In 1979, Ridley Scott directed Alien a near perfect blend of science fiction and horror and one of the greatest films ever made. Seven years later, James Cameron’s sequel Aliens amped up the action and defined that genre. Two more sequels found diminishing returns. The lesser said about the Alien vs Predator franchise the better. In 2012, Scott returned to the series with Prometheus a sort-of prequel. While I enjoyed it more than most, it is still a very flawed film. I can’t say that Alien: Covenant was a return to form, because it's riddled with problems, but definitely goes
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This week's new Blu-ray releases include the new Alien film, an update on old Archie, a couple of Criterions, and more.
A pretty light week brings us an Ernest Hemingway adaptation, an Arthurian legend from Guy Ritchie, and more.
Ernest Hemingway is one of my all-time favorite writers. He had a way of cutting out all the flab from his stories, getting right down to the bone. Yet for all his spare masculinity, there is a tenderness to his stories, an emotional quality that you rarely find anywhere else. That style also lends itself well to the movies. Unlike a lot of writers, Hemingway never spent a lot of time with his characters inward thoughts, his stories are full of action verbs, of people doing things. It's easy to see why nearly all of his novels and short stories
This week's new releases include some fun looking SteelBooks plus a Tom Hanks thriller, a couple of interesting documentaries and more.
I bought a house a year ago. It is the first house I ever purchased. I’ve always been a renter. Never really stayed in one rental for very long either. In the twenty years since my first apartment, the longest I’ve ever stayed in one abode is about two years. The thing about regularly moving to a new place is that you are constantly rearranging your furniture. What fits well in one rental house may not fit at all in an apartment. There is constant flux - expanding and contracting - from place to place. But now that I own
Hope you have a nest egg ready to buy these releases.
Reading Mat's Pick of the Week column over the years, it's quite clear that he is a horror-movie fan. Personally, I have always found myself more attracted to comedy. From great wit to utter silliness, there's just something so appealing about being brought to fits of laughter. Albert Brooks has a great comic sensibility. The third film he directed, Lost in America, is a comedy classic about David and Linda Howard (Brooks and Julie Hagerty), a married couple that rejects the modern life of the '80s by dropping out "like in Easy Rider" and traveling the country in an RV.
This week brings us another King Kong story, a couple of interesting looking TV shows, a weird-looking Tarkovsky film, and more.
What is it about a giant ape wreaking havoc that enthralls us so? Since his inception in 1933, King Kong has become one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. That original film was a huge success and remains a paragon of early special-effects movies. It was rebooted by Dino De Laurentis in 1976 and again by Peter Jackson in 2005 and now he’s come to the big screen again with Kong: Skull Island. It gets props for at least not telling the exact same story as the original did, though its not exactly a fount of originality.
A very full week includes releases of a cool looking jungle movie, a Doctor Who spin-off, a Prime Suspect prequel, plus films from Arrow, Criterion and much more.
I’ve always loved jungle-adventure movies. There’s just something really exciting and mysterious about the jungle. It's exotic and foreign, beautiful and terrifying. It's teeming with life and can kill you in a heartbeat. There remain to this day parts of jungles that have never been fully explored. Think about that - we've had people on the moon and sent ships to the outer edges of the solar system, but never documented parts of our own planet. Setting a film inside that madness is thrilling. The best part of Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place in a jungle. King Kong
This week's new releases include Terrence Malick's latest, an obscure Japanese trilogy, a WWII drama, and more.
It is a grand July 4th weekend and everybody is out cooking burgers, drinking beer, soaking up radiation at the beach, and watching overly priced explosives light up the night. We might be going to the movies but nobody is interested in buying them to sit at home in our darkened living rooms. Or at least that’s the theory anyway. Not mine, mind you, as I’ve already watched a few DVDs this weekend and hope to watch a couple more before going back to work on Wednesday, but those who officially release Blu-rays to the chosen stores seem to think
This week brings us a whole bunch of horror, a poignant love trilogy and a lawnmower man.
Memory is a funny thing. I can remember very clearly the first time I watched Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I remember the apartment we were living in, which dates the viewing to around 2006-2007. I remember that small living room. I remember watching it on the floor. I remember my wife sitting on the couch doing something else - probably grading papers or studying for an exam so she wasn’t paying close attention to the movie. It was the weekend, either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. I remember all that but hardly anything about the movie
This week brings us Keanu Reeves kicking butt once again, plus vampires, LEGO Batman, fairy tales, and more.
I mostly outgrew action films a couple of decades ago. I came of age during the late '80s/early '90s, which I’d argue created some of the very best and very worst action films. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal - if those names don’t mean anything to you, then you missed out on some kick-ass, utterly ridiculous action flicks. During those years, I watched nearly every action movie I could get my hands on. I loved every explosion, every increasingly gigantic gun, every dumb one-liner. But, as noted, at some point I got tired of them. Explosions became boring, car chases
It's a packed week of new releases featuring a beauty, a beast, a cure for wellness, a young Pope, and much, much more.
Listen closely and you can hear a million voices suddenly cry out in anger that I did not choose Beauty and the Beast as my pick this week. I did consider it, but ultimately decided that I am simply not the fan it deserves. Were my wife writing this article, she’d be all over it, but as it's me and not her, I decided to go in a different direction. A Cure For Wellness is a psychological thriller from Gore Verbinski. An ambitious executive is sent to a mysterious “wellness center” in the Swiss Alps to rescue his company’s CEO
A great release week includes, Martin Scorsese picking some world cinema, two silent films, a Christian movie, action, horror, and more.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was really less than two decades when me and my soon-to-be-wife were living in Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington would normally be a small town in the middle of farm country were it not for the university. But getting an influx of 30,000 students every year plus all the professors, administration, and people needed to keep such a large institution running (not to mention all the various shops, restaurants, bars, etc. that feed off of it) turned what would have been a one-horse town into a rather metropolitan oasis. It wasn’t big enough (nor
This week brings us a new Wolverine, a great wall, a socially conscious horror film, a weird French boxed set, werewolves, thugs, midwives, and more.
I’ve written in these pages on several occasions about how I’ve evolved in my opinions of comic-book movies several times over the years. You can track my feelings pretty well with each X-Men movie. When the first X-Men film came out in 2000, I knew hardly anything about the characters. I was not yet into comic books in any real way, nor interested in the movies based upon them. But there was a lot of fanboy excitement about it (and it's interesting to think about how fanboy excitement has changed in the last 17 years - now you get non-stop
A pretty slow week brings us zombies, mummys, Martians, Ozu and the return of Xander Cage.
When I was a boy, I was what they would nowadays call a gamer. It started with a little Texas Instruments device my father bought when I was maybe six years old. It had a little keyboard and a place to insert cartridges to play some very rudimentary games. A year or two later, we got an Atari 2600 and I was completely hooked. In 1985, the first Nintendo Entertainment System came out and I played it nearly every waking hour. My brother used to taunt me about it calling me a “Nintendo Nerd” or “NN” for short. He was
This week brings us Michael Mann's heist classic, girls in prison, serial killers, mutants and much more.
Though they’ve both delved into self parody over the last decade or two, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro will go down in history as two of the greatest actors to ever be filmed. Surprisingly, they’ve only appeared together on screen once (The Godfather, Part II doesn’t count as they don’t share any screen time) in Michael Mann’s 1995 thriller Heat. It's a great film with great performances all around. De Niro plays the mastermind of a professional heist crew that stick to a strict moral code. Pacino is the cop chasing him down. Though it has some nice action
This week's new releases include a Studio Ghibli-esque animated film, the director's cut of Gene Siskel's favorite movie, a big boxed set of some cult classics and much more.
I’ve been writing this column for almost three years now. That’s roughly 156 picks of the week. Yet, I’m still not entirely sure why I pick some films. Or rather what is it that makes me (or anyone) think I’ll like certain films over others? Some weeks include films that I’ve seen and love. Some weeks have films released in special packages. But I’d say the majority of my picks are films that I’ve not seen but are very much interested in. The question becomes what makes me want to see one film more than another? What makes me pick
This week brings us a new musical, an immortal monster, several Valerian Borowczyk films, a Japanese film about noodles, and more.
Every few years, it seems, Hollywood will make a new musical. It will catch on like gangbusters and a slew of think pieces will come out raving about how audiences are finally, once again, ready to enjoy musicals like they did in the old days. Then just as quickly it all dies down and we go back to watching another reboot, another sequel, another damn Transformers movie. La La Land is the latest musical in this feeble attempt to revive the genre. It stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as a struggling jazz pianist. They fall
This week brings us a film about McDonalds, a Studio Ghibli TV movie, James McAvoy playing a bunch of different characters in one film and much more.
It is not exactly controversial for me to say I hate McDonald's. I’d go as far to say I loathe them. Their burgers are small and unappetizing. Their chicken is bland; their fish is gross. Even their fries - supposedly the one thing they do really well - I find rather boring, and too salty. Yet, I still occasionally eat there. When I’m on the Interstate, and hungry, sometimes I’ll stop at a McDonald's if there is nothing else at the exit. Or if one of their restaurants sit next to the hotel I’m staying at, I’ll walk over rather
This week brings us NASA's untold history, a mad king, some nice-looking horror collections, and much more.
If you aren’t utterly amazed by space travel, then you aren’t paying attention - especially in the early days of NASA. They worked out ridiculously complicated math problems using a pencil and a slide rule. My phone has more computing power than their big mainframes did. Some of the people doing those calculations were young African American women. Hidden Figures tell their story. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae as the mathematicians. It's received some good review and has done well at the box office. I’m a sucker for heart-warming historical stories and this one looks
This week brings us the latest Star Wars, a new Jim Jarmusch film, and a raunchy comedy.
I first saw Star Wars…well, I don’t actually remember the first time I saw Star Wars. That’s A New Hope I’m talking about. I was only one when it hit theaters so it wasn’t until it started showing on cable or home video that I first saw it. I do remember watching Return of the Jedi in theaters on several occasions and playing with all the action figures so by 1983, I was certainly a fan. My mother says that A New Hope used to run all the time on HBO way back when and that me and my brother
This week brings us a Martin Scorsese film about faith, some fantastic beasts, our own planet in HD, and much more.
In my very first Five Cool Things article, I was excited about the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Silence. I also noted that I had really enjoyed the book. What I didn’t mention was that my copy of the book had a bunch of pages missing. For the last 20 pages or so, every other pages was blank. It was a horrible way to finish what was really a very good novel right at its conclusion. I learned what happened at the end in my class and always meant to buy another copy, but never did. As I’ve surely mentioned numerous
This week brings us a gangster flick from Ben Affleck, a disgusting one from John Waters, singing animals, and much more.
I’m a sucker for gangster stories. There is something utterly fascinating about people who push aside all of society's rules and take what they want for themselves. Gangsters are often not the smartest, strongest, or the best but rather they are the most willing to use violence for their own means. Most of us avoid trouble whenever we can so when someone comes along willing to openly commit violence the vast majority of people shirk away. Those who don’t get a beating. In real life, I find that sort of thing appealing, but on film it's really interesting. Dennis Lehane
This week brings us Denzel Washington in a critically praised drama, Will Smith in a critically hated one, a sci-fi adventure with Chris Pratt and much more.
During that ridiculous let's-bring-in-a-tour-bus-full-of-common-folk-to-the-Oscars bit a few weeks ago, host Jimmy Kimmel asked one of the tourists who her favorite actor was. She pointed and simply said “him.” I turned to my wife and said, “It's Denzel Washington.” Of course it was. Everybody loves Denzel Washington. He’s one of the greatest living actors we have. He’s won all the awards. He’s beloved by just about everyone - men, women, African Americans, Caucasians, liberals, and conservatives alike. He happily mixes it up by playing in straight-up action flicks and small dramatic films. Last year, he was in both The Magnificent Seven
This week brings us the best Disney music in a decade, a critically praised biopic, a Criterion drama, a creepy flick from Portugal, and Japanese animation.
I’ve always liked Disney movies. but for the most part I’ve waited until they’ve reached home video (and have gained a favorable critical consensus) before watching them. Well, that’s the way things went until I had a daughter. Now, I pretty much see them in the theater, or at the very least as soon as they come out on Blu-ray, no matter the critical or popular opinion. So it was with Moana. It came out this summer while we were visiting the wife’s family in Kentucky so we took the in-laws along for the ride. I was a little worried
This week brings us an Oscar upset,
We cut the cord year ago and our cheap antenna doesn’t really work in our new house. We pick up a few channels but not ABC which carried the Oscars last night. I had all but resigned myself to not watching the ceremony this year and in fact wrote out several paragraphs for this article about how I wasn’t going to get to watch. Then my genius wife moved the antennae upstairs to our bedroom TV and got all the channels. I missed the first twenty minutes or so and then another twenty minutes or so in the middle putting
This week brings us another Amy Adams pick, a couple of Criterions, Mel Gibson's return, a Doctor Who Christmas special, and more.
As I sit down to write out why Nocturnal Animals is my pick of this week, I realize I know next to nothing about the film. I know it stars Amy Adams and that it's gotten some critical buzz. I also really like its title. But other than that - nothing. Yet here I am ready to make it my pick. It's not like one of those weeks where there is nothing else coming out either. There’s a Doctor Who Christmas special, an Oscar-nominated Mel Gibson flick, and a couple of wonderful Criterion releases. Yet here I am, picking something
This week brings us Amy Adams' language skills, a new Cinemax show, an Ang Lee Iraq War movie, a PBS Civil War show, and a gay porn crime drama starring James Franco.
My wife is a language nerd. Technically, she’s a master linguist having received her degree from Indiana University many years ago. As such, she has many language-nerd friends. Which means I have many language-nerd friends. Arrival is a film in which Amy Adams plays a linguist who saves the world from an alien invasion using her language-nerd powers. All of those aforementioned friends were terribly excited by this film. I am not a language nerd. I’m not particularly interested in grammatical intricacies as one can easily tell by constant abuse of the rules in these weekly picks. I do however
This week brings us an Oscar nominee, another release of Dirty Dancing, Trolls, psychedelic horror, and much more.
I first noticed Ruth Negga on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where she played Raina, a villain who was working for the mysterious Centipede Group before becoming a spiky headed Inhuman. She was a striking presence but honestly didn’t make that much of an impression on me. After watching her in Preacher, I realize just how poorly used in S.H.I.E.L.D. as she is magnetic in that show. After watching the first season, I put a mental peg in her name as someone to always watch. It seems I wasn’t the only one as she’s getting all kind of accolades for her performance
This week brings us generic action from Tom Cruise, a queen from England, a Nazi love camp, and more.
Tom Cruise, the human, seems like a pretty awful dude. He’s a high-ranking member of a terrible cult/religion that uses brainwashing, blackmail, and mob-like intimidation techniques. He’s publicly made damaging comments about psychiatry, that if taken seriously, could do untold harm to millions of patients who desperately need the medical practice and their prescribed medication. I also don’t think he’s that great of an actor. He gets the job done, sometimes very well, but there’s never been a moment in which I found his performance in any film to be elevated into the level of greatness. Despite all this, I
This week brings us a new film from Park Chan-wook, Robert Langdun solving more clues, a story from Jaws coming to life and much more.
There is a scene in Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy that just might be the greatest fight ever put in a movie. It immediately made me a fan of the South Korean director. Oldboy is the middle part of the director’s Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are the other two). All three ensconce themselves in perverse violence that will please even the most hardcore action fan, but that violence is never the point. Chan-Wook uses the unrelenting and incredibly crafted brutality to dig deeper into the soul’s of his characters and ponder man’s insatiable need to destroy. He’s
This week brings us a girl on a train, a fox and his friends, plus Aaron Paul, Jon Hamm, and many others.
I was never much of a reader growing up. I would read whatever was assigned to me at school but I much preferred to watch TV or play video games than read. I was about 15 when Silence of the Lambs hit theaters. My brother and his then-girlfriend saw it on a date and raved about it. With their nudging, and promises that it wasn’t too graphic, my mother allowed me to see it. I loved it. I must have talked about it nonstop because that Christmas my mother bought me the book. I loved it too and with it