The Forest – Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer stars in this horror film that takes place in a forest where people go to kill themselves, based on a real-life forest in Japan that’s infamous for the same thing. And speaking of the same thing… I wish I could say that this was a really original or unique horror film, but ultimately it is kind of more of the same. Sure, the performance by Dormer is better than what we get from a lot of horror fare, but I just couldn’t really get excited about the film.
Village of the Damned – I have a real soft spot for this 1995 John Carpenter offering. Based on a classic horror film, this remake takes things in its own direction and comes across like a mash-up of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives. Christopher Reeve is terrific in the lead role; it’s always terrific to see him in non-Superman films as he was a great screen presence who never achieved the further success he deserved. This new Blu-ray edition also comes with a terrific making-of documentary that’s just under an hour long and is just as enjoyable as the film itself. I recommend this one highly!
Justice League vs Teen Titans – I generally enjoy DC’s Animated Universe movies, but I really didn’t like this one. I’m not going to blame the filmmakers outright, as some of my prejudices probably came into play. First of all, I absolutely hate the character of Damian Wayne, Batman’s snotty son who has taken over the mantle of Robin. He takes center stage here, which I’ve put up with for the past couple of Batman animated movies, but he’s just too much here. Also, the main villain in this outing is a Teen Titans baddie named Trigon, who I’ve just never found very interesting. Put it all together and I was extremely bored. But die-hard Teen Titans fans will probably enjoy it.
Heroes Reborn: The Event Series – I applaud NBC for rebooting Heroes, but I still can’t figure out where this show went so wrong. I loved the original first season, and — like most of the world — stopped watching part way through the second. I was intrigued, if not quite excited, by the idea of the show coming back with some old, some new characters. And here’s the thing: it’s not bad, not at all. But is it great? Was I excited by it? No. I watched it, it was interesting, I liked seeing some of the actors I like back for more, but ultimately I have to say that I think it’s best for die-hard fans only.
Only Angels Have Wings – Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Rita Hayworth star in this dark adventure drama that is sort of an under appreciated classic. Directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, the film is they type of film that could only have been made in the golden age of Hollywood. It follows a group of pilots in a South American port whose dangerous day-to-day routines are upended by the women who interject themselves into their lives. There’s romance, derring-do, tragedy, and adventure, and even some humor. It’s a great film that deserves the terrific Criterion Collection treatment, which equals restored and remastered picture and sound quality plus a bevy of extra features.
Grace And Frankie: Season 1 – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston are all terrific in this hit Netflix TV series. The premise is sort of an Odd-Couple-meets… well, I don’t know exactly what. Grace and Frankie are two women with nothing in comma at all, until their husbands leave the women for each other. The show then deals with the fallout from this decision and becomes a character study with a lot of humor, but some really good emotion as well. The performances are outstanding, and the show is a really good observational series. Definitely check this one out.
Jackie Robinson – This isn’t just a documentary about Jackie Robinson; it’s a Ken Burns documentary about Jackie Robinson. Which means instead of the typical hour-long puff piece, you get a four-hour film that looks far beyond Robinson’s career and history-making turn as the first African-American major league baseball player. We also learn about what Robinson accomplished after he left the game and the impact he had on generations of people yet to come. It’s a terrific experience, as you would expect from Ken Burns, and I learned so much that I didn’t know about Robinson. Definitely check this one out whether you ike baseball or not.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun – I’ve been saying for years that the best thrillers over the past decade are coming out of France. And while The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun isn’t the best single film I’ve seen from the genre, but it sure is a good example of why I make that claim. The story follows an young woman who arrives in a town where everyone seems to know her even though she’s never been there before. Things only get more crazy when a dead body turns up i the trunk of the car she’s driving. The film is engaging, interesting, and stylish, and I enjoyed it very much.
- Flight 7500 – I might have liked this film better if it wasn’t made by the director of The Grudge, as the J-horror tropes are in full effect; how many ghostly hands coming out of nowhere do you need to show in a career? That said, I did enjoy Flight 7500 quite a bit. A horror movie set on an airplane is already a fun idea, and when you add in a solid cast that includes the underrated Ryan Kwanten, Jerry Ferrara, Leslie Bibb, and Jamie Chung, the result is a surprisingly satisfying if disposable fright flick. It’s a good way to kill 90 minutes.
- Destroyer/Edge of Sanity – This horror double feature from Shout Factory features two movies that star the late Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins. The uninspiredly-named Destroyer stars the late Lyle Alzado and sees a film crew in a prison getting picked off one by one. Fun, if a bit by the numbers. Edge of Sanity, however, was something more of a mainstream horror film (meaning it actually played in theaters), which is a neat take on Jekyll and Hyde that combines the story with that of Jack the Ripper. It’s not a great film by any stretch, but Perkins is terrific in it and I like it quite a bit.
- Prisoners Wives: The Complete Collection – Polly Waker and Iain Glen headline a terrific ensemble cast in this terrific dramatic series that is as far away from reality-TV shlock like Mob Wives as it can possibly get. The show follows a group of wives who bond over the fact that their husbands are in prison. The differences in personalities, societal status, and husbands’ crimes create no small amount of tension and drama amongst the group. With excellent performances and strong writing, the fact that this show only lasted a couple of seasons shouldn’t dissuade you from checking it out.
- A Tale Of Two Cities – Chris Sarandon, Alice Krige, and Peter Cushing star in this 1980 TV-movie adaptation of Charles Dicken’s famous tale. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Dickens catalog; there’s nothing wrong with Dickens’ works, it’s just not a genre or time period I’m particularly enamored with. Still, despite this movie’s age and the fact that it was made for TV, it’s surprisingly strong. The performances are great across the board, and I did get more caught up in the story than I expected to. I’m glad to see it on Blu-ray as well, and not just DVD.
- Finding Your Roots: Season 3 – This hit series sees a number of popular celebrities researching their family trees and coming up with some genuinely interesting results. This season has LL Cool J, Jimmy Kimmel, Julianne Moore, Neil Patrick Harris, Shonda Rhimes, and a ton of other famous faces, and it’s fascinating stuff. Admittedly I find genealogy very interesting, but this show also has some emotional moments and some “detective” work that’s a lot of fun to watch.
- Power Rangers: Wild Force – The Complete Series and Power Rangers Dino Charge: Resurgence – There are two new Power Rangers DVDs out this week. The first is Power Rangers: Wild Force – The Complete Series, which collects the entire tenth (I believe) season of the classic Power Rangers show. Following up on Lightspeed Rescue, which is widely considered the best of the original seasons, Wild Force, then is a bit of a let down. It’s a more typical Power Rangers outing, with none of the heavier themes of the previous series. Then we have Dino Charge: Resurgance, the latest series of the Power Rangers, which wisely mixes dinosaur-shaped zords back into the mix. Obviously this is for kids, but I think as far as entertainment for youngsters go, there’s a lot worse than this.
- Sisters: Season 4 – Take a trip back to the ’90s with this fourth-season collection of the popular drama that starred Swoosie Kurtz and Sela Ward. While ultimately a family drama, this show was anything but typical, as it featured regular flashbacks to the four sisters as teenagers, and even interaction between the adult women and the teenage versions of themselves. It’s a perfect show for fans of similar fare like Thirtysomethingand Once and Again.
- Arlo Guthrie: Alices Restaurant 50th Anniversary Concert – Somehow or another I discovered Alice’s Restaurant when I was a young teenager, and it’s exactly ribald enough to become the kind of thing a teenager could fall in love with. And fall in love with it I did, sharing it with my friends and continuing to revisit it most Thanksgivings. This new 50th Anniversary edition concert sees Arlo Guthrie revisiting the classic in a live setting, and mixing in a lifetime’s worth of his most notable music as well. It’s not as streamlined as the original classic, but it’s a fun trip back in tie with a folk-music soundtrack.
- Pound Puppies: Showstopping Pups – This is the newest DVD in a new series of kids cartoons that focuses on a lovable group of dogs. This is not the Pound Puppies I remember from my childhood, but my memories of them are hazy at best, so that’s okay.This Hub Network show is a fun cartoon with a message; in each episode the puppies of Shelter 17 work to place a dog with a home. There’s obviously a pro-animal adoption message here, but it’s never heavy handed and the show is cute, so I’m not complaining.
- The Bible Stories: Samson and Delilah & The Bible Stories: David – These two new releases feature bona fide stars in medium-level productions of famous Bible tales. Dennis Hopper and Elizabeth Hurley star in Samson & Delilah, while Leonard Nimoy and Sheryl Lee (from Twin Peaks) star in David. I’m not a regular viewer of bible-themed movies, but for people looking for religious entertainment, these are a bit more star-studded than usual.
- Me… Jane… and More Stories about Girl Power – Scholastic has another terrific new release in their Scholastic Storybook Treasures line of DVDs, with Me… Jane… and More Stories about Girl Power, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it. My kids love the Scholastic Storybook DVDs. If you’re not familiar with Scholastic’s terrific kids’ DVDs, they basically take well-loved (and some more obscure) children’s storybooks and bring them to life via animation, narration, and music. Each one is usually 5-10 minutes, and each disc usually includes 3-8 stories. In addition to Me… Jane, this one also includes Who Says Women Can t Be Doctors?, I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote, and Players in Pigtails.
- The Kingdom Of Zydeco and Zydeco Crossroads: Tale of Two Cities – These two Zydeco music themed documentaries come from filmmaker Robert Mugge. I’ve never heard of Mugge, but he clearly loves him some zydeco music. And while it’s not something I’d go out of my way to listen to, these two films do make a case for it being ambitious, infectious music. Both films marry the music with the people involved and really immerse you in the culture (one is more of a road trip than a music documentary) and so if you’re a fan of the music, these are definitely worth seeking out.