September 6 sees a slew of new Blu-ray & DVD releases. Some we’ve already touched upon (and will have a recap here if you missed the full review), others we’ll be talking about here since there are so many.
First we have CSI: Cyber The Final Season. When the original (Las Vegas based) CSI hit the air I quickly became a fan. I didn’t get invested with any of the spin-offs right away, but I did try Cyber because of the cast. It’s pretty much like the other shows, but more technologically based. This second season, which is also its last, saw an additional 5 episodes compared to season 1. To me it’s more comparable to Scorpion than a CSI. There’s lots of hacking, apps, cell phone use and all that. There’s episodes about hacking a cop’s body camera and leaking the footage, remotely operating cars, ATMs shooting out money and a bystander being killed, a FitBit type device helping the team to retrace the victim’s steps, traffic apps leading to robberies and data breaches. It all seems realistic and Patricia Arquette is great. Plus Ted Danson joined season 2. Not groundbreaking TV, but still worth a watch if you like the series.
Second we have All the Way. You can read the full review already posted if you like, but here’s a reminder. Bryan Cranston stars as Lyndon Johnson and, like always, is absolutely amazing in the role. The film is based on a stage play and is about LBJ taking over after the Kennedy assassination and dealing with Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. Cranston is great, but so is the rest of the cast. Anthony Mackie proves he can be taken serious as an actor. Melissa Leo plays Lady Bird Johnson. Stephen Root, Bradley Whitford and others also play famous politicians. It’s a bit slow because it’s very story driven, but I’m ok with that. History buffs will eat it up and Cranston is just powerful.
Now You See Me 2 also gets released this week. The sequel to the surprise hit film returns all, but Isla Fisher and adds Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan. I liked the first film overall, but didn’t expect it to be the hit it was. This sequel did nothing compared to that film and I can see why. It’s pretty much the same plot as the first film, but more unbelievable. Woody Harrelson plays twin brothers and the new brother is so unnecessary. There’s a scene where they try to steal something for Radcliffe and it looks more like a scene from The Three Stooges than magic. I will say Radcliffe continues to impress me, but this film didn’t. If you loved the first one you might like this, but after this disappointed, we probably won’t get a third.
Next we have Equals which has a full review as well. Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart star in this futuristic, sullen, robotic type world where humans don’t feel emotions and once you get sick, you get separated from others as it progresses. They fall in love with each other and must hide their relationship. Hoult is one of my favorite young actors and he continues to impress me here. Stewart gives a good performance and it’s the first time she didn’t bother me in a movie. It’s nothing original or different and feels like light Philip K. Dick, but it’s not too bad. Both leads are good, but if you watch a lot of sci-fi, you may think it’s something you’ve seen before.
Fourth we have Honey 3: Dare to Dance. I’m not exactly the target audience for this film and I don’t think I ever saw the second film. And honestly, I can’t tell you if I even saw the first one with Jessica Alba. But that being said, I can respect what the movie is and who it’s for. I know my nieces will like it and that’s the point. The film is based in South Africa with a student wanting to put on a hip-hop version of Romeo & Juliet. Kenny Wormald (Footloose) stars along with Cassie Ventura (Step Up 2). There’s lots of dancing, music and cheesy dialogue, but that’s expected. I will say I actually liked the Romeo & Juliet stage show they performed at the end of the film. I thought it was kind of cool actually. If you like this franchise or films like Step Up or Center Stage, then clearly this is for you and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The Bodyguard is next. Asian cinema icon Sammo Hung returns to the director’s chair and stars as an aging former bodyguard/trainer with short term memory loss. When a neighborhood girl befriends him because her father gets into trouble, he must recall his old training to protect her and keep her safe. There’s a full review of this as well, but if you want a quick bit, here we go. I liked this overall, but expected a bit more action. It’s more story driven then expected, but the action sequences are quite cool. Hung seems to be physically bigger than he has been, but because of that there’s a few Kung Fu Panda jokes that are really funny. If you like Hung, check it out.
Sweethearts of the Gridiron is next and is a documentary about the Kilgore College Rangerettes. Despite having family in Kilgore, I wasn’t familiar with the Rangerettes, at least them specifically. I know football games have half time shows and have I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for years, but never thought to ask who started it all. Turns out it’s the Rangerettes and they have been around for 75 years. It gets into the history of the group and even interviews 3 of the original members, but it’s more about today’s team. It shows the auditioning process and the girls trying to land a spot on the squad. It’s pretty insane what these young women go through and a lot come from other parts of the country just to be on the team. Pretty interesting and educational.
Almost done, I promise. The Ones Below is also out this week and stars The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey, Laura Birn, Clemence Poesy, and Stephen Campbell. A young couple is expecting a child as is their new neighbors. When an accident changes everything, the new mother thinks her neighbors are out to get her. There’s a full review on this, but I will say overall I liked it. It’s smart without outsmarting itself. It doesn’t play all its cards till the very end and it’s vague enough for you to second guess everything. You don’t know if the mother is right or losing her mind. A mix between Single White Female and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.
Limitless Season 1 also gets released this week. I didn’t like the movie it was based on so I didn’t even watch the show when it aired. Watching it on DVD, I actually really like it. Because it spreads out over a season and not just a film, it broadens the story and tone. It’s a lot funnier than the movie and I liked Jake McDorman as the lead. He’s charismatic and funny and has good chemistry with Jennifer Carpenter. There’s a full review as well, but I will say I liked the show a lot and I’m bummed CBS didn’t pick it up for a second season. The Ferris Bueller themed episode was fantastic. McDorman drops all kinds of pop culture references throughout. Mike & Ike his guards are the butt of some great jokes and Bradley Cooper makes some appearances. Even though it didn’t get picked up for a second season, I still recommend the show.
Speaking of great TV, American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson is out this week as well. Pretty much must see TV for most people, I actually didn’t see it when it aired. My parents watched it. My brother watched it. As did my sisters. Everyone, but me practically. Now I see why they did. Man is this pretty brilliant. It’s going to win a ton of awards and you might as well just hand Courtney B. Vance all the awards now because his Johnny Cochran is amazing. The entire cast is pretty outstanding as well. Sarah Paulson will win awards for her Marcia Clark. Kenneth Choi looks so much like Judge Ito. Nathan Lane is F. Lee Bailey. John Travolta does a decent job as Robert Shapiro. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays OJ and David Schwimmer is Kim’s daddy Robert Kardashian. This will go down as THE OJ Simpson story. Production value is through the roof. It’s intriguing and educational. It’s entertaining and thought provoking. It’s just plain brilliant actually. Courtney B. Vance might give the best TV performance since Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. MUST SEE TV!
Jenni Olson’s The Royal Road has been working around the festival circuit, including Sundance, and will now be available on DVD and digital streaming. Despite the fact it has been nominated for, and even won some awards, I don’t see the big deal. Jenni Olson’s droning narration makes the movie, which is only like 66 minutes, feel like I was watching it ALL day. To make a movie intertwining talk of history, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, your sexuality, and whining about not being able to find a relationship, all narrated in a “stream of consciousness” style (which is a pretty way of saying short attention span style) by the the filmmaker, and expecting people to actually want to sit and watch it, is pretentious. I will give Jenni Olson credit, she at least had some historical advisors for the parts where she talks about history. Although those parts are often interrupted for her to talk about some girl she couldn’t get, or her butch identity or whatever. A lot of the visuals are very nice though. Despite the awards, and some praise it has been given (mostly by d-baggy, pretentious “critics” who all say pretty much the same thing), I don’t recommend it, unless the description I have given sounds like something you’d want to watch, or unless you blindly glom onto anything LGBT-related, regardless of how good it actually is. (Review by Rocky Maxwell)