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Out This Week (In The US): Now You See Me 2, The Iron Giant, The Flash & more

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Now You See Me 2 – The sequel nobody asked for! Of course, when your first movie is the summer’s sleeper hit with a great cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Dave Franco, you get a sequel. This time around we lose Isla Fisher but gain Lizzy Caplan, as well as Daniel Radcliffe (who I always enjoy) as a foil for our bank-robbing magicians. Like the first film, this is light frothy fun, but ultimately disposable.

Money Monster – Jodie Foster returns to directing with a powerhouse film that stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts, as well as Jack O’Connell and Outlander’s Catriona Balfe. I really liked this film. With echoes of some of the great films of the ‘70s (such as Network, although similar in spirit only), Foster ones again proves adept behind the camera as she delivers a thriller with a message. Great performances, solid movie, timely storyline… what more do you need?

The Iron Giant: Signature Edition – One of my favorite animated movies of all time FINALLY gets the Blu-ray treatment. We all know the story by now, how The Iron Giant tested off the charts and was supposed to be a major box office hit and then… wasn’t. It’s of course since become a beloved cult classic (and for good reason), and the love for the film continues to grow with releases like this. The film looks spectacular in high definition, and even as it comes close to being 20 years old, it’s still as fun and fresh and moving as the day it came out. Highest possible recommendation!

The Flash: Season 2 – I’ve been a huge fan of The Flash‘s TV counterpart Arrow since the very first episode. But at times, its moody overtones can get a bit heavy. Then the CW came along and added The Flash to the mix, which is the perfect response to Arrow. Whereas Arrow is dark and gritty, The Flash is fun, lighthearted, and energetic. Grant Gustin is terrific in the lead role, and the show has felt sure-footed from the very first episode. And while it started out very villain-of-the-week at first, by the second half of the first season, the overarching storyline had turned The Flash into one of the most compelling shows on TV — and it doesn’t let up throughout the second season. It’s funny, action-packed, dramatic, complex, and exciting — everything good television should be. I love this show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to. You’ll love it too.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1 – This spin-off from The Flash (and Arrow, technically) is almost as much fun as The Flash, although in a different way. With a full ensemble team of super-powered characters, this mish-mash of DC Universe heroes has managed to find its identity in relatively short time. With a number of familiar faces from The Flash and Arrow (The Atom, Hawkgirl, Mr. Freeze, etc.) the show does a lot with a limited budget and pulls off the time travel conceit at its core better than you’d expect. Another hit superhero- show for The CW.

Peanuts: Snoopy, Come Home & A Boy Named Charlie Brown – If you want to see a grown man cry, simply come to my house and watch Snoopy Come Home with me. This animated Peanuts special made me bawl when I was a child and it still does today, along with A Boy Named Charlie Brown — the quintessential Peanuts cartoon — these two specials make their debut on Blu-ray, marking the first time the old gang has appeared in high definition (save for last year’s feature film.) While it’s not exactly a visual revelation, it’s nice to have two of the best of the Peanuts cartoons on Blu-ray, my preferred format for watching any movies or TV shows.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Tennessee Williams provided the words, but Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman delivered the heat in this classic film now available on Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of the Warner Archive (wb.com/warnerarchive). The story is typical Williams melodrama, but it’s the searing performances by Taylor and Newman that are what make this film worth watching. It’s a master class in acting from two of the biggest movie stars who ever lived.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

South Park: Season 19 – I’ve never been a big South Park fan (Season 19 is out on Blu-ray and DVD this week), but I always give it a try when it comes out on DVD (or in this case, Blu-ray) to see what I’ve been missing. Everyone goes on about how great their parodies are, but I’ve never found the show that funny. And, well, I still don’t. They get their parodies on the air quick, but the show is still mostly just construction paper-looking cutouts of kids swearing. Yay. I may not get this show, but fans will be happy to have another season’s worth of episodes to revisit. And hey, I guess that’s a good thing. Relatively.

Tab Hunter Confidential – This fascinating documentary presents a picture of Tab Hunter as an actor and a gay man in the anti-gay Hollywood of the 1950s. Teen heartthrob that he was, Hunter was forced to hide his sexuality and remain in the closet for fear of ruining his career. This film explores Hunter’s dilemma and how he survived his Hollywood days, and it’s a really interesting story. The documentary itself is fairly by the numbers, but the subject matter and Hunter are compelling viewing.

Supernatural: Season 11 – I’ve been a fan and a champion of Supernatural since the very first episode. For eleven seasons now I’ve been proclaiming my love for what I consider one of the single greatest TV shows of the past couple of decades. It almost gets a little tiresome, actually, continually having to try to convince people what they’re missing out on. But, of course, I don’t give up, because Supernatural is such a great show. With a few major shake-ups to the show and some neat novelty episodes, Season Eleven was as sharp as ever. Supernatural remains one of my favorite shows on TV. How many shows can make that claim?

The Strain: The Complete Second Season – I’m a huge fan of The Strain trilogy of books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, so naturally I was excited when they announced that it was becoming a TV series. Having watched the first two seasons, I can say that — while not as good as the books (obviously) — it is a pretty fun series. There are parts of it that work better than others, but overall, I like it. The show doesn’t shy away from the gory stuff, which is fine, but it does capture the sense of a scientific exploration of vampirism that the books favored. Sometimes the writing can be a bit suspect, but what the show lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in visceral thrills.

Limitless: Season 1 – I love the movie Limitless. So I was pretty excited when I found out they were making a TV show out of it, because I see it as being so rife with possibilities. Which is what makes this CBS series so disappointing for me. It’s not that it’s a bad show in any way, shape, or form, it’s just not what I wanted to see from the franchise. Basically, CBS took the movie’s premise and used it to churn out another crime-of-the-week procedural. It fits right alongside CSI, NCIS, Elementary, etc. And I just wanted so much more from it. For what it is, it’s entertaining enough, but it’s a bit too “same old, same old” for me.

CSI Cyber: The Final Season – Out with the old, in with the new. Or in this case, as this is the final season of CSI Cyber after just two seasons, I guess it’s “out with the new,” too. I suppose in theory this show was a good idea, as cybercrime is all too real nowadays and there aren’t really any shows about it on TV right now. I wish I liked it more, though. I mean, it’s perfectly fine as far as procedurals go, but I don’t really like Patricia Arquette in the lead role and I’m a little tired of CSI/NCIS shows by now. That said, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. I guess that’s why it didn’t make it.

The Ones Below – David Morrissey and Clemence Poesey star in this thriller about the worst kind of neighbors. I’ve seen comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby, but this film isn’t on that level or even close to it. It’s much more spiritually akin to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle… but that’s not a bad thing. Even if the twists and turns in this film are a bit obvious at times, it’s actually not a bad viewing experience. If you just want a quick thriller to get the nerves up, you can do much worse.

All the Way – Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson and Anthony Mackie as Martin Luther King, Jr. I feel like I’ve just told you everything you need to know about this film. But in case you’d like to know more, it’s the latest in HBO’s line of top-notch historical/political dramas based on real life, following other successful films like Game Change and Confirmation. Directed by Jay Roach (who seems to have left comedies like Austin Powers behind to make these films), the movie is a powerful look at LBJ’s first year in office after the death of John F. Kennedy. Come for the performances, stay for the great historical drama.

Genius – A movie about an editor? Sign me up! As someone who’s worked for years as both a writer and an editor, I’ve seen plenty of movies about writers but all of, well, one now about editors. This film, which features a powerhouse cast (Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Colin Firth, Guy Pearce) and tells the story of author Tom Wolfe and his tumultuous relationship with his editor, Maxwell Perkins, who’s probably meant to be the genius of the title. I love every actor in this film, and while the film has some pacing issues, overall I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Equals – Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult star in this dystopic future film that isn’t all that different from some of the YA fiction being published these days. This is one of those films that’s slowly paced and involves a lot of talking, so if you’re looking for the next Divergent series, you will be disappointed. Still, Stewart and Hoult are both in fine form here, and the story (once it’s clear what it is) is much more about love and less about the future. I liked it, but it’s not for everything.

R.L. Stine’s Mostly Ghostly: One Night in Doom House – It’s become an annual release now to get a new movie based on an R.L. Stine book, so this one should have fans of the author’s excited. This family-friendly Halloween tale stars a group of largely unknown teens (at least unknown to most adults)… and Danny Trejo. This one focuses on a couple of kids and their ghost friends as they search for a crystal to prevent a spirit army from invading the earth. I wouldn’t recommend it for really young kids, but for households with tweens or kids in that age range, this will make for a fun family movie night.

Hard Target 2 – Seeing as how it’s been 20-odd years since the original Hard Target came out, and seeing as how Jean Claude Van Damme is nowhere to be seen in this film, calling it a sequel is a stretch. Instead, it’s just another direct-to-video franchise extender with Scott Adkins taking over the lead role. Adkins is a terrific martial artist but a terrible actor, so this one is a mixed bag, but you do get Rhona Mitra along for the ride, and that’s always a good thing.

The Bodyguard – Not the Whitney Houston vehicle, this Asian action movie stars Sammo Hung as a retired special agent who ends up protecting a little girl from the Chinese mafia. Think Leon the Professional, only… not. It’s not a bad film, and I certainly prefer this to the scads of period action dramas that come out of Asia these days. It’s a perfectly functional film, but I can’t say it did a whole lot for me overall.

Love & Friendship – Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny star in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan. It’s not a story I’m familiar with, so I can’t comment on it as an adaptation per se, but as a film it’s rather well done. You get your typical Austen hallmarks here: high society, romance, forbidden love, and the like. Jane Austen is exactly my wheelhouse, but as far as these types of movies go I enjoyed it for the most part.

Center Stage: On Pointe – Peter Gallagher is the nominal “star” of this movie but obviously he’s just a supporting role, backing up a bunch of kids who I assume have better dance skills than he does. Kenny Wormald from the Footloose remake also stars, and the result is a pretty typical dance movie. At the risk of repeating myself, this isn’t exactly my kind of film, but for what it is it will satisfy the target audience.

Sweethearts of the Gridiron – This is an interesting film about the Kilgore College Rangerettes, who I had never heard of before, but who apparently are a big part of the reason why halftime entertainment is what it is today. The film focuses more on what it takes to make it as a rangerette now than it does the history of the group, but there’s still a well-rounded film to be found here overall.

Foyle’s War Revisited – After a long wait since the last season, Foyle’s War Revisited presents something new for fans. While the show itself is a top-notch mystery television with spies, murder, and Nazis, this DVD release is actually an hour-long behind-the-scenes special. Now, I don’t know why it didn’t just end up as an extra feature on a DVD set, but fans will be happy to have this to hold them over while they wait for the next season.

Being Poirot – David Suchet has embodied Agatha Christie’s famed detective Hercule Poirot for over a quarter of a century. As he closes this chapter of his life, this hour-long special takes a look back at his final days in the role, plus he explores the character’s roots as well. Like Foyle’s War Revisited, this would have made an excellent supplemental feature on a DVD release, but it’s terrific for fans.

Sesame Street: Love to Learn – If your child is a fan of the more recent seasons of Sesame Street, there’s plenty here to enjoy on Sesame Street: Love to Learn. Of course, Elmo takes center stage, but that’s par for the course for Sesame Street releases these days. You get five episodes with camping, songs, and Muppet Transformers (sort of.) All in all, a pretty good collection of mostly recent segments of the classic children’s show.

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