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Out This Week (In The US): TMNT 2, Captain America: Civil War, Free State of Jones & more

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows – I didn’t like the first TMNT movie at all, and I didn’t really have high hopes for this one. However, most of the word on the street that I heard was that this film fixed a lot of the problems with the first one; plus, they added Stephen Amell to the cast, who I like quite a bit. However, while the film is slightly better — I guess — it’s still pretty bad. Poor writing, terrible characterizations, and those hideous Turtle designs (seriously, who thought they were a good idea?)… it’s all just a mess. Yes, Stephen Amell adds a little charm to the film, but it’s too little too late. I’m just not a fan of this incarnation of the Turtles.

Captain America: Civil War – First let me say that Captain America: Civil War has its flaws. The first half of the movie didn’t really bowl me over. I love the Cap films and The Russo Brothers still really understand how to make great movies, but there are some issues. But then, the second half of the film kicks in. Starting with a superhero brawl at the airport, when the action kicks in it kicks in big, and from there it’s a thrill ride and a super-hero mash-up that is second to none. Even with the little screen time he has, Spider-Man is a bright spot in the film, and the movie is overall a real thrill ride.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – Even though I still find Seth Rogen pretty annoying, I enjoyed the first Neighbors quite a bit. It was far from a great movie, but it made me laugh pretty consistently throughout it. And this second film is almost exactly like it in every way. Not just in terms of a relatively similar story, but in the fact that it’s a move that’s funnier then you would expect it to be while still not being great. Most of the cast returns and Rose Byrne remains the funniest thing in the movie for my money, but I like Zac Efron and Chloe Moretz is always welcome. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one.

Free State of Jones – I’ve always liked Gary Ross’s films (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games), but I’ve never loved Gary Ross’s films. Unfortunately, the slavery drama Free State of Jones falls squarely into that category as well. It’s an interesting story and the performances by Matthew McConaughey and the rest of the cast are all really great. But the film just never elevates to the level that I wanted it to. Like I said, I liked it, and I would say it might be worth watching if you like historical dramas with some action in them, but it’s not a movie that I think everyone should rush out and view.

Me Before You – Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin star in this charming romantic dramedy about a paraplegic man who’s given up on life for the most part and the young woman who becomes his caretaker. Okay, now three guesses as to whether or not a romance develops between them. The film isn’t unpredictable or groundbreaking in any way, but Claflin and Clarke are terrific together and the film is enjoyable… even if you will definitely end up crying your eyes out. This is definitely what you would call a “Chick flick,” but at least it’s good one.

The Nice Guys – Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) returns to writing and directing with this comedy about a hapless detective and a mob enforcer teaming up to solve a murder. With Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe on screen together, you know you’re in for a good time, but of course with Shane Black behind the camera and the screenplay, they’re natural chemistry is enhanced by a great script and solid filmmaking prowess. I can see how there might be some people out there who don’t dig on this film, but it’s pretty damn cool.

Twin Peaks: The Original Series, Fire Walk With Me & The Missing Pieces – This gorgeous box set is a real gift for fans of the groundbreaking series. That said, however, be aware that it is virtually the same as the box set that came out a couple of years ago, just in shelf-friendlier packaging. Regardless of that, however, there’s no denying what a fascinating and engrossing series Twin Peaks is. The nice thing is that this set includes the complete series, pilot and all, so you can watch the entire show from start to finish with this one release, including the prequel film Fire Walk With Me. There is also a wealth of really great new bonus materials, including dozens of deleted scenes that have never been seen before. It’s hard to say what made Twin Peaks so special: the quirky characters, the overarching mystery, the terrific cast, the soundtrack, the cherry pie. I think it was a combination of all those things and more, and now you have the best possible way to revisit them all.

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words – This Criterion Collection release is not a narrative film, but rather a documentary about screen goddess Ingrid Bergman (star of my favorite movie of all time, Casablanca). Narrated by Alicia Vikander, the film features numerous clips of Bergman, both audio and from home video footage she shot herself (hence the subtitle, In Her Own Words.) I love Ingrid Bergman, and I really have never known much about her beyond the screen roles she played, so this movie was a revelation. Plus it comes with extra features on top of the film itself, so this is a must have for fans of Bergman.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • The Lion Guard – This sequel to the first Lion Guard movie that came out earlier this year is very similar in terms of tone and quality. The film is perfectly fine in the way that so many of the other Disney sequels were. This time around we have a new adventure featuring Kion, Simba’s youngest son, as he leads the Lion Guard with a cast of returning characters from the previous film: Bunga the honey badger, Fuli the cheetah, Beshte the hippo and Ono the egret. This new franchise doesn’t sully the memory of The Lion King, but it’s nowhere in the same league as it, either.
  • Empire: Season 2 – Fox’s hit TV show returns with a vengeance in Season Two. I’m not the huge fan of this show that some people are, but I like it. I enjoy it for the melodrama and the over-the-top nature of it, and the music is pretty awesome too. Taraji P. Henson is a powerhouse in the lead role of Cookie, and the supporting cast (of mostly unknown actors) is also top-notch. It’s addictive television, but in a pretty disposable way. Still, if you missed season two or want to catch up before season three starts, this is the way to do it.
  • Scorpion: Season 2 – CBS’s hit new procedural about a bunch of societally-challenged genius saving the world looked pretty terrible to me when I first saw the promos for it, so I skipped it when it aired. Now that I’ve sat down to watch it on DVD, I can say that it’s not terrible… but it’s not great either. Ultimately it falls in line with a lot of other CBS procedurals. Take NCIS and cross it with Numbers, add in a little extra quirkiness, and you have Scorpion. If you can’t get enough of crime procedurals, this will fit into your schedule just fine, but it’s nothing special.
  • The Bob Hope Specials: Thanks for the Memories – Holy cow. This amazing box set includes 13 full Bob Hope specials, and while that sounds pretty amazing, it doesn’t even begin to clue you in to what you get here. In addition to guest stars like Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Dean Martin, George Burns, Sammy Davis Jr., Groucho Marx, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, and Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Clinton, this set also includes a spoof of Star Wars with Mark Hamill and The Muppets (which I’ve ever seen before and is awesome!), a reunion of the cast of I Love Lucy, bloopers, USO tours, and more comedy than you can shake a stick at. With Six discs and over 12 hours of material, this is really a great treasure trove for fans of classic Hollywood and classic comedy.
  • 2 Broke Girls: The Complete Fifth Season – This show could have also been called “Jokes About Vaginas,” because that’s pretty much what it is: Two and a Half Men, just with two female leads and a horse instead of a half of a man. I mean, yes, the premise is slightly different, but basically this is an Odd Couple-styled sitcom that just happens to have polar-opposite roommates who are women instead of men. The show’s humor is very reminiscent of Two and a Half Men, though, with a lot of jokes about sex, relationships, men, and overwrought personalities. There are some chuckles to be had, to be sure, and the characters are likable enough, but the show is ultimately nothing special. 2 Broke Girls is a pretty blue-collar sitcom, and it will appeal to people who want to laugh a little bit without having to think.
  • The Originals: The Complete Third Season – In its third season now, The Originals is a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. What I’ve always liked about this show is that it feels like part of the Vampire Diaries universe, yet it has its own distinctive flavor as well. You also don’t need to watch Vampire Diaries in order to watch this show. Obviously there’s some thematic carry-over, but once you’re enmeshed in the world of The Originals, you can watch it as a stand-alone show or as a companion to TVD. Get caught up now before Season Four starts.
  • The Meddler – Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, and J.K. Simmons in one movie? Sign me up! I can’t say that The Meddler is anything extraordinary, but the sheer charm and talent of the actors involved makes it worth watching. Susan Sarandon plays Rose Byrne’s… well, meddling mom and JK Simmons is Sarandon’s potential suitor. The film treads familiar ground but originality isn’t the selling point here, the cast is. Worth a look to see actors you love playing enjoyable roles.
  • Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War – This film by Ken Burns and co-director ____ tells a story of The Sharps, an American married couple who left their kids at home to go and try to help people in Nazi-occupied Europe. With Tom Hanks providing the voice of ___ Sharp, the film has some pedigree, and it’s an interesting story from start to finish. Of course, with Ken Burns at the helm you know you’re in for a solid film experience, and that’s exactly what this is.
  • 9/11 Inside the Pentagon – Of course, nobody wants to downplay the tragedy of the World Trade Center on 9/11, but this documentary focuses on the events at the Pentagon, where a plane also crashed and killed almost 200 people. It is true that the Pentagon part of the disaster gets overlooked in the narrative retelling of the events of 9/11, and so this fascinating special gives us a real glimpse at what it was like there n that fateful day. Riveting stuff.
  • Frontline: Policing The Police DVD – This timely documentary goes inside the Newark Police Department to explore the issues within the police community and its dealings with the public nowadays. Corruption, brutality, abuse… this isn’t a condemnation of the police but rather a look at a police department that’s trying to repair its relationship with the community. It’s an interesting look at a topic that is more in the public consciousness than ever.
  • Pele: Birth of a Legend – This biopic is an amiable, enjoyable look at the life and career of a truly legendary soccer icon. It doesn’t have a lot of stars in the lead roles (with the exception of Vincent D’Onofrio in a supporting role), but the real star is the moving and uplifting story. It takes us through Pele’s childhood as a poor kid in a poor neighborhood and travels through his journey into stardom. It’s an interesting story and it’s nice to see it dramatized instead of just another documentary.
  • The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story – Another dramatized sports film, this one focuses on basketball star Kevin Durand’s mom, and his childhood. Raising Durand through adversity, this movie focuses on what the family went through and how he overcame his limitations to become a superstar. It’s produced by Queen Latifah and is all about inspiration and faith. The acting definitely won’t win any awards, but the target audience will enjoy it enough.
  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: You Are Special, Daniel Tiger – This latest installment of the popular PBS kids’ show features seven episodes of the popular series, with the usual positivity theme taking the forefront, of course. This DVD makes for a great treat for the kiddies, and at a nice, low price. Parents of pre-schoolers will find these DVDs endearing and their kids will enjoy them as well.
  • Kate & Mim-Mim: The Mimiloo Zoo – Another fun and charming show for pre-schoolers, Kate & Mim-Mim probably leans towards girls more than boys, but I think any young kids will enjoy it. This DVD includes over an hour’s worth of episodes and you get to meet plenty of animals at the Mimiloo Zoo. It’s fun and cute and kids will have fun with it.
  • Presenting Princess Shaw – Honestly, I have no idea who Princess Shaw is. Or at least I didn’t before this documentary came out. Apparently she’s a YouTube superstar, and this film utilizes some of her online footage to tell her story. It’s a documentary about how she became a star with the help of Kutiman (who I also had never heard of.) It’s an interesting story, and Shaw clearly has some real talent. I guess it’ll mostly be of interest to fans of Shaw’s, but even if you’re not, it’s at least an interesting film.
  • Boned – Angela Landis and Bai Ling star in this oddball comedy that includes “murderous goths, a devilish dominatrix, crooked cops, and a handsome, lying doctor”… plus dogs. Definitely dogs. The movie has a strong indie feel, and while I can’t say I was laughing out loud during it, it did elicit the occasional wry chuckle from me. I would say that fans of offbeat independent cinema would probably be the target audience for this one.
  • The Measure of a Man – Sometimes there are films that are really good — well made and well acted — that you just don’t like. The Measure of a Man is one of those movies for me. The story of a down-on-his-luck man trying to find work in the modern world, the film is just too steeped in realism for me to enjoy. The performance by Vincent Lindon is terrific, and the film is a good movie, but it’s just the kind of subject matter I don’t want to watch movies about. However, if you like strong foreign dramas, you will enjoy this one.
  • Casa Grande – This Brazilian coming-of-age drama about sex, class, and relationships is a well made if slightly heavy film. It’s not all about coming of age, however, as there are familial struggles, money problems, and class struggle at the heart of it. It’s well acted even if none of the actors are well known here in America, and I found the movie worth watching. I would say you definitely have to be in the mood for it, but it’s a solid film overall.
  • Colliding Dreams – I wish I could say I understood more of this documentary, which aims to paint a clear picture of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. It definitely gives a broad overview and filled in some gaps in my knowledge, but at the same time I didn’t leave the film feeling like I completely understood everything about what’s going on over there. I think the film could be valuable viewing in schools or history classes, though.
  • Elephant Kingdom – Cary Elwes and Patrick Warburton provide voices in this animated adventure that sees an elephant named Rock trying to rescue his wife from human kidnappers. Like with so many of these direct-to-video animated films, this one is okay. Younger kids will like it, but older kids might find it a little weaker. I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse, but the voice talent is strong and that helps make the characters endearing.

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