Jurassic World – It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie, and I have to say that returning to the island of Isla Nublar was a welcome journey. Jurassic World doesn’t capture the great characters and jaw-dropping grandeur of the original film 22 years ago, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for with all-out action. In spades. This time around, we’re introduced to a new, smarter dinosaur, genetically engineered from a mix of other dinosaurs and animals. What could go wrong? Plenty, of course. It doesn’t take long before this bigger, meaner, nastier dinosaur is wreaking havoc throughout the entire park. And that’s where the fun comes in. The special effects are fantastic, and the numerous action sequences are fast and furious, yet choreographed well enough that you can always tell what’s going on — something that’s missing in so many of today’s action movies. There are a couple of really intense scenes that even almost border on being a horror film. The film’s biggest flaw is the script. It terrifies me that it took four people to write such a bland, pedestrian script. Any opportunities for wit or charm or cleverness are quickly swallowed up by the most mediocre dialogue you can imagine. Luckily, the film is so much fun that it doesn’t matter too much, but I wish Chris Pratt had gotten more of a chance to show off his roguish charm rather than just his steely-eyed gaze. Overall, though, Jurassic World is a big, loud, fun dinosaur romp.
Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Edition – One of the greatest movie trilogies of all time gets a shiny new re-release just in time for its 30th Anniversary, with no less than three new releases. First off, the Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Edition collects all three movies and adds a new bonus disc with over two hours of extra features. Then, for the first time ever on DVD, we get Back to the Future: The Complete Animated series, which features all 26 episodes of the short lived show. Finally, the Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures collects all of the above into limited edition, light-up Flux Capacitor packing. How cool is that? I’m as big a fan of the Back to the Future movies as they come, and I think these releases are outstanding.
The Larry Fessenden Collection – While not a household name, Larry Fessenden has developed a cult following thanks to his offbeat and challenging horror movies. This collection features four of his five major films (his most recent, Beneath, being the missing one.) No Telling is probably his most disturbing film, dealing with limb transplant experiments. Habit is a twist on the vampire story, while Wendigo is a somewhat more traditional monster flick (but of course, also not so traditional.) Finally, The Last Winter sees an all star cast including Connie Britton and Ron Perlman taking on supernatural forces in the arctic. Now, I like Fessenden’s films, but I’m not a die heard fan. This box set is a great package for fans, though, loaded with extra features and including a retrospective booklet.
The Vatican Tapes – When The Vatican Tapes first starts, you’ll think you’re in for a found footage movie. Luckily, that only lasts for a minute before you realize that it’s a traditional movie after all. Thank god. What you’re in for for the next 90 minutes is a top-notch possession thriller, anchored by an amazing performance by Olivia Taylor Dudley. Knowing that the film was directed by Mark Neveldine, one-half of the filmmaking duo Neveldine & Taylor (best known for a hyperkinetic style of filmmaking), I thought this might be some kind of jump-cut laden thrill ride. But instead, it’s a much more traditional film, with a style that’s much more subdued than we’ve seen from the director before. What really kicks the film into overdrive is the ending, which is utterly fantastic. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that I really loved the way this movie ended. It’s not the usual ending. Ultimately, The Vatican Tapes isn’t terribly different from any other possession movies we’ve seen, but it is well-made, well-acted, and suitably intense.
The Widower – Reece Shearsmith turns in a blistering performance in this three-part miniseries from PBS. Based on the true story of Malcolm Webster, a man who murdered his first wife and conspired to kill two more, this series is riveting from the first scene to the last. It follows a man who doesn’t start out to be a sociopathic killer down the path he ultimately takes, and you can see that in his mind, all of his actions are perfectly rational. Even with great co-stars like John Hannah and Archie Punjabi, it’s Reece Shearsmith who takes the cake here, with a truly amazing, multi-layered performance. I highly recommend tracking this one down.
Mike Tyson Mysteries: Season 1 – Surreal, absurd, ridiculous… these are all adjectives that apply to Mike Tyson Mysteries. The hit animated show is a riff on the old Scooby Doo cartoons, with Mike and his traveling band of companions (including a talking pigeon) solving crimes. Mostly. Or just getting into weird adventures. Regardless of how you feel about Tyson as a celebrity, it’s hard to deny that this show is so ridiculously over-the-top that it works better than you’d expect. This new DVD set collects the entire first season, which is a lot of laughs.
My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series – The great Ray Walston stars (alongside Bill Bixby, no less) in this classic sitcom from the mid-1960s, which is now collected in giant box set that contains all 107 episodes of the series. It’s a pretty traditional fish-out-of-water formula, but it pioneered the alien-posing-as-human story as a comedy goldmine. This is one of those shows that stands the test of time, and watching it now it doesn’t feel dated, just timeless. With a sterling collection of bonus features and more famous guest stars than you can shake a stick at, this is an amazing collection for fans.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight & Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood – These two horror movies from the ’90s tried to capitalize on the seemingly evergreen popularity of the Tales From the Crypt brand and the Cryptkeeper. The Cryptkeeper introduces both movies, but that’s about the totality of anything having to do with TFTC. What you get, then, are two solidly decent horror films that are silly and campy, but fun nonetheless. Demon Knight stars William Sadler and Jada Pinkett-Smith and is a classic small-band-of-people-against-supernatural-forces flick, while Bordello of Blood stars Dennis Miller (yes, that Dennis Miller) and Corey Feldman and is a sexy take on vampire action. Neither film is great, but they are fun to revisit, and each one comes loaded with bonus features.
- Z for Zachariah – Margot Robbie (my new favorite actress), Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine star in this post-apocalyptic drama about a woman who thinks she’s the last survivor on earth who then meets a mentally damaged man, and they form a relationship of sorts. All is going smoothly until Chris Pine shows up, and that’s when things get… tense. Now, I love this cast, and I’ll watch any movie that takes place after the end of human civilization, so I was predisposed to liking this one. And I did, but I didn’t love it, mostly due to the slow pacing. Don’t go looking for zombie action or major thrills, and you might also find some enjoyment in this one.
- The Wolfpack – What an incredibly bizarre story lies behind The Wolfpack. This documentary follows a group of six brothers who lived their entire childhood and adolescent lives in a New York City apartment, closed off from the outside world and only let out of the apartment a few times a year. With no internet, they turned to movies, and began watching and recreating them religiously. This film tells their story, and it’s a truly fascinating tale. Check it out.
- Olympus: Season 1 – I have to think that when you name the hero of your TV series “Hero,” maybe you’re not trying all that hard. Such seems to be the case with Olympus, which is some of the cheesiest television I’ve seen in years. Sort of a mash-up of various greek and Roman myths and legends, the show follows Hero on his quest to solve the Riddle of the Gods and become immortal. Only you won’t care if he makes it or not, because the show is just not very good. The special effects are awful, the writing isn’t much better, and the cast is okay at best. I’d have to say this one is for die-hard genre fans only.
- The Facts Of Life: Season 7 – The Facts of Life was a fact of life for just about anybody who grew up in the 80’s; I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who couldn’t sing (or at least hum) the opening song. While the show hasn’t aged all that well, there are glimmers of what made it so popular here. The show did tackle some decently After School Special-type topics, such as teenage sex, shoplifting, teen marriage, and even homosexuality, so it wears its morals on its sleeves, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Still, despite all the flaws, it’s still a fun show and a great nostalgia trip, and The Facts of Life: Season Seven will make many fans happy.
- Mr. Warmth! Don Rickles: The Ultimate Collection – This box set features three of Shout Factory’s recent releases wrapped up into one slipcover for about as complete of a Don Rickles collection as you can get. First up, you have The Specials, which includes four TV specials featuring Rickles and some major all-star guests. Then you have both seasons of CPO Sharky, his sitcom about a gruff military training officer. Added to that, you get a ton of new bonus features. If you’re a fan of Rickles, this is easily the set for you.
- I Spit on Your Grave 3: Vengeance is Mine – I’m pretty sure that I Spit on Your Grave didn’t need a remake, much less a sequel to the remake, much much less a sequel to a sequel of said remake. Yet here we are, with I Spit on Your Grave 3: Vengeance is Mine. Like the other films in the franchise, this one is all about gruesome kills, rather than anything actually scary or intelligent. Take a pass on this one.
- The Curse of Oak Island: Season 2 – The Curse of Oak Island is an intriguing reality series about a pair of brothers trying to find out the secret behind an island that people have been searching for treasure on for over 200 years. When a 250-foot man-made shaft was discovered on Oak Island in 1795, it began a quest that would last for centuries. This second season remains quite intriguing, but the lack of definitive answers can sometimes get frustrating. Still, worth a look for fans of treasure hunting drama.
- The Making of the Mob – This interesting AMC miniseries event tells the story of the birth of the Mafia, revealing the stories of Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and other notorious gangsters of the time. Rather than being a straight documentary, however, this one blends together dramatic reenactments to spice things up. And for the most part it works, only occasionally cheesy. Still, as someone who’s always been fascinated by these larger0than-life legends, I found this one very rewarding.
- Testament of Youth – Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington and Ex Machina‘s Alicia Vikander star in this period drama set during World War I. Based on a true story (and the memoirs of Vera Brittain), this is at tale about love and loss… heavy emphasis on the loss. Alicia Vikander is outstanding as usual (she’s impressed me in everything I’ve seen her in), and Kit Harington is terrific as well. It’s a heartbreaking film to watch, but also quite moving.
- Hungry Hearts – Adam Driver stars in this psychological thriller/drama about a man trying to protect his newborn baby from his wife, who develops a crippling fear of germs and tries to protect the baby to the point of doing it harm. It’s nice to see Driver in a dramatic well, and he represents himself quite well. The film is good if not great, but it’s definitely worth a look.
- Northern Limit Line – Based on the real-life Battle of Yeonpyeong from 2002, this slightly overlong movie tells us the story of the sailors onboard the fateful ship that became a part of a major skirmish. The first half of the film sets up the characters, while the rest of it sees most of the battle scenes. It takes a little too long to get to the action, but when it does arrive, it shows up with a bang.
- The Danny Kaye Show: Legends – This DVD collects six episodes of The Danny Kaye Show, which ran for four years. Cherry picking episodes that feature some truly stellar guest stars, this disc sees Louis Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Tony Bennett, George Burns, Shirley Jones, Liberace, the Righteous Brothers, and Imogene Coca all stop by the show. A great little gem for fans of Danny Kaye or classic Hollywood in general.