Thanksgiving is a time of turkey, traveling and family. But it’s also a time when families come together to watch movies, which have long used the holiday season as the setting for characters to chow down on some food while trying not to strangle each other.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Rated R, 87 minutes.
Available today on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.
(4 out of 5 stars)
If you need a break from fighting over politics and who ate the last piece of pumpkin pie, top it all off with 30th anniversary release of the John Hughes classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
In the 1987 film, Steve Martin plays Neal Page, an always-working ad executive who is trying make it home for Thanksgiving. As simple as the task sounds, fate has different plans for Neal: His flight is canceled due to bad weather, so he must find another means of transportation. To make matters worse, he crosses paths with Dell Griffith (John Candy), an irritating traveling salesman.
Through these men’s adventures, they realize they are not the easy-going gents they assumed they were — as what begins as a comedy (the famous pillow scene) transitions into a film of redemptive lessons, such as caring for a complete stranger. It’s enough to make you feel warm and cozy, without having to stuff your face with more hot food.
Extras: The Paramount Home Media Distribution title (re-released last month) includes an in-depth retrospective on Hughes’ career, the story of the film, a tribute to John Candy, a look at Hughes’ exploration of adult-centered films and a deleted scene.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (1.5 stars) - In what looked to be a fun opportunity for Samuel L. Jackson to set a new record with f-bombs and Ryan Reynolds to keep up his cool guy schtick, The Hitman’s Bodyguard lets its guard down.
The film’s title informs the plot: An elite bodyguard (Reynolds) gets a new client, a hitman (Jackson) who must testify at the International Criminal Court. Along the way, however, things get expectedly messy.
Most of the movie features its characters chatting in rooms, with one person arguing with the other for no justifiable reason. The dialogue throughout is silly, and is delivered in a manner that seems to be only for a paycheck, and the action in unremarkable to say the least. What a tragedy.
Rated R, 118 minutes.
Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes deleted/extended/alternate scenes, outtakes, a director’s commentary, and a few behind-the-scene featurettes.
Good Time (3.5 stars) - Good Time sees the unrecognizable Robert Pattinson as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, a bank robber who’s racing against the clock to spring his mentally handicapped brother (Benny Safdie, also one of the film’s directors) from jail. It all takes place during one frantic evening, loaded with drama and violence.
After its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, word of its invaluable quality ignited discussion on entertainment website threads. With A24 behind it, Pattinson in front of it, and a gritty story with the same blood of Martin Scorsese flowing through its veins, Good Time lives up to its name.
Rated R, 101 minutes.
Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes a making-of, an audio commentary with the filmmakers and talent, and a music video.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (3 stars) - If you're familiar with Luc Besson's work (The Fifth Element, Lucy), you know that he creates some of the most awe-striking imagery every to be put on celluloid. He may not have the best grasp on original characters or simple dialogue, but it is easy to get swept up in his fantastic world-building and fun action sequences.
Valerian pairs Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) with a miscast Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness) for a space adventure about two special operatives who must uncover a secret involving a mysterious alien race. Also stars Clive Owen, an underused Rihanna and a lively Ethan Hawke.
Rated PG-13, 137 minutes.
Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes an art gallery and a multi-part documentary that breaks down the visuals, characters and stunts.
CSI: Miami - The Complete Series (3 stars) - Here’s a television series that is perhaps the ultimate guilty pleasure. It has become infused in our culture, popping up in internet memes with its central crime scene investigator, Horatio Caine (the great David Caruso), slipping off some shades before delivering some of the best one-liners ever spoken.
There are legitimately intense crime shows, such as Criminal Minds and Bones, but CSI: Miami takes itself a little less seriously by combining solid crime stories with unintentional comedy. It’s an absolute cheeseball of a series. But hey, I like cheese.
Key episodes: “Broken” (Season. 1, Ep. 6) and “Blood in the Water” (Season 4, Ep. 2).
TV-14, about 169 hours.
Extras: The CBS DVD release (available today) includes all 10 seasons in an incredibly packaged 65-disc set that has over 10 hours of special features (numerous featurettes, interviews, set tours, behind-the-scene looks, deleted scenes, a gag reel and audio commentaries).
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (3.5 stars) - The original CSI is one of the most intriguing crime-busting entertainment shows out there. It’s had a long run — 16 seasons to be exact. It would be unwise to say every episode was good. There are only so many different crimes you can dissect before it starts to feel repetitive. But even if it’s a routine homicide storyline, the characters are what have made this one of those series that we happily allow to eat up our lives.
We’ve seen many characters come and go (including William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Ted Danson, Elisabeth Shue and Laurence Fishburne), but the energy and enjoyment always remained. The writers took great lengths to make sure the science was authentic and the roles were accurate to their professions. It’s easy to follow and understand. What more can you ask for?
Key episodes: “Grave Danger: Vo1. (Season 5, Ep. 24, directed by Quentin Tarantino) and “Viva Las Vegas” (Season 5, Ep. 1).
TV-14, about 244 hours.
Extras: The CBS DVD release (available now) includes all 16 seasons in a 93-disc set that has over 19 hours of special features that are comparable to CSI: Miami’s set.
Also available this week: Beach Rats, California Typewriter, Jabberwocky (1977): The Criterion Collection, Jungle, Leap! and The Villainess.
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonBarta.