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Review: Friends are kept close & enemies closer in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

Beats (DVD)


Music Box Films Home Entertainment

Scotland, 1944. Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) are best mates with a shared love for electronic dance music, and polar opposites destined for wholly different futures. Straight-laced Johnno is leaving town for a middle-class life with his mother and cop step-dad, while Spanner is facing a dead-end with his unhinged criminal brother. When they learn of an unsanctioned underground rave, they decide to sneak out for one last crazy night together. The film is set against the backdrop of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which banned gatherings featuring music with “repetitive beats” across the UK.

Johnno and Spanner don’t live on the same side of the tracks and they likely would never have met if they didn’t attend the same school, even if the latter only attends occasionally. However, their shared passion for electronica strengthens their bond and even though Johnno tends to shy away from trouble, that doesn’t stop Spanner from dragging him into it. The cop step-dad certainly complicates matters, but he’s not an abusive hard-ass as he would likely be in an American story. Instead, he’s determined to give the family a better life, which means taking Johnno away from everything he loves. The absurd law that fuels their rebellion is probably the most interesting part of the narrative as a local DJ encourages his listeners to break the rules and attend the rave. The unexpected epilogue gives the tale an additional sense of realism.

Special features include: making-of featurette; poster and photo galleries; and theatrical trailer. (Music Box Films)

Beau Travail (Blu-ray)


Criterion Collection

Amid the azure waters and sunbaked desert landscapes of Djibouti, a French Foreign Legion sergeant (Denis Lavant) sows the seeds of his own ruin as his obsession with a striking young recruit (Grégoire Colin) plays out to the thunderous, operatic strains of Benjamin Britten.

This is Claire Denis’ adaptation of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, which is similarly centred on a superior who makes it his mission to destroy a young, new recruit. The sergeant has a solid career and a set routine, that includes time spent with a local girl he met at a dance club. With nothing to go home to, the Legion is his life. Therefore, it’s baffling as he takes greater risks to ruin the young man. Cinematographer Agnès Godard captures the masculinity of the military and juxtaposes it with irrepressible desire. The sergeant’s unhinged jealousy manifests in hypnotic images that captivates viewers and draws them into his erratic fixation. The conversation between Denis and filmmaker Barry Jenkins in the bonus features is enlightening as he voices his appreciation for the film and Lavant’s daring performance, and she reminisces on the picture’s making.

Special feature include: selected-scene commentary with Agnès Godard; conversation between Claire Denis and filmmaker Barry Jenkins; interviews with actors Denis Lavant and Grégoire Colin; video essay by film scholar Judith Mayne; an essay by critic Girish Shambu. (Criterion Collection)

Brute Force (Blu-ray)


Criterion Collection

Timeworn Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster), along with his fellow inmates, lives under the heavy thumb of the sadistic, power-tripping guard Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn). Only Collins’ dreams of escape keep him going, but how can he possibly bust out of Munsey’s chains?

This scathing critique of the prison system is still relevant today as it becomes clear the purpose of incarceration is not rehabilitation, but profit. The warden is a good man, willing to work with the inmates to maintain an equally beneficial environment. Munsey, on the other hand, is eyeing the head office where he can rule with an unfettered iron fist — and there are no lengths to which he won’t go to attain his goal. Joe’s influence over the other prisoners paints a huge target on his back, while his small crew would follow him into fire. Flashbacks of their crimes are sprinkled throughout the film and they all link back to a woman, which somehow softens their personalities. Director Jules Dassin sets out to prove that men cornered and left with no options will do things they never would’ve otherwise, which doesn’t end well for anyone.

Special features include: commentary from 2007 featuring film-noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini; interview from 2007 with Paul Mason, editor of Captured by the Media: Prison Discourse in Popular Culture; program from 2017 on Brute Force’s array of acting styles featuring film scholar David Bordwell; stills gallery; trailer; and an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson, a 1947 profile of producer Mark Hellinger, and rare correspondence between Hellinger and Production Code administrator Joseph Breen over the film’s content. (Criterion Collection)

Killing Eve: Season 3 (Blu-ray)


AMC Studios

The story of two women with brutal pasts, addicted to each other but now trying desperately to live their lives without their drug of choice. For Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the assassin without a job, Eve is dead. For Eve (Sandra Oh), the ex-MI6 operative hiding in plain sight, Villanelle will never find her. All seems fine until a shocking and personal death sets them on a collision course yet again. The journey back to each other will cost both of them friends, family, and allegiances…and perhaps a share of their souls.

When the season begins, both women are trying to move on with their lives. Villanelle is mourning her lost obsession in her own way, while also trying to move up the murder-for-hire corporate ladder. Unfortunately, her superiors aren’t really sure she has the temperament for management. In the meantime, Eve is flying under the radar. She spends her days in a hot kitchen and nights drowning her sorrow in alcohol. However, a death close to home — followed by another — draws her back into the espionage fold, albeit with a new team who doesn’t necessarily know what they’re getting into. When everything comes crashing together, it’s impossible to predict how it’s going to turn out, once again keeping audiences on the edge of their seats and eager for the next season.

Special features include: “The Spice Kill”; “The Bitter Pill”; “Meet the Team”; “Konstantin’s World”; “The Family Home”; “The Locations”; “Dasha”; and “Psychology of a Killer.” (AMC Studios)

Mom: The Complete Seventh Season (DVD)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Christy (Anna Faris) is still sober and has her life mostly back on track, though she’s continually tested by her mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney). Together, the two work to overcome their mistakes and build a better future. Now, Christy is well on her way to becoming a lawyer, while Bonne is in a healthy romantic relationship and has just married Adam (William Fichtner). Through it all, they rely on their support system from AA, including the wise Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy); the wealthy and sometimes misguided Jill (Jaime Pressly); the overly emotional Wendy (Beth Hall); and Bonnie’s foster sister, Tammy (Kristen Johnston), who was recently released from prison.

These sober ladies never fail to entertain their AA meetings or viewers as there always seems to be something that needs fixing in their lives, even though they’re all probably doing better than ever. Bonnie is enjoying married life, but it’s not without its problems — some of which are fuelled by Bonnie’s insecurities and others are less imaginary than she’d hope. Marjorie makes some big steps this season in repairing some of her own relationships, though her friends are required to come to her rescue a couple times. Tammy also makes major strides in getting her life back on track, finding she has a real knack for handy work. Kristy, in the meantime, finds that addiction and sobriety continues to permeate all aspects of her life.

There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Pretty in Pink (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a high school girl from the other side of town. Blane (Andrew McCarthy) is the wealthy heartthrob who asks her to the prom. But as fast as their romance builds, it’s threatened by the painful reality of peer pressure.

Even though John Hughes didn’t direct this picture, his signature brand of teen angst is all over the script. The school is divided into “richies” and everyone else, who are primarily made up of poorer kids with a unique sense of fashion. Not surprisingly, the former bully the latter with Steff (James Spader), king of the richies, leading the charge. However, his best friend, Blane, is drawn to Andie, and the pair are willing to look past their social divide and give dating a try. Their friends, on the other hand, have opposing opinions. This picture is a staple of the ‘80s teen genre with its over-the-top clique wars and Duckie’s (Jon Cryer) passionate lip-sync to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”

Special features include: “Filmmaker Focus: Director Howard Deutch”; “The Lost Dance,” the original ending; isolated score; and theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Roman Holiday (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

The story of a modern-day princess (Audrey Hepburn) who, rebelling against her royal obligations, explores Rome on her own. She soon meets an American newspaperman (Gregory Peck) who pretends ignorance of her true identity, in the hopes of obtaining an exclusive story. Naturally, his plan falters as they inevitably fall in love.

This was one of the first films to be moved from a studio lot and shot on location, so there’s a great deal of effort made to showcase Rome throughout the picture. Hepburn and Peck’s on-screen meeting is less than ideal as the princess’ night on the town leaves her drunk in the street and imposed chivalry compels the newspaperman to come to her rescue. Of course, his shrewdness and her lack of an effective disguise leads him to believe he gain something from his act of kindness. They have good chemistry and their time together gains additional humour from the inclusion of the reporter’s friend and the group’s third wheel. Part travelogue and part rom-com, the film is still a light and fun tour of another time.

Special features include: “Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin”; “Behind the Gates: Costumes”; “Rome with a Princess”; “Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years”; “Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist; “Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey”; photo galleries; and theatrical trailers. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Succession: The Complete Second Season (DVD)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

The series explores themes of power, politics, money and family, played out within a rich and dysfunctional family. Its patriarch, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), is CEO of Waystar Royco, one of the world’s largest media and entertainment conglomerates. Beginning where season one dramatically left off, the second season follows the Roys as they struggle to retain control of their empire amidst internal and external threats. While the future looks increasingly uncertain, it is the past that portends to ultimately destroy them, as each of Logan’s four children remains focused on personal agendas that may or may not sync with those of their siblings. As Kendall (Jeremy Strong) deals with fallout from his hostile takeover attempt and guilt from his involvement in a fatal accident at the end of season one, season two finds Shiv (Sarah Snook) poised to make her way into the upper-echelons of the company, while Roman (Kieran Culkin) decides to reacquaint himself with the business by starting at the bottom, and Connor (Alan Ruck), who’s long eschewed the Waystar machinations, launches an unlikely bid for president.

This season, Kendall appears wholly broken. However, his humbling experience and brush with death makes him an even more effective right-hand to his father — i.e., it’s made him colder and less emotional. Roman, on the other hand, seems to have matured somewhat and is willing to do what’s necessary to prove his worth to the company. He still makes some costly mistakes, but the progress he’s made is quite impressive. In the meantime, Shiv finally tires of shunning the family business and is willing to take a seat at the table. But it’s not the path for which she’s hoped. Her husband, Tom, on the other hand, is busy climbing the family corporate ladder with mixed results. And everyone is worried Connor is going to embarrass the clan. With enemies approaching from all directions, the family is forced to ban together, but some sacrifices may be too high to stomach.

Special features include: “Invitation to the Set”; and “Inside the Episode.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Supergirl: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Season four proved truth and justice are stronger than fear and hate when Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) stopped Lex Luthor’s anti-alien campaign with the power of her journalistic skills as Kara Danvers — no cape required. Life in National City is just returning to normal when more changes come into play. CatCo Worldwide Media has a new owner and a new star reporter. Supergirl learns the truth about Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), who, in turn, learns a secret about Kara. The question now is: how much will things change? A brand-new costume, shocking revelations and threats from dangerous Obsidian technology await.

Lena was determined to take Kara down for her perceived betrayal, which just adds to Supergirl’s many problems this season. A new enemy is introduced in the form of a group of alien beings who have actually been interfering in human history for longer than anyone can remember. Having made a deal with a human, they’re using our own technological innovations to further their plans for global domination. This series was also part of the DC cross-over storyline, “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which causes significant changes to Kara’s world as it merges with the Arrowverse and revives an old nemesis. With so many enemies and several exhausting their resources to oppose Supergirl, life just seems to get increasingly difficult for the hero.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Best of DC TV’s Comic-Con Panel San Deigo 2019”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Weathering with You (Blu-ray & DVD)


GKids & Shout Factory

The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, as if to suggest his future. He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine. Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner. This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky.

This world in which children live without parents, fending for themselves and avoiding suspicious police, is a rather darkened one, which is reflected in the gloomy weather. Hodaka is a restrained and somewhat resourceful young man, who is lucky enough to meet an odd stranger who doesn’t ask too many questions. Hina is far more streetwise than Hodaka, but her need for caution hasn’t made her any less of a caring person. Her ability to call on the sun for brief periods is amazing — and a high-demand service in a city literally drowning in rain. There’s nothing very typical about the narrative, which alongside the lovely animation, makes it a captivating watch.

Special features include: “Talk Show: Makoto Shinkai and Yumiko Udo”; “Weather Front”; “Exploring Makoto Shinkai’s Filmography”; TV spots; and theatrical trailers. (GKIDS and Shout Factory)

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Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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