Happy New Year and welcome to 2019! This is the year Blade Runner took place, so I am sure our Off-World Colonies and flying cars are just around the corner! Not many releases over the holidays but a few on New Year’s Day and a nice selection today starting with the new Kevin Hart comedy, Night School. Hart plays Teddy Walker, a barbeque salesman and high school dropout who has his eye on a new job at a financial film to impress his newly engaged fiancé Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke). But before he can start moving up in the world, he needs to get his GED at his old high school. Unfortunately, a rival student from back in the day, Stewart (Taran Killam) is now principal and the night school teacher Carrie (Tiffany Haddish) won’t stand for slackers, so Teddy has his work cut out for him.
Hart has had a strong list of comedy hits the past few years and Night School is a solid flick to add to the list. Similar in style and tone to last year’s hilarious Fist Fight, Night School never gets to raunchy or stupid and really keeps an even keel of laughs and situations that keep the mood light, the pace fast and the chemistry between the cast crackling. Haddish is making a name for herself in movies this past year and for good reason, she has a real natural no-nonsense style of comedy that plays well off Hart’s more slapstick style. And the supporting cast of other Night School students including Rob Riggle, Romany Malco, Al Madrigal, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Fat Joe and Ben Schwartz keep it lively. For a nice light night full of laughs, Night School does the trick.
Next up is the stylish new thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. In 1969, several strangers with various secrets all show up at the remote El Royale, a run-down motel that straddles the border between California and Nevada. An aging priest suffering from dementia (Jeff Bridges), a struggling singer (Cynthia Erivo), a smooth-talking salesman (Jon Hamm) and a mysterious and abrasive woman (Dakota Johnson) all have their own reasons for showing up at the El Royale, but they may also have something in common in the motel’s dark past. And it’s anybody’s guess if any of them will even survive the night.
Bad Times at the El Royale drew many comparisons to the films of Quentin Tarantino and with good cause, it does have many stylistic elements in common, but writer/director Drew Goddard is no stranger to bizarre plots and characters himself with films like Cabin in the Woods and Cloverfield and episodes of TV shows like Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias under his belt. Bad Times at the El Royale felt like it could have used some extra editing, at 2 hrs and 21 minutes it does drag in some parts, but the performances are manic and entertaining and the plot twists are plentiful and fun to navigate. If it were a tight 100-minute film I think it would have fared much better, maybe even become an instant cult classic. But as it stands it is still a solid movie for a cold winter’s movie night.
Lastly this week is a true anomaly in film and television: a TV series based on a cult movie franchise that actually works. The Purge: Season One is set in an alternate future where The Purge has already been established by the New Founding Fathers, a totalitarian political party that has created the one night of legal crime meant to purge American’s of their worst impulses including murder. The series follows several different people as they navigate the vicious night trying to survive including a US Marine who returns home to try and find his sister on Purge night, a finance professional who hires a Purge assassin to try and make her work life easier, and a couple who attend a high society Purge party in order to make connections and jump start their new business venture.
The Purge films have all been surprisingly strong with pretty disturbing messages about society, politics and human nature while still being really entertaining. While my first instinct says a TV series would probably be a cash grab and not as good quality, I was pleasantly surprised at the strong cast and performances and excellent production quality of the show. There are just as many chills and thrills as the movies and perhaps it even surpasses the films story wise as there is much more time to tell the tales. The stories are engaging and the characters all have solid arcs and make you actually care what happens to them. Overall The Purge: Season One is some must see TV and highly recommended.
Also of note is a new Collector’s Edition for the 30th Anniversary of the best romantic comedy ever made, When Harry Met Sally, the new horror flick Hell Fest, and the new Stephen King series Castle Rock: The Complete First Season.
Until next week movie lovers!
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Tuesday January 1, 2019
Bad Times at the El Royale
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – Hearts and Hooves
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here*
The Scarlet Letter*
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Tuesday January 8, 2019
24 Frames* - Criterion Collection
A Paris Education*
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
Blind Date a.k.a. Deadly Seduction*
Castle Rock: The Complete First Season
Jack the Ripper (1959)*
Let the Corpses Tan*
Monsters and Men
Nemesis – MVD Rewind Collection*
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution
Street Law a.k.a. Il cittadino si ribella*
The Car: Road to Revenge
The Great Battle
The House That Would Not Die*
The Purge: Season One
What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?*
What They Had
When Harry Met Sally 30th Anniversary Edition
*Catalog Blu-ray debut