Hello. Wow, it’s another incredibly busy edition with a ridiculous number of new discs arriving. And when there’s a large amount of releases, there is a ton of variety. As always, click on any links you see to read full reviews of several features. So if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try!
Big New Releases!
The Circle – A new employee at an enormous technology and social media company rises in the ranks and comes under the tutelage of the big bosses. The more she learns, the more wary she becomes of their actions and a new experimental program that may negatively impact the world. Reviews were very weak for this thriller. Articles suggested that while the ideas may have been intriguing, the execution was sorely lacking in tension, becoming sillier and sillier as it progressed. Now viewers can make up their own minds. It stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton.
Colossal – This independent effort follows a young woman at rock bottom in her life. As she struggles to make her next move, she learns of a monster tearing up South Korea. Could the creature’s actions have any connection to this troubled lady on the other side of the world? You bet. Notices were generally strong for this uniquely dark comedy. A few criticized the lead for being too flawed and the movie off-putting in its strangeness, but the majority complemented the lead performance, the originality of the concept and the deeper issues raised. The cast includes Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens and Tim Blake Nelson.
Don’t Knock Twice – An urban legend is the source of this horror flick that involves a creaky old home that supposedly houses a child-kidnapping witch. A teen on the run from her alcoholic mother ends up rapping on the wrong door, entering the house and coming face to face with the scary monster. Critics didn’t have too much to say about this effort that was positive. A few thought it was above-average low-budget fodder, but most knocked the film for borrowing too heavily from better scare flicks and not distinguishing itself from the crowd. Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Javier Botet headline the movie.
The Drowning – A psychiatrist is revisited by the now adult patient whom they helped convict of murder as a child. After meeting each other again, the doctor begins to doubt the original verdict and is forced into reinvestigating the case. This small, dramatic thriller split the press. Half just didn’t buy into the story, stating that the events weren’t believable and that the emotional content didn’t engage. The others believed that the tone and mood created helped the film overcome its plotting issues, and appreciated the attempts to deal with heavier themes. It features Julia Styles and Josh Charles.
Going in Style – A trio of old pals have their pensions lost by employers and financial institution and decide to get even. The seniors plot an elaborate bank heist, hoping to make away with the money owed to them. This remake of the 1979 comedy didn’t earn as many laughs as its predecessor, although about half of reviewers did give it a pass. They found the chemistry between the stars entertaining enough to entertain. However, those who didn’t like it commented that it didn’t match the darker original and that the exceptional performers deserved better material than a series of “old fart” jokes. It stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon and Christopher Lloyd. Read a full review here.
The Hippopotamus – Adapted from the novel by British comic Stephen Fry, this comedy is about a very grouchy writer who is invited to a country estate after a series of unexplained miracles. The skeptic investigates and tries to prove to the family and friends that these events are nothing more than a hoax. Reaction was mixed for the final product. Some wrote that the sharp satire and quirky dialogue was fun and enjoyable to watch. An equal measure appreciated the performances, but didn’t believe that the end result was amusing or compelling enough to recommend. Depends on your sense of humor, perhaps. The cast includes Roger Allam, Matthew Modine, Fiona Shaw and Emily Berrington.
House on Willow Street – A group of criminals kidnap the young child of an extremely wealthy family and hold her for ransom. Unfortunately, they soon discover that the youngster is possessed by a devil and that their lives are in for far more threat and danger than their mark. Notices weren’t half bad for this little independent horror feature. A few criticized it for offering no more than a series of jump scares, but several complimented the film as an effective, efficient and unpretentious little horror effort. It features Dimitri Bailanis, Sharni Vinson, Zelmia Bezuidenhout and Carlyn Burchell.
The Legend of Ben Hall – Described as a Revisionist Western, this Australian feature is set in 1865 and follows real life prison escapee/bushranger Ben Hall and his attempts to evade capture. He re-teams with his old gang (one of whom may be a police informant), committing robberies to survive and keep themselves ahead of authorities. This movie was originally backed on Kickstarter and considering its limited budget, didn’t fare badly with the press. Half of them on this side of the world liked the film. Some did suggest that its fell short of making its story meaningful enough, but just as many admired the aspiration and skill on display. Jack Martin plays the title character.
The Lovers – This comedy follows a long-married couple on the brink of divorce. In fact, both are more involved in their extramarital affairs than their lives with each other at home. Just as they’re about to make the separation official, a spark reunites and leaves the pair struggling to deal with their next move. Reviews were excellent for this small, independent feature. A scant few didn’t find it funny or care for the characters, but the vast majority of the press were taken with the performances and enjoyed the way the story departed from the traditional romantic-comedy format. It stars Debra Winger, Tracy Letts and Aidan Gillen.
Opening Night – A failed singer-turned-stage manager has his work cut out for him during the opening night of a new Broadway show. He must corral the various egos and eccentric personalities involved in the production and prevent the premiere from turning into a disaster. This goofy comedy has only played at film festivals (where it appears to have been relatively well received) and is making its debut on disc. However, it does have an impressive cast that includes the likes of Topher Grace, Lauren Lapkus, Alona Tai, Anne Heche, Taye Diggs, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer and JC Chasez.
The Ottoman Lieutenant – On the brink of World War I, an American woman travels with her doctor boyfriend to the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. However, once at the medical mission, she finds herself falling for a lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. What to do? According to the press, avoid this movie. This one didn’t get much more than a limited release. Most found it beautifully shot, but clunky, clichéd and dramatically inert. Many have also questioned to the fact that it is a Turkish co-production (with strong similarities to the film The Promise) and suggest that it downplays and avoids the issue of the Armenian Genocide. Michiel Huisman, Hera Hilmar, Josh Hartnett and Ben Kingsley are featured.
Phoenix Forgotten – This sci-fi horror flick involves a group of teens near Phoenix who investigate some UFO lights and disappear. Some 20 years later, their lost footage is found, providing a supernatural explanation for what happened to them. This found-footage feature didn’t earn many raves from reviewers. There were a few who appreciated it as a simple film that hit the right beats. However, the vast majority complained that it was completely predictable and offered nothing that fans of the genre haven’t seen before or more effectively presented. The cast includes Florence Hartigan, Luke Spencer Roberts and Chelsea Lopez.
Shin Godzilla – Released in some markets as Godzilla: Resurgence, one of the most famous monsters in history gets a brand new update in this Japanese effort. This time out, Tokyo officials must band together and find a solution when Godzilla rises from the ocean and proceeds to destroy the city. Notices were generally quite positive for this foreign-language, sci-fi flick. There were complaints that the monster was not featured as much as it should have been and that the focus on government employees working the situation out was dry and akin to watching a series of boardroom meetings. However, quite a few more found the approach amusingly unique. It stars, errr, Godzilla and a bunch of people playing bureaucrats.
Sleight – A young street magician struggles to take care of his younger sister after their parents pass away. When she’s kidnapped by some local hoods, the performer must use his skills to trick the bad guys are get her back home. This low-budget production got a fair amount of positive reaction some time back, but the release strategy didn’t quite work when the movie hit theaters; most audiences missed it. A few reviewers felt that the sleight of hand story was a bit too far fetched, but most complimented the low-key lead performance and enjoyed the fable. It stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel and Dulé Hill.
S.W.A.T.: Under Siege – Nope, this isn’t a sequel to the 2003 action film nor does it have anything to do with the old TV series. Instead, it’s a direct-to-disc action picture about a S.W.A.T. team coming under fire from an international terrorist who wants to free a suspect in their custody. As their compound is attacked, the group must figure out the connection between the man in custody and the criminal out to get them. As mentioned, no has seen this, so those interested will just have to go it alone. Don’t expect much. The cast includes Sam Jaeger, Adrienne Palicki and Michael Jai White.
Wakefield – A successful lawyer with a large house and family snaps and disappears without a trace, leaving behind his entire life. His clan eventually decide to get on with their lives. Unbeknownst to them, the lawyer is hiding in the family’s garage attic, observing those around him. Critics were generally very positive about this small drama. There were a few who couldn’t relate and didn’t feel that enough was happening onscreen, but most praised the performances and called the film an interesting look at a broken mind as well as the nature of voyeurism. It features Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner, Beverly D’Angelo and Ian Anthony Dale.
Blasts from the Past!
This is an unusually quiet week for new titles. Shout! Factory do have a few things of note, however. They’re releasing Steelbook Editions of previously released Blu-rays. You can pick up the John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981), The Fog (1980) and They Live (1988), with all-new artwork on their metallic shell casing. If you order through the site, they’ll also give you poster prints of the release. The contents of the discs are the same as previously released versions, but if you don’t own them and enjoy collecting poster art, it may be of interest. Of course, the movies themselves are great too.
Universal are putting out a Blu-ray of the biopic MacArthur (1977), which stars Gregory Peck as the real-life General and covers his experiences in World War II and the Korean War. If you’re looking for something that might appeal to the kids, the same studio are re-releasing the family picture, Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain (1995) on DVD. It stars a young Christina Ricci and Anna Chlumsky as a pair of tweens who meet, become friends and try to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the wilderness.
You Know, For Kids!
Slow week for kid’s fare, but you can bet it’ll pick up again by the next edition.
Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain (1995) (DVD)
On the Tube!
And here are some TV-themed releases.
As Time Goes By: Remastered Series Vol. 3
Big Little Lies: Season 1 (HBO)
Chesapeake Shores: Season 1
Crashing: Season 1
Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER: Season 4
Fortitude: Season 2
Inspector Lynley Mysteries: Season 3
Remember Me (PBS)