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Out This Week (In The US): The Jungle Book, Star Wars Rebels, The Commitments and more

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jungle book

The Jungle Book – This move was soooo much better than I expected. To be honest, I just wasn’t that impressed by the trailer. The idea of a whole film of computer-generated, talking animals interacting with a live-action human actor didn’t really fill me with confidence. However, I’m happy to report that the movie is absolutely magical. It’s funny and touching and endearing and charming and action-packed and it does a great job of updating The Jungle Book while still keeping true to everything that makes it great. The characters are terrific, the lead actor playing Mowgli is a true find, and the film as whole is just so enjoyable. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

High Rise – I have been less than impressed with Ben Wheatley’s directorial career so far, which puts me at odds with most critics. He’s been lauded since his first film for his brilliant direction and innovative filmmaking. Personally, I’ve always found his films just too odd and out there for my tastes. I wish I could say High Rise was different, but it’s not. It’s surreal as heck and very bizarre. Tom Hiddleston is fantastic — as always — and there’s no doubt that Wheatley has talent, he just doesn’t make the kinds of movies I enjoy. But clearly plenty of other people do, so I think he’ll be okay.

The Commitments: 25th Anniversary Edition – Amazingly, I had never seen this movie before getting this Blu-ray. Even though I know it was a big hit when it came out and is a well-loved and respected film, I had somehow never seen it. And you know what? It’s absolutely fantastic. I had no idea how charming, fun, and upbeat this film is, but I absolutely adored it. I wanted to watch it again the minute it was over. The music is terrific and the performances are unbeatable, even though the cast is largely made of unknowns. I’m sure many of you already know what a terrific movie this is, but if you’re like me and somehow haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it highly!

Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season 2 – I love this show. Love it, love it, love it. Now, admittedly I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but I think it’s pretty clear that the show is catered to kids who like Star Wars as well as adult Star Wars fans, and it works so well. The first season was solid and enjoyable; the second season ups the ante and is utterly fantastic. There are more and more ties to the films (the show takes place before A New Hope) and the cast of main characters is terrific (plus some familiar faces start to pop up!) Add in sound effects straight from the movies that really transport you to the Star Wars Universe. Star Wars fans of all ages should love this show!

The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – This massive box set pretty much includes everything a Carol Burnett fan could want. This is what classic television is all about. I grew up watching this show, as I’m sure many of you did, whether in re-runs or when it originally aired. And you know what, it’s still funny. The great thing about The Carol Burnett Show is that the humor never focused exclusively on topical situations, so the comedy isn’t all that dated. Sure, some of the sketches aren’t surefire hits, but by and large, this is comedy at its best. This new box set collection collects 45 rare episodes across 22 discs that are among the least-repeated and not-seen-on-DVD episodes since they aired over 40 years ago. On top of that, there are over TWENTY hours of bonus features and a cool collectible book. Opening this box is like getting a Christas present! It’s hard to argue with what a great package this is for fans of the show!

Hee Haw: The Collector’s Edition – Another “classic” TV release from Time Life, Hee Haw: The Collectors Edition is going a simpler route than the Carol Burnett releases, but this is still an impressive box set. This latest collection of the countrified variety show features performances from just about every country legend from the 70s, including (but certainly not limited to) performances from Hall of Famers at the peaks of their careers including Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty. Watching it now, I’m not sure that this show has aged all that well, but I did watch it as a kid and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some nostalgic enjoyment to be had here. What I will say is that if you’re a fan of the show, this awesome collection includes: 21 hours of episodes across 14 discs and bonus features that include new interviews with some of the show’s regular performers and bonus footage. Pretty cool if you’re a fan!

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • The Night Manager – Tom Hiddleston makes his second appearance in this week’s list in The Night Manager, in which he co-stars in an adaptation of a John Le Carre story with Hugh Laurie. I’ve found some Le Carre adaptations to be slow-moving, and while I don’t know that this series needed to be stretched out over six episodes, it’s certainly engaging stuff. Hiddleston and Laurie are — not surprisingly — utterly gripping in their roles — and the show is pretty engaging overall. Don’t be turned off by the pedestrian title, it’s definitely worth watching.
  • Arrow: Season 4 – One of my favorite series — and admittedly I’m a comic book geek — this show based on DC’s Green Arrow comic books is an action-packed hit. With great action, tons of in-jokes for the comic book crowd, a charismatic leading man, and a few twists and turns along the way, Arrow works on just about every level. Arrow is like Smallville on an adrenaline rush, and I love it. Season Four gets back on track after Season Three was a little uneven, but this season really kicked things into high gear by upping the ante, changing the status of several characters, and expanding they overarching mythology. If you’re not watching Arrow, you’re missing out on some of the most exciting genre programming on television.
  • Blunt Talk: Season 1 – I love seeing Patrick Stewart branch out from his more typical roles. He doesn’t do it as often as I’d like. Even as the bad guy in Green Room, he still played a kind-of nice guy for most of the film. Here, he plays an acerbic, short-fused talk show host. And watching him cut loose is utterly fantastic. You still manage to find the character endearing enough to watch, even if he’s kind of a jackass. The show is great because it’s only a half-hour, too, so even though it falls into the dramedy category, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Fun stuff!
  • Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12 – Another year, another season of Grey’s Anatomy. This is a show that I once watched regularly, but now have relegated to DVD-only viewing. It’s not that the show is bad, it just falls slightly outside of my “cup of tea” range. I like the show quite a bit, but I just don’t have the time in my TV viewing schedule to fit it in on a weekly basis. The past couple of seasons have seen a return in quality to the way the show was in its prime, especially towards the end. Still, at the end of the day, you know what you’re getting with Grey’s Anatomy. If you like the show, you’ll like this set.
  • Criminal Minds: Season 11Criminal Minds is a show that I really like that I don’t watch during the season anymore because it always seems to conflict with other shows on my DVR schedule. However, I love when it comes time to release on DVD because it really is some exciting television. Sure, the adventures of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are ultimately just another procedural show, but the fact that it focuses on serial killers really gives the show an edge. It’s dark stuff and it’s not always pleasant to watch, but it is extremely addictive. The team has a great chemistry and the show has an easy rhythm; the producers clearly know what they’re doing by this point. Ten seasons in, even if the show is a little predictable in how the episodes play out, I still find the journeys to finding the killers very rewarding.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 7 – Well, I’ll give it this: NCIS: Los Angeles is a better show than NCIS, by far. The writing is better, Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J have a good chemistry, and the show definitely is more action-packed. Yet I still don’t love it. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of NCIS, but there’s something about the whole franchise that just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a style and a feel to the NCIS shows that just don’t work for me.
  • Chicago Fire: Season Four and Chicago Med: Season OneChicago Fire: Season Four is very much a typical Dick Wolf show, so I can see why it’s so popular. Compelling story lines, lots of soap opera plots, solid action sequences, an attractive cast… it’s got a little something for everyone. And then there’s Chicago Med. Another Chicago show? I guess having the fire department and police covered weren’t enough, we also needed to have a hospital represented. Now, I don’t really watch any of these shows regularly, and if I’m going to, anything medical-related is probably going to be the lowest on my list, as it’s a genre I don’t generally care for. I’ll say that this show is perfectly good for what it is; if you like medical dramas, you’ll like it just fine.
  • Shameless: The Complete Sixth Season – William H. Macy’s hit Showtime series continues to chug along. Unfortunately, I missed the first few seasons of this show, so I’ve felt like I’m playing catch up since I started watching it on DVD. I haven’t watched too much of this show, but it doesn’t really grab me all that much. The humor isn’t as sharp and the characters aren’t as engaging as I like in my comedies. Again, I might be missing something because I came into the show so late, so I’m sure fans of the show will be happy to have Season 6 in their collections.
  • The Phenom – Ethan Hawke and Paul Giamatti have supporting roles in this baseball-themed drama. However, those expecting a typical sports drama will probably be disappointed as it’s much less about baseball (which I’m okay with) and much more about talky, touchy-feely stuff (which I’m less okay with.) The film has good performances but was just not interesting enough to keep me engaged throughout.
  • 19-2: Season 2 – A Canadian series about a police precinct (and two partners in particular) in Montreal Canada, 19-2 is exceptional television. It’s not entirely different from something like Chicago Fire (except obviously about cops and not firemen) in that it focuses more on the lives and loves of the policemen and women than just on the crimes, but that’s a good thing in my opinion. It’s more soap opera and less Law & Order, but not in a way that leaves you wincing. There’s still a good amount of police action, it just never overshadows what’s going on in the lives of the characters. Great stuff for someone looking for a new show to binge watch.
  • WB Archive: Act One, Unholy Partners, A Cry in the Night, Blackmail – Four new films are out from the Warner Archive (www.wbarchive.com) this week. The first, Act One, stars George Hamilton along with Jason Robards, Jr., Jack Klugman, Eli Wallach and George Segal. It’s a biopic of playwright Moss Hart, who admittedly I am unfamiliar with. It’s a solid enough film, and the story and performances are all fine, but it’s not the kind of movie that really stands the test of time for a new audience member. Fans of the film will probably find that it’s just as good as they remember it. Unholy Partners is a terrific Edward G. Robinson starrer, and I do love me some Eddie G. This is a great film about a newspaper man who partners with a mobster to fund his start-up news rag and then begins to report on the mobster’s illegal activities. It’s a strong film even if it’s not a particularly famous one, and I just love watching Edward G. Robinson in any role. A Cry in the Night is an extremely uneven thriller starring Edmond O’Brien, Natalie Wood and Raymond Burr. This was apparently Natalie Wood’s first “grown-up” role, and she’s very good, and the film has some tense moments for sure. But the pacing is off, it drags in places, and the ending isn’t all that terrific. That all said, it’s not a bad film at all and is enjoyable enough to watch. Finally, Blackmail returns us to Edward G. Robinson (yay!) in a film that — despite being a much bigger production (Oil field fire! Revenge! A Man With a Secret!) isn’t quite as good as Unholy Partners. Still, it’s a pretty good film overall, especially with a fantastic performance by Edward G. Robinson.
  • Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Spots On! – I had never heard of this show before it started coming out on DVD, but I really kind of dig it. A French cartoon that’s been re-dubbed and imported onto American TV screens (via Nickelodeon), this show features two friends who are secretly animal-themed superheroes (and who have super-pets) and who try to protect Paris from the bad guys. Geared for slightly older kids, I think this is a really cute show and I can see it gaining a large following in the states.
  • Cashmere Mafia: The Complete Series – I really like the cast in this show from Sex and the City creator Darren Starr. Lucy Liu, Miranda Otto, Frances O’Connor, and Bonnie Somerville are all terrific actresses. And frankly, the show is pretty good for what it is. It’s basically a spin on Sex and the City but in the corporate world. I’m kind of surprised it only lasted one season; I’m not saying I would have watched it religiously, but I can at least see there being an audience for it. If you fondly remember the show, you can now watch it all again at a bargain price.
  • The Titanic: The Epic Mini-Series Event – George C. Scott, Peter Gallagher, and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in this 1997 TV miniseries. Running three hours long, it basically tells just another version of the story of the Titanic. The production values are solid but unimpressive, and it’s really watching the cast members you like such as Scott and Zeta-Jones that carries you through. Still, available now through Mill Creek at a bargain price, it’s fun enough to watch for what it is.
  • The Devil’s Mistress: The Complete Mini-Series Event – Michael Fassbender, Andrea Riseborough, and Dominic West ensure that this miniseries has a powerful cast. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of Civil War-era dramas, so this blending of historical fact and fiction didn’t really do too much for me. Of course, I love Michael Fassbender so watching him act is always a good thing, but this isn’t one I’ll recommend to anyone except for war movie buffs, even though it’s not a war movie. I guess I should say Civil War buffs, or at least period drama fans. None of which I count myself as.

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3 Comments

  1. If this guy isn’t a Civil War-era drama fan he should have loved The Devil’s Mistress. He clearly didn’t watch it like the rest of us did YEARS ago because it takes place during the British Civil War in the 1600s. He was only 200 years off though.

    I’ve read Live for Film for at least 2 years now. Usually there’s a lot of good information and banter, but I’m done reading it now. I’m unbookmarking this page if people like this guy are allowed to write here.

    • Hi Jason, sorry to see you go, but to be honest I am not sure about your reason this time. In Mike’s review he mentions a Civil War and period drama fans. As the cast he also mentions are all British I just took it to mean the British Civil War myself. I hadn’t twigged that when it was shown in the UK the show was called The Devil’s Whore.

      We do have lots of people writing for us and if Mike’s column bothers you every week, then you could always just skip it. If not, I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      All the best,

      Phil

  2. Why would you assume I meant a different civil war? Never said it was the American one.

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