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Rick is a scientist of great renown, probably, who lives with his daughter’s family in suburbia and spends his days tinkering and having adventures. His “partner” is his frequently unwilling grandson, Morty. Together they travel through space and time interacting with aliens, mutants and everyday people. And by interacting I mean causing trouble.
The latest addition to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup comes from the twisted minds of Justin Roiland (who also voices both Rick and Morty) and Dan Harmon, and while it found its origin in riffing on Back to the Future it quickly develops a life of its own thanks to a steady stream of very funny gags and smart writing. There’s a hint of Futurama here, but it’s a darker and far more foul world much to our enjoyment. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you see the episode where the human-sized jelly bean tries to rape Morty in a bathroom stall.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is the military’s best pr man and single-handedly responsible for drawing thousands of new recruits to fight in mankind’s war with the alien creatures they’ve dubbed mimics. His career path takes a turn though when he’s forced into battle on the front line, is killed by the enemy… and wakes up the previous morning ready to do it all over again. Stuck in a Groundhog Day-like loop, Cage joins forces with a renowned soldier (Emily Blunt) as he searches for a way to stop the cycle and beat the enemy.
This is director Doug Liman’s best film since The Bourne Identity, and it’s yet another example of how Cruise, once America’s biggest star, has become one of it’s most under-appreciated. The action is exciting and fun, Blunt is fantastic bad-ass and Cruise excels at playing utterly against type as a coward who’s incapable in the field. It’s legitimately laugh out loud funny at times ‐ the rolling under the truck bit is perfection ‐ and it remains a great time on repeat viewings.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
The town of Roarton continues to be a microcosm of the troubles facing a world where the dead have risen to eat the living only to be reverted back to normalcy by medical science, and Kieran is at the center of it all. Like other sufferers of PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) his efforts to fit back into society were met with fear, hatred and violence, and while those issues remain there are questionable acts on the PDS side of the fence too. Kieran makes plans to leave town, the powers that be have other plans.
The first season tackled the zombie genre with brains and heart without pulling punches when it came to the gut munching, and the second continues that pattern. The dramas and relationships that develop have emotional weight as the show becomes about issues above and beyond simply the living and the dead. While The Walking Dead is focused on humanity’s survival, this series explores social and political interactions as well making for a richer mythology that never skimps on the engagement.
[DVD extras: None]
Alison the psychic and her reluctant associate, Robert (Andrew Lincoln) the skeptic, continue their exploration of the spiritual realm and what it means to be emotionally damaged. The ghosts are billed as the main focus, but the real draw is the journey undertaken by the two lead characters, and that journey leads to a pretty powerful end destination.
[DVD extras: Behind the scenes]
Colonel Sawyer lost his wife to the zombie apocalypse and misplaced his daughter, but his troubles aren’t over yet. At least he won’t be making this next leg of his journey alone though as an old man and a deaf girl come along for the ride. This indie zombie pic has some solid practical gore work and a happily atypical cast of survivors, but its budget remains a constant drawback. Sketchy acting, cheap digital work and more frequently get in the way of the film, but less picky genre fans may still find enough here to keep their attention.
[DVD extras: None]
A couple expecting their first child descends into a nightmare as an ancient evil makes moves on their sanity and safety. The “pregnant woman with devilish troubles” subgenre is extremely stale, but this entry adds some freshness to the mix with the characters and narrative. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to keep the film all that compelling as it still goes down the expected paths with some sketchy acting in tow.
[DVD extras: None]
Joe Carroll’s cult of willing, able and psychotic followers left FBI agent Ryan Hardy’s (Kevin Bacon) world a bloody mess by the end of season one, but Carroll himself was presumed dead. One year later Hardy has left the life behind, but when new murders began being committed in Carroll’s name the grue-strewn chase is on again. I gave up on the 1st season because the show became a series of dumb moves by the authorities and “surprise! he/she’s a cult member too!” moments. It moved beyond suspenseful to infuriatingly lazy. The 2nd season isn’t quite as bad with the reveals, but the cops/agents continue to be fairly inept and constantly one-upped by Carroll and company. But yes, the Joe Carroll masks are creepy as hell.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]
A trio of friends make a poor life decision and head into an abandoned youth correctional facility, but they soon discover they’re not alone. Because evil. The exteriors are nice, but the bulk of the film consists of the usual ghostly antics, CGI shenanigans and dimly-lit rooms.
[DVD extras: None]
Hemlock Grove: The Complete First Season
A small town is visited by terror when a high school girl is murdered violently and partially eaten. The rest of the community struggles to discover the truth behind the attack and soon realize that death isn’t done with them. This Eli Roth-produced series sets up a central mystery alongside an eclectic roster of colorful characters, but it just doesn’t come together. The biggest issue is the script, but too many of the performances fail to connect as well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Albert (Seth MacFarlane) has just been dumped by his long time sweetie and marked by the town as a coward, but he finds a source of courage in the arrival of a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron). In the interest of full disclosure, I am no fan of MacFarlane’s previous film as writer/director, Ted, but even that movie had more than one or two laughs found here. The gags are either obvious or out of place, the script thinks it’s funny to simply toss “fuck” into every other sentence and MacFarlane’s performance make him supremely unfit for a lead role. The unrated cut adds an additional bit of value and the gag reel is a good time, but the movie as a whole is a waste.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Alternate/deleted scenes, making of, commentary, featurettes, gag reel]
Donna (Jenny Slate) is a stand-up comedienne who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend. A night of drunken sorrow leads to a one-night stand with a nice young man, but when she discovers she’s pregnant her life’s spiral appears to be heading toward the pinnacle of an abortion. I’d avoided this movie for a while as I’ve found Slate to be pretty one-note in her other roles, but having finally caught up with it I’m happy to say she’s actually a far more fully formed character here. It does confirm my longstanding opinion that stand-up comedians in movies are never funny though as her acts all fall flat (the ones that are supposed to be funny I mean). She’s far more entertaining off stage, and the story goes in some fun places for a romantic comedy as well. Abortion. Abortion is the place.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended scenes, commentary, making of, short film]
Jason is in love, but if he wants the feelings to be reciprocated he’ll have to catch her eye by kicking butt on the school’s dance crew. It won’t be easy! There are some laughs to be found in this riff (of sorts) on the dance subgenre, but your mileage may vary.
[DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]
Another group of shark-spewing tornados begin spewing sharks. There are good bad movies, great ones even, but the key is filmmakers who are sincere in their efforts to make a worthwhile and entertaining film. By contrast, this is an example of filmmakers trying to make a “bad” movie. They want you to laugh at the ridiculously cheap-looking effects, but there’s nothing funny here.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurette, commentaries]
Yellow cake! A terrorist organization makes plans for a terrorist attack, as terrorists are wont to do, but a highly trained government unit is hot on their trail. This looks and feels like a direct to DVD action movie, but the script’s revisionist history and near-future setting give it an edge over the typical fare making it more of a live action Call of Duty: Modern Warfare cut scene. It’s low budget, but the fights are well choreographed meaning there’s enough to keep less discerning action junkies engaged. Plus… Keith David!
[DVD extras: None]
A ninja and his pet turtles are mutated by an alien substance ‐ he becomes a humanoid rat and they become bipedal goofballs with a taste for pizza ‐ and as time passes he trains them to be martial arts masters in their own right who fight crime. This is actually the third cartoon series incarnation for the popular comic book characters, and it’s a mixed bag. The animation style almost looks roto-scoped but is instead just very mechanical-looking CGI, and it’s a bit off-putting. That said, the writing is actually fun and keeps things well-paced making for an entertaining show.
[DVD extras: Making ofs, music video, animated comic books, featurettes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season
Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure
Alpha and Omega: The Legend of the Saw Tooth Cave
American Horror Story: Coven
Duck Dynasty: Season 6
The First Power
Foreign Correspondent (Criterion)
Million Dollar Arm
Paw Patrol: Winter Rescues
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 4
Vikings: The Complete Second Season