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Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a programmer who wins a contest to meet and spend a week with the company’s elusive and brilliant CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at the man’s remote estate. When he arrives he’s thrilled to discover that he’s been chosen to be a part of an ongoing test involving a new A.I. creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander). The closer he gets to Ava though the more he realizes that something is amiss with both her and her creator.
Writer/director Alex Garland’s latest is one hell of a sexy horror film. There are a couple third act beats that don’t quite compute, but they’re minor in t he grand scheme and don’t get in the way of the film’s growing sense of terror. It’s also a gorgeous experience in both its cinematography and special effects ‐ Ava is the best visual effect of the year (so far) ‐ as it mixes beautiful nature shots with the high-tech, cold interiors of Nathan’s home.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, Q&A]
Based on an autobiographical series by Nobel Prize-winning writer Eyvind Johnson, Here is Your Life is an epic and episodic coming-of-age tale about a working class boy, Olof (Eddie Axberg), who navigates the rapidly changing landscape of industrial Sweden through odd jobs and awakenings both philosophical and sexual. Contrasting the hard labor of sawmills and railway work with the emergent technological and cultural changes represented of the new attractions of movies and socialism, Here is Your Life realizes an early 20th century Sweden bearing remarkable verisimilitude in novelistic detail, making the film feel less like a period piece and more like a capturing of the era as it must have existed.
Yet first-time director Jan Troell isn’t only interested in a realist depiction of history ‐ he imbues the film with deeply felt lyricism through sequences of wordless beauty and sudden flashes of color. Here is Your Life is a stunning and sincere manifestation of life in the past that makes the early 20th century feel three-dimensional, immediate, and contemporary, as if it weren’t the past at all. ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introduction by Mike Leigh; new interviews with Troell, Axberg, and the film’s producer/co-screenwriter; a short film by Troell; illustrated booklet with essay by film scholar Mark Le Fanu]
Jay (Maika Monroe) grows up the hard way after giving it up to her new boyfriend one warm summer night only to wake up in a condemned building tied to a wheelchair. He begins his explanation with an apology. Having sex is the only way to pass “it” to someone else. What is it exactly? Well, it takes the form of a human, one that can look like a stranger or someone you know and is only visible to you and others who’ve been infected, and it walks steadily toward you. They’re slow but persistent, and if they reach you they bend, batter and break your body until you’re dead. The bright side ‐ aside from the hopefully awesome sex you just had ‐ is that you can pass it to someone else by the same means and tell them to follow suit.
Like a less aggressively fantastical Nightmare on Elm Street, there’s a near dream-like haze over it all, but energy adds to the mix once the bipedal, metaphorical herpes sores appear. It’s genuinely unnerving to see each time as the film has fun with their arrivals by mixing them up in appearance ‐ a naked woman, a giant man, a young boy ‐ but also alternating how they appear. Some appear distantly in the background of a shot (demonstrating excellent use of framing) and slowly work their way forward, while others go the jump scare route and appear from the darkness. Both are equally effective at creating and maintaining a frequently creepy atmosphere. This is a smart thriller featuring layers of depth, real scares, fun characters and a unique combination of visuals and score.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
A girl gang fights against other lady brawlers, male counterparts and a nefarious organization in Delinquent Girl Boss. A heist goes south in Wild Jumbo. Racism and sexual abuse force a female gangster’s hand in Sex Hunter. Competing gangs enter the business of drug dealing in Machine Animal. Hippies and revenge collide in Beat ‘71.
Japan’s Stray Cat Rock series of films were all produced and released during 1970–71, and while many of the cast members remained throughout their characters are different each time. The plots are equally different, but the core of the films remain the same ‐ female gangsters kicking ass, breaking the law and often getting their own asses beat in return. There’s some legitimate drama across the films, but the real draw is the swinging style and energetic feel of Japan in the late ‘60s/early ’70s. The music, the wardrobes and the sexual warfare fill the screen, and while I don’t recommend watching all five in a short span as they’re far too similar each of the films have their unique charms.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The war between mutants and humankind has raged on for years, and the creation of the Sentinels ‐ giant robots capable of adapting in their fight against various powers ‐ has brought the world, mutant and human alike, to the brink of extinction. Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and the rest make one last effort to save the world by sending Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) mind back in time to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the man (Peter Dinklage) responsible for creating the Sentinels.
Bryan Singer’s reclaiming of the X-Men franchise is a fantastically entertaining and surprisingly affecting time-hop. It works better in its character beats than its action ones ‐ with the singular exception of Quicksilver’s epic centerpiece at the Pentagon ‐ but it works far more than it doesn’t. This new “Rogue Cut” adds 20 minutes or so of additional footage, but only a very small percentage of it is focused on Rogue (Anna Paquin). The additional material is interesting, but the theatrical is a much better paced experienced.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and extended cuts, commentaries, documentary, featurette]
A comic artist creates a horrific creature on paper, but when the monster comes to life it wreaks bloody havoc on those who enter the house in, Cellar Dweller. A centuries-old demon, long ago secured by members of a religious order, threatens to be reborn in, Catacombs. Scream Factory collects these two late ’80s horror pics on one disc, but there are very few highlights between them. Jeffrey Combs has a brief turn in the first film, and, well, okay maybe there’s just one highlight.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary on Catacombs]
Two brothers living on the California coast fill their days with surfing, partying and fighting off their parents’ creditors, but when one of them is gunned down his sibling (Scott Eastwood) finds himself compelled to take revenge. Much like the waves crashing upon the shore though, violence comes in cycles. Billed more for its surfing scenes and the presence of Clint’s son (who resembles a mix of his dad and Chris Evans), this is actually an incredibly dark and downbeat film. That’s not a bad thing, but some of the drama is hurt by some middling performances so we don’t get the full power of what’s happening.
[DVD extras: None]
The Fabulous Baker Boys
Jack and Frank (Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges) are a pair of piano-playing lounge singers, but their long-standing partnership hits a snag when they add a new member to the act. Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) is talented, gorgeous and destined to drive a rift between the brothers when both of them fall in love with her. Steve Kloves’ late ’80s romance is a rare adult treat that finds its vitality in three strong, playful lead performances. The music is something of an acquired taste, but it never detracts from the characters and their collective quest for happiness and companionship. The Fabulous Baker Boys is available from Screen Archives Entertainment.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes]
Karen White’s mid-transformation demise on the evening news leads her brother to enter the fray on the side of mankind. A mysterious old man (Christopher Lee) enlists his aid on a trip to Europe to fight the queen of the werewolves (Sybil Danning) before she can grow strong enough to destroy humanity. This is a pretty terrible movie ‐ and an example of a great film being followed by an immense drop in quality ‐ but the campiness of it along with some fantastic gore effects make for a fun-enough ride. Danning is interviewed about the infamous end-credits addition of her topless scene, and she admits to having been none too pleased.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews]
Laura Ingalls has come a long way since her “Half Pint” days, but now as a grown woman she’s about to embark on her greatest adventure yet: an adult relationship. Almanzo is new in town, and Laura finds herself happy to show him the sights. Other highlights include Nel’s forgotten sideshow sibling and the deadly fire at Mary’s school for the blind. Season six finds some facets of the show growing a bit long in the tooth, but the core attitudes and kindness remain making for a series that should still appeal to families ‐ even better, it should appeal to families in search of smart, wholesome entertainment.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Sam Houston (Richard Dix) is a larger-than-life figure brought to life in a biopic that traces his life from his early adventures through various political offices and on to the Alamo. Dix is probably the biggest drawback here as his performance is continuously big and over the top ‐ he’s taking too much of a literal view of Houston’s “big” reputation ‐ but the film is still an engaging trip through part of American history. Even better, Joan Fontaine shows up as one of Houston’s wives, and while it’s a small role ‐ made just a year before she broke out big in Rebecca ‐ any amount of Fontaine is worth it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
A group of young adults sneak into a museum for some late-night lessons in boning, but they discover an ancient evil intent on making this a night they’ll never survive in, The Outing. A family takes a newborn into their fold, but as the child grows the other children begin to die in, The Godsend. Scream Factory previously released these two ’80s chillers on DVD (in a set of four movies) and adds nothing new to their Blu-ray release. Neither film is great, but they’re both still good fun with the former in particular offering up a glorious dollop of wet and gory effects.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Paul Blart (Kevin James) proved the importance of mall security a few years back, but he finds himself challenged yet again when he takes a trip to Las Vegas. Criminals have come to the neon city too, and they’re not prepared for the law enforcement smack-down Blart is about to throw their way. Did you enjoy the first film? If so, you will enjoy the sequel as it follows similar comedic beats ‐ fatty fall down! ‐ and lacks anything resembling a smart or witty script.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Places In the Heart
Edna Spalding (Sally Field) has led a tough life, but it’s about to get even more difficult. Recently widowed and the mother of two, she’s forced to make her family’s farm succeed against near impossible odds. John Malkovich, Danny Glover and Ed Harris co-star in a drama less about the Great Depression than about the people who survived it. It’s heavy drama throughout, but the cast and writer/director Robert Benton keep the humanity front and center. The entire cast is at the top of their game here, milking pathos and humor from lives so far removed from the daily grinds we experience today, and each of them add to the overall richness of the film. Places In the Heart is available from Screen Archives Entertainment.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
People with special powers are real and integrated into society, but for as many of them choose to use their gifts to be superheroes many others decide to become villains. A special squad in the Los Angeles police department works the cases involving these mutants, err, people with powers, with the lead cop (Sharlto Copley) being a man who was once a hero himself. This Sony-produced series has fun with an interesting premise, but it’s hampered somewhat by its budget and creative constraints. Copley aside, it does have a kick-ass cast including Noah Taylor, Eddie Izzard, Michelle Forbes and Susan Heyward.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes]
Two men kidnap a young woman, but their elaborately detailed plan quickly unravels as personal relationships between the trio come to light. This Dutch remake of 2009’s UK thriller, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, is a pretty straightforward redo. The story offers some solid twists, but it’s hurt slightly by such a tight focus on three fairly unappealing characters.
[DVD extras: None]
Sonny (Dev Patel) is high on the success of his resort venture for retirees, and with the support of his family, soon-to-be bride and past clientele he’s trying to do it again. Oh Sonny. Richard Gere joins a returning cast including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy for a slight but sweet romantic comedy. Fans of the first will find more to enjoy here, but Gere’s casual affability might serve to draw in some new ones as well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
A young woman arrives in a small town seeking information about her mother, but the locals don’t seem very forthcoming. She eventually finds answers with another young woman who reveals that her father (William Katt) knows more than he’s letting on. Sheridan LaFanu’s classic tale, “Carmilla,” gets yet another adaptation, this time infusing the bloody, lesbianic story with a Southern flavor. It’s fun seeing Katt at work, but it’s V/H/S’ Hannah Fierman who steals the film with her wide-eyed innocence and desires.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, short film]
24 Days, Adventure Time: The Complete Fifth Season, Adventures of Captain Fabian, Baby It’s You, The Black Stallion (Criterion), Clouds of Sils Maria, The Eternal Sea, Freedom, Gangs of Wasseypur, Goodbye to All That, Hell’s Five Hours, Hiroshima Mon Amour (Criterion), King of the Gypsies, The Longest Ride, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, Some Call It Loving, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell
Related Topics: Home Video