New Blu-ray & DVD releases for the week include a disappointing Tom Cruise film (at the box office at least), some TV, horror, sci-fi and more. I’ll start with the Cruise flick .
The Mummy was supposed to kickstart Universal’s Dark Universe, a return to classic movie monsters. Despite starring Tom Cruise, one of the most bankable actors of the past 30 plus years, the film disappointed at the box office in the US. The international market was very kind to it though. As for the film itself, is The Mummy great? No, not at all. It’s your standard Summer blockbuster type film with lots of effects and very little plot. Is it Tom Cruise’s best work? Nope, but it’s not his worst either. The biggest problem with the film is that it feels lazy. At this point in time Cruise can do a movie like this in his sleep. After five Mission: Impossible movies Cruise can, pun intended, cruise through a movie of this caliber. The CG filled action doesn’t come close to even the worst M:I film. Even the first Jack Reacher film had better action. We expect a lot more from Cruise nowadays. They wasted Russell Crowe although there is much more to his character than there is to The Mummy itself. For a film called The Mummy, they kind of forget to make The Mummy the lead. The Blu-ray does look fantastic though and because I do love the classic movie monsters, I do hope they continue with this Dark Universe and make them better as they go along.
Next is It Comes At Night. It is a real head scratcher. There’s nothing exactly wrong with the film, but I really don’t see the point of it or would ever have a need to watch it again. I tend to like post-apocalyptic movies. I’m a big fan of horror in general and adding in a virus and post-apocalypse setting usually works for me. But the film just doesn’t give you enough to really care. You get thrown right into its world with characters nobody knows so why should I care about them? That’s the biggest issue with the movie, it’s a big ol’ MacGuffin. You get put into this house with Joel Edgerton, his wife played by Carmen Ejogo and his son played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. There’s an older character who is sick and that’s the only part of the virus we really see. There’s no explanation as to what the virus is, when it started, how many people have it or anything. The viewer gets put right into the house without any explanation. And sometimes that can work. I don’t need every little thing explained to me, but if you want me to care about characters, I should know something. Another couple comes into the house with their son. Well I don’t know anything about Edgerton’s family so should I care if something bad happens to them? Maybe they caused the virus, I have no idea. The actors are all at least decent, but it’s just missing something or somethings. I’m not even sure what I would change either. It doesn’t tell you what comes at night and it seems like the virus can come whenever it likes. The time of day seems irrelevant if it’s contagious. The Blu-ray looks fantastic though and comes with commentary and creating the film featurette.
Sticking with horror, third we have The Hatred. The film starts out good with Wishmaster star Andrew Divoff playing a former Nazi who has a family and farm in the US. Someone gets killed and then the film jumps forward to present day. That’s when it turns into just another generic supernatural type film of today. Some female friends stay at the house which has been remodeled. The lead actress is friends with the homeowner and watches their young daughter for the weekend. Weird things start happening, doors open, spirits are seen, etc. It relies on jumpscares and is just really generic. The actresses are hot, but there’s no originality to it whatsoever. David Naughton of An American Werewolf in London fame and Amanda Wyss of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame cameo.
Some more horror for ya. Lifetime has a 4 film collection coming out this week. The 4 films are Big Driver, Manson’s Lost Girls, Hush Little Baby and Devil’s Diary. These are four of Lifetime’s biggest films and have surprisingly big names in them like Maria Bello, Joan Jett and Olympia Dukakis. Even though they are Made-for-TV movies, they are pretty good. Big Driver is from Stephen King. They range in stories from a Manson girl explaining how it went from love and community to murder, a possessed child, a woman seeking revenge and 2 school girls unleashing a power after reading its diary. I was actually surprised that I didn’t mind watching them. I initially wrote them off as Lifetime films and only films my sister would like, but it’s honestly a good collection.
Sci-fi is next with Drone Wars. I’m not sure when SyFy Type Film became a genre, but that’s the best way to describe this film. This is your typical alien invasion movie with spotty CG effects. Whitney Moore of Birdemic is in it so that should tell you something. A team of scientists in Los Angeles must stop an invasion of alien drones. But they also must fight other humans who want it all for themselves. It’s pretty generic, but I honestly didn’t expect much from it in the first place. The effects are pretty laughable. The acting isn’t much better. I usually find these films at least watchable, but this one is pushing it.
Sticking with science fiction and horror, you can get all five Phantasm films in one collection now. It’s called Phantasm: Five Movie DVD Collection. I rewatched the original Phantasm and Phantasm: Ravager last year when they both got released. The original Phantasm had been remastered. Well I hadn’t seen the other sequels in years and it was nice catching up. This series is a lot like Hellraiser, it’s not as good as you remember, but I still have to highly recommend this collection. The sequels give you more of the silver balls and The Tall Man and gets into time travel and Reggie. I’m sure you know whether or not you like this series and it’s a must own if you do. If you haven’t seen the franchise, definitely pick this up as well.
I’ll go with some TV next. Rake Series 3 is a must watch. I absolutely love this show and can’t wait for the fourth set to come out. If this was a US show Richard Roxburgh’s Cleaver Greene character would be an icon. Yes I know they tried to remake the show in the US, but it was on basic TV and couldn’t truly capture the vibe of the show. Series 3 starts with Cleave in prison and ends with him having his life in a pretty good spot (minus hanging from a hot air balloon). Episodes include Cleave trying to keep his son out of prison for diamond smuggling, Barnyard dealing with cancer, Melissa’s book becomes a film, Cleave’s ex hoping third time’s the charm (it’s not) and much more. The show is smart, super funny and Cleaver Greene is one of TV’s best characters that no one knows of. I really like this show.
Next is Decline and Fall, a miniseries out of Great Britain. This is a very tongue in cheek 3 episode series about a young man, Paul Pennyfeather, thrown out of Oxford who ends up working for a boarding school and then eventually as a private instructor for a rich family that leads to his arrest and time in jail. Eva Longoria is about the only face I really recognize and name I know. She plays the mother of the student Paul Pennyfeather teaches. Pennyfeather is your classic fish-out-of-water character who doesn’t fit in at Oxford because he’s not rich. He doesn’t fit in as a teacher because he doesn’t know German, music and other subjects he’s supposed to teach. And he doesn’t know love and it’s why he’s easily manipulated. It is quirky and off-beat and every other way you can describe an odd show. Jack Whitehall plays Paul and I have no idea who he is. Looking him up, he seems quite popular overseas.
Scorpion Season 3 is also out this week. It’s amazing how quickly this fit right into the CBS system despite having younger characters. My mom likes the show, my dad not so much. I watch it when it hits DVD. Season 3 starts with the team working together when hackers take over military aircraft and warships. Other episode see Walter in space, thieves rob a museum, dealing with election day, a forgotten nuclear reactor might explode, the team makes counterfeit money, finding a monkey in the Amazon, and crash landing on a deserted island. I don’t love the show, but it’s easy to watch when doing other things.
It’s a big week for releases so back to some movies. Soul on a String is an Asian film about Taibei, a young Tibetan wanderer, who embarks on a mission of redemption in order to bring an artifact back to its rightful home, the holy mountain of Buddha. I’m not actually sure if I fully understood the movie, but it is beautiful to look at. I think it time jumps a little with some characters in present day and others not, maybe? Taibei wants to return a stone and ends up with a woman and prophet boy on his journey. Then there’s a man following him and two others who want him dead. The one man seems to be present day or maybe reliving the journey. I could be 100% wrong and it could have all happened present day and I missed the point. The scenery and cinematography are beautiful though. There are sweeping long shots of the mountains and desert and water. Maybe I put too much into it, but I genuinely got a bit confused with the story.
Speaking of movies I didn’t quite get, next is The Ghoul. Tom Meeten plays an undercover cop who is investigating a therapist whose had 2 patients get killed while walking towards their assailant. Meeten’s Chris gets caught up in the psychotherapist’s game and meets another man who is also a patient. By the end of the movie you question whether or not Chris was actually an undercover cop or if it was just part of his psychosis. It’s very layered and I’m not sure if I understood the unraveling. Honestly, I can’t tell you whether or not he was a cop or a patient the entire time especially with the ending. Other people seemed to love it and I did like the look, the direction and I thought Meeten was good. I just have no idea if I understood the movie in the slightest.
A 2k restored Erik the Conqueror from Mario Bava is out this week as well. I’m a big fan of Viking history and have seen a bunch of Bava films so I wanted to like this. It’s not quite what I expected. I wanted something like a Ray Harryhausen film, but it doesn’t have those types of effects. The film sees two Viking brothers separated at young ages. One, Eron, grows up to be a strong Viking leader. The other, Erik, grows up the son of an English queen. The acting and effects aren’t great. The story is pretty standard as well. In the 50 plus years since this came out we’ve learned a lot more about Viking history and don’t just see them as Barbarians. The fighting sequences are lame by today’s standards as well. I don’t think any actor playing an archer had ever used a bow & arrow before. It is a great new release though that I think Bava fans will eat up. The film looks great restored and it has a ton of bonus features worth checking out.
Last we have The Big Knife. I knew nothing about this film before watching it. Jack Palance plays Charles Castle, a successful Hollywood actor who chose success over craft. Castle is pressured by his studio boss and manipulated into a potentially murderous cover-up to protect his career. Palance is fantastic and it’s a great look behind the curtain of old Hollywood. It’s also super complicated and layered. Rod Steiger is also great and it’s one of those films where the performances outweigh the actual movie. It’s a masterclass in acting, especially character acting, even if I didn’t understand every twist and turn. I really enjoyed the look and feel of the film as well. If you are a fan, this collection has a 2K restoration and bonus features include commentary among others.