New Blu-ray & DVD releases for the week include one of my favorite films of the year so far, a solid Armie Hammer performance, an 80’s horror, classic TV and a long take movie. I’ll start with one of my favorites.
When John Wick came out a few years ago I thought it was the best action movie outside The Raid franchise. With its sequel John Wick Chapter 2, they continue to be the best action movies outside The Raid franchise. The first film came out of nowhere and was awesome. I had super high expectations for this sequel which hurt, only slightly. Don’t get me wrong, Chapter 2 is a fantastic film, but my expectations were through the roof like when I saw The Raid 2. Very few films can meet expectations, but this did come pretty damn close. The body count is higher. The action seems more over the top. Keanu Reeves seemed to train his balls off for this one. There’s some great martial arts in the movie along with gun fights and action. I think that’s why I like this franchise a lot, it reminds me of Asian action movies. Asian action films have a lot of hand to hand combat, not just Michael Bay explosions. Reeves and Common do a lot of jiu jitsu take downs and holds. I was actually really impressed with Common. He’s come a long way. This franchise is a throwback to real car action films like Bullitt and The French Connection. I love The Fast & the Furious movies, but we know those are ridiculously fake. Watching this, there’s no doubt someone got hurt making this movie. Sure the plot is pretty much the same as the first movie and Ruby Rose isn’t good at all in it, but John Wick Chapter 2 is what I want from time to time. It’s over the top violent and Reeves is amazing in the role. I’m eagerly awaiting Chapter 3.
Sticking with action, sort of, also out this week is Mine starring Armie Hammer and Annabelle Wallis. The cover for the Blu-ray makes it look like a war movie with lots of action, but it’s closer to Buried or 127 Hours than it is American Sniper or The Hurt Locker. Hammer plays a sniper whose mission goes wrong and ends up lost with another soldier. When both step on landmines, the film becomes more about psychology than war. Hammer has 52 hours to deal with the elements, animals and locals while keeping his foot on the mine before backup can arrive. Hammer has been in some box office disappointments, but I actually quite like him as an actor. He gives a really solid performance in this. The film ends up being 80% him and his mental capacity. Most of it is a single location setting so if you aren’t a fan of that, this won’t work for you. I’m not sure if I liked the ending, it felt like a cop out a little, but Hammer is very good so it’s worth watching for him. I wanted a bit more of Wallis because I’m a fan of hers, but I understand why she’s not in it a lot. If you like Armie Hammer, Buried or 127 Hours, you’ll like this.
Third is Hee Haw: Pfft! You Was Gone. I’ve reviewed some DVDs from this show before and what always amazes me is how much of the show I remember. I’ve said it before that I remember watching the show at my grandmother’s house back in the day and I remember seeing some of the skits and musical acts back then. This collection features four complete episodes that haven’t been seen since they aired. Episode #34 has a performance by Marty Robbins who is one of my dad’s favorites. I heard his Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs a lot as a kid. Other musical performances include Merle Haggard, Roy Clark, Buck Owens and Dolly Parton. Classic sketches include KORN News, Hey Grandpa, What’s for Supper?, Moonshiners and Pickin’ and Grinnin’. I like these collections because they are a trip down memory lane for me. My grandmother has long passed and it reminds me of family get togethers at her house. Of course Dolly Parton was always a showstopper and these performances show you why she was such an icon. If you were a fan of the show, you’ll love this latest collection.
Next is Madhouse, a 1980s horror film. Julia is a teacher of deaf students who has a very close relationship with a young student. Oh yeah, she also has a crazy twin sister in a nuthouse who escapes to crash her birthday party. What saves it from being just another 80s slasher film is the ending. There’s a nice little twist to who is behind everything and I liked that. It has decent style too. I like that it doesn’t show all the blood and gore. It hints at it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good violence and an angry dog, but it’s not just gore for the sake of gore. I think the biggest problem is that the film hasn’t aged well. Despite having a good style, it does look and feel aged. We’ve seen hundreds of horror films since this first came out so I guess you need to stick to its time period and not compare it to more recent films. The Blu-ray looks great though. It has a brand new 2K restoration. If you are familiar with the film, this new edition is quite good and will look great in your collection.
Last we have The Wedding Party coming to DVD and Digital HD this week. I did a full review last week, but I’ll throw down a quick one in this as well. Story wise the film isn’t anything original. We’ve seen these types of characters in everything from rom-coms to dramas and comedies. We’ve seen “Weddings Going Off the Rails” movies plenty of times too. But what separates this film (and gives you a reason to watch it) is the long continuous take. The movie was captured in one single, continuous 119 minute take. At times it works really well and the movie flows naturally. At times it feels forced and a quick cut would have made it more realistic and less like a movie going for one long take. I will give the film a ton of credit for trying something new and trying to be creative though. If you’re curious about what a single take film looks like, check it out.