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Review: These releases have a long-lasting impact

This week’s releases include a werewolf classic, murderous mind, animated warning and story of loneliness.

This week’s releases include a werewolf classic, a murderous mind, an animated warning and a story of loneliness.

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De La Cruz on Blu-ray
MVD Visual

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De La Cruz (Ensayo De Un Crimen) (Blu-ray)
The story begins when an overindulged young boy of privilege is shown a music box, which is a family heirloom, alleged to cause the death of an enemy when played. The boy decides to test it out, setting his sights on his nanny, who’d recently offended him, wishing for her death. When moments later, a stray bullet from a revolutionary’s gun sails though the window killing her, the twisted boy is convinced this was no accident and finds that he likes his newfound power. Taking on the mind of a serial killer, he carries this mindset into adulthood, plotting, planning, fanaticizing and wishing, with women as his victims. The irony of it all is his efforts to carry out these crimes are always thwarted by outside forces, be it twist of fate or providence, making him a serial killer in mind only.

This is a fascinating exploration of cause vs. coincidence. When someone has an argument in which they wish harm on their adversary and the harm comes to pass, they often blame themselves for manifesting the injury. Of course, short of an act of malice, the timing of the occurrences is pure coincidence. In this case, Archie is convinced people are dead because he wanted it that way, even if he never physically had a hand in killing them. He undoubtedly carries murder in his heart, but some external force prevents him from acting on his desires. Director Luis Bunel is best known outside of Mexico for his more experimental work, but this is a riveting narrative with mass appeal and an excellent cast, some of whom unfortunately didn’t live to see the film’s release.

Special features include: “Essay of a Crime.” (MVD Visual)

Dog Soldiers on 4K
Scream Factory

Dog Soldiers (4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray)
A group of soldiers dispatched to the Scottish Highlands on special training maneuvers face their biggest fears after they run into Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) — the only survivor of a Special Ops team that was literally torn to pieces. Ryan refuses to disclose his mission even though whoever attacked his men might be hungry for seconds. Help arrives in the form of a local woman (Emma Cleasby) who shelters them in a deserted farmhouse deep in the forest … but when they realize that they are surrounded by a pack of blood-lusting werewolves, it’s apparent their nightmare has just begun!

Even 20 years later, this is still one of the best werewolf movies to hit the screens. A seamless combination of horror and war drama, the film grips audiences as the soldiers come under supernatural enemy attack. While audiences are let in on the threat’s secret before the movie’s characters, it’s not long before everyone gets a good look at the creatures. Director Neil Marshall opted for less traditional appearance for the hairy monsters, which are tall and wiry rather than short and stocky. While most screen wolves are portrayed by stunt people, these ones are actually played by professional dancers, which give them a very different sense of movement from their predecessors. In spite of the short time viewers spend with the soldiers, they get to know them relatively well, attaching meaning to their (gruesome) deaths.

Special features include: commentary by writer and associate professor of Film Alison Peirse; commentary with director Neil Marshall; commentary with producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole; “Werewolves, Crawlers, Cannibals and More”; “A History of Lycanthropy”; “Werewolves, Folklore and Cinema”; “Werewolves vs. Soldiers”; “A Cottage in the Woods”; Combat, a short film by Neil Marshall; still galleries; and trailers. (Scream Factory)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest on Blu-ray
Shout Factory

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (Blu-ray & DVD)
Deep in the heart of the forest awaits a paradise filled with tiny sprites, winged fairies, tree spirits and all kinds of animals who live together in joyful harmony. But when their home is threatened by humans, one courageous sprite must give her all to save it.

For many people reaching their midlife and younger, climate change and environmental sustainability has been on the agenda since childhood. Thirty years ago, this animated film tried to warn us of the dangers of cutting down the rainforest by highlighting its beauty and focusing on the native creatures clear-cutting displaces. Of course, the emphasis is on the forest’s fictional inhabitants, which may have dampened the message for some. The scene stealer (most times) and messenger of another important message is Bartok the bat, voiced by Robin Williams, who escaped a lab where humans experimented on him and attached a device to his head that scrambles his brain. He’s the story’s comic relief and no one did it better than Williams. It’s still a lovely picture and could definitely be seen as a precursor for Avatar.

Special features include: commentary with Bill Kroyer, art director Ralph Eggleston and coordinating art director Susan Kroyer; introduction with director Bill Kroyer; “Seed of the Story”; “From Paper to Tree”; “Behind The Voice: Toxic Love”; “If I’m Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might As Well Be You)” music video; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)

Vive L'Amour on Blu-ray
Film Movement

Vive L’Amour (Blu-ray)
The film follows three characters unknowingly sharing a supposedly empty Taipei apartment. The beautiful realtor May Lin (Yang Kuei-mei) brings her lover Ah-jung (Chen Chao-jung) to a vacant unit she has on the market, unaware that it is secretly being occupied by the suicidal funeral salesman Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng). The three cross paths in a series of precisely staged, tragicomic erotic encounters, but despite their physical proximity, they find themselves no closer to a personal connection.

This is an unusual tale of disconnection, which is often a theme in Asian cinema. Kang deals with the grief-stricken and dead, so it’s difficult for him to connect with people. Somewhat awkward and shy, he’s also harboring a secret he’s not yet ready to share with the world. Jung is a bit of a drifter. Though he doesn’t appear to be a criminal, he does live on the fringes and is slightly obsessed with May. She meets with clients, primarily men, regularly, presenting a bubbly demeanour to try to persuade them to buy a given property. However, when she’s not “on,” she appears lonely and despondent/frustrated, and Jung was an attempt to fill whatever void she feels. The film goes for extended periods without any dialogue, emphasising their loneliness. This also makes the instances in which they interact with other people or each other more impactful.

Special features include: “Tsai Ming-liang on Vive L’Amour”; and 16-page booklet with a new essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton. (Film Movement)

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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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