Another big week for releases and I’ll start with what was expected to be one of the biggest movies of the year and wasn’t, Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’ll cut right to the chase, it’s not the abomination The Last Jedi is, but I didn’t love it either. Alden Ehrenreich isn’t Han Solo to me. I understand this is a prequel and the Han character isn’t what he is in the Original Trilogy, but this kid just didn’t do it for me. He’s not as tall as Harrison Ford. He’s not as charismatic as him either. Sure playing a younger version of an iconic character must be super difficult, but I thought Woody Harrelson’s character was more Han Solo than Han Solo. Just like The Last Jedi there are unnecessary scenes in this. You could cut multiple scenes/side stories and still get the same end result. Lando’s droid character is completely worthless. It feels like it’s there just to be a message. I didn’t like the chemistry between Donald Glover’s Lando and Han. Glover is fine, but he certainly didn’t replace Billy Dee Williams. Maybe the change in directors and reshoots cut any chemistry (and laughs) there might have been, but so much of the movie felt choppy and forced. I thought Chewbacca was good. I thought the score and set design were what you expect from a Star Wars movie, but overall it just isn’t all that impressive. I have it above The Last Jedi but behind The Force Awakens and Rogue One.
Sticking with not so great franchise films, Shout Factory releases a remastered Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Exorcist II: The Heretic this week. I had actually never seen the film before and I can see why no one’s really pushed me to watch it. Wow is it not good. Linda Blair returns as Regan and the film takes place four years after the story of the first film. She’s getting treatment for nightmares and there’s a doctor with a machine that can help look at her dreams. A priest played by Richard Burton is investigating a potential demon and he uses the machine and there are locusts and tribal people. It’s kind of a mess and the special effects are really bad by today’s standards. It lacks the scares and tension the first film had and the flashing light mind machine is a joke today. The first film is an absolute classic and people like the third, I can see why no one cares for this despite a cast including Blair, Burton, James Earl Jones and more. But if you are a fan, this new release looks and sounds great, comes with 2 cuts of the film and lots of bonus features.
Another genre film, Occupation hits home video this week. In theory it’s just another aliens trying to take over the Earth film, but it gets credit for coming out of Australia. It starts out with Temuera Morrison and his family visiting a small town in Australia traveling in an RV. A sports game is interrupted when space crafts start blasting people and aliens start storming the ground. Some people are wrangled up while others flee and team up to fight back. It’s nothing overly original, think The Walking Dead but with aliens and the government/military but it’s in a setting I haven’t seen before. Most sci-fi flicks are Hollywood blockbusters so I like that Australia is branching out trying to make big movies. I’ve seen far, far worse and I can see it getting a lot of views on home video and streaming services.
I’ll get into some 4K releases now. The Punisher finds its way onto 4K and I actually think this Tom Jane flick is really underrated (especially the Director’s Cut). Although I like the movie, it’s not overly true to the comics and some Frank Castle/The Punisher fans didn’t like that. If watched as just a movie, the film has some great action and a fantastic soundtrack which makes the 4K worth the upgrade. The destruction, blood and violence pops and the score sounds flawless. This came out a few years before the MCU became a thing and like the Blade franchise, is a forgotten quality action movie.
Now for its sequel Punisher: War Zone (also hitting 4K this week), I had the opposite reaction. I didn’t like the film as much, but thought Ray Stevenson’s version of Frank Castle/The Punisher was closer to comic canon. It’s a better portrayal of the character, but something about the movie just didn’t do it for me. There are a couple of quality action scenes (which look fantastic in 4K), but the film as a whole didn’t quite work. It’s grown on me over time because I remember liking it a lot less when I first watched it, but I still think the first film is the better movie.
American Psycho finds its way on 4K this week as well. It’s actually one of my favorite movies and Christian Bale is simply fantastic as Patrick Bateman. It’s a movie that’s been analyzed and over analyzed and has multiple versions (this release is the uncut version) and it’s all good in my book. Whether it’s the Huey Lewis scene, the business card conversations, Bale’s abs, the movie is a snapshot of 1980’s yuppie-ism, capitalism, murder and more. Bale is flawless in his performance and the film has grown a huge following since its 2000 release. This release also comes with deleted scenes and audio commentary with director Mary Harron which is exclusive to the 4K. If you are a fan like I am, this is worth picking up.
Another film from 2000 finds its way into stores this week, Asia Argento’s Scarlet Diva. Argento wrote and directed the film and stars as an Italian actress who sleeps around, likes to party and travel the world. It seems to be semi-autobiographical, but it’s not that interesting of a movie to me. I didn’t like the documentary style look and I simply didn’t care about her character. Wow, a hot actress who parties and sleeps around, so interesting. But there is one scene that people have been talking about especially since Harvey Weinstein was taken down. In the film her character is sexually assaulted by a producer and Argento now admits it’s a retelling of an incident with Weinstein in real life. Good thing this was shot before the incident she was accused of though! But going back to the actual movie, I don’t get the big draw to it. She smokes cigarettes and buys drugs and goes to Hollywood to make a movie and walks away and I really didn’t care. There’s no reason to care. There’s no backstory to the character, are we supposed to care because the character is famous? I didn’t. But if you are a fan of the film, it’s been restored and comes with 2 different commentaries by Argento from 2002 and 2018 plus other bonus features.
A lot more to get through so stick with me. Next is Pin Cushion which reminded me of another movie I watched this year Eight Grade. Like that coming of age story, I didn’t like this one either. I’m not a teen girl, I’ve never been a teen girl. I didn’t grow up in the age of cell phones and social media. I can’t relate to a lot of these movies. Iona wants to fit in with her fellow teen girls after moving to a new town. Her mother is a hunchback and they don’t have a lot of money. Of course the other girls are the “mean girls” type and I’ve never understood any of it. When I was a kid, if I didn’t fit in, so be it. I don’t get that mentality of changing who you are to fit in. If you like coming of age stories you might like it, but these films drive me nuts. Just be an outcast and let people hate you, but no she starts drinking and being mean to her mom to fit in with the “mean girls” and there’s a super creepy scene with a younger boy. Not for me, but I’m sure there is an audience.
Another movie I’m clearly not the target audience for is All Styles. It’s a movie we’ve seen many times before with a struggling college freshman wanting to dance and his roommate convincing him to start a dance crew. They get a hodgepodge of random dancers and of course a competition is coming up where the lead character, Brandon, must face his former dance crew. If you like You Got Served, Honey, Step Up or any of those films then this is for you. It’s clearly not for me, but I’m fine with that.
1973’s The Baby gets a Blu-ray release this week. I had never heard of this absolutely absurd flick where a social worker is dealing with a family that has an adult sized baby. She can’t tell if they are faking it or if the baby has disabilities. She knows the family seems unfit to raise him but she’s also suffering from the loss of her husband. It’s super weird and kind of creepy and I can see it being a midnight screening back in the day. I don’t know if I even liked it, but I’m glad I watched it. It’s definitely a cult flick and I’m sure there are tons of fans who will eat up this new release. It comes with commentary, a retrospective, interviews and much more.
Another 1970’s film gets a new Blu-ray release with bonus features, The Day of the Jackal. This political action flick is a lot like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to me, super slow without a lot happening. An organization tries to kill French President Charles de Gaulle but it doesn’t work. They hire “The Jackal” for one last attempt. It sounds a lot more thrilling than what it is though. It’s slow and long and not much happens beyond talking, faking passports and changing cars while hiding out. It has a high rating on IMDB but it’s a bit too slow for me, same for TTSS. If you like political dramas this is an impressive release though. It comes with interviews, rare clips and more more so fans of the film will love it.
Now I’ll rip through some TV shows hitting DVD/Blu-ray. First is Midsomer Murders Series 20. This is one of those shows I just genuinely enjoy binging when it comes my way. This features six mysteries and the acting, setting, pacing and style are always spot on. It’s a mix of classic whodunit storytelling along with quirky characters and even quirkier mysteries. The six mysteries involve a new brewery opening on “cursed” abbey, the murder of a butterfly collector, the murder of a supermodel, death at a rugby club, a friend’s wedding is interrupted when a murderer is knocking off brides, and the best episode, the scary clowns. I’m a fan of the show and I always enjoy sitting down and watching over the course of a day or two.
East West 101 is a series I wish I liked more. It’s not bad, but other than having a Muslim lead, it’s a pretty typical police procedural. Series 3 is the final season and I’m ok with that. The final season finds Zane quitting the force to keep his family safe but his family are involved in a hit & run and he looks into the incident. Of course it’s connected to a series of robberies and Zane finds himself working with and against his former detectives. Muslim terrorism is blamed but Zane wants more answers. It’s not a bad show and I’ve seen every episode at this point, but despite it being Australian, it feels very much like a US cop show.
Sando Series 1 is a quirky show out of Australia. It’s a wacky family meets fallen from grace and the DVD back said it’s comparable to Arrested Development and I totally understand that. Sando was a business woman who was tossed out of her family after an “incident” at her daughter’s wedding. Ten years later she is being forced out from her furniture company and tries to reconnect with her family showing up at her granddaughter’s birthday party uninvited. There is a hilarious taser incident and her daughter let’s her stay. More episodes show that Sando isn’t the only black sheep of the family with the dad having a relationship he shouldn’t be having, Sando is forced to take therapy with her daughter’s friend Nicky, Sando deals with her company’s board while trying to stick with the company, and more. At 6 episodes it’s a pretty easy binge. I’d watch a second season.
The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special hits DVD this week. Airing in December 2017, this special was a ratings juggernaut and was a variable who’s who of Hollywood. Honoring one of the biggest names in TV history, it shows clips of her show, interviews with today’s stars, Jim Carrey reacting to a letter from Carol, musical numbers with Kristin Chenoweth, Harry Connick Jr., and much much more. It’s a pretty entertaining DVD and really shows how the show influenced generations. Bonus features include red carpet footage, backstage interviews, and anniversary wishes. I missed it when it aired and I’m glad this came my way.
I remember hearing about a Dynasty reboot, but never realized it aired. Well it did and now Dynasty Season 1 is available on DVD. Unlike the return of Dallas years back which was a continuation of the storyline, this is a reboot. It still has two rich families, the Carringtons and Colbys and lots of drama. I don’t see original fans enjoying this, but the generation it’s aimed at probably doesn’t even know the original exists. I’ve been over nighttime soap operas for a while, but I did like Elizabeth Gillies a lot. I don’t see myself watching season 2 when it airs, but I’m sure the fans can’t wait. I did like seeing Nicollette Sheridan and Grant Show back on TV. It’s for a younger generation than me, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
Now for a couple of releases from previous weeks I didn’t get in time. Ok I got The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: In Concert: Encore before its release, but it came out on Friday so I waited to talk about it here. This is pretty fantastic and some of my favorite musicians are in it. You get Canadian rockers Rush, funkmasters Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice Cooper, Heart and more. Plus my favorite band Pearl Jam and other acts join those inducted into the Hall of Fame. With over 40 performances and interviews, these collections are a ton of fun and I thoroughly enjoy them.
Last we have A Swingers Weekend. No it’s not a sequel to Swingers and not nearly as fun as A Good Old Fashioned Orgy either. This finds a couple wanting to find a spark and inviting another couple to spend a weekend together. A third couple shows up without the wife knowing. There’s drama and they all seem to have different reasons to be there. It’s nothing original and not that sexy either. Each character has their own issues and the people are attractive to a degree, but it’s pretty flat and nothing special. I wanted some comedy and sexiness, but didn’t really get either. Oh well.