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Out This Week (In The US): Central Intelligence, Swiss Army Man and more

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Central Intelligence – Sometimes you see a movie trailer and you just know you’re going to enjoy it. I first saw the trailer for Central Intelligence almost a year before the movie premiered and I laughed through the whole thing. And unlike some films where you know you’re seeing all the funniest parts of the film, you could just tell this one was going to be funny. And it is. Directed by Marshal Rawson Thurber (who brought us the classic Dodgeball), Central Intelligence is extremely enjoyable. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are a terrific comedy team, and I love the role reversal that takes pace with Johnson having been the outcast in high school and Hart being the big man on campus. I’m glad this movie was something of a hit over the summer, but I actually think it should have done better. Check it out.

The Purge: Election Year – I really enjoy The Purge franchise, especially since the second film started living up to what it could be. The first film was more of a home invasion thriller set against the backdrop of this cool concept, but the second film really opened things up into what the first film should have been. This third entry continues that story, picking up two years after the events of The Purge 2, with Frank Grillo’s character now trying to keep a crusading politician alive. I think the film overplays a few things and it’s not quite at the same level as the second film, but it’s still a better installment than the first. And I’m glad it was a big hit at the box office. I really enjoy these movies and I’m excited to see them continue for a while. They’re good B-movie fun, and they both know exactly what they are yet still try and fit in some basics like character and message. Cool.

Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary EditionBeauty and the Beast will always be remembered as two things: the first ever animated film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and a captivating and beloved film in its own right. In fact, it’s one of my two favorite Disney movies (the other being The Lion King), and watching it now, 25 years since its release, the film still holds up as an animated masterpiece. The characters are memorable, funny, and touching; the animation, gorgeous. Even the songs, which can often be the weak spot in an animated musical, are some of the best Disney ever produced. This movie is, in short, as close to perfect as an animated film gets. Released once again on Blu-ray, Beauty and the Beast predictably looks and sounds amazing in high def. Even if you already own a previous edition of the film, this is a film worth owning in the best possible version, and that version is here.

Swiss Army Man – I’d heard so many mixed reviews of this film starring Daniel Radcliffe (as a dead body, mind you) and Paul Dano that I had to check it out for myself. Sort of a survivalist version of Weekend at Bernie’s, the film is definitely… odd. Honestly, I can see why the reviews are so mixed. I’m mixed about it! Part of me really liked it, and part of me was like, “what the hell am I watching?” So I can’t heartily recommend it, but I also can’t say to avoid it, either. It’s certainly unique, and that’s something.

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates – Comedy’s a funny thing nowadays. Here you have a film with Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza, and it came and went so fast at the box office that some of you probably haven’t even heard of it. Now, I’m not saying it should have been a huge box office smash, but it’s a funny enough film that would have easily grossed $100 million back in the days of American Pie or Road Trip or Wedding Crashers. I like all of the actors in this film (well, except Aubrey Plaza), so I had some fun with it, but it’s a mild comedic distraction at best.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV – As with so many of these Final Fantasy animated films, Kingsglaive is an incredibly beautiful film. In fact, it’s every bit as beautiful as its plot is confusing. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t play the games or what, but I find these animated movies to be pretty inscrutable. Which is a shame, because – visually speaking – they’re masterpieces. As a stand-alone film, I can’t recommend this one, but if you are a fan of the game series or even the previous films, check it out. At the very least, your eyeballs will thank you.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series – Archive Classics – I have always loved Johnny Carson. I’m old enough to remember when he retired and to have watched The Tonight Show on occasion, but also young enough to where the show was on too late for me to watch most nights because of school. As such, I’m always super excited when I get to watch any Johnny Carson programming, because he was just so fantastic and I’ve never seen most of it. This amazing six-disc set includes a ton of awesome guest stars, including Bob Hope, Muhammed Ali and Paul Freaking McCartney!! How cool is that? Packed with original sketches, interviews, and tons of extra features, this is a must have for any fans of the original King of Late Night.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Banshee: The Complete Fourth Season – It didn’t take long for me to get completely sucked in to the world of Banshee. There are almost no recognizable faces in the cast, but everyone in the cast is terrific, especially Antony Starr in the lead role. The show looks terrific; the production values here are exceptionally high. It often looks look more like a feature film than a TV show. Banshee didn’t get a ton of buzz during its four-season run, unfortunately (probably because it aired on Cinemax, which hasn’t gotten a name for original dramas just yet), but it should have. Even though a lot of people haven’t even heard of it, but it’s a very addictive, enjoyable show. Too bad it’s over.
  • Fender Bender – Despite the uber-creepy cover image, this film is pretty standard stalker/slasher fare, with a young girl being stalked by a maniac that she had a fender bender with. I like these kinds of films usually, so I can’t be too hard on this one, but it’s pretty standard fare for the genre. Don’t go into it expecting it too much and you won’t be too disappointed. It’s an easy enough way to kill 90 minutes but it’s honestly nothing special.
  • Charlie Brown’s All Stars! 50th Anniversary Edition – I love the Charlie Brown/Peanuts They’re an indelible part of my childhood, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them. It’s hard to believe that Charlie Brown’s All Stars is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, but it’s true. This classic special is actually relatively timely, as Charlie Brown takes a stand against a little league organization that won’t let girls or dogs play. In a day and age where inclusion is such a hot-button issue, this 50-year-old special feels surprisingly current. Which is kind of sad, actually. Regardless, it’s still classic Peanuts at their best, and it’s a terrific watch.
  • Joshy – I swear, I just watched a movie with Thomas Middleditch and Adam Pally called Search Party that could have been another movie in this film series. It’s not a series, of course, but this one does also star Middleditch and Pally, as well as Nick Kroll this time. And whereas Search Party was a pretty pure knockoff of The Hangover, this is like The Hangover 1.5, wherein a bunch of dude-bros have a weekend filled with debauchery, swearing, drinking, and – supposedly – some bonding moments as well. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t like it very much. I like Thomas Middleditch (he’s great on Silicon Valley), but I wish he’d stop making these frat boy comedies.
  • Into The Forest – Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood starring in the same movie? I’m interested. Oh, wait, that movie is post-apocalyptic survival drama? I’m there. Wood and Page play sisters trying to survive in a harsh world, and while their innocence and approach to the world may raise some eyebrows, they quickly have to deal with some serious you-know-what. There are some tough moments in this film, and while I wish things didn’t always go in that direction in these kinds of films, I still found this to be a tense and emotional film. Worth a watch, but not exactly Friday night popcorn fare.
  • The Mind’s Eye – There was this little horror film a few years ago called Almost Human that was really cool, kind of an under-the-radar gem that is on its way to becoming a cult classic. The Mind’s Eye is the next film from the director of that film, Joe Begos, and while it’s not quite as good as Almost Human, it is a pretty cool 80s throwback horror flick about two teenagers with mental powers and the demonic doctor trying to recapture them. It’s a little gorier at time than I would like at times, but clearly Begos is a guy with some talent and I’m keen to see where he’s going to go from here.
  • The Innocents – Oh my. The premise for this film sounds like the set-up to a bad joke. A woman walks into a convent and is greeted by a bunch of pregnant nuns… ba-dum-bum! But it’s anything but a comedy, and is instead a deadly serious, disturbing, and moody drama set in the aftermath of World War II. While this isn’t the kind of movie I usually go for, there’s no denying that the actors are all excellent, and the film is a well-put-together drama that is highly affecting, if a bit of a tough watch at times. There are serious issues at work here, and the film isn’t light viewing. Go in prepared.
  • Complete Unknown – The real question is how does a movie with Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon go direct to video and live up to its title by being a completely unknown film? I suppose it’s a bit on the artsier side, and it’s not quite mainstream fare. I can’t go too much into the plot without giving away some of the twists and turns, but suffice it to say that Weisz plays a mysterious stranger who complicates Shannon’s carefully constructed life. I liked parts of this film, although it has some pacing issues. Not surprisingly, the performances are the real star of the show here, so that’s the main reason to watch it.
  • Winter: The Complete Series – Rebecca Gibney stars in this sharp Australian crime drama about a detective trying to solve what could be a murder or a kidnapping in a small town. The whole thing takes about six hours from start to finish, so it’s more like a miniseries than anything else, but that also means it’s an easy watch. Pop it in on a Sunday afternoon and settle in for a night of intense crime-solving, and by the time you’re done, you’ll be exhilarated and exhausted in the best kind of way. Top-notch stuff.
  • A Murdoch Mysteries ChristmasMurdoch Mysteries is a forensic procedural (think CSI or Bones), but it’s set in 1890’s Toronto, right on the cusp of the age of scientific discovery. Detective Murdoch is basically the Fox Mulder/Gus Grissom of the show, and he’s a charming, intelligent fellow. Of course, he has a semi-romantic counterpart in Dr. Ogden, and as is so popular with these shows, there’s unrequited sexual/romantic tension between them. It’s a bit cliched, but it works so well, it’s a welcome cliche. The show is fun and endearing, filled with good mysteries, excellent acting, great guest stars, and amazing period-era production values. This release features a movie-length Christmas episode, as opposed to being a full season collection. I wish they would just include these in the season sets, but this should hold people over who are waiting for more new episodes.
  • RWBY Volumes 1-3: Beacon Steelbook – From the creators of the hit web series Red Vs. Blue comes RWBY, a popular anime movie series that has fans divided. On the one hand, a lot of people like the characters and dialogue, but not a lot of people like the animation. It is a bit crude, but it’s still an entertaining enough film the second time around. This new steelbook collection comes in a beautiful metal case with gorgeous artwork, and it houses all three of the RWBY films. If you’re not a fan, this won’t sway you, but if you are a fan, this is a great way to own the full series.
  • The Last King – The titular last king in this film is actually an infant, the rightful heir to the throne in a land where a coup has seen the ruling royalty all killed. This Norwegian action adventure is set in the middle ages and is a pretty cool little flick. If you’re looking for Game of Thrones level debauchery, you’ll be disappointed, but the film still offers up some good thrills and spills. There a few action scenes that are just fantastic, and the film as a whole works pretty well. Be aware that it is subtitled, however. I never have a problem with that, but I know some people do.
  • SatanicModern Family’s Sarah Hyland stars in this horror flick that borrows heavily from everything from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to… well, pretty much every possession movie ever made. I like Hyland, and it was fun to see her in a setting as far removed from Modern Family as possible, while the rest of the cast, while unknown, is just okay. The problem is that there’s absolutely nothing even remotely exciting, original, or interesting about the film. You’ve seen it all before, and I can guarantee you you’ve seen it done better.
  • The Wailing – This Asian horror film is not just your typical J-horror cheapie. Instead, it’s a thoughtful, complex, and chilling look at possession, murder, emotions, guilt, and horror. While it runs a bit too long at two-and-a-half hours, there’s a lot to like about this film, from its evolving tone (from light to dark, and then darker) to its moody atmosphere to its proficient cinematography. I don’t want to give any spoilers at all, but suffice it to say there are definitely some surprises in this film.
  • Laid in America – When we start seeing movies where the top billed actors are “YouTube Superstars,” I think we’re in a little bit of trouble. This movie stars KSI – who is apparently huge on YouTube – and Caspar Lee. Now, admittedly, I have no idea who these gentlemen are, but I surmise they’re quite popular. What I can’t surmise is why. This movie is about exactly what the title proclaims: getting laid. And while there have been several funny movies about that very thing (Porky’s, American Pie), this isn’t one of them. I’m sure KSI’s YouTube fans will think its comedy genius, but it’s not.
  • My Many Sons – Judge Reinhold has a new movie out. Just let that sink in for a minute. Judge Reinhold. Has. A. New. Movie. Younger readers probably have no idea who I’m talking about, but in the 80s he was a mainstay of the silver screen, with roles in Beverly Hills Cop and several other hit movies. Now he stars as real life basketball coach Don Meyer who overcame a major physical challenge to become the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. I like stories like these, and Reinhold reminds us that he’s actually a pretty good actor despite being out of the limelight for 20-plus years. Worth a watch if you like a good inspirational sports story.
  • Warner Archive: Moby Dick, Stablemates, and Jack of Diamonds – A number of new releases from Warner’s print-on-demand service The WB Archive have hit the streets. Moby Dick is the original 1931 classic (one of many versions of the story) starring John Barrymore. I love this film. Sure, it’s not the big-budget spectacle today’s audiences are used to, but that’s part of its charm. I remember watching this movie as a kid and being completely fascinated whenever the whale would appear. Watching it now, I still get a thrill from it. Stablemates features a different kind of majestic animal: race horses. Although they’re really supporting characters to Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney’s surrogate father-son characters, who are thrown together and develop a bond while trying to make a horse into a champion. It’s a sentimental and charming classic film that I had never seen before and I enjoyed. Jack of Diamonds stars a young George Hamilton as a cat burglar whose mentor is played by none other than Joseph Cotton. I mean, what more do you need to know? It’s a fun heist film with a charming cast, and I loved every minute of it.
  • Warner Archive: Lee Tracy: RKO 4-Film Collection and Fitzpatrick Traveltalks: Volume 2 – Also from the Warner Archive this week are two new collections sure to satisfy fans of totally different genres. Now, I can’t say I’m terribly familiar with Lee Tracy, but this new four-movie collection gives a nice welcome to the actor. With the films Criminal Lawyer, Behind the Headlines, Fixer Dugan, and Crashing Hollywood, we see Tracy as a lawyer, a reporter, a con man, and a circus man, which gives you an idea of his jack-of-all trades persona. While he’s not a famous name nowadays, I enjoyed exploring some of his film adventures. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick Traveltalks is a three disc set consisting of over 60 short travel films (over eight hours’ worth) that see James A. Fitzpatrick travel the world and document it all in full color. These short films are from the 1930s and 40s, and it’s fascinating to see the world in those times. Locales visited include Holland, Honolulu, Historic Maryland, St. Helena, and plenty of other places that start with letters other than H. Very cool stuff.
  • Diary of a Chambermaid – Lea Seydoux (SPECTRE, Blue is the Warmest Color) stars in this adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s novel from 1900. This is the very definition of somebody making a great film that simply isn’t for me. I just can’t get into most period dramas. And while there are exceptions to that rule, this film just couldn’t overcome its own trappings to win me over. It’s well-acted and gorgeously shot, but I found myself just not very interested in the characters or events of the film. I blame that more on me than the filmmakers, though; this just isn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Passion Live – Okay, so the title of this DVD already conjures up images of a birth-of-Jesus story as put on by a high school drama department. Then you realize that Tyler Perry is in it, and it’s hard not to imagine some kind of train-wreck faith based movie. What it really is, though, is a musical retelling of the story of The Passion with contributions by Seal, Trisha Yearwood, and Chris Daughtry. Now, I don’t generally get into religious programming, so I’ll keep my opinions to a minimum as I’m simply not the target audience, but I will say that this is an ambitions event that was broadcast live and is now preserved on DVD for audiences that embraced it. And that’s a good thing.
  • I Love Lucy: Superstar Special #1 – CBS likes to mine the Lucy vault every time a holiday like Christmas or Mother’s Day rolls around. This DVD includes the I Love Lucy Superstar Special, which aired back in the ‘50s but is basically two episodes run together. One features William Holden and the other is the classic Superman episode, which admittedly I’m a huge fan of. Now, this DVD includes the episodes in colorized versions, which at first got my ire up, but then I realized that he DVD also includes the episode in black & white, so all is okay with the world again. Available at a pretty low price point, this is a nice pick-up for a casual Lucy fan who wants to relive a couple of classic episodes.
  • Iverson – This documentary is about Allan Iverson, who was of course a basketball superstar. I can say that with confidence because I actually knew who he was before watching this film, and there’s not a lot of basketball players I can say that about. I don’t follow the sport, and my knowledge of it is pretty limited. This solid documentary doesn’t just focus on his highlight reels, however, but paints a pretty complete picture of his life leading up to his pro career and also his non-conventional choices that challenged some of the NBA conventions. I found it pretty interesting, and if you can get a non-basketball fan like me interested, you’re doing something right.
  • Hee Haw Salute – Another “classic” TV release from Time Life, Hee Haw Salute is a three-disc collection of the hit country comedy and variety show. This latest disc of the countrified variety show features performances from Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, George Jones, and Tammy Wynette, among others. 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. With over five hours of content and a number of great songs, this is a terrific disc for fans, but be aware that the content is included in the Hee Haw complete series box set.
  • Spillover: Zika, Ebola & Beyond – This Frontline documentary is timely as always, and it looks at the Zika virus and the havoc its wreaked, but it also focuses on a couple of other deadly diseases that are still a big issue in certain parts of the world. Watching this program will definitely make you want to wash your hands a lot more, as the program explores diseases that have spilled over from the animals where they originated and have transferred to humans. It’s sobering, scary stuff, but also interesting and informative. Definitely worth tracking down, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a germaphobe or a hypochondriac.
  • Sesame Street: Monster Magic – Just in time for Halloween, we have a new Sesame Street DVD release which is of course heavy on Elmo but also features a number of segments with some of Sesame Street’s monster characters, like Abby and Zoe. (Do they count as monsters? I think so.) I kind of run out of things to say about Sesame Street after a while, but you do get over an hour’s worth of material, and kids should love the Halloween theme that is anything but spooky, so you don’t have to worry about nightmares or anything like that.
  • Kate & Mim-Mim: A Christmas Wish – 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 of course the lead episode has a Christmas theme to it. It’s fun and cute and kids will have fun with it.

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