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A young thief named Mouse (Matthew Broderick) escapes from the walled city of Aquila with the intention of getting as far away from the place and the evil bishop who runs it as possible, but his plans hit an immediate snag. Navarre (Rutger Hauer), an ex member of the bishop’s guard, has heard of his escape and now wants the thief to help him get back into the city undetected. Further complicating matters is a beautiful young woman named Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) who appears only at night, when Navarre seems to disappear.
You’re damn right Richard Donner’s frequently maligned 1985 classic is my pick of the week. The movie is a fun mix of action, romance and fantasy, and all three leads give enjoyable performances. Broderick is spunky, Hauer is heroic and Pfeiffer is simply gorgeous, and the film finds real emotion in the lovers’ tale and a wonderfully staged finale. The Blu is courtesy of Warner Archive, and it’s no simple DVD upgrade ‐ they actually did clean up and color correction resulting in a bright, sharp and remarkable upgrade from previous releases. It looks and sounds fantastic, and I highly recommend you buy it, pop it in and crank the volume up nice and loud to enjoy the score it all of its mid-’80s glory.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Sam (Martin Starr) is recently returned from multiple tours of duty in the Middle East and slowly acclimating back into society. He loses a menial job before picking up an amazing opportunity promising a large payout, but the bigger surprise comes when he meets Amira (Dina Shihabi). She’s the niece of an Iraqi friend and also struggling to make a life, and while the two rub each other the wrong way initially they soon form a real bond and discover they’re each exactly what the other needs.
Writer/director Sean Mullin’s feature debut is a romantic comedy of sorts where neither of those two elements is pushed to the forefront. Both exist in a fluid state, developing naturally like they do in the real world, allowing the characters and viewers time to grow before our eyes instead of simply hitting story beats. The film is filled with sweet and funny moments, and maybe it’s just my residual love of Starr’s grilled cheese/Garry Shandling scene from Freaks and Geeks talking but the scene where he listens to Amira’s voicemail makes me happy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet, commentary, featurettes, outtakes]
Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) grew up idolizing the mobsters in his neighborhood, and after being inducted into the family as a teenager he quickly became one of those very same big shots. He finds great success participating in theft, extortion and acts of violence, but nothing he achieves is ever enough and soon he’s racing towards one of two destinations ‐ jail or death. Or maybe he’ll take a detour through witness protection?
Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed adaptation of Hill’s life (via Nicholas Pileggi’s bestselling book Wiseguy) captures both the appeal and the danger of Hill’s lifestyle, the highs and the lows, and the cast brings it all to glorious life. Liotta has never been as charismatic and lively as he is here, and both Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci invigorate the film with rich, memorable characters. Scorsese’s energy is on full display here resulting in a 145 minute film that races to the finish line. WB’s anniversary release of the film features a new 4K scan that looks amazingly sharp and makes this well worth a double dip.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, featurettes, 36-page photo book]
The Australian Outback is home to a roving band of motorcyclists who rule the road through intimidation and acts of violence, and while the police work to bring them down they’re too frequently over-powered and out-numbered. Max (Mel Gibson) is the one cop who proves himself capable of facing down the gang’s threat.
Road Warrior remains the best of George Miller’s original Mad Max trilogy, but this first film holds its own and sets the tone for what was to come. It’s the only one to exist mostly in the “real” world before the eventual apocalypse, and that allows for more traditional character interactions. It’s a much smaller film than the sequels in both its story and stunts, but it still holds attention thanks to its already crazy action set-pieces and the presence of a pre-stardom Gibson. Scream Factory’s new Blu looks absolutely stunning and serves as a great primer before next week’s big-screen reboot of Mad Max: Fury Road.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, commentary, featurettes]
A tragedy occurs at the 1972 Munich Olympics that leaves eleven Israeli athletes dead, and their home nation immediately sets about orchestrating payback for those responsible. Avner (Eric Bana) is assigned to lead a five-man team with no official ties to Israel, and with no specific end date and few geographic restrictions they set out to claim their silent revenge.
Steven Spielberg’s third R-rated film is one of his least successful at the box-office, but it remains one of his most powerful thanks to its highly emotional content and visceral acts of violence. It tells a specific story, one based on fact, but the general tale is about the futility of revenge and the endless cycle of violence that it breeds. The final shot showing the World Trade Center in the background skyline is no accident ‐ he’s acknowledging how each action can be used by others as justification for a response, and so on and so on ‐ and it puts a finely wrought point on all that preceded it. Bana is fantastic here, as are the rest of the cast (including Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush), and the film is impossible to forget.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Three US Navy airmen flying a mission over the Pacific Ocean crash into the churning waters far from land. They struggle for the next 34 days to stay alive against the weather, their own biology and the odds. This is in every way a competent film, and that’s meant neither as an insult nor a compliment. The actors (Garret Dillahunt, Tom Felton, Jake Abel) all do fine work, and the story is one of courage, resilience and hope, but it offers nothing new to a tale we’ve seen several times before. It is a true story though, so there’s that.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
Elliott (Kevin Costner) has just lost his wife in an accident, and now he’s left to raise their granddaughter alone ‐ they’d been her guardians since her birth when their daughter died ‐ but his custody is challenged by the opposing grandparent, Rowena (Octavia Spencer). Their feud grows to involve accusations of racism, alcoholism and crack addiction, but at the center of it all is a little girl who just wants someone to tie her damn hair bow. Writer/director Mike Binder’s drama attempts to tackle some big issues, but too frequently feels contrived in its efforts. The performances are fine throughout ‐ I’ll watch anything with Costner ‐ but the dramatic turns are too simplistic in origin and resolution.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
An unemployed submarine captain (Jude Law) happens upon a scheme involving sunken treasure just waiting to be salvaged and sets out to organize a crew of like-minded sailors to complete the job. Trouble arises as the tight, stressful conditions lead to friction among the men, and soon the team finds themselves in trouble far below the ocean’s surface. The biggest issue with Kevin Macdonald’s latest thriller is the sheer predictability of it all. The second Ben Mendelsohn appears onscreen you know he’s going to cause trouble, and it’s confirmed when he’s introduced as a “psychopath.” Because seriously, why in the hell would you bring an acknowledged psycho anywhere let alone a submarine. The trouble that follows is visible an hour in advance, and that obviousness dilutes the tension dramatically. Law does great work her though, so fans of the performers will still find enough to enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]
David’s tropical vacation away from the chilly rain of London leaves him with more than a tan ‐ it leaves him engaged! Sure it’s crazy, but that’s the way love works sometimes. He returns home, collects his friends and heads to Australia for the ceremony, but wacky hijinks and a pissed-off drug dealer are hot on their heels. The comedy is played quite broad, and it’s not always successful ‐ think a little bit of The Hangover and a little bit of The Hangover 2. Rebel Wilson co-stars here, but her occasional contributions are far too occasional.
[DVD extras: None]
Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) twenty-two year old virgin about to graduate with a degree in English Literature, but her simple life changes when she meets the mysterious billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). She’s drawn to him immediately, almost as if he were a vampire beguiling her with his sparkles, and soon the two are engaged in a slightly unusual romantic/business arrangement. She’s falling in love, but his desires are… unconventional. Turns out they’re not actually all that strange ‐ he just likes to tie her hands up or spank her ass while he shtups her. The “novel” may in fact be kinkier, but the film is remarkably tame as he does nothing more than slap/lash her gently and tell her to obey. I’m not the target audience, but it’s difficult to see the romantic angle here ‐ the love story isn’t the least bit believable as he simply wants someone to control and she’s clearly an inexperienced girl seduced by the wealth and domination. That said, it has a few scenes that rise to the level of sexy, so if your internet connection is down and you feel the need for such things this just might do the trick. The Blu-ray cover makes a big deal about featuring a tease for the sequel, but it’s only a few seconds of footage most likely cut from this film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Unrated and R-rated cuts, featurettes]
It’s 1983 and the world is ablaze with the personal computer revolution. Well, sort of. IBM, Apple, Commodore and others are fighting for market share, and into their midst comes a trio of weirdos compelled to toss their hat into the ring. AMC’s new series looks at a very specific time in pc history and uses the true story to tell a fictional one. It walks a line between comedy and drama, usually leaning a bit more towards the latter, and remains compelling through sharp writing and an incredibly strong trio of leads (Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) is a young man about to become a published author who meets and falls in love with Cathy (Anna Kendrick), a young actress hoping to see her own career kick-started. Their is told through song and across time ‐ he sings from the start of their relationship forward while she sings from their split backward. It’s an interesting concept on its surface, but it ultimately serves to confuse and clutter more than it affects. Kendrick is fine as expected, but Jordan isn’t quite as engaging making for something of a lop-sided affair. Basically fans of the former’s vocal chops should enjoy this one.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Sing-along subtitles, interview]
The city of Lost River is abandoned except for a handful of people struggling to survive in harsh economical conditions. Billy (Christina Hendricks) is a single mother of two fighting to keep their house, forced to accept a job at an odd club and under pressure from a creepy bank manager (Ben Mendelsohn). Her oldest son (Iain de Caestecker) meanwhile is at odds with a local madman (Matt Smith) over copper rights, but their fight intensifies when something mysterious is discovered in a submerged town nearby. There’s a lot happening in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, and while it doesn’t all congeal there’s enough here to hold attention. At the very least the combination of gorgeous visuals and Johnny Jewel’s score help create a compelling and dream-like atmosphere. It may not be enough to make up for the narrative shortcomings, but it’s never less than interesting.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) continue their studies into the sex Americans are having, the sex they’re not having and all the sex in between. The trouble their studies cause continues as well both in their personal and professional lives. Showtime’s period drama is a showcase for strong acting and numerous sex scenes, and while there are stories woven throughout those two things remain the big draw. Sheen and Caplan do strong work with and without their clothes, and their dynamic helps strengthen the central historical conflict at work here.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
Clinton Moisey (Fran Kranz) awakes one morning after drowning his sorrows with a marathon session of Who’s the Boss? episodes to find his beloved cat Mouser dead in the street. This was no accident though as a crossbow bolt had been shot through the cat’s heart. No one, including the local sheriff (J.K. Simmons), seem to be taking the murder as seriously as he is, so he sets off on his own to find the killer. The problem of course, is that he’s something of a simpleton. This is a comedy first and murder mystery second-ish, but what it lacks in the latter it makes up for with the former. But the mystery angle is never really the point of the film. It’s like a slighter take on Jake Kasdan’s underrated Zero Effect where the humor is given precedent over the intricacies of plot and character development, and that’s not a knock on either film. It never pretends to be anything more than it is ‐ a small, character-driven comedy about a defeated man-child in need of a reason to truly live again. With laughs. It’s smart enough ‐ I’m particularly fond of the Body Double poster hanging in Clinton’s room giving a small wink to the Mouser/Horatio predicament ‐ and works well as a minor homage to the lighter side of private eye films, and while it may not have you laughing aloud all that much it’ll most likely leave you smiling.
[DVD extras: None]
The Bravermans are a large, centrally located clan covering multiple generations, and this is their story. Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedilia) head up the family that also includes their four grown children (Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen) and several grand-kids (including Mae Whitman). Over six seasons we follow them through successes, failures and everything in between as they deal with fractured relationships, career misfires, autism, unexpected pregnancy and more. There’s a lot to love about this NBC series with the cast being high at the top of the list. Their stories are a bit more hit and miss, particularly in later seasons when it becomes clear the writers are struggling to find ways to keep everyone relevant ‐ and there’s way too much of Max for my taste ‐ but the performers make it all watchable. This complete collection is loaded with special features, but as with any such set the question becomes is this a show you see yourself watching more than once?
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, commentaries, featurettes]
Beca (Anna Kendrick) is new on campus but quickly finds a home with the school’s a cappella singing group. The gang is stuck in something of a rut but finds new success with Beca’s influence, and soon they’re heading to the championships! This is a re-release timed to the imminent theatrical premiere of the sequel, and it features all of the same extras with the addition of a sing-along version featuring lyrics so you can, well, sing along at home. It’s not really enough of a reason for a double dip, but your mileage may vary.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Original and sing-along versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, commentaries, music video]
A team of archaeologists and documentary filmmakers descend into a newly discovered pyramid in the Egyptian desert, and what they find will terrify you. Nah, just kidding. There’s nothing terrifying here thanks in large part to the use of CG monsters. The film is yet another found footage horror pic, but curiously the movie grows tired of its own shtick around the one hour mark. Suddenly, with no fanfare, the we start seeing shots that aren’t from any of the cameras the people brought down ‐ shots of the monster when no one’s there, shots of a lone survivor, etc. It’s a bit silly, but if nothing else it gives viewers something to notice during an otherwise mundane film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended ending, featurettes]
Martin Luther King Jr.’s (David Oyelowo) fight for civil rights in America had already accomplished quite a bit heading into early 1965, but his plans for a march from Selma to Montgomery promised to cause an even greater shift in our national identity. It wouldn’t be an easy road though. Ava DuVernay’s biopic looks at a small part of King’s life, but it’s arguably one of the most important parts. Much of the film is good, not great ‐ it feels too controlled and expected, but it’s made mandatory viewing by Oyelowo’s powerful and affecting performance. He captures King’s charisma and emotional weight, and he serves to elevate the drama beyond what the script delivers.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, music video, commentary]
Aydin runs a small motel that sits amid the beautiful mountains of Turkey, and while it’s not the busiest B&B it is one of the most unique. He shares the space with family, guests and the occasional wild horse, and while he doesn’t need the income he also keeps busy writing a column in the local paper. As the days blend together a minor incident in the village begins a ball rolling ‐ slowly ‐ revealing that Aydin is not quite the kind and benevolent man about town that he imagines himself to be. At 196 minutes this is most definitely not a film for everyone ‐ the rough horse scene over an hour in doesn’t help either ‐ but if neither of those things are a problem for you the film has other things to offer. First and foremost are the gorgeous landscapes, but there’s also an appealing focus on dialogue and conversations as opposed to action. Aydin is an interesting character, but he doesn’t grow any more likable across those 196 minutes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
1941, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Always, Backtrack, Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season, Cheers: The Complete Series, Duel, Frank Sinatra: 5-Film Collection, The Frontier, The Fugitive: The Complete Series, Miss Julie, Mr. Turner, The Ocean of Helena Lee, The Secret Invasion, Spare Parts, The Sugarland Express, The Train
Related Topics: Home Video