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Out This Week (In The US): Independence Day, The Boy, Joy & more


independence day

Independence Day: 20th Anniversary Edition – Just in time for the long-awaited big-screen sequel this summer, Fox has released a very nice new 20th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray. It’s loaded with extra features — most of which have been seen before but does include a new 30-minute making-of. And while the film was a huge hit but then faded from pop culture consciousness, I found revisiting it to be tons of fun. I always loved this movie, as I do most of Roland Emmerich’s big screen disaster flicks, and it holds up well as a big sci-fi disaster spectacle. Sure, it’s got flaws but I was having too much fun watching it to care. If you come to this film looking for a serious message, you’ll be disappointed. If you want to see a classic genre — the disaster film — updated by adding bad-ass aliens to it? You’ve come to the right place.

The BoyThe Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan stars in this fun thriller about an American nanny brought to the UK to watch a damaged older couple’s young son Brahms, who turns out to be a life-sized doll that stands in for the son they lost in a fire 20 years ago. I have to say, I liked this movie quite a bit. It’s not uber-scary, but it’s fairly creepy, and there are a few twists and turns that I enjoyed. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but considering how terrible the horror genre tends to be these days, I enjoyed it overall.

Joy – David O. Russell returns with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro in tow (once again) in this based-on-a-true-story about a mom who became a millionaire thanks to a mop and home shopping on TV. As with most Russell films, it’s much more about the characters than the story, whichI think would have worked better if it wasn’t based on a true story. I wanted to know more about the story and how it all happened then I wanted to see J-Law, DeNiro and Cooper ACT. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. Russell once again proves that he’s too uneven to be a great director.

In a Lonely Place – A Humphrey Bogart film that I had never seen on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection? YES PLEASE!! In a Lonely Place falls into the noir genre, but really it’s more of a drama with elements of a thriller thrown in. Bogart gives one of his best performances as a writer suspected of murder whose girlfriend begins to suspect he might be guilty. But rather than be a mystery or a whodunit, the film focuses more on the wedge that drives between them thanks to his destructive behavior. It’s an absolutely terrific film, and Bogey is at his best. I only wish the extra features had something that focused on Bogart himself, who seems to be largely absent from the supplements.

Scream: The TV Series, Season 1 – I’m sure a lot of people wrote this off as a watered-down spin-off of a past-its-prime franchise, and I can understand why you might think that at first glance. But I have to say that Scream was one of the most deliciously fun TV shows that aired last year. Filled with the knowing attitude of the films and no shortage of kills, the show kept you guessing right up until the end. I really liked that it wasn’t afraid to kill off main characters, either, which really upped the unpredictability of the show. MTV did a really good job of capturing the flavor of the movies (if not quite all of the humor) and turning it into a highly addicting series. Can’t wait for season two!!

The Jim Gaffigan Show: Season 1 – I’ve been a fan of Jim Gaffigan’s comedy for years, and this show might be as perfect an adaptation of his stand-up to the sitcom format as could be possible. The show focuses on Jim as a stand-up comedian (which he is) who has a million kids (which he does) and who loves to eat (which he also does). Like similar shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond, it’s not a plot heavy show, but damn is it funny. Gaffigan basically plays a caricature-ized version of himself, but his humor is so universal that it translates extremely well. Definitely track this show down if you haven’t already.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Where To Invade Next – Michael Moore returns with his least impactful film yet. Why is it his least impactful? Because nobody’s even heard of it. Unlike the heady days when Fahrenheit 9/11 grossed over $100 million at the box office, this film came in with a whimper and left even quieter. Not a war movie like the title would imply, instead, Moore looks at best practices from around the world and shows us the many, many ways this country could be better. I’m sure the hard right will hate it, but as usual with Moore, it’s powerful stuff. Put your politics aside and realize that this country could be a lot better off than it is.
  • Synchronicity – A cast made up mostly of unknown (plus Michael Ironside) star in this sci-fi thriller about time travel and corporate greed. It’s similar in ways to films like Project Almanac or the underseen Time Lapse, although it’s a little less visceral and a little more brainy. I enjoyed Synchronicity overall, but it has somer pacing issues and takes a little while to get going. Still, if you’re a time travel junkie, it’s worth a look.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Season 3 – The CW’s fan-favorite (but ratings-challenged) Beauty & The Beast: Season 3 comes to DVD this week. I’m not sure if the show is coming back for a fourth season or not, but I do like what the show runners did with the third season. I understand why the show wasn’t a slam dunk hit, but although season one started off slow, the show has really found its footing and made some great story strides over the past two years. Plus, Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan are still a great pair onscreen.
  • Regression – What a disappointment this movie turned out to be. Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson in a thriller about satanic rituals and a dark mystery? Sign me up! Unfortunately, as directed by Alejandro Amenábar — who also brought us the incredibly overrated and similarly dull The Orphanage — this movie is a dark, dreary slog through tedium. Both the leads give good performances, but you can see the ending coming a mile away and the film never once tries to do anything remotely exciting. Skip this one.
  • A Royal Night Out – Very loosely based on a real story about two British princesses who slip their security to celebrate the end of Waorld War II among the common folk, A Royal Night Out is nonetheless a cute and charming movie. It would fit in right at home on the Hallmark Channel, so don’t go into this expecting a full-fledged cinematic experience, but it’s good family entertainment that is fun to watch in the right mindset.
  • Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs – The inexplicably popular wolf franchise continues with Alpha And Omega: Dino Digs. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of diminishing returns, as the animation is poor, the sound is weak, and the film isn’t even an hour long. Younger kids will like it, but it seems like the franchise is trending towards just the really young kids now, where the earliest entries in the franchise were a little more all-ages friendly.
  • Manson’s Lost Girls – You might not think of Lifetime as the place to go to see an original movie about Charles Manson, but Manson’s Lost Girls is a surprisingly solid retelling of the events that enshrined his name in infamy. Focusing more on the girls (and one in particular) than on Manson, the film is well-crafted, well-acted, and tells the story in a concise but effective way. Worth a look if the subject matter interests you.
  • Dolemite – Rudy Ray Moore stars in one of the original Blaxploitation films, and one of the mod popular, now released on Blu-ray for the first time. This is genre I have a strange affection for. I wasn’t even born when it came around the first time, and by the time I was old enough to appreciate the films they were already considered cheesy. But for some reason, I discovered them and love a lot of them, and Dolemite is a lot of fun. Sure, it’s dated as hell, but I like to think of that as more of a snapshot of a time in our culture than being old. This is a great release for fans of the film or genre.
  • You’ll Like My Mother – The late Patty Duke and Richard “John-Boy” Thomas star in this thriller about a pregnant widow who goes to stay with her late husband’s family, only to find that things there are not what they seem, is a fun thriller from the 70s. To tell you more about the story would take the fun out of its twists and turns, but the plot isn’t really the star here. It’s the atmosphere and performances that carry the day here. Tense and suspenseful, this one was a fun discovery for me.
  • Newhart: Season 5 – The second Bob Newhart TV series that was a ratings smash and audience favorite, Newhart focused on Vermont innkeeper Dick Loudon and his wife, plus a lovable cast of supporting characters, including everyone’s favorite brothers, Larry, Daryl and Daryl. I loved watching this show as kid and I really enjoy revisiting it on DVD. The cast is terrific, the writing is sharp, and even the aged hairstyles and fashions can’t take away from what a sharp and charming show it is.
  • East Side Sushi – Similar in spirit to Jon Favreau’s food movie Chef, East Side Sushi focuses on a young Mexican mom who wants to become a chef at a sushi restaurant, only to be held back because she isn’t the right race. That’s all the plot you really need to know to enjoy this film, which is a small production but is really quite endearing. Lead actress Diana Torres is delightful and she really carried the film. Fans of foreign cinema or quirky indie dramas will enjoy this one.
  • Bubble Guppies: Fun on the FarmBubble Guppies is a fun Nickelodeon cartoon that my kids used to absolutely adore when they were younger, and I think it’s pretty clever, too. From the creators of The Backyardigans — which is one of my favorite kids shows from the current crop — Bubble Guppies is basically like The Backyardigans underwater. It’s a good show with a good mix of lessons for the little ones. This disc includes six episodes, running a little over an hour and a half total. These episodes focus on well, farms and animals, obviously.
  • Mustang – A Turkish film about five rural teenage girls whose “scandalous” behavior (which isn’t very scandalous at all by American standards, and some would suspect, even by Turkish standards) causes their guardians to enforce strict rule to keep them “pure,” Mustang is an interesting watch. Obviously there are cultural differences between Turkey and the US, but part of the point of this film is to show that these attitudes are outdated even in Turkey. I can’t say this film was really my cup of tea, but it is well-made and an interesting viewing experience overall.
  • War & Peace – Cinderalla’s Lily James stars alongside Paul Dano and James Norton in this new adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel. At 6 hours long, this miniseries doesn’t skimp on either the dialogue or the production values, and the result is a movie that will probably appeal to fans of literature. For my money, it was too long and I’ve never been all that interested in Tolstoy, but if you like period dramas, this should be right up your alley.
  • Arabian Nights – There are times when I hate being a film reviewer, and Arabian Nights is a perfect example of why. There’s an audience for this film out there, but I am so far from being a part of it, it’s not even funny. I’m not even sure where to begin. Director Miguel Gomes has crafted a 6 1/2 hour epic made up of three films that each tell a different story. Or rather, a series of stories. Each film uses the framework of 1001 Arabian Nights to frame a eerie sod stories that work as both fantasy and modern-day parable. I’d be lying pif I said I really understood any of it, but extremely cine-literate people will probably think it’s brilliant.
  • Against The Wild 2 – This isn’t really a sequel to the original Natasha Henstridge-starring direct-to-video film; it’s really just the same film over again in Africa instead of Alaska. Jeri Ryan takes over for Natasha Henstridge in the mom role, but really, it’s the young stars who carry this film, and they’re pretty good for child actors. Like the first one, this a pretty solid family film for younger viewers and parents alike.
  • Travel Detective: Season 2 – I don’t know that the word “Detective” in the title isn’t a bit of hyperbole for marketing purposes, but CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg is an excellent tour guide nonetheless, taking viewers to locales around the world and sharing some of the secrets to successful travel there. The show combines a personable and knowledgeable host with interesting locations and beautiful and interesting footage, and the result is a travelogue that’s quite addicting.
  • Ecuador: The Royal Tour – Speaking of travel, PBS also brings us a tour of Ecuador on this new documentary. Essentially an extended episode of Travel Detective, this special is also hosted by Peter Greenberg, only this time he’s joined by the president of Ecuador, who plays tour guide. We get taken to the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains, and the Galápagos Islands, and we also get to see some really amazing things, like how chocolate is made. A cool documentary about a fascinating country.
  • Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops – Bob Hope did an amazing amount of entertaining the troops during wartime, and his TV specials were a beloved part of the US culture in their day. These three specials (two of which were the highest rated TV shows of all time when they aired) features over two-and-a-half hours of Hope doing what he did best: playing host, comedian, and entertainer while sharing the stage with popular entertainment figures. This DVD alone will get you Ursula Andress, Gloria Loring, Miss United Kingdom, Connie Stevens, Neil Armstrong, and Johnny Bench, among others.
  • Vampires – Apparently this was originally filmed as part of a horror anthology in the 80s, but was then fleshed out into a feature film. What you get now is a heavily ’80s vampire movie about teen vampires that isn’t as cool or hip as it wants to be, but is also kind of cool and hip simply because it captures so much of the ’80s so well. It’s not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun flashback.
  • Nova: Memory Hackers – This Nova special is about the human brain and memory, and how easily cutting edge technology can affect those memories. With a running time of an hour, this real-life special gives an interesting look at technologies that are usually found at home in science fiction movies. Interesting stuff, if occasionally a bit unsettling.
  • Sheep Skin – The packaging describes Sheep Skin as a “gritty and realistic” werewolf thriller, but that’s really just code-speak for “low budget.” To be fair, I have seen worse werewolf films than Sheep Skin, and the filmmakers have their heart in the right place, but this isn’t great. If you’re the kind of horror fan that prefers their films really low-budget and indie-feeling, then you might enjoy this one.
  • Nova: Iceman Reborn – This is a fascinating documentary about the world’s most famous — or at least the oldest – mummy, the famous Otzi the Iceman. This fascinating film explores how scientists are studying Otzi, especially considering that he has to be kept in what is basically a frozen vault to protect him from the elements. The process involves basically trying to recreate Otzi from scratch, which is no small feat. This one is extremely engrossing check it out.

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