DVD

The Ardennes (DVD)

 From splash to bang.

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Super Shredder (DVD)

Ninja kick the damn rabbit. Always the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They are forever. They are eternal. They are Legion. I don’t know how many iterations of the heroes in a half shell the collective pop culture consciousness can absorb, but from my perch, the answer is quite obviously: all of them.  All of the iterations. Geez man, I remember dive-bombing  my Donatello action figure from the top of our house deck way back when–and I just turned 40 two weeks ago! Those Turtles have staying power and no matter the generation there appears to a real thirst for the continued chop-socky adventures of gang green. Here now is yet another version, Nickelodeon’s Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I won’t claim that I’ve been paying studious attention to all the different TMNT series that have popped up over the years–but I have a decent grasp of most of them (having reviewed more than my share). Where does this installment stand? Well, it’s definitely more bizarre, somewhat darker, a tad more subversive, and loaded with aliens and demons and mutants. Also, April O’Neil is apparently a telekinetic X-Man or something. Together (and with old friend Casey Jones) our heroes unleash their usual wisecracks and martial artistry in service of one outlandish story after another. And the center of it all is a roided-up Shredder, who seems be juicing on the Bane Venom from Batman and Robin. Despite an upping of amperage in the weirdness department, Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still feels like a standard-issue TMNT excursion. The personalities are largely the same (save for April who’s been freed of both the yellow jumpsuit and the annoying tendency to contextualize everything in how it would benefit her reporting career) and you’re essentially still seeing everyone smack around cannon fodder and the occasional Bebop and Rocksteady. Shredder is pretty cool here, essentially an insane monster more than a ninja with a grudge. So, really, more of the same. If you’re a TMNT fanatic and need everything shell, have at it. As far as the prime audience I’d say there’s enough edge here to entertain the higher range of grade schoolers, without it seeming lame. It’s probably a bit heavy-duty for the really little ones though. The DVD set: two discs, 11 half-hour episodes, and nothing else. THE VERDICT Not Guilty. But I feel like we’ve all been here before.

Easter Sunday (DVD)

Rotten egg I have to reluctantly give credit to the to the sly dogs at Camp Motion Pictures. they preyed upon my eagerness to lose myself in a bad ’80s horror movie and marketed this turd perfectly: Easter Sunday is presented with a retro look, as if it were a DVD reissue of an old-school VHS slasher pic, perhaps unearthed from your nearby, now-defunct video store. But, alas, that is not the case. Easter Sunday is a straight-up low-budget, homegrown movie. Like, low, low, low budget; Teen Ape style movie-making (if you don’t get the reference, consider yourself lucky and move on with your life). So here’s the dope: a couple of decades ago a serial killer was put to death. Fast forward to current day and a group of inebriated dinks party hearty around the campfire and inadvertently resurrect the guy, who proceeds to go on a killing spree while wearing a giant Easter Bunny head. That’s all you have to know. What ensues is a melange of dark, dodgy sequences featuring amateur actors bellowing out their cries of anguish while a dud with a mask and red eyes attacks them with various things. It’s a completely forgettable experience from top to bottom and offers almost nothing as far as additive value to the horror genre–aside from some sporadically grotesque gore effects. THE VERDICT Guilty. Eating Peeps is a more satisfying experience.

Blaze and the Monster Machines: Race into Velocityville (DVD)

Blaze up, bro Here we have another batch of episodes from Nick Jr.’s high-octane kids show. Blaze and the Monster Machines relays the adventures of a talking, living monster truck named Blaze who has a kid named AJ riding shotgun wherever he goes, which, to be honest seems a little weird. Anyway–who am I to argue with physics? Especially since Blaze is all abut introducing early concepts of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to the kiddos. So, hey, they’d know a lot more about the science behind the unholy union between man and machine. So this DVD has six episodes: RACE CAR BLAZE RACE TO EAGLE ROCK SKY TRACK THE WISHING WHEEL THE HUNDRED MILE RACE THE POLAR DERBY Not much  more to say, really. You get six random episodes, generally held together by the common thread of these machines going incredibly fast. As a dad, I have much respect for Blaze. My preschool-aged son is absolutely bonkers for all things monster truck and this show serves it up with aplomb. Add to that the the educational element–which, honestly, is not simply tacked on to help the Nick Jr. suits sleep at night; the STEM stuff is legit and a core of the program–and you’ve got a children’s show any parent would be good with. THE VERDICT Not Guilty. Vrooom.

Hooperman: Season One (DVD)

“You know, I never realized how dangerous this city is.”

Star Paws (DVD)

Lost in spays. Here’s this movie called Star Paws. I was morbidly intrigued, mainly because of the cover which looks less like the art of a coherent children’s film and more like a graphical transcription of Jim Henson’s fever nightmare. The way it plays out makes even less sense. The best I can make out is that millions of years ago there was a magic bone or something and it holds the key to dog and cat future and two warring factions of domesticated pets far in the future are racing each other to travel back to get it. And here’s how it plays out: a few dogs are positioned in front of a green screen and they stare blankly ahead while some does a voice-over. The animals’ mouths do not move however (no doubt due to budget constraints), which makes for a bizarre scene. That is, you’re just staring at someone’s dog staring back at you while a voice mumbles in the background. The super cats or action cats or whatever are even worse, crudely rendered computer generated images that appear to have been produced on the back of a 1994 Amiga. The technical shortfalls or not, Star Paws is still an abject failure, especially as a piece of kids entertainment. It’s boring, unfunny, and bizarre, making for a disgusting cocktail that virtually any child will spit back in your face with the velocity of a solar flare. But, don’t take my word for it. I interviewed a member of the target audience, my six year-old daughter: THE VERDICT As enjoyable an experience as being caught in the middle of a collapsing star.

The Search for Weng Weng (DVD)

He’s tough, he’s tender, he’s three feet tall. A few years ago, the greatest movie ever made was sent to my house. That movie? For Your Height Only. Bequeathed to the universe in 1981, For Your Height Only is a playful James Bond knock-off from the Philippines, starring Weng Weng, a three-foot tall man with a tremendous bowl-cut. The movie’s one of my all-time favorite bizarro cult oddities, and much of the credit is due to Weng Weng, who just turns in a hilariously earnest performance, terrible dubbing and all. Apparently I wasn’t the only on smitten by the little dude’s charisma. Andrew Leavold, an Australian lover of cult cinema, made it his mission to unearth the story of Weng Weng. So he hauled his cameras to the Philippines and kick-started his way to this, the most comprehensive documentary on diminutive Filipino action heroes ever created. But The Search for Weng Weng turns out to be a lot more than a simple biography of  a little-known B-movie mini-celeb. Leavold ends up opening his story up to cover the breadth of the Philippines movie-making scene n the late 1970s and early 1980s–the ups an downs, the unsavory dealings, the political maneuverings, even the underbelly, which one might even classify as seedy. Leavold gets his camera in front of a lot of the old players on the industry and they’re more than happy to dish. Which was all well and good, but if I’m honest–I don’t really care a whole lot about this particular subject matter. Kudos to Leavold for being exhaustive with his lens but give me the Weng Weng goods bro! Eventually, he does get his narrative re-configured and we get the rest of the story on the little guy, both from his family and his colleagues. And…it’s a bit of a downer to honest. The guy never really got to enjoy his dough or, really, his short-term fame, thanks to some weird relationship with his producers. In the end, as much as I’m a fan of Weng Weng and, particularly, For Your Height Only, I left this documentary feeling bummed. So, I guess it’s good that his story was told…right? THE VERDICT Not Guilty. Good documentary. Sorta sad though. And maybe a little pointless.

The Grinder Season 1 (DVD)

Grinded to a halt. Last year, Fox put out a pair of promising half-hour, laugh-track-free sitcoms: John Stamos’s Grandfathered and this, Rob Lowe’s foray into headlining his own show. For a while Grandfathered and The Grinder got regular play in the Johnson household. But then…slowly but surely…we tuned out. The problem? Both were built entirely on a single gag that couldn’t sustain an entire series. For the Stamos show it was “lifetime-bachelor-50-something-refuses-to-grow-up;” and for The Grinder, well…let’s start from the beginning. Rob Lowe is Dean Sanderson, a famous TV actor who was known for his hot-shot lawyer character “The Grinder” on The Grinder (the fake show, not this series). Done with the superficial Hollywood game, he returns to his hometown to take up with his real lawyer brother Stewart (Fred Savage). Smitten with quaint, small-town life, Dean convinces Stewart to let him stick around, working as some kind of bizarre consultant to offer spice to the straight-laced law practice. And like that we’re off and running–to an eventual cancellation. Which is a shame, because this show has a good heart and at time s can be laugh-out-loud-funny. Rob Lowe’s ultra-slick, blissfully-self-unaware Dean is one of the more charismatic and likeable creations we’ve seen on network TV in some time. Fred Savage’s Stewart has his moments, but he’s essentially reduced to straight man duties with a sporadic helping of full-blown-neuroses. So charming leads, funny jokes and William Devane–what’s the problem then? It’s the temporary nature of the gag. Every plot rests on the juxtaposition of Dean’s earnest ceaselessness bailing out a trial (or some permutation of this conceit). There are wrinkles, and role switches, and romances and even a slam-bang recurring bit from Timothy Olyphant–but in the end there just isn’t enough to keep the train moving. We eventually lost interest and it was obvious we weren’t the only ones.  So The Grinder bids us farewell and we tip our hat–you had some potential, but in the end, you just couldn’t grind your way to a season 2 order. THE VERDICT No Guilty. Also, not on the air anymore.  

The Carol Burnett Show: Classic Carol (DVD)

Just to have a laugh or sing a song.

Hee Haw Salute! (DVD)

Kornfield County, Represent!

A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (DVD)

Starship Troopers reunion show!

Iverson (DVD)

The killer crossover.

In the Deep (DVD)

No help above, no hope below.

The Business of Strangers (DVD)

What is the business of strangers?

The Blair Witch Project (DVD)

In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.

The Billy Madison / Happy Gilmore Collection (DVD)

Any attempt to cheat, especially with my wife, who is a dirty, dirty, tramp, and I am just gonna snap.

The Big Squeeze (DVD)

Money is the devil’s calling card.

The Big Sleep (DVD)

“You go too far, Marlowe.” “Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he’s walking out of your bedroom.”

The Big Lebowski (DVD)

“I don’t see any connection to Vietnam, Walter.” “Well, there isn’t a literal connection, Dude.” “Walter, face it, there isn’t any connection.”

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