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Out This Week (In The US): Bubba Ho-Tep, The Hunger Games 4K and more



The Hunger Games Series in 4K Ultra HD – While the Hunger Games movies have already been available on DVD and Blu-ray, they now make their debut in Ultra 4K HD. The nice thing is that these versions also include the films on Blu-ray and DVD, so no matter what hardware you currently own, picking up these discs will have you covered, especially if you plan to upgrade in the near future. So, are they worth the upgrade to 4K Ultra HD? Well, yes and no. There’s no denying that the picture quality is outstanding, as is the surround sound. But of course, the original Blu-rays looked pretty fantastic as well. I guess it really depends on just how much of a picture/sound quality purist you really are. As for the films themselves, I enjoyed them quite a bit, even if I feel like the last two don’t live up to the promise of the first two. Still, it’s a pretty good franchise overall, and these are terrifies versions of them.

Bubba Ho-Tep – A cult classic from director Don Coscarelli (creator of the Phantasm films), this oddball horror-ish film stars Bruce Campbell as an aging Elvis Presley living in a retirement home and fighting an evil mummy. Yep, you read that right. It’s Elvis versus a mummy. Yet it’s completely serious. And also not serious at all. As you might have guessed, Bubba Ho-Tep is a really difficult movie to describe but if you’ve seen the Phantasm films (which are a lot weirder than many people realize), you get some idea of what to expect. Me, I really enjoy this movie, and this new Blu-ray edition comes with some great extra features and is a terrific edition for fans of the film.

Morris From America – I’m not a huge Craig Robinson fan, as he pretty much plays the exact same character in every single film and TV show I’ve seen him in. I don’t dislike him, but I’m not overly enthralled with him, either. In Morris From America, Robinson gets to stretch his legs a little bit by playing more of a supporting role to newcomer Markees Christmas. In this tale of a widower and his young teenage son living in Germany, we get both a coming-of-age tale and a fish-out-of-water story, both of which culminate in a charming, enjoyable film. Christmas is terrific for a first-timer, but Craig Robinson is a revelation, proving that he can actually act and not just play the same role repeatedly. This is a fun little underseen gem to seek out.

Into The Badlands: Season 1 – AMC does a great job with The Walking Dead. Not only is it a terrific show, but it’s also a massive hit. Unfortunately, that seems to have made the network think it can make other great TV shows… and that hasn’t been the case as of yet. Last week I espoused how disappointed I was in Preacher, and this week we have Into The Badlands. Heavily hyped during the last season of The Walking Dead, the show looked awesome: set in a dystopic future, a samurai-like warrior has to fight for honor and justice in a lawless land. Cool, right? Unfortunately, it’s more about how the audience has to fight to stay awake. Yes, the action sequences are cool. But everything else about the show — the characters, the settings, the scripts, the drama – are dreadfully boring. Honestly, I don’t know how you can film such gripping fight scenes and then fill the rest of the show with stories and characters I literally couldn’t care less about. Judging by how little buzz this show generated, I’m guessing I’m not alone in my opinion of it.

Body Snatchers – This 1994 remake of the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers story was directed by Abel Ferrarra, best known for his controversial crime thrillers like The Bad Lieutenant. It stars Gabrielle Anwar, Forrest Whitaker, and Terry Kinney and it plays out like a lot of other ‘90s genre offerings: it’s pretty decent, but not much more. The story is largely the same as the classic story, although this time around it’s set on a military base. We also get a much greater insight into how the body snatchers work, with multiple sequences dealing with the creation of doubles and the process of replacing the humans they’re copying. It gives the movie a different feel from its predecessors and the end result is a fun 90s throwback that isn’t bad and isn’t great. It’s a decent way to kill 90 minutes.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Capital – What a great concept for a show. The residents of an upscale English community all receive a message in the mail: “We want what you have.” What does it mean? Is it a threat? An offer? Something otherworldly? Well, that’s what the four episodes of Capital aim to find out. With a cast that includes Toby Jones, Gemma Jones (no relation), Lesley Sharp, and Rachelle Stirling, the show is both gripping and filled with strong performances. Obviously, I won’t give anything away here, but I will say that the mystery had me hooked from the beginning and I stayed hooked until the end.
  • Private Property – Considered a lost film for over 50 years, this 1960 film by Leslie Stevens (the creator of The Outer Limits and the Buck Rogers TV show) stars Warren Oates (before he became known from The Wild Bunch and Two-Lane Blacktop) and Corey Allen in an odd semi-home-invasion thriller that has echoes of movies like Funny Games, In Cold Blood, and Straw Dogs. Yet, despite those comparisons, it’s definitely its own animal and not really like any one of those three films. With a deep subtext about the hollowness of life in America and an undercurrent of homosexuality (that is only ever hinted at), the film is a dark and fascinating movie that is worthy of being rediscovered.
  • Kickboxer: Vengeance – Yes, technically, Kickboxer: Vengeance is a sequel to Jean Claude Van Damme’s early career hit, Kickboxer. But it’s also a sequel in the way that Creed is a sequel to Rocky. It takes place so much later, and Van Damme is really a supporting character, the trainer who helps the film’s main character prepare for his ultimate fight. The main character this time around is played by Alain Moussi, who’s an unknown in the acting world, but the supporting cast does include Dave Bautista and Gina Carano. Is the film worth watching? Sure, as a down-and-dirty actioner that requires little emotional investment. Fans looking for a true sequel to the original will be disappointed, but there is entertainment value to be found here.
  • Indignation – I’m a big fan of Logan Lerman, who I’ve watched grow up on screen since he played a young boy on the CW’s underappreciated and sadly-canceled Jack and Bobby series a decade ago. Here, he plays what might be his first truly grown-up role as a young man about to embark on his college career in 1950s Ohio. There, he meets an ethereal young woman and also butts heads over moral standing with a dean. Of course, as this is an adaptation of a Philip Roth novel, nothing is quite as linear as it seems. The film moves slowly and deliberately, and it’s much more about the characters and the mood than plot and driving narrative. That’s not a bad thing, just understand that this isn’t a rom-com or a fast-paced romantic epic.
  • M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables – My knowledge of the actual story of Anne of Green Gables is surprisingly non-existent. As an English major in college, of course I’ve been aware of the novel (and its many, many adaptations over the years) for as long as I can remember. But I’ve actually never read the book or watched a movie version of it before now. The only known cast member is Martin Sheen who plays Matthew, but the young girl who takes the lead role is quite charming. The title of this adaptation stressing the author’s name seems to indicate that perhaps it strived to stay truer to the source material than some previous adaptations have done (although having not read it, I can’t say if they succeeded.) Overall, the movie is enjoyable enough and I imagine that fans of the book will enjoy this version.
  • Being Evel – Produced by Johnny Knoxville (and featuring his presence as well), this documentary is a warts-and-all look at the life and career of Evel Knievel, the greatest stunt daredevil the world has ever known. Now, everyone knows who Evel was, but I would say that anyone in their 30s and under probably only knows that. I’d wager most people in that demographic have never even seen any of his stunts or know anything about him. I know I sure hadn’t seen anything of note before watching this. Besides the fascinating stunt footage, this film also paints a portrait of a largely unpleasant man, and his life is just as interesting as his stunts. Definitely worth watching.
  • One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdonavich and the Lost American Film – I get tired of documentaries sometimes, but if I’m going to watch one, chances are good the ones I’ll be most interested in are ones that have to do with cinema and filmmaking. This movie is a documentary about Peter Bogdonavich, one of the first post-studio-system big name directors. The film recounts his life and his career, and it features not only interviews with Bogdonavich himself but also luminaries such as Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. Honestly, I’m not terribly familiar with a lot of Bogdonavich movies, but this film has certainly made me interested in watching more of them.
  • Santa’s Apprentice/The Magic Snowflake – This double feature collects two Christmas-themed animated specials which are actually quite cute for younger kids this holiday season. The first film, Santa’s Apprentice sees Santa Claus ready to retire and trying to find someone to take over for him; in this case, it’s a seven-year-old boy with a lack of confidence and a fear of heights. In the second film, we get to see the results of the end of the first film play out. (I don’t want to say more to avoid spoiling the end of the first film, although you can probably piece it together.) Both films are fun and lighthearted and have good messages, and I think kids will enjoy them.
  • Alpha & Omega: The Big Fureeze – The inexplicably popular wolf franchise continues with Alpha And Omega: The Big Fureeze. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of diminishing returns, as the animation is poor, the sound is weak, and the film is just 45 minutes long. Young kids will like it, but it seems like the franchise is trending towards the really young kids now and not in a good way.
  • Snowtime – Ross Lynch and Sandra Oh lend their voices to this cute animated film about kids who gear up for a massive snowball fight that gets a little out of hand. It’s a fairly simple story, but that’s not a negative in this case. We see kids having fun in the winter, going a bit Lord of the Flies (I exaggerate, obviously), and then all learning a lesson by the end. It’s fun, it’s well told, and it’s the rare holiday-themed movie that isn’t really about the holidays. Kids will like it and parents will appreciate it.
  • Boonville Redemption – I had no idea Pat Boone was still around, much less making movies, much less making movies that sort of has his name in the title. Also in the supporting cast are Edward Asner, Diane Ladd, and Richard Tyson. But the main star of the film is young Emily Hoffman, who plays the main character, a girl in search of the truth about her past and her father. Needless to say, things don’t go smoothly for her, especially once certain secrets start coming to light. It’s the kind of film you expect it to be, one where big name stars get little screen time yet feature prominently on the cover. I’ve seen worse direct-to-video films, but it’s nothing special either.
  • BBQ with Franklin – The Franklin of the title is Aaron Franklin, a world renowned “Pitmaster.” (Don’t worry, I didn’t know that was a real term, either.) Now, a few years ago, I would have had no interest in watching this kind of show. However, in the past five years or so, I’ve become a barbecue addict, both in eating and cooking, so I dove into this show and had a blast with it. Over the course of ten episodes, Aaron visits a number of barbecue joints from big restaurants to tiny little BBQ pits. We learn about the different methods they use to cook and see some amazing looking barbecue. It’s a pretty typical food show at the end of the day, but for a barbecue aficionado like me, it’s terrific.
  • Wheeler & Woolsey RKO Comedy Classics Collection Volume 2 – This six-film collection features Wheeler & Woolsey… who I’d never heard of before. Now, I’m pretty versed in classic Hollywood, but there are clearly some gaps in my knowledge and Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey are clearly in that space. Over the course of four films (Dixiana, The Cuckoos, Cockeyed Cavaliers, and Silly Billies) this showcase for the comedy duo makes a case for why they were popular. Even though the films are a bit dated, they’re still largely enjoyable. There are also two films included that saw each of the pair flying solo: Wheeler in Too Many Cooks and Woolsey in Everything’s Rosie. If you remember the duo fondly, this is a nice collection of rare movies.
  • Bob Hope: Hope for the Holidays – There have been more complete Bob Hope collections released previously, but this is a nice holiday-themed collection of almost two hours of Hope sketches from his various Christmas specials over the years. As usual, there are tons of great guest stars including Red Skelton, Redd Foxx, Jack Benny, The Judds, and even Eleanor Roosevelt. Unfortunately, some of the bonus features are recycled from a previous box set, but the sketches themselves are pretty great classic comedy bits.
  • My Way: A Kick Ass Girl Rockumentary – This interesting documentary focuses on Rebekah Starr, a real-life person with real-life problems who is absolutely dying to be a rock star. This movie follows her as she leaves behind her failing marriage and hits the road in search of rock n’ roll success. Along the way she meets some real-life rock n’ rollers such as Rikki Rockett, Steven Adler, and Chip Z’Nuff. Now, seeing as Starr isn’t exactly a celebrity these days, you can kind of figure out how her journey ends up after the film ends (although I’m sure she’s still out there rocking away), but it’s still a fascinating film to watch.
  • One Nation Under Trump – This documentary makes a case for why Donald Trump and his various companies have been bad for the environment. And it’s a solid film that makes a case that I don’t think too many people will have a hard time believing. What I question, however, is the timing of the release. Coming out on election day seems like a poor way to have any kind of impact. Had this been released a few weeks ago, I could see that the filmmakers might have had hopes to sway some viewers’ minds when it comes to voting. However, there’s no time at all for the film to have an effect before the election will be over. So, in essence: solid film with a poor marketing plan behind it
  • Mill Creek Movie Collections – Mill Creek specializes in bringing out well-liked films in low-priced collections, which is something I’m a big fan of. They’ve recently released three new multi-film collections that are all a nice way to bolster your film library. The Comedy 4-in-1 Blu-ray includes Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The Brothers Solomon, Fired Up!, and Balls Out. Now, I really, really like Walk Hard, and I think Fired Up is a pretty fun comedy that got passed over by a lot of audiences. With the low price point of this release, it’s worth getting for those two films alone, even if you end up with the mediocre Brothers Solomon and Balls Out. Next up, the Horror 4-in-1 Blu-ray is really a collection of two franchises: Hostel and Hostel Part 2, and Hollow Man and Hollow Man 2. Now I love Hollow Man, and its direct-to-video sequel (starring Christian Slater and Peter Facinelli) actually is pretty fun, but I don’t really like the Hostel They’re a bit too gory for my tastes. Still, if you like both series, this is a great release. Finally, the Horror Triple Feature Blu-ray includes I Know What You Did Last Summer, When A Stranger Calls, and Vacancy, which are all solid horror films. I Know What You Did is like horror comfort food for me. The first post-Scream big screen horror movie, I have a real nostalgic soft spot for this movie. When a Stranger Calls is nothing great but it’s a fun enough way to kill 90 minutes, and Vacancy is a pretty taut little thriller with some genuinely creepy moments. All three of these releases can be found for under 10 dollars each, so they’re a great buy for the movie fan on a budget.
  • Dinotopia: The Complete Miniseries
  • Hiroshima: The Complete Miniseries Event – Made largely sans big-name stars (but with a few character actors such as Richard Masur, Saul Rubinek, Jeffrey Demunn, and Ken Jenkins), this two-part television miniseries from 1995 aired on Showtime and plays out like an epic three-hour film. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (best known for directing James Bond films) and Koreyashi Kurahara, the program seeks to recreate the moments leading up to the historic event. With dramatizations and fact-based segments, there are some good moments in it, even if it is a little bit dated now. Still, it’s available at a budget price and is great for history buffs.
  • Nasa: A Journey Through Space – I love the history of space travel. Growing up in Florida, I often visited the Kennedy Space Center and watched space shuttles launch, so I’ve always been fascinated by our space program. This seven-part documentary takes us through the history of the US’s space program and recounts most of the historic moments that are indelible part of the American culture. It’s really interesting stuff, and it’s broken up into chapters that keep each episode focused and streamlined. With some amazing footage of NASA missions and spaceships, this is some terrific stuff.

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