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Review: Women carve their own path in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

This week’s releases include a vividly fantastic getaway for two humdrum, middle-aged women; a brutal depiction of the witch trials that doesn’t shy away from any of its hypocrisy; and a richly animated tale about a girl’s search for home.

A scene from 'Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar' - Sarah Gopaul
A scene from 'Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar' - Sarah Gopaul
A scene from ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ – Sarah Gopaul

This week’s releases include a vividly fantastic getaway for two humdrum, middle-aged women; a brutal depiction of the witch trials that doesn’t shy away from any of its hypocrisy; and a richly animated tale about a girl’s search for home.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

Untitled

 

Lionsgate Home Entertainment

 

 

Lifelong friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small midwestern town for the first time…ever. Romance, friendship, and a villain’s evil plot — hold onto your culottes!

Writers Wiig and Mumolo’s previous outing was 10 years ago when they brought the brash and hilarious Bridesmaids to the screen. Now, the duo return for an over-the-top, off-the-sales rack romp into the lives of two inseparable women coming-of-middle-age. When a wrench is thrown into their mundane lives, the best option seems to be to do different on their own terms. Vista Del Mar is a fantastical, technicolor paradise with a musical welcome, countless recreational activities and attractive young men. Barb and Star need different things from their vacation, though it turns out they could both use a little space. In addition to Mumolo’s and Wiig’s completely immersive performances, the ensemble mix of key players and cameos truly fill out the rest of the show, including Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Andy Garcia and Reba McEntire.

Special features include: commentary by director Josh Greenbaum, writer-actor Annie Mumolo and writer-actor Kristen Wiig; deleted scenes; “Barb & Star: Making Life a Little Brighter”; “Barb & Star: Casting in Paradise”; “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar Fashion Show”; and bloopers. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Earwig and the Witch (Blu-ray & DVD)

Untitled

 

GKids & Shout Factory

 

 

Growing up in an orphanage in the British countryside, Earwig has no idea that her mother had magical powers. Her life changes dramatically when a strange couple takes her in, and she is forced to live with a selfish witch. As the headstrong young girl sets out to uncover the secrets of her new guardians, she discovers a world of spells and potions, and a mysterious song that may be the key to finding the family she has always wanted.

From the great minds at Studio Ghibli, the film is produced by studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki, conceived by legend Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his acclaimed son, Goro Miyazaki. The story is based on the children’s novel, Earwig and the Witch, by Diana Wynne Jones, who also wrote Howl’s Moving Castle, another Ghibli classic. This was the studio’s first entirely 3DCG animated feature and although the effect is unfortunately lost on the home release, it does still result in some intensely captivating visuals with constantly moving parts. In addition to whimsical and somewhat dark representations of witchcraft, the movie has a very catchy theme song, “Don’t Disturb Me,” that recurs throughout the narrative. Earwig is a headstrong and clever girl, determined to win over her new foster parents and bend them to her own will — an ambitious goal given the circumstances.

Special features include: “Creating Earwig and the Witch”; feature-length storyboards; interviews with Japanese voice cast; and trailers. (Gkids & Shout Factory)

The Reckoning (Blu-ray)

Untitled

 

RLJE Films & Shudder

 

 

After losing her husband during the Great Plague, Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) is unjustly accused of being a witch and placed in the custody of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter, Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee). Forced to endure physical and emotional torture while steadfastly maintaining her innocence, Grace must face her own inner demons as the Devil himself starts to work his way into her mind.

It’s commonly understood the witch trials had very little to do with supernatural abilities, but was actually used to make false accusations against rivals who were then typically eliminated. People were tortured until they confessed and/or implicated someone else, many giving in simply to stop the pain. Grace’s will is shockingly strong, as she refuses to surrender to the torture — the worst of which director Neil Marshall leaves to audience’s imaginations. Though the physical damage appears to be underplayed, the psychological effects are far more prevalent and difficult to distinguish from reality. Has Grace’s grief manifested in the regular presence of her husband or is his ghost clinging to this realm to make sure she doesn’t give up? Are the endless indictments of witchcraft combined with sleep deprivation causing devilish hallucinations or is Satan really trying to claim her soul? Regardless of the answers to these questions, the explosive conclusion delivers a brand of justice most of these women never received.

There are no special features. (RLJE Films & Shudder)

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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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