The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season –
Does television get much better than The Walking Dead? I don’t think that it does. While the show certainly has its detractors, for my money, it just gets better and better with every episode. Each new season takes everything that was started in the previous seasons and builds upon it. With a couple of last minute shocks and some really great hints at what lies ahead, The Walking Dead is a show I can’t wait to watch every week. And Season Five introduced the Alexandria community storyline which I really enjoyed. At this point, I definitely like The Walking Dead TV series better than I like the comic books, and I’ve been reading them since the very first issue. If you still haven’t checked this amazing show out, you really need to stop whatever you’re doing and jump on board before the sure-to-be-excellent fifth season starts in October.
Cameron Crowe — once one of my favorite filmmakers — returns to middling filmmaking with Aloha, a romance of sorts starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, among other talented actors. While I really like the cast, and the movie is far from bad, what makes it stands out is how pedestrian it is. The magic that made Crowe’s films like Jerry Maguire so incredible just isn’t there. I don’t know if he lost his passion or took too much time off of making movies, but he just doesn’t produce works like he used to. That said, with the great cast and some sharp writing moments, it’s not a bad movie at all. But ultimately, it will make you want to go watch Jerry Maguire again and relive the good old days.
The Lego franchise has become a force that has evolved beyond toys, and into video game and now movie culture. After a successful direct-to-video Lego Batman movie a couple of years ago, the Lego people have returned with the bigger and better (and unwieldingly-long titled) LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League – Attack of the Legion of Doom!, a full-length computer generated film that straddles the line between superhero action and comedy. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun! Even though kids are the target audience, the adults watching it will enjoy it greatly as well, thanks to some really sharp writing that isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at some of the superhero conventions we take for granted. On top of all that, the film’s production designs are fantastic; despite the Lego stylings, this is a truly gorgeous movie. This is really one for the whole family.
“Who’s the master? SHO NUFF!” If that line doesn’t mean anything to you, then you probably a) didn’t grow up in the 80s, and b) won’t really care about The Last Dragon being released on Blu-ray. For the rest opus, however, this release is about as exciting as it comes. As cult classic as a movie can get, this early ’80s gem is like a mash-up of a low-budget Bruce Lee film and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Watching it now, it’s cheesy and terrible and ridiculous in all the best ways. Great filmmaking? No way. A great film? SHO NUFF!
Marion Cotillard proves once again that she is one of the finest actors working today in this emotional powerhouse of a film. Cotillard plays a worker who must convince a majority of her co-workers to forgo their bonuses in order for her to retain her job, which she desperately needs. The story is simple, but the reflection of every day lives is powerful and gives the film an immediacy that’s lacking in many movies these days. And even though the film is in French, Cotillard’s performance is so gut-wrenching, raw, and emotional that you will be moved to tears. It’s not exactly Friday-night popcorn viewing, but if you’re looking for something more deep and involved, this one is well worth watching.
I’ve been underwhelmed by this show since it started, but it turned out to be a big hit for CBS. The main problem I have with it is Sherlock. See, the show is based on the BBC’s modern-day updating of Sherlock Holmes, and that show is just so incredibly good. So every time I watch Elementary, I can’t help but think that I’d rather be watching Sherlock. That said, it’s an enjoyable-enough show to watch, especially for mystery fans. Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu play off each other well, and their rapid-fire back-and-forth is evocative of Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Sherlock Holmes, which isn’t a bad thing. I can see why people like this show, I just wish I was more into it. I love mysteries, and I love Sherlock Holmes, but I only like this show. Too bad.
Criminal Minds is a show that I really like that I don’t watch during the season anymore because it always seems to conflict with other shows on my DVR schedule. However, I love when it comes time to release on DVD because it really is some exciting television. Sure, the adventures of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are ultimately just another procedural show, but the fact that it focuses on serial killers really gives the show an edge. It’s dark stuff and it’s not always pleasant to watch, but it is extremely addictive. The team has a great chemistry and the show has an easy rhythm; the producers clearly know what they’re doing by this point. Ten seasons in, even if the show is a little predictable in how the episodes play out, I still find the journeys to finding the killers very rewarding.
A surprisingly good crossbreed between law show and straight-up drama, The Good Wife is good television. Good cases, good characters, and good storytelling add up to make this a really engaging show. What I like about it is the fact that even if you haven’t been watching all along, you can jump in and figure things out pretty quickly. The legal cases are certainly interesting enough on their own, while the character dramas are easy enough to figure out as you go. As always, I would start at the first season, but you can jump in here at the start of the sixth season and feel pretty caught up in short order. With a growing cast that adds more and more talented actors every season, this show is a hit for a reason.
Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:
- Skin Trade – A team-up between action superstars Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa sounds like a match made in heaven, and you know what? It is. This action film focusing on two men trying to bring down a human trafficking organization is terrific. The action sequences are terrific, the story is solid, and Ron Perlman adds some great acting chops as the main villain. It’s a serious film — no quips or one liners here — but for a modern day action movie (a genre that’s sorely lacking in quality entries these days — it’s a winner for sure.
- The Runner – Nicolas Cage stars in this drama about a BP Oil executive whose life starts to unravel in the wake of the BP Oil Spill. So while it’s not exactly based on a true story, it does take its inspiration from a real-life event. This is one of those films in which Cage seems to have remembered that he can actually act, and while it’s not a must-see or anything like that, for a direct-to-video Cage film, it’s not bad at all.
- Citizenfour – Celebrated documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras brings us this film that occasionally plays out like a thriller. Capturing a series of meetings between Poitras and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the film recounts Snowden’s journey but also gives us a glimpse at the man himself, and what his life became after he revealed the goings-on of the NSA. I don’t think it’s as amazing as I’ve heard some critics proclaim it, but it is a pretty powerful film.
- Iris – Another documentary heavyweight, the ate Albert Maysels, delivers his final film posthumously with Iris, a look at New York fashion maven Iris Apfel. How you can be a fashion celebrity and wear gigantic glasses like hers is beyond me, but this is a colorful look at an even more colorful character. Did the world need a documentary about her? No. But since we have one, at least it’s enjoyable.
- Camilla Dickinson – Adelaide Clemens, Cary Elwes, and Smantha Mathis star in this adaptation of the celebrated literary work about a 15-year old girl whose world expands upon the eve of her parents’ break-up. It’s a measured, restrained piece, and while it does have some excellent performances, the pace is slow and it’s really only for people who enjoy period dramas.
- Easy Money / Men At Work – I love collections like Shout Factory’s newest double feature, which collects a Rodney Dangerfield movie with one of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez’s few co-starring films. Easy Money is pretty typical Dangerfield territory, but Men At Work is something of a gem. It’s not a laugh-out-loud comedy, but as written and directed by Emilio Estevez, it’s an endearing little oddball comedy that gets more and more over-the-top as it goes. If you’re a Brat Pack fan from way back like I am, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
- Gene Autry Collection 11 – Western fans will be happy to see the Gene Autry Movie Collection 11, yet another release from the legend’s vault. This set features four fully restored films from Autry’s personal archives, including The Singing Cowboy (1936), Guns And Guitars(1936), Round-up Time in the Rockies (1937), and Springtime in Texas (1937). Whereas previous sets before this have focused on the ’40s and ’50s, this one stays squarely in the mid-1930s, with each film in black and white. With as many films as Autry starred in, this collection can go for a long time, but I’m pleased to see that Timeless Media is committed to keeping these sets coming at a quick clip.
- Welcome to New York – Gerard Depardieu turns in a powerhouse performance in an otherwise uneven film by controversial filmmaker Abel Ferrara. Based on the real-life events surround French finance minister Dominic Straus-Kahn (albeit fictionalized slightly and with different character names), the film sees a man who thinks he is untouchable satisfying his lustful cravings at any cost. It’s at times difficult to watch and not exactly a fun movie, but it’s powerful and well-acted.
- Transformers Rescue Bots: Dinobots – As a Transformers fan from my own childhood, Rescue Bots doesn’t really do a whole lot for me as an adult. It’s simple, kid-friendly animation that plays out a lot like Batman: The Brave and the Bold or Marvel Superhero Squad Show, only with Transformers instead of superheroes. And instead of fighting evil, these Rescue Bots do things like put out fires and stop floods. But my kids like it a lot. Transformers Rescue Bots: Dinobots introduces the popular Dinobots characters in new iterations and was a welcome DVD in my house. My guess is it will be in yours, too.
- Metamorphosis / Beyond Darkness – Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint delivers a double feature of cult horror with this newest release. I’ve learned that with Scream Factory releases, you can usually tell what kind of movie you’re going to get by how many come in each release. Most of their single film releases are cult classics of the best kind. When you see two films included in one release, things get a little bit dicey. There are no name actors in the films, and one of them is directed by the director of cult classic Troll 2, so you don’t get anything great. What you do get is low-budget horror shlock that will satisfy a very certain audience looking for science-gone-wrong and demonic hauntings.
- Nickelodeon Favorites: Puppy Palooza – This latest multi-show collection from Nickelodeon includes episode of Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies, Paw Patrol, Team Umizoomi, Blue’s Clues, and Mutt N Stuff. As always, these discs have a theme, and this one is pretty easy to figure out: puppies. Six episodes total are included and the price point is pretty low, so this is a good one for kids who still have a few weeks left before school starts.
- Clive Barker’s Origins: Salome And The Forbidden – This DVD collects two short films from Clive Barker’s student years from the very early ’90s. On the plus side, one of them stars Doug Bradley, who would go on to become known as Pinhead. On the negative side, these are 25-year old student films. They’re interesting sure, but they’re more curiosities than they are full-fledged viewing experiences. They would have made better DVD extras than their own release. I’d say this one is for Barker die-hards only.
- Animals – A small film with an unknown cast, this movie about love and drug addiction is surprisingly good. Base don the writer’s real-life experiences, we see a couple struggling to survive a devastating addiction, and the cost it has on them and their lives, as they face homelessness, helplessness, and desperation in the throes of a powerful need. Impressive stuff from a bunch of unknowns.