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Out This Week (In The US): Popstar, Transformers, Raising Cain and more



Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – I love Andy Samberg, and I’m glad to see him return to movies. I loved his first major film, Hot Rod, which is an underrated comedy classic. Popstar is another really funny film that skewers the world of Justin Bieber-like celebrity and YouTube-era stardom. Of course, there are some bits that don’t work, but it’s a surprisingly sharp film that works on a level with some intelligence and also some lowest common denominator humor. It’s a good mix, and I enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Transformers: The Movie – If you’re of a certain age, this movie is a childhood treasure for you. Even though they pretty much killed off every character that kids of the 80s loved, it’s still an awesome movie that took the Transformers cartoon franchise to the big screen in a big way. The high definition transfer doesn’t do the film any favors as the age does show, but the extra features do go a long way to making up for that. I’m excited to have this movie on Blu-ray finally.

Quantico: The Complete First SeasonQuantico is exactly what ABC does best. It’s high stakes drama with a serious helping of over-the-top ridiculousness. And it’s a serious amount of fun to watch. You have to watch this show with a major sense of suspension of disbelief, as there’s no grounding in reality whatsoever. But the story of a group of young FBI recruits — one of which probably bombed a building in New York City — is addictive nonetheless. Switching between their academy days and the days following the terrorist attack, the show is filled with melodrama, action, and suspense. Simply put, it’s great television.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson – It’s the TV show you didn’t know you wanted. A dramatization of the OJ Simpson trial? Really? Okay, why not. And then you start watching it, and you’re completely hooked. With an amazing cast that includes Cuba Gooding Jr., David Schwimmer, and Sarah Paulson, it’s a really strong dramatic retelling of the case that will reveal secrets you probably didn’t know. Really terrific stuff.

Raising Cain – John Lithgow stars in this horror cult classic that makes its Blu-ray debut. This is one of those movies that I’ve always wanted to see. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked great, then missing it in theaters and somehow never tracking it down to watch. Seeing it now, I can’t say I was blown away by it or anything, but it is really enjoyable. Lithgow is a terrific villain and gives a great performance and the film has some good thrills. Happy to see it make its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Scream Factory.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Deadly Trackers – This film makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of the Warner Archive ( Starring Richard Harris and the great Rod Taylor (in a rare role as a villain), this western feels like a late entry in the classic Hollywood genre. Although it was released in 1973, it feels like it belongs in the classic pantheon because it’s a really great film and Taylor and Harris deliver terrific performances. I don’t always love westerns, but ones like this are definitely worth watching.
  • The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Ninth Season – One of television’s funnier shows returns to Blu-ray and DVD this week. I’m still amazed that this show is such a big hit, because some of the humor is so intellectual and so over the head of pretty much any other sitcom on TV. Of course, that’s why I enjoy it so much, but I’m really surprised that enough other people find it enjoyable to keep it on the air. Go, smart America! Season Nine doesn’t see too much change in the way of cast dynamics or storylines. But this show does what it does so well that you don’t really need massive change for it to be awesome. Even if you watched every episode as it aired (like I did), this is still a set worth owning, because this show is still funny on repeat viewings.
  • Chicago P.D.: Season ThreeChicago Fire was apparently so popular, there’s already two spin-offs. Chicago P.D.: Season Three hews even closer to Dick Wolf’s typical territory than Fire, but I do like this show, mostly because of the cast. Jason Beghe has been a favorite character actor of mine for a while now, and it’s good to see Sophia Bush back in a hit show. The show isn’t must see TV for me, but I like binging on it when the DVD sets drop.
  • Back in Time – This terrific documentary about the Back to the Future films features interviews with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson, which adds to the legitamcy of the film. Rather than being a cheap fan film or “unauthorized” documentary, this movie (which is technically independent, not a Universal production) is an excellent look back at the films and their creation. Highly recommend for BTTF fans!
  • IMAX: The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea/Wonders of the Arctic – Two IMAX-original films make their way to Blu-ray this week (and they’re also available on 4K ultra HD). Both films are amazing visual spectacles anchored by a strong narrative that makes sure they’re engrossing on an enjoyment level and not just a visual one. Obviously, The Last Reef focuses on the majesty of coral reefs (the titular cities) while Wonders of the Arctic takes us into some of the most inhospitable lands in the world and introduces us to its inhabitants. Both are visually stunning and their short running time makes them really engrossing.
  • Longmire: The Complete Fourth Season – I didn’t watch Longmire when it originally aired because it looked like too much of a Justified rip off, but it does sort of manage to establish its own identity, even if its clearly influenced by Justified. The show kind of seems like the adventures of Raylan Givens after he retires and moves out to Montana. But the real problem for me started in the very first episode, when Sherriff Longmire arrives at the edge of the local Indian reservation to investigate a crime, and is instantly called “the white man” by the Indian police officer and barred entry to the reservation. Now maybe that’s how things really are in that part of the country, I don’t know, but it’s just such a clichéd storytelling device that I’m tired of seeing it. So that kind of stuff keeps me from loving this show, but it’s likable at least.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Legacy Movie Collection – Good night, John Boy! Take a trip back to the frontier with Little House on the Prairie: Legacy Movie Collection. This set includes the three Little House movies that were released — I believe, although I’m not 100% sure — after the show had come to an end. It’s your typical Little House fare, but for fans of the show, this final collection will nicely wrap up their entire series set.
  • Gunsmoke: One Man’s JusticeGunsmoke was — of course — one of the biggest television hits of all time, running over two decades. Some years later, a TV movie was made to maybe try and launch a new series. Even if it was just meant to be a standalone film, fans will be thrilled to see James Arness return as an aging Sherriff Matt Dillon. This time along he was joined by a young Bruce Boxleitner — who I’m a big fan of, and is the main reason why I enjoyed this movie — for an all-new adventure. It’s pretty typical TV-movie stuff, but fans of the show will enjoy this nice coda to a beloved series.
  • A Bigger Splash – The box for this movie proclaims “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll under the Mediterranean sun,” and… well, that’s not too far off. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, and Tilda Swinton, the film is interesting enough, but I can’t say I really liked it all that much.
  • The Purging Hour – Okay, sometimes movies just aren’t very good, and this is one of those movies. It’s a found footage/faux documentary film about a family that move to a remote house and are then subjected to violent depravity. It’s low budget, not terribly convincing or thrilling, and the jerky camera footage and mock interviews do nothing to add to it. I love that filmmakers can make movies on low budgets nowadays, but I wish they were better.
  • All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records – I used to love going into Tower Records in my teenage years. There wasn’t one where I lived, but when I would travel I got to wander into them on occasion and it was like a religious experience. This documentary tries to capture that feeling as it explores exactly what it says in the title: the rise and fall of one of the world’s most popular record stores. It’s a terrific film even if you never set foot into a Tower Records, but it’s even more powerful if you had.
  • Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn – I don’t even remember this cheesy sci-fi thriller starring Kelly Preston, which is unusual especially considering that it apparently came out in 3D. It’s available on Blu-ray now in 3D as well, which is cool for the dozen or so people who remember seeing this in theaters. The film is a very odd sci-fi cheesefest, but I can see why it has a cult following. There’s something endearing about its oddness. I can’t say it’s for everyone, but fans of the genre will have a lot of fun with it.
  • Standing Tall – Not to be confused with the Walking Tall action films from the 70s (or the Rock-starring remake), this French drama stars Catherine Deneuve and focuses on a youngster who was abandoned by his parents and has been shuttled through the system ever since. The government people in his life become a sort of surrogate family, and this film explores those relationships. It’s a well-acted film but the subject matter can be a bit heavy at times.
  • In-Lawfully Yours – Corbin Bernsen and Marilu Henner have supporting roles in this faith-based romantic drama about marriages falling apart and people finding love anew. It’s very much in the Lifetime camp of romantic movies, but it does have a faith-based backdrop. I will say that it doesn’t bludgeon viewers with the Christian aspects of the story, so that’s nice. Not quite my cup of tea, but honesty it’s a fairly solid film o its own merits for what it is.
  • Atroz: Limited Edition – I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of this movie, so I was a little surprised to see the Deluxe Collector’s Edition it was released as, which includes the Blu-ray, the DVD, and a soundtrack CD. Personally, I found this film abhorrent. It’s a mix of straight horror and found footage, but it falls squarely into the torture porn genre at times and the violence and gore in it is brutal. This is not a film for the faint of heart, and I don’t like this kind of horror. I’m sure there’s an audience for this film out there but I am most definitely not in it.
  • The Dead Room – Two scientists and a psychic walk into a haunted farmhouse… sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? Well it’s not; it’s the premise for The Dead Room, a very middle-of-the-road horror film. I mean, it’s not really good in any noteworthy way, but it’s not that bad either. It’s at least capably told and doesn’t feature over the top blood and violence like some of the other movies I’ve mentioned here. It’s just… been there, done that.
  • King Jack – I wasn’t expecting much from King Jack, a prototypical coming-of-age film about a 15-year-old kid in a rough neighborhood and a difficult life as he navigates his day. However, the performances by Danny Flaherty and Charlie Plummer are terrific, and they really help carry the film. The story is engaging enough that by the end you’ll find yourself wrapped up in these young characters.
  • Suspects: Series 3 and 4 – Nobody does mysteries and procedurals like the Brits, and Suspects is another fine show in a long line of quality television releases from Acorn. This modern-day cop show sees a trio of British detectives solving crimes, which all seems fairly obvious. Where this show differs from the rest, however, is that it takes a sort-of documentary-style filmmaking approach to the filmmaking, giving it a fresh and unique twist. With terrific performances, this will really be right up your alley if you’re a procedurals junkie.
  • Paths of the Soul – I don’t get to talk about Tibetan movies very often, so it’s kind of neat to discuss this powerful film. It seems like a documentary (and it is based on a real ritual, I believe) but the film is actually a narrative motion picture, filmed with a non-professional cast. It follows a group of Tibetans on a 1,200-mile pilgrimage on foot. Visually sumptuous and intellectually thoughtful, the film isn’t an action-packed movie for adrenaline junkies, but it does have its share of tense and fascinating moments. It’s not for everyone, but fans of more introspective cinema will really be taken by this film.

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