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article imageReview: This week’s releases confront their fears Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 11, 2021 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an intense time travel drama; a follow-up to a cult classic; a director’s cut; a promising first feature; a life in comedy; and a couple of horror misses.
Amores perros (Blu-ray)
Criterion Collection
In Mexico City, the lives of three strangers — a young man mixed up in the gritty underworld of dogfighting (Gael García Bernal), a glamorous woman (Goya Toledo) who seems to have it all, and a mysterious assassin (Emilio Echevarría) who is desperate to reconnect with his estranged daughter — collide in a tragic twist of fate that forever alters their personal journeys.
In 2000, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu made his feature debut with a film that not only hinted at his talent, but made an irrefutable statement about his future in cinema. Though the film is presented in chapters to some extent, the stories are expertly interwoven so audiences can appreciate their connections and become invested in the characters’ individual journeys. The freshman picture is an ambitious 154 minutes, but Iñárritu succeeds in creating a narrative that combines violence and raw emotion in a manner that not only engages audiences, but affects them. The cast is outstanding, portraying their characters’ ups and downs, bravery and depression. It’s a tour de force of powerful storytelling and excellent camerawork that understands when to stay close or move away from the action. It’s definitely no surprise Iñárritu went on to have such a successful career, while the curated bonus features explore his exceptional start.
Special features include: deleted scenes with optional commentary by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Rodrigo Prieto; conversation between Iñárritu and filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski; conversation among Iñárritu and actors Adriana Barraza, Vanessa Bauche, and Gael García Bernal; “Perros, amores, accidentes" documentary; interview with composer Gustavo Santaolalla; video essay by film scholar Paul Julian Smith; rehearsal footage with reflections by Iñárritu; music videos for songs from the film’s soundtrack by Control Machete, Café Tacvba, and Julieta Venegas; trailer; and essays by critic Fernanda Solórzano and author Juan Villoro. (Criterion Collection)
Audrey (DVD)
Bohemia Media
Actress, humanitarian and recognised as a film and fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn was undoubtedly one of the greatest legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood. This in-depth documentary looks back at the life, loves and career of this enigmatic star.
From the outside, Hepburn looked like she had it all: beauty, talent and a lovely family. However, the film begins by describing her less-than-ideal childhood, growing up during war times and being devastated by her father’s departure at an early age. She put most of her efforts into ballet, only acting to pay the bills. But Roman Holiday forever changed her career trajectory. One thing that becomes immediately evident via the archival footage and interviews is Hepburn’s most attractive quality was her authenticity. She was truly pure of heart and it shone through the screen. The film’s theme is her lifelong search for love and the eventual satisfaction she gained through her humanitarian work.
There are no special features. (Bohemia Media)
The Beach House (Blu-ray)
RLJE Films & Shudder
Hoping to reignite their relationship, college students Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) arrive at their weekend getaway only to discover a peculiar older couple already staying there. They all agree to share the home but, after an indulgent night of partying, they’re awoken to a living nightmare of apocalyptic proportions. A mysterious airborne microbe has infected the water and it’s making its way to the house.
There is a long list of horror pictures that demonstrated less is more when it comes to putting audiences on edge. However, being overly vague about the threat at the narrative’s core doesn’t have the same effect. Following an awkward moment during dinner conversation, very little continues to make sense. A strange glow comes off the water, everyone seems to get a little loopy and very sleepy, and then luminous plants either fill their hallucinations or overtake nearby forests. Gross injuries and misplaced means of escape make getting away difficult, but by then viewers may have lost interest in the characters’ fates as the actors do little to keep them engaged.
There are no special features. (RLJE Films & Shudder)
The Craft: Legacy (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
An eclectic foursome (Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Gideon Adlon and Lovie Simone) of aspiring teenage witches gets more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers.
This is a sequel to the cult classic that empowered young women who felt like outcasts… even if realizing their dreams ultimately had horrific consequences. This picture follows the same basic formula as the new girl, who has natural abilities, becomes the trio’s fourth and allows them to tap into more powerful magic. There’s nothing especially dark about these girls so the film is more touchy-feely and most of their spells are relatively harmless. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not formidable as they combine their powers to defeat a greater evil and, consequently, repair their friendship. Fans of the first film will frequently recognize nods to the original, though it occasionally feels a bit forced. That said, the final minutes of the picture point to the film’s most interesting link to its predecessor.
Special features include: alternate scenes with an introduction from the writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones; “Franchise Legacy”; and “Powerful Story, Magical Director.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Dark and the Wicked (Blu-ray)
RLJE Films & Shudder
On a secluded farm, a man is bedridden and fighting through his final breaths while his wife slowly succumbs to overwhelming grief. Siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) return home to help, but it doesn’t take long for them to see that something’s wrong with mom — something more than her heavy sorrow. Gradually, they begin to suffer a darkness similar to their mother’s, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that an evil entity is taking over their family.
Although the story gets off to a slow start, there’s nothing especially subtle about the evil that inhabits the farm. The elderly couple’s life is briefly shown before their children’s arrival, at which point it’s obvious a malevolent presence is haunting them and the mother doesn’t want it to latch onto her kids. The evil can be both sneaky and bold, either concealing its true nature or using it to frighten them. To this end, the movie is quite effective in creating a menacing atmosphere that repeatedly screams, “Get away from here!” Of course, no one listens and the evil grows stronger, generating more violence and more disturbing images. Yet, a lack of relatable characters prevents audiences from becoming fully engaged in the picture, causing all the filmmaker’s efforts to produce a scary movie to fall a little flat.
There are no special features. (RLJE Films & Shudder)
Delirious: Director’s Cut (Blu-ray)
MVD Entertainment
Les (Steve Buscemi) is a small-time paparazzi with dreams of making it big. His luck changes for the better when he befriends a young homeless kid, Toby (Michael Pitt), and makes him his assistant. The two form an unlikely bond running through the sham and glam of NYC’s celebrity scene, but when Toby falls for a pop diva and becomes a reality TV star, Les takes the rejection personally.
Writer/director Tom DiCillo’s introduction describes the many obstacles he encountered in trying to recover this picture after the studio’s insolvency so he could ensure the world would finally see the version he intended. The most dramatic change is the ending, which now has a slightly more positive spin — though some viewers may question if Les is deserving of the accolades. Nonetheless, the film depicts the culture clash between celebrity and paparazzi in its rawest form. Although many of the characters are seen to be nice one minute and conniving the next, Toby maintains a heart of gold through the entire picture. DiCillo wrote the role for Buscemi and he is undoubtedly made for the part, while Pitt exudes baby-faced innocence that is Les’ complete opposite.
Special features include: commentary from director Tom DiCillo; director’s intro by Tom DiCillo; making-of featurette; “Casting Michael Pitt”; “Steve Buscemi is Pissed”; “The Gina Gershon Tape”; Alison Lohman music video for “Shove It”; and original theatrical trailer. (MVD Entertainment)
Mutiny (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
During the War of 1812, the United States, in need of gold, arranges with a French group to lend the government $10 million in bullion. To bring the gold, an American ship must break through the British blockade. A young captain accepts the dangerous assignment and after several narrow escapes, the ship finally reaches France. No sooner is the gold aboard the American ship, when the crew mutinies and sets the captain adrift, giving him one chance in a thousand to reach shore. However, the captain survives his watery experience, returns with the American Navy and recaptures his vessel. A British warship arrives on the scene, but one of the men volunteers to torpedo the enemy in an untried submarine made for a two-man crew. The mission is successful, and the gold eventually reaches America.
This 1952 high-seas drama features a straightforward narrative with a lot of duplicitous scheming. There was a superstition that women on a ship brought bad luck, but in this case she brings dark ideas. Even though the desperate couple tag onto a plan already motion, they become the thieves’ ringleaders. The film is only 77 minutes long, but it’s evenly paced and the story thoroughly unfolds almost entirely on the water. The woman and the pirate-like crew are painted as the picture’s villains, while the captain is the hero, returning after nearly dying to recover the gold. The ending is action-packed for the time as the American ship is confronted by a British warship that opens cannon fire.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
The Opening Act (Blu-ray)
RLJE Films
Will Chu (Jimmy O. Yang) is stuck in a thankless job while trying to pursue his true passion in life: becoming a stand-up comedian. When he gets the opportunity he’s been waiting for, the emcee slot on the road opening for his hero Billy G. (Cedric the Entertainer), the realities of life on the stage come crashing in. Between relentless hecklers, drunk comedy groupies and a hard-to-impress morning radio DJ (Russell Peters), things get off to a rough start. Even if he can learn from his idols and overcome the challenges, he’ll have to prove he has what it takes to make his dream a reality.
Written and directed by comedian Steve Byrne, the film is based on some of his real-life experiences becoming a professional stand-up comedian. The idea of failing upwards is common among stage entertainers who spend their early years trying new material and finding their voice. Bombing in front of audiences — repeatedly — is almost a rite of passage. Interviews with many successful stand-up comedians in the bonus features are filled with stories of years of failure that came first. To that end, most of the film’s supporting cast consists of other comedians, including Bill Burr, Ken Jeong, Kathleen Madigan and several others in addition to those already mentioned above. Will is a likeable character so viewers will be rooting for his success… and laughing at his frequent mishaps.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Getting Started in Comedy”; and extended stand-up scenes. (RLJE Films)
Rio Grande (Blu-ray)
Olive Signature
Lt. Col. John Kirby Yorke’s (John Wayne) estranged wife, Kathleen (Maureen O’Hara), is set on keeping their son, Jefferson (Claude Jarman Jr.), now under Yorke’s command, out of harm’s way.
This was the last film in director John Ford’s “cavalry trilogy,” which included Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Wayne and Ford’s collaborations were some of the most well-known Westerns and would see instant box office success at the height of the genre’s popularity. Still, this picture benefitted from both men’s experience, resulting in one of the best told Westerns at the time. While the narrative was rooted in a war between the soldiers and the raiding “Indians,” it was really about family, love and honour. Yorke is a career soldier, missing most of his son’s childhood — though that doesn’t stop him from trying to follow in his father’s footsteps before he’s even of age to enlist. The negative depiction of Indigenous people is stereotypical and outdated, but the representation of the reunited family is at the forefront.
Special features include: commentary by Nancy Schoenberger; making-of featurette; "Telling Real Histories"; "Songs of the Rio Grande"; "Strength and Courage"; "Bigger Than Life"; essay by Paul Andrew Hutton; and theatrical trailer. (Olive Signature)
Tenet (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Armed with only one word — Tenet — and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist (John David Washington) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.
Without going into too much detail, the past, present and future overlap in a number of scenes, which creates some interesting paradoxes. This anomaly is the basis of the narrative and creates opportunities for some exceptional action sequences. Of course, a Nolan shootout, car chase or fight is always more intricate and complicated than a typical action scene as it also intertwines the movie’s theme, in this case non-linear time. Once audiences are let in on the secret, another layer of fun is added as they can then look for clues that reveal there’s more to the scene than what’s currently happening. Nolan typically sprinkles hints throughout his films that fall into this genre, so multiple viewings always have the potential to reveal something not seen before. Washington’s secret agent character is steadfast but not always the good guy, which makes for some interesting relationships. Being quick on his feet and an expert strategist gets him where he needs, but he admittedly lacks the suaveness of a Bond. Meanwhile, Robert Pattinson is the adept, likeable sidekick.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
More about Tenet, The Opening Act, The Craft Legacy, Amores perros, Audrey
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