This Review Round-up is a combination of new releases and a couple of films that I missed over the last few weeks because life happens. I’ll start with the new stuff.
Arguably the biggest release of the week is Phantom Thread. Nominated for multiple Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor, I actually missed the film at theaters. Watching it on Blu-ray, it reminds me of how little I enjoy Paul Thomas Anderson films. Daniel Day-Lewis is always good and the set design and wardrobe are fantastic, but I struggled to stay awake during this one. It reminded me of another Oscar film, Darkest Hour, in that it’s all talking and not much else. PT Anderson paints a pretty picture, but what was I supposed to get out of this film? Certainly not entertainment or enjoyment. DDL plays a renowned dressmaker in the 1950’s. Wow, what a barn burner. A new woman becomes his muse and I have no idea what else. Anderson’s camera movement is always nice, but I never get much out of his films. But his fanboys love him and this could be the last time we see DDL on-screen (allegedly). If you are curious about it and enjoy PT Anderson films give it a try. If you miss it, you aren’t missing anything.
Speaking of pretty but not making much sense, next is Along With the Gods The Two Worlds. This Korean film finds a firefighter dying and going through trials to get reincarnated. The visuals are stunning even if I really didn’t understand exactly what was happening. Three guardians must get him through 7 trials in a certain amount of days and if they get enough people to be reincarnated, they also get reincarnated, I think. There are some pretty over the top action scenes and some gorgeous set design as well. The trials are pretty cool too. I was not familiar with the film but I do tend to like Asian cinema so I appreciated what I was watching. I might not have 100% understood what was happening, but visuals, like a boat chase and the opening fire are cool.
Third we have Jasper Jones. Labeled Australia’s Stand By Me I can see the comparison, but this has a bigger twist at the end. A girl goes missing, but Jasper Jones knows she’s dead. He takes Charlie (Levi Miller) to the body and they try to keep the secret. Charlie has a crush on the dead girl’s sister and the town wants answers. They believe Jones is involved because of his heritage, Jones and Charlie think another man is involved (Hugo Weaving). But then there’s the big twist at the end I won’t even hint at. I liked the surprise and it brings some originality to the film. I’ve enjoyed Levi Miller’s previous work and he’s good here. As are Toni Collette and Weaving. A nice little film out of Australia that people should enjoy.
Next is Disney’s Puppy Dog Pals. I don’t have kids so I have no idea if this popular or not. I can see young kids enjoying it and parents wanting nothing to do with it. The first episode the dogs go to Hawaii and adventures continue. I’m not a huge fan of this style of computer animation, but kids won’t know any better. It’s from Disney so you know exactly what you are getting. If your kids like talking dogs having adventures, this is right up their alley. Just don’t expect to sit down and enjoy it with them. Definitely for the younger audience and I’m ok with that.
Sticking with kids, next is The Railway Children. I was not familiar with this stage show, but it’s darn impressive. It’s based on a novel, but the stage show is very cool. The stage moves in multiple parts to appear to be railways and trains. The story involves children and their mother moving from London to Yorkshire when their father is imprisoned. But the story is pretty irrelevant because I loved the production. The talent and balls it takes to put on a show like this is crazy. All the moving parts and people moving with those parts is, again, impressive. You might know the book and stage show already, but even if you are like me and didn’t, you should like this if you like stage shows.
Heartworn Highways was a 1970’s documentary that introduced the world to some legendary country musicians. Guy Clark, David Allan Coe, The Charlie Daniels Band and more showed that country can have an edge to it. The performances in it are fantastic and is the type of country music that I don’t mind listening to. It’s about hard living and whiskey and today’s pop-country just isn’t close. I had actually never seen the film and I’m glad it came my way. Heartworn Highways Revisited came out 40 years later and shows the area is still putting out solid outlaw country. Some of the original musicians featured in the first film are back, but it showcases newer acts carrying on the tradition. I dug these a lot and I’ll be honest, I looked up a few of the musicians afterwards to listen to more of their music which is a huge point of rock-docs, introducing music to new fans.
My Friend Dahmer tries to humanize the legendary serial killing cannibal. This shows Jeffrey’s teen years, dealing with school, his family and showing early signs of what would come by experimenting on animals. He was an outcast in school that would eventually develop a sort of fan club by being so weird. Dahmer would go on to be one of America’s most notorious killers so I’m not sure how humanizing him is a good thing. His mother, played by Anne Heche, was overbearing. His father, Dallas Roberts of The Walking Dead, seemed to want to help but was also clueless. Ross Lynch handles the role well and it’s a side of Dahmer I’ve never seen, but I’m not exactly sure what I was supposed to take from the film. Was I supposed to be sympathetic to an eventual madman? I didn’t, but maybe if you don’t know the horrific Dahmer story you might.
The following are a bunch of Mill Creek Entertainment Releases.
A double feature of Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? is also out now. It features the original 1990’s version with Tori Spelling and Ivan Sergei and the 2016 James Franco lesbian-vampire re-imagining. The 1996 version is classic Lifetime Made for TV Movie storytelling. Spelling falls for a bad guy and her mother doesn’t approve. Sergei plays the bad guy and he has a type he continues to stalk and ruin. Spelling returns for the 2016 version as the mother and Sergei appears as a professor. This Franco version finds the girl falling in love with a lesbian-vampire because it’s from James Franco. You almost have to watch it to see how ridiculously over the top it is. I honestly enjoyed it in a schlock way. This is a cool double feature that I’m sure fans will eat up.
Mill Creek has out a Six Degree of Kevin Bacon Collection. The six films are: The Big Picture, Flatliners, Hollow Man, Trapped, In the Cut, Where The Truth Lies. Flatliners and Hollow Man are the two best and worth the collection alone. The Big Picture is a film that was hard to get for a while but came out on Blu-ray a few years back through Mill Creek. The last 3 are pretty much throw ins, but the first 3 are worth getting this collection for.
Human Trafficking is a 2 part series about, well, human trafficking. Mira Sorvino plays a cop who wants to become part of ICE lead by Donald Sutherland after she sees young girls getting smuggled into the US and being used as prostitutes. The surprise is Robert Carlyle as a bad guy! It shows how young women are taken advantage of, sent to the US or abducted elsewhere. Carlyle plays a modeling agent whose clients are sold off into sex slavery. Solidly acted, a bit on the nose, but decent for a 2 part series.
A Study in Terror is a 1965 film that finds Sherlock Holmes hunting down Jack the Ripper. I had never seen it, but I liked it. I like Holmes and Ripper stories so seeing a crossover was cool. John Nelville is Holmes and Donald Houston is Watson. A young Judi Dench is also in it. It’s intriguing even if completely made up, but as a Jack the Ripper fan, I’m glad I got this. It reminded me of old Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing flicks. If you remember the film, it looks great on Blu-ray. If you haven’t seen it, but enjoy Holmes and/or Ripper stories, I recommend it.
Sticking with Sherlock, next is Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. This is a cartoon from the late 1990s. Sherlock is defrosted and teams up with a robotic Watson to fight Moriarty’s clone. This is a 2 disc complete series collection and I vaguely remember the show. If you watch it as an adult it’s pretty laughable. Holmes easily picks up life and past history he missed out on. It’s a bit too serious for a show that has a robotic Watson, but if you enjoyed the show as a kid, this is a cheap collection.
Last we have For the Love of Benji. Benji and his family travel to Greece and Benji gets a hidden message tattooed on his paw. Obviously this is for kids and families and they should enjoy it. Benji has been around for decades and this is a nice way to introduce him to your family. I’ve never really been a fan, but I know people who have introduced it to their kids. Overall it’s cute and harmless so feel free to plop down with your family and enjoy.