Pretty big mix of releases this week and I’ll start with my favorite of them all, The Kid. Vincent D’Onofrio directs this Western about a brother and sister on the run from their uncle (Chris Pratt) who run into Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and the man out to get him, Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). D’Onofrio makes a solid Western with all the things I want from the genre, long sweeping backdrops, gunfights, good guys, bad guys, whore houses, drinking and more. I quite enjoyed this and it reminded me of The Magnificent Seven remake that also starred Hawke, Pratt and D’Onofrio. I’m not sure if it’s the first time Pratt has played a bad guy but I don’t remember seeing him as one before. Newcomer Jake Schur is also quite good in the film holding his own opposite men with decades more experience. If you like modern Westerns you’ll like this.
Probably my next favorite of the new stuff is The Odds. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this going into it. Was it going to be like Saw? Was it going to be less gruesome and more psychological? It was a mix of both. There is some gore but it’s also a solid thriller. A troubled but determined young woman competes in a gruesome and sadistic game against concealed virtual competitors in a winner-take-all test of survival. As the game progresses the game gets more demented with harder things to survive and more psychological trauma as well. I wasn’t familiar with either lead, but both are pretty good. It does just enough to hold your attention and keep you guessing at whether or not the “host” is part of it or not and how far it will all go. It has the right amount of gore for a movie like this as well. A quality little movie no one has really heard of before with actors no one is too familiar with.
Third we have Gloria Bell starring Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The film gets credit for showcasing an age of characters as leads we don’t see too often in movies, but beyond that it’s pretty much the same as what we are used to. Moore plays Gloria Bell a professional during the day and single lady out dancing at night. One night she meets Turturro and hit it off, but I won’t spoil it. We don’t usually see movies with characters well over age 40 dating, having sex and going out and having a good time so it’s good to see that, but that’s also a story we’ve seen a thousand times before. It’s a story about new love and finding love after a divorce later in life but it’s still just a love story. I did like a scene with Moore and a paintball gun but explaining that will spoil it. Moore and Turturro are great (they always are), but by the end it’s still just a love story.
Next we have The Venture Bros. Season 7. For some reason it’s always a show I only watch on home video. This is all 10 episodes and sees the return of P.R.O.B.L.E.M. With the disembodied head of Venture Sr. locked inside and under control, P.R.O.B.L.E.M. is taken over and used to hack the VenTech Tower. I actually like the commentary on every episode because it helped remind me of previous seasons because it’s been a while since I’ve seen the show. It has a pretty good cult following on Adult Swim and I know some diehard fans. If you haven’t seen Season 7 yet, now you can.
Sticking with TV, Delicious: Series 3 is out this week. This is such a fun little show I like binging when it comes in. It’s a quaint, well written series with great performances. Iain Glen’s character died in Series 1 leaving his hotel/restaurant in the hands of his widow and ex-wife. They butt heads for a while but series 3 sees them really working together until competition comes around. A restaurateur with a history of taking over smaller businesses comes to town and brings the drama for the new season. At only 4 episodes it moves quickly and gets a lot of story into those episodes. There’s drama, food, emotions, comedy and everything in between. Both leads (Dawn French and Emilia Fox) are both highly watchable and enjoyable. It’s one of those shows that doesn’t sound like it should work but it does. Being short with number of episodes seems to help the pacing and the show never wonders.
Next is London Kills: Series 1. This series follow detectives in, well you guessed it, London. This follows the typical police procedural design with each episode having its own mystery but also an overlapping storyline with this season involving the disappearance of one of the detective’s wives. There is a groom killed at a bachelor party, someone stabbed and hanging from a tree, a man killed on his houseboat and so on. It feels like others shows with its style of filmmaking and storylines, but overall I liked it. I like police procedurals especially non-American ones so I’ll keep watching this show as it comes my way. Like Delicious, only having 5 episodes makes it easy to binge and keeps the show on track.
Next is Sara Stein: From Berlin to Tel Aviv The Complete Series. This is 4 films on 2 DVDs and I’m assuming they were made for TV type films. Katharina Lorenz plays the title character who is a criminal investigator of Jewish descent working in Berlin who in the first film investigates the death of an Israeli DJ in Berlin. You can see the series get into politics, religion, race and more very quickly. The second film sees her in Tel Aviv where she isn’t very welcomed because she is replacing someone found dead in their apartment. The third film she travels to Masada near the Dead Sea to investigate an explosion that killed the son of a famous archaeologist. The fourth film involved a severed hand in Tel Aviv with ties to human trafficking. I was not familiar with this series in the slightest but thought Lorenz was very good in the lead.
Now for something lighter, All You Ever Wished For starring Emmy winner Darren Criss. This did not end up the way I was expecting it. Criss plays a young fashion executive sent to Milan where he is kidnapped and held for ransom in the Swiss Alps. Ok easy enough, but then he escapes and meets a woman who he falls instantly in love with. Turns out the Alpine village is under a gypsy curse and you fall in love with the first person (or thing) you see. The kidnappers’ boss still wants his money and everyone loves someone. It is definitely more of a romantic comedy than I expected and I never realized how in shape Criss is. It’s not exactly my type of movie but if you like Lifetime or Hallmark flicks then this is for you.
There is a new special edition Blu-ray of The Andromeda Strain out this week. I haven’t seen the film in decades and you can feel its influence in so many movies today. Before Jurassic Park, movie goers got a taste of Michael Crichton in this science fiction flick. A satellite comes to Earth and a small town is effected by it. Everyone drops dead and a team of scientists and experts have to figure out what caused it. It has a feel of 2001 with germ movies like Outbreak and Contagion. It has great visual style with split screens and coloring. The score is also great and adds to the tone of the film. The technology in the film doesn’t hold up too well, but it’s such an important film to the sci-fi genre and thrillers in general. It’s gone through a restoration of the original camera negative and comes with plenty of bonus features including making of, a look at Michael Crichton, trailer, radio spots and more. If you like this important sci-fi film, this new release is a must own.
Now for a slew of Mill Creek Entertainment releases. All 39 episodes of Jackie Chan Adventures – The Demon Portals Saga arrive in one DVD collection. We’ve always enjoyed Jackie Chan here at The Nerds Templar and I have a soft spot for his animated series. Chan voices himself in this fun series where he travels with his niece to find 12 magical talismans before bad guy Dark Hand does. I hadn’t seen any of them since they first came out and the show holds up pretty well. Chan is always funny and the show is overall simple but it’s for kids and I can appreciate that. This is a great collection of The Demon Portals Saga.
Drop Dead Diva The Complete Collection is also out. I was never a fan of the show but my sister was. It ran for six seasons and was about a vapid model who is reincarnated as Jane, a plus-size lawyer with astonishing intelligence. Brooke Elliott was really good in the role even if I didn’t love the show itself. It’s definitely for the Lifetime/Hallmark audience (my sister), but I can respect what it was trying to do. I’m not sure if the complete series had been released before, but now you can get it at Mill Creek prices.
Mill Creek also has a bunch of double feature Blu-rays out this week with the best being Mindwarp/Brainscan. I hadn’t seen either film before which is shocking because Bruce Campbell stars in the first one. He plays a man in a post-apocalyptic future in a wasteland surrounded by cannibals. A woman from the technology driven nice area is sent there as banishment and he helps her to to survive. Campbell is a B-movie god and he’s great in this even if the movie isn’t. The technology is laughable by today’s standards as is the cannibals, but as a fan of Groovy Bruce’s, I’m glad this came my way. Brainscan sees Eddie Furlong as a teenager who gets the latest video game Brainscan. He thinks he’s playing a game when in reality he might have actually killed people. The cops are in pursuit and he can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t. Another movie with aged technology, it’s not great, but it’s also kind of fun. Pretty solid double feature here.
Next is Mo’ Money and High School High. Damon Wayans stars as a con artist trying to go straight. Wayans was pretty big in the 1990’s thanks to In Living Color. His son may be more popular now but although this hasn’t aged well, you can see he was a funny guy then. High School High also hasn’t aged well but a lot of spoof movies don’t. Jon Lovitz and Tia Carrere star in a film lampooning feel good movies like Dangerous Minds. I’ve always liked Lovitz so I did laugh at this but I remember it being much funnier back in the day. Some of the references seem to be about things we’ve long forgotten.
Next is Stepmom and The Deep End of the Ocean. I was never a fan of Stepmom but my niece loved it when it came out. Julia Roberts stars as the girlfriend of Susan Sarandon’s ex-husband. They bond and it’s all lovely. Ed Harris also stars. Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams and Whoopi Goldberg star in the second film about Pfeiffer’s son disappearing. I probably hadn’t seen it since it first came out and forgot how good Pfeiffer was in the role. It’s not one I can see myself watching over and over again but I liked it more than Stepmom.
Next is The Trigger Effect and Body Count. The first film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue and Dermot Mulroney and is about a power failure collapsing every day life. I actually don’t remember this survivalist movie and it hasn’t aged well but isn’t too bad. Body Count stars David Caruso, Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo and more and is an art heist drama. One of the thieves winds up dead so the crew runs south running into a con artist. It was pretty decent and the cast certainly helps. It’s the better of the two flicks.
Corbin Bernsen stars in Life with Dog and it’s pretty much what you expect in an animal movie today. His wife dies and Dog shows up in his garden and won’t leave. They bond of course and his character learns to cope and love and all that you expect. I’m not a fan of movies like this, A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, etc., but if you are then this is for you!
Last we have A Thousand and One Nights The Story of Aladdin 8 Magical Tales. This actually came out last week but I didn’t get it in time. Speaking of time, it’s definitely out in time to cash in on the Aladdin craze happening right now. This is 8 classic retellings of the beloved Aladdin stories all based on the classic Arabian Nights folk tales going back from the 1940s to the 2000s. There’s everyone from Lucille Ball to John Leguizamo and Barry Bostwick. You get a TV adaptation, a TV Musical Adaptation, a cartoon and more. I like some of them more than others (big Bostwick fan) but all are pretty much kid friendly and fun for the family.