Out This Week: Spotlight, The Good Dinosaur, The Lion Guard, Fargo, & More!

Spotlight

Spotlight – Nominated for six well-deserved Academy Awards, Spotlight is absolutely fantastic. Telling the true story of the team of reporters who cracked the conspiracy that saw the Catholic Church covering up for dozens of priests in the Boston area who had been involved in child abuse, Spotlight is a serious film without being bleak or depressing. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Live Schreiber, and John Slattery are all excellent, and the film works on every level. I’m a sucker for a good journalism movie, and Spotlight is a GREAT journalism movie. Fascinating, compelling, moving, and intelligent, Spotlight probably won’t take home all the Oscars but is highly worth watching anyway.

TheGoodDinosaurThe Good Dinosaur – I wish I could say that I was blown away by The Good Dinosaur, but I wasn’t. And sadly, that’s no real surprise for me. I’ve long been of the opinion that Pixar films are highly overrated; the majority of their movies are films I like but don’t love. I don’t understand why every film they put out gets touted as some kind of new classic. And I don’t revel in movies doing poorly at the box office, so it’s not like I’m celebrating the fact that it became the lowest-grossing Pixar movie since A Bug’s Life. But it does prove that Pixar movies aren’t great just because they’re Pixar. The Good Dinosaur isn’t a bad movie per se, it’s just not great. It’s certainly not a classic.

SecretInTheirEyesSecret in Their Eyes – If anyone was going to like Secret in Their Eyes, it was me. Besides being a huge fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman (and I like Julia Roberts, too, of course), I’m actually also a huge fan of the film’s writer-director Billy Ray. Ray, who sounds more like a wannabe country singer, has written such films as The Hunger Games and Captain Phillips, but he’s also directed such top-notch but underrated films as Shattered Glass and Breach. Based on an Oscar-winning Argentinian film, Secret in Their Eyes is a dark, haunting film that straddles the line between drama and thriller, and there’s no denying the power of the performances. I haven’t seen the original (which I understand is phenomenal) so I can’t compare, but on its own merits SITE is a solid film, if a bit underwhelming overall.

TheLionGuardThe Lion Guard: Return Of The Roar – For a while, Disney was cranking out direct-to-video sequels to all of their most well-loved movies. The majority of them actually weren’t bad, but a few years back, they decided to knock it off and stop producing them altogether, which most fans were completely okay with. So what led to the release of The Lion Guard, a semi-sequel of sorts to The Lion King? I have no idea. But the film is perfectly fine in the way that so many of the other Disney sequels were. This time around we meet Kion, Simba’s youngest son, as he leads the Lion Guard with a cast of new characters: Bunga the honey badger, Fuli the cheetah, Beshte the hippo and Ono the egret. The film doesn’t sully the memory of The Lion King, but it’s nowhere in the same league as it, either.

Fargo2Fargo: Season Two – I appreciate a TV show that knows when to let things go. As great as the first season of Fargo was, trying to continue the story directly would have been a disaster. Instead, we get a new season of Fargo with a new cast and new characters, Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, and Ted Danson chief among them. Like the first season of Fargo, this one is darkly offbeat and equally involving, with a storyline set in the late ’70s against the backdrop of a mob war. I liked the new cast and I found the storyline engrossing, and I love that FX didn’t try to force a sequel where it wasn’t warranted.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Extraction – Bruce Willis, Kellan Lutz, and Gina Carano star in this tepid action thriller. One of those three is a good actor, but unfortunately, even the presence of Bruce Willis can’t save this film. Largely that’s because I can’t remember the last movie I saw Willis in that he wasn’t just phoning things in for a paycheck. I’ve seen worse direct-to-video action films, but this one won’t do anything to get you excited.
  • My All American – What is it about sports films? They’re so hard to get wrong. I honestly can’t think of a single sports film that I actually hate. Some are less great than others, but I can genuinely say that I love most sports movies more than I love sports. (Of course, I’m not a huge sports fan, but… details, details.) Aaron Eckhart stars along with Finn Witrock in this true story of Texas college football icon Freddie Steinmark who had a short-lived football career. I won’t tell you why, but despite the film being pretty by-the-numbers, it’s still a very enjoyable, easy-to-watch film. Great for any sports fans.
  • Jesus Of Nazareth: The Complete Miniseries: 40th Anniversary Edition – Acclaimed director Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo & Juliet) directs and Robert Powell plays the titular character in this groundbreaking TV miniseries, but its the supporting cast that really lends its weight to the proceedings. Olivia Hussey, Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, Valentina Cortese, James Earl Jones, James Mason, Ian McShane, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pleasance, and Sir Laurence Olivier all co-star in this telling of the life of Jesus Christ. I’m not a religious guy, and I don’t know if I needed a whole miniseries, but it’s hard to deny that this is a quality production, made at a time when TV miniseries were made with the treatment they deserve.
  • I Knew Her Well – The Criterion Collection releases this film by acclaimed Italian director Antonio Pietrangeli. This 1965 film about a party girl in Italy could only have been made in the 1960s. It’s the kind of movie that perfectly captures an age; both the age of the swinging’ 60s and the young age of the girl at the center of the film. It’s a lighthearted film with a deeper, darker side to it that never overpowers the fun. As this is a Criterion release, the film has been completely restored and remastered and comes with extra features including interviews and an essay booklet.
  • Entertainment – This is one of those films that critics and art house film connoisseurs have been championing, but I didn’t like it. The main character, Neil Hamburger, is a lonely, depressed, acerbic stand-up comedian playing a series of increasingly pathetic shows. When he gets a chance at a bigger show, he hopes to use it to reconnect with his daughter. The problem for me is that I find the character really unlikable, so I can’t root for him to get what he wants. It’s a well-made film that definitely fits into a certain type of indie genre (and it does have good supporting cast members like John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, and Michael Cera), but I’m just not the right audience for it.
  • Racing Extinction – If you’ve seen The Cove — which exposed the illegal killing of dolphins and was a truly powerful documentary — then you have some idea of what to expect from this film by the same director. This time around, the film focuses less on one species of animals and instead explores the world of black-market animal part sales. As with The Cove, it’s dark, powerful, disturbing, and at time heartbreaking. It’s heavy stuff, so it’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested in the subject matter or good documentaries, check this one out.
  • Millennium/R.O.T.O.R. – This double feature from Shout Factory is an odd one. Millennium is a decent (if aged and subsequently a bit cheesy) movie about a mysterious plance crash and time travel. I actually remember when it came out; I seemed to recall it being a decent sized hit, but according to IMDB it hardly made any money at all. But it was a mainstream enough film for me to remember my parents going to see it and it stars Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd, who make it work. Then there’s R.O.T.O.R., which is actually just embarrassing. Supposedly about robotic cops in the future (who are hardly in it) and despite some cool cover art, the film is almost unwatchable.
  • Diablo – Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood has been quietly starring in a string of Nicholas Sparks movies and faith-based films, but here he finally steps into his father’s shoes and stars in a Western. It’s hard not to like Eastwood just because of that, but this obviously isn’t of the caliber of any of Clint’s classics. It’s an uneven film that’s helped mostly by a strong supporting cast (Walton Goggins, Danny Glover, Camilla Bell), but I wouldn’t get it solely on the fact that it’s the younger Eastwood in the lead role.
  • Shaun The Sheep: Sheep On The LooseShaun The Sheep: Season Two – These two discs are the latest collection is the latest collection of 5-minute shorts from the creators of Wallace & Gromit. You might have seen these clever cartoons (all done in claymation) as interstitials (and later a regular series and movie) on Disney Junior, and they really are a lot of fun. What I especially like about them is that my kids think they’re hysterical, but as an adult I also really enjoy the humor as they’re very smartly written. You have your choice between a single-disc collection and a full season collection, ensuring plenty to watch for your kids.
  • Frankenstein – Xavier Samuel plays the role of the monster (named Adam) alongside Carrie-Anne Moss, Tony Todd, and Danny Huston in this modern-day adaptation of the Frankenstein classic that tells the story from the perspective of the monster. The film takes a more science-y bent and also touches on the alienation of people with physical deformities and mental illness, and it’s not bad overall. I’m a huge fan of Frankenstein and will watch almost any Frankenstein-related program, so I enjoyed this, but it has its flaws.
  • The Irish R.M.: The Complete Collection – British TV stalwart David Bowles stars in The Irish R.M., a show about an army man who becomes an R.M. (That’s a “resident magistrate” for us yanks) after he retires. Set in West Ireland at the turn of the 20th century, the show is ultimately a drama, but it has a lot of funny, lighthearted moments. Bowles is excellent in the lead role, and the show is charming, even if it takes a while to get the lay of the land (and the accents!)
  • The Curse / Curse II: The Bite – I honestly don’t even remember these ’80s horror films, which is somewhat surprising, especially since the first one stars WIl Wheaton. As a die hard Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand By Me fan, there are very few Will Wheaton outings I didn’t watch in the ’80s. Still, Shout Factory’s Scream Factory does fans a service by releasing this Blu-ray double feature, even if the movies themselves about mutating fruit, animals, and people aren’t really all that great.
  • Becoming Bulletproof – Even though Morgan Spurlock’s name is above the title, he just produces this documentary. But all that means is that while it’s missing that personal quirky touch that Spurlock brings to his films, it’s still a really cool documentary. It tells the story of an annual event that brings together hundreds of people to create a film from scratch — all starring and made by people with various disabilities. It’s a fun, unique, moving film, especially since I had no idea such a thing even existed.
  • Deserts & Life – Two discs, six hours, and six episodes about… deserts? This might be a hard sell for some people, but this PBS series explores the beauty, mystery, and natural wonder of these foreign landscapes, and its fascinating. We visit six deserts: the Namib in Africa, the Gobi in Mongolia, the Atacama in Chile, the Thar in India, the Great Australian Desert and the Judean Desert in Israel. They’re as individual and different from each other as cities are, and I was very interested in this excellent series.
  • Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! Season One, Part One – A few years back, there was a new Scooby Doo series that was the closest I’ve seen to the original shows (I can’t remember which series it is now, sorry.) It was clever and funny and full of nods to the original. This new show is — much like Rescue Bots below — clearly aimed at a younger audience, employing a looser style of animation. It’s not necessarily my favorite version of Scooby, but I can see why kids will enjoy it quite a bit. This two-disc set includes the first 13 episodes of Season One.
  • Transformers Rescue Bots: Adventures In Time And Space – Rescue Bots‘ simple, kid-friendly animation is a different take on the franchise, one that plays out a lot like Batman: The Brave and the Bold or Marvel Superhero Squad Show, only with Transformers instead of superheroes. And instead of fighting evil, these Rescue Bots do things like put out fires and stop floods. Of course, since the show is aimed at young kids, I’m totally okay with that. This latest DVD collection even sees the Rescue Bots travel into space, which is kind of fun.
  • Chuggington: Delivery Dash at the Docks – Six episodes are collected in the new Chuggington: Delivery Dash DVD. The show is sort of hipper, more fun version of Thomas & Friends. A cast of computer-generated train characters get into mischief and have various adventures, and along the way they usually learn a little something, too. My kids liked this show when they were young, although it never reached obsession level. I will say that one of the things I like about this show is that there’s a really good voice cast in this show. Chuggington is a fun little show for what it is, and this new collection will be sure to excite your children.
  • Carole King: Natural Woman – There aren’t that many songwriters that are famous more for their songwriting than their albums. And even though Carole King had a huge album with Tapestry, she’s largely known these days as a songwriter. This documentary tries to cover her life and career — and it doesn’t do a bad job — even though it’s less than an hour long. I’ve seen better music docs, but this is a nice, solid overview of King’s musical career.