We’ve got a good selection of titles in a variety of genres this week, so there’s a little something for everyone. Read on to see what’s available!
Violent Night – Well, it’s happened. The generation of kids who grew up brainwashed by the internet into thinking that Die Hard is a Christmas movie have started making their own movies. And the result is Violent Night, which basically takes Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Home Alone and throws them into a blender. Unfortunately, what comes out is a largely unenjoyable film. To be clear, I really wanted to like Violent Night. You give me Santa Claus fighting against a bunch of criminals who are trying to rob a rich family on Christmas Eve, and that sounds like something I’m going to have a lot of fun with. Unfortunately, the film is populated by unlikable characters, making it hard to root for anyone. Hell, even Santa Claus himself is incredibly unlikable; I mean, how do you screw that up? There are a few solid action sequences, but they also get surprisingly bloody and gory at times, which I felt was an odd choice. Then I realized the film is directed by Tommy Wirkola, who gave us the cult hit Nazi zombie film Dead Snow, and it all clicked into place. I’m sure there’s an audience out there for Violent Night as I suspect a lot of people will like it more than I did, but I found it to be a huge let down.
Reacher: Season One – While it’s unfortunate that Tom Cruise’s Reacher film series never really took off (I quite liked the films), the popular franchise has been reborn as a television series. Based on the incredibly popular series of novels by Lee Child, the character has been developed into a series for Amazon Prime, and now it hits home video. The show stars Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher, an ex-military policeman, who is framed for murder upon arriving in a rural town in Georgia. His investigation into his own case leads to a huge conspiracy that he must unravel to save his own skin. Along the way, there’s no shortage of action. Reacher is a really great show; over the course of eight episodes, we get to see Reacher in all kinds of situations, and while he takes center stage, there is an able supporting cast that gives the show a well-developed feel. But it’s Alan Ritchson who carries the show on his admittedly-broad shoulders. I’ve liked Ritchson since he guest starred on Smallville many years ago, so I’m glad to see him finally land a leading role that gets him the success he deserves. This first season is based on the first Lee Child novel, and the scheduled second season apparently will adapt another book, and I think that the one-book-per-season approach will really work well with this character and his stories. Reacher is definitely worth a watch, whether you’re a fan of the books or not.
Bones and All – This is the kind of film I wouldn’t necessarily have paid all that much attention to, but it’s been getting a lot of buzz and positive critical reception, enough to make me curious about it. And when I got the disc to review, I was shocked by the description of the film on the back of the case. It reads: “Bones and All is a story of first love between Maren, a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee, an intense and disenfranchised drifter; a liberating road odyssey of two young people coming into their own, searching for identity and chasing beauty in a perilous world that cannot abide who they are.” Okay, I don’t know who wrote that or what they were thinking, but go watch the trailer for this film and then come back and re-read that description and tell me if they look like they exist in the same universe at all. Spoiler alert: they don’t. Let me clear: this is a movie about people who EAT OTHER PEOPLE. Sort of like cannibals, except instead of being a choice, it’s like vampirism where the hunger drives them. Maren and Lee are young “eaters” who meet up on the road and become close, but life is dangerous when you constantly have to eat other human beings. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the film, but it was actually better than I expected it to be. Based on the novel by Camille DeAngelis, the film is dark in places and disturbing in more than a few places, but at the center of it is the relationship between these two young people as they struggle with their affliction and the ramifications of it. They are played excellently by Taylor Russell (Lost in Space, Escape Room) and Timothee Chalamet, and they are a large part of why the film works. It definitely has its flaws, though; the film is too long by about 20 minutes and the pacing is occasionally downright languid. I’m not saying it needed to be an action thriller, but the film could have used a little more energy. It’s also devoid of any humor whatsoever, which makes it a bit of a slog at times. Ultimately, Bones and All is a bit of mixed bag that will probably find a devoted audience with some people, and a sense of confusion and possible revulsion from others.
Father of the Bride – It’s been 30 years since the Steve Martin/Martin Short Father of the Bride was a massive success at the box office, so I guess the time was right for another remake of the perennial comedy, this time starring Andy Garcia as the titular father and Gloria Estefan, Adria Arjona, and Diego Boneta as his family and son-in-law-to-be. The film is firmly rooted in Latin culture, and that adds a nice flavor to the film. I wasn’t honestly expecting much from the movie just because remakes these days are often quite stale, but Father of the Bride manages to feel both fresh and classic at the same time, and a solid script gives us enough laughs to be funny and enough sweet moments to qualify as a “feelgood film.” It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s certainly an enjoyable watch, and the cast is uniformly excellent. It’s actually a little disappointing that the film was an HBO Max premiere, only because I think it had the makings to be at least a medium-sized box office hit. Either way, it’s worth a watch for an easy way to kill a couple of hours and keep you smiling.
Mindcage – Sure, I’ll watch a serial killer mystery thriller starring Martin Lawrence, why not? With Melissa Roxburgh (Manifest) and John Malkovich in the cast as well, I thought Mindcage would at least be an interesting watch. And ultimately, it’s an enjoyable-enough but deeply flawed thriller. Roxburgh plays a young detective partnered with grizzled veteran Martin Lawrence who are tracking a copycat serial killer patterning his kills after The Artist (Malkovich), who five years ago killed sex workers and sculpted them to look like angels (as well as killing Martin’s partner.) Roxburgh visits The Artist in a psych hospital for insights into the copycat, and a game of cat-and-mouse that borrows heavily from Silence of the Lambs ensues. The film is entertaining enough, and Lawrence is decent enough in his first major dramatic role (although he is clearly not a natural dramatic actor), while Roxburgh and Malkovich really carry the bulk of the acting duties. The film takes a bit of a weird journey at the end, although I kind of dug it, strange as it was. It’s an easy enough way to kill 90 minutes, but it’s the kind of movie you’ll forget the day after you watched it.
Biography: WWE Volume 3 – As a casual wrestling fan, I’m more fascinated by the people involved and the behind-the-scenes mechanics than the actual wresting events themselves. So I was excited to dive into this latest Biography set that features multiple feature-length biographies of some of the most popular and influential wrestlers of all time. Over thirteen hours of content, we get to meet and learn about The Undertaker, Goldberg, The Bella Twins, Lex Luger, and Kurt Angle, among others. Now, I’ll say this: these biographies are terrifically entertaining and do give us several glimpses into the hearts and minds of these wrestling legends. That said, the shows were created and produced by the WWE, and as such, you can definitely tell there are some areas that are glossed over a little, with very little criticism of the WWE itself. That doesn’t make them bad, but they are maybe a little more polished and shiny than a typical warts-and-all bio. I’m not saying that it’s all filler and no killer, just be aware that these are a little more “produced” than you might be used to with biographies. If you’re a WWE fan, of course, overly-produced packages probably feel very familiar, and the end results are still a lot of fun.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- Colosseum – The History Channel’s new hit miniseries Colosseum comes to DVD, bringing you eight episodes of arenas, gladiators, and ancient Rome in “docudrama” fashion. Over the course of six hours, we get a look into life in Ancient Rome, but with a strong focus on the gladiatorial arenas that we associate with that time period. We learn about the lives of the gladiators, how the arenas were built, the people who took care of the animals that were involved in the battles, a female gladiator, and more. We get the usual mix of historical narration (provided by actor Campbell Scott) and those patented History Channel dramatizations, and the end result is a show that feels very familiar. I’m not the biggest fan of History Channel’s original “docudrama” programming in general, and I found this miniseries to be pretty standard fare for the network. If you like what they typically offer, you’ll probably enjoy it. If not, you can easily skip it and not miss much.
- The Grandmaster of Kung Fu – As the popular Ip Man franchise starts to find itself waning a bit, now we have the new The Grandmaster of Kung Fu film, which boasts, “Before Ip Man, there was Master Huo!” While this Chinese film was released in China in 2019, it’s just making its way stateside now. It’s a fairly typical period action piece that takes place at the end of the Qing dynasty and sees Chinese martial arts Master Huo going up against a Japanese military commander who wants a strategic locale under his control. At just an hour and 14 minutes, though, the film doesn’t waste too much time on story, focusing instead on fighting and fisticuffs. And frankly, I’m just fine with that. The action sequences are fast and furious, and fans of hard-hitting martial arts action will be pleased. It’s not a groundbreaking film in any way, but if you’re just looking for a quick burst of adrenaline in your day, The Grandmaster of Kung Fu will fit the bill.
- Rock Dog 3 – The first Rock Dog animated film was kind of like a mash-up of Kung Fu Panda and School of Rock, just with 100% less Jack Black. At the end of the day, it was a relatively typical tale of following your dreams and such, but the talented voice cast (which included Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Eddie Izzard, Mae Whitman, Kenan Thompson, and Lewis Black) kept things fun. Now, we get our second direct-to-video sequel which sees all of the big name voice talent gone. To be fair, the voice actors who take over are all perfectly good, but the recognizable voices are gone (save Eddie Izzard), which might make some parents less interested in watching. This time around, Bodi joins an American Idol-esque musical performance game show in order to make sure the kids on the show know their rock history, which isn’t the most compelling plotline I’ve ever seen. I can’t say this third offering in the franchise offers up a lot for adult viewers, but it’s a decent enough outing for kids, even if much of the charm from the original film is gone this time around.
- Elmo & Tango: Furry Friends Forever – This new Sesame Street DVD comes from the popular Elmo’s World spin-off of the Sesame Street mothership. A mix of segments from the show, Elmo & Tango gives us both short animated adventures and traditional live action segments that feature the perennially popular Elmo and their dog, Tango. Through multiple segments – including ones with guest stars Jon Batiste, Kacey Musgraves, and Keke Palmer – Elmo and Tango focus on friendship and related topics. The animated segments are cute and enjoyable, while the puppet-based segments feel like classic Sesame Street, and what parents can complain about that? This disc includes over two hours of material, which will keep your little ones busy long enough for you to do whatever you need to do while your kids are entertained and learning.