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Out This Week (In The US): Ghostbusters, The Thing, Carrie and more

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Ghostbusters – Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the many people who loudly proclaimed how bad the new Ghostbusters movie looked. But it had nothing to do with the female cast; in fact, I thought that was a good idea. No, my problem with the movie has always stemmed from two things: one, the trailer really just wasn’t very good. And two, Paul Feig. The director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy, Paul Feig has yet to make a movie I like. Until this one, that is. Yes, I liked Ghostbusters. Maybe it’s because my expectations were low going in, but I found the film to be pretty fun. There are definite Feig-isms I could have done without, but the cast is good, the script is relatively funny, and the special effects are pretty great. It doesn’t hold a candle to the original, of course, but it’s not the trainwreck I expected either. Check it out, you might be surprised.

John Carpenter’s The Thing – It’s hard to categorize John Carpenter’s best film when he has a resume that includes Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, and, of course, The Thing. I’d be hard pressed to pick my absolute favorite, but I can say that The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all time. And while it’s been on home video in multiple iterations over the years, it’s never quite had the definitive version. Until now. Scream Factory’s new version of this classic film presents the film on Blu-ray with newly restored and remastered picture and sound, which in and of itself is pretty awesome. But then you get the extra features, which is the most comprehensive collection of extras on one disc yet. There was a DVD way back in the day that had many of these features, but then when the Blu-ray finally came out from its studio a few years ago, they were completely absent. Now they’ve been restored and added to with new extra features, meaning this is THE version of The Thing to own.

The Legend of Tarzan – I don’t know why Tarzan seems to have fallen so off the pop-culture radar. I know the character is well over a hundred years old, but I still find the idea of a man raised by apes a compelling one. So it’s a shame that this latest Tarzan movie didn’t perform better at the box office, because I enjoyed it quite a bit. The scope and scale are impressive, the animal effects are terrific, and Alexander Sarsgaard makes for a striking Tarzan. Plus, you know, Margot Robbie. I’m not saying it’s a perfect film, but it’s really a fun adventure film and it’s the kind of movie we don’t get as often as I’d like. Definitely check this one out.

CarrieCarrie is such an odd movie to me. I mean, I get that it’s a 70s horror classic, and I do like the film, but it’s like two different films. The first twenty minutes is pretty unsettling, but then the next hour is like an afterschool teen drama. And then there’s the ending, the final 20 minutes, which is an absolute masterpiece. The slow motion and near silent sequence of Carrie unleashing her powers and the devastation she causes is like a master class in filmmaking and an easy seven steps above what 99.9% of the horror genre offers. It’s an odd dichotomy. Aside from the fact that there’s a lot of inappropriate slapping in this movie (the gym teacher slaps two students and John Travolta slaps his girlfriend three times!), it still holds up as a pretty great movie, even if it does have its flaws. This new Blu-ray anniversary edition is loaded to the gills with extra features and it looks and sounds great in high definition. All the better to watch the uber-creepy five-minute long opening credits sequence which is just one big slow-motion journey through the girls’ locker room. Umm…?

Blood Father – It’s a shame that Mel Gibson let his personal life derail his career so completely, because Blood Father is a pretty good little flick. The story follows Link, a burned out tattoo artist who is contacted for help by his on-the-run daughter who killed her boyfriend, a mobbed up bad guy. And then, well… you can probably guess what happens next. The film is gritty and intense, and Gibson turns in a heck of a performance. I’ve chosen to separate my feelings about Gibson as a person from his turns as an actor, and as a result, I’ve really enjoyed his last couple of films. If you’re a fan of Gibson’s from his pre-meltdown days, check this one out.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Sam Neill stars in this delightful and quirky dramedy about a man and a boy who forge a relationship under less-than-ideal circumstances. Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in The Shadows), the film is sweet, funny, and charming, but it also has some nice dramatic undercurrents. Julian Dennison is terrific as the former foster child in the lead role, while Sam Neill plays a gruff and cantankerous guy who’s in over his head with a young boy in his care, but steps up anyway. This is a sweet little film from New Zealand, and I really enjoyed it.

Perry Mason: The Complete Series – Without a doubt, Perry Mason was not only a popular television show, it was also a groundbreaking one. Raymond Burr’s defense attorney drama not only ran for an astounding nine seasons, but it set the precedent for courtroom dramas that continue even to this day. Every time I sit down to write a Perry Mason review, that theme song music instantly plays in my head. It doesn’t matter how many months pass between the DVD set releases, the minute I see Raymond Burr’s imposing figure on the cover I can hear it instantly: Duh nuh nuh nuuuuh nuh NUH, duh nuh nuh nuuuuh nuh NUH, duh nuh nuh nuh nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nuuuuuh! You either know exactly what I’m talking about or you think I’m a complete idiot.Now, there’s no denying that the show was formulaic. Every week, Mason would defend a seemingly guilty client with the help of his faithful secretary, Della Street, and private investigator Paul Drake. At the last minute, when all usually seemed lost, Mason would pull the rug out from under his prosecutor rival Hamilton Burger with either surprise evidence or a confession drawn out in typical Perry Mason style (“Isn’t it true? ISN’T it TRUE?”). You can see the effects of the House That Perry Mason Built in every courtroom drama since. This massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) box set collects every single episode of the entire series, and it’s a real treat for fans of the show.

The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – Classic Carol – This “highlights” box set distills a selection of episodes from the complete box set that just came out from Time Life a few months ago. As I’ve stated before, The Carol Burnett Show 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 14 rare episodes across six 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 some great new special features. It’s hard to argue with what a great package this is for fans of the show!

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Feed the Beast: Season 1 – David Schwimmer is back on TV and it seems like no one’s noticed. And I like Schwimmer, but I’m also a big fan of Jim Sturgess, who I think is a much better actor than a lot of people give credit for. The two of them star in this new series from AMC (which – I believe – has sadly been cancelled) about two friends who struggle with opening their restaurant amongst loss, grief, mobsters, drugs, and more. I like Schwimmer and Sturgess on screen together, but the show leaves me a little wanting. I like it, it’s not bad, but it isn’t the kind of thing I can see myself DVR-ing and keeping up with every week.
  • Mike & Molly: The Complete Sixth Season – As someone who’s not a Melissa McCarthy fan, this isn’t my favorite show. That said however, I like it better than some of her movie roles, in which she does the same thing over and over again At least here she’s not simply over-the-top obnoxious (see: Tammy, Identity Thief, Bridesmaids, pretty much every other movie she’s been in…) But for the most part, this is just a regular sitcom; not bad, not great.
  • Broken Vows – Wes Bentley, Jaime Alexander (TV’s Blindspot), and Cam Gigandet star in this formulaic thriller about a man who becomes obsessed with a woman and goes on a rampage to win her back. Because, you know, that always works. After Tara (Alexander) has a last-minute pre-wedding fling with bartender Patrick (Bentley), he becomes obsessed. There’s literally nothing we haven’t seen before in this film, but I liked it despite that. Alexander is good in the lead, Bentley is always a good creepy bad guy, and I actually like Cam Gigandet (I don’t hold a grudge against him just because he was in Twilight.) It’s a brisk, quickly-paced film, and it’s the perfect thing to throw in late at night when you don’t want to think too much.
  • Approaching the Unknown – While the marketing efforts would have you believe that this movie is perfect for fans of The Martian, it’s anything but. Instead, it’s a lonely, sparse film about a solo astronaut on his way to Mars, and the tone is much more solemn and humorless than The Martian is. Luke Wilson is perfectly good in the lead role, but the film is so filled with solitude and mood that it’s hard to really get caught up in it. There are some interesting moments, and fans of space-based movies might enjoy it, but it’s not the film I was hoping for.
  • Wild Oats – Sort of like Thelma & Louise’s Grandmas, Wild Oats is a much less serious women-on-the-lam film starring Shirley MacLaine and Jessica Lange. The plot follows a woman and her friend as they go on the run after a bank mistake ends up with $50 million in her bank account instead of $50,000. Billy Connolly and Alan Arkin have supporting roles, but the movie really belongs to Lange and MacLaine. It’s nothing special to be honest, but it is a certain amount of fun. I think it will appeal to its target demographic of older viewers, however, and they will probably enjoy it quite a bit.
  • Len & Company – Rhys Ifhans stars as a former punk rock star turned pop-music producer in this interesting little film. While away at a personal retreat, his solitude is interrupted by his estranged son and spoiled pop star protégé (played by the always excellent Juno Temple.) The result is a film that doesn’t rely on fireworks or special effects, but instead is a simple story about these three people and their complicated relationships. It’s at turns funny and dramatic, and all three of the leads are in top form, especially Ifhans. Worth a look if you like a good indie dramedy.
  • Man in the Wilderness – Available from Warner’s print-on-demand service, this movie is pretty interesting. You see, it’s based on the real story of a man named Hugh Glass. Does that name sound a little bit familiar? Well, if it does, that’s because he’s the main character in The Revenant, which is also based on the same true story as this film. This much earlier film, however, stars Richard Harris instead of Leonardo DiCaprio. And while you can’t compare the two films on pure filmmaking and scope, this prototype is still an enjoyable tale and a tougher film than many adventure movies from the same era. Worth a look.
  • Beowulf – A TV series based on the classic tale of Beowulf? Sign me up! I’ve always been enamored with the original epic poem that detailed Beowulf’s battle against the Grendel, so the chance to see it serialized with modern storytelling techniques was too enticing to pass up. Especially once you factor in that William Hurt, Ed Speleers, and Joanne Whalley are in the cast. However, the show isn’t really about Beowulf’s battle with the Grendel, but rather his heroic journey overall. The show is an action drama at heart, and it fits along nicely next to something like Vikings. Still, pretty good overall.
  • Who Gets The Dog? – Ryan Kwanten and Alicia Silverstone star in this rom com about a couple who split up after six years of marriage and end up fighting over who gets the dog. Is there a chance the dog will get them back together? Well, I wouldn’t want to ruin the “suspense,” but as this is a pretty typical rom com, you can make your own assumptions. It’s pretty typical fare, but I like Kwanten a lot and it’s good to see Alicia Silverstone on screen again. Nothing special here, but it will probably satisfy the target audience.
  • The Demolisher – This throwback vigilante thriller is made up of unknown talent behind the scenes and in front of the camera, but its cool 80s vibe will definitely win over fans of the action genre. Styled after your prototypical Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris films of the 70s and 80s, this film is about a man whose ex-policewoman wife is disabled due to gang violence and who takes to the streets to even the odds a little. It’s violent but not in a disturbing way, and the film looks good and has a cool retro soundtrack. It doesn’t reinvent the genre or anything, but it is a fun watch for those of us who grew up with 80s action films on rotation.
  • She Who Must BurnFirefly’s Jewel Staite co-stars in this thriller that sees a group of crazed religious zealots trying to thwart a nurse who wants to help the residents of a small mining town. This is one of those movies that you want to like more than you actually do. The story has some tense moments and I always like seeing Jewel Staite, but the script and the acting overall (aside from Staite) are a bit patchy. Not a bad film but certainly not a great one, this is one of those thrillers that went straight to video for a reason.
  • Amazonia – Sort of a cross between a narrative film and a documentary, this movie basically follows a little capuchin monkey through the amazon after the plane he’s on crashes. That’s about the extent of the narrative portion, however, as most of the rest of the film simply is footage of the monkey interacting with other animals, journeying through the jungle, and trying to survive and thrive. There are some cool moments and the monkey itself is quite a character all on his own. This is the kind of film that will appeal to both kids and parents.
  • Phantom of the Theatre – This isn’t a straight adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, but it is clearly inspired by it, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Set in the 1930s, this Asian film is a decent attempt at a horror film that is more than just gore and jump scares, with drama and romance at the center point of it all. The performances by the lead actors really add to the proceedings overall, and while I wasn’t blown away by the film, it was better than I expected it to be.
  • The Devil’s Forest – Remember that movie The Forest that came out a few months back with Natalie Dormer? Well, this is basically a lower-budgeted version of that film told in found footage style. And it takes place in a Romanian forest instead of a Japanese one. Okay, and there are more people in I t, but still, it’s effectively a haunted forest movie. I’m always a little biased against found footage films as I just don’t generally like them, and this one hasn’t done much to change my mind. It simply isn’t very good.
  • Les Cowboys – This French film also co-stars John C. Reilly, although the bulk of it is in French. It tells the tale of a family that is torn apart by the disappearance of their daughter. Fast forward a few years and the father, Alain, is still searching for his daughter, traveling to some dark places in the journey. The film is dark and melodramatic, but it’s also intense and moving, with some really strong performances. It’s also not an easy movie to watch, and at times it will leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable, but it is quite effective.
  • Francesca – This gritty Italian horror film comes in a deluxe package that includes terrific cover artwork, deluxe packaging, the Blu-ray, the DVD, and a soundtrack CD. The story melds the tale of a missing girl from 15 years ago with a serial killer inspired by Dante stalking the city. It’s an interesting film: dark, artistic, disturbing, and atmospheric. There’s a definite feel of the Italian Giallo film genre, and that’s clearly intentional, and the result is a feel very much like watching a 1970s horror film. If that’s your kind of thing, check this one out.
  • Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words – I’ll admit that my knowledge of Frank Zappa is a s cursory as it gets. I know who he is and who his kids are, I know he was an avante-garde musician/artist, and I know that I’ve never listened to any of his music. And that’s about it. This new film aims to give a glimpse into Zappa’s world, but it’s all told through interviews and footage of Zappa, so it’s more about getting to know him than learning his life story. It’s interesting stuff overall, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was a Zappa fan.
  • Breaking a Monster – This extremely interesting documentary follows three African-American boys who want to play heavy metal, and when they do, they suddenly find themselves thrust into the spotlight of fame and potential fortune. It’s hard not to get caught up in this documentary, in which we meet the three youngsters and watch their journey from playing on the streets to opening for Metallica. And while there’s no lack of cynicism about the record industry, it’s also clear that the kids themselves aren’t stupid and know what they’re doing. This is a really engaging film and is worth tracking down.
  • 6 Plots – Well, you can tell it’s getting close to Halloween, because every low-budget horror film the studios can scrape up is hitting DVD shelves this month. This one at least tries to be interesting, even though it’s treading familiar ground. After a night of partying, Brie wakes up to find that all of her friends have been kidnapped and are being subjected to torturous deaths which only she can prevent by solving clues. Meanwhile, her friends’ deaths are being broadcast on the internet. Like I said, familiar ground. I’ve seen worse, and there are some inventive kills, but it’s nothing great.
  • Nickelodeon Favorites: A Very Nick Jr. Christmas – This latest multi-show collection from Nickelodeon includes episodes of Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies, Wallykazam, Shimmer & Shine, Blaze & The Monster Machines and Dora & Friends. As always, these discs have a theme, and this one is pretty easy to figure out: Christmas! Six episodes total are included and the price point is pretty low, so this is a good one for kids who still have a few weeks left before school starts.
  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel’s Winter Wonderland – 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 time around, however, the show is holiday-themed, which is perfect for, you know, the upcoming holidays. 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.
  • Blinky Bill: The MovieTrue Blood’s Ryan Kwanten voice-stars in this animated kids’ film about a koala bear who goes on a search for his missing dad. This is pretty standard fare for this line of DVDs; I’ve seen a lot of these foreign-made kiddie flicks that bring in a big star or two to provide voices and gain some traction with American audiences. Some of them are pretty bad and some are pretty decent, and this one is one of the better ones, geared at younger audiences and not too complex or original. But it’s still not bad and can be had cheaply to keep your kidlets occupied.
  • Heart of the World: Colorado’s National Parks – I’ve never been to Colorado, but I can tell you that their National Parks are absolutely beautiful. How do I know that? This DVD. Over the course of three hour-long programs, Heart of the World takes you deep into the majesty and beauty of Colorado’s multiple National Parks. The program is educational and entertaining, and it’s hard to believe that some of the sights you’ll see are right here in the United States. Some really gorgeous stuff here.
  • The Invoking 3: Paranormal Dimensions – There were two films before this one in this series? Sure, why not. Heck, I’ll bet you I reviewed them, or at least one of them. Which tells you exactly how memorable this low-budget horror cheapie is. The only memorable thing about it is that it’s a pastiche of short horror films rather than a single cohesive movie. They’re mostly pretty bad, all shot cheaply and quickly, and I can’t recommend this film, even to die-hard horror fans. This is a franchise that I think can end and no one will be too upset about it.

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