'Everything, Everything' and everything 'Re-Animator'

By Tom Von Malder | Aug 13, 2017
Photo by: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson star in "Everything, Everything."

Owls Head — Everything, Everything (Warner Bros., Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 96 min.). The film is a faithful adaptation of Nicola Yoon's model about an unlikely romance. The central couple -- Amandla Stenberg as Maddy, 18, and Nick Robinson as Olly, her new neighbor -- is an unlikely match not because they are of different races, but  because Maddy has SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency) that makes her basically allergic to everything, as she puts it. She has lived within the sterile environment of her house, without going out, for 17 years. The only people she interacts with are her physician mother (Anika Noni Rose as Pauline) and her nurse (Ana de la Reguera as Carla).

Maddy spends most of her days reading, building detailed architectural models for schoolwork and wishing she could visit the ocean. She does have computer access to the outside world, but no tactile contact. Olly has moved to California with his family, including sister Kayra (Taylor Hickson) and combative parents (the father apparently is abusive and unable to hold jobs). Olly is immediately smitten when he first sees Maddy in her window. After exchanging glances and some written messages through their respective windows, they move on to a texting relationship. Director Stella Meghie brings these text exchanges to life by having Maddy imagine they are taking place face-to-face in her model restaurant. With the help of Carla, Olly is eventually able to visit Maddy inside her home.

Naturally, this leads Maddy to want more, to dare to step outside of her restricted environment, something she first does on instinct when seeing Olly in a physical argument with his father. Pretty much the rest of Olly's home life remains a mystery. So, the whole film is centered on the developing relationship between the two teenagers, and both actors handle their roles well. Stenberg seems natural and warm, and Robinson, who has built a lot of good will with me through his role on the TV series "Melissa & Joey," plays off of Stenberg well, with just the right amount of hesitancy at times and a wonderful openness. Robinson also starred in "Jurassic World."

Bonus features include 14 deleted scenes (16:15), including a visit by Maddy's male teacher; and a Blu-ray exclusive, "Trapped in Love," that recaps the plot with interviews, including author Yoon. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 2 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Fox, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG, 91 min.). For the younger set, the fourth "Wimpy Kid" film evokes most of its laughs via the animal world, including a potbelly piglet and a flock of seagulls (no, not the new wave band). While it only has been a year later in story time, this film comes five years after the last one, and thus has a complete change of cast, including a much less appealing big brother Roderick (now Charlie Wright). Main character Greg Heffley is now played by Jason Drucker (TV's "Every Witch Way") and his parents by Alicia Silverstone (3 Aerosmith music videos) and Tom Everett Scott (TV's "Reign," "Scream: The TV Series").

In the film, the family, including baby Manny, are off on a four-day road trip -- 37 hours of driving time without any phones or Internet-connected devices allowed -- to visit Meemaw's 90th birthday celebration in rural Indiana. Greg has other ideas, however. Having recently become an inadvertent social media sensation as "Diaper Boy" --  his hand got stuck in a used diaper that he could not wave off -- Greg wants the family trip to make a detour to the Player Expo in Indianapolis, so he can play a video game against Internet sensation Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover), thereby making "Diaper Boy" old news. Along the way, Greg helps develop a family feud with Mr. Beardo (Chris Coppolo), which includes a bizarre takeoff of the shower scene in "Psycho," but the film's funniest parts come when Manny wins a piglet at a state fair and it livens things up in the car, and then seagulls attack for some cheesy snacks. (I was a bit surprised to find seagulls in Indiana, far from any major body of water, but apparently the birds are moving inland now.)

The acting is occasionally forced, probably to make up for the sub-par script (even though book series author Jeff Kinney co-wrote the screenplay with director David Bowers). The basic premise will recall the much funnier "National Lampoon's Vacation."

There are quite a few bonus features, the best of which are looking at making the pig, Alien Abduction ride and computer-generated seagulls scenes (12:20) and author Kinney showing how to draw the three brothers, as well as friend Rowley and the pig (14:26). There also are Greg's 10 rules  for a perfect road trip (3:03); road games, including road trip bingo and Roderick's shopping list (3:53); discussing a decade of Wimpy fun with the author, director and actors (13:26); bloopers and deleted scenes (4:34); deleted animation (42 secs.); family fun and boat (42 secs.); filming in Georgia (2:19); and a photo gallery. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Descendants 2 (Disney DVD, TV G, 90 min.). The first film had its charms and some decent songs, but I found the follow-up overly brash in costumes, music and story. Kenny Ortega ("High School Musical" franchise) returns as director of the TV movie sequel that stars the teenage sons and daughters of Disney's most infamous villains, with the whole cast back. This time, Mal (Dove Cameron of "Liv and Maddie") feels overwhelmed by the pressure to be royalty -- in the last film she became engaged to young King  Ben (Mitchell Hope), son of King Adam/Beast (Dan Payne of "Everything, Everything") and Queen Belle (Keegan Connor Tracy); so, she leaves Auradon Prep and heads back to the Isle of the Lost.

On the island, Mal's archenemy Uma (China Anne McClain), the daughter of Ursula, has taken over her position as self-proclaimed queen of the run-down town. Other new villains include an over-acting Thomas Doherty (TV's "The Lodge," the upcoming film, "High Strung: Free Dance") as Harry, the son of Capt. Hook; Dylan Playfair ("Some Assembly Required") as Gil, son of Gaston; and Anne Cathcart ("Odd Squad") as Dizzy, daughter of Cinderella's evil stepsister Drizella. Through most of the film, the songs are pretty poor as well, with most of the dubbed vocals heavily Autotuned. Only the rousing finale -- a real dance-athon -- is memorable.

Bonus features include cast members answering questions, such as their swordfight training (4:47); bloopers (57 secs.); the deleted song, "If Only," an extended song, "The Space Between Us" and two brief alternate endings (5:56); 18 episodes of the animated "Descendants: Wicked World" season one (51:36); and three female performance songs from the animated series (6:51). The film's end promises a third installment; I hope much more thought is put into it. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.25 stars

Re-Animator limited edition (1985, Arrow, 2 Blu-ray discs, NR, 86 min. director's cut + 105 min. integral version). This set presents two versions of Stuart Gordon's wickedly funny adaptation of six H.P. Lovecraft short stories. The unrated director's cut (86 min.) is Gordon's preferred version, while the integrated version (105 min.) combined the unrated and R-rated versions, adding plot scenes that had been cut, for release in Germany.

In the film, third-year medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) has developed a re-animation serum, which he has used to revive dead animals. After a prologue set in Switzerland (a late addition to the film), West takes up his studies at Miskatonic Medical School in Arkham, Mass., where he immediately makes an enemy of Dr. Hill (David Gale), the anatomy professor. West rents a room from fellow third year, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), because he has a wonderfully creepy basement for experimentation. Cain is dating Megan (Barbara Crampton), daughter of Dean Alan Halsey (Robert Sampson). Cain has a cat that ends up dead, although West re-animates it twice. A most amusing scene has the two medical students chasing the re-animated cat around the basement with a baseball bat (although the cat is hardly seen).

From then on, things get even more wacky, including a re-animated head that functions separately from its body and which makes advances  toward a naked Megan. The film ends up with a battle against a corpse corps. Most of the effects are practical, and there are 89 effects shots, but most are very effective. The film made a genre star out of Combs, who continued the role in "The Bride of Re-Animator" in 1989 and "Beyond Re-Animator" in 2004. Particularly effective is the score by Richard Brand, which is a homage to film composer Bernard Herrmann, who often worked with Alfred Hitchcock.

Bonus features are legion. On the disc with the unrated version, there are three audio commentaries: one by director Gordon; one by Gordon, Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin; and one by producer Brian Yuzna and actors Combs, Crampton, Abbott and Sampson. The first and third audio commentaries have been carried over from the 2011 Image Blu-ray edition as well as an Anchor Bay DVD release, as have most of the disc one bonus features. They include a fine 2007 making-of feature (68 min.), which has interviews with special effects gurus John Naulin and Anthony Doublin, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg and other cast and crew (discussed are deleting Dr. Hill's hypnotic powers and Gordon says Abbott carried the movie); 16 extended scenes (23:05; 14 involve Abbott); one deleted scene (2:40) in which a corpse is brought back to life in front of Halsey and Hill (possibly a dream sequence?); multiple-angle storyboards of three scenes; an interview with former Fangoria editor Tony Timpons (4:34); an interview with composer Brand (14:43), plus Brand talking about the music used in specific scenes (16:31); an interview with writer Dennis Paoli (10:41); an interview with Gordon and Yuzna (48:47); and a still gallery.

New bonus features on the unrated disc are a 2015 interview with Crampton and journalist Alan Jones that covers her whole career (36:05); Gordon discusses his theater work in Chicago (13:08); and lyricist Mark Nutter discussing his music for "Re-Animator: The Musical" (12:04). The musical was staged such that patrons in the first two rows had to wear ponchos, as fake blood and other matter would splash on them during the performance. The second disc has two worthwhile bonus features. The first is a guide to Lovecraftian cinema by Chris Lackey, starting with "The Haunted Palace" with Vincent Price in 1963 (54:02). Lackey points out that "Alien" could be considered inspired by Lovecraft. The second is audio of actor Doug Bradley (of the "Hellraiser" franchise) reading all six of the Lovecraft short stories (98:32). The set also comes with the original1991 comic book adaptation reprinted in its entirety and a collector's booklet with an essay by Michael Gingold. Grade: film 4 stars; extras 5 stars

How To Be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 115 min.). This film marks the first English language starring role for Mexican star Eugenio Derbez, who plays Maximo, a 46-year-old gigolo, who is thrown out by Peggy (Renee Taylor of TV's "The Nanny"), his wife of 25 years, after she is seduced by an upscale car salesman (Michael Cera). With nowhere to stay, and on the advice of fellow gigolo Rick Parsons (Rob Lowe), who is keeping heated company with Millicent (Linda Lavin of TV's "Barney Miller," "Alice"), Maximo shows up of the door of his neglected sister (Salma Hayek as Sara) and young nephew (Raphael Alexandro as Hugo). Of course, things do not go smoothly at first, but the comedy develops a real heart as Maximo comes to care for Hugo and helps him capture the attention of classmate Arden (Mckenna Grace), while at the same time trying to make Arden's grandmother (Raquel Welch as Celeste) his new conquest.

Maximo, who keeps getting hit on the head early in the film, is a very funny character. A highlight segment is when he is teaching Hugo to do the confident sexy walk. Kristen Bell (TV's "The Good Place") plays a kooky yogurt shop manager and cat lover who befriends Maximo. Among the cameos are Weird Al Yankovich performing his "Birthday Song" (full version is among the extras) and Derbez's 25-year-old son, Vadhir, playing the younger Maximo on the day he first met Peggy. ("Am I making you wet?," he asks after swimming up to her.) Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel play two not-so-bright-bulbs who get on Maximo's case about payment for having a car "wrapped." While most of the film is in English, Hayek and Derbez speak Spanish in their scenes together.

There are bloopers during the closing credits and lots more sexy walking throughout Los Angeles. The film comes with audio commentary by director Ken Marino (himself a longtime actor), producer Ben Odell and editor John Daigle. There also is a making-of featurette (17:35) that discusses how the first proposal was for a TV comedy, called "Trophy Husband." The character of Hugo was a late addition to the script. In a "Little Help," director Marino talks about all his friends who appear in the movie (11:10); then there are 23 deleted or extended scenes (33:39), including a funny dream and Lowe and Derbez's characters sharing their scar stories. Ah, the life of a gigolo is so hard. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 2.75 stars

Once Upon a Time in Venice (RLJ, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 94 min.). This comedic film noir is notable for having star Bruce Wiillis and his stunt double of 17 films, Stuart Wilson, skateboarding naked through the streets of Venice Beach for several minutes. Willis plays private investigator Steve Ford, who is fleeing from the beefy brothers of a missing woman (Australian swimsuit model Jessica Gomes), whom he was bedding when the nakedness occurs. If that were not enough, Ford hides his pistol in his ass crack when stopped by a policeman, who lets him go after he recognizes Ford.

Ford is a disgraced Los Angeles policeman, now running the only P.I. agency in Venice Beach, with the help of occasional narrator John (Thomas Middleditch of HBO's "Silicon Valley"). His best friend is surf shop owner Dave Jones (John Goodman; not the Monkee), but the real love of his life is his dog, Buddy, whom he brings to spend part of each day with his niece. The niece's mom is played by Famke Janssen, one of several actors with brief roles in the film. The others include Kal Penn and Christopher MacDonald. For that matter, Goodman does not do that much either.

When Ford steals back buddy Tino's car from drug dealer Spyder (Jason Momoa), it causes Spyder to retaliate by stealing stuff from Ford's sister's house, including Buddy. In order to get Buddy back, Ford has to recover some drugs stolen by Spyder's girlfriend. Meanwhile, Ford has been hired by Lew "the Jew" Jewison (Adam Goldberg; the name is characteristic of the film's low level of humor) to stop a graffiti artist from painting Lew in explicit sexual situations on the building he is trying to sell to some Chinese businessmen.

The film really is just a bunch of situations strung together that probably seemed funnier on paper than they do in the finished film, such as Willis in female make-up. It also sets up a sequel with a cliffhanger ending, but I have a feeling the sequel will never be made. The only bonus is a behind-the-scenes featurette (16:41) with interviews and lots of clips from the film. Grade: film 2.25 stars; extra 1.5 stars

The Wall (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 89 min.). This essential is a one-person, one-location film, with most of the acting done in response to a voice at the other end of a radio. The setting is Iraq in 2007, as the war is winding down and rebuilding efforts are underway. Two U.S. snipers (Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Allen "Ize" Isaac and John Cena as Shane Matthews) have come across a pipeline work site in which everybody has been killed.

While Isaac urges caution, Matthews gets bored and goes down the hill toward the scene. At which point, the enemy sniper shoots him. (In the extras, we learn that Matthews originally died here, but when Cena was cast, the role was expanded, although Matthews is unresponsive for large chunks of the film.) Isaac follows, trying to pull Matthews out of the line of fire, but he too is shot in the leg -- as well as having his water bottle pierced and radio antenna shot up -- but manages to take shelter behind a deteriorating stone wall. When a close-proximity radio starts working, Isaac soon realizes he is talking to the enemy sniper, and a psychological mind game is played out through the remainder of the film. The voice of the enemy sniper is provided by Laith Nakli.

Taylor-Johnson ("Nocturnal Animals") is excellent in this terse, tense film, directed by Doug Liman ("Edge of Tomorrow," the "Bourne" franchise). Liman broke the film down into 10-minute segments, as he tried to make different spots behind the wall feel like different locations. The main questions are whether Isaac can hold out until help arrives and can he prevent that help from being in jeopardy? Bonus features include audio commentary by Liman and Taylor-Johnson; a visual journey (11:09; uses pop-in factoids) on shooting the film in 14 days in the extreme heat and blowing sand of the Mojave Desert; and four behind-the-scenes vignettes (9:54), including a look at military advisor Nicholas Irving, a former U.S. Ranger sniper who was nicknamed "The Reaper" during his tours in Afghanistan. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 2.5 stars

The Dinner (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 120 min.). Based on a bestselling novel by Dutch author Herman Koch (and there have been two foreign film adaptations as well), the film is about two estranged brothers and their wives meeting at a toney restaurant to discuss what to do about an awful crime their children committed. The problem with the film, written and directed by Oren Moverman ("The Messenger," "Love & Mercy," which I really liked), is half of it is told in multiple flashbacks that take place at multiple times and the structure is such that it is not until well into the second hour that the viewer knows what is going on. By then, the film's acting gets very impressive, but most viewers probably have already given up on the film.

The film's four adults are Congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) and his second wife Kate (Rebecca Hall), and former history teacher Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney, who also has appeared with Gere in "Primal Fear" and "The Mothman Prophecies"). Stan is running for governor and spends part of the evening on the phone, trying to wrangle votes for bill he is trying to pass the next morning. Paul, it eventually appears, has a mental condition, while his wife is recovering from cancer. The children are played by Charlie Plummer (Michael, Paul's son), Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Rick, Stan's son) and Miles J. Harvey (Beau, Stan's adopted African-American son). It turns out the crime was committed by Michael and Rick, and now Beau is blackmailing them over a video they made of the crime. The film ends very  abruptly, with nothing resolved. The viewer is left to consider a handful of possible resolutions, none of which are very appealing.

Bonus features include audio commentary by Moverman and Linney, and a photo gallery. Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 1.25 stars

Fate (Self Destruct Films, video on demand, NR, 95 min.). Written and directed by Dan Sheldon ("The Missing Link"), this is a time travel film and, like most time travel films, it involves paradoxes, unsuccessful attempts to change history and an ending that just might unravel everything that has gone before.

Daniel Bonjoer (TV's "Frequency"), who does the best acting here, plays scientist/professor Connor Hughes, who is working with his older, wheelchair-bound mentor Jonas (Jerry Hoffman of "Sea Monsters") to develop a time machine. As the film opens, they have been able to send a mouse forward 60 minutes, but have not yet cracked travel into the past. That changes when a misunderstanding leads Hughes' fiancée April (Ann Clare Lush) to run away and get killed by a distracted driver. Hughes now tries to go back into the past -- he can only stay 58 minutes -- multiple times to try and save her, but fate seems to have other ideas.

Some of the acting is pretty horrible, such as the three goons from the government funding agency who try to shut the project down. I'm not sure the script did all it could either. Why not try and stop the car driver, if Hughes cannot stop April from walking in front of the car? As this is video on demand, there are no bonus features. Grade: film 2 stars

Riverdale: The Complete First Season (Warner, 3 DVDs or Blu-ray from Warner Archives, NR, 572 min.). Created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ("Glee," "Big Love"), with a key input from producer Greg Berlanti (most of the WB's superhero series), this refreshing series turns the Archie comic book series into a teenaged version of "Twin Peaks." Not only do the beloved comic characters have to deal with high school, but they also have to deal with their parents' foibles and the death of a classmate. It was Berlanti who suggested the series should have a dead body.

The young cast has its strengths, while the older cast features actors from key previous TV shows. The young cast starts with a wonderful KJ Apa ("A Dog's Purpose") as Archie Andrews, with Lili Reinhart ("The Kings of Summer") as his neighbor Betty Cooper and Cole Sprouse ("The Suite Life of Zack and Cody") as his best friend, Jughead Jones. New to town is Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), a guaranteed cheerleader and the girl who will capture Archie's interest away from infatuated Betty. However, Archie also develops a thing for Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) of the singing Pussycats, as Archie tries to develop his songwriting, even though his father insists a football scholarship is the way to get into college. Casey Coot is gay Kevin Keller, who kind of gets forgotten as the series goes on. Twin sister to the dead football player is Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.

Archie's dad, Fred Andrews, who runs a struggling construction company, is played by Luke Perry of "Beverly Hills 90210." Archie's mother, Mary, is played by Molly Ringwald ("Pretty in Pink," "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles"). Betty's mother, Alice, who runs the town newspaper with her husband, Hal (Lochlyn Munro), is played by Madchen Amick of "Twin Peaks." They have another daughter who is pregnant by the dead boy. Jughead's dad, FP, a member of the South Side Serpents gang, is played by Skeet Ulrich of "Jericho." Veronica's father is in jail and her mother, Hermione (Marisol Nichols), seems to like it that way, making moves on Fred. Each episode has the name of a classic movie.

Bonus features include 18 deleted scenes (about 17 min.) spread across the three discs; a making-of (9:17), Apa performing two songs, one with the Pussycats and one with Josie; a gag reel (4:47); discussing the comics and the "new normal" (8:47) and the show's "Blue Velvet" influence; and the Comic Con panel (a way-too-brief 8:05, as two minutes is spent introducing the panel). Grade: season 3.5 stars; extras 2 stars

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