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Old 01-05-2020, 06:01 PM   #17
Zhuge1 Zhuge1 is offline
Blu-ray Guru
Jan 2019

2020 Dollar Tree Watch List/Reviews

Latest Reviews Moved to New Post

Since this post is getting quite long, I'm going to wrap the reviews from previous months in spoiler tags so that this isn't too cumbersome for someone to quickly read through if they are interested -- just click the spoiler section to expand those areas to see additional reviews. I took the time to separate January (where I reviewed a lot of stuff) into various categories, but because I've had far fewer in February and March, they are just all grouped together.

May Reviews:

The Looney Tunes Show: Volume 1 / Daffy Duck's Quackbusters

The Looney Tunes Show: Volume 1 (7/10) -- This collects the first four episodes of the show from 2011. I'd never heard of this new show before, but found it pretty entertaining. Bugs and Daffy live together in a house and Yosemite Sam is their annoying next door neighbor. Episodes feature Bugs and Daffy competing on a TV game show; Daffy crashing an elite country club; Bugs and Daffy going to prison; and Yosemite Sam going "off the grid." The last one was definitely the best of the bunch. Overall, this was quite good and easily rewatchable.

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (6/10) -- This ďmovieĒ is a collection of many of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons with a wraparound storyline in which Daffy Duck manages to inherit a large sum of money from a recently deceased millionaire. The caveat is that in order to keep it, he has to set up some sort of public service and do good. So, he decides to set up a paranormal agency to rid people of ghosts, goblins, etc. For the most part, the collected storyline works, and they manage to piece in some of the standout cartoons (like the Abominable Snow Rabbit). The disc has the added benefit of the Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th and a Half CenturyĒ cartoon as well as a couple of more shorts.

Ship of Fools / Lillith

Ship of Fools (8/10) -- Ship of Fools takes place in the early 1930s and takes place on a cruise ship sailing from Mexico to Germany. Along the way, they pick up a large number of Spaniards who are being deported from Cuba in order to transport them back home. The film explores the issues of the time (particularly race relations and the rise of antisemitism in Germany) using a varied cast of characters including a washed up pro baseball player from the US (Lee Marvin, who does a great job in the film), a wealthy American woman struggling with the realities of aging, a German man separated from his Jewish wife, an elderly German couple more interested in their dog than the people around them, a Jewish German with a very laid back approach to the changing times, a dwarf who also acts as something of a narrator, a couple of artists with a strained relationship, and shipís crew with their own problems and issues. While thereís little action in the film overall and it boasts a run time of 2 and a half hours, I found it to be quite interesting and entertaining. It may not work for everyone, but itís definitely a keeper for me.

Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur -- (8/10) -- The movie begins with Shaggy in the hospital after being overly frightened from the most recent case. When the doctor says no more mystery solving for Shaggy, the gang head off to a spa in La Serena, the least haunted town in America. The spa is run by the very odd Mr. Hubley, voiced by Fred Willard (who does a great job as usual). While at their relaxing spa, they of course run into a mystery as the ancient spirit of the Phantosaur is roaming the countryside. The animation on this film is really good. Whereas many of these movies probably donít benefit that much from a bluray release, I would imagine this one would look quite good in HD. Overall, this is a solid Scooby film. Thereís a good storyline and the comedy of Fred Willard is a nice touch.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T -- (5/10) -- This movie isÖ bizarre. The movie is about a young boy named Bart who takes piano lessons from the pompous and condescending Dr. Terwilliker. Bart dozes off after his latest lesson and goes into a nightmare where Dr. Terwilliker is the evil Dr. T and rules over a land where 500 boys have been taken prisoner to play piano. The evil Dr. T. has also captured and brainwashed Bartís mother and intends to marry her. His only companion is the plumber who seems to randomly be installing new sinks throughout the castle. The movie is written by Dr. Seuss and is seemingly aimed at children. That said, it makes less sense than much of the material from Seuss and is seemingly the sort of film that would definitely frighten some children. Overall, itís okay. While itís interesting to see some of Seussís oddness in film format, it doesnít seem to be the best medium for some of his work.

Igor -- (5/10) -- Whereas I had low expectations of Khumba, I actually expected this to be quite good, and while it was okayÖ it really wasnít that great. Igor takes place in the Kingdom of Malaria, where the inhabitants get paid by the rest of the world to NOT unleash their evil inventions. They still create these evil inventions and have competitions with one another to see who can come up with the worst stuff. There are lots of mad scientists who participate and they are assisted by ďIgorsĒ who are their maligned servants. The film focuses on one of these Igors who yearns to be an inventor himself and who creates Eva Ė a female creation that actually isnít evil at all despite his attempts to correct her good-willed ways. Anyways, despite it being an animated film aimed at kids, itís definitely more for older kids, and overall, itís just okay.

Current April Reviews:

[Show spoiler]

Scooby-Doo & the Snow Creatures -- (6/10) -- This is a collection of 3 individual episodes. The first two are from Whatís New, Scooby-Doo and the final one is from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? The first episode is actually the very first episode of Whatís New, Scooby-Doo? and features the gang solving a snowboarding case. The second episode is a Christmas episode featuring a headless snowman monster (itís also from the first season of Whatís New). The gang head to Winter Hollow, a town that doesnít celebrate Christmas due to the snowman menace. And the final episode (from the classic series) features a character based on Peter Lorre. Overall, itís a pretty solid collection, with all 3 episodes being entertaining.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Gotham City Breakout -- (6/10) -- Nightwing and Batgirl decide to throw a surprise party for Batman on his anniversary (of becoming Batman). As a gift, they take him on a vacation. Superman agrees to remain in Gotham City and keep an eye on things (as well as make sure Robin gets to bed on time). Things go awry in Gotham as well as on Batmanís vacation, and itís up to the rest of the Justice League to help out. Overall this was relatively entertaining. Itís definitely not as good as the LEGO Scooby-Doo film I watched earlier, but it was silly and kid-friendly. The only extra on the DVD, though, is a trailer for the LEGO Scooby-Doo Haunted Hollywood movie.

Khumba -- (5/10) -- Khumba is about a zebra born with only half of his stripes (the top half). After being teased by others in his herd, he decides to go on a quest to find a pond/lake that supposedly has magical powers and would restore his missing stripes. The movie is from South Africa originally. The voice cast features Steve Buscemi, Laurence Fishburne, and Liam Neeson. The storyline is basic, but the animation is quite good with very vibrant colors and motion. I had pretty low expectations after watching other animated Dollar Tree pickups, but overall this was a good watch.

Jungle Shuffle -- (4/10) -- This is a low budget animated film (itís also available in 3D on blu-ray) that focuses primarily on a coati named Manu. He is banished from his tribe by the tribeís king when he accidentally breaks a sacred statue. Making matters worse, he is in love with Sacha, who happens to be the daughter of the chief. When Sacha is kidnapped by a hunter, itís up to Manu and Chuy (an odd monkey with a stereotypical Asian accent provided by Rob Schneider) to save her. The animation isnít great, but it does have very bright colors and the storyline starts off decent enough. It sort of takes a nose dive from there, though, and gets extremely odd. Sacha is kidnapped by a hunter working for a mad scientist (Dr. Loco) who is trying to make a super chicken in order to help the meat industry make ďsuper profits.Ē Dr. Loco is attempting to do this by gene splicing various animals together (perhaps crossing them with chickens as well). AnywaysÖ somehow thereís a dragon-like creature involved (who was created by Loco); animals have to fight against deforestation; and thereís a couple of odd ďspiritsĒ that show up a couple of times throughout the movie with no explanation. The first third of the 80 minute movie is decent; the middle third begins a downward slant; and the final third is somewhat nonsensical. Overall, a 4 may be a bit generous, but itís the type of movie that likely appeals to younger children.

LEGO Scooby-Doo!: Blowout Beach Bash -- (8/10) -- After solving a mystery in a museum, the Mystery gang look for an opportunity to have some fun. They end up going to nearby Blowout Beach and arrive just in time for the Bingo Blowout Beach Bash. Unfortunately, their fun plans are interrupted by ghost pirates who invade the small beach town before their arrival and scare off many of the tourists (and also steal the pirate hats used to crown the yearly king and queen of the bash). While investigating, Fred and Velma are torn between their goal of showing off their fun side in order to win the titles of king and queen of the bash and solving the mystery. Overall, this was pretty entertaining and a nice mix of the Lego franchise and Scooby Doo. Lots of ridiculousness that one would expect from the more well-known Lego movies as well as plenty of typical Scooby Doo bits. The DVD also includes 3 bonus cartoon episodes involving pirates/ships. The first two are from the classic series (Scooby Doo, Where Are You?). The third is from Be Cool, Scooby Doo.

Scooby Doo and the Robots -- (6/10) -- This is a collection of three Scooby episodes. The first two are.from the Whatís New Scooby-Doo series (2002-2006). The last episode is from Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Each mystery features a robot as part of the mystery (not surprisingly). The episodes from Whatís New are fairly short at just over 20 minutes (with the classic series episode being a bit over 22 minutes), so the entire run time of the DVD is just over an hour. Iíve never seen the Whatís New series before, but I found the episodes entertaining. There are no extras on the disc, so itís just the 3 episodes only (whereas many of the feature length movies have extras, often including 2-3 episodes from the various Scooby shows).

Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy? -- (7/10) -- Scooby and the Gang are off to Egypt to visit Velma, who has been working with an archaeologist at the Pyramids for the past several months. Not surprisingly, a mystery pops up involving a mummy; an evil treasure hunter; a ďGhost HuntersĒ style documentary maker; and a dry Nile River bed. The film features guest voices of Jeremy Piven, Oded Fehr, Christine Baransky, and Ron Perlman. Overall, it was fairly entertaining with a nice twist at the end. Extras included a National Graphic short with Scooby and Shaggy and a short game you can play with your remote.

Easter Land -- (1/10) -- I had very low expectations after having watched another Gravitas Ventures animated "film." And while this is marginally better, it had an amazingly low bar it had to clear. The animation is very bad. The mouths don't come close to matching the words coming out of the characters. The setting is some odd castle. The villains are Bad Clyde, a wart hog, and his minions -- a rat and an owl (who are named Frizzlebun and Frizzlebutt respectively...). Bad Clyde speaks with an odd Scottish acccent that really sounds more like someone mimicking Mike Myer's Scottish accent. His plan is to ruin Easter for everyone and get rid of Benny the Easter Bunny forever. Somehow, Bad Clyde manages to send Benny (and his side kick Henrietta, a hen) to the land of misfit holiday characters (or something like that). Santa and his reindeer sidekick, Gargaff, must save the day -- well, at least that's what the description says. In reality, he and his reindeer just wander around looking for food. There's lots of dialog and not much action. Most scenes just show characters speaking to each other. Lots of annoying background music that's looped and adds nothing to the scene. Many of the scenes are recycled (and at least some of this content is the same as what was in the Valentine's Day Fairy Sing-A-Long "film"). So, on the upside, this one actually has a storyline (although it's extremely stupid) unlike the Valentine's Day Sing-A-Long (which is utter garbage). With the poor script and bad animation, this would have been a long 25 minutes. Somehow, they managed to stretch it out to 70 minutes. Overall, it's absolutely not worth the watch at all. Elf Bowling was a bad animated film I found at Dollar Tree, but it was at least rewatchable because of its ridiculousness. This one would be hard to sit through a second time.

Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon -- (6/10) -- This was enjoyable but strange. It's a crossover between Scooby-Doo and WWE. That said, the plot mostly focuses on an off road race in which various teams of WWE wrestlers drive crazy vehicles that look like a cross between a monster truck and something out of M.A.S.K. So, there's not a lot of wrestling, and there are a few wrestlers that I honestly barely know (although I am probably not the best judge as I haven't really followed WWE in many, many years -- I do recognize some of them from other promotions or from long ago). The Undertaker is sort of the lead character in the story, though. The basic plot is that WWE is trying out this road race as a new idea for ratings and Scooby and the gang start off as spectators but become participants when a ghostly demon begins wreaking havoc during the race. Scooby and Shaggy reprise their "Skinny Man and Dead Meat" roles from the previous WWE crossover film, and there are a few other allusions to events from it that were humorous. Overall, this was not great, but still fairly entertaining -- the oddball teams and race aspect of it was strange and felt almost like a throw back to something like Laff-a-Lympics or 80's oddball offroad/cross country race movies.

Chill Out Scooby-Doo! -- (7/10) -- The movie begins with an unscrupulous college professor searching in the Himalayas for a yeti. His sherpa guide decides to end the search when they get too close to a real life yeti. Scooby and the gang are on vacation in Paris... at least, that was the plan. Somehow Scooby and Shaggy end up a the wrong plane and find themselves over the Himalayas with an unscrupulous "tour guide," who is actually a hunter planning to use them as bait for a yeti that he intends to catch. The gang quickly end their Paris vacation in order to help out Scooby and Shaggy and solve the mystery of the yeti. Overall, this was pretty entertaining and felt far more like a Scooby-Doo film than the Goblin King movie (which just seemed "off). Definitely one worth re-watching.

Current March Reviews:

[Show spoiler]

Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse -- (7/10) -- To me, this is one of the better Tom and Jerry movies that I've seen. It's another crossover in which Tom and Jerry are included in the standard Robin Hood story. Jerry is one of Robin Hood's merry men (well, mice) while Tom is the pet of the Sherriff of Nottingham. The story plays out as one would expect -- Jerry is the hero and Tom begins to see the error of his ways. There are also several musical numbers in the film. Overall, the story does a good job of incorporating Tom and Jerry (and their typical interplay) in a way that doesn't feel forced or ridiculous. I found it to be quite entertaining. Note -- there were two versions of this DVD floating around at Dollar Tree. One version is a single disc only while another is a 2 disc set. The second disc is another complete Tom and Jerry movie (Shiver Me Whiskers). The two disc set also comes with a digital code for the HD version of Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse that redeems in Movies Anywhere.

Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest -- (5/10) -- Spy Quest is an original Tom and Jerry movie that serves as a crossover with Jonny Quest. While playing at the beach, Tom and Jerry end up joining up with Jonny Quest and Hadji during an attack by some cats in super powered suits. The cats are working for the evil Dr. Zin and it's ultimately up to Tom and Jerry to join up with the Quest team to save the day. The movie, overall, feels like a long Jonny Quest episode with some Tom and Jerry hijinks interspersed within it. Overall, it doesn't come together quite as well as some of the other Tom and Jerry movies as it has a bit of a disjointed feel to it; but it's a watchable movie that has some fun moments. Interestingly, it has some of the 1960's Jonny Quest feel to it, particularly in the characterization of one of Race Bannon's former flings (as well as allusions to their former relationship). One of the better elements is the intro theme (which mimics the originaly Jonny Quest show theme and includes Tom and Jerry) is quite entertaining.

Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy -- (2/10) -- This is 54 minutes of random comedy shorts (spanning from less than a minute to 3-4 minutes). Many of them are takes on pop culture and a few have recurring characters. The real problem is that there's maybe 6 minutes of actually funny stuff here. One short that stands out is an imaginative look at what would happen if Wile E. Coyote actually caught the Road Runner. To be fair, I don't watch Family Guy, so perhaps fans of that show would find this more enjoyable. I'm also not sure that there's a lot of value in the blu-ray release of this since all of the segments seemed to be 4:3. Overall, I didn't find it to be that great of a watch.

NOVA - Rise of the Robots -- (5/10) -- This was pretty interesting. It's an episode of the PBS series NOVA that focuses on a robot challenge sponsored by DARPA. The show begins by explaining that although robots are commonly used in manufacturing, there are many areas where they still fall short. They provide the example of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and how there were no robots that were able to help simply go into the reactor and flip some switches or turn off/on certain pipes. The episode covers several teams and shows their approach to the challenge -- where robots designed by the various teams must complete an obstacle course with a number of different components. Overall, a pretty good watch and definitely interesting to learn about how these engineers approach creating the robots and how difficult many aspects (such as simply walking) really are.

Rooster Doodle Doo -- (4/10) -- Rooster Doodle Doo is a French Canadian film that's been dubbed in English and released in the US by Universal. It focuses on the small village of St. Victor where everything runs perfectly because the mayor's prized rooster wakes everyone up at 5am sharp, giving them ample time to get an early start on the day and ensure everything is perfect. Grumblings arise from some villagers who grow tired of waking up so early each morning and when the rooster begins having insomnia and crowing all night, everything boils over and the villagers make a deal to trade the rooster to another nearby town. The film features fairly simplistic animation and a fairly simple storyline. But, it has a good message about the value of work and is a decent movie for younger kids. It doesn't have enough to keep older kids or adults entertained, but overall, it's a decent for what it is.

Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon -- (3/10) -- This is a Russian animated film and is a sequel to the original Space Dogs film (although I don't think seeing the first film would be necessary). This US version was distributed by Universal and features the voices of Alicia Silverstone and Ashlee Simpson. Belka and Strelka are two female friends who previously trained as space dogs and are now part of a circus (as best I could follow). Kazbek is a famous space dog who married Belka and had a puppy named Pushok. Pushok travels to the United States to be the new pet of the daughter of the President of the United States. Shortly after, an alien presence begins visiting Earth and taking various artifacts and taking them to the moon. Suspecting a nefarious plot by the USA, Kazbek rockets off to the moon to investigate. Eventually, Belka and Strelka somehow end up there along with Pushok (who manages to stowaway on on an American rocket along with a monkey from the US's space program). On the moon, they all eventually team up and manage to deal with the alien issue. Overall, the animation of this film is pretty good; but the plot is a mess. There's lots of plot holes; things occur quickly, sometimes without explanation; characters (who seemed to have no real role) disappear without explanation; and the ending feels a bit abrupt. It's 73 minutes, so feels like they could have fleshed a couple of things out a bit to have made the movie flow much better. Not a terrible movie, but certainly not very good either -- entertaining enough for a younger kid, but not much for older kids or adults.

Meet the Small Potatoes -- (6/10) -- This is ... bizarre! I have no idea who the target audience for this is, but I honestly found it entertaining -- far more so than my 5 year old who wasn't much of a fan. First off some background -- the Small Potatoes are a "music group" of potatoes who sing. There was a series of cartoon shorts that featured them that aired on Disney Junior years ago. If you have kids that watch Disney Junior, you've likely seen these shorts (3-5 minute cartoons) that often air between their usual shows. I recall seeing "Nina Needs To Go" lots and lots of times. In fact, this DVD includes 10 episodes from the series. Wikipedia shows that there were 27 in total. Anyways, this movie (~70 minutes) is a mockumentary that covers the beginnings of the small potatoes, their rise to stardom, the conflicts among members, their eventual breakup, and ultimate reconciliation. It's told mostly from interviews with their fans and the main narrator is Malcolm McDowell!. It's confusing because this is clearly marketed towards small children, but the documentary style of the movie is the sort of thing that would be a huge turnoff for them. Definitely a keeper for me (although maybe not one that the kid will want to watch again anytime soon).

Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King -- (4/10) -- Scooby and the gang visit a carnival where they cross paths with a low level magician (The Amazing Krudsky, voiced by Wayne Knight). Scooby ruins his act, which sends the magician on a path for revenge. He captures a fairy and manages to take her magic, then decides to try to get the evil magic of the Goblin King to further enhance his powers. Scooby and Shaggy ultimately have to stop him by going into the spirit world. There are lots of name actors providing voices for this movie including Wayne Knight, Wallace Shawn ("Inconceivable!"), Jay Leno, Tim Curry, James Belushi, and Hayden Panettiere. In addition, the movie is old enough that Casey Kasem provides the voice for Shaggy. That said, the overall feeling of the movie felt off for a Scooby film to me. Maybe it was the real magic, "spirit world," goblins, etc. just seemed off. I've picked up a number of these Scooby movies at Dollar Tree, and the ones I've watched previously were a bit better than this one.

Reviews from February:

[Show spoiler]

Tinker' -- (4/10) -- I actually watched this movie twice because I felt like I missed something the first time. And, while that may be the case, a second viewing didn't clear up the questions. The focuses on Grady, an odd recluse who is focused on building a machine based on the science of Nikola Tesla that his father wrote about in his diary. At the same time, he becomes guardian of his nephew Kai after Kai's mother (and also Grady's sister) dies unexpectedly. The description made it sound as if it was something of a sci-fi film, but it's really more of a drama. The plot is convoluted, and there's a subplot focused on the character Manna, who is currently helping Grady on his farm, which sort of ties in to the central theme of fatherhood but isn't well-executed. Overall, Clayne Crawford does a great job of portraying an angry recluse in the film. But, this is definitely an indy film that feels like an indy film that could have used a bit more work.

The Canyon -- (5/10) -- Upfront, I should mention that the DVD for this movie is unfortunately defective. That's been reported previously on this site, is in Spootnek's Dollar Tree listing notes, and is mentioned in many of the Amazon reviews for the DVD. The film freezes at about the 1:04 mark (scene 9) and scenes 10 and 11 are also defective and won't play. The movie overall is about 1:42. The only streaming service I could find it on to finish it was PlutoTV (which is free, but with commercials... usually the same commercial repeated multiple times each break...). Anyways, the movie is about a couple of young honeymooners who decide to go to the Grand Canyon, miss out on getting in an organized group, and take some shifty looking guy's offer to lead them personally into the canyon for an expedition. The bad decisions don't stop there in this thriller and the couple end up lost and being hunted by (from the back cover) "something or someone." Overall, this was a pretty solid movie. It veered in a direction I didn't quite expect given the description, but I was okay with that and found it fairly enjoyable. There are primarily only three actors, and all are quite good -- Eion Bailey (TV series Once Upon a Time), Yvonne Strahovski (TV series Chuck), and Will Patton (who has been in tons of stuff). I would say it's worth a watch. Unfortunately, there's no bluray release at this point and since the DVD seems to be defective, streaming is probably the only way to fully watch the film.

Chloe & Theo -- (5/10) -- The movie focuses on an Inuit man (Theo) who is sent by his village elders "down south" to NYC to tell the southerners of the vision that they've had of the Sun kissing the Earth resulting in destruction. The elders have noticed the receding ice and the ways in which their lives have changed and want Theo (who was educated "down south") to explain this to the rest of the world. Theo, who is a bit of a fish out of water, travels to NYC to find the elders of that area and convince them to implement changes. He meets Chloe (Dakota Johnson), a street smart homeless girl who helps him navigate his new surroundings. Overall, this movie could have been a bit better. There are some oddities with the filming and storytelling (for example, there are some campy elements that seem to contrast awkwardly with the theme of the movie), the movie does seem to drag in places, and several of the characters come off a bit annoying at times as well. Overall, it's worth a watch, but has room for improvement.

Breakfast on Pluto -- (8/10) -- This movie is set in the 1970's in northern Ireland (near the border and during the time of a lot of clashes between the IRA and the British army) and focuses on the life of Patrick (Kitten), who is transgendered. As a baby, Kitten is abandoned on the steps of a local parochial house. He's ultimately raised by a foster mother who doesn't accept his differences and shows him little in the way of love. He ultimately embarks on a quest to find his birth mother and the film follows his life from childhood to adulthood against the backdrop of the conflicts in northern Ireland at the time. The movie is mostly a drama but with some comedic elements as well. Cillian Murphy does a fantastic job in the film portraying Kitten. The movie pulls you in, makes you care about the characters, and is solid from start to finish. I picked this up for a trade, and now I may have to go back and find another copy for myself to keep.

Bullitt County -- (6/10) -- Set in 1977, several friends set out on the Kentucky bourbon trail to celebrate the impending wedding of Gordie. While stopping at one of their favorite distilleries (which has changed from their last visit), they learn about a local legend of buried money from Prohibition times and decide to take up the adventure of seeking out the treasure. Given that this is a thriller, it's not a spoiler to say that things go awry. Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid film. Gravitas has been a bit hit or miss for me, and while not a hit, I thought this was an enjoyable watch and worthy of keeping in the collection. Reviews on IMDb are pretty mixed, and given that it's clearly an indy movie, that's probably not unexpected. Although none of the actors are well-known beyond Richard Riehle (who plays a small role in the film), the primary cast does a solid job. While much of the plot is quite predictable (including the twists, which were still at least well-executed), it was still an engaging story.

Waiting for Forever -- (6/10) -- This is a romantic drama about a young man named Will who suffered the trauma of losing his parents at a young age and fell in love with Emma, a friend that helped him get through the difficult time. Years later finds Will living the life of a street performer and still yearning for Emma, who found success as a television star. Will's friends encourage him to let Emma know how he's felt since they were kids while his brother wants him to grow up and get a job. This was a decent movie with an okay plot that was mostly driven by the main characters versus the setup and development of what happens in the film. The acting was pretty solid -- in particular, I enjoyed the work Tom Sturridge put into "Will." It was easy to care about the main characters despite some aspects of Will's personality being a little too over the top. The main downside is that some of the plot points felt a bit rushed and simplistically resolved, without the impact they could have had in a real life situation. Overall, it's worth a watch.

Animated Movies

Knight Rusty -- (5/10) -- This is an animated film from Germany that Universal released in the US. It's set in a medieval world inhabited by robots and centers around a basic tale of a robot (Rusty) who is a second rate knight and falls in love with another robot (Bo) and ultimately has to save her from an evil knight who usurped the King. Overall, it's a basic and predictable kids movie, but it was worth a watch and the animated was pretty good.

Television Shows/Specials

Allosaurus: A Walking With Dinosaurs Special -- (7/10) -- I'm not familiar with the "Walking With" series from the BBC (although I read more about it after watching this). This is a short 30 minute documentary that tries to envision the prospective life that Big Al, an Allosaurus skeleton from the Museum of the Rockies, lived. The show is from 2000 so the CGI is a little dated, but it was good enough for the show. The documentary follows Al similar to how many nature documentaries follow an animal for a period of time. In addition, there's also a half-hour documentary that goes through how the special was created and discusses the science behind the choices that were made in telling Big Al's life. Overall, I thought this was pretty entertaining and I would definitely grab anymore of these Walking With specials or series if I saw them.

Ice Age Giants: Woolly Mammoths -- (4/10) -- I was excited to watch this after watching the Allosaurus documentary as I was expecting something similar. This was a little different. The main feature focuses primarily on a scientist who is on the hunt for an actual woolly mammoth carcass. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this documentary is the fact that even though these animals have been gone for thousands of years, there are preserved full carcasses still frozen in the arctic and are found from time to time (and evidently, there's a black market for mammoth remains). A bonus feature is another half-hour documentary that focuses on how mammoths migrated (and analyzes evidence of them having been present in modern-day California). Overall, this was somewhat interesting, but not quite as entertaining as the Walking With Dinosaurs special.

Phil Collins: Going Back (Live at Roseland Ballroom, NYC) -- (6/10) -- Going Back is Phil Collins' cover album of Motown classics and this DVD captures a live performance of that music performed in 2010 in NYC at the historic Roseland Ballroom. It's safe to say that this isn't Collins' best work as his vocals don't match well with every song he performs, but overall, this is a decent concert and certainly a good disc to play in the background that doesn't require a lot of attention or focus. The extras feature some rehearsal footage and an interesting 15 minute interview where he talks about his upbringing. The DVD also includes a small booklet where Collins explains his interest in the music. Definitely worth a pickup at the Dollar Tree.

Reviews from January:
[Show spoiler]

Asian Cinema / Martial Arts movies:

Kiss of Death -- (5/10) -- This is a fairly brutal film that begins with the gang rape of a poor factory worker who contracts a fatal venereal disease as a result and aims to get her vengeance on the perpetrators. There's definitely some good action and the acting is definitely what you might expect from a 1970's film from China. It was entertaining enough, but not great, and probably not something I'd want to watch again. On the positive side, the DVD has an English dub of the film which I watched.

Shadow Boxer -- (5/10) -- Another Shaw Brothers film like Kiss of Death. This is a period piece with some interesting propaganda, but one of the most frustrating heroes I've ever seen. It doesn't come with an English dub, so lots of subtitles to follow. The premise is that a company is building roads in an area of rural China and taking advantage of their employees (paying them only half their wages, mistreating them physically, etc.). The main bad guy is apparently the son of the company owner (although that's not really established) and also a practitioner of martial arts who is constantly seeking to test his skills. Anyways, the hero has spent ten years studying tai chi under a master and must ultimately avenge all of the injustice that occurs. Lots of subtexts of anti-capitalism and anti-corporation while also establishing that the rich are the villains who prey on the worker class. Also, lots of interesting stuff that seems to link the tenets of tai chi (reacting to the force of the opponent rather than attacking directly) to Chinese culture. Chairman Mao was still in charge in China when this movie came out and it sort of shows to me. Overall, I found the propaganda aspect of it interesting. The story line was a little lacking because a lot of the setup wasn't explained. And, ultimately the hero was extremely frustrating. Was definitely worth a watch, but not something I'd probably re-watch for a while. Definitely felt more significant as a film than Kiss of Death.

The Lizard -- (5/10) -- Yet another Shaw Brothers film. This one focuses on a Robin Hood character known as The Lizard. It's much less serious than the first two with quite a few comedic elements. The first half of the movie was pretty entertaining as the characters and basic plot was set up well and there was a combination of good action and comedy scenes (mostly physical humor). The second half sort of fell apart and dragged at times and the conclusion was just okay. There's an English dub and the dialog is at times very over the top.

Curse of the Golden Flower -- (8/10) -- This was definitely worth the watch. The storyline is pretty solid (if predictable at times), but more important is that the film is really great visually. Lots of vivid color. The sets and costumes are amazing. I bought this for a friend but watched it first. Definitely kicking myself for not grabbing a copy to keep.

Other Films:

Robot Overlords -- (4/10) -- This started off fairly good, but ultimately fell a bit flat. I didn't exact anything great, but it did have a solid cast for a low budget movie. Ben Kingsley, Gillian Anderson, and Callan McAuliffe (The Walking Dead) star in the movie which is about an invasion of earth by robots who confine humanity to their homes. Going outside is against the rules and can result in extermination. The robots have explained that they are just here to study humanity and will leave the planet once their analysis is complete. Sean (McAuliffe) and his friends ultimately find a way around the forced curfew and the film mostly explores their search for answers about what happened to Sean's father. While Anderson's role is somewhat minimal, Kingsley appears throughout. Anyways, I saw this DVD at Dollar General a number of times for around $3 and had passed on it. It's worth a pickup for a $1 as long as you don't expect too much.

Serena -- (5/10) -- This is an interesting period piece that's set in western North Carolina (mountains region) around the time of the Great Depression. I picked it up because it's based on a book by Ron Rash (who my uncle happens to be friends with). It's an interesting love story with a lot of unlikable characters. The acting is solid and the storyline is good, but the overall pacing of the movie feels a little slow. The bluray contains quite a number of special features; and while I rarely watch those, I did actually watch all of the extra content for this film. The 20 minutes of deleted scenes and some of the other material actually helped explain some of the movie. It definitely felt like one of those situations where the novel was probably far better than the movie because it had the time to add in many more scenes to help the story progress and explain the motivations of the characters. Also, the bluray actually comes with a bonus DVD disc that has even more special features than those listed on the back.

Masterminds -- (8/10) -- To me, this was absolutely hilarious, although it certainly may not fit everyone's style of humor. The main cast (Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, and Jason Sudeikis) were all perfect for their roles. Galifianakis is from North Carolina and gets to play the role of a down on his luck armored car driver who wants a more interesting life and ultimately falls in with the wrong crowd. The movie is based on a true story, and while Hollywood clearly takes some dramatic liberties with the story, there's enough of it that was true that makes it even more funny.

Hollow -- (3/10) -- This is a found footage horror film that's somewhat in the vein of The Blair Witch Project (in fact, I think I read one thing online that described it as the British Blair Witch Project). I'm not a huge fan of found footage horror films, so this one didn't appeal that much to me. The movie is about an hour and a half with the first two thirds being mostly the setup. The final 20 minutes or so are decent, I guess; but the first hour is pretty boring overall. The plot line is also very predictable and the characters are fairly one dimensional with no development whatsoever.

Aftermath -- (6/10) -- This has pretty weak reviews on IMDb (and, ironically, Hollow has solid reviews), but I thought it was a fairly solid movie. Edward Furlong of T2 fame is the only really "known" actor in the film and he does a good job with his character. C.J. Thomason is the lead actor and does a solid job as well (although it looks like he hasn't had another role since this came out in 2014). Unlike Hollow, I felt like the characters had an identity and it was easy to identify and care about some of them. The movie basically details the events that unfold in a rural area of the US after nuclear missile strikes affect a majority of the country.

A Breath Away -- (8/10) -- This is a BD-R from Gravitas Ventures and is a French film with English subtitles. The premise is that an earthquake has resulted in a toxic mist flooding the streets of Paris with survivors having to flee to top floors of their building to avoid breathing the mist. The story focuses on a family in which the daughter suffers from a special condition that forces her to live in a "bubble." with the parents fighting to keep her safe during the event. Overall, I thought this was great. It's about 90 minutes and there was nothing that felt out of place -- no spots where the film seemed to drag on or include scenes that were pointless. I would highly recommend it.

Alien Outpost -- (7/10) -- A faux documentary set in the Middle East that follows the soldiers in Outpost 37 -- one of many outposts across the world set up to track down and eliminate the remnants of an alien invasion force. This is almost more of a "war documentary" style movie than an actual sci-fi film, but it was very interesting and entertaining. It's obviously a low budget film, and although the special effects weren't great, they didn't feel "cheap" or cheesy in any way. The documentary style worked well and the story progressed well as well. There were also some solid military action scenes. Overall, definitely one I'll be keeping in the collection.

Don't Kill It -- (7/10) -- This definitely won't appeal to everyone, but I liked the movie quite a bit and it's certainly a keeper for my collection. The premise is simple -- an ancient demon has invaded a small town in Mississippi and begins murdering lots of people. Dolph Lundgren plays Jebediah Woodley, an aging demon hunter, who shows up to deal with the problem. Along the way, he has to convince the local sheriff's office of his supernatural claims and explanations. The plot is fairly predictable and the special effects are quite cheap and look like something from the 1980's, but it's a fun low-budget B movie and Lundgren does a good job in it. Overall, it reminded me of one of the humorous episodes of the TV series Supernatural.

Animated DVDs I picked up for (and watched with) my kid:

Storybook Classics: Black Beauty -- (6/10) -- This is a 1980's movie that's about an hour long and is from Australia. The animation looks from that era for sure. The voice acting is entertaining since some of the folks try to mask their Australian accents while others have a pretty thick accent. Overall, it was decent and the kid liked it.

Nine Dog Christmas -- (4/10) -- James Earl Jones is the narrator and the story is decent overall for what it is. That said, there are some extremely annoying musical numbers in it.

Elf Bowling: The Movie -- (2/10) -- This is horrible, but I enjoyed watching it to see where they would go next. Santa Claus and his brother Dingle are pirates who steal toys. The pirate crew mutiny when they find out Santa and Dingle were cheating at bowling. They strand the brothers in the north pole where they become frozen in blocks of ice until the north pole elves find them and thaw them out. Santa eventually becomes Santa Claus (but speaks like a pirate throughout and violates the labor laws of the elves). He and his brother duel (via bowling, using elves for pins) over control after Dingle frames his brother for something (I don't recall what). Eventually, the setting shifts to Tahiti and it gets a bit stranger from there. The computer animation is terrible, but then the movie is based on what is apparently a pretty crappy video game from the late 1990's. The entire thing reminded me of the type of film that would end up on MST3K as it is bizarrely bad. This fits into the so bad it's entertaining category and is something I'll definitely keep and probably re-watch at some point.

Heidi the Movie -- (6/10) -- Similar to Black Beauty (but slightly more modern). A decent rendition of the classic story. One odd thing about the disc, though, is that it plays just fine in my bluray player. It's also a Canadian release and has some odd McDonalds content on it that autoplays in certain players. It took me a while to find that content to actually access, but it's like three 2-minute segments of Ronald McDonald doing exercises. Very strange, but sort of entertaining to see old McDonalds stuff from Canada.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -- (7/10) -- This is very loosely based on Jules Verne's classic novel -- Captain Nemo and the Nautilus are there, but most of the other elements are changed quite a bit. Still, this was a pretty entertaining cartoon movie. Looks like it's from 2002, but it definitely looks and feels like animation from the 1990s. Overall, was definitely worth the watch.

Mike the Knight: Journey to Dragon Mountain -- (5/10) -- I'm not familiar with this character and this is clearly aimed at very young kids. It was a short (around an hour) full-length film with a decent story. It had a couple of musical numbers (that weren't annoying).

Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure -- (5/10) -- I haven't gotten around to watching any of the Tom and Jerry feature films before, so it was interesting to see how they took the characters (that in the classic shorts simply feud with each other throughout various settings) and built a feature around them. In fact, they are sort of secondary characters to the main plot of a kid whose father built a theme park (that became dilapidated after the father's untimely death). Tom and Jerry eventually travel to a magical land with the kid and assist him in battling a giant. Overall, this was good (but not great). It does feature Garrison Keillor's voice as the narrator.

The Flintstones and WWE: Stoneage Smackdown -- (4/10) -- This was okay, but I really expected this to be a bit better because Scooby-Doo and the Wrestlemania Mysteria was a pretty solid film. It's not bad, it's just that the story isn't that good overall. I'll keep it but I wouldn't be in a big hurry to watch it again.

Bubblegum Fairies' Valentine's Day Sing-A-Long -- (0/10) -- This is the worst thing I've ever seen. It makes Garlic & Gunpowder seem good. There's seemingly no storyline. The animation is ridiculously bad -- characters "talk" and their mouths move later after they've finished in a couple of scenes. It's a "sing-a-long" but there's no words and the songs aren't ones anyone would know and most of them are consistently repeated. There's a few animated clips that make no sense. Then it goes to a song which has stock footage of a character dancing during it (imagine a cupcake with arms doing two dance moves followed by a strawberry doing two different dance moves rotated every 20 seconds throughout the course of the song). All that said, I guess nothing says Valentine's Day like a dancing eggplant doing an arm wave during a song about the holiday no one has ever heard of. Just to add to this, after a while the dancing characters disappear from the music segments and most of the music becomes instrumental (which seems to defeat the idea of sing-a-long). This is roughly 8-12 minutes of content stretched out to 70 minutes. Just absolute garbage overall.

Last edited by Zhuge1; 08-17-2020 at 01:03 AM.
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Sandersobsessed (01-21-2020)