An eclectic group of releases this week and I’ll start with my favorite, Tremors: The Complete Collection. This is a cool grouping of all 6 films, the first five which have been out before and the latest sixth film, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell. The first film, which starred Kevin Bacon, is a cult classic. I remember watching it a lot on the USA Network in the 1990s. It introduced the world to graboids (giant, underground snake-like creatures that don’t have eyes and attack by sound). Fred Ward and Michael Gross co-starred and both returned for Tremors 2: Aftershocks. This was a video store staple in the mid 1990s and this time the graboids gave birth to shriekers, creatures that hunt by body heat. For Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Michael Gross takes over the franchise and now the creatures have become assblasters, being able to fly by bursting out of their asses. I remember renting it in the early 2000s on DVD. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins is a prequel that shows Perfection in the late 1800s and the town being a mining town attacked by graboids. Gross returns as his great-grandfather. Tremors 5: Bloodlines I hadn’t seen before. This takes place after the short-lived TV show and introduces Jamie Kennedy as Michael Gross’s son. This came out in 2015, takes place in South Africa and has the look of a SyFy movie. The creatures are all pretty much CGI which is a shame because I’m not a fan of the look. The original films relied more on practical effects and that’s what I prefer. Tremors 6: A Cold Day in Hell takes place in cold weather and sees both Gross and Kennedy return. If there are future movies, I see Kennedy taking over the franchise. I really dug this collection. It reminded me of going to the video store or being home sick from school and watching Tremors on TV. If you are a fan of the series, this is a must own!
Next is In the Fade starring Diane Kruger. Kruger plays a wife/mother whose husband and son are killed in a bombing. Her husband has a criminal past and authorities first think the bombing is tied to that. She thinks it’s racially motivated and fights to find out who is to blame. It goes to court and Kruger’s need for justice isn’t quite served. I won’t spoil the ending, but I certainly didn’t see it coming. Kruger is pretty great in the role and you feel all her emotions. The film doesn’t hit you over the head with any one specific message and I appreciate that. It’s just a straight forward drama with a bit of a political tone, but not too heavy-handed. You watch it for Kruger’s performance especially if you are a fan of hers.
Third is Followers, a found footage horror film. If you read me, you know I LOATHE found footage films. It’s cheap/gimmicky filmmaking and I hate it so, so much. Part of me wants to give this credit for showing the negative side of social media, but then the ending is just so ridiculously stupid. A couple spends all their time online. They record everything, make videos about yoga and life and have tons of followers. I immediately wanted them dead especially when they tell you they are going camping. Then a side story pops in and I sort of liked this aspect. The side story is a documentary team that wants to show how easily internet “celebrities” can be fooled, have all their personal information found and so on. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately one of them has his own plan which I’d be fine with if some stupid random cult didn’t come in as well. It opens with a murder that means nothing and ends with a random cult and no explanation. No thank you.
Fourth is Please Stand By starring Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette and Alice Eve. Fanning plays an Autistic woman obsessed with Star Trek. She is writing a Star Trek script for a contest and when she misses the mailing date, decides to head to Los Angeles on her own to deliver it. Collette is her counselor and Eve her sister. Fanning gives a great performance here and reminds us of the actress she can be. It might be her best performance to date. It’s one of those nice little indie films we don’t get enough of nowadays. It has a good story, good performances, is easy to follow and understand. Everything is about blockbusters today and it’s nice seeing quality storytelling from time to time. I hope more people check it out.
Next is In Between. This is about 3 Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv and shows a different side of this world/lifestyle. One woman is a lawyer, another a bartender and the third is more of what we think of the typical Muslim woman. It shows them drinking, smoking, doing drugs, having sex and more. You don’t really see that too often in films from this part of the world. The one woman falls for a Jewish man. One is a Lesbian. That is all very taboo and family and others shun them. It’s not quite Girls Trip or Rough Night for Muslims, but it’s pretty close. It’s a side of the story you might not have seen before, a female perspective. The “typical” type has a fiance who thinks because he’s the man it’s his way all the time. The other women try to open her eyes and protect her. It’s a well made film about characters not seen too often on film.
Once Upon a Time is next. This is the latest Asian fantasy film with great scenery and wardrobe, cool effects and a story that I totally didn’t understand. The synopsis is: Bai Qian, a goddess and monarch from the Heavenly Realms, is sent to the mortal world to undergo a trial to become a High Goddess. There, she meets Ye Hua, with whom she falls in love and marries. When an old enemy reappears in her life, everything she holds dear is threatened. I’m sure that’s right, but honestly, I have no idea. It’s visually stunning with creatures, beautiful backdrops and costuming, wire work and everything you expect in a film like this. I have no idea if the story makes sense, if it’s based on a Chinese story/history, but the visuals are cool. The lead actress is stunning and does some great work. If you like Chinese/Asian fantasy films, give this one a try.
Second to last we have Dear Murderer Series 1. This is a New Zealand show about real life lawyer Mike Bungay. It’s sort of like Rake (yes I compare most lawyer shows to Rake!), but takes place decades earlier. Bungay is a hard-living, hard-drinking lawyer who has a thing for the ladies and booze. He handles high-profile cases ranging from murder to being a spy. It’s not quite as over the top as Rake, but Bungay might be as self-destructive as Cleaver Greene. Mark Mitchinson is fantastic in the show and I binged it over a few days which is a good sign of a show that’s easy to watch and get through. I’d watch future seasons if there are more.
Finally we have The Half-Breed. This is a silent film from 1916 that has been restored and stars the legendary Douglas Fairbanks. I’ve grown a fondness for these older films and what they mean historically to the movie industry. Fairbanks was one of the first bona fide movie stars who did most of his own stunts and captivated audiences. Watching this, you understand why. He plays a half white/half Indian who is raised alone by a white man after his Indian mother dies. He wants to interact with others around him when grown, but the townsfolk don’t take kindly to the half-breed besides a female love interest. It’s classic early 20th century storytelling. The film has been restored through different prints and I like that the title cards show you which prints they came from. The film had been re-edited and cut multiple times back in the day and this is the closest to the original version. If, like me, you have a fondness for cinema history and silent films, I highly recommend this. The score is great and the shots they made over a hundred years ago are amazing considering the technology (or lack there of) they were working with. Highly recommended.