By Rick Bentley
Tribune News Service
“Descendants 2”; 3 of 4 stars: Once again, the cast of Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart and Mitchell Hope return to their roles as descendants of some of Disney’s most iconic good guys and villains in “Descendants 2.” The teens are trying to adjust to a less infamous life in the idyllic Auradon but some don’t adjust as well as others. Mal (Cameron) folds under the pressure of trying to be perfect because of her relationship with the son of Belle and the Beast and she returns to her evil roots on the Isle of the Lost.
Only her friends can save Mal and stop all the imprisoned villains from being released. Saving the day comes with a lot of action scenes, dancing and a new soundtrack. The film is aimed at a young audience but the quality of the production and musical numbers will entertain older viewers.
Making a sequel was a smart move; the 2015 Disney Channel film “Descendants” drew enough viewers to make it the fifth most watched movie in cable TV history. The fact that it reached 12.2 million viewers domestically and has been seen by more than 100 million total viewers worldwide is the kind of thing that gets the attention of cable channel executives.
Videos from the movie have tallied more than 1 billion YouTube views. Just for good measure, toss in the film’s soundtrack, ranked No. 1 on Billboard’s soundtrack, children’s digital album and top albums charts.
“Alien: Covenant”; 2.5 stars: In space, the further this franchise gets from the first movie, the less you can hear screams of enjoyment. The latest journey into the land of human-chomping aliens has the crew of the colony ship Covenant headed for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy. They discover what they think is an uncharted paradise. The truth is that it’s a dangerous world. The story wobbles despite the best efforts of a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride and Demian Bichir. Production values that are out-of-this-world can’t make up for a story that feels old and tired.
“Riverdale”; 3 stars: The series blends the characters from Archie Comics with the wacky sensibility of “Twin Peaks.” The result often leaps into giant holes of campiness but it can’t be beat for pure escapist entertainment.
The first season of 13 episodes revolves around the mysterious death of Jason Blossom, half of the creepiest twins since “The Shining.” Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) spends time on the investigation when he’s not working on his musical career or getting extra “tutoring” from Miss Grundy. His allies are the All-American Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and the big city transplant Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes). Also involved is Jughead (Cole Sprouse), the town’s resident author and mistreated teen.
Although there are only a scant number of episodes, “Riverdale” works through a long list of topics including greed, loyalty, parental abuse, illegal dealings, infidelity, class and the need for a real life version of “Josie & the Pussycats.” The writing is a throwback to when shows like “Dynasty” or “Beverly Hills 90210” ruled TV.
It’s not Shakespeare but if the Bard was around today he probably would find “Riverdale” a guilty pleasure.
ALSO NEW ON DVD
“The Wall”: Two American soldiers try to survive an attack by a sniper. Aaron-Taylor Johnson stars.
“Everything Everything”: A sick teen with severe allergies decides to go outside to be with the boy she has connected with online.
“The Powderpuff Girls: The Last Donnycorn”: Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are featured in 12 episodes of the animated series.
“Once Upon a Time: The Complete Sixth Season”: Adventures in Storybrooke come to an explosive finale of the ABC drama. The events to unfold in the seventh season are also teased.
“Hickok”: Wild Bill Hickok tries to leave his gun slinging days behind him. Luke Hemsworth stars.
“Once Upon a Time in Venice”: Los Angeles detective (Bruce Willis) must deal with a dangerous gang after they take his dog.
“Murdoch Mysteries: Season 10”: Yannick Bisson plays a detective who solves crimes in Toronto in the early 1900s.
“NCIS: New Orleans: The Third Season”: Scott Bakula stars in the CBS drama.
“The Middle: The Complete Eighth Season”: Patricia Heaton comedy about a family getting by in Middle America.
“DC Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season”: The time traveling heroes continue to try to repair blips in history. Brandon Routh stars.
“How to Be a Latin Lover”: A kept man must find his way in the world after being replaced.
“Bull: Season One”: Michael Weatherly stars in the CBS legal drama about a man whose business is finding the right jury.
“The Blacklist – Season 4”: More clues about the connection between Raymond “Red” Redding (James Spader) and Agent Keen (Megan Boone) are revealed.
“Britney Ever After”: Cable movie that looks at the rise of the singer from Mouseketeer to pop icon. Natasha Bassett stars.
“The Case for Christ”: Investigative journalist looks into the truth about Jesus. Mike Vogel stars.
“Chuck”: Liev Schreiber stars in the story of the boxer who was an inspiration for the character of Rocky Balboa.
“Blind”: Alec Baldwin stars in the story of a blind novelist and a woman doing community service who begin to question their lives.
“Face 2 Face”: Social issues are explored through video chats.
“Billions: Season Two”: Battle continues between a shady billionaire and ruthless prosecutor. Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti star.
AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL HD ON AUG. 15:
“Baywatch”: Dwayne Johnson stars in the big screen version of the TV series about California lifeguards.