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Review: This week’s releases take the unconventional approach

This week’s releases include a fun-loving animated musical; satisfying horror movie; and a big picture sci-fi.

A scene from 'Sing 2'
A scene from 'Sing 2' courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
A scene from 'Sing 2' courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

Originally posted April 1, 2022

This week’s releases include a fun-loving animated musical; satisfying horror movie; a big picture sci-fi; a medical thriller; an everything-till-now collection; a cult movie without cult status; a muddied action picture; and a vivid space adventure.

Alain Resnais: Five Short Films on Blu-ray
Icarus Films

Alain Resnais: Five Short Films (Blu-ray)

All the World’s Memory (Toute la mémoire du monde) [1956]: This homage to the National Library of France takes us on an impressive architectural and impressionistic tour.
Guernica [1949]: The devastating bombing of the city of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, features Picasso’s paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Paul Gauguin [1949]: The artist’s own writings and artwork are used to trace his creative journey, from losing his job in finance — the catalyst for his commitment to paint — through to his final days in Tahiti.
The Song of the Styerne (Le chant du Styrène) [1957]: Alain Resnais carries out a poetic investigation into the origins of plastic. It is the perfect example of how to turn a commissioned industrial film into a lyrical, satirical film masterpiece.
Van Gogh [1948]: This boundary-pushing short evokes the life of Vincent Van Gogh, using his paintings as the only visual material. The film won an Academy Award for Best Short Film.

Resnais was one of the leaders of French New Wave cinema in the 1950s, but before making his major feature films he honed his skills via a number of poetic short films. Using art to tell three of the stories included, the director explores the lives of two artists who at the times of their death were not the famous painters they are today, skillfully using their art to convey their emotions throughout their careers. Similarly, Picasso’s work is used to express the horrors of the war, focusing on a bombing set to maximize civilian casualties. The other two films in the collection take very lacklustre subjects and turn them into engaging explorations of how things work. These short films are a testament to Resnais’ talent and his ability to make the mundane exciting.

There are no special features. (Icarus Films)

Bryan Loves You on Blu-ray
MVD Entertainment

Bryan Loves You [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)

In the early 1990s, a 32-year-old psychotherapist, Jonathan (Seth Landau), began to suspect that his small Arizona community was being taken over by a homicidal religious cult known as “The Bryans.” His entire ordeal was captured on camcorder footage and security tapes. They are the video musings of a highly disturbed young man. This is what was recovered.

The tale stems from the supposedly true story of an Arizona cult, but other than getting its inspiration from the news there doesn’t seem to be any other connection. The narrative is pretty far-fetched, at one point proposing Jonathan is the first non-member to be encountered by a resistance group in several years. Most members are easy to spot as they wear black-and-white, handmade masks and exhibit very little personality, appearing to have been completely brainwashed into submission. Most galling is the exact placement of the security cameras to capture the footage necessary to tell the story, including places where one must question why The Bryans would want a record of any goings-on. In the end, the original concept is interesting, but the execution is subpar.

Special features include: commentary with writer/producer/director Seth Landau; commentary with writer/producer/director Seth Landau, cast and crew along with JoBlo writer/critic James Oster, Elissa Dowling and professor/religious expert Dr. Phillip Baker; interview with stars George Wendt, Tiffany Shepis, Daniel Roebuck and Brinke Stevens; and theatrical trailer. (MVD Entertainment)

Delta Space Mission on Blu-ray
Deaf Crocodile

Delta Space Mission (Blu-ray)

In the year 3084, Alma, a Modigliani-esque alien journalist with blue-green skin, boards a state-of-the-art spacecraft named Delta whose highly advanced computer brain develops a mad teenage crush on her with disastrous results.

This trippy Romanian animated film is incredibly vibrant, leveraging its unconventional style to tell and an unusual story. Similar to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a futuristic A.I. once again goes haywire and turns on its crew. The trigger for the disobedience is unsurprising as the machine attempts to comprehend something it can’t because the experience is inherently human. Although Alma is a late addition to the project, she is at the centre of most of the narrative. The shapes of the spaceships are unusual, ranging from small capsules to odd boxes that appear to have an electrical outlet on the front. The ‘80s Eurodisco soundtrack carries audiences through the various chases and explorations, while two short films in the bonus features act as epilogues to the feature picture. Nonetheless, one the movie’s highlights is Alma’s pet, which is a preposterously cute cross between a frog and a dog.

Special features include: commentary by Kat Ellinger, author, film critic and editor-in-chief for Diabolique magazine; interview with co-director Călin Cazan; newly restored episodes from the Delta Space Mission short film series: “Planeta Oceanelor / The Planet of the Oceans” (1980, 7 min.) and “Recuperare ratata / Failed Towing” (1981, 7 min.), both directed by Victor Antonescu; and booklet essay by comics artist, editor and publisher Stephen R. Bissette. (Deaf Crocodile)

The Institute on DVD
Gravitas Ventures

The Institute (DVD)

The film tells the story of a young couple (Victorya Brandart and Ignacyo Matynia), desperate to have a child, which begin treatment at a renowned doctor’s secluded facility. The couple becomes suspicious when the medical regimen brings on psychological side effects and try to learn the truth about The Institute.

It’s not unheard of that people desperate for a cure to seemingly untreatable ailments will take a by any means necessary approach to their care after exhausting traditional avenues of treatment. Their despair makes them the perfect candidate (or target) for experimental remedies or unethical doctors trying to further their research. This is the predicament the couple finds themselves in as they arrive at The Institute and consent to treatment by the off-putting resident doctor and even more disconcerting nurse. All the treatments are posited too difficult to explain in layman’s terms, so generic, exotic details are provided to patients who must then choose to accept them without question if they’re going to resolve their infertility issues. It’s a recipe for disaster that isn’t wholly unpredictable, but still interesting to watch unfold.

There are no special features. (Gravitas Ventures)

On the 3rd Day on Blu-ray
Scream Factory & Shudder

On the 3rd Day (Blu-ray)

While on a trip with her young son, Cecilia (Mariana Anghileri) has a car accident. Three days later, she finds herself wandering a lonely road with no sign of her child — and no memory of what happened since the crash. Cecilia’s desperate search for her son leads her on a wrenching and tumultuous journey to face off against a religious fanatic who holds the shocking key to it all.

The pillars of the story are not difficult to determine from the outset as the pseudo-priest prepares to move a heavily chained wooden box. However, what’s most confusing is Cecilia’s long stare over her shoulder that causes the accident — it’s a matter of terrible driving and she had no reason to be so invested she couldn’t return her eyes to the road. From the hospital on, she’s haunted by visions of people, even though she can’t remember what happened to her son. The inevitable revelation is executed well, though Cecilia’s decision-making skills continue to be poor. Probably the most notable element in the film is its use of mirrors and the unconventional curse it brings to some.

Special features include: trailer. (Scream Factory & Shudder)

Project Gemini on Blu-ray
Well Go USA

Project Gemini (Blu-ray)

After centuries of destroying Earth’s resources, humankind faces the grim reality that its last shot at survival may require creating an entirely new home — in outer space. An international expedition is quickly formed to find a suitable new planet, but when plans go awry, the crew is suddenly stranded without power on a strange planet. Unfortunately, they’ll soon learn that something truly unimaginable has been out there watching, lying in wait for the unwary human scouts.

This is a sci-fi picture that opts to reimagine the origins of the human race in order to build a story around saving it. The premise is interesting as believing in an alien solution is still better than extinction and it allows for a tale in total isolation from the outside world, containing the team within the confines of their ship and then the alien planet. The technology is simultaneously advanced and ordinary, though the construction of the starship’s interior makes for a convincing narrative. Unsurprisingly, a mission to rebuild Earth and populate it again with humans is not without its problems, including missing their destination and trying to apprehend a mystery saboteur. Unfortunately, the film’s key downfall is the actors’ performances since English isn’t necessarily their first language, it hinders their line delivery and ability to express appropriate emotions — may have just been better in Russian.

There are no special features. (Well Go USA)

Pursuit on Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Pursuit (Blu-ray)

Calloway (Emile Hirsch), a ruthless hacker, is desperate to find his wife — who’s been kidnapped by a drug cartel — when he crosses paths with Detective Breslin (Jake Manley). But after Calloway escapes police custody, Breslin joins forces with a no-nonsense female cop (Elizabeth Faith Ludlow) to reclaim his prisoner. But is Calloway’s crime-boss father (John Cusack) somehow involved in this explosive situation?

If it was possible to make this story any more convoluted, it feels as if filmmakers would’ve found it. The movie begins with the ransom delivery, followed by Calloway’s merciless search for his wife when the kidnappers refuse to return her. In the meantime, there’s a bunch of coded conversations between his father and the leader of another syndicate. The police, of course, are playing both sides, while Breslin is looking to even the score and clean up the streets. Everything is so chaotic, it’s difficult to engage with the narrative or the characters, which means viewers will be hard-pressed to care what happens to either.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Rick and Morty Season 1-5 on Blu-ray
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Rick and Morty: Seasons 1-5 (Blu-ray)

Rick Sanchez is living with his daughter Beth’s family and constantly bringing her, his son-in-law Jerry, granddaughter Summer, and grandson Morty into intergalactic escapades. Rick, a sociopathic genius, scientist drags his inherently timid grandson on insanely dangerous adventures across the universe.

In the first season, the character dynamic between Rick and Morty drew comparisons to the one between Doc and Marty in Back to the Future as the older scientific mentor travelled the universe with his young, naïve protégé. However, the comedy in this series is far more adult-oriented and Rick is far from a desirable role model. The first season still contains some of the most memorable episodes, including the revenge of Snuffles, introduction of Scary Terry, surprising Anatomy Park, and their first encounter with the Council of Ricks. In season two, Jerry tags along for more adventures than Rick would like, but he also has an amusing solution to this problem. The “purge world” episode is fun, especially if viewers have seen the movie-inspiration, while the one in which Morty insists on freeing an incarcerated cloud has a killer ending. In season three, the family takes up in a Mad Max-style apocalyptic dimension, Rick becomes an infamous pickle, and Beth discovers her imaginary childhood escape wasn’t actually made-up. It took two years to get to season four, but it was worth it. From Rick’s obsession with his Zen bathroom on another planet to Jerry floating away thanks to his own incompetence to the great gift of snake jazz, the show doesn’t disappoint. It was a shorter wait for the fifth season, which is very sexually charged with several episodes revolving around promiscuity, curiosity and reproduction. Episodes include a never-before-mentioned best friend with strange sexual appeal; a tribute to Hellraiser; a romantic spin-off of Captain Planet; and an attempt to restore Birdperson to his former glory.

Special features include: Season 1: commentaries for every episode; deleted scenes; animatics for every episode; and behind the scenes; Season 2: commentaries for every episode; deleted animatic sketches; animatics for every episode; and “Season 2 Premiere Party Featuring Chaos Chaos”; Season 3: commentaries for every episode; animatics for every episode; “Inside the Episode”; “Inside the Recording Booth”; and “Origins of Rick and Morty Part 1 & 2”; Season 4: “A Day at Rick and Morty: Inside Season 4”; “Inside the Episode”; “Creating Snake Jazz”; “Directing Rick and Morty”; “Samurai and Shogun”; “Prop Process”; “Character Creation”; and “Animation Challenges”; Season 5: making-of season five; “Inside the Episode”; “B-Story Generator Vol. 1”; “B-Story Generator Vol. 2”; “Backgrounds”; “Animation and Compositing”; “Coloring Rick and Morty”; “Directing ‘Mortyplicity’”; “Directing ‘Rickmurai Jack’”; and “Season 5 Hype.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Sing 2 on 4K
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Sing 2 (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)

The ever-optimistic Koala, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), and his cast have big dreams of staging their most dazzling show yet in the glittering entertainment capital of the world, Redshore City. There’s just one hitch: they must persuade the world’s most reclusive rock star, Clay Calloway (Bono), to join them. Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), Ash (Scarlett Johansson), Johnny (Taron Egerton), Meena (Tori Kelly) and Gunter (Nick Kroll) return with all-new characters, spectacular hit songs and electrifying performances.

In spite of the one big project that unites them, the story is fractured into many individual narratives as each character has a separate issue to confront. Johnny gets to add a new skill to his resume while also making a friend that believes in him. Meena has trouble connecting with the show’s love interest, but finds inspiration in an ice cream vendor. In spite of feeling like her time has finally come, there’s still something holding Rosita back. And while Ash has it all together, it’s her job to help Clay rediscover his stage presence. The stories are not especially unique, but they’re still amusing and feel specific to each character’s development. Nonetheless, the star of the movie is once again the catchy soundtrack. After opening with a lively rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy,” the hits keep coming. Between the positive storylines and upbeat soundtrack, this is a feel-good movie that’s sure to continue being a crowd-pleaser.

Special features include: “For Gunter’s Eyes Only” mini movie; “Animal Attraction” mini movie; “Meet the Animators”; “The Voices of Sing 2”; “From the Drawing Room”; “How to Draw”; “Super Sing-Alongs”; “How to Dance to Sing 2”; “Stage Design 101”; “Make-Up”; “Mics”; “Costumes”; “Props”; and outtakes. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

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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