It’s Wednesday, so it’s time for this week’s edition of the "View from the Couch" - a look at some highlights making their way to theaters, home video & streaming.
First up at the theaters this week: a pair of sequels that *more* than live up to the standards of their originals.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
Set five years after Hiccup and Toothless bond & unite the Vikings & dragons on the island of Berk … this time around, they discover a new land that's home to hundreds of wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider. I got a chance to see it this past weekend with my family and the result: we *love* it! This is so much more than just a “status quo” sequel or a quick cash-grab by Dreamworks Animation … this movie reaches the heart as it explores the emotional connection between people and their pets *and* really probes a complex relationship between a boy & his parents. This movie is a bit deeper & darker than the first film, but that should be expected as all of our characters have been allowed to grow not only physically, but emotionally, as well. Full of big, wide-eyed flying sequences, this is worth the 3-D upgrade if you can swing it.
22 Jump Street
This cleverly named sequel to 2012’s 21 Jump Street reunites Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill as borderline inept buddy cops who are *always* on the edge of being fired. They avoid high school this time around as the two head to college to go undercover and root out a new evildoer. I finally watched the first movie this weekend and thought it was hysterical, with Hill & Tatum creating an instantly lovable comedic pairing– so I was anxious to follow up with the sequel … I watched it last night & the sequel mostly holds up! Still funny, but more self-referential (almost to the point of breaking the fourth wall), this is *almost* as funny as the first & pushes my current favorite bro-mantic couple into new places. My only real issue is that this movie’s humor *only* works if you’ve seen the first.
Moving to Blu Ray - we’ve got 2 action-flicks this week just in time for Father’s Day.
This thriller stars the always-reliable Liam Neeson as a U.S. Air Marshal on a long flight from New York to London. He somehow conveniently starts receiving a series of cryptic text messages demanding money from the US Government in exchange for the lives of every passenger – one of whom will die every 20 minutes until the demands are met. Entertaining, but disposable, this action B-Movie is custom built for Liam’s current action-film fans.
“Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit”
Kevin Costner & Chris Pine. Set in the present day, this is a reboot of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series (that kicked off on film with ‘hunt for Red October’ over 20 years ago). Pine stars as hero Jack Ryan with Costner as his CIA handler. The story follows Ryan as he uncovers a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy … he goes from being an economic analyst to a spy that must uncover & fight those that would destroy our country. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, this movie seems to be a safe entry into the straight-forward thriller category.
Also out this week:
Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” with Liev Schreiber.
Fox’s just completed science hit “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” that explores deepest parts of the universe & our part in it.
A nice blu-ray re-issue of “Firefly the Complete Series”
TNT’s Closer follow-up “Major Crimes” Season 2
& HBO’s mega-hit from this winter: “True Detective” Season 1.
On the streaming side this week we have Netflix’s much-anticipated “Orange is the New Black” Season 2. Piper, Crazy-eyes & the rest are back as we’re all treated to an even better season of binge-watching.
Also streaming this week:
Both the “Muppet Movie” and the *far superior* “Great Muppet Caper”; the 80s classic “3 Men and a Baby”; 1992’s “Wayne’s World”; Bill Murray & Richard Dreyfuss in one of my faves “What About Bob”; and Tom Cruise & the late Phillip Seymore Hoffman in “Mission Impossible 3”.