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Out This Week (In The US): Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Lobster & more


invasion of the body snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I was struck by what a strikingly 70’s movie the first remake is. Not in the sense of the clothes or the fashions, but rather the filmmaking. It has all the hallmarks of 70s cinema: discordant music, long tracking shots, unique camera angles, extreme close-ups that linger… it looks like so many other “serious” films of the time period. It also plays out like a lot of them: slowly. The first hour of the film is interesting but a bit long. However, the second half of the film more than makes up for it. By this point, the film becomes a taut paranoid thriller, strong enough to send chills up your spine. And the ending… whoo boy, that last shot is a doozy. One of the great science fiction movie endings, that’s for sure. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a timeless tale; it doesn’t matter if it’s the original, the 70s remake, or any of the newer iterations. This film, despite its slow beginning, holds up extremely well and is easily worth revisiting. This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory is a must-have for fans.

The Lobster – Colin Farrell stars in this charming romantic film about a world in which (and this makes somewhat more sense in the context of the film itself) he has 45 days to find your true love… or you’ll be turned into your favorite animal. To say more would be to take away the fun of discovering the world for yourself, but the film is a delight and Farrell shines, as do his co-stars Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly. The director also gave us the frenetically bizarre Dogtooth a few years ago, so be aware that this isn’t the most normal movie you’ll see this year.

Sniper: Ghost Shooter – Chad Michael Collins returns for his third installment of the long-running Sniper franchise. While Tom Berenger doesn’t return this time like he did for the last film, this time original film star Billy Zane returns which is a nice addition. This time around, our hero sniper and his co-horts are tasked with protecting an oil pipeline while being hunted by an enemy sniper. As with the previous films, it’s a surprisingly good action film despite a lower budget. With a mixture of sniper suspense, hand-to-hand combat, and all-out gunfights, this series remains one of the better action series coming out these days.

Confirmation – When HBO makes an original movie, it’s a good idea to watch it. This dramatization of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings stars Scandal’s Kerry Washington (who is fantastic, of course), Wendell Pierce, and Greg Kinnear. As usual for HBO productions, it’s high production values, fantastic performances, and a story that is compelling and engaging. Even though the story is long past the public consciousness, this movie explores the events and reveals details that I’m betting most people never knew. I really enjoyed it.

The Knick: The Complete Second Season – Cinemax’s hit series about the birth of modern medicine is an intriguing, often-dark, complex show filled with engaging (if not always likable) characters and a terrific cast. Clive Owen headlines a cast of “Hey, I know that guy” actors, and while shows about medicine aren’t usually my forte, this one takes a slightly different tack. I mean, sure, ultimately it’s a turn-of-the-century ER, but made in a way that really evokes what makes pay-channel episodic television stand out. I expect to see this show around for a while.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Murdoch Mysteries: Season 9Murdoch Mysteries is a forensic procedural (think CSI or Bones), but it’s set in 1890’s Toronto, right on the cusp of the age of scientific discovery. Detective Murdoch is basically the Fox Mulder/Gus Grissom of the show, and he’s a charming, intelligent fellow. Of course, he has a semi-romantic counterpart, and as is so popular with these shows, there’s unrequited sexual/romantic tension between them. It’s a bit cliched, but it works so well, it’s a welcome cliche. The show is fun and endearing, filled with good mysteries, excellent acting, great guest stars, and amazing period-era production values.
  • Key & Peele: The Complete Series – I was glad to see Key & Peele grow to become something of a comedy juggernaut. Using the Jimmy Fallon strategy of really utilizing viral media to its fullest, this is a show that is funniest in small doses, but that’s not a criticism. I discovered almost all of their best sketches online, but now you have the chance to go back and see some of their less noteworthy ones, many of which are still very funny. With the entire series collected into one nice set (although where’s the Blu-ray edition?), this is a definite must-have for comedy fans!
  • Puerto Ricans in Paris – Luis Guzman and Edgar Garcia star in this comedy about fish-out-of-water cops investigating a fashion theft in Paris. Frankly, I thought the film looked terrible, and I was surprised to find out that it isn’t. It’s not a great movie either, but at least it’s not terrible. Guzman and Garcia are fun together and there are some jokes that work (and some that don’t.) I think this is the kind of movie that people who are just looking for an easy watch, nothing challenging (and with some familiar faces) might enjoy.
  • The Girlfriend Experience: Season 1 – I sooo wanted to like this show. Starz puts out some terrific original programming, and this show about a college girl who ends up working as a high end call girl who provides men with “the girlfriend experience” sure looked intriguing. Plus I love a TV show that isn’t on a network and doesn’t have to hew to what’s acceptable to standards and practices. But this is the least sexy show I’ve ever seen. I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s produced by Steven Soderbergh, a filmmaker I am not a fan of But the show is dark and dour and doesn’t have an ounce of fun or sexiness in its body. What a waste.
  • Louder than Bombs – Jesse Eisenberg, David Straitharn, Gabriel Byrne, and Amy Ryan star in this dark drama about a photographer who is killed in a car accident and the aftermath of her death on her family, which includes her husband and sons. This is the classic “great performances in a so-so movie” scenario. All of the leads are impressive, but the movie is awfully heavy and dreary at times. It just boils down to really not being my kind of movie, but I’m sure other people will enjoy it.
  • IMAX: Humpback Whales – This IMAX film about humpback whales is being released on Blu-ray and the new Ultra 4K HD format, and there’s good reason for that; it’s quite visually stunning. I wish I had been able to see this film on an IMAX screen because I can only imagine how cool it would have been too see these majestic animals on the giant screen. But even on my regular-sized screen the film is still a sight to behold. At only 45-minutes (the standard IMAX film run time), this movie goes by quickly, but it’s packed with amazing visuals and soundscapes. Check it out.
  • Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues – I am always interested in anything to do with comic books, and I was surprised when this motion comic book crossed my desk. Unfortunately, the issues contained within are written by Gail Simone who — while a lovely lady in real life — is one of my least favorite comic book writers. The artwork is solid but the storyline had me bored to tears in minutes. Plus, I don’t know what it is about motion comics, but I find the voice acting to be pretty poor overall. I wish this had been better than it was.
  • In The Deep – Mandy Moore stars in this surprisingly good thriller about two girls trapped at the bottom of the ocean in a shark cage in severely shark-infested waters. Not only is it a tense thriller that gets the action going quickly, but it also has some of the best shark special effects I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time. To the point where I’m not even sure how they pulled off such good effects on such a small-budget. The film has echoes of The Descent, and while it’s not at that level, it is a really good little film. File this one under “Pleasant Surprise of the Week”!
  • Traded – Trace Adkins, Michael Pare, and Kris Kristofferson in this vengeance-based western. It’s a perfectly okay film, but that’s all that it is. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of westerns, but I don’t think this film would win any awards even from western lovers. Trace Adkins isn’t a bad movie lead, but he’s not exactly a stand-out, either. If you like westerns and don’t mind a lower-budgeted fare film, this one will fit the bill.
  • Saving Mr. Wu – Andy Lau stars in this action thriller about a group of fake cops who kidnap a movie star. If there’s no ransom in 24 hours… he dies. To say more would be giving away some of the twists and turns, but it’s a solid thriller even if it doesn’t quite live up to the premise. I’m n ot a huge Andy Lau fan despite the fact that he’s a superstar in Asian cinemas, so I tend to find his films a bit wanting, and this one is no different.
  • Paw Patrol: Sports Day – This is the newest DVD release of the popular new series for pre-schoolers. The show features six dogs and their 10-year-old friend who use cool vehicles to save the day and teach lessons about “good citizenship.” Its a fun show, and the young ones will love it. Of course, as the title implies, this one has a sports theme, which is nicely timed to tie in with The Olympics!
  • Lazer Team – From the guys at Rooster Teeth, who crowdfunded the budget for this sci-fi comedy, comes Lazer Team, about four guys who stumble across an alien crash site and have to learn how to use the equipment they find to help defend the earth. Rooster Teeth are the guys behind the hit Red Vs. Blue Halo-parody series, which I have an appreciation for (even if I’m not a huge fan.) As their first (I believe) foray into live action, I have to say this film is pretty good. It’s low-budget and low-brow (at times) for sure, but it’s also very funny. If you like a lot of or Buzzfeed content, you’ll probably enjoy this.
  • Guernica – James Darcy shines in this war-time drama about a journalist in war-torn Guernica on the eve of World War II. Whule the trailer portrays it as an action-packed film, it’s more of a drama than anything else but it does have some moments of action and peril that are really impressive. I like James D’arcy a lot and he is terrific in the lead role here, and while most of the cast is largely unknown, they are uniformly excellent across the board. It’s not a perfect film, but if you want something a little more serious and in-depth, it’s worth a look.
  • High Strung – File this one right alongside Step Up, Save the Last Dance, and pretty much every other opposites-attract dance movie of the last 20 years. Starring Ian Eastwood and Comfort Fedoke, this is a perfectly serviceable dance drama. It’s not quite the classic like Step Up or The Cutting Edge, but for those of you who like this kind of movie, it will do the job perfectly well.
  • Traders – An interesting film that doesn’t quite live up to its premise, Traders has nothing to do with the stock market. Instead, it’s about a guy who comes up with an idea to battle the depressed economy by battling other people — for money. Two opponents empty all their ban accounts, put the money in a bag, and fight to the death. The winner buries the loser and takes both bags. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a very cool concept, and while there are some tense moments in the film, the acting and dialogue aren’t quite at the level they need to be to turn this into a real hit. Still, I’ve seen worse from direct-to-video fare.
  • The Binding – I like lead actress Amy Gumenick, and I wanted to like this film more than I did. Sarah and her minister husband have a young daughter, but when voices start telling him to kill the child, Sarah is forced to protect her child from her husband. Which sounds cool, but mostly that means talking to lots of people and much less in the way of action or tension. The film’s end packs a little punch, but it’s too little, too late.
  • Bite – There’s definitely an audience out there for Bite, I’m just not a part of it. It’s a perfectly solid horror movie about a woman who comes back from vacation with a bug ite of sorts, which eventually starts to cause a disturbing transformation in her. The film isn’t bad in concept or execution, but it goes way over my personal comfort point in terms of gore and goo. I like my horror films more atmospheric and less visceral, at least when it comes to gory parts. However, I know there are a lot of people out there who revel in it, so for them, this movie will be a hit.

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