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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: What Men Want, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Par, The Prodigy, Blaze and more


The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – It’s no secret that The Lego Movie 2 didn’t perform at the box office nearly as well as the first film, and I suspect that part of the reason for that was due to the fact that we’ve had a few Lego movies since that first one (Lego Batman Movie, Lego Ninjago Movie). But I have to say, as someone who absolutely loves the first film, I think part of the reason is because this sequel just isn’t as good as the first film. It’s got a solid enough story, but the humor is way, way off. I didn’t laugh nearly as much this time around, and that was a huge disappointment. Plus, the film makes a cardinal sequel mistake by adding too many new characters and taking the focus off the characters you loved so much the first time around. That all said, my 12-year old son, who’s a Lego fanatic and presumably the target audience, loved the film, so I guess that’s something. For me, though, I was pretty darn disappointed.

What Men Want – This comedy — a loose remake of Mel Gibson’s comedy hit What Women Want – isn’t really an improvement on the original, but it certainly isn’t a downgrade, either. Taraji P. Henson, who’s fantastic in everything, is predictably terrific in the lead role as a woman sports agent who gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts, with predictably comedic results. And the movie is pretty funny, but it has a few flaws which detracted from it. First off, the comedy occasionally veers into ridiculous/slapstick category, which is both unnecessary and unwelcome; it pulled me right out of what had been largely enjoyable up until those parts. The other problem is Tracy Morgan, who I just don’t find funny anymore. And while he’s somewhat reined in here, he still does that thing where he seems to always just be saying whatever he wants and the filmmakers are forced to fit it into their movie. Those complaints aside, this is actually a pretty funny movie with a likable cast and some great moments. Worth watching on a relaxing Friday night.

The Prodigy – As far as modern horror movies go, The Prodigy is a pretty good one. It’s not great, and it’s relatively predictable, but at least it tells a solid story with good performances and little gore, and that’s something we don’t see enough of in today’s horror movies. The story deals with a murderer who is killed right as a woman across the state is giving birth, which inevitably leads to the spirit of the murderer inhabiting the body of the newborn. From there, it’s the usual creepy kid shtick, with a memorable performance by young Jackson Robert Scott. I will say there was one jump-scare moment that literally had me out of my seat, so that’s kind of fun. It’s not a classic or anything like that, but it’s an enjoyable enough way to kill 90 minutes if you’re looking for a good thriller.

Blaze – Ethan Hawke directs, co-writes, and produces this film about musician Blaze Foley (ably played by Ben Dickey), who’s apparently something of a songwriting legend, inspiring others like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. But here’s the thing: it’s not really a biopic. Instead, it’s sort of loosely based on the real-life person, but it gives us imaginative versions of his past, present, and future. In short, it’s a very Ethan Hawke kind of film. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It’s that kind of movie that sort of floats around, you watch it, then you forget about it or maybe wonder why you watched it in the first place.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • George Carlin 40 Years of Comedy Live – While this release sounds like maybe it’s a new retrospective documentary, instead it actually features George Carlin’s 10th HBO special. Which was, in actuality, sort of a career retrospective. Hosted by an extremely young Jon Stewart, the show is a mix of an interview with Carlin about his career as well as some new (at the time) stand-up sets. The whole thing runs an hour, so it’s quick and dirty and to the point, but of course, it’s also funny and interesting. It’s also nice that this isn’t a rehashing of his most famous bits and included some great jokes that I’d never heard before.
  • Masterpiece Mystery!: Unforgotten, Season 3 – The hit British mystery show returns. The central mystery this season involves a missing teenager, a murder, and a group of friends with some serious secrets between them. As usual, the show is quite intense but it’s also extremely effective. Starring Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar, the show is quite good, even if it feels a bit like the type of mystery-procedural that BBC TV can do in its sleep. Still, it makes for a good binge watch.
  • Broken Flowers – Kino Lorber releases what is – to my knowledge, anyway – the U.S. Blu-ray debut of Broken Flowers, the 2005 Jim Jarmusch film starring Bill Murray, Sharon Stone, Christopher Lee, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton, among others. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m not really the biggest Jim Jarmusch fan or the biggest Bill Murray fan, so I wasn’t necessarily predisposed to liking this film, which I’d never seen before (probably because it wasn’t available on Blu-ray until now!) And while it was probably better than I expected, I can’t say I out-and-out loved it. The film sees Bill Murray revisiting past lovers in order to discover who might be the mother of a son he didn’t know he had, so it’s a lot of character moments, dialogue, and bittersweet drama and humor. Murray does give a strong performance (this was one of the roles that helped him transition to being thought of as a primarily dramatic actor, I believe) and the rest of the cast is all terrific, so there’s a lot here to like. And if you’re already a fan of the film, you’ll be happy to have it on Blu-ray for the first time.
  • A Delicate Balance – Also from Kino Lorber, we have the Blu-ray debut of A Delicate Balance, the film adaptation of a play by Edward Albee (author of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), starring Katherine Hepburn and Paul Scofield. Sort of a less warm and fuzzy version of On Golden Pond, this is a film about a rich Connecticut family that sees some of their secrets coming unravelled when houseguests come to stay. Not surprisingly, Katherine Hepburn is in fine form here, and Paul Scofield – admittedly not an actor I’m terribly familiar with, but who’s an Oscar winner – is equally as adept. While the film itself isn’t really my cup of tea, the acting kept me engaged until the end.
  • Rhinoceros – Another film making it’s Blu-ray debut this week is this little known comedy starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, reuniting after the success of their hit comedy The Producers. This film is based on a play by Eugene Ionesco, and it’s an odd one, with a sort of Odd Couple-esque relationship between Wilder and Mostel and, oh yeah, people turning into Rhinoceroses. (Rhinoceri?) I mean, I’m sure there’s a message in there somewhere about America or nature or corporate greed or who knows what, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t pick up on whatever it was. Wilder is great in the lead role, but that’s about all I got out of this one.
  • Agatha Raisin: Series 2 – 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.
  • No Offence: Series 3 – As we’ve seen this week, there is no shortage of British crime procedurals in the world, but since most of them range from above-average to excellent, it’s hard to argue with the continued production of them. The latest one to be released on home video is No Offence: Series 3. As the title might imply, this isn’t just a by-the-book mystery show. Yes, it deals with cops and cases, but it also has a vein of dark humor running through it and it also features characters that aren’t all as aboveboard as you might expect. With a terrific cast that includes Elaine Cassidy, Joanna Scanlan, Paul Abbott, and Will Mellor, this show has won me over. Check it out.
  • Sex Madness Revealed – This a weird and wacky release, but a fun one nonetheless. Patton Oswalt brings his style of humor to the proceedings in a sort-of-MST3K take on a classic sex education film. However, rather than just making jokes, he interviews with original filmmaker’s grandson (or at least, an actor portraying the director’s grandson, who may or may not be a real person.) I don’t know how great it sounds on paper, but there are some really funny (and surreal) moments here. I mean, the original film itself is funny enough just as a curio of times gone by, but you add in the “interview” with Oswalt and there is some great comedy to be found here.
  • Sesame Street: Awesome Alphabet Collection – It’s guest stars galore (Norah Jones, Tori Kelly, Pharrell Williams, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Crow, and Ricky Gervais, among others) in this fun new Sesame Street release. This one focuses solely on the alphabet, giving us 26 separate vignettes taking kids through the alphabet one letter at a time. So you get a little over two hours of learning with some great guest stars, some good music, and lots of groundwork for future spellers and readers. Perfect!
  • Independent Spotlight – We have a few independent releases this week. First up is All About Lily Chou Chou, an intriguing film about a young man named Yuichi who worships Lily Chou-Chou, an enigmatic musical figure. As he looks forward to her concert to distract him from some really unpleasant things in his life, life decides that maybe it shouldn’t be so easy for him to move on. It’s an interesting tale of teenager coming of age with some serious diversity, and director Shunji Iwai has made a film that people can relate to. Side note: the film came out in the late 2000s, and is just now making its U.S. Blu-ray debut. Next up is My Scientology Movie, a very quirky film that is – sort of – about exposing the inner workings of Scientology. Documentarian Louis Theroux wants to get inside the Church of Scientology, and more than that, he wants to feel what Scientologists feel. So he sets out to create a sort-of documentary, with actors playing real life Scientologists including none other than Tom Cruise. It’s entertaining, but I don’t know that it’s particularly enlightening. Next, Never Ever stars Mathieu Almaric and Julia Roy, and it’s a surreal French drama that’s based on a Don Deliilo novel. Now, personally, I’ve never met a Don Delillo project that I didn’t hate, and while this isn’t completely terrible (mostly due to strong performances), it’s filled with dream like imagery and non-cohesive pilot points, so it really wasn’t my thing. Fans of more artsy fare will probably like it more than I did. Finally, Bachman is a feature-length biography of legendary musician Randy Bachman, who struck gold with not one but two musical acts, The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive. It’s a well-structured documentary that takes us through his life and career, and does so in a way that keeps things interesting. A must-have for fans of Bachman or any of his musical groups.
  • PBS Spotlight – PBS has three new releases out this week. First up is Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, which is about pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The Civil War took a huge toll on this country, and there was a lot of rebuilding, both physically and spiritually, that needed to happen afterwards. Focusing on the years 1865 to 1977, it’s quite fascinating to see what the country went through in the aftermath of the war and the freeing of the slaves. This two-disc release includes the full two-part documentary, which runs four hours total. Next up is Margaret: The Rebel Princess, a two-hour biography of Princess Margaret Rose, who was anything but a traditional royal. The film is a warts-and-all look at her life and her various scandals; her fixture in the tabloids, and her troubled romances. I knew literally nothing about her before this, so it’s an interesting and revealing film. Finally, Frontline: Right to Fail is a sobering and complicated Frontline special about New York State dealing with a federal ruling mandating that people with mental illness be moved out of failing adult group homes and allowed to live – and possibly fail – on their own. It’s a complex issue, and this program lays out the basics in an easy-to-understand way, but it’s not exactly light watching fare for a Saturday night gathering.

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