Pretty big week of releases and I’ll start with the biggest, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. I’m a big fan of Illumination so I was looking forward to this. Overall I did enjoy it, but did find it geared to a younger audience which is perfectly fine. It is a Dr. Seuss story and I have no issue with movies geared to one particular audience, but with movies like Sing and The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination usually makes films that cover a spectrum of audiences. It did half a billion dollars worldwide so it was clearly a hit. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the legendary character and the film extends the story we all grew up watching on TV. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie and your family will love it (especially with mini movies in this home video release), but I guess I wanted something different or more. Don’t ask me what that is because I really don’t know what I would change. It’s fun and colorful and has fun side characters your kids will love. The home release looks and sounds flawless and the mini movies are delightful as are all Illumination mini movies. If you missed it at the theater, pick it up and enjoy it with your family.
That may have been the biggest film on the list, but the best is The Guilty. This Danish drama surprised me and had I seen it in time, might have been in my top 10 of 2018. A police officer is demoted to a desk job while under investigation for a shooting. He takes a few calls, sends out an ambulance or cop car or two, but then gets a disturbing call. A woman is kidnapped and being held in a car on a ride. Her kids are at home and they believe it’s her husband who’s taken her. The officer tries to keep her on the line as long as possible to track her cell phone but keeps getting disconnected. As the film plays out there is much more to the story but I won’t spoil it. It’s pretty much a single location setting with the main officer the focus of the film. It reminded me of the Tom Hardy flick Locke from a few years back. The lead actor is fantastic and the film holds your attention throughout. It’s tense and the twist works. It’s already been picked up to be remade by Hollywood but I definitely recommend watching this first. A very pleasant surprise.
What could have been big or good ended up being neither, third is The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a sequel to the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Pretty much everyone involved in that film was replaced and now you see Claire Foy starring as Lisbeth Salander. I liked the American version of Dragon Tattoo, but it seemed to disappoint and it’s been a few years since its release. I guess they thought this sort of reboot would help the franchise, but this did nothing at the box office and it’s easy to see why. A $35 million worldwide box office will most likely kill the franchise and I’m not sure what they were going for here. Foy wasn’t a good fit and seemed to overact scenes that needed nuance. My issue is that it seems dumb but wants to be smart. Having all these computer issues and hacking and codes and all that seems smart, but if you put any thought into it, it’s not. Government programs from different countries wouldn’t be connected. Investigators both foreign and NSA seem to ignore actual physical evidence everywhere. I could nitpick it to death but you get the point. I’m not sure what they expected but this is a disappointment.
Next is Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel: The Complete Season. Now I’ve never been a Powers Rangers guy. I was grown(ish) when it first got big but my nephews always liked it. The 3-DVD set includes all 20 episodes, plus the seasonal specials (including the holiday special Dino Super Charge / Super Ninja Steel crossover episode). It also includes the special 25th-anniversary episode that features the return of the original Mighty Morphin Green Power Ranger, as well as Legendary Rangers from across time and space! I’m sure that’s a strong selling point to fans, but that doesn’t mean much to me. I watch the show, but don’t get anything out of it. I grew up on Voltron (the 80’s version not the Netflix version) and I understand the concept here but it’s so repetitive to me. But if you are a fan, this set is for you.
A remastered special edition of Charly is now available. I had never seen this 1968 adaptation of the book Flowers for Algernon, but had read the book when I was in school. I was shocked it was filmed in Boston which was cool seeing what my hometown looked like back then. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about a man named Charly who is slow and gets an operation that makes him highly intelligent changing his life. There’s a twist but I won’t spoil it. As I watched the film I realized this would never be allowed to see the light of day nowadays. There would be outrage over an actor playing a mentally slow person despite the same character having to be smarter later on. People would be outraged over the bullying and treatment of Charly especially his coworkers. People would also lose it over doctors thinking they can “fix” someone and make them smarter. The outrage mob today would burn theaters down showing the film. But I liked the movie, I thought Cliff Robertson was great in the lead role and the film looks good remastered.
Next is 800 Words Season 3 Part 2. I’ve watched every DVD that’s come my way of this show because it’s simply charming. Sure it’s a drama, but with the location, settings, and characters, it’s just a delightful little show. Part 2 sees George and Katie trying it out in a new relationship. Arlo and Poppy get closer. George thinks he’s the issue causing Billy stress. We see a republican presidential race and much more. It’s heavy on drama, but the characters are completely likable and the backdrop is breathtaking. If like me you’ve been watching from the beginning, keep going.
Sticking with TV, Gunsmoke The Fourteenth Season Volume 1 & 2 are out this week. For shows like this I tend to go with what my parents think more than myself. Gunsmoke was one of the longest running TV shows of all time and was a favorite of my parents. They still watch reruns to this day. There’s something to be said for a show that’s decades old yet still gets watched. These episodes have been remastered so if you’ve been picking up the series over the past few years, time to get season 14.
Next is a slew of releases from Mill Creek Entertainment and I’ll start with what I think is the best of the bunch, a horror double feature of Eli Roth’s Hostel & Hostel Part 2. I’m sure these have been available together before but you can’t beat both movies together. Hostel is a fantastic flick that helped put Eli Roth on the map, but you can make a case that Hostel 2 is actually better. I like both films and have watched them multiple times each. This is a Blu-ray + DVD set of both films in their Director’s Cut. If you don’t own them already, pick the up now.
Next is The Benji Collection, 3 Benji movies that have been restored. I’ve reviewed these before individually and they aren’t my cup of tea, but they are perfect films for families. I’m not an animal person but if your family loves dogs they will like this. This collection features Benji: The Original Classic, For the Love of Benji and Benji Off the Leash. If you don’t own them, this is a good grouping.
Next we have Betty White Collection a multi-disc set featuring 40 episodes of television from Betty White’s early days. You get 24 episodes of Life With Elizabeth which won her her first Emmy. You get 16 episodes of Date With the Angels as well. But the best inclusion is a documentary on Betty. Now we all know Betty White is a national treasure and if you aren’t familiar with her early work, this is a must watch. If you only know her from the past 20 years or so, you can see how talented she was from the get go. Pretty interesting.
Second to last we have Metropolis & Memories – Anime Double Feature. I had recently seen Metropolis for the first time when the Steelbook came my way and it’s about a leader wanting to release a powerful robot but his son wants it destroyed. The robot (unaware it is a robot) befriends a young boy as authorities chase them. It was pretty good actually. Memories is 3 stories each with its own style. Two space travelers follow a distress signal and get drawn into a world created by one woman’s memories. The second story is about a young chemist transforming himself into an unstoppable biological weapon set on a direct course for Tokyo. The third story depicts a day in the life of a city whose entire purpose is the firing of cannons at an unknown enemy. They were pretty interesting but I liked Metropolis the best.
And finally we have Astro Boy – The Complete Series. This is the 2003 version which was an update of Osamu’s Tezuka classic series. I remember catching it on Netflix a while back and really enjoying it. Sure the classic is the gold standard but I thought this version was pretty solid. I dug the animation, the style, the soundtrack and thought the look itself was reminiscent of the original. If you aren’t familiar with any Astro Boy this would be a good introduction. If you are a fan then this is a must own.