Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – This fifth film in the popular franchise isn’t the best one, but it’s still a lot of fun. Personally I liked the fourth film better, but Rogue Nation does have a lot to like. Foremost among those things is Rebecca Ferguson, who plays a rival agent to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. She’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, she’s sexy, and she kicks a whole lot of ass. There’s a weird lack of dialogue in the film (I can’t imagine Cruise had any trouble memorizing the few lines he has), but Simon Pegg’s Benji does take a bigger role this time around, which was a smart move on the part of the filmmakers. MI:RN is a great action/popcorn flick, but it does feel like it could have been a little better.
Ted 2 – I have a love/hate relationship with the first Ted. I think it’s a very funny movie; I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh throughout it. But I don’t really like it. The characters are annoying, the humor childish, and there’s nothing about it that ever made me want to watch it a second time. It’s like I reacted to the base nature of the jokes, but there’s nothing that really endeared the film to me. But of course, the film was a huge hit, so a sequel was inevitable. And this one is pretty similar to the first. It’s filled with lowest-common-denominator dirty jokes, and a lot of them are funny. I did laugh. But it’s not a movie I can really say I liked. I guess if you do like the first one, you’ll like this one two. Chances are good you’ll at least laugh.
Extant: The Second Season – Why is it that Steven Spielberg makes such great movies, but then as soon as his name is attached to a TV show, it ends up being half as good as it could be? Terra Nova, Seaquest, Smash, Falling Skies… all these shows have their fan bases, but I didn’t love any of them, and none of them were out and out hits (with the exception of Falling Skies.) Extant, unfortunately, falls into the same trap. It wants to be really smart sci-fi, and it is. But it’s too smart. Somewhere along the line, the show runners trade in all the smarts for any trace of emotion. Extant is one of the coldest shows I’ve seen on TV in years. From the sets to the lighting to the characters to the acting, everything about this show is cold. There isn’t a trace of warmth to it. And while I appreciate its trying to elevate some lofty ideas onto mainstream television, the end result is that it’s just… boring. Even adding Jeffrey Dean Morgan — an actor I’m a huge fan of — to this season can’t save the show, although he does give it a little spark.
Marco Polo: Season 1 – Netflix has made a lot of strides in the streaming television world, with almost every show they put out becoming buzzy, talked-about hits. Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Daredevil, Jessica Jones… the list is growing every season. So how did Marco Polo seem to fall into a layer of obscurity? I haven’t heard anyone talk about it at all, and honestly, I forgot it even existed until the new Season 1 Blu-ray crossed my desk. Now that I’ve watched it, I guess I can understand it. It’s not that it’s a bad show, but it is sort of a period dynasty drama/action show that I think appeals to a limited audience. Like series such as Spartacus and Rome that both only lasted three seasons, I just don’t see the average Joe TV watcher getting caught up in the layered drama and complex plot lines of this show. It’s okay, but it’s not great.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Zombie High – First things first, this is NOT a zombie movie. Instead, it’s more like a Stepford High School film, a 1987 horror outing starring Virginia Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn, and Paul Feig (yes, the director of Bridesmaids.) There’s no way to classify this as a “great” movie, because it’s really not. It’s the kind of film that most actors in it will probably want deleted from their resume. But it’s also a certain amount of fun, and I enjoyed it. Sure, I have a soft spot for Virginia Madsen and Sherilyn Fenn, but I also enjoy any kind of Body Snatchers story, and this is one is fun, even if it’s as cheesy as can be.
- The Car – James Brolin stars in this 1970s cult horror flick about a demonic car killing people in a small town in the midwest, and honestly, he’s the best thing about it. The film has a great concept and some fun moments, but it’s cheesy, cheesy, cheesy. The car death sequences are more silly than scary, and the script and acting are both pretty awful. Brolin comes out of it unscathed, but this one is for die hard fans only.
- Wolf Totem – Director Jean-Jacques Annaud is known for making films filled with dazzling imagery and little dialogue. His film The Bear was an international hit that just celebrated its 25th anniversary with a new Blu-ray release. Now, his latest film comes to disc, and it’s typical Annaud: when a young Beijing student is sent to live among the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia, he must face off against both wolves and humans. While this one does have a storyline, it’s the imagery and emotion that carries the film. Plus, it looks gorgeous on Blu-ray.
- The Dungeonmaster / Eliminators – I’ve long said that when it comes to Shout Factory’s cult-horror Scream Factory imprint, you can always tell what you’re in for by the number of movies on the disc. One movie, you’re safe; two movies… eh, not so much. This double feature includes The Dungeonmaster and Eliminators, two incredibly dated films from the ’80s. The Dungeonmaster is not a Dungeons & Dragons movie, but rather a horror flick of sorts about a young computer who who must play for his life. Eliminators boasts one of the best plot lines ever, about a “mandroid” who teams up with a mysterious woman and a ninja(!) to get revenge on the scientist who created him. There’s some cheesy fun to be found here, but neither of these films is great.
- The Surface – This homosexual drama follows a young man who finds himself torn between his boyfriend and a new man whom he meets through a nostalgic encounter. There are some unique elements to the filmmaking, utilizing home-video style footage and voice over, and the result is a solid drama that will please fans of the romantic genre.