Creed – What will likely be the last Rocky movie with Sylvester Stallone might also be the jumping off point for an exciting new chapter of the franchise. Creed is a perfect bridge between two worlds; it’s a nice capstone to the Rocky films, while it also proves that Michael B. Jordan can easily continue this franchise on his own. Personally, as a die-hard Rocky fan, I’m disappointed that Sylvester Stallone didn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role. Regardless of that, though, I really enjoyed Creed and I’m glad it did well enough to warrant more films and perhaps build an all-new franchise and develop an all new generation of fans.
The Night Before – I heard a lot of critics say that The Night Before was “better than you’d expect” or things along that line. I think what they mean is that it’s not a bad film, and you probably were expecting one. I got pretty much exactly what I expected from it; a solid comedy with a few laughs, but nothing really all that special. And I think people expected the worst of it for one reason: Seth Rogen. Seriously, does anybody get excited to see Rogen in a movie anymore? With the exception of an out-of-the-box role like in Steve Jobs, he pretty much just plays the same character over and over again and makes largely the same movies over and over again. If you had given this movie to Joseph Gordon Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and somebody interesting, it might have been a hit.
The Danish Girl – Eddie Redmayne needs to do a romantic comedy. Or something a little lighter, because, man, he is going to burn out. After transforming himself into Stephen Hawking last year, this year he transformed himself into the first man to undergo gender reassignment surgery. And of course, his performance is fantastic, although it was the luminescent and amazing Alicia Vikander who took home the statue (and deservedly so) for Best Supporting Actress. As for the film itself, The Danish Girl is a terrific drama, if a bit heavy for a lot of viewers. It’s certainly not the kind of movie I’m going to pop in the player and watch again and again.
Childhood’s End – This SyFy miniseries is sort of a take off on the original V. What happens when aliens come to earth proclaiming to be here to help us? Do we trust them? Are they really here to help? What does it mean for the future of humanity. Based on an Arthur C. Clarke story, it obviously predates V, but there’s no denying that the DNA is similar. Under The Dome’s Mike Vogel stars as the human chosen to be the aliens’ ambassador to the people of earth. With some good production values and some recognizable faces in the cast, this is a pretty good miniseries. I love when SyFy aims high and with this one, they succeed in reaching their goals.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Miss You Already – Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore star in this bittersweet dramedy about two women who have been best friends for life, and the ups and downs they go through as they navigate life, love, and their own relationship. The film was directed by Twilight‘s Catherine Hardwicke and it’s an engaging enough film, although it really does fall into what I’d consider “chick flick” territory. That said, though, it’s not a bad movie at all, and the performances are pretty great all around.
- Don Verdean – Great casts do not automatically make great movies, but they do often result in okay movies, and that’s what Don Verdean is. Despite the presence of Sam Rockwell, Jemaine Clement, Amy Ryan, Will Forte and — ugh — Danny McBride, the film never quite lives up to all the onscreen talent. It probably boils down to the fact that it was written and directed by Jared Hess (who also brought us Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre), who just isn’t that great of a filmmaker, despite his one cult hit.
- The Wrong Man – The WB Archive (www.wbarchive.com) brings us another Alfred Hitchcock classic on Blu-ray for the first time. I love that we’re getting Hitch films in high def now. Sure, you can find all the usual suspects in a million formats: Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window… but The WB Archive is bringing us the non-household name movies, which are just as much fun to revisit as the big guns. This one stars Henry Fonda as a man falsely accused of a crime, and it’s every bit the rip-roaring Hitchcock yarn you’d expect.
- The Fall: Series 1 & 2 – Gillian Anderson stars in this British show about a detective on the hunt for a serial killer, played by Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Jamie Dornan. The first season came out on DVD last year, but now it’s been re-released on Blu-ray to accompany the newly-released second season. Anderson is in top form here and Dornan is suitably creepy as the serial killer, and the show isn’t afraid to go to some dark places. For those having X-Files withdrawal, I highly recommend this equally thrilling series.
- Drunk History: Season 3 – Drunk History sounds like a terrible premise for a show: people get drunk and talk about real history while celebrities lip-synch along to the drunken ramblings. Okaaaaayyy… sure. But when you add in stars like Justin Long, Johnny Knoxville, Stephen Merchant, Will Ferrell, Topher Grace, Ellie Kemper, and Jack Black, the results are pretty damn funny.
- Strikeback: Season Four – Cinemax’s first foray into scripted television is a lot like your watching a big-budget action film, with definite flavors of 24 and British hit show MI-5 in the mix. The show’s two lead actors are tough as nails and strongly charismatic, and the action sequences are real, big-budget affairs, and not the cheapie action you sometimes get from shows that can’t afford to do the things they actually want to do. What also works well is that the show isn’t all dark and gritty. There are moments of humor sprinkled throughout. It’s a shame it’s come to an end because I do enjoy it quite a bit, but it had a good run.
- Barbie: Spy Squad – Barbie, spies, adventure, and girl power… all in one movies? What more could your nine-year-old girl want? Universal continues their string of Barbie CGI animated movies (releasing five to six a year) with this latest one, which is one of the better ones I’ve seen (and I’ve seen more than I care to admit.) It’s great for kids, and the story is interesting enough to at least keep adults from falling asleep.
- Weaponized – Mickey Rourke and Tom Sizemore have co-starring roles in this sci-fi actioner, but it doesn’t do much to save the film. It’s basically just a generic sci-fi flick, with a little too much “been there, done that” to get excited about. Next generation soldiers? Yawn. Even Michael Pare can’t save it!
- Narcopolis – In what would make a terrific double feature of barely-trying, generic sci-fi flicks, Narcopolis could follow up Weaponized quite nicely. This one sees a future where all drugs are legal and — Gasp! Who saw this coming? — one of the big drug manufacturers is up to shady dealings. Like I said, there’s really nothing new here. The film isn’t terrible, but it just really doesn’t ever become anything all that cool.
- My Big Fat Greek Life: The Complete Series – I’m not ashamed to admit that I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s a terrific movie, and Nia Vardalos really does turn in a star-making performance. It’s a shame then that this follow-up TV series is such a dud. The laughs just aren’t there, and I don’t know why but even Vardalos doesn’t seem as likable here. It’s neat to see the show get released for a budget price, but this one is for die-hard fans only.
- The North Star – The North Star is a solid slavery drama about two slaves who decide to escape when they realize they’re about to be sold. They go on the run and use the north star to guide the while they avoid being recaptured. It’s not 12 Years a Slave, but it’s a well-made film with some heart and soul to it. A good cast includes Jeremiah Trotter, Thomas C. Bartley, Jr., Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, John Diehl, and Clifton Powell.
- Thomas & Friends: Start Your Engines! – Everyone’s favorite Tank Engine is back with a brand new DVD. As always, friendship and positive lessons save the day. What’s nice is that this disc features a varied cast, with stories spotlighting lots of different train cares. Kids who like Thomas won’t find much to change their opinion here.
- Digimon Fusion: Season 2 – Don’t ask me to explain the difference between Digimon and any of the other kids’ anime series that are out like Pokemon, Beyblade, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me. That said, watching this show, I can see how kids would get wrapped up in the fun of it, what with all the action, the cool creatures, and the somewhat relatable (if generic) characters. I’ll chalk this one up as “fun for what it is.”
- The Boy – David Morse and Rainn Wilson star in this creepy, moody thriller about a dad and his ten-year-old son who run a falling-down resort and are dealing with the absence of a mother figure. When a stranger befriends the young boy, we start to learn that the boy may not be all that he seems. To say more would spoil the story, but this one that I think some people will really like. It’s a dark film, and I don’t now that it was quite my cup of tea, but at least it sets out to do something different, and mostly succeeds.
- Capture The Flag – This fun animated adventure follows three kids (and a chameleon) who are on a mission to save the moon. Don’t ask me to explain the back story, but a lot of animated films that have come from foreign countries and then been given American voice casts lately have been pretty terrible. This one isn’t. Instead it’s a cute family film that the kids will enjoy and parents won’t lament having to watch.
- Sesame Street: The Cookie Thief – Okay, obviously you know what you’re getting with a Sesame Street DVD, but this quality collection features two hours of video, a fun story about Cookie Monster under suspicion of being an art their, and guest stars Rachel Dratch, Terry Crews and music group OK Go. Really, what more can you ask for?
- The Unauthorized Collection – This collection includes The Unauthorized Full House Story, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story, and The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story.I’m not sure why these behind-the-scenes movies have to be “unauthorized.” They’re about as tame as they come. If you’re looking for lurid tales of teenage sex and drugs or child abuse or who knows what, you’ve come to the wrong place. Instead, you get the “real” dirt told from the point of view of the actors involved.
- Future Cop: The Complete Series – Ernest Borgnine, John Amos, and Michael Shannon (but not THAT Michael Shannon) star in this cheesy but earnest TV series from 1976. Basically a 70s version of JJ Abrams equally short-lived Almost Human, the show follows two beat cops who get teamed up with a robotic partner who — of course — looks like a normal human. It’s obviously painfully dated, but there is a certain amount of cheesy fun to be had, and the budget price point is a plus.
- Paw Patrol: Brave Heroes Big Rescues – This is the newest DVD release of the popular new series for pre-schoolers. The show features six dogs and their 10-year-old friend who use cool vehicles to save the day and teach lessons about “good citizenship.” Its a fun show, and the young ones will love it.
- Kill or Be Killed – A cast of unknowns headlines this western which suffers from a low budget, but which I kind of liked. The reason for that is — despite its flaws — it focuses on a band of outlaws that are getting picked off one by one, and that’s a story format I’ve always enjoyed. The end result is a decent western that is nothing great but is at least watchable, and so many westerns don’t even qualify as that these days.