A24 Films

A24 Films

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

LOCKE bluLocke

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has just made a decision that will affect the rest of his life. The fact that he made it moments after hopping into his car after work means he long drive ahead of him will be spent dealing with the fallout, both expected and unexpected, and the entirety of it occurs without leaving the car. He takes calls from home and work, talks to himself as he works through his problems and mile by mile grows closer to his final destination.

So simple yet so mesmerizing. Tom Hardy in a car for eighty minutes probably shouldn’t be this engaging, but his performance as an ordinary guy facing the life-altering fallout from one bad decision is powerful affecting. He feels real — his dilemmas, frustrations, actions — and we can’t help but relate to the grounded drama and emotion. Suspense builds through conversations and Hardy’s acting, all without leaving the car. And not for nothing, but this is one incredibly (and unexpectedly) gorgeous film too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary]

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THE BLACKLIST 1 bluThe Blacklist: The Complete First Season

Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) was a government agent once upon a time, but a stint selling secrets has made him one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives. This status makes it that much stranger when he turns himself in to the feds with an incredible offer. He’ll help them catch dozens of the world’s most dangerous bad guys, but he’ll only talk to an agent fresh out of the academy, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Oh, and he’ll also need to live as a free man.

The core strength of this NBC hit is Spader as the guy just oozes charisma and charm, and while he had a run of villainous types in the ’80s it’s really been on TV where he’s been able to craft some truly memorable and morally suspect characters. Happily the show is solid around him as well as the individual episodes are often exciting and fun while the over-arching story arc remains constantly evolving and elusive.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes]

BREATHE IN bluBreathe In

Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce), his wife Megan (Amy Ryan), and their teenage daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) are living a seemingly content life in New York State. He plays cello, teaches music at his daughter’s school, and is preparing to audition for an important chair position with the Philharmonic, but he has an underlying desire to return to the simplicity of his youth. The family takes in a British foreign exchange student named Sophie (Felicity Jones), and it’s not long before their illusory happiness is threatened.

Director Drake Doremus and co-writer Ben York Jones tell a touching story of temptation that refuses to dip into the stickier aspects of the developing relationship, areas more common to films like the Poison Ivy franchise, and instead focuses on the emotions that drive these kinds of desires. There’s an element here of a slow-motion car crash — we know Keith and Sophie are heading for disaster — but the film lays a solid groundwork of need, loneliness, and the fragility of human relationships that makes it impossible to turn away for reasons well beyond simply wanting to see the impact.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

CRY WILDERNESS dvdDrive-In Collection: In Search of Bigfoot / Cry Wilderness

In Search of Bigfoot is a documentary from the ’70s about a team of hippie researchers looking for Bigfoot in the Washington woods. Cry Wilderness meanwhile is an adventure about a boy who believes in Bigfoot, shares a couple dozen Cokes with him and then helps save a tiger from a malicious U.S. Marshall in a mesh tang-top.

The doc is a fairly generic waste of time, but the joy — no, the magic — is in the 1987 family (?) adventure Cry Wilderness. There’s too much wonder in the film to capture in a single paragraph, but this is the kind of experience that should be on rotation at the Alamo Drafthouse. Its ridiculousness is matched only by its sincerity as the talking Bigfoot is far from the silliest thing here. The forest is filled with animals that the boy and others interact with, and the film cares not one bit about hiding the leashes,collars and ties keeping the wolves, cougars and others secured in place. But that’s just the beginning. There’s also an undead Indian, an un-Indian Indian (complete with red face), and a teacher with a split personality. Oh my it’s lovely.

[DVD extras: None]

FILTH bluFilth

Detective Bruce Robinson (James McAvoy) is one of Scotland’s… cops. He’s also a scheming, abusive addict with no boundaries when it comes to treating those around him as pawns and fools. His latest case, the murder of a visiting international student, sees him begin to unwind at a spectacular rate.

Author Irvine Welsh has seen a few of his works adapted into film, but only Trainspotting has made much of an impression until now. This is a foul, blackly comic and ultimately affecting film that gives McAvoy a chance to truly shine. There’s no doubt that the third act is the highlight, both for McAvoy’s performance and the narrative itself, but there are positives throughout thanks to a strong supporting cast (including Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell and others) and some truly outrageous moments.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, commentary]

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Decline of an Empire

A Roman soldier on a personal quest works his way to the top of the food chain only to discover that the person he was seeking is being held by someone right in front of him. Drama and bloodshed follow. This direct to DVD flick is being marketed as the great Peter O’Toole‘s final film, but while that may be the case it’s not enough of a reason to watch. He’s a small part of the film leaving the majority of it to be filled with speechifying and unimpressive battles. For history buffs only.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, trailer]

Frankie & Alice

Frankie (Halle Berry) has a secret. On the outside she’s a dancer earning cash in night clubs with her body, but inside are two additional “personalities” struggling to get out. One is a child. The other is a racist. This is a true story — in as much as Frankie was a real woman purported to have dissociative identity disorder — but as with just about every “true” tale of multiple personalities it doesn’t always feel legit. Still, Berry and Stellan Skarsgård give solid performances.

[DVD extras: Making of]

Hateship Loveship

Johanna (Kristin Wiig) is a shy housekeeper who gets dragged into an unexpected drama through the machinations of a distraught teenager (Hailee Steinfeld). Fooled into believing the girl’s father (Guy Pearce) likes her she opens up for the good things in life she’s heard so much about but has never personally experienced. I’m not the biggest fan of Wiig’s dramatic work — both the films themselves and her performances — but this is as close as she’s come to doing solid, shtick-free work, and the film is equally okay. Plus, anything with Pearce in it is worth at least a watch.

[DVD extras: Trailer]

A Haunted House 2

Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) thought he left the supernatural in his rear view mirror along with his ex, but the ghosts keep coming back. Look, most movies have an element of surprise in that until you watch it you really don’t know if it’s good or for you, but some movies make it clear from their very inception. You already know if you’ll find this funny. I already knew I wouldn’t.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, commentary]

Jesse

Jesse is a cop with an attitude. She also has a brother prone to dumb decisions, the latest of which has led to his disappearance at the probable hands of the mob, so she’s forced to take to the streets in the search for justice. Eesh this movie is a bust. Bad acting all around, cheap action sequences and a lead lacking in even the most basic degree of charisma make this fairly unbearable.

[DVD extras: None]

Kilimanjaro

Doug (Brian Geraghty) is in a period of transition. His relationship has ended, his job feels tenuous, he’s met a nice girl and he’s making plans for a mountain-climbing trip well outside his range of experience and ambition. But desire for change doesn’t always lead to change. This is a deceptively heavy little film — little in that it’s an 80 minute long indie — that has some fun looking up while building towards some very grounded truths. It left me a bit unsatisfied, but it never feels false.

[DVD extras: None]

Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series

A cop has been murdered, but the truth about the victim and his killers threatens to leave more bodies in its wake. AMC’s series was meant in part as a showcase for Mark Strong, an actor whose film career kept landing him in the villain role, but the grey morality and slowburn of a plot wasn’t enough to keep viewers (and critics) interested. Capped after just one season, the show remains an attractively shot series worth a watch for Strong’s fans only.

[DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]

The Marx Brothers TV Collection

The Marx Brothers made their mark as one of cinema’s more memorable black & white comedy teams, but they also spent the years following performing their shtick on TVs across the land. Most of their TV appearances have been difficult if not impossible to find, but now Shout! Factory has collected ten hours of material for your viewing pleasure. I’m more of an Abbott & Costello man myself, but Marx Brothers fans should be thrilled with this compilation.

[DVD extras: None]

The Midnight Game

A group of “teens” get together for a parent-free weekend, but when one of them suggests they play a creepy game called The Midnight Game they discover too late that not all games are meant to be fun. There are actually some solid moments and ideas in this otherwise generic chiller including the first appearance of a devilish entity and the final few minutes. The script follows too many horror cliches, but if you can get past them it’s worth a watch.

[DVD extras: None]

Motel Hell

Farmer Vincent and his sister Ida are good country folks making all-American food for hungry people like you and others. Sure, sometimes it’s also made from people… but whatever. This early ’80s horror/comedy is beloved by many, but I just can’t get on-board. For me the comedy half is just too broad and the horror too weak. Still, fans will love Scream Factory’s new Blu for both its HD image and the new commentary track with director Kevin Connor.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurette, trailer]

Proxy

A pregnant woman on the way home from her doctor’s office is attacked, her stomach bashed repeatedly, and when she comes to she discovers she’s lost the baby. Things get progressively stranger from there. There are some fun and interesting moments to be found here, but I’m not entirely convinced the movie needed to be two hours long. It also suffers from some suspect acting and a score that thinks it’s in a Brian De Palma movie, but there’s enough going on here (after the rough opening half hour) to make it worth a watch. The script’s bigger moments and ideas work better than its dialogue and smaller bits too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, featurettes, interviews, trailer]

Rage

Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) is a respectable, successful developer raising a daughter with his new wife Vanessa (Rachel Nichols), but his seemingly perfect life is thrown into chaos when a night out ends with a visit from the police and the discovery that his daughter Caitlin has been abducted. Director Paco Cabezas‘ first English-language film packs a lot of action and familiar faces into a story that is 90% generic and 10% interesting twist. That’s neither a recipe for success nor failure so the end result is a mild, instantly forgettable diversion that fans of low concept thrills will probably enjoy well enough.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, alternate ending]

The Railway Man

Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) was an officer during World War II who spent life-altering time as a POW under Japanese control. Decades later he still suffers the mental repercussions of the torture he endured, but when it begins taking a dark toll on his marriage he’s forced to confront the man responsible face to face. Firth is fantastic and the story manages a strong narrative about the need for forgiveness and the power of redemption. Even better, the film features Nicole Kidman‘s best role and performance in years.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]

Summer in February

A love triangle erupts on the idyllic coast of pre-WWII England between Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning and Dan Stevens in this lushly dramatic true story. The story here is well tread in the general sense as a woman is torn between two friends, one upper class and one a working man, but the cast and attractive visuals keep things interesting enough.

[DVD extras: Interview]

Swelter

An attempted casino robbery leaves some of the team arrested and others free, but the one with the money ends up in a far stranger place. A decade later he’s a small-town sheriff with a fractured memory of his criminal past, but when the rest of the crew comes looking for the cash he’s forced to decide where his loyalties lie. This low-key, modern-day western has a couple high points — some laughs and Alfred Molina —  but the action is weakly edited and it’s off-putting when it lathers the bad guys in “cool” as they gun down police officers. Eh, maybe I’m just getting old. Jean Claude Van Damme completists take note, he’s in this for a little bit too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer]

Turtle Power

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe you’ve been a fan for years, maybe you just watched the big screen reboot. Regardless of where you stand in your TMNT fandom this doc is guaranteed to be a source of revelations and anecdotes about the comic’s creation and longevity. I’m no fan of the turtles at all really, but even for me this is an engaging look behind the scenes of an unintentional phenomenon.

[DVD extras: None]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising
Batman: Assault on Arkham
Bitten: The Complete First Season
Breakheart Pass
Bunnyman Massacre
The Children’s Hour
Crawl or Die
DisneyNature: Bears
Eastsiders
Gunsmoke: The Tenth Season
Love Streams (Criterion)
Mr. Majestyk
Power Rangers: Megaforce – A Battle to the Finish
The Unforgiven
Worm


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