Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
Ingrid (Ellen Dorritt Petersen) has recently lost her sight and made her apartment the entirety of her new world. Her husband is supportive, but she ignores his suggestions that she venture outside again. Her alone time already allows her mind to wander, but it also comes with thoughts on her husband’s infidelity, the lives of strangers, and the distinct sound of breathing in the apartment when she should be alone. But are these things real or imagined? The film then shifts to Einar who lives alone and spends much of his day and night watching online porn. He’s most enamored with his neighbor across the street, Elin, a single mother who he watches through binoculars. She’s recently divorced, and the past few months have shown her that all of her friends in town were actually her husband’s friends and that they no longer have interest or obligation with her.
I first saw this film at Sundance nearly two years ago, and it’s remained a beautiful, funny, raw, and endlessly creative modern classic. The visual style makes the screen come as alive as the worlds behind our own eyelids with an amorphous canvas showing us the real world through Ingrid’s fears, desires, sense of humor, and sexuality. Writer/director Eskil Vogt co-wrote both of Joachim Trier’s films, Reprise and Oslo August 31st, so it comes as no surprise that his directorial debut is such an effortlessly humane and touching film. Even beyond or without the visual techniques on display though the movie presents an intimate look into a life the likes of which most of us will never know first-hand. It’s as if we’re peeking behind the curtain of someone’s unaware mind, and they don’t know enough to be embarrassed, ashamed, or upset. If you make one blind buy this week, make it this one.
[DVD extras: None]
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is newly released from San Quentin after serving time for a burglary he committed as an act of social justice, but while he wants to go straight for his daughter’s sake he’s forced by circumstance to accept an offer on a sure-thing score. The job nets him only a weird suit and helmet, but after an exhilarating dry run experiencing the world from a bug’s perspective he discovers this was all part of Dr. Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) plan. Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) need Scott to master the suit’s abilities ‐ shrinking, controlling ants and, well, just shrinking and controlling ants I guess ‐ and use it to prevent a greedy, insecure madman from sharing the technology with evildoers and the like.
There are no skyscrapers falling down, but we do get energetic and fun fight scenes as Scott shrinks, grows and shrinks again in the process of completing punch/flip combos and other moves that leave his opponents flying through the air. The third act battle is a one on one situation, but it gains epic stature as the two men shrink to duke it out among everyday objects with the highlight being their fight around a toy train. Rudd works well here to ground the character’s every-man nature with self-effacement and his typical comedic stylings, and Douglas brings the weight of a lifetime to his weary scientist in search of redemption. Lilly is equally strong with less to do, and the likes of Corey Stoll and Bobby Cannavale do well, but it’s Michael Peña who steals every moment he’s onscreen. Check your epic Marvel expectations at the door, and just sit back and enjoy a fun, sci-fi-tinged heist flick.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
The X-Files: The Collector’s Set
Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are FBI agents tasked with investigating cases that exist outside the norm. Aliens, monsters, killers, more aliens ‐ Mulder and Scully dedicate themselves to discovering the truth behind it all, and sometimes that truth comes at a serious cost.
This is well-produced and smartly-packaged set of the complete series, but there’s some question as to its necessity. Its biggest appeal, and the reason why I’m a fan, is the collected availability of every episode across all nine seasons presented in beautiful HD. There aren’t any new special features here, but the set does feature all of the ones that previously appeared on the DVDs. Obviously the seasons are newly available individually, but this is a slick and slim package that I recommend.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews]
You Can’t Take It With You
Alice (Jean Arthur) is a secretary and the only one in her odd, extended family to hold a real job, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. The others are immensely happy too ‐ albeit of the unemployed, just doing whatever they want variety ‐ but conflict arises when Alice falls in love with the wealthy son (James Stewart) of a wealthy businessman who’s in the process of trying to strong-arm the family out of their home.
Frank Capra’s first collaboration with Stewart sees the lanky actor in a supporting role, but the film is never at a loss for his absence thanks to the charm and talent on display throughout. Lionel Barrymore in particular stands out as Alice’s grandfather and the man who started this somewhat bohemian lifestyle. The film has real heart to its tale of friendship and family, and even at over two hours it moves at a fast pace thanks to a smart script and numerous sequences energized with screwball antics and comedy. Sony’s hardback Blu-ray book is once again beautifully-designed making for an attractive title inside and out.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview]
Emptying the Skies
Songbirds are numerous and seemingly plentiful, but their actual numbers are in decline thanks in large part to poaching. Bestselling novelist Jonathan Franzen discovered a love for birds of all kinds, and when he heard about the illegal acts being committed along the Mediterranean he investigated and wrote a piece for The New Yorker that has now been documented in this film. The big news here is the threat facing these birds, and the doc’s most arresting moments highlight this in graphic detail ‐ birds glued to branches, dead birds drowned in liqueur, baked and eaten by Jeremy Clarkson, and locals threatening violence against activists trying to free the creatures from traps.
[DVD extras: Featurette]
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (Scream Factory)
Dodger (Mackenzie Astin) means well, but his attraction to trouble leads to near disaster when Pandora’s garbage can is opened and its occupants crawl out to wreak playful havoc. These Garbage Pail Kids ‐ think Cabbage Patch Dolls who’ve been natured and nurtured into becoming gross little bastards ‐ are messy instigators, but even the likes of Messie Tessie and Valerie Vomit have a moral compass and soon they’re helping Dodger take on some local thugs. They also pitch in to try and get him laid by a teen girl a few years more mature than Dodger, so that’s pretty cool of them too. This ’80s “gem” probably has its fans, but you’d have to be really into the Garbage Pail Kids to find much enjoyment here. It’s ludicrous ’80s cinema that’s as one-note as the “Topps Chewing Gum Production” credit would imply, but maybe the sheer ridiculousness of the film is enough for some viewers. The Kids ‐ little people in barely mobile suits ‐ are gross, sure, but it rarely feels like they’re pushing any boundaries of good taste. Farts, snot, and some rude behavior just feels quaint now.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
Hannibal: Season Three
FBI profiler Will Graham and FBI director Jack Crawford are clinging to life after an attack by Hannibal Lecter left them both for dead. The good doctor meanwhile is hiding out in Europe ‐ hiding in plain sight under an assumed name ‐ but soon Will and Hannibal will meet again, and it might just be for the last time. The third and final season of NBC’s audacious adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Lecter mythology recovers from season two’s slight misstep into excessive surrealism with more grisly beauty and an increasing sense of suspense. Will’s intelligence and capability return as well meaning he’s back to being an engaging character almost on par with Hannibal himself. There are rumors that the series might return via Amazon, and as someone who’s not a fan of how this season ends that would be great news indeed.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes]
The Kindergarten Teacher
Nira is a teacher who one day takes particular notice of five year-old Yoav. He’s a normal little boy in most regards, but a few times per week he pauses, walks back and forth, and announces he has a poem. The pieces are spontaneous, short, and inspired, and once complete he returns to his normal play. Nira becomes obsessed with the boy and his poetry, and soon his words take precedence over her own common sense. The film is less interested in the how and why of Yoav’s “gift” than it is in what Nira and others make of it, and in that regard it becomes something of a subdued thriller. She begins tilting her life in directions that would have seemed foreign to her previously, and while her obsession rarely feels dangerous it is odd. It’s a constantly engaging and evolving kind of odd though ‐ she’s not looking to capitalize off of the boy, and instead she simply wants and needs for his poems to be acknowledged and nurtured.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, short film]
Some affairs just aren’t worth having. Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) is a nice guy, a great husband, and a fantastic father, but his wife and kids have gone on vacation without him, and as a storm rages outside he settles in with music, weed, and a wavering work ethic. A knock at the door reveals two young women, dripping wet and not dressed for the weather. They’re lost and looking for a party, so Evan invites them in to dry off and get directions. Slowly but surely they work to seduce him by talking openly about sex, complimenting his physique, getting out of their wet clothes and into robes, and while he succeeds at first to elude their touch he finally gives in when he discovers them naked in a bubble bath with their mouths open. Big mistake. Huge. Eli Roth’s latest eschews the blood and gore he’s most typically associated with and trades it in for a film that’s one half sexy comedy and other half frustratingly stupid morality tale. Up to and including the trio’s night of debauchery the film is a fun, cat and mouse-like romp as the two vixens work to wear down and corner their prey. It’s a rhythmic build towards the inevitable, and while the script is littered with stilted and forced dialogue it’s undeniably fun seeing the recently reborn-as-action-star Reeves outmaneuvered by two young women. Reeves makes the most of too much dialogue (good and bad), but the film’s post-sex nosedive turns the second half into an irritating slog of obvious and repetitive actions. That said, you might not hear a funnier delivery this year than Reeves’ rant about free pizza.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, making of]
The minions are a species older than humanity itself, and they live with a single purpose ‐ to serve the cruelest, meanest villains they can find. The trouble is that the villains don’t seem to last very long, and when yet another boss goes boom the minions find themselves huddled and hidden. Three brave minions head out into the world in search of a new master, and they find her in Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), but she’s one villain whose evil deeds threaten more than just world peace and others’ bank accounts ‐ they threaten the minions themselves. If the minions were your favorite part of Despicable Me then this is the movie for you, and all others need not apply. That’s not to say there aren’t a couple fun gags here and there, but the majority of the film consists of the same antics over and again. And yes, we do get our first fart gag within twenty minutes. It’s difficult to find the heart in these guys meaning unlike the first film’s Gru/kids dynamic we’re left with creatures who don’t speak English and fail to earn more than the occasional chuckle.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Shorts, behind the scenes]
One & Two
Eva (Kiernan Shipka) and Zac are siblings who live with their parents in a remote cabin, alone in the world. A large wall surrounds the forest and fields they call home, and their father has very strict rules about it and their daily activities. Challenging him results in punishment, but when the pair discover special abilities the opportunity to explore beyond the structure becomes real. There’s a beauty here to the visuals and pacing of the family’s life and the siblings’ friendship, but the film can’t quite get a handle on the quartet as characters. It loses further focus when it crosses a certain point, and it’s not able to recover its footing.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
One Eyed Girl
Travis is a psychiatrist spending his days trying to help others in need, but when a young patient takes her own life he sees his own spiral into despair. He finds relief in a stranger named Grace and a small group of like-minded people she calls her family. He’s less relieved when he realizes they’re more of a cult. This dramatic thriller from Australia is far heavier on the drama than on the thrills, and it finds some engaging character threads and interactions along the way. The narrative as a whole isn’t quite as strong though, and it hits its weakest beat at the end with a frustrating contrivance.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Alexander is a trained assassin living in a compound populated with others like him, and it will soon be his 12th birthday. Women tend to the group’s daily needs while a patriarch (Vincent Cassel) looks after them all, trains the young killers, and arranges jobs to keep the bank books in the black. The day comes when Alexander decides he might not want to be an assassin, and he might have to kill to prove it. This is an odd little thriller, of sorts, that takes a dramatic look at a scenario seemingly more inclined towards pure action. There are some exciting beats to be found here, but they’re secondary to the relationship drama between the boy and his “father.” Cassel is unsurprisingly great, and the film engages even if it doesn’t quite excite.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
Womens Prison Massacre (Scream Factory)
Emmanuelle (Laura Gemser) is up to her old tricks again ‐ namely finding herself in situations predisposed to nudity and acts of violence. This time she’s behind bars after being framed by a corrupt politician, but don’t worry about a plot filled with intrigue and story twists. None of that “story” stuff gets in the way here of watching Emmanuelle and the other prisoners ‐ all six of them ‐ get abused and urged into fights. This is the kind of prison where two women getting handsy with each other is enough to draw the scorn of guards and fellow inmates alike! The situation worsens when four male prisoners arrive on scene for temporary refuge, and the expected sexual assaults occur. Thankfully one of the women is smart enough to plan ahead with the whole “razor in a cork in a bajango” gag. That bit aside, this is a fairly tame affair from director Bruno Mattei and far from one of the sub-genre’s standouts.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Battles Without Honor and Humanity (Arrow Video), Cinderella, The Girl King, Jellyfish Eyes (Criterion), Salaam Bombay, Speedy (Criterion), Stalingrad, Thundercrack!: 20th Anniversary, The Transporter Refueled, Triumph of the Will, Under the Dome: Season 3, The X-Files: The Collector’s Set
Related Topics: Home Video