a Big Chill-esque dramedy starring The Blacklist‘s Ryan Eggold and Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.‘s Brett Dalton. Lowell is quite talented behind the camera, and the cast has a good chemistry in front of it, making this one of those little indy films that is worth checking out.
- Hot on the heels of the recently released complete series sets of Stingray, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, and Fireball XL5, we now get Joe 90: The Complete Series. This one is slightly different than Gerry Anderson’s other shows in that it isn’t all about super agents with a super special vehicle. Here we have a 9-year-old James Bond, basically, and it’s filled with Anderson’s patented Supermarionette techniques and all the cheesy goodness you can handle. If you’re not already a fan, these episodes can be kind of hard to watch, but for those who love Anderson’s style of television, this 30-episode collection is all a fan can ask for.
- I would only recommend watching A Haunting: Season 7 if you REALLY like shows about hauntings, and don’t care about any of the things that normally make a show interesting or watchable. I generally detest these kinds of shows (as they never prove a single thing), but I find this one particularly annoying for some reason.
- Bonnie Somerville and James Tupper star in Mom’s Day Away, a predictable but cute Hallmark film that’s out just in time for Mother’s Day. Hallmark films can often be really bad, but once in a while they can be fun if lightweight. This one is one of the latter, made more so by the fact that Bonnie Somerville and James Tupper are both welcome on-screen presences. If you are in the Hallmark demographic, you’ll enjoy this one.