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Out This Week (In The US): The Finest Hours, Manhunter, Dirty Grandpa and more

Eric Bana is Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff, Chris PIne is Bernie Webber and Kyle Gallner is Andy Fitzgerald in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, the heroic action-thriller based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard.

Eric Bana is Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff, Chris PIne is Bernie Webber and Kyle Gallner is Andy Fitzgerald in Disney’s THE FINEST HOURS, the heroic action-thriller based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard.

The Finest Hours – This movie could also have been called “The Okay-est Hours.” I really wanted to love this film, as I tend to really enjoy movies in this genre: based on a true story, adventurous high seas rescue, deadly stakes… that’s the kind of movie I live for. And there’s nothing actually wrong with The Finest Hours. The cast is good, the visuals are terrific, and the story is interesting. Yet somehow, the film never feels very suspenseful. I didn’t know the story going into the film, yet I never felt my pulse rate even flinch. It’s a perfectly enjoyable film, it’s just never very exciting, and considering what an amazing feat was pulled off in real life, this should have been an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. Still, it’s worth a watch; like I said, it’s not bad, just not as exciting as I wanted it to be.

Dirty Grandpa – This film seemed to get a really and rap right from the start. I don’t really know what all the fuss is about. Is it a great movie? No. Is it funny enough to get some chuckles out of? Definitely. I like Zac Efron a lot, and he’s terrific in this as always, and it’s fun to see De Niro do something comedic that’s at least a little bit different. Is it crass and immature? Of course it is. But that didn’t stop The Hangover movies from becoming worldwide blockbusters. I guess I just don’t see what the uproar was about. If you want a mildly funny raunchy comedy, you could do worse than this one.

Manhunter – I’ve heard some people describe Manhunter as the best Hannibal Lecter movie. I don’t agree with that statement; for me, it doesn’t get any better than Silence of the Lambs, and I think most people will agree that it is the definitive Hannibal Lecter film. However, Manhunter comes in an extremely close second. With writer/director Michael Mann at the helm and CSI’s William Petersen as FBI agent Will Graham, Manhunter is a top notch film. Bryan Cox does an admirable job as Lecter, but Anthony Hopkins will always be Hannibal the Cannibal for me and I’m pretty sure for most everyone else. Still, Manhunter remains one of the best cult films from a blockbuster franchise that exists. The new Blu-ray collector’s edition from Scream Factory is top-of-the-line, too, loaded with extra features and a director’s cut of the film.

The Player – Tim Robbins and Greta Scaachi star in one of Robert Altman’s later films, and one of my favorites of his. While ostensibly a mystery, the film is as much a send-up of Hollywood as anything else. Co-starring Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, and Richard E. Grant, the film is also notable for the sheer number of celebrity cameos that are peppered throughout the film. The movie was a minor hit back in 1992, but its cult status became legendary due to all the insider Hollywood attitudes on display. I love this film, and I’m excited to see it on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, where it’s been restored and remastered, and includes a ton of cool extra features.

How to be Single – While it bombed at the box office, I actually quite liked How to Be Single. Dakota Johnson makes a likable lead, Rebel Wilson is hysterical as always, and Leslie Mann is always the best thing about any movie she’s in. And while the film starts out in relatively safe rom-com territory, it branches out fairly quickly and actually dares to be a little different. So much so, that I was really impressed by the ending, which doesn’t necessarily end up in the usual places. I’m not saying it’s an instant classic, but for a fun way to kill 90 minutes, it will certainly do the job.

Risen – Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, and Peter Firth star in this faith-bsed movie that take a slightly less conventional approach to telling the story of Jesus, by focusing on a Roman soldier who’s been tasked with finding the missing body of an executed Jew. That Jew, of course, is Jesus, and the film eventually reveals its faith-based origins, but in a very different way from contemporary-set films like God’s Not Dead or Fireproof. The cast are all very solid, and the story is compelling, more so than many of the Christian movies I’ve sat through for review purposes. I’m not the target audience for this film, but I think the target audience in question will enjoy this one very much.

Bad Influence – I saw this 1990 thriller starring Rob Lowe and James Spader on home video when it came out and I loved it. I probably watched it a handful of times the first year or two it was out, and then it sort of just fell off the radar. But it’s one of those films that’s always been in the back of my mind, like “Remember Bad Influence? What a great film!” — the type of movie that would often come up when discussing obscure movies or having a “Have you seen?” conversation with fellow movie geeks. So I was beyond excited when it was released on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. The best part? It totally holds up! James Spader plays an uptight businessman who gets seduced into the questionable world of Rob Lowe’s bubbling-under-psycho, and his life spirals into madness. It’s great fun, and aside from some fashion choices, it’s every bit as good today as it was in 1990, probably because it’s directed by the great Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys.) I highly recommend tracking this one down.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Outsiders: Season One – I honestly had no interest in watching this show, where it seems like every character looks like a reject from Mountain Men or The Hills Have Eyes. However, when I found out it had David Morse, the criminally good Joe Anderson, and Kyle Gallner in it, I decided to give it a go. The show is about an off-the-grid mountain family that basically has its own way of life and its own laws, and it Don’t Like No Outsiders! It’s clearly meant to fill the hole left by Sons of Anarchy, as it’s a tough show populated by tough characters, but I have to say, it’s pretty solid. I don;t know that it’s the kind of show I’d set my DVR for, but as a quick binge watch on DVD, it was entertaining enough.
  • The Wonder Years: Season 5 – One of the most beloved shows of the 80s/90s, The Wonder Years continues its run on DVD, with the The Wonder Years: Season Five on DVD. There is also a limited edition set of the entire series available through StarVista online, but this set includes just the entire fifth season. One of the best things about this release is that the distributor went through and secured the rights to ALL of the music in the set, so the show’s indelible soundtrack is intact. What better time to welcome Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper back into your home?
  • Lou Grant: Season One – Lou Grant was obviously an incredibly popular show back in the 70s. To me, it’s interesting because it’s a drama that spun out of a comedy (The Mary Tyler Moore Show.) I can count on one hand the number of times that’s happened, and I can probably count on one finger the number of times that’s been successful. Still, it’s a great show, with Edward Asner in fine form as the crusading title character. The show wasn’t afraid to tackle social issues of the day and while some of them are obviously a bit dated, it still makes for good drama. Glad to see Shout Factory is putting this one out as I’ve been curious to see it for a long time.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume II – Some of the earliest MST3K DVDs are long out of print, now fetching premium prices in online marketplaces, so Shout Factory has wisely gone back and started to re-issue those hard to find gems. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume II brings us four films from the vaults, all given the MST3K treatment: Cave Dwellers, Pod People, Angels Revenge and Shorts Vol. 1. With everything from low-budget horror to sci-fi to short films, this is a great set that offers up a variety of film genres and some of the MST3K crew’s finest work. Plus, Shout Factory has added extra features that weren’t on the original release, making this a must-have for fans of the show.
  • Major Crimes: Season 4 – Mary McDonnell headlines a cast in this TNT spin-off of The Closer that I honestly had no idea was still on. For the most part, this is a typical crime procedural, as the major crimes unit moves through cases and puts away criminals (mostly.) I say that not to denigrate the show, as it does what it does very well, it’s just not a genre that I’m a particularly big fan of. Still, fans of the show will enjoy this extra-long season.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Beyond the Known Universe – I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since their early days as a black-and-white comic book aimed at adults, and I’ve never let go of that fandom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the current Nickelodeon show is the best version of the Turtles I’ve seen in over 20 years. It manages to find inspiration in the original comic books, infuse some flavor of the original cartoon, capture some of the feel of the movies, and even give it a bit of a video game flavor. It takes all of the best and various versions of the Turtles and mashes them up into one utterly terrific show, packed with action and filled with humor. This newest release takes the turtles into space and across the cosmos, which hearkens back to the earliest days of the black and white comic. It’s pretty fun, even though I prefer my Turtles on the streets of New York.
  • The Terror – This Roger Corman cult classic features one of Jack Nicholson’s earliest roles. Although the main star at the time was Boris Karloff, the film gets most of its attention nowadays for Nicholson’s lead role, as it’s one of the earliest glimpses of him on film we get. Also, even though the movie is credited to Corman, it apparently “had a total of five collaborative directors, including Nicholson himself and Francis Ford Coppola,” according to the press notes. The end result is a film that is a masterpiece as a curiosity of film history, and just an okay low-budget horror flick as a film.
  • Eleventh Hour – Patrick Stewart and Ashley Jensen star in the gripping British TV thriller. The show is sort of a British version of Fringe (at least the earlier seasons) with Stewart’s Ian Hood called in to investigate weird scientific crimes (rogue cloners, et al). It’s not quite as sci-fi based as Fringe was, nor does it have the overarching mythology, but Stewart and Jensen are terrific together on screen and the show is a good mystery series. Worth a look.
  • A Married Woman – Okay, I’m not a scholar. So when I watch a Godard film, even though I know there are probably layers of subtext and commentary that I should be picking up on, that’s just not how I watch films. Instead, I see this as a story of a married woman having an affair who ends up pregnant and has to choose between the two men in her life. The visuals are gorgeous and the story is compelling so in that respect, Godard’s film is successful. As for deeper meaning… well, I’m sure there are smarter people than me to tackle those ideas.
  • Rise of the Legend – Yet another period Asian action epic. As I’ve stated before, this isn’t a genre I particularly love, as many of the film sin it tend to be bloated and/or silly. At two hours and 11 minutes, this one falls into the former category. It’s not a and film, and there are some dazzling action sequences, but I feel like the movie could have told its story in about 20 minutes less screen time.
  • La Jaula De Oro: The Golden Dream, Preludio, Sobre Ella – This trio of Spanish-language films from Kino Lorber all focus on a few mainstays: relationships, connection, and friendship. La Jaula De Oro: The Golden Dream is about three teenagers who make their way from Guatemala to the US, and the bonds that form on their journey. It’s quite an impressive film, and the actors are all quite proficient. Preludio is an interesting drama about a relationship between two people who meet in a chance encounter. It’s almost like a Spanish-language update of David Lean’s Brief Encounter, except it was reportedly filmed in one take. Finally, Sobre Ella is an engaging film about four close friends who find their relationships tested after… well, to tell you what happens would spoil the film, but suffice it to say that there’s an incident, and it strains the friendships something fierce. It’s a bit touchy feely, but it also has some riveting scenes and some strong performances.
  • Nasty Terrible TKID-170: Julius Cavero – I’ll be honest, I had little knowledge and even less interest in this DVD when I first saw it. In fact, at first I thought it was about electronic dance music. It’s not. It’s about a young man who got conscripted into gang life in the 70s and became a graffiti artist extraordinaire. This film chronicles the last 30 years of his life and gives an inside glimpse into the graffiti culture of NYC, and it’s actually quite fascinating Track this one down if you can.

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