Wide array of releases to talk about this week. First we have Legend of the Naga Pearls. The film is a total head scratcher. I have no idea what’s going on, but I also kind of liked it. It has some great action, wire work and visuals, but the story I didn’t understand one bit. There are winged people who need to get the pearls in order to destroy humans. I get that aspect of it, but all the characters and the journey and everything didn’t make sense. But I dug the visuals and fight sequences. The wire work is good even though you can clearly tell it’s wire work, but I like seeing people jump from rooftop to rooftop and getting kicked across rooms. It’s an odd film and I don’t think it’s for everyone, but if you like Asian visuals and over the top stories, you might like it.
Next is East West 101 Series 1 out of Australia. I really wanted to like this, but it feels like so many other cop procedurals. The only slight bit of originality is the lead is a Muslim dealing with a post 9/11 anti-Muslim world. Unfortunately that’s the only thing that separates it from other shows. The writing and action are generic. You know instantly which other cop he’s going to butt heads with. You know him being a Muslim will have him looked at differently by others and will play a role in every episode. The lead is very good, I just wish the show didn’t feel like so many other cop shows I’ve seen.
Third is Ray Donovan Season 5. The show is one of my parents’ favorite and overall I like it, I just think it’s on its last legs. The first few seasons were great TV, but the past two have just been ok. I like it and will continue watching it when it hits DVD, but I can’t see it lasting 2-3 more seasons. In season 5 Ray deals with anger management, there’s a wedding, Conor adjusts to military school, the movie business draws Ray in as a story and much more. If you’ve seen the previous season, definitely pick up the latest season.
Sticking with TV, Steven Universe The Complete First Season is also out. I totally understand why kids love this show. It’s colorful. It’s fun. It has colorful and fun characters. There is adventure and music and so much more. What I don’t get is how popular it is with adults. I’m serious. I know adults who LOVE this show. I don’t get it. Kids loving it makes sense for all the reasons I mentioned, but adults? They liked My Little Pony too so I guess anything is possible. This collection has 52 episodes of adventures with Steven, Pearl, Amethyst, Garnet and all the others. It makes no sense why this is a hit among adults, but hey maybe you like and want it. Your kids will love it for sure though.
Speaking of things that make no sense, The Square is next. Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, to me the film is nearly unwatchable. It’s stupid. Christian is a curator at a museum and they have a new exhibit coming out, The Square. It’s a square that people stand in and everyone is treated the same. Ok I get that. I’m expecting the film to be about that art work and the artist, but no, it’s about a marketing attempt gone wrong, Christian sleeping with an American (Elisabeth Moss) and how pretentious art is. I’m not an art person, I think most of it is trash and even one of the exhibits in the film is just piles of dirt. I didn’t understand the movie at all. I didn’t get the monkey guy (seen on the cover art). The only part I liked was the Tourette’s guy bothering Dominic West’s interview. I’m clearly missing the point because I’d never watch this movie again.
Sticking with art and movies I didn’t like, next is My Art. I didn’t read anything about the movie before popping it in and I regret that. It’s from Laurie Simmons who I’m not familiar with and it turns out she’s Lena Dunham’s mother. That’s all you need to know about this movie. If you like Lena Dunham and things like Tiny Furniture then this is for you. If like me you find them completely ridiculous and unwatchable, well avoid this like the plague. Simmons directs the film where she plays an artist who wants more recognition. She is single and meets men and does art and shoots video and I have no idea the point of any of it. It cuts away into dream like sequences that probably mean something but means nothing to me. The movie is clearly not for me. It’s a pretentious indie film that mainstream America will clearly ignore. Critics will love it of course as will Dunham defenders, I mean fans. Not my thing.
Old Stone is next. I expected this to be an over the top action drama for some reason, but instead got a subtle drama about a taxi driver who hits someone and has his life upended because of it. He takes the person to the hospital without doing the proper paperwork first and the taxi company’s insurance company doesn’t want to cover the incident. The hit person is in a coma costing more and more money while alive. His wife hates the driver for paying the hospital bills. The taxi company is giving him crap and the man finally loses control. I won’t ruin the ending, but I definitely liked where they went with it. It’s the type of ending Hollywood is afraid to do nowadays. I look forward to more from Johnny Ma.
Last is Viva L’Italia. Roberto Rossellini’s classic gets a 2K restoration release. I had never seen the film and I actually learned a lot from it. I’m not Italian and had no idea Italy had only been unified in the 1800s. I thought it was one country for centuries, but nope it didn’t unify till around the time the US was fighting its own Civil War. The film has some fantastic production value. The costuming and wardrobe are great and the set design is also good. You get sets that could rival Gone with the Wind. It’s a pretty straight forward film, but I see it more as a history lesson than entertainment. It won’t wow you over with acting, but you will definitely learn some Italian history. Most of what I know of Italy is about Rome and The Vatican so I definitely found this informative. If you are familiar with the movie, this new release looks good and is THE version to own.