Monday, August 31, 2015

This week's DVD releases


Click on title to see the film’s trailer

Mad Max: Fury Road **** Directed by George Miller. When Max (Tom Hardy) encounters a group of refugees fleeing for their lives, he joins them and their fiery leader (Charlize Theron). Wild and unrelenting, but also possessed of the outlandish poetry, laced with hints of humor, that rises to the surface when the world is all churned up.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me ***½ Directed by James Keach. As he struggles with Alzheimer’s disease, singer Glen Campbell embarks on his farewell tour in the United States, Australia, and Europe. Valedictory and elegiac, Keach’s film captures a performer who only truly seems to inhabit himself during the performances.

Five Star *** Directed by Keith Miller. With his father dead from a gunshot, John (John Diaz), a teen tempted by thug life, looks to street veteran Primo (James "Primo"Grant), an ex-con trying to escape it. for life lessons. An intimate portrait, a slice-of-life that goes just far enough beyond the cliches to be fascinating.

I’ll See You in My Dreams *** Directed by Brett Haley. With her well-ordered life thrown out of balance by the death of her beloved canine companion, an aging widow (Blythe Danner) — who hasn’t dated in 20 years — unexpectedly finds herself involved with two very different men. Delicate and nuanced, with writing that rejects, or at least reshapes, the cliches of movies about people facing the glare of their sunset years.

Dior and I *** Directed by Frédéric Tcheng. Asked to fill the shoes of iconic designer John Galliano, Raf Simons is given two months to prepare his inaugural fashion collection for Christian Dior in this behind-the-scenes look at the high-pressure world of haute couture. For people already interested in fashion, the film’s appeal will be obvious, but this documentary deserves to go beyond a small target audience.

The Harvest *** Directed by John McNaughton. A couple (Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon) who keeps their sick son (Charlie Tahan) in a secluded environment find their controlled lives challenged by a young girl (Natasha Calis) who moves in next door. McNaughton’s return after too many years of absence is a dark look at the nature of overprotective parenthood, and how volatile it can become under particularly difficult circumstances. With that said, you’d do well not to take The Harvest too seriously but more, like its deliciously simple and 70s B-movie horror title suggests, as a wickedly fun time.

Good Kill **½ Directed by Andrew Niccol. A family man (Ethan Hawke) begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot. Niccol’s film won’t likely achieve the high-flying box-office success of Top Gun, but it is similar to that 1986 film in that it will likely get people talking after the closing credits roll.

Backcountry **½ Directed by Adam MacDonald. An urban couple (Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop) go camping in the woods and find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear. Just when you thought it was safe to stand up to a bear in the woods, this jarring indie horror drama will make you scurry back indoors.

Gemma Bovery **½ Directed by Anne Fontaine. Living in a Norman village when British couple Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and Charlie Bovery (Jason Flemyng) settle nearby, urban exile Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) — a fan of the novel Madame Bovary — soon discovers that the pair’s name isn’t all they share with Gustave Flaubert’s novel. After a while, the film feels more like a cute conceit that hasn’t really been developed further. It’s intriguing, and very well-acted, but empty.

That Sugar Film **½ Directed by Damon Gameau. An experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body. Suffers from some of the usual stunt-documentary laziness. But Gameau builds his case well.

The D Train ** Directed by Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul. The head of a high school reunion committee (Jack Black) travels to Los Angeles to track down the most popular guy from his graduating class (James Marsden) and convince him to go to the reunion. A modestly funny, little bit dark, occasionally knowing, not entirely cynical comedy that, to the extent that it succeeds at all, does so thanks to Marsden.

The Decent One ** Directed by Vanessa Lapa. A documentary that uses a cache of letters, diaries and documents to reveal the life of SS-leader Heinrich Himmler. It’s perhaps too focused on Himmler’s personal life, while Lapa’s decision to add sound effects to silent images sometimes feels uncalled for.

Felt ** Directed by Jason Banker. A woman (Amy Everson) creates an alter ego in hopes of overcoming the trauma inflicted by men in her life. With predominantly improvised dialogue and performances, Felt gains scant narrative complexity from an over-reliance on a no-frills documentary style.

Boulevard ** Directed by Dito Montiel. A devoted husband (Robin Williams) in a marriage of convenience is forced to confront his secret life. Well-intentioned, but predictable and instantly dated.

The Suicide Theory ** Directed by Michael J. Kopiah. A suicidal man (Leon Cain) hires a demented killer to assist him in suicide, but for some reason, miraculously survives each attempt on his life. Although Kospiah’s script isn’t exactly predictable or didactic, it does feel contrived and improbable on occasion.

Extinction ** Directed by Miguel Angel Vivas. Visualizing a distant and hideous human future, this zombie-infested tale of horror follows three survivors of a viral holocaust who’ve managed to stay hidden for nearly a decade as everyone else on Earth turned into a monstrous mutant. Vivas tries to add a family-drama twist to an otherwise standard survival story, but the characters aren’t complex enough (and the secrets aren’t explosive enough) to elevate this beyond a basic zombie flick.

Dark Was the NightDirected by Jack Heller. An evil is unleashed in a small town when a logging company sets up shop in the neighboring woods. While its emphasis on character dynamics and a slow burn atmosphere is to be commended, the film is too derivative and familiar to make much of an impact.

The Face of an Angel Directed by Michael Winterbottom. A journalist and a documentary filmmaker chase the story of a murder and its prime suspect. The film does occasionally show a pulse when it tries to reimagine the life of the victim — it turns the tables on the mystery and tries to become a film about love and life instead of doom and death. But it’s too little, too late, and too lame.

7 Minutes Directed by Jay Martin. Three high school friends (Zane Holz, Luke Mitchell, Jason Ritter) are forced to commit a brazen robbery which quickly goes horribly wrong. An uninspired tale that abounds in clichés.

The Curse of Downers Grove * Directed by Derick Martini. Teen angst at a high school gripped by an apparent curse that claims the life of a senior every year. Although it’s being marketed as a horror film, it turns out to be something else — a messy hash of teen soap opera, stalker thriller and whatnot whose titular, possibly supernatural aspect is basically irrelevant.

Safelight * Directed by Tony Aloupis. A teenage boy (Evan Peters) and girl (Juno Temple) discover a renewed sense of possibility as they go on a road trip to photograph lighthouses along the California coast. First-time filmmaker Aloupis, formerly frontman of the New Jersey rock band Shadows of Dreams, serves up Americana like a stale slice of apple pie.

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