Pretty decent selection of home videos this week including one of my personal favorites of the year Yesterday. Himesh Patel will charm audiences in the completely delightful film. Despite being a huge Danny Boyle fan, I was nervous a bit before seeing the movie. I thought it could end up super cheesy or try way too hard, but I have to say the film really worked for me. The concept is definitely out there and why I had a bit of concern. A struggling musician (Patel) is hit by a bus the exact same time of a worldwide electrical blackout. He wakes up in the hospital not knowing about the blackout. While with some friends. he soon realizes The Beatles and their music never existed and he rises to fame playing their songs as his own. That idea could be taken in all kinds of odd directions, but I really liked what they did with it. It works for many reasons. First, Richard Curtis is an incredibly accomplished screenwriter, but one of his sleeper films is About Time. In that film Domhnall Gleeson turns 21 and realizes he can time travel. It’s another odd concept especially compared to Curtis’ bigger films like Notting Hill and Love Actually. I really liked About Time and see its similar qualities in this film. The main protagonist is easy to root for and not the normal lead you expect. The love interest is there, but not as in your face as a romantic-comedy. Yes you hope he gets the girl, but you also cheer him on in his own life experiences. The love story is there, but it’s sort of the secondary story which I appreciate. The cast is also fantastic with Lily James playing the love interest and friends and family as comedic side characters. I didn’t love Kate McKinnon in it because I’m kind of over her entire routine but besides that I have no other issues with the film. Of course the music is fantastic especially if you are a fan of The Beatles and Danny Boyle uses music in film better than most. It’s just a delightful little film I can see myself watching over and over again.
Second we have The First King, a gritty look at Romulus and Remus and their rise from shepherds and slaves to leaders and one who would create the world’s greatest empire. I thought this was a pretty interesting take on the famous brothers and it shows their struggles before Rome. I also liked the fight sequences. If you like shows like Vikings and Spartacus, shows that take historical tales and add violence and action, then you should like this. I thought both leads were good and even if you know which brother comes out ahead, the story and vibe of the movie holds your attention while you wait for the climax. It’s just long enough to tell the full story they want to tell yet doesn’t feel long which usually happens with these historical epics.
Some horror films are so important to the genre that even as time goes by and they don’t hold up as well, they are still looked upon as genre defining. Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes comes to mind. Horror is also known for unnecessary/cash grab sequels. Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 comes to mind. There’s nothing exactly wrong with it, but it’s also pretty much the same exact movie as the first one. Now I’ve never thought it was as bad as others, but I also hadn’t seen it in a long time so rewatching it now, it’s not great, but it’s also far from the worst horror sequel ever made. Sure the story is the same, a group of people end up in the desert and run into a family of cannibals, but this does bring back Michael Berryman and the Ruby character although now she’s an adult named Rachel because this is 8 years later than the original. It’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as Part 1 or as shocking because we’ve already seen this family and by the time this was released there were also copycat films. But this release does look good on Blu-ray. The film never looked great in the first place, but this transfer does look solid in HD. It’s also filled with bonus features like commentary, a documentary and more. This sequel is lighter than the first film with more comedic elements, but overall it does feel like the first film. If you are a fan, this is the version to own.
Staying with horror, Frankie Muniz stars in The Black String. It’s more a psychological thriller with some supernatural elements than slasher, but Muniz surprisingly wasn’t bad. He has a one night stand with a woman he meets on a phone dating line and soon realizes a rash he has might not be an STD. His issues from his past make his friends and family think he’s losing it and finds himself on watch when all he wants to do is find out the truth. Is she a witch? Are more people involved? How can he save himself? It’s not a great film or anything, but it was easy to watch and Muniz does hold his own. He hasn’t done anything bigger since his Malcolm in the Middle days (partly his own doing) so I really haven’t seen him as an adult actor. Sure he won’t be winning any awards, but he can certainly be a lead in a B-list horror movie like this. It won’t “wow” too many people, but for a movie I had no expectations for, it turned out to at least be watchable.
Next we have some TV releases for you including Holocaust, the late 1970’s miniseries starring James Woods, Meryl Streep and Michael Moriarty who won a Golden Globe and Emmy for his performance. The miniseries won multiple Golden Globes and Emmys and I honestly had never seen it. It uses a fictional Jewish family, the Weiss family, to recount what happened to many Jewish people during the rise of the Nazi regime. They were a well respected family with a doctor and friends and it opens with a wedding. You see how one man eventually will turn and no longer be a lawyer but a full blown Nazi. You expect Streep and Woods to be good, but it is Moriarty who is incredible, think Christoph Waltz good. Obviously the series isn’t an easy watch and it took me 3 days to get through all 4 episodes, but it’s incredibly well made, well acted and still holds up 40 years later. I’m not sure if it’s been available on Blu-ray before, but if this is its first release in HD, fans will be picking this up for sure.
Next we have Pitching In Season 1. This Welsh show is about an older man Frank deciding to sell his camping community, but when is daughter and grandson return home, his daughter has different ideas. She tries to bring new people in while also catering to locals. She’s left her husband and had a past romantic relationship with a local bartender. It reminded me of the series Delicious a bit in that the leads have different ideas of what’s best and how to run the place and it’s filled with drama and comedy. The setting is gorgeous of course and it has all kinds of characters. Using the locals brings in different character types and different substories. Plus Hayley Mills plays the woman that wants to help Frank sell the place, but might secretly have plans of her own. Some of the acting wasn’t great, but it was an easy binge and gets right into the story. It definitely ends on a cliffhanger so I’m curious to see where it goes in Season 2.
Billions Season 4 is out this week and I have no idea why I don’t like this show more. I like it but only watch it to review it. My parents watch it when it airs and look forward to seeing it. It’s well made, well acted and well written so it’s something I should love but just don’t. Season 4 opens with Paul Giamatti’s character Chuck no longer US Attorney. Axe (Damian Lewis) is out to destroy Taylor which is a running storyline in the season and even sees Axe asking for Chuck’s help. Wendy and Axe also play a role together going after Taylor throughout the season. All of it leads to a lot of shifting by season end. If you’ve liked the show so far and haven’t seen Season Four, pick it up this week.
Tea Leoni’s Madam Secretary: Season 5 is also out this week. It’s another show I only watch to review. It’s not bad, but it’s a hard binge. Even my parents don’t love it and they watch predominantly CBS programming during the year. Season 5 begins with Elizabeth dealing with the White House attack. She also deals with sweatshops, a volcano in Iceland, Haiti’s leader not stepping down after losing an election, of course it deals with children of illegals, an American made bomb kills innocents in Syria, a typhoon is headed to the Pacific, and it ends with her ready to step down and run for the White House. Leoni is good in the role, it’s just not an easy show to sit down and watch all the way through.
Last we have MOMO: The Missouri Monster which hit DVD and VOD on Friday September 20th. I wanted to love this and I respect what it is, but I wish it was more straight forward. It’s a fake documentary using fake movie footage to tell a story about a fake urban legend. The problem for me is, I would have rather have gotten just the movie within it. It would have been a bad but great B-movie that would have been more enjoyable than all the layers this has. It has a host who talks to locals about the creature while intercutting footage of the film that never got released. It seems to be this filmmaker’s gimmick and I wish it was just the movie itself. An intentionally bad creature feature is always a personal favorite and the B-movie within the movie had a totally cool intentionally bad vibe to it. I didn’t care about the “host” or “locals” or “town”, I just wanted the bad movie and bad looking creature! But I’m sure there are fans of this type of film and this series so if you are a fan, definitely pick it up. I overall liked it, I just wish it was more direct and less about the fake series and more about the fake movie.