A bit of science fiction, horror and drama this week. Up first are two Dr. Who releases. If you noticed I wrote it as Dr. Who and not Doctor Who you’ll know I’m talking about the non-canon Dr. Who films starring the legendary Peter Cushing from the 1960s. I’m a more recent Whovian, I started watching the show a few years back and started with the Chris Eccleston revival. I haven’t seen much of the original series, but I know these two Cushing films aren’t considered part of the universe. They were two movies released in theaters in color which was a strong selling point because the show was in black & white at the time. The first film is Dr. Who and the Daleks which says Dr. Who (Cushing) isn’t an alien from another world, but just a scientist who creates a time machine (The TARDIS). Dr. Who, his two granddaughters and one of their boyfriends are transported to another world by accident. The youngest granddaughter spots a city far away and they travel there where they meet the Daleks, a machine type body hosting a life organism inside. The Daleks want to exterminate the other living beings on the planet, the Thals, but the Doctor and his companions join the Thals to defeat the Daleks.
The second film is Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. This finds Cushing, one of the granddaughters, his niece and a cop traveling into the future where Daleks have invaded and are exterminating London. They team up with surviving humans to rebel against the Daleks and save Earth. Both of these films have been restored and look great on Blu-ray. The bonus features for both show some of the process of the restorations. I hadn’t seen either film before and gotta say, I liked Cushing as Dr. Who. I know they wanted him originally for the television series, but he turned it down and in one of his autobiographies admitted it was a mistake. It’s amazing how different they made his Dr. Who especially being human and not a Timelord. You can tell they tried to make these films for a newer/non-TV audience especially to bring in American fans. But even though they may not be canon, these are definite must owns for Whovians and Peter Cushing fans.
Next we have Evil Boy, a horror film out of Russia. A young boy goes out to play but disappears and is presumed dead and his parents are devastated. Years later they meet an odd boy at an orphanage who reminds them of their son. They take him home and soon realize he’s more than meets the eye. Weird things start happening, the mother starts to believe the boy is their son despite being younger than he should be. The father knows the truth though. Then it unravels into a weird sort of paranormal story. It’s not bad and the the young actor playing the boy is super creepy which you want in a movie like this. It doesn’t have the out of left field twist Orphan has, but it definitely has a twist you’d kind of expect in a creepy/paranormal kid based movie. It’s far from great and I don’t know if I’d watch it again, but for something I had never heard of, it held my attention and was good for a one time viewing.
Graveyards of Honor has a special release this week featuring both the original 1970s film and the 2002 retelling. Both are from famous Japanese directors and both tell a similar story with slight differences in the remake. The 1975 film is from Kinji Fukasaku and is about real-life gangster Rikio Ishikawa. Ishikawa was a member of the Yakuza who would become a junkie and live a life of violence and crime. It’s set in a post-World War II time period and has all the set design and costuming of that time period. It’s a pretty solid crime drama that’s extremely well made and well shot. The 2002 version is from the legendary Takashi Miike so of course it amps up the violence and gore. It’s still about Ishikawa and he’s still in the Yakuza and becomes a junkie, but it was set in modern time (time of its release). With Miike you get a lot more blood and violence and it’s everything you want in a Miike crime drama. It’s longer than the original, but for the most part still tells the same story of his rise in the Yakuza, his loss of control, the drugs and his death. Both are different because of the directors, yet both feel similar at the same time. If you aren’t familiar with the movies (I wasn’t), this release is great if you enjoy Asian crime dramas. If you are familiar and enjoy either/both films, this new release is a must own.
Winner of Best Director at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, Caro Diario hits Blu-ray for the first time in North America. I honestly didn’t get the big deal to the film. I understand why it won Best Director because of the way it’s shot, but the film itself is rather boring to me. It comes across as an Italian Woody Allen film with lots of talking, walking and traveling. It has a 3 story arch which tells three parts of the lead’s diary as he travels around, works on a screenplay and struggles with a health issue. Sure it’s very pretty with fantastic backdrops, but at no point did I really care about the lead character. If you want to watch a character talk about Flashdance and meet Jennifer Beals and then go bouncing around beautiful places as he talks, then this is for you. It’s not something I’d ever watch again, but I guarantee it has a fanbase that will eat up this new Blu-ray release.
Another film that is good for one viewing is Pilgrimage. It says it’s a remarkable imagining of the historic voyages of 16th-century explorer and writer Fernão Mendes Pinto, one of the first Europeans to sail to and travel the Orient which I would be interested in because I love history. But then at times it breaks out into song. It has a lot of positives like costuming and production design, but the film itself is just bizarre to me. Choral renditions of Portuguese singer-songwriter Fausto’s progressive 80’s pop album Por Este Rio Acima just happen to happen randomly as characters begin to sing. Honestly, the first time it happens (I believe on the ship) it caught me off guard and I was genuinely confused at what was happening. But others clearly enjoyed it more than me because it was Portugal’s entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 2019 Academy Awards. If you cut the oddity of musical element, it’s a pretty good historical time piece, but alas it’s not the case.
Bull: Season 4 is out this week. My mom likes this show because she liked Michael Weatherly on NCIS. Like all CBS shows I only watch it when it comes my way to review. I don’t mind the show and I probably could watch an episode or two during the season, but I definitely wouldn’t watch it weekly so I don’t. Season 4 begins with Bull getting ready to be a dad, a water filtration company is accused of defrauding investors, a social media influencer fights her dad to gain control over her money, a “dancer” is assaulted by a rich man at a gentleman’s club, a boarding school athlete dies, a doctor is accused of buying his way into school, a woman kidnapped her niece because she claims her father was abusing her, and in the final episode of the season Bull must deal with a diplomatic immunity issue. It’s not great TV, but I do prefer it over other CBS programming.
Next are a few releases that came out last week, but I didn’t get them in time or I screwed up the release date. First is Time Loop, a time travel film. It reminded me of the Ethan Hawke film Predestination in that it sort of tells its story backwards in a way or at least it reveals the plot from ending to beginning (watch it and you’ll understand). A father and son discover time travel in a small Italian town, but get caught in a time loop with multiple versions of the son in the same time line trying to prevent certain actions from happening. But with any time travel movie they soon realize that maybe the actions aren’t preventable and that maybe more is involved. It’s not a groundbreaking film and won’t wow too many people, but I actually liked it. The science is more accurate than Avengers: Endgame and makes you question fate, consequences and decision making. Are these actions fixed? Were they made by something that has to happen? Can you control the future with your past? The special effects don’t rival Stargate, but it’s also a lower budget film so it can’t look amazing in the first place. They keep it simple with two main characters, a French woman, a love interest and another man and it does overall keep you guessing. It explains itself without breaking any of its own rules (unlike Endgame, Looper and the like) and each character is believable. Not bad for an unknown sci-fi flick.
Black Test Car/The Black Report is a two movie release of 1960s Japanese films. Black Test Car shows industrial spying in the auto manufacturing world. Two car companies are vying to release a sports car with each one using spies to see what the other is doing, what their price will be, what it looks like and everything else. They pay off nurses, have women sleep with executives to get information, have someone buy the first in the line to get into an accident. It would give Mad Men a run for its money in terms of drama. The Black Report sees the boss of a food company murdered and they aren’t sure who did it. Was it his mistress? His wife and her lover? Lots of drama over business in the follow up to Black Test Car. I wasn’t familiar with either film, but if you are this new release looks great and comes with some bonus features.
Last we have Magnum PI: Season 2. This came out last week, but I got the date wrong and thought it was this week (my bad). This is the new reboot starring Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum not the classic Tom Selleck version. CBS has had some luck with TV reboots. Hawaii 5-0, SWAT, MacGyver have all done pretty well for the network, but I don’t know if this one is doing as well as those. I’ve only seen it on DVD myself and I don’t know if it’s something my parents watch weekly and I know they watch the others. Season 2 sees Magnum dealing with a pickpocket who swiped a cellphone, mercenaries try to take over Robin’s Nest, Magnum investigates a possible dirty cop, a hotel guest is tossed off his balcony, the team tries to find $3 million in drug money, Magnum’s military past catches up with him as he looks for an Afghan adult he knew as a boy, Kumu is kidnapped, an urn is stolen, Magnum and Higgins are hired by an opposing couple to dig up dirt on the other. It’s not great TV and I still prefer the original, but it’s your typical CBS show of today.