If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Swedish director Lasse Hallström has come a long way since directing, um, as near as I can tell, EVERY ABBA music video. Rather than jail him for this offense, Ol' Lasse was smart enough to put out the movie "My Life as a Dog", which endeared him to people all over the world, was nominated for two Oscars and won a Golden Globe, giving him the coveted General Disco Amnesty Certificate that but a few are honored with. The story follows Ingemar, a tyke who keeps getting into trouble and whose terminally ill mother can't keep up with, so he's shipped off to live with his Aunt and Uncle. He begins making an odd assortment of friends, most notably a young tom girl named Saga who he assists in keeping up a masculine charade for so she can continue to play sports with the other boys (at which she's largely better at than them). Despite mounting problems in the family and the worsening health of his mother, Ingemar keeps a positive attitude by comparing himself to folks who had it much worse, such as Laika, the first cosmonaut dog who basically starved to death in outer space before burning up on reentry. If you gotta look THAT hard for a 'at least I'm not' comparison, maybe your life really is pretty crap? Either way, Hallström's introduction to most of the world outside Sweden (he went on to have a successful American film career) is a charming, thoughtful, and unusual coming of age story that doesn't hit any tired or treacly notes and neither does it waste time with manipulation. It's an honest, and at times uncomfortably intimate, realistically whimsical slice of a boy's young life and that's the entirety of it. Criterion adds the usual essay booklet and the disc features not only a satisfying interview with the director about the film, but an entire other film by him called "Shall We Go to My or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone?" (1973) featuring three different guys looking for girls out at a nightclub who each get a different titular conclusion to their evening.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY My Life as a Dog (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
SANCTUARY - SEASON 3 (Blu-Ray and DVD)
You know how you watch some shows that you wouldn't really call great, per say, as they're hampered by multiple and glaring faults, but there are certain qualities to them, even sometimes within the faults themselves, that keep you coming back? Well, "Sanctuary", a Canadian sci-fi series that airs on the SyFy Channel here, is one of those shows. I might be the one guy who discovered an affection for Amanda Tapping through this series before "Stargate SG-1". Here she plays the very British Dr. Helen Magnus. The good doctor has been immortal ever since a scientific experiment with pure vampire blood (a species previously gone extinct) gifted her and her colleagues, who often appear themselves in episodes, with varying super-abilities. 160 years later in modern day, she runs the Sanctuary institute, which serves as a haven for 'Abnormals', or, as most of the rest of the world would call them, monsters. Together with her new protege Will (Robin Dunn), an 'under control' werewolf named Henry (Ryan Robbins), a former enemy operative now a security expert for the team named Kate (Agam Darshi) and...Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), they battle the various and sundry forces of evil, protect the monstrously misunderstood, and try to pretend that their entire set isn't terrible looking green screen. Considering they've been getting away with it, and with a decent amount of success to boot, for 3+ seasons now, speaks volumes of what IS so good about that show. Often breaking away from the traditional type of stories you see in episodic sci-fi tv, "Sanctuary" has proven again and again that it's not afraid to go WAY off the reservation with some story lines that get downright bizarre. Season 3 has them wrapping up last season's cliffhanger, where Will has to bargain with the Goddess (actually an immensely powerful abnormal) Kali to keep her from destroying the world, a giant technologically advanced but endangered city inside of Hollow Earth where Helen's long-lost father still resides, and the discovery of the last Vampire stronghold, which makes their partially vamped pseudo-ally Nicola Tesla (Jonathon Young) a happy blood sucker. There's an awful lot of silliness, but some darn clever writing as well. My main complaint for season 3 was that it didn't find as many opportunities to be funny as previous seasons, nor did it feature enough of one of my favorite side-characters, John Druitt, also known as Jack the Ripper (but he's real, real sorry about it) which Bigfoot actor Heyerdahl does double duty as). Even with its insane and sporadically implausible plotting, usually lame CG, and questionable performances, "Sanctuary" stands up as a show worth watching because of how high it's not afraid to try to grasp...past its reach, sure, but you gotta admire it for reaching for the stars. Somebody get that show a stepladder.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Sanctuary: The Complete Third Season [Blu-ray]