It’s a pretty light slate this week, but there is a little something for everyone, with a hit kids’ movie, some good Father’s Day gift ideas, and much more! Here’s the full breakdown:
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – I’ve never been a terribly huge Spongebob fan, but over the past couple of years, my kids have become fans, which means I’ve seen more of it than I ever thought I would. And while it’s not my favorite cartoon in the world, I can at least appreciate it. That said, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is pretty darn good. It’s a non-stop roller coaster ride of wacky humor, random situations, and great gags. My kids loved it and even I had a pretty fun time watching it. My only complaint is that the CGI scenes that basically made up the entirety of the trailers and commercials really don’t happen until the last 20 minutes of the film. Some kids might be disappointed by that, but they’ll probably have too much fun to care that much.
Focus – When I first saw the trailer for Focus, I wondered, “What happened to Will Smith? This movie looks terrible!” I begrudgingly watched it (misty because Margot Robbie is in it, and I’m a little bit in love with her right now), and ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It’s about a hundred times better than the trailer would have you believe. It’s a classic con man movie, but it’s slick, funny, charming, and will keep you in suspense for large parts of it. Smith is in top form doing his “charming Will Smith” thing, and Margot Robbie proves once again that she’s one of the most electrifying new actress in years. I really do feel like this movie failed more because of poor marketing than anything else. Check it out.
The Wire: The Complete Series – The Wire was never a monster hit for HBO the way something like Game of Thrones or True Blood have been. But somehow, in the past decade or so, The Wire has quietly come to be regarded as one of the best television series ever. For my money, I think it’s a pretty great show. Do I think it’s the best series ever? No. But there’s no denying the talent at work: the cast is amazing, the plot lines are intricate, the drama is compelling, and the show is never afraid to make changes or challenge preconceptions. This new box set from HBO collects all five seasons in their entirety, along with some great extra features. The complete series has been available in box set form before, but only on DVD. This mark’s the show’s debut on Blu-ray in any configuration.
Monsters: Dark Continent – Gareth Edwards’ original film Monsters was a low-budget genre hit. It looked like a huge budget film, even though it was made for less than a million dollars, and it led to him getting the job directing Godzilla. Even though Edwards has moved on to bigger things, there are still plenty of fans out there who want to see more from the world of Monsters. Enter Monsters: Dark Continent, a sequel that’s been made without Edwards in the director’s seat. Although the film has a slightly different flavor to it (and tries to go bigger, as most of these types of sequels tend to do) I enjoyed it overall. It’s still got some fun monster sequences and some great effects, and while you may not love it as much as the first one, you won’t feel like you got ripped off, either.
Falling Skies: Season 4 – Falling Skies is an odd show for me. Part of me really likes it, and part of me thinks it’s a bit lacking. I don’t quite know how to describe it. It’s kind of like, when I’m watching it, I enjoy it, but when I’m not watching it, I don’t really miss it, nor do I feel a huge desire to track it down and watch it. Strange, I know. Which is why the Blu-ray version of Falling Skies works so well for me. Watching it in this format — as opposed to the week-to-week TV way in which I don’t really engage anymore — lets it play out more like a movie. I took the whole third season in in just a few big chunks, and I found that the key to enjoying the show more. It still has its flaws — clunky pacing, clunky dialogue… clunky special effects. Yes, you could describe the show as “clunky” — but the effect of those flaws is minimized when the show is compressed into easily digestible chunks of three or four episodes at a time.
Tom and Jerry: Gene Deitch Collection – This new Tom & Jerry collection compiles all 13 theatrical shorts by animation luminary Gene Deitch. These aren’t the classic cartoons from the ’30s and ’40s, but the ones that came after them. What’s interesting about these is that some fans love them and some people really don’t like them. I don’t know why; sure, they’re not the most classic of the classic, but they’re still a lot of fun, and certainly better than some of the retooled Tom and Jerry shows from the 80s and 90s. In addition to the 13 cartoons, you also get two bonus features, Tom and Jerry…and Gene: The Rembrandt Years and Much Ado About Tom and Jerry. A pretty cool set for fans of everyone’s favorite cat and mouse duo.
Pretty Little Liars: Season 5 – All right, I’ll admit that I shouldn’t like Pretty Little Liars: Season 5. It’s soapy melodrama wrapped around a central mystery (sometimes mysteries) that grows ever more implausible as each season goes on. But… I do. It’s a lot of fun, and if you don’t take it too seriously and let yourself get sucked into the Nancy Drew-meets-Gossip Girl aesthetic of it all, it’s a fairly enjoyable show. Sure, there are moments where the dialogue will make you cringe, but the constantly ratcheting tension and plot twists are enjoyable, even if in a cheesy way. And let’s not dismiss the complete and utter eye candy factor. (Yes, I realize these girls are supposed to be high school students, but they’re not underage in real life.) This is a show filled with incredibly hot actresses, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t help make the show a little easier to watch. Hey, I’m not proud.
Also available on Blu-ray and DVD this week:
- I’ve never actually watched Rizzoli & Isles before, so I felt a little weird coming into Rizzoli & Isles: Season 5 with no former knowledge of the show. Especially when the season begins with the characters dealing with the death of another major character (and actor.) But the show is easy to get into, and quite enjoyable. Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander are terrific as an odd couple police detective and medical examiner who are best friends but complete opposites. The cases are compelling, the actors have a lot of chemistry, and I found it pretty enjoyable overall.
- I love what Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint does, bringing cult classic horror films to Blu-ray every month, but I wish that I liked Scarecrows more than I did. I like the idea of living scarecrows that kill people for a horror film, and the visual design of the creatures in this flick aren’t bad. But the characters are unlikable, the pacing is slow, and the writing is sloppy. I’ve seen worse horror films, but this isn’t one to rush out and buy unless you’re already a fan.
- Originally produced under the title Penthouse North, Blindsided finally gets a US release (presumably due to all the attention Michael Keaton got for Birdman.) This psychological/home invasion thriller sees Michelle Monaghan play a journalist blinded in Iraq whose home is invaded my Keaton’s sociopathic bad guy, who’s in search of a stash of stolen diamonds. There’s nothing groundbreaking or new about the film, but Keaton is a lot of fun as the bad guy and Michelle Monaghan is terrific as always. Interestingly, it’s written by the same guy who wrote Lakeview Terrace and Obsession, which are all basically the same film. Worth a rental.
- If an early 1970s “musical celebration of the founding of the United States of America based on the award-winning Broadway production” doesn’t sound like a good time, then you probably want to stay away from 1776, which makes its Blu-ray debut this week. If you like big, brash, brassy Broadway musicals, you’ll probably enjoy it, or maybe even if you’re a history buff, but as someone who’s neither of those things, it was a tough slog for me.
- 50 Shades of Grey‘s Jamie Dornan stars in New Worlds, a historical drama British miniseries about love, life, war, and loss in the 1680s. The story follows people on pth sides of the ocean as Britain and America try to coexist, and the travails that follow are anything but easy. I’m not a huge fan of period dramas, but this is more along the lines of something like Turn or Outlander than a weepy corset chick flick.
- Asian action master filmmaker Tsui Hark returns with The Taking of Tiger Mountain, based on a popular Asian novel of the same name. Tony Leung stars as a bandit warlord who rules the land, and we watch as an army captain and a secret investigator try to bring him down. As is typical for a lot of these films, the story is decent but not more, and the characters are mostly thin, but the action sequences are terrific. This is a great flick for your Asian action fix.
- A Mickey Rourke double feature? Sure, why not? Shout Factory’s new The Pope Of Greenwich Village/Desperate Hours Blu-ray double feature offers up two lesser known Mickey Rourke films. The Pope Of Greenwich Village is ostensibly a crime drama that co-stars Eric Roberts, and it’s a decent enough film, even if it feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to be a Scorsese movie. Desperate Hours is a more successful home invasion thriller that works because a) I like hoe invasio thrillers, and b) it’s fun to watch Rourke play a bad guy. Since Desperate Hours is out of print on DVD, this new release is a pretty good bargain.
- A haunted asylum movie? How original! How daring! How… okay, not really. Stephen Rea and Bruce Payne star in Asylum, the latest After Dark Horrorfest (now just After Dark) direct-to-video horror flick. Really, the best thing I can say about it is that if you like haunted asylum movies, I’ve seen worse. So there’s that.
- Nickelodeon has a trio of fun new kids’ releases with their latest wave of Big Little Movies DVDs — Team Umizoomi: Umi Space Heroes, Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves Fairytale Land, and Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Explorer Girls – Our First Concert. Each DVD includes a feature-length episode (or mini-movie) of one of Nick’s most popular shows, rather than just a collection of random episodes. Umi Space Heroes sees the team on a mission to save the moon. To my knowledge, this is a new episode that has never been on DVD before, and it runs 45 minutes. Dora Saves Fairytale Land is another 45-minute episode, which I believe is seeing DVD release before it airs on TV. It’s a cute Dora story in which she and Boots have to save the magical Fairytale Land (obviously.) Finally, Dora’s Explorer Girls – Our First Concert is a 45-minute minim-movie featuring the retooled, more grown-up Dora and her friends; think more Bratz than Dora (although much less bratty) and you get the idea. Shakira guest stars and provides a song as well, which is fun.