A big week for releases including the biggest film of the year, Avengers: Infinity War. Ten years into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe you should know whether or not a film like this is for you. It’s the fourth highest grossing movie at the box office of all time so clearly there are many fans out there and the home video release will be big as well. So with all the hype and box office money that makes it the best film in the series right? Well, no. I still have Captain America: Winter Soldier, Black Panther, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, and Iron-Man above it, but it’s still a solid flick and better than anything in DC’s universe. Overall I liked it, but didn’t love it. There are things I loved about it, but there is too much going on at times and at other times it’s a bit slow. The climatic battle is pretty badass. The actual ending is trash, but the battle between our heroes and Thanos and his crew is cool. Cap fighting side by side with Black Panther. Bucky, Falcon and War Machine shooting alien creatures. Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Okoye fighting together with girl power. But unfortunately, that’s also one of the issues with the film, the need to get EVERYONE in it. There are times you forget some characters are in the movie. Spider-Man, Iron-Man and Doctor Strange are on alien ship trying to protect the green stone. Then you cut back to Earth and Captain America is taking Vision to Wakanda to protect the yellow stone. Cut to the Guardians and Thor in space hunting down Thanos. Cut to Gamora having daddy issues with Thanos. Back to Earth for Vision and Scarlet Witch! With so much going on, it feels cluttered at times and you lose track of who is doing what. It also slows the film down at times in order to squeeze in all that’s happening. The movie feels like a set up to future movies just here to establish character storylines for upcoming MCU films. Then there is THAT ending. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it or for those not spoiled by social media, but the ending felt anti-climatic. You know it won’t end up that way after the next movie so I felt let down because of it. All that being said, it’s still a must own on home video for fans and has some cool bonus features like behind the scenes of the Wakanda Battle, the fight on Titan and a featurette talking about all the characters coming together.
Second we have Bad Samaritan. It’s a strong thriller about two friends who run a parking valet scam. They valet your car then rob your house while you’re eating at a restaurant. When an expensive car pulls up, they think they hit the jackpot but when Sean enters the rich man’s home, he finds a woman chained up and hurt. The homeowner soon figures out someone has been in his home and wants to destroy Sean’s world. David Tennant plays the rich homeowner/killer and most people know him from Doctor Who. He wasn’t my favorite Doctor, I prefer him in roles like this and Jessica Jones. He has a good look to play a super creepy guy. Sean (Robert Sheehan) has a criminal past and isn’t from the US, but thinks he needs to do the right thing and tries to tell the authorities about the kidnapped girl. Tennant’s Cale also has a past and the finances to cover up his acts. Dean Devlin’s direction follows the drama well and I liked the film. I can see it being popular on Netflix if/when it goes there. You might have known it as its previous title, No Good Deed.
Third we have Destined to Ride. I’m not the target audience for this film but I think there is an audience somewhere for it. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers teen drama about a girl sent to spend a few weeks in the summer with her aunt where she rides a horse, makes new friends, etc. Her mother died when she was younger and her father (Joey Lawrence, woah!) is a constantly busy businessman. She just made the cheer team and doesn’t want to go to her aunt’s ranch. Denise Richards plays the aunt and everything about the movie we’ve seen before. She’s hesitant at first, but makes friends and even has a competition against locals to save her aunt’s land! Madeline Carroll seems to have a Young Adult following so I’m sure her fans will like this. It’s nothing original and you know exactly what will happen, but it works for those who want to see it.
Next we have The Last Warrior. If you like genre shows like Vikings or Game of Thrones you should like this movie. It has good action and fighting and it’s enjoyable if you let it be what it is. It won’t wow too many people, but it’s a fine way to kill some time. I watched it with English dubbing (or at least it seemed that way) and I should have switched to English subtitles because the dubbing (like all dubbing) isn’t that good. But you watch a movie like this for the kills and fighting and it has some good ones in it. It’s one of those end of an era, kingdoms have fallen and turned into gangs attacking each other type films, but you really don’t expect much plot in a movie like this anyways. It reminded me of the Asian period pieces I watch where plot/story is second to action. If you need some sword fighting and blood in your life until the TV shows you like come back, this can fill that void.
Speaking of Asian flicks, The Suffering of Ninko is out this week and it’s definitely something. It’s about a sexually irresistible Buddhist monk during Japan’s Edo period and that’s pretty much all I got out of it. Women can’t resist him (and some men as well) so he sets off to try to calm his urges. But then he runs into a samurai and ends up in a town where all the men are being killed by a mountain goddess. To say it’s an odd film is being polite. There is an animation and nudity and I have no idea if this is based on some Japanese lore or manga or something. This was a total head scatcher to me although I did think the lead actor was really good. If you’ve never heard of it, there’s good reason. If you know of its festival run, well then this movie is for you.
The documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is next. Like most documentaries, if you like the subject matter, you’ll like the film. I’ve never been a fan of Grace Jones so this isn’t exactly for me, but I can respect what it’s trying to accomplish. It mixes live performances with the musician/actress and footage of her personal life. You see her in Jamaica (where she’s from) interacting with family and friends. You see her on stage performing in her over the top ways. You see her interacting with fans, signing autographs and more. It’s a pretty straight forward rock doc, but if you are a fan of hers, you’ll really enjoy it.
Speaking of documentaries, Documentary Now! Seasons 1 & 2 is out this week as well. Ok so it’s not real documentaries, but spoofs starring Fred Armisen and/or Bill Hader and the series is “hosted” by Helen Mirren. Each episode is shot in a different documentary film style, paying tribute to some of the most important stories that didn’t actually happen. For instance, Armisen and Hader play campaign manager types for a guy running in Ohio in the 1990’s. Parker Gail’s Location Is Everything is a parody of Spalding Gray’s cult performance film Swimming to Cambodia. Some of them are better than others, but it’s an easy binge with the documentaries coming in around 22 minutes or so. I actually had never heard of the show, but turns out it was nominated for Emmy awards two years in a row. I like Hader more than Armisen, but there’s also a slew of celebrity cameos like Jack Black, John Slattery, Anne Hathaway, Maya Rudolph, and more. Overall pretty funny and fans will like this collection.
Now to an actual documentary, To Auschwitz & Back: The Joe Engel Story. 90-year-old Engel tells his story of being raised in Poland, being taken prisoner by the Nazis at 14, surviving Birkenau and Auschwitz and escaping from a death train and helping others to freedom. It reminded me of Line 41, a documentary that came out earlier in the year talking about surviving the Holocaust. It weaves in archival film and photos and Joe’s storytelling to paint a picture no one should forget. Engel is a fascinating man with an even more powerful story. Its quick runtime keeps the film focused on his story and on this man who many can learn from.
This is a terrible transition, but next is Muppet Babies: Time To Play! Muppet Babies was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid so I was curious to see how they were for a new generation. I didn’t love the animation of Disney Junior’s version and it definitely skews younger than the show I grew up on, but it’s super family friendly and young kids will love it. It’s musical and colorful and full of adventure. There is a new character, Summer Penguin, and Jenny Slate voices Miss Nancy. If I had kids I would totally watch it with them and that’s the point. It may not be my version, but it’s a lot better than some of the childhood shows of mine that have been rebooted. If you have young kids, watch it with them.
Sticking with TV shows, next is NCIS: New Orleans: The Fourth Season. When it comes to CBS shows I tend to talk about my parents. They watch/enjoy them way more than I do. They are older and that’s who usually watches CBS. What I think is pretty irrelevant compared to those who actually watch the show. NCIS: New Orleans isn’t my mother’s favorite NCIS, the original is, but she seems to like it more than the Los Angeles one. Season Four finds Scott Bakula’s team dealing with nuclear waste while Bakula’s Pride is suspended at first. They deal with Russian sleeper agents, a copycat killer of a case from 150 years ago, a case involving homeless kids and a murder, re-investigating the Clearwater case, a murder involving a nightclub, the murder of a Navy Lieutenant Commander, a journalist calls out Pride’s recklessness and there is backlash from that. I don’t watch the show when it airs, but I do binge the show when I get the DVDs sent my way. It’s not groundbreaking TV, but there is far worse.
Also from CBS is SEAL Team Season 1 starring David Boreanaz. I was actually curious about this one and almost watched it when it aired, but I’m out a lot of nights. I watch shows like SIX on The History Channel and knew this wouldn’t be as powerful and more Hollywood-ized. It’s definitely a TV drama, but it’s not bad. It’s a show both my parents enjoy watching together and they had no idea who Boreanaz was. Of course I know him from Buffy and Angel. Even though you can tell it’s been Hollywood-ized, I appreciate the efforts of this show to tell a personal story and not just action soldier man! Sure you see the team in action, but you get personal stories, family, friends, loss and everyday life as well. I can see myself sticking with it and maybe even watching it when it airs even though I don’t even know when it does on CBS. Boreanaz is good, not great, but I also like Jessica Pare (Mad Men) and other cast members. If you didn’t watch the first season on TV, catch up before season 2 starts.
Last is the science fiction flick Higher Power. I have no idea if this movie makes a lick of sense but the visuals are really cool. The director has done VFX for some big time movies so that’s why the special effects are cool. The story is another question. Ron Eldard plays Joe, a down on his luck father whose wife died and whose daughters don’t have anything to do with him. One daughter is a student, the other a junkie. He’s been sober for a year, but is snatched up and implanted with technology and forced to do things he doesn’t want to do. Colm Feore plays a scientist type who controls Joe and makes him do things to transform him into a higher being. This is where the film kind of lost me. One of the daughters has a boyfriend that thinks the world is ending soon because of a giant powerful light. Feore is trying to get Eldard to transform into something that can fight it with new untapped superpowers. Sure, if you say so. Again, no idea if it made sense, but the visuals are through the roof good. The final sequences at the end are really good and I did like some of the first person style filmmaking. If I hadn’t seen Upgrade this year I might have liked this a bit more, but man is that movie so much better. If you like science fiction visuals you might like this.