Television Reviews

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Behaving Badly
Mad Chance/ Starboard Entertainment
Street: 10.28.14
It’s difficult to tell whether the title of this film is referring to the bad judgment calls of its characters or to the cast of mostly decent actors who decided to hitch their wagons to this piece of crap.  Based on Ric Browde’s novel While I’m Dead…Feed the Dog, Behaving Badly is your garden variety teen sex comedy.  The overstuffed plot revolves around the exploits of Rick Stevens (Nat Wolff) and his pursuit of dreamgirl Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez) through a world of irresponsible, perpetually medicated adults.  Along the way, Stevens becomes entangled in all of the misadventures that your average, teenaged American male would describe as “totes cray.” At its core, Behaving Badly is a hastily bastardized version of every other teen sex comedy that has come and gone within the past 20 years.  Wolff isn’t a terrible actor—I could see him being the male equivalent of Aubrey Plaza in the hands of a more capable screenwriter—but Gomez struggles a bit here, most likely because her pop-star status has precluded her from knowing what it’s like to be a regular teenage girl.  Watch Orange County instead. –Alex Springer

Cartoon Network:  Holiday Collection

Cartoon Network
Street: 10.07.14
It’s not officially Christmas until you’ve watched at least one animated special, and this year, Cartoon Network has a few for you to choose from.  The 2014 Christmas special comes equipped with a two-part bucket of yuletide shenanigans with Adventure Time—which is probably the best option for those looking for a little weirdness with their holiday season.  It’s a story that revolves around a set of the Ice King’s video diaries, which was oddly funny in its own way, but it lacked a certain Christmas-ness which felt like a missed opportunity.  The episodes of Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball were okay—a little bit overstuffed with edgy caricatures of Christmastime’s sacred cows for my liking.  Oddly enough, the disc’s bonus episodes Clarence and Steven Universe were the most entertaining—even though they had nothing to do with Christmas.  Clarence found the title character and his friends on a LARP quest to the local nickel arcade, which allowed for numerous excellently-placed references to all of my favorite types of nerdery. Steven Universe was really weird—is he some kind of groupie to a team of super-ladies?—but it had a Powerpuff Girls vibe that I really liked.  Alex Springer

Edge Of Tomorrow

Warner Bros.
Street: 10.07.14
Probably one of the most original sci-fi films to come out in the past decade, Edge Of Tomorrow was a fantastic action film that played with elements of time travel and cinematic combat. So with a film of that caliber, you’d think the Blu-Ray might come with some additional features to both fascinate and inform you. Sadly, it’s lighter than you would expect. You get a nice look at making the film with the director, as well as an in-depth study on the weapons created for the film and the awesome bloodbath that is the beach scene. But beyond some deleted scenes, that’s about it. No talk of time travel, no expansion of the aliens, not even a look on the manga it was based on. It’s an awesome film with fine additions, but as a sci-fi feature, this could have had so much more. Gavin Sheehan

Hercules
Paramount/MGM
Street: 11.04.14
Based on previews that showed the mighty Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) battling a giant boar and a multi-headed hydra, it’s tough not to feel disappointed when this rendition of the Greek hero skimps out on the mythological monsters.  Instead, the demigod is cast as a mercenary with a tragic past whose legendary adventures are exaggerated by the storytelling skills of his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie).  The idea to make Hercules into less of a superhero was originally conceived in the pages of Steve Moore’s graphic novel, where Hercules takes much of its inspiration.  The film’s thin storyline provides just enough motivation for Herc and his team of warriors to slay many legions of enemies, which provides generous portions of gratuitous action.  Johnson’s hugeness is impressive to watch, but it’s the casting of his fellow mercenaries that offer brief but enjoyable reprieves from the overabundance of slicing and dicing—Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell are particularly fun to watch.  It’s not enough to save the film from itself, however.  When director Brett Ratner gets hold of a script, he can’t help but indulge his inner adolescent boy with scenes of long-winded carnage and scantily-clad Amazons.  Alex Springer

Impractical Jokers Season 2

Turner Home Entertainment
Street: 11.04.14
I discovered Impractical Jokers via my sole guilty pleasure in life—cable television. The show always seems to pop up in the background, knock my tush right on the couch and derail my productivity for the day. The show’s premise is simple—four lifelong friends try to embarrass each other with various pranks involving unsuspecting bystanders until one of them is designated the loser and is faced with a truly humiliating scenario. Aside from the 26 gut-busting episodes that comprise Season 2, including “Everything’s Just Rosie,” featuring a surprise appearance by Rosie O’Donnell as Q’s “clone,” each of these three discs has a trove of special features. Deleted scenes, which are essentially extended, quick-edit cuts from episode takes, are as funny as the episodes themselves, and the Inside Jokes features—with pop-up video infographics—illuminate the jokers’ history together and explain elements of the show that get lost through editing, adding a surprising depth to the jokers’ self-deprecating humor and outlandish pranks. If you’re a casual fan, access to the episodes alone is worth the price of this season, and the special features definitely sweeten the deal. As the jokers might say—if you don’t buy this DVD, you lose! –LARRY!

Into the Storm

Warner Bros. Home Video
Street: 11.18.14
If the words “shaky-cam” and “tornado” piss off your gastrointestinal tract, you might want to skip Into the Storm.  Though the idea of using the cinematic trend of documentary-style filmmaking as a lens for exploring nature’s fury may have made sense to the film’s producers, the overall effect is a bit more nauseating than fascinating.  While I was watching the various video cameras get thrown around during the show’s violent tornados and wind storms from the comfort of my home, I immediately felt bad for those who were subjected to such fractured and staggering images on the big screen.  When the weather wasn’t throwing shit around, the actors were in charge of generating the film’s drama—a task that appeared difficult for the cast given the wooden script.  Matt Walsh managed to find the humor in his character, but Sarah Wayne-Callies and Richard Armitage were a bit undercooked.  The interlocking storylines that involve documentary filmmakers, a father and his sons, and a few drunk hillbillies offer a decent vibe of reluctant teamwork, but it’s not easy to see that the bulk of the film’s budget went into bringing those pesky tornados to life at the expense of the actors.  Alex Springer

Jersey Boys
Warner Bros. Home Video
Street: 11.11.14
Movie musicals tend to exist in a cinematic world of their own—and it’s a world that often forgives cinematic quality in exchange for entertaining musical numbers.  When a director like Clint Eastwood takes the helm, however, you get an interdimensional breach that tries to shoehorn a story that was developed for a musical into a clunky biopic.  It denies the fans of the musical the show’s original energy, and it subjects fans of movies to some tedious storytelling with occasional performances that are overshadowed by Eastwood’s heavy-handed filmmaking.  Despite the problems with pacing and adaptation, there is something to be said about the rigorous casting of the film’s main characters.  With the exception of Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, each member of the four seasons had previously played their respective part on the stage—which makes it more of a shame that their abilities seemed muted in comparison to the film’s larger flaws.  The Blu-ray copy offers a few interesting featurettes—though none of them accurately describe what exactly went wrong with the final product.  Only hardcore fans of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and falsetto enthusiasts need apply.  Alex Springer

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Volume XXXI: The Turkey Day Collection
Shout Factory
Street: 11.25.14
For a period in time, it was a long-standing tradition on Comedy Central to air 30-40 hour marathons of MST3K (because most people were eating or watching football) followed by an original episode of MST3K which affectionately became the Turkey Day episode. For fans of the show it was a godsend that would become a geeky tradition until its cancelation. Now the primary Turkey Day episodes are in a single set for you to relive in all their glory, complete with all the promotional material and bumpers that ran between episodes and the history of the marathon and how it became a phenomenon. Plus, special introductions from Joel Hodgson for every episode and minor additional features. All encased in a metal tin with coasters for you to set your drinks on as you hold your own marathon with the 8 hours of content held within. Most MST3K fans have their favorite films and tend to skip from set to set, but this is one that no true fan can afford to miss. –Gavin Sheehan

Poppy Ackroyd
Escapement Visualized
(Visuals by Lumen)
Denovali Records
Street: 10.12.14
Poppy Ackroyd = Philip Glass + Julianna Barwick
Following the release of Escapement in 2012, Poppy wanted to create visuals to pair with the album. The result is a series of scene-scapes set in a grayscale to evoke the moods of the album. Prior to seeing the visuals, Escapement created a vivid visual soundscape using only the piano and violin, so it’s fitting that Ackroyd would choose to pair the melodies with scenes to match. The visuals combine film noir type shots, and at times include double-paned scenes of a variety of nature scenes passing by, whether in a car or boat for the ocean shots, until reaching “Grounds” when the focus is set on a dancer. While not particularly engaging, the visuals come across like an abstracted ambient film, and are nice for a clearing of the mind. –Brinley Froelich

Reno 911!: The Complete Series
Paramount
Street: 11.04
One of the biggest blunders Fox ever managed in the previous decade was passing on Reno 911!, which turned into one of Comedy Central’s biggest hits and turned the cast into comedic stars. Now Paramount has put together the entire series into one complete collection. A word of caution before purchase, if you already own each season individually, there isn’t much more added to this collection as all the menus, features, commentary, outtakes and bonus features from every set are here. Aside from the convenience of having all of it in a single box for cheaper, you’re getting everything uncensored and in their original uncut form, including skits that were hacked to pieces for air. With the exception of the full-length film, this is about as definitive of a Reno 911! collection you’ll ever see, which makes is totally worth seeking out. –Gavin Sheehan

Tammy
Warner Bros. Home Video
Street: 11.11.14
The raunchy, blue-collar road movie is something we’ve all seen before, and it feels like Tammy is using that template for a few quick and easy laughs.  The film employs the semi-scripted vibe that has become industry standard for raunchy comedies, but instead of giving it the improvisational feel of its more successful predecessors, it makes the film come across as half-assed.  Melissa McCarthy, who is a legitimately talented comedic actress, seems content to dedicate her screentime to seeing how many different ways she can fall off of things.  Susan Sarandon was miscast as Tammy’s alcoholic grandmother—most notably since the film tries to pass her off as a woman who gave birth to Allison Janney—but she and McCarthy don’t have much comedic chemistry together.  The decision to cast Mark Duplass as Tammy’s romantic lead could have been an interesting match, but again, there was little to no chemistry between the two.  I want to give the film props for showing a booze-filled road trip through the perspective of a predominantly female cast, but it’s too bad that Tammy wasn’t a better vehicle for their talents.  And since when does three extra minutes of footage constitute an “extended cut?” –Alex Springer

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