‘Space Station 76’ Is Sci-Fi Comedy from the Future and the Best New DVD Release of the Week

SPACE STATION 76 discs

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week
SPACE STATION 76 dvd

Space Station 76

The Omega 76 is a space station expecting two new visitors. First up is a new co-captain (Liv Tyler) who immediately sets the current captain (Patrick Wilson) on edge and disrupts the crew’s flow, but she’s still far less threatening than the second visitor. Because it’s an asteroid! Or meteor. Details aren’t important, but what is important is how the crew reacts to the impending danger coinciding with a bevy of personal dramas among them.

Actor Jack Plotnick directs this surprisingly dark space-set comedy and delivers a lot of laughs along the way. The gags are both visual ‐ this is sci-fi as envisioned in the ’70s meaning the tech is old fashioned and quaint ‐ and dialogue/delivery-based as the script serves up plenty of great lines and humorous conflicts. It’s a goofy romp in many ways, but there’s a definite darkness beneath it all that comes creeping out over the course of the film. It’s definitely not for all tastes, but folks who like their comedies with a dash of edginess and a dollop of WTF will find much to love here.

[DVD extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes, featurette]

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GHOST IN THE SHELL blu

Ghost In the Shell: 25th Anniversary Edition

Motoko is a big city cop with a secret beneath her uniform. Well, it’s not actually much of a secret and she’s frequently out of uniform, but the point is she’s a cyborg, and she’s on the trail of hacker mastermind named the Puppetmaster. The mysterious criminal has been taking control of people and using them to do his bidding, so when the cops catch a bad guy it’s often someone who’s been manipulated into their actions as opposed to the actual evil doer.

Mamoru Oshii’s anime classic has eluded me since its initial release ‐ in 1995, making this closer to the 20th anniversary right? ‐ but having now seen it the film’s reputation is understandable. The story shows a prescient nature in its observation of a populace intimately connected to the online world, and it makes for an exciting action film too (complete with scenes borrowed a few years later for The Matrix). Even more appealing to me though is the film’s look and score. The animation style successfully mixes CGI with the hand-drawn, and the result is a fluidly entertaining experience. The score Kenji Kawai gives the spectacle a haunting and earthy aural backdrop that infuses humanity into the hard sci-fi.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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24: Live Another Day

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) just wants to be left alone, but the governments and terrorists of the world keep pulling him back into the fray. Fools. This time he’s in London when a terrorist’s widow seeking revenge on the western politicians and people hijacks a handful of drones and threatens to let them loose on the city’s populace unless the U.S. president hands himself over to her. All kinds of double and triple crosses ensue along with murderous shenanigans and lots and lots of running. The show’s return brings little new to the table outside of the locale and an abbreviated time table (only twelve episodes this season), but if you enjoyed it then you’ll enjoy it now as Bauer’s gruff behaviors are as endearing as ever.

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

American Muscle

John Falcon served time for a vicious crime in which he took part, but now that he’s out he’s looking forward to committing a few more. This low budget actioner is a revenge flick at its core, but it takes a chance by having a highly unlikable protagonist. The gamble doesn’t pay off as we’re left watching someone whose antics are far from compelling. Worse, the action is under-cooked and the abundance of CGI blood is the opposite of thrilling.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, trailer]

Are You Here

Steve (Owen Wilson) and Ben (Zach Galifianakis) are man-boys bumbling their way through life on their way towards undeserved rewards of women and windfalls. This is an odd flick in that writer/director Matthew Weiner is the man behind Mad Men, a show filled with nuance, wit and depth. This film has none of those things and instead is populated by obvious performances, jokes that fall flat and a story that never compels.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]

Chef

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed) is a chef without a kitchen after he’s fired from his fancy restaurant, but a suggestion from an unlikely source sends him into the food truck business where he finds a second chance at success and happiness. This is a slight affair across the board and barely even works as food porn, but fans of Favreau the actor will enjoy his return. The rest of us won’t be as lucky as the film’s jokes and characters fail to connect from beginning to end.

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

Cold In July

A man (Michael C. Hall) finds his life in jeopardy after killing an intruder in his home, but the ex-con (Sam Shepard) who posed the threat leads him to an even greater danger elsewhere. Joe Lansdale’s novel gets a solid adaptation here and director Jim Mickle delivers an attractive Texas romp, but Hall’s performance drains far too many of the scenes of tension or character drama. Don Johnson is the film’s MVP though, and I would support his character’s return to the screen sooner rather than later.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, pre-viz tests, isolated score, trailer]

Delivery: The Beast Within

A found footage (of sorts) horror film about a devilish pregnancy?! Sign me up! I kid, as I actually don’t want to see any more movies like this. On the bright side at least the filmmakers actually manage to bypass most of the format’s issues and deliver a solidly constructed experience. But the damn thing is neither interesting nor unsettling as the “scares” play out exactly as you expect, the video has the requisite “technical malfunctions” that annoy rather than engage and the ending amounts to nothing special.

[DVD extras: None]

Grave Halloween

Japan’s so-called “Suicide Forest” is a popular destination for folks who feel like ending their lives, and after Maika’s mother does just that the young woman heads to the woods with some friends to find the spot where mom bit the dust. They choose Halloween to do this, and things don’t go all that well. There are some solid elements here including the locale, leading lady (Kaitlyn Leeb) and ideas, but the film is hurt some by a dependence on CGI in scenes that should be scary or affecting.

[DVD extras: None]

Grow Up Tony Phillips

Tony is a teenager unwilling to let go of childhood, but when his holiday-themed interests lead to a violent act of bullying he’s forced to reconsider just how strongly he feels about expressing this part of himself. Emily Hagins’ latest feature shows big improvements from her prior film resulting in a lightweight but fun little flick, but script issues prevent it from ever rising above slight fluff.

[DVD extras: None]

Hellion

Hollis (Aaron Paul) is a single dad with no business raising two sons. His struggles lead to a series of conflicts ‐ trouble with authorities, fights with his kids, and the loss of one of them to another relative ‐ and the collective drama comes to a head with the oldest son, Jacob (Josh Wiggins). The story here is solid, but the real strength of the film is in the performances. We’ve seen these familial struggles before, but Paul and Wiggins invest them with real heart.

[DVD extras: Short film, behind the scenes, Sundance premiere, trailer]

Lucky Them

Ellie (Toni Collette) is a rock journalist who takes neither her job nor her life all that seriously, but the threatened loss of the former forces her to make serious changes in the latter. Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt and Amy Seimetz co-star, and the resulting film is an entertaining and uplifting experience. Sure it’ll be forgotten by a day or two later, but that’s actually not a bad thing.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, featurette, trailer]

The Man Who Will Come

A small town in WWII Italy becomes home to tragedy as Nazis march in with predictably deadly results. This period drama is based on a true story, but it’s the smaller, more personal tale at its core that makes the film a heartbreaking affair. Gorgeous yet somber photography adds to the experience.

[DVD extras: None]

Mike and Molly: The Complete Fourth Season

Season four follows Molly’s (Melissa McCarthy) ups and downs as she tries out an oddball collection of new jobs. This is actually the epitome of a harmless sitcom in part because McCarthy’s comedic shenanigans are far more low key than her film roles allow. It’s slight comedy with a believable couple, and if you’re a fan of earlier seasons this will appeal to you.

[DVD extras: Gag reel]

The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill

A film crew goes to a purportedly haunted location and this is the footage of that experience! Blah blah blah, you already know what to expect here and if it’s up your alley. This one commits a bit better than most to feeling like a real production, but the end result is the same… shaky cameras, excessive night vision and some eventual digital “scares.”

[DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, commentary]

Third Person

A writer struggles with his latest novel, a sad wife and troubled former student who he’s also sleeping with, while elsewhere in the world a young woman tries to win back visitation rights with her son and by a possible con artist. Writer/director Paul Haggis’ latest has an incredible cast (Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Maria Bello) but none of them can prevent this from being a laughably bad mess. The story, such as it is, never amounts to anything, and that’s before it’s all rendered moot by a finale that feels both obvious and dumb. Wilde does great work here, but she’s ultimately betrayed by a script that does ridiculous things to her character.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, Q&A, making of]

Transformers: Age of Extinction

It’s been years since the Autobots and Decepticons tore Chicago to pieces in a battle for Earth, and now the U.S. government is hunting the last of the aliens in an attempt to take back the planet. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) accidentally comes into possession of a beaten down Optimus Prime and unwillingly ends up in the middle of another all out war. As bad as you think this sequel might be it’s actually worse. The spectacle is there, albeit with some scenes that feel rushed and visually compromised, but everything else is even dumber than the previous installments. Wahlberg is a few steps up from Shia LaBeouf, obviously, but the script is just for shit. Watching everyone be chummy and goofy mere minutes after Cade’s good friend is vaporized is an example of just how little actual thought actually went into the screenplay. And good god, sexing up Cade’s 17 year old daughter in every scene isn’t cool either.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Wolf

Majid is an ex-con hoping to avoid trouble by focusing his talents and anger on a belated career in the boxing ring, but tendrils from his criminal past weave their way into his present forcing his hand in an unfortunate way. This Netherlands-set drama is an engaging character study at times, and the black and white photography adds to the gritty beauty of the world, but it runs long at two hours and occasionally meanders with its narrative.

[DVD extras: Making of, music documentary, music videos, featurettes, trailer]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Criterion)
Decoding Annie Parker
Leprechaun: The Complete Movie Collection
Leprechaun Origins
Monster High: Freaky Fusion
My Little Pony: The Complete Series
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series
Stunt Squad
Sundays and Cybele (Criterion)
Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Walker Texas Ranger: The Reunion