We are getting a little taste of Spring in February this week and with the warmer temperatures and sun we also get some of the best releases of the year so far! We kick it off with Doctor Sleep. Ewan McGregor plays Dan Torrance, who as a boy experienced the trauma of his father’s madness during their stay one winter in the Overlook Hotel. Dan has since been haunted by ghosts that he sees through his power, The Shining, which has driven him to a life of alcoholism and despair. Dan finds out about a tribe of people known as The True Knot, led by a mysterious woman known as Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who search out children with The Shining and devour them psychically, and kill them physically, to live off their essence known as ‘steam’. Dan must join forces with a powerful girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) to try and stop The True Knot before they claim the lives of any more children.
Director Mike Flanagan, known for his Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and the films Oculus and Gerald’s Game, is truly one of the modern masters of horror, and Doctor Sleep may be his most ambitious project yet. To even attempt to make a film that is an adaptation of a Stephen King book, which is a sequel to one of King’s most loved novels, but also make the movie a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic film The Shining, which King did not like, seems impossible. But Flanagan pulls it off with flying colors. The film, presented on Blu-ray in an extended director’s cut, is fast paced, exciting, original, full of stellar performances, especially by McGregor and Ferguson, and actually meticulously recreates the Overlook Hotel from Kubrick’s film in a dilapidated state that is so stunning I wanted to keep pausing the movie just to gawk at it. Doctor Sleep is one of my favorite films of 2019 and a new bar for how sequels should be done.
Next up is a new Bill Condon film, The Good Liar. Ian McKellen stars as Roy Courtnay, a career con artist who meets well-to-do widow Betty McLeish (Dame Helen Mirren) on-line. The two soon strike up a close relationship as Roy begins the process of conning Betty out of her money along with his partner (Jim Carter). But many obstacles stand in Roy’s way as his elaborate plan unfolds leaving Roy questioning everything.
First off, it is so nice to see a fairly large Hollywood movie anchored by three outstanding actors in their senior years. In The Good Liar, McKellen, Mirren and Carter are all in top form and Jeffrey Hatchers screenplay of Nicholas Searle’s novel is tightly wound, fast paced, exciting and keeps you guessing. It also gets much darker than I was anticipating resulting in a fantastic adult thriller that is very much worth seeking out.
Lastly this week we shift gears to something much lighter, Playing with Fire. John Cena stars as smokejumper chief Jake Carson, a devoted firefighter who along with his crew Mark (Keegan-Michael Key), Rodrigo (John Leguizamo) and Axe (Tyler Mane) rescue three kids (Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Finley Rose Slater) from a cottage fire. They must look after the kids at the fire base over the weekend before they are picked up and although none of the men are good at relating to kids, they soon find themselves attached and wanting to do all they can to help them.
Playing with Fire is made my Nickelodeon Movies, so keep that in mind when watching. This is definitely a movie made for kids, with poop jokes and pratfalls, but it is endearing and fun for adults to watch with the kids as well. Most of that is thanks to Cena, Leguizamo and Key, who are all over the top but sweet and funny. The kids are fantastic as well making for a very entertaining family film filled with laughs. Playing with Fire is a solid family movie night choice.
Also of note this week is a great selection of Spike Lee films hitting Blu-ray for the first time thanks to Kino including Jungle Fever, Crooklyn, Mo’ Better Blues, Clockers and Summer of Sam. Also out this week is the acclaimed drama Waves, and the disturbing but excellent thriller The Nightingale written and directed by The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent.
Until next week movie lovers!
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Tuesday February 4, 2020
Best of 80s 10-Film Collection, Vol 1
Best of 90s 10-Film Collection, Vol 1
Blaze and the Monster Machines: Knight Riders
Bob the Builder: 20 Episodes Can-Do Crew Pack
Boyz n the Hood (1991) 4K
Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds: 3-Film Collection*
Fraternity Vacation (1985)*
Here Comes Peter Cottontail
High Strung Free Dance
Jungle Fever (1991)*
Looney Tunes Parodies Collection
Mon Mon Mon Monsters (2017)*
My Bloody Valentine (1981) Collector's Edition
Peppa Pig: Peppa Celebrates
Playing with Fire
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mania
Spirit: The Ultimate Collection
Summer of Sam (1999)*
The Good Liar
The House That Jack Built – Uncut
The Hurt Locker 4K
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series
*Catalog Blu-ray debut