Up first this week for us is the surprise hit Smile. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, for years lower budget horror films have made good money at the box office if marketed properly and Smile definitely had good marketing. As for the film itself, I liked it, but didn’t love it. Like another hit horror movie this year Barbarian, Smile feels too much like other movies. It’s still watchable, but if you’ve seen It Follows, Unsane or The Ring franchise, you’ve seen this before. It stars Sosie Bacon who 100% captures your attention and holds it throughout which is great because it’s a slow-burn film. Even though it’s a slow-burn it doesn’t necessarily feel slow. The pacing is good despite the fact that most of the movie you sit there waiting for it to go off-the-rails. Eventually it does and the payoff is pretty solid. The plot is the biggest negative to me because again it feels like It Follows and other movies. But it’s shot nicely and is entertaining enough. It relies too much on jumpscares for me which I hate, but I know there is a huge audience out there who loves them. It did very well at the box office because of it. I definitely expect a sequel if not a franchise because it did too well and is cheap enough to make not to keep it going. If you missed this one at the theater I recommend catching it now.
Second we have The Ambush. I like military movies from other countries because I like seeing how they portray their soldiers. Here in the States we like to make our soldiers out to be superheroes and this is kind of like that. The easiest comparison is Lone Survivor or Black Hawk Down. On their final deployment three soldiers are attacked and are stuck while being absolutely bombarded by the enemy. A rescue team sets out to rescue them, but they get involved in the ambush. I’m not familiar with any of the foreign (to me) actors, but I thought they were all very good. The action is solid and the film is pretty intense at times. Even if they aren’t Americans, you root for them to survive and make it out alive. If you like American movies like Black Hawk Down or Lone Survivor you’ll dig this. I can see myself watching it again even knowing the outcome.
Third we have Slash/Back a film that wants to be The Thing so bad it even references The Thing in the movie. The biggest positives with the film are its concept and special effects. Yes it’s a The Thing ripoff, but that movie is a sci-fi classic so I have no issue with a new generation wanting to remake it since it’s actually a remake in the first place. Then there are the special effects of the creatures. The aliens take over human and animal bodies and they all look very good especially for a lower budget film. Unfortunately the acting is bad. The young girls in it aren’t good. Their dialogue is cliched and their personalities all seem stereotypical. Despite its location, these are typical young girls living on their cell phones and arguing over boys. I know the film wants to try something different with the location and ethnicity of the characters, but ultimately they come across as typical one note characters. If you can get beyond the acting the film is a decent watch with good effects.
Next we have Hinterland which has a pretty good story, but I didn’t like its look. The entire film looks like it was shot in front of a blue-screen and most of it was. It looks excessively fake and I didn’t like it. Which is a shame because the story has a great noir vibe to it. Some prisoners of war are released and return home after World War I. The lead actor was once a cop and returns to action after some murders have ties to him. Someone is taking out the returning soldiers and he needs to get his life back together to solve the killings. The lead actor is very good and I liked the costuming and style of the time period. If you can ignore the fake backdrops it’s a very good movie. I wish it was shot normally because I would have really, really liked this one. As it is I still recommend it because the story works and the lead actor is very watchable.
Last we have Mystery Road Origin about a cop returning to his small town in Australia. It is a prequel series based in 1999. You don’t need to have seen any previous seasons of Mystery Road or the films Mystery Road or Goldstone (which I highly recommend) to follow along to this. It stands alone perfectly fine if you don’t know the Jay Swan character. It’s a solid cop drama with a bit of noir to it. This Origin season involves a local gang doing robberies in Ned Kelly Gang outfits and the death of a local with ties to Swan. Is everything tied together along with a death from years back? It’s an easy watch and the lead is very good. The location is a character in itself and it has all the classic small town people at the bar, on the land and in the police station. Fans of the series/movies will enjoy it a lot and again if you aren’t familiar with it, I still recommend checking it out.
The next three releases come from Mill Creek Entertainment. Up first is Lifemark which gets a DVD and Blu-ray release. I’m not a religious person, but for 95% of the movie it’s not overly religious despite starring and being made by Kirk Cameron. It’s about a boy who was adopted and when he turns 18 must decide if he wants to meet his birth parents. It’s nothing more than a Made-for-TV type film, but that’s ok. His best friend records everything and he decides to go ahead and meet them. It’s exactly how you expect it to be, but then ends in a very religious way. You should know it’s coming because of the association with Cameron. The lead actor is decent and the film won’t wow anyone, but for what it is, it’s watchable for its crowd.
Next is County Line starring Tom Wopat. I had seen another one of these previously and I think this one takes place prior to that. Wopat plays a sheriff who loses an election and is replaced. His wife has died and he’s having trouble dealing with his new life. His friend, another sheriff, is attacked and he must get back into the swing of things to take on the bad guys and corrupt cops. It reminds me of the Jesse Stone films so if you like those, you’ll like this franchise.
Third we have Ultraman Kids 3000: The Complete Series which came out last week. This is a cute little series geared for a younger audience to get them into Ultraman. You get all the kid characters you expect, the tough one, the smart one, the fun loving one. I thought it was cute. I actually think I remember this one from my childhood. If you want a fun way to introduce Ultraman to your kids minus the over-the-top violence with fun characters and colors, I highly recommend it.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: Ultimate Christmas Collection came out last week, but I got my copy later in the week. There are very few shows that capture true Americana better than The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and this Christmas collection is perfect for this time of year. It includes 14 full episodes, Ricky Nelson’s performance of The Christmas Song and the 1980s Christmas Special reunion. Everything has been digitally restored so the episodes look as good if not better than when they originally aired. It was a tried and true show, but it lasted forever because of it. It’s a slice of Americana especially these Christmas episodes with all the holiday tropes we expect nowadays. The show was a well oiled machine and these episodes show how perfectly made everything was with top-notch production value for the time period. Sure in today’s cynical world it’s all a bit cheesy, but watching these made me feel like a kid again when Christmas meant something to most of us.