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The Shelf: DIVERGENT, OCULUS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE

This week, a few movies with female leads make their way to Blu-ray and DVD. Some of these are better than others, it has to be said. Also! Some beloved television programs, both animated and not animated. Pretty good week, all things considered.

Divergent
I’m starting with this one mostly because it’s the biggest release of the week, but also to get it out of the way. This is a movie that’s just not for me. Based on a staggeringly popular (I’m told) young adult novel, Divergent tells the story of a young woman in a caste-based future wherein personality attributes tell people to which of five factions they belong. The five factions have to do with how they relate to problem solving, either with intelligence, bravery, selflessness, honesty, or peacefulness. Those things don’t really seem to be mutually exclusive, but hey, it’s not my book or movie. (If you’re smart you can’t also be honest? If you’re brave you can’t also be selfless?) The “heroine” Tris (Shailene Woodley) is one of a group of people who are outliers known as divergents, who possess multiple attributes. So she’s a human, good for her. She joins up with the bravery squad and through that learns to fight, which is good because she’s going to have to take down a semi-fascist upstart government run by Kate Winslet.

If you’d like to read my full review of Divergent, go to this link. And be prepared for vitriol.

Oculus
Haunted things are never good, but for some reason a haunted mirror seems the scariest. Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaits play siblings who, after the brother gets out of a mental institution following years of incarceration, return to their old house because the sister is convinced it was their old antique mirror that was to blame for their mother’s (Katee Sackhoff) death, and not the boy everyone thought. The investigation leads down a terrifying path of the supernatural and the past. Rory Cochrane also stars.

Witney Seibold called it “one of the damn scariest movies in years.” To read Witney’s full review, click this here link why don’t ya?

Phantom of the Paradise
I’d never seen Phantom of the Paradise save a few clips until reviewing Scream Factory’s mammoth double-disc Blu-ray special edition. Traditionally, I’m not a big fan of De Palma, but I’d always been curious about Phantom because it seemed so different from any of the other hyper-sexual horror he’d done. And one ridiculously unnecessary and obvious Hitchcock ape aside, I found the movie to be a lot of fun, full of weird imagery, baroque performances, and melodic and catchy tunes written by Paul Williams. Darn you, De Palma, making me like one of your movies.

To read my full review of this super enjoyable horror comedy musical, click here.

Community Season 5
It’s truly amazing to me that something could be so different simply because one person was replaced, but that’s exactly what happened when Dan Harmon was let go as showrunner of his own program by NBC following its hilarious third season. The fourth year that followed, on top of being much, much shorter, just didn’t have the same tone or irreverence and love of television. The characters were the same, the setting was largely the same, and yet it just felt off and everybody knew it. This is why it’s even more astonishing and fantastic to me that when Harmon was triumphantly brought back for Season 5, it pretty much immediately regained its edge. Sure, Chevy Chase had left and Donald Glover followed not long after, but the addition of Jonathan Banks and the upped appearance of John Oliver definitely helped fill the gap. Even though NBC ultimately passed on its sixth year, giving way to Yahoo, it’s undeniable that Community was back to more or less full strength for its final network season.

Transformers: Cybertron The Complete Collection
There are just SO many Transformers cartoons over the years. Cybertron was the 2005-2007 series that employed CGI robots in disguise and mixed them with 2D-animated human characters. In Japan, it was called Galaxy Force and stood alone, but here in North America, the dialogue was changed to make it a direct sequel to Armada and Energon. Always nice to hear Garry Chalk as Optimus Prime, whom I first remember as the voice of Optimus on the ’90s CG program Beast Wars, which still might be my favorite. Anyway, this one’s good too if you’re into that stuff.

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