Editor’s Choice: The Best of Recent Weeks

MazeRunnerScorch

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials – I really enjoyed the first Maze Runner film, and I liked the second one even more. It’s not that it’s a more involved plot (although there is a little less mystery this time around), but the film feels more confident, more sure of itself. The action sequences in this one are heart-pounding, adrenaline fueled scenes of excitement, and without the maze trappings to rein them in, the film feels bigger and better. And I still say that Dylan Thomas is preternaturally good at carrying a film franchise on his young shoulders; this kids gonna be a big star, mark my words.

TransporterRefueledThe Transporter Refueled – I wasn’t expecting much from The Transporter Refueled. I’m a huge Jason Statham fan, so the idea of a Transporter movie without him didn’t really fill me with excitement. Maybe those lowered expectations were why I enjoyed the film so darn much. Ed Skrein is no Jason Statham, but he’s certainly a very capable replacement, seeming to channel the rugged charm of Statham with the good looks of Nicholas Hoult. Ray Stevenson is a lot of fun as The Transporter’s dad, and the four girls who drive the plot are all pretty easy to look at, even if they’re almost completely interchangeable (sometimes on purpose). But it’s action that you’re here to see, and TTR delivers in spades, with high-octane car chases and over-the-top martial arts and fistfights. If you’re looking for a really fun movie that doesn’t require much thinking, this is the one for you.

HitmanAgent47Hitman: Agent 47 – And then you have the other end of the spectrum. On the surface, there isn’t a whole lot about these two films that’s different. They both feature seemingly superhuman characters on a mission that involves killing lots of people. But whereas The Transporter Refueled is light and breezy fun, Hitman: Agent 47 is a dirge. The story is cumbersome, the characters have no personality whatsoever, and the whole thing feels dark, dull, and disinterested. I don’t know how two films can be so alike and yet so different, but I’d skip this one.

MomentumMomentum – Olga Kurylenko has been a supporting actress in a number of high-profile action films, but here she gets to headline and she completely kicks ass. Forget Gina Carano or Angelina Jolie as an action star; Kurylenko is sexy, strong, and unbeatable in an action scene, whether its a shoot-out or a fistfight. James Purefoy is also fantastic as a sadistic bad guy. The plot is fairly straightforward, but it doesn’t matter in the least. This is one of those under-the-radar gems that’s definitely worth tracking down.

AmericanUltraAmerican Ultra – Jesse Eisenberg as an action star? Sure, why not? There are so many good people in this movie: Eisenberg, Walton Goggins, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, even Kristen Stewart, I guess. And I kind of like the idea of a stoner/slacker dude secretly being a highly-trained secret operative. But the film can’t quite land on a tone; it isn’t sure if it wants to be a comedy or Die Hard. I’ve seen reviews that have savaged it, but it isn’t that bad. It’s just a very watchable complete mess.

GraceMonacoGrace of Monaco – Nicole Kidman is the lone bright spot in this Biopic of Grace Kelly, the Hollywood ingenue turned real-life princess. I’ve long been fascinated by Kelly (ever since I saw Rear Window as a kid), but this wasn’t the film I was hoping for. It focuses on Kelly’s time as the troubled Princess of Monaco rather than being a full-fledged biopic, and while that’s not inherently a bad thing, the film just isn’t very good.

91RdYYaBRgL._SL1500_You Can’t Take it With You – While not as famous as some of Frank Capra’s other works (like It’s a Wonderful Life), You Can’t Take It With You is one of my favorite classic Hollywood films. Starring a young Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur, this madcap comedy about a young lawyer dealing with an eccentric family is just the antidote when you’re tired of having the latest Judd Apatow “comedy” shoved down your throat. This is one of the few films I can think of where the word “zany” applies and it’s actually not a bad thing, but that’s really what it is. This new inaugural Blu-ray edition comes packaged in a nice Hardcover Book packaging, which is a fitting tribute to a great American director.

BloodRageBlood Rage – I love discovering old-school horror films that I know nothing about, and Blood Rage was one of those films. I had to assume there was some merit to this movie because — even though I’d never heard of it — the fact that it’s a three-disc release tells me that there’s some history to this film. It’s a crazy slasher flick that involves twins; one of whom is a crazy psycho. It’s very reminiscent of Black Christmas and early slasher films like that, and if you love cult horror, you’ll definitely enjoy this true cult classic. This three-disc set includesthree different versions of the film and a ton of bonus features. Cool!

AlwaysSunnyPhilly10It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 10 – It’s been a while since I’ve watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, because I genuinely don’t like the show. But I was curious to see what this show could possibly have to offer that could take it into a TENTH season. Ten seasons? Seriously? Turns out, it’s pretty much the same old stuff. I still don’t find it funny, although I can see why some people like it. It certainly fits a very particular sense of humor. I guess if that’s your thing, then you can look forward to this latest DVD collection.