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Out This Week (In The US): Child’s Play, The Infiltrator, X-Men: Apocalypse and more


x-men apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse – After the heights of X-Men: Days of Future Past – which is not just the best X-Men movie but also one of my favorite superhero movies – it was inevitable that the franchise would come back down a bit with X-Men Apocalypse. It’s not that it’s a bad film, but for a movie that’s supposed to be the apex of the franchise, it just doesn’t feel as big and as epic as I think it’s supposed to. And the climax of the film just feels… well, anticlimactic to me. There are parts of the film I really like (Tye Sheridan as Cyclops is a nice addition) and the film certainly looks great, but it falls short of the high watermark set by the excellent Days of Future Past for me.

The Infiltrator – Bryan Cranston is a really good actor. Did you know that? I feel like it’s one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets. Okay, all kidding aside, Cranston turns in another blistering performance in The Infiltrator, a film about an undercover drug agent trying to bring down a major cartel. Not surprisingly, things quickly go south and he ends up in increasingly dangerous situations. With a terrific supporting cast and some really intense moments of suspense (despite the fact that it’s based on a true story, so you may already know the broad strokes of the plot), the film is pretty gripping. It does have some minor flaws, and it’s not a major action film like some people may expect (which I’m fine with), but it’s definitely worth watching.

Child’s Play – You know that the Child’s Play franchise has become part of the cultural lexicon when you realize that people who have never seen a single one of the films can still throw around Chucky references without missing a beat. And while I have a real soft spot for the second film, there’s no denying that the first one is a really terrific horror film. The idea of a child’s doll being a killer is pretty creepy, and while it’s been done both before and since Child’s Play, it’s rarely been done this well and with such a great balance of humor and horror. This new Blu-ray edition from Scream Factory adds a ton of new extra features and presents itself as a true collector’s edition.

The Da Vinci Code/Angels & Demons 4k Ultra HD – I can understand the timing of these releases, as Inferno, the third entry in the Dan Brown trilogy is about to hit theaters. But I actually have to wonder if there are a lot of people champing at the bit to spend the extra money to upgrade their copies of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Now, for the record, I don’t hate these films, but I certainly wish they were better. I love Dan Brown’s books, I love Tom Hanks, and I’m a pretty big Ron Howard fan, so why don’t these films end up being better? For my money, I actually enjoy Angels & Demons more than The Da Vinci Code, but neither film is what I want it to be. The new 4K Ultra HD upgrades are certainly impressive. The mage clarity is top-notch, and colors are both brilliant and muted in the way that the filmmakers clearly intended. There’s a nice depth to the imagery as well, and the surround soundtracks are constantly active. If you are a big fan of these films, the new upgrades will easily satisfy you.

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection – Restored Collection (The Cocoanuts/Animal Crackers/Monkey Business/Horse Feathers/Duck Soup) – I generally don’t love collections like this, which puts five Marx Brothers films (out of the dozens they made) into one collection. Usually it’s because they leave out some seminal film or another, and the sets never quite feel complete. This new box set, however, does things right. Rather than trying to package every Marx Brothers film or just pick a few of the best, it collects the only five Marx Brothers films that include all four Marx Brothers, giving the set a nice cohesion. Luckily, that also includes a few of their best: namely, Duck Soup, Monkey Business, and Animal Crackers. You also get The Cocoanuts and Horse Feathers, which are worthy entries as well. Plus, you get some terrific new extra features and a booklet with an essay about the Marx Brothers, making this a really terrific package for fans of classic comedy.

Our Kind of Traitor – Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, and Naomie Harris star in this tense thriller about a couple on vacation who get swept up in an espionage plot of sorts. Honestly, to say more about the plot would give away what makes the film so intriguing, but suffice it to say that it really is engaging. Ewan McGregor is a favorite of mine and he’s terrific as always here, and the film keeps you guessing for most of its running time. It’s not the flashiest movie in the world and there are some places where the pacing is deliberately a bit slower, but this is a pretty good little film.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur are not quite the household names they once were (although I think most film fans still know who Cooper is; less so, Arthur) star in this classic Hollywood masterpiece that celebrates its 70th anniversary with a gorgeous new Blu-ray edition packaged in terrific hardcover book packaging. Cooper (who honestly has never been one of my favorites, although I do like him) and Arthur (long a favorite of mine) are terrific together. This is as classic a film as they come, and it’s great to see it restored and remastered in high definition, and I can’t get enough of the hardcover book format; I wish every DVD was packaged like this. I love this release!

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

Gregory Peck Centennial Collection – Remember how I said I don’t always love these actor-centric collections? This one is a perfect example of why. Now, to be fair, this is a very nice Blu-ray release which includes two of Gregory Peck’s signature movies into one nice package: To Kill a Mockingbird and Cape Fear. My big problem with it is that those are the only two movies in the set. So to call it a “collection” (as opposed to, let’s face it, a double feature) is just a bit of marketing spin as far as I’m concerned. That said, this is a great and affordable way to own two of Peck’s bona fide masterpieces in high def, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Vikings: Season 4, Volume 1 – I know that Vikings is insanely popular, and I can see why even if ultimately I’m not really a fan of the show. It’s dark and gritty and certainly doesn’t veer away from Game of Thrones territory and that usually equals a hit these days. And it’s not as if there’s anything in particular about the show that I can point to that I dislike. It just never gets me excited. It’s a perfectly fine show, and fans will enjoy having the first half of Season Four on home video, I just wish I could get as excited about it as everyone else.

Café Society – Woody Allen’s latest film stars the usual who’s who of actors, this time around including Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carrell, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Kristen Stewart, and Corey Stoll. Now, I’m usually pretty lukewarm on Woody Allen films, but I have enjoyed some of his more recent outings, especially over the past few years where he has removed himself from being in front of the camera. This time around, Jesse Eisenberg plays a young man who gets caught up in Hollywood society in the 1930s when he comes to town looking for a change in his life. I think part of the reason I enjoyed this one more than many of his other films is that I absolutely love classic Hollywood. And while this is obviously an Allen-ized version of that world, I still enjoyed seeing it come to life. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s pretty fun overall.

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series – There are pros and cons to this Twilight Zone: Complete Series set. On the plus side, obviously, it includes every single episode of the classic television anthology. It also does so at a lower price than it’s ever been able to collect the entire series before. On the minus side, the set has only been released on DVD, and it’s also completely devoid of extra features. Now, this might not be so bad if Image Entertainment hadn’t released the entire series season by season a few years ago on Blu-ray, and each release came with a copious amount of extra features. So for die-hard fans, this is not the best way to get the series. For more casual fans or those who don’t care about high definition or bonus features, this is a great set at an affordable price point.

Waxwork/Waxwork II – To anybody who grew up in the 80s, the name Vestron Video should at least sound a little familiar. A mainstay in the 1980s, the company brought both mainstream hits and cult classics to home video, and you probably saw their logo dozens of times throughout the 80s on VHS cassettes in your VCR. Now, the label has been resurrected by Lionsgate as an imprint being used to bring cult classics back out on Blu-ray. Their latest release is the Waxwork/Waxwork II double feature. These two films are the definition of cult classics, as neither of them is really all that great, but there is an undeniable ‘80s charm to both of them. Presented in high definition and with plenty of new bonus features, this is a great release for fans of Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint.

The Night Of – This new HBO series stars John Turturro and seems like sort of a spiritual sequel to True Detective. And while the two shows are quite different, there’s a feel to them both and a level of quality which makes them seem like they’re from the same tonal universe. This crime drama follows a number of different characters, and it’s the characters that lead the charge here. The overarching mystery-slash-legal-case is compelling, sure, but the characters are interesting enough to keep you around from start to finish. I don’t know that it’s quite as buzzworthy as the first season of True Detective, but it’s typically high-quality HBO programming.

Hollywood: Legends of Horror Collection – This six-movie collection from the Warner Brothers print-on-demand service Warner Archive is more like a semi-legends of horror collection. None of the films are household name titles, but there are some known quantities here. The six films included are: Doctor X, The Return of Doctor X (which co-stars Humphrey Bogart!!), Mark of the Vampire, The Mask of Fu Manchu, and The Devil Doll. I’d heard of most of these films but had never seen any of them before this set came across my desk. And honestly, nothing in the set is a real masterpiece, but there are some fun classic B-movie horror outings. Obviously, my favorite is The Return of Doctor X, solely for the fact that a young Humphrey Bogart is in it. Worth a look for die-hard horror or classic Hollywood fans.

Supermansion: Season 1 – I seem to have reached an age where most of the programming put out by Cartoon Network these days holds little to no interest for me. However, this new show from the creators of Robot Chicken caught my attention. For one, I love Robot Chicken. For two, it features voice work by Bryan Cranston. For three, it features a classic superhero butting head with disaffected millennial superheroes, and that’s a great concept. The show itself is pretty funny, and while some of the humor doesn’t quite hit its mark for me, I enjoyed it more than I didn’t. Fans of Cartoon Network in general should really enjoy it.

Guilt: Season 1 – This is an odd show. What looks like a staid British drama is actually a millennial-themed murder mystery. While Billy Zane is the main known actor in the show, most of the cast is made up of lesser known Pretty Young Actors. There’s a lot of talk about drug use and sex clubs, and the show tries to be shocking on occasion, but I feel like it’s pretty hollow overall. That said, it’s also easily digestible and not difficult to watch at all, so I can see where there would be an audience for it out there. I just don’t think I was completely sold on it.

Doctor Thorne – Another period British drama? Yaaawwnn—wait, what? Oh, it’s written by Julian Fellowes, the man behind Downton Abbey? Well, why didn’t you say so? So yeah, I pretty much had no interest in Doctor Thorne until I learned it was written by Fellowes, who made such an indelible stamp on television history with Downton Abbey. And I’ll be honest, if you’re looking for the second coming of Downton, you might be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a solid British drama with that typical Fellowes flair, you’ll probably be completely satisfied. It’s not quite the masterpiece that Downton was, but it’s at least a pretty good viewing experience.

Ice Girls – I feel like I can just say, “Ice skating movie for tweens,” and you’ll know everything you need to know about this movie. I will say that it also features professional ice skaters Elvis Stojko and Tessa Virtue (famous in some circles of the world) and Natasha Henstridge (once again in the grown-up role), but for the most part, it’s an ice skating movie for tween girls. It’s not bad for what it is, but if you fall outside of the target audience, you might be left wanting.

Spaceman – I probably would have had little interest in watching this movie that the cover describes as “The Big Lebowski of baseball movies,” if it weren’t for the fact that Josh Duhamel stars in the lead role, and I like him quite a bit. I was unfamiliar with the true story that the movie is based on (about a baseball player who becomes unsignable because of his out-there politics and outspoken views), and this stylized take on it is certainly interesting. Did I love the film? No. Did I hate it? Certainly not. It’s definitely interesting, and Duhamel is great as usual in the lead role. Maybe baseball fans will enjoy it more than I did.

Brain Games: Season 7 – Honestly, I’d never heard of this show before. But seven seasons in, it clearly has a fan following, and I can see why. It’s a pretty fun show that looks at how the mind works in response to a variety of situations. Using experiments, brain teasers, optical illusions, mind games, and more, the show is really interesting stuff. Fans of things like MythBusters or Outrageous Acts of Science will enjoy it, and I like that – for the most part – it’s relatively kid-friendly. There is some language (but it’s bleeped) and occasional topics might be a bit much for some of the younger kids, but older kids will enjoy it, as will adults.

What We Become – Well, I don’t want to spoil things, but what we become is zombies. Okay, I guess that’s a spoiler but if you look at the cover art or watch the trailer or read the film description, it’s not too hard to figure out. This Swedish film is an interesting take on the zombie genre, starting with a mysterious viral plague and a lock-down long before we get to any actual zombie action. This isn’t an action/horror film; it’s an atmospheric and moody character-driven film that’s more akin to Let the Right One In than Dawn of the Dead. Admittedly, it’s a bit slow in places, as it’s a good hour or so before things get really zombiefied. But if you like a more thoughtful horror film, this might be for you.

Sins of the Guilty – This is an odd film that starts off about a girl striking out on her own and getting in over her head in The Big City, and somewhere along the way it turns into a paranormal murder mystery of sorts. The cast is largely unknown (although Trina McGee of Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World is in the lead role) and while the film does have a few intriguing moments, it doesn’t really do much to stand out, aside from its tonal shift. I guess it might be good to check out late on a Saturday night when you’re bored and have nothing better to do.

Janet King: Series 2 – This is a British courtroom drama featuring “senior crown prosecutor” Janet King. With eight hours of episodes, this is an easy show to get engrossed in, as it’s fantastic. Marta Dusseldorp is terrific in the lead role, and the show is engaging from the start, with the perfect mix of crime and court as well as personal matters that drive the characters and inform their actions. It’s not the kind of show I usually don’t go for, but in this case, I was impressed.

Agatha Raisin – I love Ashley Jensen. She’s been terrific in everything from Ugly Betty to Ricky Gervais’s Extras to Eleventh Hour with Patrick Stewart. Here, she finally headlines her own show, and while it’s yet another British mystery series, Jensen raises it above being “yet another” British mystery series. The show has a bit of a Murder, She Wrote vibe as Jensen plays a former big business executive who retires to small town life, only to become an amateur detective. The show is a lot of fun and the mysteries aren’t too intense, and like I said, Jensen is terrific in the lead role. This is a fun one to sit down with.

WB Archive: Love Me or Leave Me, Monogram Cowboy Collection Volume 9, and When a Feller Needs a FriendLove Me or Leave Me makes its Blu-ray debut, and it’s a musical biopic starring Doris Day as jazz singer Ruth Etting. James Cagney co-stars, which of course piqued my interest as I’m a huge Cagney fan. This one’s a full-on musical, which isn’t my favorite genre, but it’s pretty much impossible not to enjoy a film with Cagney and Day in the lead roles. Kudos to Warner for releasing it on Blu-ray, too. Next up, we have the latest collection of classic B-western films, the Monogram Cowboy Collection: Volume 9. This volume heavily features Johnny Mack Brown, who was apparently something of a big name back in the 40s. The films included are: The Gentleman From Texas, Trailing Danger, Land of the Lawless, Code of the Saddle, Flashing Guns, Frontier Agent, The Fighting Ranger, The Sherriff of Medicine Bow, and Adios Partners, Happy Trails. As with the previous sets, these lesser known movies will appeal mostly to die-hard fans, but it’s nice to get nine films in one affordable collection, especially rare ones like these making their DVD debuts. When a Feller Needs a Friend stars Jackie Cooper and Charles “Chic” Sale, who admittedly I’ve never heard of before. This is an interesting film, and it seems like the kind of movie that could have only been made 75 years ago, as Cooper plays a kid with a limp and Sale plays the “tall-tale spinning” uncle who tries to toughen him up. I don’t think the PC Police would let this one get by today. Definitely dated, but curious in a throwback kind of way.

Serial Killer 1 – This French thriller is loosely based on the real-life story of the serial killer known as The Beast of Bastille. I’ve been saying for the past few years how top-notch the thrillers coming out of France have been over the past decade or so, and this film is a perfect example of that. Yes, it’s in French, and yes the actors in it will be unknown to American audiences. But none of that matters. The film is gripping, intense, and taut, and its two-hour running time flies by once things get going. Track this one down if you like foreign films… or even if you don’t.

The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor – It’s hard to believe it’s been 75 years since Pearl Harbor, but it’s also hard to believe it’s only been 75 years since Pearl Harbor. It seems like multiple lifetimes ago. This four-hour, two-disc program retells the events of the historic day, and while it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, it is quite comprehensive and in-depth. Fans of history as well as teachers of history classes will find this an invaluable resource.

Sherpa – This is not a documentary about climbing mountains. While it’s set in the shadow of Mount Everest, the movie is actually about the sherpas who lead tourists from around the world up the deadly mountains of the Himalayas. It also shows the aftermath of an avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 sherpas, and the effective strike they set in motion as a result of it. It’s much more about people, exploitation, and labor in a different part of the world than it is about climbing mountains. It’s quite an interesting film, just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

The Hunting of the President Redux – Morgan Freeman narrates this updated version of The Hunting of the President, which isn’t the thriller it sounds like. The film is based on a book about partisan politics and the “twenty-five year campaign to systematically destroy the political legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton.” This new version of the film includes more recent interviews and updated information that helps make the filmmakers’ case. As with most political documentaries, though, how much you believe will most likely be a result of how you feel about the subject going into it, but maybe it will open some eyes.

We The People: The Market Basket Effect – I’ll be honest, I had no idea that any of the events of this documentary film even happened. Apparently, in 2014 and 2015, the Market Basket supermarket chain in New England went from being an adored family-run supermarket chain known for great prices and good treatment of their employees into a beleaguered corporate entity. While it obviously didn’t happen overnight, this film focuses on when the problems went public and resulted in empty stores, absent employees, and the chain taking a huge hit in the public eye. Even if you’re not from the area or familiar with the chain, it’s quite an interesting story.

Caillou The Courageous – This is the latest DVD release of the popular cartoon, with a good handful of episodes. This show is kind of your basic kids’ show. A young boy has adventures in parks and playgrounds and such, and learns lessons about everything from friendship and helping to winning and losing. It’s pretty typical kids fare for the younger set, but that’s not a bad thing. Plus, the low price point is a bonus looking for kids’ entertainment. You get an hour’s worth an episode, and this one features Caillou overcoming adversity by doing things like learning to roller skate, navigating a substitute teacher and climbing a rock wall.

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