One of the new releases for this week on home video is one of the biggest movies of the year, Toy Story 4. If you read me enough you know I’m not a diehard Disney/Pixar fan, but the Toy Story franchise is one that hasn’t disappointed me. The fourth film in the series is pretty darn delightful even if it’s also completely unnecessary. All your favorite characters are back and this adds some new ones as well including Forky, a plastic fork that Bonnie made into a toy who believes he’s trash and keeps trying to jump into garbage bins. Like all Pixar films it follows their familiar formula and combines comedy with drama and emotion. You’ll laugh and some of you might even cry by film’s end. I will say that this one did get a bit dark at times. Sure the original film showed a human doing some crazy things to toys, but this has some creepy mannequin type dolls that could rival Annabelle. Plus there’s a side story that is somewhat dark with a doll toy wanting Woody’s voicebox for herself. But overall it’s a family friendly film that kids and adults will love. Toy Story is without a doubt Pixar’s best franchise and even though this clearly got made to make enormous amounts of money at the box office, it’s still a charming and heart warming film. It also looks and sounds great on Blu-ray (which I got) and comes with over an hour of bonus features including deleted scenes and more. If you loved the first 3 films, this is a must own.
Second we have Midsommar. I know some people who loved this movie and will make their top 10 lists for 2019. It is the opposite for me. I damn near hated it. It’s from Ari Aster who made Hereditary which I liked once it went off the rails so I had high expectations for this. I like the cast of Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter and William Jackson Harper and everything about it I should like. Unfortunately it turns out to be just another Americans in a foreign place where bad things happen to them flick. It’s like Aster watched Eli Roth’s early work and The Wicker Man right after and decided to make one movie out of all that. It’s a beautiful looking film and the cast does the best they can with what they are given, but the story is completely lackluster. Nothing about it feels fresh or original. You can see most of it coming a mile away. Besides Pugh’s character, the male characters are bland and throwaway characters. Sure the film is about her after suffering a huge loss, but it makes you want to hate Reynor and the boys for simply being bad guys. I didn’t see where they are bad guys. She was going through some stuff and wasn’t easy to deal with and wasn’t even invited on the trip in the first place. Like Hereditary it tries to surprise audiences with gore, sex and craziness, but if you’ve ever seen a film about young Americans overseas, you fully expect something horrific to happen. None of it should be surprising or shocking to anyone who likes this genre. I know others who didn’t enjoy the movie either yet I know people who love it. I guess you’ll have to see it for yourself and decide.
Third we have Kung Fu Monster. I like a lot of Asian films especially their dramas and martial arts flicks. I’m not a huge fan of their fantasy films that rely heavily on CGI. I kinda liked this overall, but didn’t love it. It has some good action sequences, but it uses a ton of CG with the creature and effects. Louis Koo stars as an Imperial Secret Police officer put in charge of capturing and taming a beast that is to be offered as a gift. He realizes the creature isn’t a beast and is more gentle and tries to release it so it won’t be turned deadly. The film deals with the creature in the wild, sides trying to capture it or escape from it and rebels trying to overthrow the leader. The story is easy enough to follow and the characters are what you expect. Koo of course is the tough soldier type. There are the bumbling pair, the rebel pair, one who secretly loves the other and the male who falls for the pretty girl out trying to help Koo. If it didn’t use as much CG I might have liked it more, but it’s like the Monkey King series in its over-the-top use of CG effects.
Next is the psychological drama Family. This was an odd movie and I’m not sure if I actually liked it, but I think I did. A photographer goes to her therapist’s home to tell her what she had done. She’s not home but her daughter is and she starts telling the daughter about her messed up family. She had gone back to the home with her father because she needed money and well I don’t know if I can say what happens because it might spoil the film. Let’s just say bad things happen and the history of her family is not a happy one. They call it sort of a horror flick and I’m not sure if I agree. There are some deaths, but it’s more a psychological thriller than slasher flick. The lead actress is good and there are a couple of creepy (icky) scenes with the brother character that will have you shaking your head. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this. But again I think I did like it.
The Ice King is a documentary on figure skater John Curry. I wasn’t familiar with him, but my mom and two sisters remembered him. He was a figure skater from England who would end up training in the US and competing in the 1970’s. He eventually created his own touring company playing huge locations around the world. It gets into the politics of skating especially back then when you could tell whether or not you had a chance of winning if the number of judges favored you or the Eastern European skaters. Not knowing anything about Curry beforehand I didn’t know anything about his personal life. He lived a pretty openly gay life having been somewhat outed in the 70’s after a competition. A previous lover/friend talks about John and personal letters are read throughout the film. I won’t say what happens to him, but as you watch it, you can see where it’s going. It’s a movie my sisters will like and if you were a fan of his, it’s pretty personal with rare footage of competitions and shows along with the letters.
Now for some TV releases. First we have Life with Lucy: The Complete Series. This was a 1980’s short-lived TV series starring Lucille Ball as a grandmother getting herself into shenanigans. It really tried to capture the I Love Lucy magic later on in life, but ultimately didn’t work. It’s far from bad, but we here at The Nerds Templar are big Lucy fans and it was difficult watching an aging Lucille Ball doing physical comedy at that age. It tried to be like Archie Bunker’s Place, but didn’t last nearly as long as that. I’m not sure if it’s been available on home video before, but I can see people having a soft spot for this and now you can own it.
Last we have China Beach: The Complete Series which I believe has been available before as a complete series box set. This late 1980s/early 1990’s drama was a critical darling and my parents were fans when it came out. It starred some pretty big names including Dana Delany, Marg Helgenberger, Michael Boatman, and Robert Picardo as regulars and names like Robert Knepper, Mykelti Williamson, Rikki Lake, Tom Sizemore and more as guests or characters that ran for a few episodes. The series was created by veterans and had storylines based on true events. It also featured a soundtrack of 1960s and 1970s classics including its beloved opening credits. It won countless awards and producers would go on to make other shows The West Wing, ER, Shameless, The Leftovers and more. I actually thought it ran much longer than 4 years because I remember when it was on. Rewatching it now I see why it felt different for the time and why those involved would go on to make big TV afterwards. Delany became the breakthrough star and it’s easy to see why. If you were a fan, the whole series is right here in one box.