(KUTV) It's another incredibly varied week with some hits, a few misses and a rather peculiar George A. Romero box set.
Amityville: The Awakening
Some franchises just don't know when to quit. "Amityville: The Awakening" is the tenth film in the Amityville series. Rather than returning to the source material, "Awakening" tells the story of a desperate mother who moves her family into the legendary home in hopes of using its ambiance to heal her comatose son. It's not a particularly good film, but the franchise hasn't exactly set the standard when it comes to the quality of its sequels. If you're looking for a middle-of-the-road horror film with "PG-13" scares, you certainly could do worse. You could also do better.
I had high expectations for "Atomic Blonde." Any film featuring Charlize Theron is worthy of a look, but I was particularly looking forward to seeing her in another action role. Sadly, "Atomic Blonde" never really lives up to its potential. It's beautifully shot, but has little to no substance once you get beyond the gorgeous visuals. I hoped for a film on par with the slick, violent and engrossing John Wick franchise, but the world of "Atomic Blonde" only goes skin deep. The 4K presentation is solid, but I had forgotten how dark the general look of the movie is. Still, those glorious moments when the neon glow emanate from the screen it is a sight to behold.
Many television series have come to an abrupt end with more than a few loose ends left to tie. When "Brigsby Bear," a seemingly popular children's program, ends without warning James Pope, now a grown man, sets out to finish the show's narrative. What James has yet to figure out is that his favorite children's show isn't nearly as popular as he'd like to think. In fact, the program was made specifically for him. But "Brigsby Bear" is the least of his worries as he also discovers that the man and woman who have been taking care of him aren't his real parents.
"Brigsby Bear" is a strange, but enjoyable journey from "Saturday Night Live" alums Dave McCary and Kyle Mooney with Mooney staring as James.
In this Corner of the World
"In this Corner of the World" is a critically acclaimed Japanese animated film that takes place in and around World War II. The story focuses on a young woman who marries and moves to a new city to be with her husband's family as the threat of the Pacific War pushes closer to them.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
"The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" comes to digital platforms this release. The film follows up the events of the first film as Surly and his friends look to thwart plans to tear down their homes to build an amusement park. I wasn't particularly enamored with the first film and found the second to be more of the same.
George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn
"George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn" is a strange little collection of films that were released between Romero's debut, 1968's "Night of the Living Dead," and his second zombie feature, 1978's "Dawn of the Dead." During this period Romero tried his hand at different genres. "There's Always Vanilla," his second film, is a messy romantic comedy that never quite comes together.
Romero's third film, "Season of the Witch" (AKA "Hungry Wives" and "Jack's Wife"), is something of an oddity with a surprising amount of potential as a rumors curculate around a neighborhood that one of the neighbors is practicing witchcraft. Rather than being repulsed by her neighbor's behavoir, Joan, one of the housewives develops an interest in the dark arts. The problem with the film is that we'll never get to se the film that Romero made. The film's distributor cut down the director's original version that ran 130 minutes down to 89 minutes. Of the cut footage only 15 minutes still exist. This 104-minute version of the film still feels truncated and incomplete.
The third film in the collection, "The Crazies," is easily the most essential of the lot. The film finds Romero returning to the horror genre as a biological weapon is accidently unleashed on a small American town. Thenarrative follows the military as they attempt to cover up the incident and the townfolk as they simply try to stay alive as those around them go insane.
Interestingly enough the set does not include "Martin," Romero's quasi-vampire film, which is one of his most underappreciated works.
Writer Taylor Sheridan ("Hell or High Water," "Sicario") adds director to his resume with "Wind River." a film about a game hunter (Jeremy Renner) who is pulled in to help a young FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as she investigates the murder of a young Native American woman. One of the better films of 2017, "Wind River" is a thriller that quietly pulls you in before throwing you headfirst into an ending that will rattle you.
Other New Releases
The day before Halloween I found myself sitting in a movie theater watching a Christmas film. It wasn't by choice, sometimes being a critic has its drawbacks, but it did prepare me to sit down with "Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is You," an animated feature that finds Mariah, a young girl, trying to convince her parents to get her a puppy. To prove herself, Mariah tries to take care of her uncle's dog, but the dog refuses to behave. As a result, the celebration of Christmas is suddenly in question. For the kids.
Also this week is the thriller "Unlocked," a high-adrenaline picture about a CIA agent trying to stop a biological attack starring Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom,Toni Collette, Michael Douglas and John Malkovich.
On the television front we have two popular genre series as "Doctor Who: The Complete Tenth Series" and "Preacher: Season Two" arrive. "Doctor Who," the longstanding BBC program sees Peter Capaldi wrapping up his run as the Doctor. The second season of "Preacher," a supernatural thriller about a small-town preacher (Dominic Cooper) who is possessed by Genesis, a spirit born from the mating of a good and evil.
This week's digital releases include the aformentioned "Amityville: The Awakening," "Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is You" and "In this Corner of the World" along with "Logan Lucky," Stephen Soderbergh's hesit film starring Adam Driver and Channing Tatum as brothers and "Tulip Fever," the maligned period drama about an artist (Dame DeHaan) who falls in love with a married woman (Alicia Vikander) he has been asked to paint a portrait of.
With Kenneth Branagh's take on Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" posting surprisingly strong numbers at the domestic box office it makes perfect sense that a trio of related releases would be coming out.
"The Best of Agatha Christie: Volume One" features television adaptations of "An Then There Were None" with Miranda Richardson, Sam Neill and Charles Dance; "Five Little Pigs" with David Suchet and Aidan Gillen and "Death on the Nile" with Suchet and Emily Blunt.
"The Best of Agatha Christie: Volume Two" features television adaptations of "The Witness for the Prosecution" with Kim Cattrall, Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough; "Three Act Tragedy" with David Suchet, and Martin Shaw and "Hallowe'en Party" with Zoe Wanamaker and Suchet.
"Murder on the Orient Express" features fan-favorite David Suchet as Poirot in this television adaptation of one of Christie's most famous stories. The cast also includes the likes of Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"), Hugh Bonneville ("Downton Abbey"), David Morrissey ("The Walking Dead") and Eileen Atkins ("The Crown")
Once upon a time Gerry Anderson was the creative force behind television series like "Thunderbirds" and "Fireball XL5." "The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson" culls together rare pilots for television shows that never went to series like "Dick Spanner, P.I.," "The Investigator" and "The Day After Tomorrow."
Catalog: Art House
Digging into the vault of catalog titles, the Criterion Collection gives us "Desert Hearts," Donna Deitch's adaptation of Jane Rule's novel about Vivian Bell, a woman, who is divorcing her husband while discovering that she is drawn to Cay Rivvers, the lesbian daughter of a ranch owner.
Elsewhere we have "Funeral Parade of Roses," a rather insane voyage into the life of Eddie, a transvestite, and those who surround him. Released in 1969, Toshio Matsumoto's film is a psychedelic and often hypnotic experience culled from a 4K restoration by Cinelicious.
Also from Criterion this month is "Le Samourai," a French-Italian film about a hitman who is witnessed performing his job and needs to come up with an alibi to cover his tracks.
On the horror front there are two collections of interest: "The Paul Naschy Collection II" and "Psycho: Complete 4-Movie Collection." Paul Naschy was a Spanish actor/writer/director who appeared in numerous films starting in the 1960s up until his death in 2009. Naschy was particularly known for his portrayal of classic monsters, particularly werewolves. This set focuses on five films from the early-to-mid 1970s. It features "Hunchback of the Morgue," "Exorcism," "A Dragonfly for Each Corpse," "The Werewolf and the Yeti" and "The Devil's Possessed." This just barely begins to scratch the surface of Naschy's work. There were nearly 25 other films featuring Naschy during this small period of his career.
The "Psycho: Complete 4-Movie Collection," is fairly self-explanatory as it contains Alfred Hitchcock's classic film along with the three sequels. I've never watched any of the sequels, although it would seem that my assumption that they were far inferior to the original isn't backed up by the critical response to "Psycho II" and to a lesser extent "Psycho III." This might be a set I'll need to visit and see how it all shakes out.