Review Round-up is usually films/TV shows that I review later than their release whether it’s because I didn’t receive them in time or releases changed. This time it’s a mix of this week’s new releases with titles already out. I’ll start with the new releases and first is The House That Never Dies: Reawakening. I haven’t seen the first film, but there’s plenty of backstory/flashbacks in this to understand what’s happening. I’m not a huge fan of Asian ghost stories so this didn’t do too much for me. A man is trying to renovate a house with a past. Construction leads to finding something weird. His wife is a doctor trying to take care of a young boy and they have a missing child as well. She believes their child is trying to find her at the house and that another woman is trying to steal her husband away. She then starts to believe they are reincarnated people associated with the house’s past and that a doctor and a woman had done bad things in the house. It’s easier to follow than how I’m writing it. I know there are people who love this stuff, but it’s not something I get into. It’s fine for a one time watch but I can’t see myself watching it again.
Second we have The Puppet Masters starring Donald Sutherland. This is from 1994 and is not to be confused by the Puppet Master franchise. Despite a cast that includes Donald Sutherland, Eric Thal, Julie Warner, Keith David, Will Patton, and Richard Belzer, I actually wasn’t familiar with it. A spaceship crashes in small town Iowa and Sutherland, Thal and Warner go to investigate. Stingray shaped aliens attach themselves to humans to control them like puppets and you can’t tell them from other humans. It’s your classic Body Snatchers/They Live type story. David S. Goyer is one of the credited writers of the film which is based on a novel by Robert A. Heinlein. I kinda liked it. It’s very dated and the effects are a bit laughable by today’s standards, but it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. Sutherland is great as the man in charge and the rest of the cast is good too. It being a sci-fi/somewhat horror flick I’m sure it has a cult following and this release looks great and sounds great. It’s packed with bonus features like commentary, a documentary and more. It was a pleasant surprise and again, if you are a fan, you’ll love this release.
You’ve heard of Animal House right? Chevy Chase’s Vacation films? Of course you have and you probably know they came from National Lampoon, but have you heard of National Lampoon’s Class Reunion? Yeah neither had I. The film came out in 1982 and was written by John Hughes and definitely wants to be a sort of sequel to Animal House, but with a twist. In theory the film should work, but man is it not good. It opens with a dorky kid having a prank played on him by other students. Flash forward 10 years later to their class reunion and everyone is happy to see each other. The stoners are still stoners. The class hottie is still hot. The leader of them all is still doing well. But then there’s the dorky kid who got pranked and he’s out for revenge. It should all work but it really doesn’t. The acting is bad. The dialogue is bad. All of them look way older than they should be. Some of the deaths are cool but there’s a reason this film doesn’t get the love other Lampoon films do. It wants to be Animal House 2 so bad even Flounder (Stephen Furst) is in it! But I’m sure it has some fans out there and the film has been remastered from a 4K scan of the original negative and comes with commentary, interview and more.
Also out this week is Til Death Do Us Part starring Taye Diggs, Annie Ilonzeh and Stephen Bishop. Are you a fan of Lifetime movies AND dramas from Tyler Perry? Well this is the movie for you. Madison and Michael seem to have a perfect marriage but Michael is a control freak and gets abusive when his wife becomes pregnant. He gets so abusive she decides to fake her death and take up a new life. But she doesn’t cover her tracks enough and he finds her. Taye Diggs is the new man in her life and the movie is every abusive relationship movie you’ve ever seen on Lifetime. I’m clearly not the target audience for the film because I laughed at the husband’s “powerful” scene when he finds out his wife is dead. I laughed at all the clichés and stereotypes you expect in a movie like this. But I have sisters who watch this stuff all the time so I’m sure there is an audience for it. I can’t get beyond the other waitress ratting out her co-worker or how the hospital employees have no problem giving out certain information. Or why the “doctor” who said she died has his dialogue changed when the POV changes from the husband’s to the wife’s. But again there is an audience or else they wouldn’t make these movies so if you like these then you’ll enjoy this.
Next is New Wave: Dare To Be Different which comes out December 7th. This is a documentary on Long Island radio station WLIR which helped break bands like U2, Duran Duran and others in the 1980’s before going defunct. I’m not from New York so I had never heard of this radio station but thought the documentary was pretty interesting. Now I’m not sure if it’s all 100% true because having one radio station being the first to play U2, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears and all those types of New Wave/import bands seems a bit of stretch but maybe it’s true. It was a radio station on Long Island that changed formats in the 1980’s because it simply couldn’t compete against the big New York stations. Even people on Long Island had a hard time dialing it in on their radios. The film is your classic underdog story of outcasts wanting to do something different, finding new music and taking on the big dogs. It helped create a scene with bands playing local clubs months before national radio even heard of them. They went out and bought import albums and played them before record studios sent them out. They beat the record execs at their own game and had fun doing it. Like all good things it must come to an end and the FCC screwed the station and fans cried. U2 named dropped the station in a live show so maybe it is true they were the first. European bands and even American artists talk about the station and what it meant to their careers. You get interviews from Billy Idol, Joan Jett and others. It reminded me of Life on the V: The Story of V66, another rock doc about a small group of music enthusiasts trying to reach a new audience with new music. If you like 80’s music or grew up listening to WLIR you’ll dig this.
Last we have School Daze. This Spike Lee film came out in mid November but I didn’t get my copy until late last week. This 30th Anniversary Blu-ray edition comes with a lot of cool bonus features like Spike Lee and the cast doing a Q&A about what the film means, commentary, featurettes, music videos and more. As for the film itself, well it’s not Spike’s best. Laurence Fishburne and Giancarlo Esposito star as opposing college students who really want the same thing, but go about it in different ways. It mixes in dance numbers, fraternity hazing, football, protesting and more to give you a look at late 1980’s college life. To me it’s an odd movie. If it’s trying to make a point, mixing in the dance routines and what not is a distraction. I like 1995’s Higher Learning (from John Singleton) better for trying to provide a message, but I’m sure Spike Lee fans love this film. It’s very much his style with close-ups, tight camera angles, music and style. Even 30 years ago Fishburne and Esposito were too old to play college students, but casting older actors to play younger has always happened. The Blu-ray does look and sound great and the bonus features are good if you like Spike Lee.