Pitch Perfect 2 – I firmly believe that the first Pitch Perfect is The Breakfast Club for this generation. Just like people nowadays still go back and watch The Breakfast Club while new generations discover it, I think Pitch Perfect will be that film 30 years from now. We’ll see special anniversary edition re-releases and theatrical screenings. I think it’s that good of a movie. So it would be impossible for Pitch Perfect 2 to live up to that greatness, right? Well, yes, but Pitch Perfect 2 is far from a disappointment. In fact, I genuinely enjoyed the hell out of it. Is it missing a little bit of the magic that made the first film so special? Yes, but only a little. If the first movie was a perfect 100%, then the sequel scores a terrific 90%. It’s extremely funny, and I laughed throughout the entire film. For my money, the biggest flaw is the sidelining of Skylar Astin’s Jesse character. Even though he’s still together with Anna Kendrick’s Becca, he really has little to do in the sequel and is barely in it, which is a shame because he was one of my favorite parts of the first film. That said, though, if you love Pitch Perfect like I do, you will definitely enjoy this one.
The Flash: Season 1 – I’ve been a huge fan of The Flash‘s TV counterpart Arrow since the very first episode. But at times, it’s moody overtones can get a bit heavy. Then the CW came along and added The Flash to the mix, which is the perfect response to Arrow. Whereas Arrow is dark and gritty, The Flash is fun, lighthearted, and energetic. Grant Gustin is terrific in the lead role, and the show has felt sure-footed from the very first episode. And while it started out very villain-of-the-week at first, by the second half of the season, the overarching storyline had turned The Flash into one of the most compelling shows on TV. It’s funny, action-packed, dramatic, complex, and exciting — everything good television should be. I love this show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to. You’ll love it too.
Arrow: Season 3 – Another one of my favorite shows — and admittedly I’m a comic book geek — this show based on DC’s Green Arrow comic books is an action-packed hit. With great action, tons of in-jokes for the comic book crowd, a charismatic leading man, and a few twists and turns along the way, Arrow works on just about every level. Arrow is like Smallville on an adrenaline rush, and I love it. Season Three was a little uneven, but the second half of the season really kicked things into high gear by upping the ante, changing the status of several characters, and expanding they overarching mythology. If you’re not watching Arrow, you’re missing out on some of the most exciting genre programming on television.
Moonrise Kingdom – I swear, I tried to give Moonrise Kingdom a chance. I typically hate Wes Anderson films. I’ve tried them many times and I always find them to be too precious, too smarmy, and too self-congratulatory. I typically don’t like the characters in the films, and I don’t care for Anderson’s visual style, either. Unfortunately, unlike The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I loved) it turns out it’s more of the same from Wes Anderson. Every character has a quirk of some kind (except for Bruce Willis, who’s the only likable character in the group), and the kids talk like adults throughout the whole film. More to the point, they talk like Wes Anderson. In fact, everyone in every Wes Anderson movie talks like Wes Anderson. Add to that some borderline pedophilia in the filmmaking, and this is a movie I disliked from literally the first frame. However, if you’re a Wes Anderson fan, this new Criterion Collection version that comes loaded with extra features is sure to be a hit.
Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection releases two films from acclaimed director Bruce Beresford this week. Breaker Morant is probably the more well known of the two, and it’s a powerhouse of a film. Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, and Jack Thompson star as a trio of soldiers on trial for war crimes that were likely the result of the British government using them as scapegoats. They’re defended by an under-prepared major, and the film is tense, dramatic, and extremely well-acted. Mister Johnson came about ten years later, and it’s a much more somber affair. Based on a 1939 novel, the film can be heartbreaking at times, but it does feature excellent performances by Maynard Eziashi and Pierce Brosnan. Both films have been restored and remastered and feature copious extra features, as per usual from Criterion.
Zathura, Jumanji & Indian in the Cupboard – A trio of family films make their Blu-ray debut this week. Zathura and Jumanji are based on the hit books by Chris Van Allsburg (author of The Polar Express), while Indian in the Cupboard is based on a book by Lynn Reid Banks. Of the three, Zathura is my favorite, likely because it was directed by Jon Favreau. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the movie that got him the Iron Man gig, as he went from small, indy fare like Swingers and Made to this sci-fi family adventure that was a lot better than it had any right to be. Jumanji has never been one of my favorite Robin Williams films, but I have to admit it was nice to go back and watch it and see him in action again. Finally, Indian in the Cupboard is a fun little family film about a magical box that brings toys to life, resulting in a bond between a boy and a miniature indian. It’s sweet and fun and has some great moments in it, even if the effects are a little dated now.
Modern Family: Season 6 – A brilliant show, Modern Family remains one of the funniest sitcoms in years, and it’s still one of my favorite shows. Everything about it is pitch perfect from the cast to the characters to the writing and everything in between. The show basically follows three segments of the same extended family: Claire & Phil, a married couple and their three tween/teen children; Patriarch Jay, his hot young wife from Colombia, Gloria, and her son Manny; and gay couple Cam and Mitchell (who is also Claire’s sister/Jay’s son) and their adopted toddler Lily. By now, you probably either watch this show or you don’t. For my money, Modern Family is the quintessential sitcom, If you’re still not watching it, you should be. Simple as that.
The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – This is what classic television is all about. I grew up watching this show, as I’m sure many of you did, whether in re-runs or when it originally aired. And you know what, it’s still funny. The great thing about The Carol Burnett Show is that the humor never focused exclusively on topical situations, so the comedy isn’t all that dated. Sure, some of the sketches aren’t surefire hits, but by and large, this is comedy at its best. This new 6-disc collection collects 16 rare episodes that have purportedly never been seen since they first aired over 40 years ago. On top of that, there are over five hours of bonus features. It’s hard to argue with what a great package this is for fans of the show!
Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:
- Results – How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders stars in this black comedy about a love triangle between two high-intensity fitness coaches and the shlubby client who may or may not come between them. Not quite a full-on comedy but not quite a drama, the cast (which also includes Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan) is what makes this one worth watching.
- The Sentinel – Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint continues their domination of the cult horror world with the Blu-ray release of this star studded offering. Despite the ’70s trappings, this film holds up very well and is actually quite creepy. And with a cast that includes Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Jose Ferrer, John Carradine, Burgess Meredith, Beverly D’Angelo, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger and Christopher Walken in supporting roles, this is one to track down.
- Saint Laurent – This French biopic of the fashion icon is an intimate and interesting look into the life of Yves Saint Laurent. A powerhouse performance by Gaspard Ulliel drives the film, but this is a warts and all biopic that reveals some of the truth behind the facade. At two-and-a-half hours, it’s a bit long, but it never feels bloated or dull, which is pretty impressive.
- The Journey Home – There’s a lot of talent involved in this family film, which includes not only actors Goran Visnjic and Bridget Moynihan, but also director Roger Spottiswoode, who helmed an entry in the James Bond franchise. The story follows a young boy who sets off on his own to return a lost polar bear cub to its mother, and as far as family films go, it’s actually pretty good. Anybody who likes animal/wilderness-themed adventure tales will enjoy this.
- The Nanny: Season 4 – How Fran Drescher ever got a show of her own is a mystery of unending proportions to me. The fact that said show was actually a hit is pretty impressive. Sure, she’s not terribly hard on the eyes, but that voice… it truly is like fingernails on a chalkboard. As for The Nanny itself, well, it’s actually not the worst show in the world. It’s a pretty typical sitcom; not terrible, not great. I will say that after watching enough episodes, it does become sort of like comfort food. It’s not overly exciting, but it goes down easy. If you liked the show when it was on the air, then this set is for you.
- The Red Road Season 2 – Hey, you know that other TV show that Jason Momoa starred in besides Stargate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones? No? Yeah, me neither. Apparently, he also found time to star in The Red Road, a Sundance TV original series in which he co-stars with Martin Henderson. A cop show that sees an odd couple pairing (although not in a comedic way) of a small town cop and a dangerous member of the Native American community around the town, this show will appeal to fans of fare like The Bridge and Longmire.
- Spongebob Squarepants: Adventures of Spongebob – I used to dislike Spongebob, but then my kids started watching the show and I’ve grudgingly come to like it — at least sort of. It’s still far from my favorite kids’ show, but I can at least now see the appeal. I even find it funny sometimes. This newest collection was a particularly big hit with my superhero-obsessed son, as it collects all of the episodes featuring everyone’s favorite aquatic superheroes, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. I get a kick out of these, too, as I like how they parody the cartoons I grew up with.
- CPO Sharkey: Season 2 – Earning the coveted “I’ve never even heard of the this!” award for the week (at least until Season 1 came out on DVD a few months ago), CPO Sharkey: Season 2 stars Don Rickles as a gruff (but secretly warm-hearted) Chief Petty Officer at a Naval training facility. Newly under the command of a woman and with a bunch of recruits of varying ethnic backgrounds, the show is a spotlight for Rickles’ brand of put-down humor. What’s funny is that many of the jokes in this show probably couldn’t make it on the air today, which make it kind of refreshing. For a series that’s 30 years old, I have to admit, I enjoyed this quite a bit.
- Frontline: Growing Up Trans – The LBGTQ lifestyle has been a hot-button topic over the last several years, with gay marriage dominating the headlines in recent days. This Frontline special eschews the politics of the time and focuses more on the real people behind the movement It profiles several people who have grown up as transgendered individuals and relates their experiences. It’s moving and troubling, but also uplifting at times.
- Pop Life – Sadly not an exploration of pop culture, this documentary instead focuses on new street drugs that are proliferating the culture; drugs you might not have even heard of like Molly. As with most drug-related programming, it’s serious stuff, but this film at least makes the somewhat depressing material interesting to watch.
- Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, DC – Dave Grohl and Henry Rollins are among the luminaries interviewed for this fascinating music documentary, which chronicles the punk movement from 1980-1990. Exploring DIY bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Fugazi, and many others, the film gives a sense of what it was like to be in the punk scene at that time and the influence it had on the music that followed. Pretty interesting stuff.