2019 doesn’t open with a lot of releases for us this week. Up first we have Night School, Kevin Hart’s comedy from 2018. I would have liked it more if it focused on the ensemble cast and not just the leads. I thought the supporting cast were a lot funnier than the main characters played by Hart and Tiffany Haddish. When the film is about the class and classmates, it’s really quite funny, but unfortunately the movie is more about Kevin Hart’s character Teddy and that’s a shame. Teddy never graduated from school and must take night classes (taught by Haddish) to get a new job. His fiance doesn’t know he’s a dropout and he keeps his night school activities a secret. The principal of the school (Taran Killam) is a nemesis from his high school days who doesn’t want him at his school. But Haddish’s teacher character feels bad for him and allows him in her class. That class is a mix of misfits ranging from a married mom who wants to escape her family, a dad going back to school because he made a bet with his son, a waiter from Mexico who wants to be a dental hygienist, a prisoner Skyping from jail and so on. When the movie is in that classroom setting, Rob Riggle, Fat Joe, Romany Malco, Al Madrigal, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Anne Winters all get big laughs. Even Haddish isn’t all that important to the film. The posters and trailers make it look like a Hart/Haddish vehicle, but it’s really not. As the teacher, she has some decent scenes, but ultimately anyone else could have done the same. I really wish it was more about the overall class than just Hart because the classroom was really funny. Seeing Fat Joe Skyping from prison, Malco not trusting robots, Rajskub never wanting to be with her family, it all worked for me. But then it would go back to Hart trying to hide his life from his fiance and him having a hard time learning. It has great supporting characters, but ultimately is the latest comedy you watch once and never really need to see again.
Staying with comedy, next is Love, Gilda, a documentary on the legendary Gilda Radner. Radner was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, was married to Gene Wilder and died at an early age. This is a pretty intimate look at Radner that mixes old photos and videos and her own personal writings. Melissa McCarthy, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Cecily Strong read from Radner’s writing while others tell stories about her life and career. Martin Short, Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Paul Shaffer and others share stories and give details about Radner’s early life. Then there is the footage with her and Wilder when she got sick. You can’t deny the love the two had for each other and the footage is so personal. I actually learned quite a bit from the movie as well. I had no idea she was married to G. E. Smith, the band leader from Saturday Night Live. It also delves into her longtime eating disorder. Radner was a chubbier kid and her mother made her diet. She would have eating issues for most of her life. Even if you’ve read Gilda’s autobiography I still recommend the film. It’s intimate and really shows you the person she was.
Sticking with documentaries third is Bad Reputation about Joan Jett. This is another in-depth documentary starting with the early years and what she means to people. From asking for and getting a guitar when she was a teen to her days with The Runaways and her solo career, you get everything you wanted to know about the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer. The old footage is cool to me. You see performances of The Runaways, her first days with The Blackhearts and even concert footage from the 1990’s and 2000’s. Plus you get other musicians talking about her influence. I never realized she had a longtime collaborator. Kenny Laguna has been with her from the beginning and his daughter would also help direct Joan’s career when music went digital. I was never the biggest fan, but you have to respect someone who’s been doing it for over 40 years. Jett had more hits than I realized and inspired generations of musicians. Like the Gilda Radner documentary, this is personal, intimate and recommended for fans.
Kino Lorber this week releases a few Blu-rays with some all-time greats. First is The Bounty starring Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day-Lewis, Laurence Olivier, Liam Neeson and more. I hadn’t seen the movie in over 20 years and forgot just how big the cast was. I also forgot about all the nudity when the crew finally gets to land. Hopkins is fantastic as usual, but a young Mel Gibson really held his own. If you don’t know the story, it’s a retelling of The Mutiny on The Bounty where Gibson leads a mutiny against Hopkins because he doesn’t want to leave the island and his woman. The crew overall agrees and sends Hopkins and the leaders off into the ocean. Hopkins faces a panel back in England to see if he was at fault for the mutiny. The acting is top-notch and seeing Neeson, Gibson and DDL at a younger age is a treat. I’ve always enjoyed the movie and this Blu-ray looks really good and comes with multiple commentaries and more.
Tell Them Willie Boy is Here was new to me. This 1969 film finds Robert Blake playing a Mexican named Willie Boy who returns home to be with his love. In self-defense, Willie kills his love’s father which puts him on the run with Robert Redford out looking for him. It has a great western feel with long shots, great backdrops and I’m always down to see Robert Redford in a western type movie. My dad remembered the movie and liked it. The cinematography is good and the acting is good as well. If you like modern-type westerns you should like it. It also comes with commentary and more.
Last we have The Appaloosa starring Marlon Brando. This 1966 western sees Brando returning to his small hometown to start a horse ranch but his Appaloosa horse is stolen by bandits and he seeks revenge. This was back when Brando was a great actor and not the shell of the man he became. It also has what you expect in a western, great cinematography, bad guys, long shots, backdrops and more. I had never heard of it and it’s not connected to Appaloosa, the Ed Harris movie from 2008. It’s not Brando’s greatest work but he’s still better than most of what you see today. It’s surprisingly violent for a movie of that time period as well. This new release also comes with audio commentary.