Originally posted June 8, 2022
This week’s releases include an unusual friendship; a cutthroat TV drama; an animated take on VR; a revisionist Western; a sci-fi classic; and an old school cop story.
12 Monkeys (4K Ultra HD)
In 1996, a deadly virus is unleashed by a group calling themselves the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, destroying much of the world’s population and forcing survivors underground. In 2035, prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis) is chosen to go back in time and help scientists in their search for a cure.
Directed by Terry Gilliam, the film was based on the short film, La Jetée. At the centre of the sci-fi classic is the ultimate time travel paradox — can you go back in time to change the future, or, by doing so, do you just solidify the past? Cole’s mission is to stop an apocalyptic event, but each time he returns to the past, he risks institutionalization in exchange for just a little more intel than they had before his trip. In Cole’s own time, the scientists’ close-up interrogation is disconcerting and their disregard for the recruited prisoners is troubling. However, even though Willis is good in the film, the standout performance is by Brad Pitt as the mental patient, Jeffrey Goines. From having little to no grip on reality, Pitt impresses with his ability to appear completely insane, yet still charming enough to draw a group of followers.
Special features include: commentary by Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven; “The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys”; image gallery; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin. (Arrow Video)
Belle (Blu-ray & DVD)
Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into the online persona of Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.
The narrative that unfolds within the fantasy world has parallels with the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. Belle seeks out the misunderstood Beast to try to understand his rage, while the vigilantes are only looking to destroy him. Belle becomes a different person in the virtual world, but it’s just a freer version of herself — the beautiful singing voice still belongs to Suzu, even if she doesn’t think anyone knows it’s her. The story in the real world, however, is much more complicated and unexpected. As everyone tries to find the real identity of the Beast, what they find is a very dark and sad reason for his behaviour that pushes Suzu to act bravely outside the internet — and she does it alone, for some unknown reason.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “A Conversation with Director Mamoru Hosoda”; “The Music of Belle”; “Hosoda Draws Belle”; “Finding the Voice of Belle”; “Mamoru Hosoda at Animation is Film”; scene breakdowns; design gallery; and Kylie McNeill Performs “Gales of Song.” (GKids and Shout Factory)
Beverly Hills Cop II (4K Ultra HD & Digital copy)
Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is back — back where he doesn’t belong! He’s going ‘deep, deep, deep undercover’ into the chic wilds of Southern California, unleashing his arsenal of blazing gunfire and rapid-fire gags against a gang of international munitions smugglers. Back, too, are his crime-busting sidekicks (Judge Reinhold and John Ashton).
There’s a bit of irony in these films as it adopts the fish-out-of-water police story usually centred on a cop from a foreign agency seeking a fugitive in another country; instead, this movie features a police officer from Michigan who follows his killer to California, suggesting the states are two different worlds. Murphy brings some of his stand-up comedy into the picture, regularly making jokes and talking quickly. Once Axel is in Beverly Hills, his faithful sidekicks never really gets a solid grasp of his tough cop persona. As is typical of the genre, the villains in each picture are connected to large organizations with a lot of fire power, resulting in plenty of mass shootouts. Of course, in the end, Axel always gets his man and the girl.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Licorice Pizza (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital code)
The story of Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson is very fond of the ‘70s, having set several of his films in the decade. It feels like an era of possibility with fewer restrictions and less judgement. Thus, no one bats an eye when a teenager decides to recruit his friends in launching a full-fledged, brick-and-mortar business. Nor does anyone give Alana a hard time for spending so much time with a kid, instead of focusing on her own ambitions. Yet, around their tentative love story, Anderson adds some unexpected encounters that allows the characters to grow, from an enlightening work dinner to an egocentric filmmaker (Sean Penn) to an ostentatious client (Bradley Cooper) who demands a very specific pronunciation of “Streisand.” This is a very unusual love story as the main characters spend most of the movie not involved. However, it’s a movie based in experiences, and Haim and Hoffman effectively invite viewers into their strange world of awkward encounters, business risks and hard lessons. What’s most surprising is this is both of their first feature films.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; “Fat Bernie’s Commercial”; “The Handman Scene”; and camera tests. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
The story of a senator (James Stewart), his old friend (John Wayne) and a despicable outlaw called Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).
In spite of the well-known Western actors, this is an unconventional Western film. Liberty Valance is the typical villain, aggressively pushing his agenda and intimidating the townsfolk. Wayne plays the local rough but fair cowboy who does his best to keep the peace and the townspeople alive by ensuring they generally placate Valance. Stewart, however, is a newcomer who insists on making improvements that ruffle both men’s feathers, primarily as he opens a school for all ages to teach anyone who wants to learn to read. Director John Ford was a master of the genre, so it’s even more noteworthy that he would produce a revisionist film that challenges the formula, making this a significant entry into the genre.
Special features include: commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, along with his archival recordings with John Ford and James Stewart; selected scene commentary with introduction by Dan Ford, along with his archival recordings with John Ford, James Stewart and Lee Marvin; “Filmmaker Focus”; “The Size Of Legends, The Soul Of Myth”; and original theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Succession: The Complete Third Season (DVD)
The series explores themes of power and family dynamics through the eyes of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his four grown children: Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck). Season three finds Logan in a perilous position, scrambling to secure familial, political and financial alliances after he was ambushed by his rebellious son, Kendall. After Kendall’s impulsive decision to expose the company’s sprawling scandal, the family is left to each contemplate their own future. Tensions rise as a bitter corporate battle threatens to turn into a family civil war, with the Roy family navigating the looming questions of who will take over in a post-Logan world.
At some point each season, viewers may think the show has reached its darkest point, whether covering up a possible murder or requesting someone take a fall for the rest of the company, and then it finds a way to reach even darker depths. Kendall takes a major risk that shakes everything up and puts everyone on edge, clambering to hold onto their existing power and trying to seize a little more in the confusion. This precarious situation further exposes the family’s dysfunctionality as heartfelt discussions and cutthroat negotiations occur almost in tandem. Adrian Brody and Alexander Skarsgård both appear briefly this season, each playing men who have the power to decide the company’s fate. Yet, the ending still manages to blindside everyone, including audiences.
Special features include: “Who Said It?”; “Roy Family Food Chain”; “Succession: Controlling the Narrative.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)