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Out This Week (In The US): Batman v Superman, Return of the Living Dead, Elvis & Nixon, Miles Ahead & more

Miles Ahead

Miles Ahead

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice – For months, I’ve been one of the few defenders of Batman Vs. Superman. Not because I think it’s a good film, but because I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as everyone said it was. Yes, it’s terribly flawed, but I liked some of the action sequences and I just didn’t hate it like some people did. With the new Ultimate Edition DVD or Blu-ray edition delivering a three-hour R-rated cut, I expected that the rumors would be true that it would allow things to breather and flesh out the story more. Only, it doesn’t. If anything, it had the opposite effect for me. It just gave me an extra half hour to think about everything that’s wrong with this movie. And that’s a LOT. I really wanted this new cut to be the savior of this film, but if anything, it just puts its flaws more on display. Sigh.

Return of the Living Dead – I love zombie movies, and I have for a long time, even before they were as incredibly popular as they are today. Return of the Living Dead, however, is an unusual flick and always has been. It’s an over-the-top comedy-styled zombie movie filled with gore, guts, and glop. And while I’m far from a zombie purist (I love the fast zombies in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), this movie has never really been a favorite. It’s just too ridiculous in places for my tastes. That said, if you’re a fan of the film, Scream Factory’s new two-disc deluxe Blu-ray collector’s edition is a must have. The film has been remastered and looks better than ever, and the set is literally packed with new and archival extra features that will take you hours to wade through.

Elvis & Nixon – Kevin Spacey stars as Richard Nixon and Michael Shannon stars as Elvis Presley in this quirky movie about one of the most infamous incidents in the White House’s history: namely, when Elvis Presley showed up at the White House and asked Richard Nixon to deputize him. Yep, this really happened, and this film brilliantly dramatizes it. Kevin Spacey – obviously not a dead ringer for Nixon – is terrific as always, while Michael Shannon – a gifted actor who I generally am never happy to see in a film for some reason – is a revelation as Elvis. Definitely check this one out.

Miles Ahead – On the flip side of the musician biopic spectrum, we have Miles Ahead, starring Don Cheadle as jazz great Miles Davis. However, this film takes a weird left turn somewhere along the way and imagines Davis as part jazz musician and part action hero. The loose story sees Davis during his infamous self-exile period being interviewed by a reporter. The two of them end up on a weird mission to recover some stolen tapes of Miles’ music, and it turns into an odd buddy cop film. Sort of. I’ll say this: Cheadle’s performance is fantastic, and I always like seeing Ewan McGregor in a film (he plays the reporter.) But on the whole, the film isn’t really my type of thing.

Orphan Black: Season Four – By now, you’ve heard the buzz about Orphan Black, and it’s easy to see why. I was instantly hooked by Orphan Black. Who is this girl? Why is she so awesome? What’s with all the clones? Now in its fourth season, the series never goes stale. It’s constantly moving and changing direction, and our lead character is constantly pushed closer and closer to the edge. I often wonder if the many conspiracy shows we’ve been watching through the years could have been greatly improved by reducing the number of episodes in a season. At 10 episodes Orphan Black seems tight and perfectly paced. Tatiana Maslany is the star of the show in every way. She’s absolutely, unbelievably amazing! She plays each version of her character with different accents, different behaviors, even different smiles. She’s so good I often forgot I was watching the same actress. Orphan Black is here to stay, so get on board now. You know your clone is watching it, right?

Bitten: Season 3 – Genre hottie Laura Vandervoort stars in (and gets solo spotlight on the cover) SyFy’s Bitten: The Complete Second Season, an under-the-radar cult hit for the network. Based on the Women of the Otherworld novels by #1 New York Times best selling author Kelley Armstrong, Bitten is basically The Vampire Diaries with werewolves in the spotlight instead of vampires, but that isn’t a bad thing for fans of paranormal genre fare like me. I have to admit, despite a few cheesy moments here and there, I’ve really grown to like this show. The characters are good, the stories are compelling, and the genre mythology works well. A good summer fix for genre fans who’s shows are over for the summer.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Bad Moon – This overlooked ‘90s werewolf flick stars Michael Pare and Mariel Hemingway and it’s surprisingly good for a film that I never got around to seeing when it first came out. While it looks a little dated now, it still holds up thanks to an inventive take on the genre, which basically boils down to a werewolf hiding his condition from his sister, only to be suspected by… the family dog. It’s a simple premise but it’s refreshing just to see a werewolf flick that isn’t awful, a rarity these days.
  • Night and Fog – Disturbing, somber, dark, powerful, important: this is Night and Fog, a short film created after the end of World War II by acclaimed filmmaker Alain Resnais. It’s not a narrative film per se, instead it’s a collection of filmed images of the aftermath of the liberated concentration camps at Auschwitz. I guarantee you you won’t be able to forget what you’ve seen here. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s important viewing and essential for any students of history. As with all Criterion releases, it’s been restored and remastered and comes with some thoughtful supplemental material.
  • The Films of Maurice Pialat: Volume 3 – Van Gogh – Volume one of The Films of Maurice Pialat was a three-movie collection with a bonus film included. Volume two and this release were both just a single movie, in this case the noteworthy Van Gogh. Despite the fact that it does include two discs with an hour-and-a-half’s worth of extra features, the fact that it’s just a single film is weird to me; why not make it part of a collection like the first volume? As for the film itself, this movie focuses on the last 60 days of Van Gogh’s life. It’s a pretty good film, despite being a bit logy in places. The cast is excellent as well, making it a good addition to your collection if you’re a fan of foreign films.
  • Dementia 13 – Notable for being Francis Ford Coppola’s first film, this Roger Corman horror film was produced with leftover budget from another movie from his studio, which should tell you something. It’s clear that Coppola had talent even here, but if you’re looking for a masterpiece a la The Conversation or The Godfather, you’ve come to the wrong place. Still, for a low-budget cheapie, this is a relatively fun horror flick, now in an excellent Blu-ray edition from the Film Detective label.
  • A Perfect Day – Benicio del Toro, Tim Robbins, Melanie Thierry, and Olga Kurylenko star in this interesting if not entirely successful film about security and humanitarian people on a mission in 1995 war-torn Bosnia. But this isn’t an action film. If anything, it’s more like the original Jarhead; it’s much more about the beuracracy and red tape involved in foreign countries’ landscapes. It’s an intriguing film, but it seems to be made up of a series of good moments rather than a cohesive film as a whole. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t love it either.
  • Underdogs – If it seems like most American kids wouldn’t be interested in a film about soccer, that’s probably not inaccurate. This animated movie – despite the big names in the cast – was made in Argentina, where soccer is a much bigger deal. Unfortunately, this isn’t the movie that’s going to win over kids and turn them into soccer fanatics. It’s mediocre at best, and sepite some solid voice over work from Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Morrison, Ariana Grande, John Leguizamo and Mel Brooks(!), the film just never is as charming or funny as it needs to be. I’ve seen worse, but don’t go out of your way for it.
  • My Best Friend – It’s this month’s girl-with-a-horse movie. Starring Catherine Bach and Patrick Muldoon, this is your typical girl who feels all the feels finding herself with the help of a horse movie. There’s nothing really different about it, and it’s not really god or bad, but that’s me looking at it from an adult perspective. If I was an 11-year-old girl, I’d probably think it was the best movie of the year.
  • The Perfect Match – I don’t know that I have anything interesting to say about this movie at all. You’ve seen it a million times before. Guy doesn’t want a commitment, meets the perfect girl, falls in love, things get complicated. I wish I could say it was at least charming or funny, but it’s neither done as much as it needs to be. This is the kind of thing you used to find on Blockbuster Video shelves at midnight on a friday and watch because everything good was rented out.
  • The Odd Squad: The O GamesOdd Squad is a fun little show for kids that my own children enjoy. It reminds me (more in a nostalgic way than because of any actual similarities) of shows I watched when I was a kid like 3-2-1 Contact and the like. It’s a group of kid sleuths who solve mysteries and teach kids about real life math applications, although in a subtle way. This 90-minute collection features an episode that sees the team competing in some games that make for a loose tie in with this summer’s Olympic games. What kid wouldn’t love that?
  • Caillou Goes for the Gold – This is the latest DVD release of the popular cartoon, with a good handful of episodes. This show is kind of your basic kids’ show. A young boy has adventures in parks and playgrounds and such, and learns lessons about everything from friendship and helping to winning and losing. It’s pretty typical kids fare for the younger set, but that’s not a bad thing. Plus, the low price point is a bonus looking for kids’ entertainment. This time around, there’s an Olympics theme, for obvious reasons. Fun!

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