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Pick of the Week
Alice Sweet Alice [Arrow Video]
Why see it? Y’all can keep your tales of possession and exorcists, because for my money when it comes to Catholic horror I lean closer to sleazy, sweaty, bloody gems like this mid 70s shocker. Brooke Shields was always the big sell in retrospect, but she’s offed early on leaving the film’s real highlights in the form of a sticky atmosphere, a mean commentary, and a fun slasher. It’s not a nice movie, but it is a cruelly entertaining one. Arrow’s new Blu-ray gives it a long overdue facelift alongside a bevy of extras new and old offering a look into the film’s production and resulting legacy.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, interviews, booklet]
The Girl in the Fog
What is it? A teenager’s disappearance in a small town leads a detective to suspect a local man.
Why see it? I’m a sucker for murder mysteries set in small town’s with investigations that stir up all kind of shit, and this Italian film is a fine example. There are plenty of turns and reveals as the story unfolds, and it’s a sharp and surprising tale. Jean Reno co-stars, but while the other faces are less recognizable to western audiences they’re no less captivating. The final twist is a bit obvious, but it’s still satisfying making for a compelling story about motivation.
[DVD extras: None]
Girls of the Sun
What is it? A squad of Kurdish women take up arms to fight religious extremists.
Why see it? Movies about Middle Eastern war and the extremist threats typically follow Western countries into battle, and they always focus on the men. This one stands apart — while still being a fantastic war movie with both drama and action — by focusing on female fighters who’ve grown tired of seeing their men killed and children abducted. They form legitimate military units and become the focus of a European reporter who gets their story out to the world. It’s a beautiful, powerful film about moving forward when everyone demands you stand still. Watch it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Q&A]
Why see it? This rom-com is built on the bones of familiar genre tropes meaning certain beats play out exactly as you expect, but what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for it personality and big laughs. It’s an honest look at love, and while Jack Quaid (The Boys) is quite good as the guy holding out for “the one” it’s Maya Erskine (PEN15) who absolutely kills. She’s foul, angry, and utterly hilarious, and in between the laughter she does great work revealing the hurt within. Again, you’ll find nothing new here on the rom-com front, but you will laugh your ass off.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
What is it? A look into the Manson family through the eyes of its three most prominent women.
Why see it? Charles Manson and his merry band of assholes are back in the public conscious in a big way thanks Quentin Tarantino’s tenth film, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, but some smaller films have also released in the past year to lesser fanfare. Avoid the Hilary Duff one (The Haunting of Sharon Tate, 2019) at all costs, but this character indie might be worth a watch for the performances. It doesn’t quite succeed in earning empathy for these women, although it tries hard, but the performances are compelling all the same.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? A Russian submarine and its crew face the threat of disaster.
Why see it? There really aren’t that many submarine-set movies out there, but the ones we do have are often quite good including Crimson Tide (1995), Below (2002), The Hunt for Red October (1990). This drama based on a true story lacks their energy and weight, but it’s still an engaging tale of men abandoned by their leaders in a time of desperate need. Watch it without reading up on the real incident.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
The Curse of La Llorona
What is it? The Weeping Woman is crying again.
Why see it? As spin-offs from The Conjuring universe go this is the latest one. I kid (although it is the latest), but this entry just isn’t very good. The scares and the characters, both hallmarks of the core Conjuring films, are flat and dull here. The story is a real legend worked into something that pays lip service to the tale without truly showing it respect, and the rules laid out are ignored moments later. It’s a big meh.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Front Page [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Another screen version of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s acclaimed play.
Why see it? There’s no doubting the talent here as Billy Wilder directs and co-writes the legendary Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in this fast-moving tale of journalists, politicians, and a convicted killer, but for some reason it doesn’t quite work as well as you’d expect. It’s fine, don’t get me wrong, but it absolutely pales beside 1940’s His Girl Friday. My guess is the two leads are bringing too much of themselves to the roles, and while it might seem odd, the story and characters are overwhelmed by the well-established antics between Lemmon and Matthau. Watch it for them, but keep the Howard Hawks classic in arms reach.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews]
How Long Will I Love U
What is it? Two people wake up in the same bed, twenty years apart.
Why see it? Fans of the beautifully romantic and tragic Il Mare (remade into a lesser film with The Lake House) will want to give this one a spin too. It’s a slightly wackier comedy at times, but we still get a time-related storyline and a growing romance. There’s fun to be had as the characters discover the confusion and joy of exploring a different time period — she’s exploring the past and getting a second chance regarding her family, and he’s seeing the future and realizing where his ambitions and attitudes lead. It’s a sweet film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
What is it? A young man and a Pokemon team-up to solve a murder.
Why see it? While most toy/cartoon adaptations come to the big screen with live action debuts built entirely on their brand, this Pokemon adventure wisely introduces the characters and world in the form of a more palatable mystery/comedy. Ryan Reynolds voices Pikachu exactly as you’re expecting, and if that’s your brand of comedy then you’re in for an okay time. Beyond that it’s a fairly traditional story, meaning Pokemon fans will get the most out of it as they’ll get most of the jokes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Video commentary, featurettes, music video]
What is it? Two teenage friends in Germany find fun and trouble.
Why see it? Coming of age tales are still too often focused on boys, but the stories lived by girls are every bit as engaging and important. The two friends here are best of friends, one German and one an immigrant from Iraq, and life moves fast as they tempt fate, explore their sexual interests, and come face to face with real tragedy. There’s fun to be had here, but it’s a drama through and through with emotions big and small and character beats to match.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? The story behind the story-teller.
Why see it? Biopics aren’t always the most exciting or entertaining films, and this one about the man behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is no different. It’s well acted, and Nicholas Hoult does fine work as Tolkien, but the story of his life building up to his work as a writer just isn’t as interesting as you’d hope. The film finds plenty of parallels from his life with direct links to
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
Touch of Death [Raro Video]
What is it? A serial killer turned cannibal is troubled when a copycat arrives on the scene.
Why see it? Lucio Fulci’s filmography is a mix of absolute genre classics (Zombie, 1979; The Beyond, 1981) and whatever the hell is going on in The Devil’s Honey (1986). This late entry lacks the memorable elements found in all of those but still offers up some fun for horror fans in the form of grisly practical gore effects. As thrillers go it’s not all that thrilling, but it has its Fulci-esque charms. If you do consider yourself a fan, this new Blu-ray looks great.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, booklet]
Also out this week:
Amazing Grace, An Angel at My Table [Criterion], Batman: Hush, Donnybrook, Penguin Highway, Poms, Project Ithaca, The Reflecting Skin, Room for Rent, The Souvenir, St. Agatha