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An array of releases this week and I’ll start with the most acclaimed, Shoplifters. I had heard nothing, but great things and although it’s not quite what I expected, it’s still very good. The film is about a family that lives off shoplifting and day jobs. The father does manual labor. The mother does labor as well. They live with the grandmother in a small place and take in a young girl who seems to be being abused by her parents. But when the son gets pinched, family secrets come out and maybe there is more to the family. It’s extremely well acted and well made and you truly get a sense of who these people are. I guess I expected more shoplifting and it to be more of a crime drama than a family drama, but still a very good film and I understand its award nominations.

Next is Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten and I’m really baffled at this film. It’s not bad, but I watched a movie called Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum back in September which is pretty much the exact same horror flick. I tried to see if this was a remake but I didn’t see anything about that. This sees some internet personalities go into a haunted hospital to film and do dares. Gonjiam sees a crew from a horror web show live stream from inside an asylum. Both movies talk about the history of these haunted places. Both movies have people involved in more than what they say. If I hadn’t seen Gonjiam I might have liked this more, but this felt like the same exact movie. It’s not bad, but felt very similar.

Kino Lorber has a few releases out this week, the first being Summer Lovers. I had never seen this 1982 film starring Peter Gallagher, Daryl Hannah and Valérie Quennessen. Gallagher and Hannah play an American couple staying on a Greek Island. There Gallagher’s character meets Quennessen who he soon becomes infatuated with. Hannah finds out, but she finds herself drawn into it all as well. It’s from the director of The Blue Lagoon so you know there’s some steamy stuff. It was cool seeing a young Gallagher and Hannah especially now since we think of Gallagher as a TV dad.

Next is The Real McCoy from 1993. I remember seeing it back in the day and I gotta say, it doesn’t hold up very well. Kim Basinger plays a bank robber who gets out of jail and has to do another job. Val Kilmer is a low time crook with Terence Stamp the man in charge. It’s very generic, but I’m guessing it might have been better when it first came out. At least the bank robbery scene tried to use gadgets and technology that might have seemed groundbreaking in the 1990’s. It’s also kind of slow which is usually the opposite of a Russell Mulcahy flick. But if you have fond memories of it, the new Blu-ray is pretty solid.

Next is American Vandal Season One. I had never seen this Netflix show and must have had it confused with something else because this is a comedy spoof and not a real show. And I’m glad I was wrong because I ended up liking it. It’s a parody of crime podcasts that are the rage today with this about a high school student being expelled for allegedly drawing penises on teachers’ cars. I’m not much of a true crime guy, to be honest, I’ve never seen or heard any of them, but because this is a parody, it worked for me. All the actors deadpan their performances because it’s supposed to be real. It’s over the top in its voiceover and style because that’s what hooks an audience. When they are trying to figure out if the one kid got a handjob from the hot girl and try to prove it with science, angles and what not, I laughed the entire time. It was a nice surprise for me since I expected something else. Now hopefully Season 2 comes my way.

Sticking with TV, next is Bang Series 1. This is a Welsh police procedural I binged pretty quickly. It opens with a young family on a beach and the dad being killed. Flash forward to present day and a cop finds a body in the water next to a boat. The dead man is a local car salesman with ties to other people. Local gangsters live across the street from a grandmother and grandson who is the brother of the cop that finds the body in the water. Of course as the season continues, ties to others start to unravel, the grandson starts to get into his own trouble and much more. I binged it over 3 days but probably could have done it in two. I like connecting seasons because they keep you guessing. Like is the wife of the dead car salesman connected? Will the guy get caught? Will the sister bust him? Pretty solid show.

Next is Ackley Bridge: Series 2. I wish I liked this show more, but so much of it feels forced or that it really wants to pander to an audience. Series 2 starts with a new term and Nasreen still dealing with her sexuality. Missy’s mom is still a drug addict and the school is still butting heads with the mix of students. I know the show is trying to prove we can all get along, we’re all human with the same problems and issues, but something about it feels so forced to me. I think it’s trying way too hard or I just can’t relate to a younger generation in the slightest no matter what race/gender/location.

Now for some pretty random stuff. Nude Area is an art house flick that shows the forbidden love of a posh Amsterdam teen and a Middle Eastern girl from a poor area. There is no dialogue and it’s told in vignettes with the girls meeting in the nude area, shower area with other women. I do wish it had words, but I thought the style was pretty cool. It’s also pretty sexy at times especially with the vignettes jumping from location to location. I don’t know if it’s something I’d watch again but it’s interesting enough for one viewing and props for trying something different.

Moko Jumbie tells the story of an Indian-British girl sent to Trinidad where she has family that lives on a plantation. She falls for a local boy who her aunt doesn’t like. He comes from a bad family and her aunt doesn’t want her spending time with him. I understood all that, but a lot of it I didn’t understand. What were the tall creatures on stilts? What spirits were the aunt talking about? Was the uncle alive or a spirit? He’s there at one point then again at the beach towards the end, but the aunt mentions a spirit. I didn’t understand any of that. The young girl was pretty good in her role and is pretty stunning, I just wish I understand the other stuff going on.

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco is a documentary on Antonio Lopez who before watching this movie, I had no idea who he was. If you read me enough you know I know little about art. I know even less about fashion so a fashion artist is new territory for me. Lopez was bisexual and drew models and started in New York and ended up in France with the likes of Warhol and fashion designers. Everyone in the documentary talks about how great he was and important and how much of a genius he was. I don’t know who he is so clearly I’m not the target audience for this. Once you tell me someone is important you lose my interest. I also didn’t get how all these people talked about him being so great looking when he looked like a smaller John Oates. Not my kind of thing, but if you know who he is, check it out.

Now we have The Key to Rebecca a 1980’s TV miniseries starring Cliff Robertson and David Soul. I wasn’t familiar with it and it’s a classic cat & mouse storyline. It takes place in Cairo during World War II with Robertson as a major and Soul as a German spy trying to infiltrate the British high command. It’s not a super easy binge and starts out a bit slow, but once you realize he’s not just a businessman and there’s a lady involved, it moves a lot better. It’s based on a book I’ve never read as well. If you remember it from the 1980’s check it out.

Next we have The Front Runner. This political biopic about Presidential hopeful Gary Hart was DOA at the box office and did nothing in awards season as well. It’s not a mind-blowing film like JFK or Spotlight so I understand why no one really talked about it. It’s not bad and the cast is really good. Hugh Jackman plays Hart with Vera Farmiga his wife. JK Simmons, Bill Burr, Alfred Molina and a slew of others also appear in the film. Hart ran for president in 1984, but dropped out. He later ran again in 1988 where he was considered the front runner. An extramarital affair would take down his campaign. It’s funny, watching it I almost felt bad for Hart. Sure he cheated on his wife, but just a decade later Bill Clinton would be doing the same thing IN THE WHITE HOUSE! Not only does the movie show how politics has changed it also shows how the media drastically became trash. Once respected, the media would turn to tabloid journalism and it’s even worse today. Journalists ran stories on Hart with just hearsay and Hart didn’t think the American people would buy into it. Yeah he was guilty of the affair but his point of what does it matter to his job was his valid thought process. Jackman is good in the role, but I understand why the film didn’t get any award buzz. Not as bad as the box office numbers would suggest though.

Last we have Horror Express in a new Blu-ray package. The legendary duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing star in this horror/sci-fi flick from the early 1970’s. It’s been restored and looks really good. Telly Savalas also stars in a classic whudonit with an alien twist. Lee plays an anthropologist with a crate on a train. The crate is believed to hold a frozen early humanoid, but as it thaws, those aboard the train are shocked. I’ve always enjoyed Lee & Cushing collaborations and I’ve always enjoyed this film. This new release comes with great new bonus features, the restored film and much more. I’ve had the movie on DVD for years, but this release is well worth the upgrade.

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