This is a super light week as far as Blu-rays and DVDs are concerned, but we’ve still got some goodness that might be of interest to all y’all. I probably shouldn’t ever say “all y’all” again.
There are lots of digital animation companies now attempting to dethrone the mighty Pixar in terms of quality and box office. Dreamworks has been at it awhile and Sony Animation is holding its own as well, but for “independent” digimation that’s actually rivaling the big boys in terms of style, you need look no further than Blue Sky, the company behind the Ice Age franchise and Rio. It was founded in ’87 by the digital effects team behind Tron, but wasn’t a player in the animation game, really, until it was bought by 20th Century Fox in 1997.
Anyway, that’s all backstory. Their newest film is Epic, the story of a race of tiny people who fly around on birds in the forest and keep nature safe, all the while battling another race of tiny people who ride bats and bugs who want to let nature die. The movie’s based on a series of books about the Leaf Men written by William Joyce, and I’d imagine it feels less like Ferngully in print. A girl named MK (Amanda Seyfried) comes to stay with her estranged father (Jason Sudeikis), a scientist who’s been obsessed with proving that the Leaf Men are real to the detriment of his personal relationships. MK wants none of it, but is soon shrunken down by the dying queen of the forest or nature or whatever (Beyonce… yep) to be the protector of a special seed pod until a new queen can be found.
Now, from a storytelling, and especially a scriptwriting standpoint, Epic is anything but. It’s very by-the-numbers, with characters falling squarely into the archetypes you’d expect. The star-studded voice cast, who also include Colin Farrell, Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd, Christoph Waltz, and (heaven help me) Steven Tyler and Pitbull, are almost all overdoing it just to try to save the very boring script. Ansari is especially irritating as the comic-relief slug. It’s slightly insulting, really.
That being said, the animation is absolutely stunning. It’s the most realistic and yet still cartoonish 3D animation I think I’ve ever seen. The textures and movement of everything is almost perfect. At one point, I thought I was looking at a real car driving, that’s how realistic it is. I saw the film in 3D, and that was also great. I just wish it had a better movie attached. If you’d like to read my full review of Epic, click on this link, yo.
For its fifth and final series, the original BBC Being Human had none of the main cast from the beginning and featured only two episodes written by creator Toby Whithouse. Still, it went big before it went home, bringing in the actual Devil for the final big bad and offering plenty of gore fans have come to expect. The series has a lot of great guest stars, including Phil Davis and Julian Barratt. I’ve never been a particular fan of this show (I’m one of the blasphemers who prefers the American version), but it ends the series on an interesting note and offers closure. Unless you watch one of the special features, that is.
HBO’s violent prohibition-era gangster show has a hell of a third season, introducing new antagonist Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) into the mix to contend with increasingly-reclusive liquor dealer Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and real-life gangsters Al Capone (Stephen Graham), Charlie “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza), and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef). It also contains maybe the creepiest and most frightening character on TV in the form of half-faced killer Richard Harrow (Jack Huston). For an HBO series, the DVD and Blu-ray are pretty inexpensive right now, just FYI.
Starzinger The Movie Collection – I really, really wanted to like this. It’s an anime space opera; what’s not to like? Well, it turns out, a lot. This set has three feature-length movies cut together from the TV series. The English voice acting is incredibly bad, even by ’70s standards (we don’t get a chance to hear the original Japanese), and the movies look like someone took a 4×3 image, hacked off the top and bottom, then enlarged it to fit widescreen televisions. The images are grainy and pixelated and the framing is off to the point of being distracting. Also, nothing in the way of special features. I’m writing about this to tell anime fans not to pick this up.
Rapture Palooza – Another apocalypse comedy this year starring Craig Robinson, this time as the Devil, and Anna Kendrick, who probably should have known better.
Schizoid / X-Ray – Two schlocky horror movies, one starring Klaus Kinski and the other starring Barbi Benton, in one package. Fun for a night with friends.
I told you it was a bad week. But, fear not, because next week we’ll have The Walking Dead, Pain & Gain, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh! Yay!