The Hateful Eight – I wasn’t really sure what to expect with The Hateful Eight. I generally love Quentin Tarantino (although when I don’t like one of his films I usually REALLY don’t like it), but this one just didn’t look all that great to me. Plus, being almost three hours long seemed a bit much. That said, I ended up really enjoying the film. It’s very typical Tarantino, but it’s Tarantino in top form. Sure, the film is almost all dialogue, but it’s that juicy, pulpy dialogue that tells entire stories in just a few minutes of screen time. Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson are terrific, although I can’t for the life of me figure out why Jennifer Jason Leigh got nominated for an Oscar. My only real issue with the film is Tarantino’s excessive use of the N-word. Man, he loves using that word. It made obvious sense in Django Unchained (although it was excessive there, too), and even if it is historically accurate it sure feels like he’s throwing it in because he can. Other than that, though, this is a great film that’s a lot of fun.
Concussion – First off, let me say that Will Smith is absolutely fantastic in Concussion. His performance alone makes the film worth watching, and I felt like he should have gotten nominated for an Academy Award for his role here. That said, it’s a shame that Concussion is so incredibly boring. It turns out there are some events that don’t need entire movies to be made about them. Concussion is one of those examples. Basically, it boils down to this: Doctor discovers football related brain injury, NFL isn’t happy about it, NFL eventually accepts that it’s real. That’s it. Nothing more happens here. Because of that, the film has very little in the way of dramatic high or low points. It just sort of meanders along and then ends with a whimper rather than a bang. The cast is great, but there’s just not much for them to do except sit around and talk a lot. As much as I loved Will Smith in Concussion, the film would have been much better served if it was a simple one-hour documentary rather than a major theatrical release.
Point Break – Did Point Break need a remake? Absolutely not. Would this film have been better if it had just been called something else? Well… yes. On its own merits, Point Break isn’t entirely terrible. It’s like a surf/skate/extreme sports music video turned into a film with a bit of a plot thrown in. But when you name it after one of the great action movies of all time, replace Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze with less charismatic actors, and give all the characters the same names, the end result just feels… weak. As for a pure entertainment value proposition, it’s an easy way to kill two hours. Just don’t think of it as Point Break and you’ll probably enjoy it more. But not a lot more.
Cherry Falls – Cherry Falls is a great horror flick from about 15 years ago that has always managed to stay under the radar, even if I’ve never been able to figure out why. It’s got a great concept (a slasher is killing high school virgins, so the students start… well, you know), a good cast (Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr), and it’s a lot of fun. Granted, the killer’s identity is way too obvious, but as far as post-Scream slasher films go, it’s one of the better ones. Now it’s been released on Blu-ray for the first time via Shout Factory’s horror imprint Scream Factory, and I hope it gains a new audience because it’s really very enjoyable.
The Big Sleep & Key Largo – Available exclusively via the Warner Archive print-on-demand service at www.warnerarchive.com, these two Humphrey Bogart classics shine on Blu-ray for the first time. Key Largo is a terrific film, a potboiler that also stars Edward G. Robinson. The Big Sleep is one of the most seminal Bogey films, as not only does it co-star Lauren Bacall but it also marks the first time Bogey would play Sam Spade, the character he’d also portray in The Maltese Falcon, one of his signature movies. Both films look and sound great in high definition and they are two of Bogarts best films, so it’s really exciting to see them get treated well by Warner.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Exposed – Keanu Reeves and his Knock Knock co-star Ana de Armas star in this oddball drama/thriller that is hard to recommend. While the description in the box makes it sound like a standard cop film, it actually has a strong supernatural bent to it, although it’s definitely not a horror film. The film moves along at a decent clip for a while, but then it ends way too quickly, leaving you wondering what the hell is going on. Reeves is pretty solid overall and the film is intriguing and kind of unique, but it’s also kind of a mess. Be warned.
- The Sicilian – Based on a book by Mario Puzo and directed by The Deer Hunter’s Michael Cimino, The Sicilian stars Christopher Lambert as the apparently famous Sicilian outlaw Salvatore Giuliano. I wish I could say that this film is a revelation, but sadly it’s not. Christopher Lambert does give a terrific performance, but the film as a whole is a bit bloated and overlong. There is some nice cinematography and the film benefits from the Blu-ray treatment, but this one is for fans only.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXXV – This latest collection brings us four new riffed-upon movies: Teenage Cave Man, Being From Another Planet (aka Time Walker), 12 To The Moon, and Deathstalker And The Warriors From Hell. Side note: three of the four films in this set are from Roger Corman, king of the B movies. 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.
- Humans: Season 1 – Humans may be under the radar right now, but I won’t be surprised if it develops the kind of following that fellow BBC programming like Orphan Black has. Taking place in a world much like ours, the world of Humans has one major difference: here, robotic humans called Synthetics are commonplace. These robots become like part of the family for some people, but other people still don’t trust them. That’s a very oversimplified explanation of the plot of this series, which is a character drama with some interesting social commentary mixed in. It also follows a number of different characters in the way that the best TV shows do. Compelling, fascinating, and well-acted, this is a show that’s worth tracking down.
- Forsaken – Kiefer Sutherland and Donald Sutherland on screen together in the same film? I’m there, even if it is a western. And while it doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre, that doesn’t stop it from being a surprisingly good film. Michael Wincott adds the right level of menace as the film’s antagonist, but it’s really the interplay between Kiefer and Donald (playing father and son on screen as well) that makes the film worth watching. Throw in Demi Moore in a supporting role, and you’ve got a movie that’s worth watching even if you’re not a fan of the genre.