Sisters – I’ll admit, my expectations for Sisters weren’t all that high. Mostly because I was expecting another Bridesmaids/The Heat situation, where the movie was mostly loved by everyone and highly overrated but not all that good. Of course, the difference here is that Sisters wasn’t directed by Paul Feig as the aforementioned two films were, and that is a very good thing. Right at the two hour mark, Sisters is still a bit too long but that’s really the only thing going against it. It’s fun to see Tina Fey play against type as the brashy, trashy sister, while Amy Poehler turns the awkward-meter up to 11. The result is an extremely funny film with a solid story and a great relationship at its heart. I laughed almost the whole way through, and that’s a very rare thing for a comedy these days.
The Big Short – Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt in a movie together? That’s gotta be worth watching. And while I’m sure a lot of (maybe female?) viewers would have preferred this to be a comedy set on a beach somewhere, the resulting film is still highly worth watching. It’s a bit long and you definitely will get a bit confused if you’re not familiar with stocks, bonds, and housing markets but overall, I still found myself sucked into it from start to finish. It’s a true ensemble piece (Christian Bale never even appears on screen with any of the other actors) and everyone, even the supporting cast made up of a mix of recognizable and unknown actors, is terrific in it. Don’t be intimidated by the subject matter — and don’t feel like you have to understand every single term, either — and you’ll really enjoy this one.
Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip – I watched this my kids, and I definitely enjoyed it as much as they did. There’s a slight possibility that I might have even liked it more than they did. It’s not that it’s some revolution in filmmaking, but I’ve always found the Alvin movies very entertaining and this one is no different. In fact, there are some moments in it that had me laughing out loud. This time around, the Chipmunks go on a forced road trip of sorts to try and stop Dave from proposing to his new girlfriend. Along for the ride is her son, a sullen teenager with abandonment issues. There’s a definite influence from Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and the result is fun — dare I say it — for the whole family.
Game of Thrones: Season 5 – It’s easy to feel like you’re sick of hearing about Game of Thrones, especially if you’ve ever been on the internet. But it’s hard to deny that the show is extremely impressive. It’s like a big-budget fantasy epic film that happens to be split up into hour-long chapters. After a season-long wait, Season Five has finally been released on Blu-ray. As I only watch this show on disc and have to avoid spoilers all year long, it was nice to go in and find some surprises and still enjoy watching the show. Of course, the season-end cliffhangers (no spoilers here) were hard to avoid hearing about (but soooo worth watching), but there are still some nice twists and turns along the way. While I’m not the massively obsessed fan that some people are, there’s no doubt that I really enjoy Game of Thrones. Now begins the wait for Season Six.
The Manchurian Candidate – I was pretty young the first time I saw The Manchurian Candidate, and it quickly became a favorite film for me. As a kid, I was obsessed with anything to do with conspiracies, mind control, secret plots… all the fodder that good science fiction springs from. And while The Manchurian Candidate is much more of a paranoia thriller than a science fiction film, it certainly fit into my wide view of the genre at the time. Watching it now on the all-new Criterion Collection edition (with remastered and restored sound and picture and copious extra features), I was glad to see how well the film holds up. Frank Sinatra is terrific in the lead role, and the film’s plot is more than a little believable. This is a terrific release that should find its way onto your shelf.
Carol – Ah, Carol. Oscar-nominated performances, critically adored film. Here’s the problem with Carol: it’s an extremely well-made film. The performances ARE terrific and deserved to be nominated for multiple awards. The cinematography is beautiful, the script is strong… there’s really not much about the film that doesn’t work. So what’s the aforementioned problem, you ask? Well, the film just never really got me engaged. I have absolutely no problem with the content of the film, I just found the whole affair a bit… cold. It’s a drama through and through, and it’s the kind f movie that — while clearly of very high quality — I find a bit on the dull side. That said, I think a lot of people will do more than just appreciate this film, which is the category that I found myself in; I’m sure there are people out there that will definitely enjoy it as well.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine – I’m starting to lose count of how many movies I’ve watched about Steve Jobs. Now, I’m an Apple product addict, and I found Jobs fascinating, and even I’m starting to get a bit tired of watching movies about him. That said, this no-holds barred documentary by famed documentarian Alex Gibney is a cut above the quick and cheap documentaries that flooded the market after Jobs’s death. This one plays out like a feature film (which, obviously, it is) and the result is a movie of extraordinarily high quality. At the end of the day, though, I much rather watch the brilliant and underrated Steve Jobs with Michael Fassbender again rather than another documentary.
- Invasion U.S.A. – Okay, Invasion U.S.A., let me get this straight: Your big plan to invade the US is to land a handful of boats on a beach in Florida, unload a couple hundred men, load them into 40 or so trucks, and have them drive to big cities all across America? That’s how you’re going to take over our country? Even better, I like the part of your plan where your evil mastermind takes his big rocket launcher and wreaks complete havoc on… a residential neighborhood!! Yep, blowing up five houses on a random street (actually the corner of First and Second streets, how great is that?) in a suburban neighborhood is a good use of ammo, and the perfect way to take over a country. The bottom line here? Chuck Norris. Blu-ray. Enough said.
- Braddock: Missing In Action III – Always sort of the poor man’s answer to the Rambo films, the Missing in Action franchise nonetheless scratches a certain itch. And while this third in the series is a case of diminishing returns, it’s still rather enjoyable in a very ’80s kind of way. This time around, Check Norris has to lead a group of children to safety in a war-torn Asian country and the resulting body count would do John Rambo proud.
- Mayday – Aiden Gillen, Sophie Okenedo, Peter Firth, and Leslie Manville star in this British TV series which takes a break from the usual cops ‘n’ robbers format to instead bring us a show that has a mystery at its core, but is much more about the characters that inhabit this pagan-inspired town. Kind of like a cross between Broadchurch and The Wicker Man, Mayday is a very unique show, but it’s no less gripping than a more traditional series. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path.
- New Tricks, Season 12 – Speaking of British cop shows, New Tricks feels exactly like your standard American police procedural, but with actors that look like normal people and not models. New Tricks follows a police crew made up of older officers that investigate cold cases, not using advanced DNA testing, but simple old fashioned investigative techniques like interviewing people and piecing together the scenarios logically. Naturally, this begs the question of why the cases went cold to begin with if they are so easily solved each episode using such simplistic methods. Suspension of disbelief, I suppose. Each episode begins with a new case being given to the team and they proceed to investigate it before arriving at the sometimes shocking conclusion of who the killer was. Think Scooby Doo, but with older British men and women and no haunted amusement parks.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Half-Shell Heroes – Blast to the Past – This animated special from 2012 was apparently a one-shot animated Turtles episode that came out just before the current cartoon started. I’m not sure if it was a test show or just something to hold people over, but it features the same voice cast and behind-the-scenes personnel as the hit animated series. At 43 minutes, it’s a double length episode, and it’s a lot of fun, even if it is somewhat of an anomaly. Still, for a Turtles completist like myself, it’s a must-have.
- The Hatching – I love man-versus-creature movies, and a few years back there were three really great killer alligator movies in a row (Black Water and Rogue were among them; I can’t remember the third.) The Hatching goes in a different direction, more like a British version of Lake Placid (another film I love), with comedy at the forefront while not giving up on some good scares completely. The result is a largely fun film, although it’s not as good as Lake Placid. Still, worth a watch if you like creature features that are a step above the Sharknadoctopusmeteorgator crap SyFy churns out these days.
- Cedar Cove: The Final Season – Andie McDowell stars in Cedar Cove: The Final Season. Based on the books by bestselling author Debbie Macomber, this is a pretty standard relationship drama show, the type that would fit right at home on Lifetime. Still, there are some good performances, and I suspect for the target audiences this show will be well-loved.
- The Nanny: The Final Season – It’s only been 10 months since last year’s The Nanny: The Complete Series box set was released, but in that time Shout Factory has managed to pump out all nine seasons in individual season collections. This release wraps it all up; however, it’s much more cost efficient just to go back and buy the whole box set. Still, if you’ve been chugging along all this time, no reason to quit now.
- My Boyfriend’s Back, Swing Vote, Just Visiting – Mill Creek has a few notable low-price-point rereleases on Blu-ray of some well-liked films: My Boyfriend’s Back, Swing Vote, and Just Visiting. My Boyfriend’s Back is a fun ’80s cult flick that sort-of predates the current zombie craze (although it’s to a traditional zombie film by any means) and it features a very young Matthew McConaughey, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Matthew Fox in small roles. Swing Vote is an underrated Kevin Costner film about a man who holds an American election in his hands with his single vote. It’s a film I like quite a bit, actually. Finally, Just Visiting stars Christina Applegate and Jean Reno about a pair of medieval Frenchmen who end up in modern day Manhattan. I had never seen the film before, and while it’s a bit dated, it’s also kind of fun.
- Dinotopia: The Complete Series – Okay, so Dinotopia: The Complete Series is not great. Even though 13 episodes were produced, only six were ever aired in the US. And while the series was released on DVD by Artisan Entertainment in 2004, that set is long out-of-print and the label defunct. And while the show isn’t great, I’m glad they released it again because now is about the time that all the kids who watched and loved the show are starting to get to the age where they’re going to go back and look for things they loved as kids. It’s that early 20s nostalgia for things you loved as a kid that will hit them, and this set will be there to fill the gap. And that’s a good thing indeed.
- Odd Squad: Dance Like Nobody’s Watching – Odd Squad is a fun little show for kids that my own children enjoy. It reminds me (more in a nostalgic way than because of any actual similarities) of shows I watched when I was a kid like 3-2-1 Contact and the like. It’s a group of kid sleuths who solve mysteries and teach kids about real life math applications, although in a subtle way. This 90-minute collection features an episode that sees the team up against a series of booby traps. What kid doesn’t love that?
- Addiction Incorporated – Now, I’m not the biggest documentary fan in the world, but this one is pretty darn good. Addiction Incorporated tells the story of Victor DeNoble, the man who blew the whistle on Phillip Morris and the entire cigarette industry, literally changing the world in terms of public knowledge about the dangers of cigarettes. It’s an incredibly engaging story and an important one as well, which is what makes for the best documentaries.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme: 5 Movie Pack, Spring Break Double Feature, & Sun, Sand and Sweat 4 Movie Set – Also from Mill Creek this week, we have some great low-priced themed collections. First up is Jean-Claude Van Damme: 5 Movie Pack. This one isn’t the cream of the crop, with mostly Van Damme’s lesser-known, direct-to-video films, but you do get Double Team (with Dennis Rodman), Maximum Risk, The Hard Corps, Universal Soldier: the Return, and Second in Command on Blu-ray for under 10 bucks. Sun, Sand and Sweat 4 Movie Set features cult classic Hardbodies as well as Spring Break, Private Resort, and Perfect. Private Resort features a young Johnny Depp and Rob Morrow, while Perfect (which doesn’t quite fit in this collection) stars John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. Meanwhile, the Spring Break Double Feature features just Private Resort (for Depp and Morrow) and Hardbodies (probably the most “famous” film in the bunch), for the more discerning ’80s Spring Break movie fans.