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Out This Week (In The US): Angry Birds, 11.22.63, To Have and Have Not and more

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To Have and Have Not

The Angry Birds Movie – When The Angry Birds Movie was announced a few years ago, a lot of people got in an uproar over it. A movie based on a phone game?!? Well, I argued then (and still do now) that there have been very successful movies based on less fully-developed properties (Pirates of the Caribbean, anyone?) The Angry Birds Movie is a fun little romp. It’s not a classic along the lines of a Shrek or a Tangled, but it’s a good distraction for the kids and will keep parents reasonably entertained. The main issue with the film is that it’s just not as funny as it could be. The jokes aren’t terribly sharp, and while there are some knowing nods to the parents in the audience, I didn’t find myself laughing all that often. That said, while I don’t usually go for potty humor, the grossest joke in the movie is also — hands down — the funniest. I must have laughed out loud for well over a minute at one particular sequence that will become quite evident when you watch the film. Also, the last 20 minutes or so are spectacular. I wish it had been a little funnier, but overall, I enjoyed myself more than I didn’t.

11.22.63 – Hey, look! James Franco finally decided to act again, rather than just starring in the latest Seth Rogen garbagefest! From JJ Abrams and Stephen King comes this Hulu show (based on one of King’s books) about time travel, JFK, and romance. It’s not a perfect show, but it is very intriguing and has terrific production values. Most impressive is Franco, who finally decided to take acting seriously again and remind people why he was once nominated for an Oscar. I liked this show, even if I’m not quite a rabid fan yet, but it’s definitely worth watching.

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made – Maybe my favorite documentary in the past ten tears, Raiders! is a wonderful film about a couple of friends who — when they were kids in the ‘80s — decided to shoot a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Literally the entire movie frame for frame. It took seven years, but they eventually finished it. Now, it’s been unearthed and become the subject of this loving documentary, which is a lot of fun and a must have for fans of Indiana Jones.

To Have and Have Not – Bogey and Bacall; in their first onscreen team up; “You know to whistle, don’t you?”; really, what more do you need to know? To Have and Have Not is classic Hollywood at its ultimate best. Now, I’m admittedly a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart, but this film is still a standout amongst his amazing filmography. Loosely based on an Ernest Hemingway novel, but more an attempt to subtly remake Casablanca with new starlet Lauren Bacall, the film is directed by the great Howard Hawks. All that adds up to equal a true cinematic masterpiece, and a film that should be seen by everyone whether they’re fans of classic Hollywood or not. Making its long-awaited Blu-ray debut courtesy of the Warner Archive (wbarchive.com), this one is a must-have.

Session 9Session 9 is a small horror movie that came out and kind of disappeared upon its release several years ago. Over the past decade or so, however, it’s gained a kind of cult status. It’s one of those movies that I hear about from time to time, and it seems to pop up more and more often in the horror movie conversation. With David Caruso and Josh Lucas in the cast, the film is an intriguing tale of psychological horror. I don’t want to discuss the plot details because it’s almost impossible to do without giving something away, but what’s really impressive is what an incredible atmosphere the director creates on such a low budget. There’s almost no blood or action to speak of, but the film is creepy and tense to the nth degree, and that’s a result of nothing more than strong cinematography, excellent editing, and incredible sound design. The end result as a whole isn’t as good as I’d heard over the years, but it’s certainly an intriguing little film.

Gotham: Season 2 – In its second season, Gotham remains the best worst show on TV. In theory, the show’s concept is fantastic: a prequel to the Batman mythos, the storyline focuses on a young Lieutenant Jim Gordon (eventually to become Commissioner Gordon) in the time after Batman’s parents were murdered, as he tries to bring justice to a lawless city. The show incorporates future villains like The Penguin (one of the show’s breakout characters), Catwoman, The Riddler and several others, all in pre-super villain guise. The show has many flaws; it doesn’t quite capture the world of Batman the way I think a lot of fans see it, but it gets better as it goes along and is a fun new take on a familiar legend. It’s terrible but awesome at the same time; I don’t get it, but I do keep watching.

Once Upon A Time: The Complete Fifth Season – One thing I love about this show is their willingness to change the status quo. It’s a completely different series than it was in Season One. I don’t know if it’s still the hit it once was, but for people who have stuck with it, this show has become very rewarding in that it takes chances and pushes the story forward whenever it wants to. You get the sense that the show runners are actually in charge here and not the network. If you’re a fan or if you’re looking to catch up, you should definitely pick this release up.

The Vampire Diaries: Season 7 – Going into Season Seven, The Vampire Diaries continues its run into interesting territory. A few story threads from season six carry over, while new stories develop. New characters are added (or changed) and a few characters are killed, and the show manages to remain somewhat unpredictable as ever, even if it’s lost a little of its luster by now. Despite a few story elements that feel like they’ve been “borrowed” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, the show remains a soapy slice of genre fun, filled with romance, bloodletting, and even werewolves on occasion.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

The Affair: Season 2 – I’m not sure why this Showtime TV series wasn’t released on Blu-ray, but now you can catch up with the acclaimed show on DVD. Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson star as the two main couple involved, and the show presents an affair that occurs between two of the characters from multiple points of view. It’s a complex and layered drama, and it’s the acting and the sharp writing that really carries it. For fans of deep relationship dramas, this show will be right up your alley.

A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits – It seems like there’s a new adaptation of Cinderella every six months or so. This is the most recent effort, and it’s aimed squarely at the younger tween set. This one stars Disney Channel megastar Sofia Carson (from The Descendants TV movie) and also Jennifer Tilly, who’s always a welcome sight. This time around, it’s a modern-set story in the world of acting, and it’s got all the Cinderella hallmarks, even if it’s uber-trendy and current. The songs are a bit much for adult viewers like me, but the tween set should enjoy it.

Power Rangers Megaforce: The Complete Season and Power Rangers Super Megaforce: The Complete Season – More new Power Rangers shows come to DVD in full season sets (a much better option than the previously released four-episodes-per DVDs). I know the Power Rangers franchise is still going strong, and I guess I can see why. These newer series has better production values (although not by much) than the classic series, and they still have that cool robot/monster/superhero dynamic that kids love. Now, instead of samurais, we have the Megaforce. The addition of special power force cards and megazords makes this series seem like it’s trying to cash in on the whole trading card game craze (like Pokemon and such.) Kids will probably like that, and parents will probably not. Because I’m sure it will cost them money.

Shimmer And Shine: Welcome To Zahramay Falls – My kids have grown out of most of the Nick Jr. shows, so I don’t really get to see any of them anymore, which means now there are starting to be series on the network that I’ve never even heard of. Shimmer and Shine is one of them. Turns out it’s a really cute little show about a girl named Leah who has two genies-in-training who try to help her out. With emphasis on the “in-training” part, things often go wrong. It’s a fun series that younger kids will definitely enjoy, and this DVD includes 7 episodes.

Warner Archive: Five Days One Summer and A Dispatch from Reuters – Two more classic Hollywood films make their DVD debut courtesy of the Warner Archive (wbarchive.com). A Dispatch from Reuters is a terrific biopic of Julius Reuter, the man who launched the Reuters news agency, the premiere news service in the world still to this day. With Edward G. Robinson – a true favorite of mine — in the lead role and Edward Albert and Edna Best in supporting roles, I loved this film because it’s not only a terrific film from classic Hollywood, but it’s also a true story that I was particularly interested in and didn’t know anything about. Five Days One Summer is a real oddity/curiosity. Marking the (I believe) final film by the great filmmaker Fred Zinneman, this early ‘80s offering stars Sean Connery and Lambert Wilson. It’s a slightly heavy-handed drama with a romantic triangle of sorts at the heart of it, and while there’s no doubt that Zinneman was a master behind the camera (and Connery’s performance is terrific) the film as a whole is nothing overly exciting.

Warner Archive: My Fellow Americans and Doc Hollywood – These two comedies from the early ‘90s have been available on DVD before, but these DVD releases from the Warner Archive (wbarchive.com) mark their widescreen debuts on DVD. Doc Hollywood stars Michael J. Fox and briefly made a star out of Julie Warner (who I wish had been able to hold on to her star status, as she’s beautiful and talented), and while it feels very early-‘90s, it’s still a lot of fun. It also serves to remind what a great screen presence Michael J. Fox was and how missed he is on our screens. My Fellow Americans is an average comedy about two ex-presidents who have to team up and go on the run when they are framed by the current president. It’s not a great film, but seeing Jack Lemmon and James Garner team up on screen is a lot of fun and goes a long way towards making up for the so-so nature of the film.

Complications: The Complete Season 1Complications stars Jason O’Mara (late of Fox’s short-lived Terra Nova series) as a suburban doctor who becomes a sort of vigilante by accident. It makes more sense in the context of the show, obviously, but the end result is a show that’s sort of a weird hybrid of Royal Pains and The Equalizer. I’m generalizing of course, but that gives you some idea of what to expect, although it’s a very serious show, not light-hearted like Royal Pains. O’Mara is good in the lead role and Jessica Szohr makes for a strong co-star, but overall the show isn’t quite up my alley. However, for people who like the type of shows that air on FX or similar networks, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Graceland: Season 3 – This engaging series follows several undercover federal agents from different branches of law enforcement who all share a house. If it sounds like a bad reality television series, it’s not. It’s an interesting drama that mixes up undercover cop drama and action with relationship drama and questions of identity. Interesting stuff, and it hits DVD so you can catch up if you missed it when it aired. I’m not sure if the show is coming back or not, but I certainly do enjoy it.

The Strange Truth, Monster Fish: Season 6, and Animals Gone Wild: Season 2 – Three National Geographic shows make their debut on DVD. The Strange Truth is a fun show that presents numerous short segments about all kinds of weird and wacky science, history, and nature-themed ideas. In each episode, you’ll learn about things like battle ants, missing nuclear weapons, massive earth craters, weird theme parks, and much more. I just wish there were more episodes. Monster Fish: Season 6 sees the latest season of the hit show come to DVD as well. Congenial host Zeb Hogan searches the world over for the first true monster fish, and while he never really finds a truly mythical creature, he does come across some incredibly fascinating and bizarre marine life. This full-season collection sees Zeb take on a fierce vampire fish, a monstrous goliath grouper, and an enormous Thai water beast, among others. Finally, Animals Gone Wild: Season 2 is exactly what it sounds like, a show about animal battles and close encounters, often ones that include human beings. From attacking elephants to suicidal fish to domesticated horses losing their minds, the show features some fascinating and harrowing footage.

I look forward to seeing whether Jason spots the deliberate mistake this week! Only joking, but a big thanks to Jason for keeping us all on our toes – Phil

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