Monday, March 28, 2016

This week's DVD releases


***** A classic. Should be a part of any serious film lover’s permanent library.
**** Excellent with only a few minor flaws.
*** Worthy of renting or streaming.
** Below average, but might have limited appeal to some tastes.
* Should be avoided at all costs.
No stars All copies should be confiscated and destroyed for humanity’s sake.

Click on title to see the film’s trailer.

Mediterranea **** Directed by Jonas Carpignano. Unlike many of the African migrants trying to reach the coast of Italy, Burkina Faso natives Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) and Abas (Alassane Sy) aren't escaping horrors. They simply want to better their financial lots. Life in Europe, however, turns out to be anything but easy. It renders a global crisis in strikingly intimate terms.

Cartel Land **** Directed by Matthew Heineman. With the law failing to protect citizens from the drug cartels wreaking havoc in Mexico, vigilante groups have sprung up on both sides of the border. This documentary tracks two such groups, one in Mexico's Michoacán state and one in Arizona. Even when the masks are dropped, it’s all but impossible to tell the good guys from the bad. Both sides are corrupt, both sides do terrible harm. Although the film has its shortcomings and simplifications, it’s a bleakly persuasive view of a decades-long combat that respects no boundaries, and seems to hold no prospect of surcease.

Killing Them Safely ***½ Directed by Nick Berardini. Created as a safer alternative to police deployment of firearms, Taser guns have provoked controversy and criticism in the wake of an increasing number of deaths resulting from their use. This documentary explores both sides of the issue. Berardini’s packed documentary makes its case early and often, perhaps too often, but it’s more chilling than your average issue film.

The Hateful Eight ***½ Directed by Quentin Tarantino. In post-Civil War Wyoming, eight travelers stranded at a stagecoach way station — including bounty hunters, outlaws and former soldiers — become enmeshed in a duplicitous plot as a savage blizzard rages outside. Weird, wild and way-too-long. Tarantino seems to have no shortage of creativity or inspiration. What he needs to find is someone who isn’t afraid to occasionally say, "Cut."

Forsaken *** Directed by Jon Cassar. When Civil War veteran John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) tires of the life he's made for himself as a renowned quick-draw gunfighter, he returns to his hometown hoping to mend fences with his estranged father (Donald Sutherland). Cassar’s film rejects the recent revisionism that’s flooded the genre. His take — a straight rip-off of the classics — is weirdly refreshing as a result.

Concussion *** Directed by Peter Landesman. When Dr. Bennet Omalu's (Will Smith) autopsy studies lead him to conclude that multiple concussions could be the underlying cause of the brain disorders suffered by many U.S. football players, he encounters harsh resistance from the NFL establishment. I wish the movie were so good that I could say you have to see it; while Smith’s performance takes on a life of its own, the movie seems locked to its talking points.

Point BreakDirected by Ericson Gore. A young FBI agent (Luke Bracey) infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists. This remake is tedious and overblown — as though the filmmakers were so preoccupied with "updating" the material that they forgot what made it so popular in the first place.

Exposed * Directed by Declan Dale. A police detective (Keanu Reeves) investigates the truth behind his partner's death. If it’s any consolation to the parties involved, this film could have ended up being worse; however, it’s unlikely that it could have been much better. Trainwreck-bad movie enthusiasts will be disappointed to find a film largely defined by its lack of energy, in which every scene seems to be stalling for time.

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