With the death of Paul Walker and the unstoppable ego of Vin Diesel, “The Fate of the Furious” signals a rock bottom point in the movie series that we haven’t seen since “Fast and Furious.” As the series runs on fumes, the writers and producers are working over time to introduce us to dynamic new anti-heroes, all of whom can’t make “Fate of the Furious” worth watching. Unless you’re a completionist, or a hardcore Kurt Russell fanatic, “Fate of the Furious” is a convoluted and painfully long follow up that tries very hard to fill the void Paul Walker left when he died.
Dean Israelite’s reboot of “Power Rangers” is meant to be a reboot for a new generation. It has diversity, and vision, and works well in making sense of a lot of the concepts presented in the original series. Fans didn’t need all of the ideas to make sense, hence the rabid popularity in the nineties, but “Power Rangers” offers a sincerity that undercuts the obvious need for the studio to refurbish the Power Rangers for a new generation of fans and potential toy customers. I, for one, really enjoy what Israelite does with his vision of the “Power Rangers” providing minute cosmetic alterations and some big changes in mythos that are hit or miss most times.
Released to coincide with “International Bath Day,” the Teletubbies release yet another edition of their episodes on DVD. Comprised of six episodes total, this new volume features the alien—monster—children things dancing and singing once again with the help of their special Tubby Custard Machine. Said Machine concocts all kinds of scenarios and fun activities including allowing them to play with bubbles, and dance the new “Tubby Phone Dance.”
Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of Daniel Clowe’s iconic coming of age tale “Ghost World” gets its due from Criterion for hardcore fans alike. Criterion tastefully disregards Scarlett Johansson’s mega star status in favor of advertising the essence of the very weird and unusual tale of a young girl learning about growing up and moving on. In one of her finest roles, Thora Birch stars as the odd Enid, a girl with peculiar taste for Bollywood musicals and off beat culture who is experiencing the end of high school with her best friend Rebecca (Johansson). Enid finds solace with her life through her unusual art where she draws colorful locals in her town.
There aren’t many movies out there that offer audiences a sequel that is so drastically different in tone. The biggest comparison I can draw is the original horror thriller “Cat People” and dramatic “The Curse of the Cat People.” While “Willard” was basically a twisted thriller involving a dysfunctional young man’s self destructive relationship with rats, “Ben” is a more dramatic family film with elements of horror thrown in. It’s a very tonally confused and muddled melodrama that doesn’t do much to make Ben in to an interesting horror villain. To prove how utterly confused the movie is in terms of intentions, watch the final scene in which Ben stares in to the camera menacingly in the vein of the climax of “Willard” while the sappy “Ben’s Song” from Michael Jackson plays as the credits roll. So—what are we supposed to feel by this?
You have to give Shout Factory credit for at least trying to connect “Willard” to “Ben” for audiences. In the original 1971 movie, Willard Stiles is dysfunctional man whose rat of choice is white and named Socrates. For some reason he harbors an adversarial relationship with Ben, first scolding him like an embarrassed parent and then lashing out at him violently time and time again. Ben is always a mysterious element in the tale of Willard Stiles, an animal that has a lot more to him than simply being a rodent. He’s sometimes a sentient and very clever animal that feeds Willard’s own sense of need for family. “Willard” is kind of a demented thriller that’s always been considered a horror classic. And though it’s not scary at all, it does bear elements of horror with an EC Comic bent in rare moments.
“Bambi” is less a narrative with a lot of characters and morals and more about the hazards of life and the loss of innocence. “Bambi” somewhat celebrates the tradition of “Dumbo” to where we watch the beginning of a young life and his journey to grow up in a very dangerous and unforgiving world. Despite the time it was made, “Bambi” is still a technically impressive drama that paints the wildlife landscape so vividly with a dream like aura that can be inviting and harrowing. The film itself is based on highs and lows centered on the music and turn of events that unfold for young Bambi.
Arrow Video is easily one of the best movie distributors around, and if you ask certain movie buffs collectors, they’d argue that they’re the best, period. I can’t decide as Arrow Video has been on a mission for the last few years to deliver fans some of the most unique movie titles on blu-ray and DVD, and offer them in deluxe collector’s packages that would make most cineastes hyperventilate out of sheer excitement. Arrow Video has taken it upon themselves to offer fans the two tales of “House,” two films that were big movie rental fodder in their heydays and are now brought together for what is a heavily suggested anthology. Arrow Video combines two of the true “House” movies that are—ironically—about as different from each other as the last two “House” movies.