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Review: This week’s releases take justice into their own hands — part 2 (Includes first-hand account)

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Blu-ray & DVD)


GKids & Shout Factory

As a group of teens go out for a night on the town, a sophomore known only as “The Girl with Black Hair” experiences a series of surreal encounters with the local nightlife… all the while unaware of the romantic longings of Senpai, a fellow student who has been creating increasingly fantastic and contrived reasons to run into her in an effort to win her heart.

This movie sets out on a topsy-turvy adventure fuelled by alcohol and led by a confident young woman with a bottomless thirst. Rather than fall into the tropes of the dangers of the streets to a solo girl, the film shows she can take care of herself when presented with a threat while also enjoying herself. There’s a strange synchronicity to the night as her companions turn out to be unexpectedly linked to each other, often in bizarre ways. There are no taboos in this narrative and the supernatural plays its role as well. The animation is colourful and captivating, taking on a more adult aesthetic that’s occasionally weird or scary. The whole thing is pretty unpredictable, making each new reveal rewarding.

Special features include: interview with director Masaaki Yuasa; TV spots; and trailers. (GKIDS & Shout Factory)

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Disney Home Entertainment

When Clara’s (Mackenzie Foy) mother leaves her a mysterious gift, she embarks on a journey to four secret realms where she discovers her greatest strength could change the world.

Like her mother, Clara is an inventive child who enjoys tinkering and building elaborate contraptions to amuse her younger brother. Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) is also an inventor and he enjoys nurturing her inherited talents. However, her abilities are only made useful at the beginning and end of the narrative — in between, she’s just a strong-willed young woman in awe of everything around her to the extent that she can’t see what’s coming. The aesthetic is expectedly rich and fanciful. The costumes and make-up of those who inhabit the four realms are elaborate and imaginative. The realms’ representatives are particularly ornate as each is a perfect symbol of their respective domain. The tale is enchanting, though the lack of music is conspicuous and the ending is a little underwhelming. It’s an entertaining family adventure that may not replace the original, but it will make a fitting companion piece for years to come.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “On Pointe: A Conversation with Misty Copeland”; Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms; and music videos. (Disney Studios)

The Prize (Blu-ray)


Warner Archive Collection

After unexpectedly winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, closet crime novelist Andrew Craig (Paul Newman) finds himself in Sweden to accept the award but is swept up into Cold War intrigue. More comfortable at the bar than at the abacus, affable souse Craig nonetheless sniffs a whiff of wrongdoing when Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson), winner of the Physics prize, undergoes a mysterious personality change.

This is an unexpected espionage thriller that centres on the usually bland Nobel Prize. Craig’s brash reputation precedes his landing in Sweden, though he does nothing to dissuade popular opinion. The woman assigned to keep him in line during his visit is remarkably terse and well-informed about her charge. Under normal circumstances, the clue that ignites Craig’s suspicions would’ve likely gone unnoticed, but for the purposes of this narrative it raises an unusual number of flags. Running more than two hours, it unfolds a bit too slowly for modern audiences. However, the characters — and the actors that play them — are intriguing, which makes it easier to stay with the story.

There are no special features. (Warner Archive)

Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (Blu-ray)


Shout Factory

Sarah Travis (Linda Blair) is an average teenager who is introduced to drinking alcohol at local parties. As a means of coping with problems in her life, most notably her parents’ divorce, Sarah starts to drink regularly and tries to keep her addiction a secret, even from her boyfriend (Mark Hamill). Eventually, Sarah’s increasingly severe drinking almost leads to tragedy, and she enters Alcoholics Anonymous, beginning an ongoing struggle to get sober and stay that way.

This was an interesting turn for young Poltergeist‘s Blair and one of Hamill’s earliest films. Even though no one talks about teen addiction, little about Sarah’s experience will seem unusual or unfamiliar to many viewers. For the first half of the film, she does all the things regular teens do — just to greater excess: drink at parties, sneak alcohol from her parents’ liquor cabinet and have a nip at school. However, the latter half is where her addiction becomes more obvious and her actions more desperate. Blair is exceptionally genuine in this role, in spite of her lack of real-life experience. But since it was only the second TV movie, her performance has gone widely unrecognized. The bonus features provide interesting anecdotes about making the film, particularly in this new environment.

Special features include: “Linda B. on Sarah T.”; “Richard D. and David L. – Portrait of A TV Movie”; and still gallery. (Shout Factory)

Screamers (Blu-ray)


Scream Factory

The year is 2078. The man is rebel Alliance Commander Col. Joseph Hendrickson (Peter Weller), assigned to protect the Sirius 6B outpost from ravage and plunder at the hands of the New Economic Bloc. Their state-of-the-art weaponry are known as Screamers: manmade killing devices programmed to eliminate all enemy life forms. Screamers travel underground, announcing their intent to kill with piercing shrieks. They dissect their victims with precision, then eradicate all traces of the carnage. They are lethal, effective, tidy… and somehow, they are mutating into human form and slaughtering every beating heart on the planet.

This is basically a different take on The Terminator narrative, but set in the future. The opening scene demonstrates the brutality of the small machines, though they have found ways to counteract the killer robots other than simply destroying them. With the arrival of new, disagreeable information, Hendrickson determines it’s time to leave the bunker and find out what’s really going on before they’re all killed. His journey takes him and a young, gung-ho soldier across a barren desert and radioactive wastelands in search of other humans. The special effects work on this movie is first-rate, combining imaginative tech with bloody carnage. The story drags a little, but the meaty parts are good while the ending delivers a couple of surprises before the predictable final scene.

Special features include: “Northern Frights,” an interview with director Christian Duguay; “Orchestrating the Future,” an interview with producer Tom Berry; “More Screamer Than Human,” an interview with co-writer Miguel Tejada-Flores; “From Runaway to Space,” an interview with actress Jennifer Rubin; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Slice (DVD)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

When a slew of pizza delivery boys are slain on the job in a spooky small town, two daring survivors (Zazie Beetz and Chance the Rapper) set out to catch the culprits behind the cryptic crime spree.

This movie is a complete surprise, having seemingly come out of nowhere to entertain with a fresh supernatural narrative. Having accepted the presence of ghosts who can affect the living, they’ve given the corporeal beings their own section of town to haunt and tried to go on peacefully. But no one accounted for a serial killer, werewolf and witches. The paranormal murder mystery is a ton of fun as no matter how much of the cast it kills off, they’re never really gone. Having the story revolve around a mediocre pizza place is also an amusing element as the inept employees are tasked with saving their town from Hell.

Special features include: commentary by director Austin Vesely, producer Elijah Alvarado, and actor Paul Scheer; and deleted scenes. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Suburbia (Blu-ray)


Shout Select

Evan (Bill Coyne) and his younger brother (Andrew Pece) leave their broken home in an attempt to escape their alcoholic mother. They fall in with “The Rejected” (aka T.R.), a group of punks who live as squatters in an abandoned shack by the side of the highway. With the T.R.s, the boys find a new family. But their bond will be tested when they become the target of “Citizens Against Crime,” a group of unhappy suburbanites.

This is the story of two factions that cannot live in harmony. The punks are disruptive ne’er-do-wells who don’t like anyone outside their group, which makes everyone else their targets for robbery and harassment. On the other hand, the gun-wielding hicks are warming up to vigilante justice as they grow more intolerant of the punks’ terrorizing antics. However, T.R. is most interesting when they’re away from other people as they prove to be kind and caring amongst each other. Their camaraderie paired with their loud style makes for a pretty accurate depiction of the punk rock scene in the early ‘80s. It’s clear director Penelope Spheeris sides with the anti-establishment kids, most of whom have had a rough go of it, even though at least some the suburbanites’ complaints are valid (i.e. the first scene at the club).

Special features include: commentary by director Penelope Spheeris; commentary by director Penelope Spheeris, producer Bert Dragin and actress Jennifer Clay; still gallery; and trailers. (Shout Select)

Suspiria (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Young American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Company, stunning the troupe’s famed choreographer, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), with her raw talent. When she vaults to the role of lead dancer, Olga, the previous lead, breaks down and accuses the company’s female directors of being witches. As rehearsals intensify for the final performance of the company’s signature piece, Susie and Madame Blanc grow strangely close, suggesting that Susie’s purpose in the company goes beyond merely dancing. Meanwhile, an inquisitive psychotherapist trying to uncover the company’s dark secrets enlists the help of another dancer, who probes the depths of the studio’s hidden underground chambers, where horrific discoveries await.

The film is set in 1977 during German Autumn, a time of political flux and violence in the country. However, there’s also supposed to be an underlying sentiment of German guilt throughout the film that doesn’t resonate until the last 30 minutes, at which point it feels out of place and inappropriate. Rather than mimic Dario Argento‘s red theme, director Luca Guadagnino has opted for a starker aesthetic of white rooms and muted colours… until the final act when the movie adopts a more traditional Giallo-look, bathing a windowless room in red light and blood. The Damien Jalet’s choreography is aggressive and expressive, opting for a more visceral, interpretive style versus the defined elegance of ballet. As it’s an extension of the witchcraft afoot, the forceful movements are very appropriate for the narrative. Moreover, the score composed by Radiohead singer Thom Yorke adds to the uncompromising tone of the film, which can be somewhat unnerving but also keeps audiences attentive.

Special features include: making-of featurette; “The Secret Language of Dance”; and “The Transformations of Suspiria.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Check out the first round of this week’s releases.

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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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