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article imageReview: No one can outrun their pasts in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 28, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an amusing new Laika picture; a new take on Big Red; a German trilogy questioning its post-war recovery; and a raw portrayal of a profound singer.
After (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
As she enters her first semester in college, Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) is a dedicated student, dutiful daughter and loyal girlfriend to her high school sweetheart. Armed with grand ambitions for her future, her guarded world opens up when she meets the dark and mysterious Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a magnetic, brooding rebel who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself and what she wants out of life.
This is the classic teen love story in which a young woman from a sheltered home finds her eyes opened and world widened by a boy with a bad reputation. Having to make entirely new friends, Tessa seems to be at the mercy of her older roommate who insists on taking her to parties to meet her friends. However, it’s not until she falls head over heels with Hardin that she starts to neglect her master plan for success. There is an insignificant side story related to Hardin’s step family, though family in general seems unimportant as Tessa takes her own disavowment in stride. The hastened conclusion borrows from a popular ‘90s teen rom-com before irrationally ending with the inevitably happy couple.
Special features include: deleted scenes; soundbites; and clips. (VVS Films)
The BRD Trilogy (Blu-ray)
Criterion Collection
In 1977, German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was thirty-two years old and had already directed more than twenty-five feature films. That summer, he embarked on a project to trace the postwar history of West Germany in a series of films told from the perspectives of three remarkable women. Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, and Lola — The BRD Trilogy, which takes its title from the Bundesrepublik Deutschland — would garner him his greatest commercial success, both at home and abroad, and cement his position as one of the foremost figures of the New German Cinema.
Though Fassbinder made numerous movies before and in between these films, the main purpose of these narratives were to deliver a commentary on post-war Germany. As the country’s people indulged in the “economic miracle,” he was fascinated by the collective amnesia that seemed to accompany their good fortune. Unlike some of Fassbinder’s French contemporaries, he made pictures that delivered intelligent commentaries that were also accessible to mainstream audiences.
Maria Braun follows a woman that essentially prostitutes her body and business acumen for the financial benefit of her and her husband, though the consequences would be counter to her goals. Visually, the colour was drained from this picture, which complements the narrative. Veronika Voss is shot in stark black and white, and is based on the true story of a Third Reich actress that committed suicide after the war. In this fictionalized account, an overly involved journalist tries to rescue her from an opportunistic doctor. Finally, Lola adopts bold, candy colours to tell the story of a brothel singer/prostitute who begins to live a double life: she’s the chaste, small-town girl for the new upright building commissioner, but also the vivacious mistress of a corrupt developer.
While these films were not narratively linked, they did share these themes of forgetting Nazi history and prospering at the expense of others. One of the most remarkable bonus features included in this collection is a nearly hour-long interview with Fassbinder conducted for German television, which are complemented by the essays in the included booklet. There is also a comprehensive featurette about the starlet upon which Voss was based.
Special features include: commentaries from 2003 featuring filmmaker Wim Wenders and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, film critic and author Tony Rayns, and film scholar Christian Braad Thomsen; interviews from 2003 with actors Hanna Schygulla, Rosel Zech, and Barbara Sukowa; interviews from 2003 with cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger, screenwriter Peter Märthesheimer, and film scholar Eric Rentschler; “Life Stories: A Conversation with R. W. Fassbinder,” an interview filmed for German television in 1978; “I Don’t Just Want You to Love Me,” a feature-length 1992 documentary on director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s life and career; “Dance with Death,” a program from 2000 about Ufa studios star Sybille Schmitz, Fassbinder’s inspiration for the character Veronika Voss; conversation from 2003 between author and curator Laurence Kardish and film editor Juliane Lorenz; trailers; and an essay by film critic Kent Jones and production histories by author Michael Töteberg. (Criterion Collection)
The Doors (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In 1991, Oliver Stone crafted a psychedelic, musical portrait that captured the furious energy of the ‘60s and the myth of The Doors’ iconic front man, Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) — the man whose music shaped an era.
In spite of his brief musical career, Morrison and The Doors made an everlasting impression on music and fans. He was a poet that found inspiration in his tolerant and enabling wife (Meg Ryan). But he was also addicted to heroin and acid, using both as a crutch for his creativity. Whether it was the fame or drugs that caused his personality to change, he would become mean at the drop of a hat, leaving no trace of the easygoing lovechild everyone admired. There’s no attempt to sensationalize Morrison’s life, as Stone strives for a raw and sometimes uncomfortable depiction of his brief existence. Kilmer is outstanding in the role, having convinced Stone he could not only play the singer but perform the music live himself via an impressive audio test described in the bonus features. His transformation is extraordinary so that even those close to Morrison approved of his casting.
Special features include: commentary by director Oliver Stone; interview with Stone; deleted scenes; and interview with sound engineer Lon Bender; “The Doors in LA”; “Jim Morrison: A Poet in Paris”; “The Road to Excess”; featurette; TV spots; and original trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Hellboy (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy) (Blu-ray & DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment and VVS Films
Hellboy (David Harbour), the legendary half-demon superhero, is called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.
Guillermo Del Toro’s take on “Big Red,” starring Ron Perlman in the title role, was a bit campy, but undeniably enjoyable. Harbour’s version has a similar yet slightly softer look, though his wit has been boiled down to a sprinkling of one-liners — and unfortunately most of the funniest scenes are in the trailer. He seems a bit younger than his counterpart, perhaps portraying a know-it-all agent in his 20s who’s yet to gain some hardening life experiences. The B.P.R.D.’s job is to contain supernatural threats to our existence, which has always positioned it in the horror genre. This film embraces that with a lot of big, hideous monsters and a much darker narrative. It also goes for a more mature rating by incorporating curse words, and gallons of blood that spills and sprays everywhere during battle. Judged on its own, director Neil Marshall delivers a solid genre picture that explores some unexpected aspects of Hellboy’s life while fully embracing its darker side.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Tales of the Wild Hunt: Hellboy Reborn”; and pre-visualizations. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment and VVS Films)
Missing Link (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures and Fox Home Entertainment
Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is a brave and dashing adventurer who considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is no one else seems to agree. As species go, Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) is as endangered as they get; he’s possibly the last of his kind, he’s lonely, and he believes that Sir Lionel is the one man alive who can help him. Along with the independent and resourceful Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), who possesses the only known map to the group’s secret destination, the unlikely trio embarks on a riotous rollercoaster ride of a journey to seek out Link’s distant relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La.
Laika Studios can always be relied on for clever narratives and extraordinary aesthetics. Few animators still use stop-motion for feature-length pictures, but the time between their releases is always worth the wait. Their style of filmmaking also produces a very distinct appearance, which audiences can both take in as an astonishing whole or focus on the incredible individual details of each character and scene. While the legend of the Sasquatch is familiar to most people, this narrative adds another element of whimsy since Mr. Link is very human-like. He’s polite, well-read and very literal — a point that causes some trouble when Frost doesn’t choose his words carefully. The filmmakers at Laika have an excellent sense of humour, which is present through this entire picture. Together, all the elements combine to create an entertaining movie that the whole family can enjoy… over and over again.
Special features include: commentary by Chris Butler; “Creating Mr. Link”; “Bringing the Final Battle on the Ice Bridge to Life”; animation inspiration with optional commentary by Chris Butler; “VFX Breakdown Reel – Realizing the Potential of Stop Motion”; “Oh What a Mystery: Pulling the Camera Back on Missing Link’s Magic”; “Making Faces”; “Inside the Magic of Laika”; and gallery. (Elevation Pictures and Fox Home Entertainment)
Universal Horror Collection Volume 2 (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Undertake four tales of terror from the archives of Universal Pictures, the home of classic horror! This collection includes such horror stars as Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, David Bruce and Evelyn Ankers. A maniacal hunter and collector of wild animals uses them to dispose of rival and enemies in Murders in the Zoo. An unhinged scientist flees the San Francisco police and continues his bizarre experiments on a remote tropical island in The Mad Doctor of Market Street. A mysterious avenger is murdering acquitted criminals while dabbling in brain transplants in The Strange Case of Doctor Rx. And a doctor’s experiments with nerve gas turn his assistant into a grave-robbing freak in The Mad Ghoul.
Unlike the first foursome, which collected classic pictures featuring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, this set’s only connecting thread is each features a maniacal murderer who gets his comeuppance in the end. Additionally, each movie has a runtime of only about an hour — though they manage to tell complete tales in this short amount of time (quite the feat considering many can’t be this comprehensive in twice the time). Wild animals in captivity play a significant role in the first picture, though none of them seem as predatory as the homicidal hunter. In the second picture, a man takes advantage of a native tribe’s naiveté regarding modern medicine to make himself appear supernatural. However, the unbefitting standout in the picture is the silly woman stranded with their party. The third movie includes a lot of secrets and subterfuge as they try to expose the identity of the dangerous scientist. And finally, a young man’s life is ruined by his mentor in this twist on the somnambulist tale.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
More about hellboy, Missing link, After, The BRD Trilogy, the doors
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