Monday, April 25, 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 mght 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.

Son of Saul **** Directed by Lazslo Nemes. In the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son. Offers a crushing view of humanity at its most desperate, and a view of one man's fevered efforts to find grace and dignity amid the horror. There's nothing trivial about this Hungarian masterwork from first-time director Nemes. You don't merely witness horror, you feel it in your bones.

Phoenix **** Directed by Christian Petzold. A disfigured Holocaust survivor (Nina Hoss) sets out to determine if the man she loved (Ronald Zehrfeld) betrayed her trust. The movie isn’t a thriller, but it still generates a strange sort of emotional suspense — an incredibly intense drama that makes you hold your breath, and it builds toward a total knockout of a final scene in which the story is resolved with hardly a word.

The Last Man on the Moon ***½ Directed by Mark Craig. When Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan stepped off the moon in December 1972 he left his footprints and his daughter's initials in the lunar dust. Now, more than 40 years later, he is ready to share his epic but deeply personal story of fulfillment, love, and loss. Using a rich trove of archival footage and interviews with Cernan, members of his family, other former astronauts and key Apollo mission figures, Craig charts the flight path of Cernan’s life. Cernan is proud of what he accomplished, calling himself the luckiest man in the world for all that he got to see. But he also expresses regret at having done it at the expense of his family.

Krampus ** Directed by Michael Dougherty. A boy (Emjay Anthony) who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home. Occasionally funny, intermittently scary, but mostly hectic and sloppy, this tries very hard to be a different kind of Christmas movie.

Jane Got a Gun ** Directed by Gavin O’Connor. A woman (Natalie Portman) asks her ex-lover (Joel Edgerton) for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him. The film just feels too much like an obligation, as though everyone involved had spent too much time and money to back out, so they forced themselves to grit their teeth and get on with it. You may feel the same.

Backtrack ** Directed by Michael Petroni. Psychologist Peter Bower's (Adrien Brody) life is thrown into turmoil when he discovers a strange secret about his patients. Eventually moves beyond its shamelessly borrowed set-up to create a few chills of its own.

Ride Along 2Directed by Tim Story. As his wedding day approaches, Ben (Kevin Hart) heads to Miami with his soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Ice Cube) to bring down a drug dealer who's supplying the dealers of Atlanta with product. One of the loudest laughs arrives when we get to enjoy a scowling James re-imagined as a game character. Points for greater diversity in the cast as well, but, if there is a second sequel in the offing, please allow the women to be more than the sum of their body parts.

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