Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1 – I would not want to be Fear the Walking Dead. I mean, after five seasons of The Walking Dead being the most popular show in the world, the pressure to live up to unreal expectations must have been insane. Frankly, I think this show could have been the second coming of television and it still would have met with mostly disappointment. Unfortunately, it’s not the second coming of television, and I was somewhat disappointed with it, although ultimately I do like the show. I think my biggest problem with it is the fact that so many of the characters are whiny, annoying, or stupid that I WANT them to get eaten by walkers. I can count on one finger the number of characters who didn’t annoy me throughout the entire season and that’s a problem. But even over the course of just six episodes, the series improves from show to show, and I thought the end got pretty good. So there is hope for this show in the future. Just don’t compare it to The Walking Dead.
Zoolander: Blue Steel Edition – By now, you’ve probably seen Ben Stiller’s absurd and absurdly funny comedy about male supermodels. Well, just in case it’s been a while since you’ve watched it (and to cash in on the upcoming Zoolander 2), Paramount has released a new collector’s edition of the film on Blu-ray. This nice package comes with a Steelbook-case version of the film, an AWESOME Zoolander headband (with Zoolander hair!), and a free ticket to see Zoolander 2 in theaters. Pretty cool!
Mississippi Grind – Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn star in the gritty gambling drama. Does the world need another gambling drama? Not really. Is this one worth watching? Absolutely. Reynolds and Mendelsohn are both in top form here and while the story doesn’t really do anything new, this film is much more The Color of Money than it is The Gambler (the Mark Wahlberg one. Kenny Rogers is sacrosanct!) If you don’t care for the gambling genre, then you may want to avoid it, but if you like the rush of watching other people lose money (and sometimes win it), this is worth checking out.
Downhill Racer – A very young Robert Redford stars with a kind-of young Gene Hackman (was he ever young?) in Downhill Racer, a drama about Olympic ski racing from 1969. Now, I love just about any good sports movie, so I was predisposed towards liking this anyway, but this is a pretty cool film. Redford is fantastic, Hackman is typically great Hackman, and the cinematography is really terrific. As this is a Criterion Collection release, the picture and sound has also been fully restored and remastered, and the disc is loaded with extra features. Very cool!
90 Minutes in Heaven – Hayden Christiansen and Kate Bosworth headline this faith-based drama about a man who is technically dead for 90 minutes and returns to life having apparently come face-to-face with god. The themes in the film deal with faith, strength, overcoming adversity, love, and family… basically the typical geography of a Christian film. Christiansen is pretty good in the lead role however, and Bosworth is great as well. It’s not really my cup of tea, but it’s a pretty solid film for the target market with good production values, a decent script, and nice performances.
Amy – Amy Winehouse is the subject of this critically acclaimed documentary that looks at the singer’s brief life and career. What makes this documentary so affecting is that it’s NOT talking heads interviews about Amy, but rather a B-roll of her life, filled solely with footage of her, snippets of conversation with her, and — most importantly — footage of her singing. It feels very intimate and personal, yet it also feels like it gives you a full glimpse into her life and success. I’m not a huge fan of hers musically, but this film definitely made me appreciate what the world has lost.
Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:
- Some Kind of Beautiful – Pierce Brosnan, Jessica Alba, and Salma Hayek star in this charming romantic comedy about a man who falls in love with the older sister of the young student he accidentally impregnates. From there, the film falls into pretty typical rom-dramedy territory, but it’s territory that nobody does as well as Brosnan does. I really enjoyed this fun little film, and you will too.
- Cooties – Imagine if you took Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty and flipped it so the monsters were the students instead of the teachers? Well, then you’d have Cooties, which stars Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson as the beleaguered teachers in question. But rather than going for a horror vibe, this movie goes much more for comedy, and it is as over-the-top and ridiculous as they come. Which is, of course, most of the fun. Worth a look.
- Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo – Schumer spends almost all of her one-hour set here making jokes about sex, dating, and the like. She rarely ventures off topic, and the audience seems to love it. Me, I find her amusing, but I don’t think I laughed out loud once watching the show. I chuckled or smirked, mostly, and that’s not terrible, but when I watch stand-up I look for those comedians who really hit it out of the park. Amy Schumer hits maybe a double, but that’s not bad.
- The Hunting Ground – Kirby Dick (This Film is Not Yet Rated) and Amy Ziering team up for this powerful and disturbing documentary film about rape on college campuses and the code of silence created by the schools involved. I don’t even know what to say about this movie other then it will enrage you, sicken you, and move you. This isn’t an easy subject to watch, but the film should be required viewing for any college student, teacher, or administrator.
- Get Santa – Jim Broadbent stars in this mash-up of Miracle on 34th Street, Elf and Home Alone that’s a surprisingly charming family film. Okay, so maybe that’s not the best description, but when a father and his young son team up to save Santa Claus from, well, the real world, the result is a cute, charming, funny film that kids and parents both will enjoy.
- Piggy Tales: Season 1, Angry Birds Toons: Season 2, Volume 1, Angry Birds: Stella – Season 1 – These three releases are each a big collection of all the various Angry Birds short cartoons that are built into the games and found online. Sure you can watch them for free, but it’s nice to have them on DVD all in one place where your kids can watch them over and over again without having to steal your iPad.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Revenge – I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since their early days as a black-and-white comic book aimed at adults, and I’ve never let go of that fandom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the current Nickelodeon show is the best version of the Turtles I’ve seen in over 20 years. It manages to find inspiration in the original comic books, infuse some flavor of the original cartoon, capture some of the feel of the movies, and even give it a bit of a video game flavor. It takes all of the best and various versions of the Turtles and mashes them up into one utterly terrific show, packed with action and filled with humor.
- Roger Waters The Wall – I’m not a terribly huge Pink Floyd fan, so I don’t have a lot to say about this concert experience of Roger Waters performing The Wall. I can say that is excellently shot, the sound is terrific, and the music sounds good. I don’t know the songs inside and out like most people do, but nothing sounded off or bad in any way. If you’re a Pink Floyd fan, I have to imagine this release is a pretty big deal for you.
- Tokyo Tribe – You don’t hear the term “action musical” bandied about much these days, but this adaptation of the hit manga series certainly qualifies as one. In one of the most love-it-or-hate-it films I’ve seen in quite some time, Japanese street gangs rap, battle, rap-battle, and then do it all again. Its like watching a live action version of the most over-the-top video game you’ve ever played. Imagine The Last Dragon on hallucinogenics. Enjoy!
- The Bold Ones: The Lawyers – The Complete Series – This DVD collects the entire one season of a show I’d never heard of. I don’t say that to be rude, I’d just simply never heard of this show. It’s a weird format, with this being the third season of The Bold Ones, but with each season being basically a brand new show. This time around, we get Burl Ives in a rare dramatic television role as a high powered lawyer. While it’s obviously a little dated now, it’s a terrific legal drama that mixes the law with personal interactions.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIV – This latest collection brings us four new riffed-upon movies: Viking Women Vs. The Sea Serpent (aka The Saga Of The Viking Women And Their Voyage To The Waters Of The Great Sea Serpent), War Of The Colossal Beast, The Undead, and The She-Creature. As always, there really isn’t anything here that you won’t find on many other MST3K releases out there, although I do like these box sets over the single movie releases. You get four movies, copious extras, and plenty of laughs. Hard to argue with that.
- Jerusalem – Benedict Cumberbatch narrates this documentary film which is more epic travelogue than true documentary. Originally created for IMAX theaters, this film isn’t as powerful on home video, but the gorgeous scenery, amazing cinematography, and Cumberbatch’s skillful narration still make it an exhilarating movie experience.
- Goodnight Mommy – Dark, quiet, disturbing, beautiful, creepy, engrossing… these are all words which can be used to describe this Austrian horror film. The story is about twin ten-year-old twins who are outside their house playing one day when their mother comes home, having apparently been in the hospital. She’s bandaged up and acting oddly, and things only get more intense from there. Not for the slasher crowd flick, but the relentless dread will keep you on the edge of your seat.
- War Pigs – Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Liddell, and Luke Goss star in this hard-hitting action film. Really, all I need to say is that the description includes the words “rag-tag unit” and I think you know what you’re getting here. And that’s definitely not a bad thing!
- Where Children Play – Where Children Play is a hard drama about a woman who ran away from her childhood, only to get sucked back into her old life when her mother passes away. I generally try and avoid melodramatic fare like this, simply because it’s not the kind of film I usually enjoy. I can’t say this one changed my mind about that, but it is well-acted and solidly written. So if this is in your wheelhouse, you’ll most likely appreciate it.
- Zero Tolerance – The king of bad acting and B-movie martial arts, Scott Adkins, returns with his latest actioner which is basically about a man getting his revenge on — well, everyone — for the death of his daughter. I mostly watched this one because it stars Dusten Nguyen from the original 21 Jump Street, who has made his return to acting in recent years. It’s okay; it would probably be better if Adkins could take a few acting classes.
- WB Archives Releases – The WB Archives (available exclusively online at WBarchives.com) has three new releases out this week: Latin Lovers, The Merry Widow, and The Girl Most Likely. Latin Lovers is a top notch musical romantic comedy starring Lana Turner and Ricardo Montalban, and directed by the great Mervyn Leroy. It’s easily my favorite of the three releases this week. The Merry Widow also stars Lana Turner, this time with Fernando Lamas, and it’s also a musical. It;s much more dramatic, based on an opera, and it’s a bit heavy handed for my tastes. Finally, The Girl Most Likely stars Jane Powell as a girl who can’t decide between three suitors, which include Tommy Noonan and Cliff Robertson. It’s a fun, lighthearted romp and it’s quite enjoyable.
- Huevos: Little Rooster’s Egg-Cellent Adventure – Usually, these imporeted-from-another-country-on-the-ceahp animated movies are given an all-star cast to try and draw in buyers. This one’s biggest names are Jon Heder and Jason Mewes. That might tell you something. Maybe if this one had been put out closer to, I don’t know, Easter, there might be some merit, but as it is, it’s not terribly good.
- I Hope You Dance: The Power and Spirit of Song – This is an interesting documentary that was spawned from the hit 2000 song by Lee Ann Womack called I Hope You Dance. The film looks at how the song was created and went on to become a mega-hit, but then it branches off and tells the stories of some people whose lives were affected by music, most specifically that song. It’s an interesting film, and a little cheesy at times, but mostly its heartfelt and will make you feel good.
- Jaco – Jaco Pastorius is a name known mostly to musicians and fans of music who like to dive into the really deep cuts. This film explores who Jaco was, the impact he had, his music, his life, his family. You not only hear from musicians like Flea, Joni Mitchell, Sting, Herbie Hancock, and Geddy Lee, but there’s also a bonus disc with an additional half-hour of interviews about the late musician. Great stuff for fans of music beyond the top 40.