Time to start putting aside time to watch during this soon to be holiday season. This installment features complete series releases of three of the absolute best television shows of all time (and a fourth, that’s one of the funniest. I’m talking to you, Reno 911!). Plus, you’ve got plenty of other stuff to keep you distracted including spies, Hobbits, sequels, documentaries, blockbusters and “Weird Al”.
Fire up that queue and prep that shopping cart.
Batman: The Complete Television Series
|Warner Bros. / Released 11/11/14|
TV’s iconic Dynamic Duo has been captured, along with a legion of abominable archenemies in a POW-erful collection. Featuring ALL 120 original broadcast episodes, ever popular guest stars like Julie Newmar and Cesar Romero, complete episode guide – and exploding with over 3 hours of all new extras – you can bring home all the crime fighting action that won generations of fans! Extras include featurettes, screen tests, commentary, Hot Wheels Replica Batmobile, Adam West Scrapbook, 44 Vintage Trading Cards and 32-Page Complete Episode Guide.
Last Word: Holy Longtime Coming to Home Video! The series that became a phenomenon finally comes to Blu-ray looking better than ever. Adam West and Burt Ward play Batman and Robin, respectively in all 120 episodes. The star of the set is the series itself, which during it’s run brought some of Hollywood’s biggest names to either guest star or cameo. Among the regular cast were Alan Napier , Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Madge Blake and in the third season, Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. The guest stars include Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, George Sanders, Anne Baxter, Reginald Denny, David Wayne, Malachi Throne, Gary Owens, Victor Buono, Roddy McDowall, Art Carney, Edy Williams, Jill St. John, James Brolin, Army Archerd, Phyllis Diller, Van Johnson, Sid Haig, Shelley Winters, Vincent Price, Liberace, Otto Preminger, Woody Strode, Carolyn Jones, Cliff Robertson, Chad & Jeremy, Maurice Evans, Michael Rennie, Terry Moore, Rob Reiner, Lesley Gore, Bob Hastings, Alan Reed, John Astin, Stanley Adams, Alex Rocco, Seymour Cassel, Van Williams, Bruce Lee, Lee Meriwether, Grace Lee Whitney, Tallulah Bankhead, Eli Wallach, Joan Collins, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Anne Baxter, Rudy Vallee, Eartha Kitt, Cliff Robertson, Ida Lupino, Zsa Zsa Gabor and cameos include Ted Cassidy, Dick Clark, Bill Dana, Sammy Davis, Jr., Don Ho, Werner Klemperer, Jerry Lewis, Art Linkletter and Edward G. Robinson. Unfortunately, the set isn’t perfect; a few scenes were edited out from the final product, and there is a noticeable absence of commentary tracks. It would have been nice if the final set also included the 1966 Batman feature film. Batman: The Complete Television Series might not be a perfect release, but the fact that it’s finally here is a reason for celebration. One of the most important television series in the history of pop culture, Batman not only holds up, but also will deservedly find new audiences that will embrace it’s brilliance. Highest recommendation ever, chum!
The Newsroom: Season 2
|HBO / Released 11/4/14|
HBO presents a series from the fertile mind of Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and executive produced by Sorkin, Scott Rudin and Alan Poul. Smart, topical, humorous and highly entertaining, The Newsroom takes a behind-the-scenes look at a high-rated cable-news program at the fictional ACN Network, focusing on the on-and off-camera lives of its acerbic anchor (Jeff Daniels), new executive producer (Emily Mortimer), their newsroom staff (John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and others) and their news-division boss (Sam Waterston). Overcoming a tumultuous first day together – climaxing in a newsflash that a BP oil rig has just exploded in the Gulf of Mexico – the team sets out on a patriotic if quixotic mission to “do the news well” in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles, and their own personal entanglements. Extras include commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes.
Last Word: It’s hard not to compare The Newsroom to creator Aaron Sorkin’s overall body of work. Sure, there are plenty of tropes but like all of his writing, it’s smart and insightful with the sharpest dialogue on television. The performances are also top notch with a ridiculously strong ensemble that does an amazing job bringing that banter to life. Sorkin has long examined the behind the scenes that the general public never sees (Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Social Network) and continues to do so with The Newsroom with monumental success. Season 2 made some significant changes from season one, preferring to focus on the characters than the news events they were covering and it does so with mixed results. It works, but there is something missing (which might be why the new season is focusing a bit on the Boston Marathon bombing). There are a few structural missteps (a large number of flashback sequences) that ultimately pay off, but require close attention. Highly recommended.
Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series
|Shout! Factory / Released 11/4/14|
One of the all-time classics from the golden age of television, Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series has finally arrived on DVD. This multiple Emmy Award winner, which originally aired from 1955-1959, was one of early television’s biggest smashes and still commands attention today as both a hilarious sitcom and a star-making showcase for legendary comedian Phil Silvers (It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) in his signature role as Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko. Running the motor pool at Fort Baxter, the cagey Sgt. Bilko has always got an ace up his sleeve and a scheme in his head. From get-rich-quick scams to plots designed to keep himself free from the drudgery of work, he’s always running an angle that will be sure to leave his commanding officer Colonel Hall tearing out his hair: and viewers in stitches! Featuring a memorable supporting cast, including Harvey Lembeck, Allan Melvin, Joe E. Ross, and Paul Ford, the 143 episodes in this set represent a true masterpiece of American comedy. With some of the snappiest jokes and kookiest characters of all time, Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series is an essential piece of any classic television fan’s collection. Extras commentaries, photo gallery, cast commercials, original network opening, lost audition show, Lucy and the Efficiency Expert (from The Lucy Show season 5), episode introductions, promo for The New Phil Silvers Show, interviews, Harry, the Good Neighbor from The New Phil Silvers Show, Phil Silvers and Jack Benny on The Dick Cavett Show, Footage from the 1959 TV Special Keep In Step, and the cast on Broadway.
Last Word: One of the best releases of the year, Shout! Factory brings one of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television to DVD in it’s entirety. Con artist Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko runs the camp’s motor pool with a cast of colorful, schlubs that contained members of every race, creed and ethnicity; a blue collar collection of lazy opportunists, whose misadventures, antics, hijinks and get rich quick schemes resonated well with it’s audience. The inimitable Phil Silvers led the show with an ensemble of character actors that included Allan Melvin, Paul Ford, Harvey Lembeck, Maurice Gosfield, Herbie Faye, Billy Sands, Bernard Fein, Mickey Freeman, Jack Healy, Maurice Brenner, Karl Lukas and Terry Carter. Recurring actors and guest stars also included such familiar names (and faces) as Barbara Barrie, Ned Glass, Bob Hastings, David White, Al Lewis, Charlotte Rae, Fred Gwynne, Natalie Schafer, William Hickey, Alan Alda, Morey Amsterdam, Orson Bean, Lee Meriwether, Julie Newmar, Tina Louise, George Kennedy and Lucille Ball. Although Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series is over fifty years old, it’s pedigree among the best sitcoms in the history of television stands. A must have and my highest recommendation.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
|Warner Bros. / Released 11/4/14|
The adventure continues as Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, journey to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. As they head East, they encounter the skin-changer Beorn and giant spiders in the treacherous forest, Mirkwood. Escaping capture by Wood-elves, they travel to Lake-town and finally the Lonely Mountain, where they face their greatest danger – a terrifying creature that will test their courage, their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself – the Dragon Smaug. Extras include commentary, documentaries and featurettes.
Last Word: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is the second installment in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit series.
I’m getting a little tired of these trilogies (that keep turning into quad-rilogies, and now, extended quadrilogies) I read The Hobbit over ten years ago, so I can only assume that this second film represents a middle segment of the novel. If you aren’t familiar with the story, SparkNote it before you go because it’s a long, unclear compilation of tidbit stories overridden by special effects that poorly compensate for the slow-moving and tonally inconsistent plotlines.
This is a highly disappointing installment. Peter Jackson did an excellent job with the Lord of the Rings films. Three movies for three books, so each film was self-contained and exciting. Desolation of Smaug doesn’t have a clear story. It’s middle ground that’s murky and unfinished. The group of dwarves travels, they get into trouble, they meet some elves, orcs are ever-presently growling, and they meet Smaug, the dragon. The little backstory that’s meant to intrigue falls flat and sappy.
Was I supposed to care about another descendent of a family and town that Smaug desolated so many years ago? If so, fail.
Jackson’s LOTR second installment, The Two Towers, was done right, so it was an epic follow-up to Fellowship of the Ring. There is more depth given to each character, battles were rich with emotion and gore. The special effects looked real – the snarling Orcs were terrifying, landscapes were vast and gorgeous, and Legolas was the embodiment of a majestic creature, fluid and precise. In Desolation of Smaug, the elves are overly made-up drama-queens, the setting looks like just that, a set, and the movement of characters switches to full-on animation so often that it looks like you’re watching a video game segment. Similarly, the Orcs look ridiculous and completely fake. To those in charge of choreographing those claustrophobic fight-scenes, actual stuntmen and realistic movements are helpful in suspending disbelief. The reason Jackson’s previous series worked well was because each film told a story, each added to the next, but were still strong enough to stand alone. Desolation of Smaug cannot stand on its own. It doesn’t add anything to the previous story, the characters are forgettable and don’t inspire sympathy. I was rooting for Aragorn in Two Towers. But I couldn’t care less about Thorin Oakenshield. I know he’s supposed to be important. But he’s not lovable. Bilbo is the enjoyable character, but even still, Martin Freeman’s performance feels tired and uncreative.
The biggest highlight was seeing Watson and Sherlock, excuse me, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch interact as Bilbo and Smaug. And Smaug was beautiful. All of the special effects efforts must have been poured into the creation of the fantastic beast. From his dilating pupils to the sagging skin beneath his enormous jaw, the dragon was incredible. It’s just a pity that Smaug is the only memorable character in Desolation – Fili and Kili are a sad substitute for Merry, Pippin, and Samwise. Just saying. Peter Jackson had a chance to do something special with The Hobbit. One great film for one great book that could bring Tolkien’s world to a younger audience, while giving LOTR fans another journey through Middle Earth. Instead, The Hobbit will become a cautionary tale where artistic merit is lost in the desire to maximize profits. If you’ve read the book a hundred times, you’ll enjoy the show and actually appreciate the few hidden jokes that fly completely over the remaining viewers’ heads. Otherwise, read the book, it’ll go quicker. (– Caitlyn Thompson)
|Lionsgate / Released 11/4/14|
Inspired by true events, adapted from the novel by master spy novelist John le Carre (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener). German intelligence agent Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final starring role) must race against time to solve a perilous mystery: Is the half-Chechen, half-Russian Muslim who’s surfaced in Hamburg a victim seeking refuge… or a terrorist seeking revenge? Hoffman’s mesmerizing turn as Bachmann will glue you to your seat until the final, shattering conclusion of this John le Carre thriller. Extras include featurettes.
Last Word: Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man is stellar film making and a visual smorgasbord of beautiful camerawork and phenomenal acting. Based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré and starring the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his last completed film (Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 & 2 were made before this but are being released after it) as Günther Bachmann a German intelligence officer who is working to decipher whether or not a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured immigrant that has turned up in Hamburg’s Islamic community is really the victim he claims to be or if he is another extremist with an agenda for terror. Taut and very methodical, A Most Wanted Man kept me riveted the entire 2 hours.
Corbijn, has taken the marvelous words of le Carré and transposed them into a masterful film. Gorgeous cinematography and an eye for details this film never wastes a single frame and unless you are paying close attention you are bound to miss a very important clue or two as the mystery unfolds. Joining Hoffmann are Russian actor Grigoriy Dobrygin as the enigma, Isss Karpov, the Chech man who looks to claim his father’s vast ill gotten riches and Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, The Notebook) as his lawyer Annabel Richter. Willem Dafoe played the banker with a past who may or may not be tied to Issa’s past and now controls his future. No spy film would be complete without the presence of the always brash and know it all CIA, this time represented by Martha Sullivan, a true American spook played wonderfully by Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, Netflix’s House of Cards series). To tell you even a little bit about this film will be to give it all away so I am slightly hamstrung in my ability to properly review this film.
Suffice it to say that if you loved the recent Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy (also a John le Carré novel) starring Gary Oldman, or any myriad of political intrigue film or stories, then you will love this. Corbjin and crew have crafted such a tightly knit story what paces well and keeps you guessing without the use of “red herrings” or “Macguffins”. What you get is a brilliantly acted, character driven “nail bitter” that ends both satisfyingly and gut wrenchingly. Alas I feel I may have already said to much. Watch this film. (– Benn Robbins)
Little House On the Prairie: A Merry Ingalls Christmas
|Lionsgate / Released 11/4/114|
Celebrate the holidays with two classic Little House specials. The perfect stocking stuffer for the entire family, Little House On The Prairie: A Merry Ingalls Christmas features two heartwarming episodes, “Christmas At Plum Creek”and “A Christmas They’ll Never Forget,” restored to original broadcast length and remastered for optimal picture and sound quality. In “Christmas at Plum Creek,” the members of the Ingalls family share a heartwarming first Christmas in their new home, and Laura makes a personal sacrifice that captures the meaning of the holidays. In “A Christmas They Never Forgot,” the family waits out a snowstorm by remembering favorite Christmases from the past.
Exes: Seasons One & Two
|Paramount / Released 11/4/14|
Starring Donald Faison, Wayne Knight, David Alan Basche, Kelly Stables and Kristen Johnston, The Exes revolves around an unlikely trio of divorced men (Faison, Knight, Basche) who have finally found bromance after initially being forced to live together by their divorce attorney and landlord (Johnston). This DVD set includes all 22 episodes from the first and second seasons. Guest stars include Zach Braff, Ken Marino, Janina Gavankar, Diedrich Bader, Judith Light, and Paula Marshall. Bonus features include interviews and behind the scenes prank.
Reno 911: The Complete Series
|Paramount/ Released 11/4/14|
Some Men And Women Should Never Become Cops. This Is Their Story. Reno 911! Partner up with Reno, Nevada’s biggest little police force! Join the officers of Reno 911! as they attempt to keep the streets safe – mainly from themselves. This first season brings some of their best moments, from accidentally destroying evidence to easing the pains of midget conflict to corralling an ill-tempered mime. These peacekeepers know the finer points of law enforcement – and they won’t hesitate to beat you with your own shoe. Adventures include working security for Kenny Rogers, fighting to save their mustaches, hunting down an uppity Milkshake Man, a stint in prison, an accidental cat killing, close encounters of the SARS kind, committing election fraud, donning hot pink uniforms, blowing up various large items, Wiegel meets her real daddy, the department hires a former sex slave worker, and the team takes on a badass bounty hunter.
The half-hour ensemble comedy was created by and stars Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney-Silver and Thomas Lennon, and also features Carlos Alazraqui, Mary Birdsong, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Niecy Nash and Cedric Yarbrough. Throughout the 6-season run, guest stars included Aziz Ansari, Michael Ian Black, Wayne Brady, Andrew Daly, Charlie Day, Danny DeVito, Nat Faxon, Lou Ferrigno, Zach Galifianakis, Seth Green, Chelsea Handler, Jonah Hill, Cheryl Hines, Rob Huebel, Keegan-Michael Key, David Koechner, Nick Kroll, Lorenzo Lamas, Lisa Lampanelli, Natasha Leggero, George Lopez, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Heather McDonald, Jerry Minor, Arden Myrin, Oscar Nuñez, Patton Oswalt, Jordan Peele, Brian Posehn, Jim Rash, Paul Reubens, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Paul Scheer, Nick Swardson, Aisha Tyler, David Wain, Matt Walsh and Rainn Wilson. Extras include audio commentary on 32 episodes, over an hour of alternate, extended and deleted scenes, almost two hours of outtakes and featurettes.
A King Family Christmas: Classic Television Specials Volume 2
|Polly O Entertainment / Released 11/4/14|
Celebrate the Christmas season family-style with the dazzling, classic holiday TV specials that entertained millions of TV viewers throughout the 1960’s & 70’s starring multi-generational entertainment powerhouse the singing King Family. Gather your own family for heartwarming performances of beloved holiday hits including White Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Silent Night, My Favorite Things, The Christmas Waltz and dozens more. Enjoy Grammy-nominated vocal group The King Sisters along with their entire family including guitar virtuoso and Big Band great Alvino Rey, The Four King Cousins featuring Tina Cole (My Three Sons), actor Robert Clarke, trombonist and vocalist Kent Larsen, the delightful King Kids, and all the other cousins, aunts & uncles that made up America’s 39-member first family of song.
The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story
|Lionsgate / Released 11/4/114|
Timed to the 25th anniversary of the premiere of the iconic series, the tell-all TV movie based on Dustin Diamond, aka “Screech” Powers’ book Behind the Bell, will shine light onto the on and off-screen drama of the hit ’90s television sitcom that changed the face of American Saturday morning television. Featuring a brand new cast hand-picked by the original casting director for Saved by the Bell, Robin Lippin, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story follows six young, unknown actors thrust into the Hollywood spotlight and exposed to the challenges of growing up under public scrutiny. The movie goes behind-the-scenes to portray their struggle to maintain the squeaky-clean image of their popular characters both on and off-screen.
The One I Love
|Anchor Bay / Released 11/4/14|
The One I Love centers on Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), a married couple on the brink of separation. At the urging of their therapist (Ted Danson), they escape to a beautiful vacation house for a weekend getaway in an attempt to salvage what’s left of their relationship. What starts off as a relaxing and tranquil retreat soon spirals into a dizzyingly bizarre experience that forces the couple to reflect upon the complexities of their troubled partnership. Over the course of a few days, Ethan and Sophie work diligently to rediscover their better selves and embrace the unexpected as everything they once thought was real becomes more and more surreal. Extras include commentary and visual effects reel.
|Public Art Films / Released 11/4/14|
When director Tony Silver and co-producer Henry Chalfant delivered the broadcast version of their prize-winning film to PBS in 1983, the world received its first full immersion in the phenomenon that had taken over New York City. The urban landscape was physically transformed by graffiti artists who invented a new visual language to express both their individuality, and the voice of their community. In Style Wars, New York’s ramshackle subway system is their public playground, battleground, and spectacular artistic canvas. As MC’s, DJ’s and B-boys rock the city with new sounds and new moves, we see street corner breakdance battles turn into performance art. Extras include new 40 minute film The Outtakes, and featurettes.
|Wolfe Video / Released 11/4/14|
The vivacious Shauna MacDonald (Hemlock Grove) stars as Tru, a 37-year-old bed-hopping lesbian who becomes unexpectedly smitten with elegant 60-year-old Alice (stunning Kate Trotter, Lost Girl). As their affection deepens, Alice s daughter Suzanne (Christine Horne) worries that Tru may break her mother s heart. But it seems this lesbian Casanova may have found true love at last. Co-directed by esteemed lesbian filmmaker Kate MacDonald and actress Shauna MacDonald, this wonderful love story is filled with grace and humor. Extras include short film Stormcloud and trailer.
M Squad: The Complete TV Series Special Edition
|Timeless Media / Released 11/4/14|
One of the most memorable of the early television police dramas, M Squad debuted in 1957 and ran for three seasons on NBC. Lee Marvin stars as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M Squad Division. All 117 episodes of the television series as originally aired, as well as a brand new bonus disc featuring Lee Marvin guest star appearances in Wagon Train, Checkmate, The Virginian and as the host of Lawbreaker) The Squad’s (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized crime and corruption in America’s Second City. Marvin’s portrayal of a tough undercover officer, whose perseverance and potential for violence, but with utter cool, permeates each gritty episode, gave Marvin name recognition with the public, and did much to make him a star. Among the guest stars during the run are Angie Dickinson, Charles Bronson, Janice Rule, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Nelson, Jack Elam, DeForest Kelley, Stafford Repp, Lyle Talbot, Jeanne Cooper, Madge Blake, H.M. Wynant, Marion Ross, Ross Martin, James Coburn, Joyce Meadows, Les Tremayne, Marvin Kaplan, Alan Hale Jr., Alan Reed, and Burt Reynolds
|Cinedigm/ Released 11/4/14|
Coming of age in the 1960s, John Wojtowicz took pride in being a pervert. His libido was excessive even by the libertine standards of the era, with multiple wives and lovers, both women and men.
In August 1972, he attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank to finance his lover’s sex-reassignment surgery. The attempted heist resulted in a fourteen-hour hostage situation that was broadcast on TV. Three years later, Pacino portrayed his character instigating the unforgettable crime on the big screen. The award-winning film had a profound influence on Wojtowicz; when he emerged from prison six years later, he become known as ‘The Dog.”
Filmed over the course of a ten year period by co-directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, and interweaving extraordinary archival footage on the robbery. ’70s-era interviews and the early gay liberation movement in which “The Dog” played n active role, the documentary captures the many sides of John Wojtowicz’s larger-than-life persona: he is by turns lover, husband, soldier, activist, New Yorker, mama’s boy and bank robber. Extras include commentary, deleted scenes and trailer.
|Paramount / Released 11/4/14|
Dwayne Johnson delivers an unforgettable performance as the mighty Hercules! When a terrifying new enemy threatens the innocent, Hercules and his fearless team of warriors must lead their army in a battle against overwhelming odds. It will take the strength of a god for Hercules to overcome his past and conquer his foes in this epic adventure. Extras include extended cut, commentary, featurettes, deleted/extended scenes, and introduction.
Last Word: How do you do something new with a story that is over 3000 years old? For Brett Ratner, director of Hercules, the answer seems to be you don’t. You just go with what you know works. Hercules is a check-your-brain-at-the-door, sit back, and enjoy movie. If you’re someone who has seen a lot of “sword and sandals” films, Hercules will feel like a rehash. With its PG-13 rating, Hercules’s fighting is violent, without being gory. Paramount is counting on those familes with tweens dollars, and the film is geared toward it.
While watching the film I felt as if Ratner had a checklist for what the film needed to be successful: Likeable American action star to pay Hercules. Enter Dwayne Johnson. Then get an international cast of well established, but not Hollywood-hot actors to give Hercules substance including a grizzly older warrior to guide Hercules. Englishman Ian McShane, a smart-ass, childhood friend. Englishman Rufus Sewell. A crazy Norwegian actor, Aksel Hennie. A scholar that wants to be a warrior, Englishman Reece Ritchie. A hot chick that can kick every male character’s butt, Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolso Berdal. A weak old Lord who needs defending, John Hurt. A slimy King that no one likes or trusts, Joseph Fiennes. A second in command that you hate from the start, Scotsman Peter Mullan. Add the familiar tropes of all heroes getting their own cool weapon, a mom and kid to tug on Hercules’ heart strings, fight scenes with digital monsters, and a rousing, get the troupes riled-up speech before a battle with lots of impossible feats. Ratner fulfilled all the parts of the recipe.
What we are left with is a predictable but entertaining piece of fluff. Johnson stands and poses well in all his hero shots. I’m not entirely sure if his battle speeches are unremarkable because of his delivery or because it a trope we have seen time and time again. The fighting choreography and Spartan-like battle tactics are fun to watch. It’s a credit to Ian McShane that even though you know what he is going to say before he says it, the deliver of his lines is such that you kind of chuckle instead of groan. The plot twists are telegraphed miles away, but in a tale that has been told and retold, it is hard to expect surprises. Thankfully the story moves at a quick pace, so you don’t have to devote much time or brain power to what you are watching.
|Warner Bros. / Released 11/11/14|
From director Clint Eastwood comes the story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New kersey who came together to form the iconic ’60s rock group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Their trails and triumphs are accompanied by the hit songs that influenced a generation : “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Dawn,” “Rag Doll,” “Bye Bye Baby” and many more. John Lloyd Young (Reprising his Tony Award-winning portrayal of lead signer Frankie Valli), Erich Bergen (songwriter Bob Gaudio), Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi) and Vincent Piazza (Tommy Devoto) play The Four Seasons, and Christopher Walken stars as mobster Gyp DeCarlo. Extras include featurettes.
Last Word: This retelling of the origin of the Four Seasons flips from being Goodfellas to Bye Bye Birdie, adds a bit of previously unknown dangerous element to the pop groups’ origin, and offers another outlet for Eastwood’s directorial oeuvre. The talented cast are triple threats in the classical show-biz way, and the romantic notion of cutting a record and shopping it around to labels is illustrated in the musical as the quartet finally gets a name and a ‘sound’.
Told partially by having each of the members of the Four Seasons break the fourth wall and narrate the story, we start out with Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire) as founding member Tommy DeVito. His criminal activities, black market dealings and revolving door at the state prison make for a very Henry Hill intro to the movie. In the neighborhood, Tommy is playing in The Variety Trio and encourages his good pal Frankie (John Lloyd Young) to join him on stage to sing in his famous falsetto. He’s a hit with at least one lady in the front row. Tommy lets Frankie borrow his car to take her out for a spin after the set. The trio becomes a foursome when Tommy meets up with Joe Pesci (the actor himself played by Joseph Russo) who introduces the men to Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). Bob was responsible for his hit song “Short Shorts” by his group The Royal Teens.
The songwriter joins The Four Lovers as an equal partner before their infamous name change. Carrying over some of his bad business practices, Tommy continues to borrow money from gangsters to get records cut and eventually this gets out of hand toward the end of the film. Christopher Walken plays Gyp DeCarlo — a Jersey business man who has some influence on the street. Of course, Tommy is under his wing, but the band as a whole seeks his advice at points. Need anything more be said about Walken playing a gangster with Vito (Steve Schirripa) at his side? Probably not! His staccato dialogue sucks you in as soon as you see him on screen. Too bad we don’t get to see him sing or dance himself — Walken is played in more of a comic relief cartoon of a gangster in the film.
The fourth member of the Four Seasons is bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). As Tommy’s frequent tour roommate, he is frequently the forgotten member of the pack, but eventually is the one who speaks out the most about Tommy’s incurred debt as that almost stops the group from continuing. Bob Crewe — the group’s flamboyant producer and lyricist is played by Mike Doyle. Who is to say if this is based in reality or not, but Crewe appears to take on the Fifth Beatle role here. With three number one hits in a row, Crewe was instrumental in the success. The movie spans the whole career of the band through to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1990.
Eastwood is one hell of a director, and this script under anyone else would have just been an extended Glee episode. The songs fit right into the story as actual performances (or recording sessions) and the set changes, and the elapsed time really flows well. To be able to span decades in the course of a movie is one of my favorite cinematic feats when done well. From Boogie Nights to Goodfellas, the feel of each decade must feel right and all of the characters need to grow along with the timeline in the movie. Eastwood even sticks in a clip of himself in Rawhide on a black and white television in a party scene that anchors the scene to be ‘of the time’.
The cast recordings of the original songs are amazing, with John Lloyd Young hitting all of the right notes. Erich Bergen plays the detached and ‘not from the neighborhood’ guy that really balances out the personalities in the group. Vincent Piazza’s Tommy is the bully, the racketeer. Michael Lomenda holds down the bass parts, and is almost a caricature of how bass players are perceived in the music business (replaceable yet necessary, not leading men but the guy that lays the concrete). Jersey Boys is a great movie, and certainly one of the few musical films that I will revisit. (– Clay N Ferno)
|Warner Bros. / Released 11/11/14|
Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is having a bad day. She’s totaled her clunker car, gotten fired from her thankless job at a greasy burger joint and, instead of finding comfort at home, finds her husband getting comfortable with the neighbor in her own house. It’s time to take her boom box and book it. The bad news is she’s broke and without wheels. The worse news is her grandma, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), is her only option-with a car, cash, and an itch to see Niagara Falls. Not exactly the escape Tammy had in mind. But on the road, with grandma riding shot gun, it may be just what Tammy needs. Extras include gag reel.
Last Word: This is the story of Tammy’s terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day and how it turned into an even more terrible, awfuller, absolutely no-good and really very bad film. To say this poor girl is down on her luck would be the understatement of the year. After totaling her car on the way to her crappy fast-food job, she promptly gets fired. Now forced to walk home through the muggy, hot Illinois countryside, she finds her husband making dinner for the cute neighbor. In a huff, Tammy storms out, running to her mother who firmly believes that she’s just throwing another tantrum. To Tammy, her life has hit the boiling point and she’s decided she’s leaving town, unsure of even where she wants to go. Luckily, grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) has a few thousand dollars saved up, a car that drives and a similar urge to hit the road. They set out for Niagara Falls.
What could have followed was an adorable romp through the midwest, a traveling buddy comedy a-la Thelma and Louis. Pearl, the wise-cracking, deadpan alcoholic grandma could show this lost, younger woman what it means to take control of your own life. By the same token, Tammy could teach Pearl a little bit about herself and forcer her to face the responsibilities that she’s been shirking all these years hiding at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. In fact, that’s probably precisely the film that Melissa McCarthy and her husband (director) Ben Falcone were envisioning when they sat down to flesh out the screenplay. Sadly, what stumbled onto the screen this holiday weekend was a sloppy, meandering and lost attempt at drawing laughs and ticket sales like a dentist pulls teeth. There are a number of factors that contributed to the failing of this comedic flailing, but all issues seem to stem from the thought that Melissa McCarthy is universally and infallibly funny. I’m starting to have my doubts.
Just like the rest of America, I liked Bridesmaids (2011). I thought I’d split a seam when McCarthy hosted SNL (all 3 times). She’s the type of actor that one would think could be funny in absolutely anything. This contention might be true to an extent, but it’s been proven that the greatest pitfall for many actors is that they get pigeonholed. It’s like a sickness for a good actor – it’s symptoms are immediately recognizable. For the first 15 to 20 minutes, Tammy is raucous, loud and in your face funny. Tammy is a character that anyone with the slightest familiarity with Middle America can identify with. She’s snide, rude, unlucky, and boisterous, but earnestly well-meaning and heartfelt. After all, that’s exactly the type of character that we’ve come to expect from McCarthy. But after the initial comforting familiarity, her bread and butter routine has started to get stale. Pretty soon you start to realize why this character seems so instantly familiar. She may not have the same color hair, maybe she’s gained a few pounds, but the stagnancy of her rambunctious character steadily becomes more pronounced to the point that it gets tiresome.
What it comes right down to is that Tammy never really finds its stride. Many people can identify with those life-altering moments where your only option seems to be to leave the past behind and start somewhere fresh. This compulsion, however, translates all too well in this story as the meandering plot struggles to find new ways to keep the audience engaged. The trailer made this film seem like it would be a riot with plenty of heart. It’s disheartening to discover that the appeal is only superficial.
The end product of Tammy turns out to be a special kind of disaster; one that is more illuminating for it’s participants than for any hopeful audience member. Ben Falcone’s first attempt at directing definitely misses the mark, but only in so far as he needs to flesh out his own style. Someday, I hope to see a successful endeavor between him and his wife. Their next collaboration entitled Michelle Darnell is slated for a 2016 release. My only hope is that with their subsequent projects, Falcone is able to define a greater balance between unleashing McCarthy into a scene and forcing her down our throats. As with everything else, these things take practice. Melissa McCarthy has not lost her appeal, we’re all just a little more skeptical and waiting to see what else she can do. (– Michael Haas)
Let’s Be Cops
|20th Century Fox / Released 11/11/14|
It’s the ultimate buddy cop movie except for one thing: they’re not cops. Two slackers hatch an outrageous plan to impersonate police officers. Before long, the pair are confiscating chronic, scoring hot babes and recklessly racing through the streets in a squad car they found online. But when they get tangled up with actual mobsters, these fake cops find themselves in hot pursuit of real trouble. Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson lead a stellar cast, including Andy Garcia, Nina Dobrev and Keegan-Michael Key, in a comedy so funny, it’s criminal. Extras include deleted/alternate scenes, commentary, featurettes, and still gallery.
Last Word: Although the film attempts to be a fairly standard buddy comedy, there’s an undercurrent of darkness below the surface that might have made a better film if director Luke Greenfield had embraced that direction. The cast does an admirable job with the material, but the both the screenplay and overall tone are too random and inconsistent to set it apart from any number of films we’ve seen before. It’s failure is that the comedy material isn’t funny enough and the drama doesn’t fulfill the premise laid out in front. Let’s Be Cops isn’t a funny movie, or a particularly good movie, but it is interesting enough to warrant a watch. Mildly recommended.
I Am Ali
|Universal / Released 11/11/14|
An intimate and heart-warming look at the man behind the legend – as we’ve never seen Ali before. I Am Ali is told through exclusive, unprecedented access to Ali’s personal archive of voice recordings combined with touching interviews and testimonials from his inner circle of family and friends, including his daughters, son, ex-wife and brother, plus legends of the boxing community including Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Gene Kilroy. Experience Ali’s extraordinary story, as a fighter, lover, brother, father – told from the inside for the very first time. Extras include featurettes, and intervews.
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D
|Millennium / Released 11/11/14|
As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench – nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface – piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration. Extras include previews and a brief interview with Cameron.
UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition
|Shout! Factory / Released 11/11/14|
Sometimes you’ve got to grab life by the lips and YANK as hard as you can. A lot of TV stations have forgotten what “quality” means. But not Channel 62. They NEVER knew what it meant.
In the cult classic UHF, “Weird Al” Yankovic is George Newman, a daydreamer who becomes the manager of a small TV station that’s losing money as quickly as it’s losing viewers. Before long he’s programming shows like “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse,” “Wheel Of Fish” and “Raul’s Wild Kingdom.” But can Channel 62’s new popularity save it from sinister forces? To find out… don’t touch that dial! Starring “Weird Al” Yankovic, Michael Richards, Kevin McCarthy, Fran Drescher, Gedde Watanabe, Victoria Jackson, Anthony Geary, Billy Barty, Sue Ane Langdon, and David Proval. Extras include 2014 SDCC retrospective panel, commentary, deleted scenes, music video, behind the scenes footage, production stills, Easter Eggs, and promotional materials.
|Well Go USA / Released 11/11/14|
Donnie Yen is a Ming Dynasty palace guard, wrongly accused of murder and hunted by three vengeful brothers. All four are accidentally buried, frozen at the height of battle. 400 years later, they are defrosted and resume their mortal struggle while also adjusting to modern-day life. Extras include trailer.
|Paramount / Released 11/11/14|
When Jenny (Anna Kendrick), a hard-partying 20-something, moves in with her film director brother (Joe Swanberg), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), a budding novelist, and their two-year-old son after a break up, the family’s idyllic life is shaken up. Jenny begins a rocky relationship with a baby sitter-cum-pot dealer (Mark Webber) and she and a friend Carson (Lena Dunham) team up to try and help Kelly find balance in her life. As usual, the results are in the eye of the beholder.
Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
|Anchor Bay / Released 11/18/14|
Straight from the pages of Frank Miller’s cutting edge series “Sin City”, co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez reunite to bring the visually stunning stories back to the screen. Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) struggles with his inner demons and tries to maintain control until his former lover, the goddess Ava Lord (Eva Green), returns wanting his help to escape her abusive husband. Though once he learns her true intentions are far more sinister than they appear, he recruits the help of Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Gail (Rosario Dawson). While a cocky young gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) takes his chances winning against the most powerful man in Sin City, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). But this is Senator Roark’s least of problems because Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) has been driven insane by John Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis) selfless suicide and is no longer a damsel in distress and is out for blood, compelled to avenge Hartigan by hunting down Senator Roark. Extras include featurettes.
Last Word: It’s the latest flicker from indie mastermind and Austin native, Robert Rodriguez and the “Old State Line” native who later called The Big Apple “home,” Frank Miller. They once again knocked their heads together and taking some of Frank’s old graphic novels and a few new inspired stories the have thrown out this latest prequel/sequel to their 2005 masterpiece Sin City.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is once again set in the seedy and hellish Basin City. A city that is all the worst parts of every city in America and the best parts of Detroit all rolled up into a sweet, little package. Deceit, death, sex, blood, bullets and booze with the hardest of the hard cases and the broadest of the broads all out for one thing: Survival.
Having read the graphic novels on which this film was based and having seen the previous installment, I knew what I was in for. The poor saps who sat next to and behind me, however, couldn’t have known that what they were about to experience was a visceral and purely aggressive joy ride in the most dangerous sense. Rodriguez and Miller, both helming this beast, are in top form. From a visual standpoint this film is, what the kids like to say, a “panel jumper”, as in, panels from the actual comic book jumped off the page and onto the screen. The stark Black and White with hints and splashes of color really get to the screws and nails of the visual story telling: Stark and haunting.
The stories are your basic pulp fiction and hard-boiled detective fodder. Dames in trouble, guys in over their head, tough men and tougher women all come together in four interconnected violent and sexual stories that would make the most worldly viewer blush and turn their head. Of the films four segments, three, “JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT”, “A DAME TO KILL FOR” and “THE LONG, BAD NIGHT” – are prequels to the first film. “THE LONG, BAD NIGHT” was previously unpublished. The fourth story, featuring the aftermath of “THAT YELLOW BASTARD” was written specifically for the film.
All in all this film was exactly what I wanted and hoped for from a Sin City movie. It definitely could have gone the way of The Spirit, also a Frank Miller film, or it could have gone the way of the Matrix trilogy. In other words very badly. With Rodriguez and his Troublemaker Studios in control, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, if you were like me, you will be overjoyed at seeing this series continue and in the best ways possible. My only issue, if I were to name one, is that the two short stories Miller penned for this film specifically that was not a part of the original comics were a little weaker than the others but when mixed together the movie as a whole flows like a smokey fine 18 year scotch on its way to warm your belly. (– Benn Robbins)
Into the Storm
|Warner Bros. / Released 11/18/14|
In the span of a single day, the town of Silverton is ravaged by an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes. The entire town is at the mercy of the erratic and deadly cyclones, even as storm trackers predict the worst is yet to come. Most people seek shelter, while others run towards the vortex, testing how far a storm chaser will go for that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Extras include featurettes.
Last Word: Into the Storm is a fictional film presenting itself as a found footage documentary by combining the footage of a professional storm-chaser documentary; a high school, time capsule project; and footage shot on the townspeople’s smartphones, go-pro’s, and digital cameras. In other words, the film attempts to marry a typical action disaster film with a commentary on the frequency of “the storm of the century” becoming a yearly occurrence.
Donnie (Max Deacon) is a high school senior in charge of putting together the graduating class’s time capsule video project. He and his brother, Trey (Nathan Kress), constantly gripping camera in hand, film every mundane moment including the typical teenager/parent arguments with their father, Gary (Richard Armatage), who happens to be the assistant high school principal. Donnie sneaks off to help his high school crush film her internship application. Trey and Dad head to the graduation ceremony, where Trey sets up multiple cameras to film the ceremony. Meanwhile, the storm chasing documentary team, headed up by Matt Walsh and Sarah Wayne Callies, are racing toward the town in hopes of catching a tornado. With all cameras in place, a stream of record breaking tornadoes ensue.
While the idea of showing the story through multiple cameras is an interesting concept, the execution falls flat. The meaningful dramatic scenes “caught” on camera seemed forced and in some cases laughable. The filmmakers set up the canon that all the footage is being filmed by someone on the scene, and then they break the canon when it comes time for some high-end effects shots. There are shots of the tornadoes that no character would have been able to shoot from that angle or simply weren’t present at the time. Terrible dialogue is passed off as just being real people speaking. By trying to make the film feel ultra realistic, it makes it feel manufactured.
Into the Storm could have been a thought provoking film about the impact of climate change and the devastation it is wrecking on our communities, or it could have been a hair raising, action film. Instead it is just a C-grade disaster film that tries to get by on clever packaging and fails completely. (– Elizabeth Robbins)
The Compleat Al
|Shout! Factory / Released 11/11/14|
The Compleat Al is the amazing, hilarious, and not-entirely-true story of Weird Al Yankovic, the Grammy award-winning master of musical parody and rock and roll comedy. The mockumentary takes you behind the scenes, beginning with his childhood years, his high school and college days, up through his early-career rise to stardom. This concocted chronicle also contains moments from AL-TV and footage from his trip to Japan, and a somewhat embellished version of how he received permission from Michael Jackson for Eat It.And to top it off, The Compleat Al contains eight “Weird Al”video classics: Ricky, I Love Rocky Road, the award-winning Eat It, I Lost on Jeopardy, “, “This Is the Life, Like a Surgeon, One More Minute, and Dare to Be Stupid.
Quincy, M.E.: Season 7
|Shout! Factory / Released 11/11/14|
Jack Klugman returns as the City of Angels’ most brilliant and uncompromising medical examiner in Season Seven of the hit series Quincy, M.E. Investigating suspicious deaths for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, the strong-willed Quincy frequently confronted some of the era’s toughest social issues. Season Seven’s twenty-four episodes (originally airing on NBC’s 1981-82 television season) find the intrepid doctor taking on cases involving fraternity hazing, toxic waste, gun control, milk and drunk driving. Frequently cited as an influence on today’s successful crime investigation dramas, Quincy, M.E. Season 7 also features guest appearances by Mimi Rogers, Tyne Daly, Terrance Tendercoin, Jonathan Frakes and Dixie Carter.
Gabriel Iglesias Stand-Up Revolution: Season Three
|Comedy Central / Released 11/11/14|
Gabriel Iglesias returns for the third season of the hit Comedy Central Series Stand-Up Revolution! This 2-disc DVD includes all new hilarious material with animated segments of Gabriel’s most popular jokes, extended episodes, and an outstanding selection of bonus features. Get ready to laugh your head off, again! Extras include Extended and Additional Sets, and “Hey It’s Fluffy!” Animated Shorts,
Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1-6
|Lionsgate / Released 11/11/14|
The Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1-6 gift set takes you on a mind-bending journey into our deep past with all six seasons of the series including 12 episodes from Season 6 that have never been released on DVD. From over 10,000 years of the most credible evidence unearthed, we’ll explore the ancient and mysterious, from sacred relics, artifacts and wall carvings to technologies, places and lore, all in a search for the humankind’s origins and even the secrets of the universe. New interpretations of ancient texts reveal new historical possibilities: Were ancient gods really aliens? Was Satan really humanity’s ally in the Bible? This groundbreaking History Channel series on H2 also uncovers the alien dimension within secret codes, deadly cults, mega-disasters and plagues; alien connections to dinosaurs, NASA and even the Third Reich; and considers time travel, underwater UFO activity, ancient martian civilizations, the possibility that some children have alien DNA – and if you can believe it, much more. Experience the trip of a lifetime (or many) in this mother of all gift sets.
The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension Limited Edition Box
|Image Entertainment / Released 11/18/14|
In The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension Limited Edition Box Set, Rod Serling’s groundbreaking Original Series (1959-1964) and the classic 1980s Series (1985-1989) are together in one limited edition box set.
In addition to the two beloved series (225 episodes combined), and more than 20 hours of bonus features listed (including commentaries, featurettes, interviews, the American Masters documentary Rod Serling: Submitted For Your Approval, Serling interviews, lectures and appearances, cast and crew interviews, original sponsor billboards and isolated music scores), The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension Limited Edition Box Set contains one of four possible collectible 1960s Twilight Zone comic books. Limited Edition packaging features 3D black and white lenticulars and a serialized number on each of the box sets.
|Lionsgate / Released 11/11/14|
To impress the football team and the girl of his dreams, Sam dares to enter an old amusement park, but when Jenny follows him in, they quickly realize that it’s overrun by monsters and they’ll be lucky if they can get out alive. Starring genre icons Tim Curry, Lance Henriksen, Brad Dourif, Michael Winslow and Sean Young. Extras include featurettes.
|Lionsgate / Released 11/18/14|
When the newly adopted daughter of American couple Steven (Ryan Phillippe) and Shannon (Rachelle Lefevre) goes missing while the family is abroad, they quickly discover that all is not what it seems with the adoption agency – and find themselves in a fight for their lives when they encounter Benjamin (JohnCusack) and Reigert (Jacki Weaver), the culprits behind a high-stakes human-trafficking ring. To expose the truth and save their daughter, Steven and Shannon will have to risk everything… including their lives. Extras include commentary, deleted/extended scenes, inteviews, featurette and music video.
|Highway Goat / Released 11/18/14|
Is traveling broke and hungry the new virus? Just as the original hobos of the early 20th century were scorned by the mainstream of society, so too are today’s train riders. Over a year of traveling, the young train riders in Freeload seek adventure and answers on America’s freight trains. Freeload is a dive into a beggars existence – it is a ride through America’s backyard – it is a musical endeavor that feels like a drama – it is a sociological examination of the ignored. The allure of the road is infectious. One never forgets freedom once felt. Freeload is a portrait of the modern train-riding culture. This movie follows Blackbird, a lost teenager searching for the answers to life. Ponyboy and Rachel, the young lovers, attempt to settle down in Texas, but the freedom of the road lure them back. Brothers Skrappe and Christmas – separated most of their lives – try to rekindle their distant brotherhood. Dice, the soft-spoken mystic will risk everything to ride the rails.
|Xlrator / Released 11/18/14|
Kylie Bucknell is forced to return to the house she grew up in when the court places her on home detention. Her punishment is made all the more unbearable by the fact she has to live there with her mother Miriam – a well-intentioned blabbermouth who’s convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie dismisses Miriam’s superstitions as nothing more than a distraction from a life occupied by boiled vegetables & small-town gossip. However, when she too becomes privy to unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, she begins to wonder whether she’s inherited her overactive imagination, or if the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit who’s not particularly thrilled about her return.
I Am Santa Claus
|Virgil Films / Released 11/11/14|
Everyone thinks of Santa Claus as a magical figure without flaws, but the men who keep his legend alive, real-bearded professional Santas, are rarely anything like the jolly old Saint Nick we’ve all grown up knowing. In reality, the mall Santa in your cherished children’s photo has problems just like the rest of us. Even the most jovial of men fall victim to divorce, job loss, insecurity and even the occasional hangover.Tommy Avallone’s documentary I Am Santa Claus – featuring Hall of Fame pro wrestler (and producer of the film) Mick Foley, who knows a thing or two about make-believe – follows the lives of five professional Santas for an entire year, as they anticipate and prepare for Christmas season and then return to their “real” lives during the off-season. We see who they actually are: flawed, flesh-and-blood men who nevertheless feel a great responsibility to protect the spotless reputation of the “Red Suit.” Also appearing in the film are pro wrestling’s Roddy Piper and Jerry Lawler, iconic actor Sid Haig and the actor who calls himself … Santa Claus. Extras include commentary and featurette.
Not Another Celebrity Movie
|Entertainment 7 / Released 11/18/14|
Not Another Celebrity Movie adds a unique twist to the spoof genre as the talented cast portrays the biggest cinematic icons there are: the celebrities themselves. In a parody on Oceans 11 with a celebrity look-alike cast, bad boy Charlie Sheen hires Brad Pitt, George Clooney and eight other celebrities to lead a heist to kidnap Justin Bieber during a concert in Las Vegas. Charlie Sheen is down on his luck, living with pornstars ever since his relationship fell apart with Paris Hilton and replaced on his network series, losing the role to Ashton Kutcher. When Johnny Depp brings him a new drug to try out, Charlie gives it a whirl. Instead of finding stoner happiness Charlie is suddenly obsessed with Justin Bieber who he has just seen on TV, thinking Bieber is his illegitimate son.
Charlie tries to reach out to the Beebs, but Bieber’s manager Usher gets a restraining order and makes Charlie give up his quest until he hears about Bieber ‘s upcoming concert at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Things get complicated when Charlie and the team realize Paris Hilton is dating Usher and the Beiber is not actually performing on stage but inside the casino vault with an hologram displaying his every move on stage. Charlie turns to Oceans 11 heroes Brad Pitt and George Clooney and along with their help, hires a team including Lady Gaga, Robert Deniro, Tom Cruise, Mark Zuckerberg, Angelina Jolie, Kanye West and finally Donald Trump, to pull off an elaborate heist to kidnap Bieber.
When Comedy Went to School
|First Run Features / Released 11/18/14|
Why are there so many Jewish comedians? When Comedy Went to School answers this question with an entertaining portrait of this country’s greatest generation of comics – the generation that includes the likes of Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl, and Jerry Stiller, all of whom make appearances in the film, sharing hilarious and personal experiences. The answer is also found in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains, aka the Borscht Belt, where Jewish immigrants transformed lush farmland into the 20th century’s largest resort complex. Those Catskill hotels and bungalow colonies provided the setting for a remarkable group of young Jewish-American comedians to hone their craft and become worldwide legends. It was truly When Comedy Went to School. Extras include 5 Shorts (Newsreel • She’s More to be Pitied • Friar’s Club Roundtable • Mrs. Schwartz Comes Back • The Future of the Catskills)
Jeff Dunham: All Over the Map
|Paramount / Released 11/18/14|
Filmed in front of live audiences across the globe, Jeff Dunham’s All Over The Map takes Jeff and his popular characters to new locations with the hilarious comedy his fans know and love. Extras include featurettes.
22 Jump Street
|Sony / Released 11/18/14|
After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship. Extras include commentary, deleted/extended scenes, and featurettes.
Last Word: Sequels are a dangerous game to get into. So many times we see the first film blow us away with its originality and we simply cannot get enough. It is because of this that we so often see Hollywood churning out sequels like hotcakes. The audience begs for them and the studios profit off of them. No one knows this, and no one makes it clear that they know it, more than 22 Jump Street. This film exposes and brilliantly takes advantage of all the imperfections and clichés of a sequel. It somehow recycles jokes while at the same time making them freshly comical and blatantly points out that while they are more or less doing the exact same thing as they did in 21 Jump Street, they’re going to make us laugh out loud either way.
22 Jump Street wastes no time picking up right where we left off and they don’t try to hide it. After a painfully funny scene where Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) tells Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) that they are getting a duplicate assignment only in college, the mismatched yet perfect combo of Doug and Brad McQuaid are back in action at Metro City State College. Much like the first film, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) informs Schmidt and Jenko that the school has been taken over by a new super drug and the team has to “infiltrate the dealer and find the supplier.” Sound familiar? The amount of time spent on driving home that this film is the identical set up as its predecessor is somehow absolutely hysterical and only adds quality to the film. There is also no question that listening to Ice Cube tell Hill and Tatum to “Shut the f*ck up!” will always make us laugh.
Hill and Tatum take seriously different paths once they reach college which is where the true comedy of the film takes its form. Jenko finds his calling with the frat boy football players and slides into the role of the meat head. He immediately clicks with quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell). These two have a ‘bro-mance’ that is absolutely overflowing with homoerotic innuendo poking fun at this type of relationship we so often see in college. On the other side of the coin is Schmidt’s path into the artsy crowd of the school. A Combination of slam poetry, walks of shame, and moments of finding oneself perfectly play on a lot of the typical characters you find at a school.
Much like the first film Hill and Tatum find themselves at a cross roads as their differences form a wedge between the two of them. The homoerotic theme continues as they even have a therapy session as if they are a couple going through relationship issues. Even when the film so obviously is making fun of itself it still manages to make us cheer when the duo overcomes their differences and works together. While these two seem like the most mismatched pairing you could ever think of they are simply a riot together. In the previous film it was Hill who got to relive a school experience in a better light and this time Tatum finds a positive path. The way these two deal with their differing journeys is fantastic. We see Tatum chasing a dream of what could be a superb mockery of college athletic life. Hill’s spiral into a loner student trying to fit in and find himself provides hilarious moments that are witty and fresh.
The story is such a quality satire of the typical buddy cop storyline while at the same time throwing in new and entertaining additions. The similarities joked about between the sequel to the movie and the sequel to the police assignment is genius and side slitting. Surprise villain, Mercedes (Jillian Bell) keeps us doubled over with laughter with brilliant jokes about Jonah Hill’s age and one of the most hysterical fight/sex scenes that has ever existed. Tatum puts on another stellar comedic performance clinging to the moronic yet lovable character he created in the first go around. The times when we can quite literally see the wheels spinning in his head while trying to solve the simplest of issues is performed perfectly and always produces a chuckle. Yet again Jonah Hill is best when making fun of himself. His clumsy and sensitive character is always worth a laugh when trying to picture as a cop. It’s even better when watching him attempt physical and athletic obstacles.
What is so impressive about 22 Jump Street is that somehow within the exact same story line as the first film they managed to bring us an original and fun story. A lot of that has to do with the relentless making fun of itself but the bit never wears thin and each joke has its own flare. Against all odds, for the second time, this gang produces another top notch film that is an absolute pleasure to watch. Even while the end credits make fun of the possibility, if they keep this up I hope in 10 years I’ll be sitting down to watch 32 Jump Street. (– Dan Powers)
The Sopranos: The Complete Series
|HBO Home Video / Released 11/4/14|
For six seasons, millions of viewers loyally tuned in to HBO to watch the drama unfold as modern-day mob boss Tony Soprano juggled responsibilities between his family and his other “family.” Hailed as “a remarkable achievement” by the Wall Street Journal and “the greatest show in TV history” by Vanity Fair, David Chase’s drama series The Sopranos stars three-time Emmy winners James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Edie Falco as Tony’s wife Carmela, plus Lorraine Bracco as therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Emmy winner Michael Imperioli as Tony’s nephew Christopher Moltisanti and Dominic Chianese as Uncle Junior. Other series regulars include Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano, Jr., Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano, Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts, Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, Aida Turturro as Tony’s sister Janice, Steven R. Schirripa as Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri, John Ventimiglia as Artie Bucco, Vincent Curatola as Johnny Sack, Frank Vincent as Phil Leotardo and Ray Abruzzo as Little Carmine. Extras include documentary, commentaries, lost scenes, round table interviews, and featurettes.
Last Word: It’s the series that changed the television medium forever, The Sopranos finally arrives on Blu-ray, looking and sounding terrific. Forget the accolades and awards, the strength of the series comes from the talent on both sides of the camera. With Tony Soprano, David Chase created a character, who by all accounts should be dismissed as not much more than a horrible human being, but from the opening of the pilot, a crippling panic attack humanizes him and sets the complicated tone for the series ahead. Much of the credit has to go to the late James Gandolfini, who is as intimidating as he is endearing. The series’ concept also puts the character in therapy, revealing the many layers as we get the opportunity to not only get into his head, but also delve into his background allowing the audience to learn about the life experiences that made him who he is. The regular cast is amazing, but throughout the six seasons, the series featured some amazing actors including Drea de Matteo, Vincent Curatola, Frank Vincent, Vincent Pastore, Federico Castelluccio, Jerry Adler, Arthur J. Nascarella, Max Casella, Nancy Marchand, Joe Pantoliano, Steve Buscemi, Peter Bogdanovich, David Proval, Louis Lombardi, Frankie Valli, Annabella Sciorra, Peter Riegert, Michael Kelly, John Heard, Dania Ramirez, Julianna Margulies, Robert Loggia, Ari Graynor, Will McCormack, Tim Daly, David Strathairn, Robert Patrick, Paul Dano, and Matt Servitto. The Sopranos changed television forever, allowing dense storytelling to be the result of the best writing, casting, acting, filmmaking, and music to elevate the medium into an art. Highest recommendation.
|Image Entertainment / Released 11/11/14|
Former hotshot racecar driver Peter Roberts (Thomas Jane) traded the winner’s circle for safety, stability, a pile of
debts and a 9 to 5 job as a beginners’ driving instructor. But his life
shifts into overdrive when mysterious out-of-towner Simon Keller (John
Cusack) shows up for a driving lesson and hijacks Peter
to be his getaway driver in a $9 million heist. Now these unlikely
fugitives are on a white knuckle race to stay one step ahead of the
mobsters who want their money back and the corrupt cops who will kill
anyone who gets in their way. Peter and Simon just might have half a
chance, if they can stick to the plan, drive faster than the bullets
being fired at them…and don’t kill each other first.