It’s No Mystery Why We Chose Our Pick of the Week

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Pick of the Week

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

What is it? A spunky teen finds a talent for solving mysteries.

Why see it? Nancy Drew has been around since the 1930s and has seen numerous incarnations in the decades since, but this latest might just surpass the rest thanks mostly to its star. Sophia Lillis (It, 2017) is an absolute firecracker of charm and personality, and along with the film’s other three teenage girls she helps make the film an inspirational “girl power” watch that entertains and delights. The mystery itself would make Scooby Doo proud, and that’s part of its appeal alongside a strong story about family and friendship. I’d say give it a spin if you have a daughter in the house, but honestly, anyone who enjoys good-natured fun will enjoy it.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel]


The Best

The Great Buster

What is it? The great Buster Keaton is celebrated.

Why see it? Before singing the praises of this love letter to Keaton I have to point out the ridiculous oversight here. The doc includes numerous talking heads, celebrity fans of Keaton’s genius, and for some unfathomable reason Jackie Chan is not among them. The guy is the closest modern cinema has to Keaton when it comes to physical/stunt comedy, and we only get a clip from one of his films. Shameful. But hey, at least we get French Stewart. Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich opens with a clip of himself talking before thankfully expanding his view to other people and numerous scenes from Keaton’s career and life. It’s a fantastic look at a fantastic talent, Chan slight aside.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]

Pledge [Scream Factory]

What is it? A group of friends submits to a fraternity’s night of hazing.

Why see it? The premise here is a familiar one that’s been tackled in a wide range of films including horror, drama, and comedy, but director Daniel Robbins and writer Zack Weiner find something with their take on the subject matter. It’s a tight little thriller with both laughs and surprises, and while we may not get enough time with them to care about the protagonists we definitely come to like them. Genre fans should give this a spin as it hits the right beats and wraps up with an unexpectedly fantastic turn of events.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]

Vice

What is it? Dick Cheney is an actual dick.

Why see it? Adam McKay’s comedic stylings look for a repeat of The Big Short here, but while the result is far less funny it’s every bit as sharp, angry, and informative. Christian Bale is ridiculously committed as Cheney resulting in a memorable performance sitting at the heart of this biopic on the man, and he’s surrounded by equal talents (Sam Rockwell, Amy Adams, Steve Carell) bringing more despicable people to life. McKay’s style can be off-putting for some, but fans of wildly energetic, pissed-off comedy will want to take a hit.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]


The Rest

Archer: Danger Island

What is it? Archer and friends head back in time to an island filled with danger.

Why see it? One of the joys of Archer is the flexibility the creators have in the show’s “reality,” and that’s evident in season nine’s jump into the past. The gang are all essentially still playing themselves, albeit as new characters, and the move to a pre-WWII South Pacific island opens up all manner of fun. If the usual spy shtick left you cold this new riff on Tales of the Gold Monkey might just show you the light of this show’s comedic brilliance and energy.

[DVD extras: Featurettes]

Bumblebee

What is it? A teenage girl finds a Transformer in the 1990s.

Why see it? Arguably one of the best Transformers films yet, this entry was marketed as its own thing, and while that’s understandable — it’s a girl protagonist after all — leaving Transformers off the title hurt its box-office some. It still did well enough to justify follow-ups, though, and hopefully that happens as the movie is good fun. Action and story are clear, characters are engaging, and John Cena getting his ass kicked by a Volkswagen Beetle is never a bad thing.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

What is it? A film that can’t even remotely live up to that title.

Why see it? The premise captured by the title is an all-timer, and Sam Elliott in the lead role is every bit as promising, but hoo boy. There’s mild fun to be found in the Hitler elements, but the latter half is just a jumble of poor writing, cheap production, and disappointment. Elliott remains the glue holding most of it together and keeping it watchable, but the filmmaking talent and available budget just aren’t enough to deliver.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, short film]

A Silent Voice

What is it? A young man seeks atonement for his past acts of cruelty.

Why see it? Bullying is an unfortunate reality for kids, and it’s a heartbreak with no end in sight. The story here tackles it with a focus on the bully himself as time and the treatment of others grow to leave him regretting his past choices. There are some powerful sequences here as the pain heaped upon a young deaf girl and the years of suffering that follow come through, but some of its power is diminished by the film’s length and constantly shifting time periods. The core remains an affecting watch, though, and the lessons are still important.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Music videos]

Terra Formars [Arrow Video]

What is it? An effort to colonize Mars leads to cockroach-filled mayhem.

Why see it? Takashi Miike films are never less than watchable, but sometimes that watch should never be repeated. This manga adaptation veers toward that latter group as it’s just a silly yet too serious romp with effects that run the gamut between vaguely cool and oh my no. There’s definite fun to be had here as a crew of vagabonds faces off against an army of human-like cockroaches, but in Miike’s filmography it’s more The Great Yokai War (2005) than great.

[Blu-ray extras: Documentary, interviews, outtakes]

Terror 5

What is it? Buenos Aries descends into sexy, bloody chaos.

Why see it? Part anthology horror film, part social commentary, this Argentinean genre effort sees a handful of characters finding their own terrors while a bigger one grows on the streets outside. A couple is caught up in a snuff film, two friends sharing a girlfriend realize their mistake, and a jerk humiliates an acquaintance for cheap laughs. There are moments here that shine including the zombified return of victims wronged by greed and corruption, but the three smaller stories feel stretched beyond the ideal leading to payoffs that don’t really pay off that much. Still, it’s an energetic watch at times and it marks the writers/directors as talents to keep an eye on.

[DVD extras: None]


Also out this week:

Egg, The Man With the Magic Box, Rust Creek [Scream Factory]

Rob Hunter: @FakeRobHunter "Rob is great. He likes movies. He writes about them. And he's a good person."