Monday, May 16, 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.

The Witch **** Directed by Robert Eggers. A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession. Disturbing and taut, Eggers’s direction is almost without fault. His only mistake lies in the film’s final 30 seconds, where all the implied horror of the family’s plight becomes just a shade too explicit. A beautiful, bleak brainworm that will haunt you for days.

Theeb **** Directed by Naji Abu Nowar. In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming-of-age as he embarks on a perilous desert journey to guide a British officer to his secret destination. A mesmerizing coming of age adventure in an elemental setting. It becomes both more allegorical and more specific to our historical moment the more you think about it.

Janis: Little Girl Blue ***½ Directed by Amy Berg. Musician Cat Power narrates this documentary on Janis Joplin's evolution into a star from letters that Joplin wrote over the years to her friends, family, and collaborators. While aesthetically it doesn’t do much to break the form, this documentary more than succeeds in presenting Joplin as a flawed, insecure, deeply brilliant woman who, unfortunately, couldn’t shake her demons.

Dementia *** Directed by Mike Testin. After being diagnosed with dementia, an elderly war veteran (Gene Jones) is forced by his estranged family to hire a live-in nurse (Kristinia Klebe), only to find she harbors a sinister secret. Testin’s work here is definitely promising, suggesting something better from him down the road.

A Perfect Day *** Directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa. Sent to a deadly combat zone to recover a corpse from a well — where the body is contaminating a village's crucial water supply — a motley group of aid workers finds the ostensibly simple job turning into a Sisyphean task. When the film gets going, it’s hard not to be bustled along with it, thanks mostly to the director’s talent for punchy comic dialogue — doubly impressive, given this is his first English-language picture — and the plot’s habit of thwarting your expectations as to where the most morally upstanding course of action might lead.

Southbound **½ Directed by David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin. Five interwoven tales of roadside horror in which a group of travelers are forced to face their worst fears as things go horribly wrong for them on a forsaken stretch of desert highway. Just as most of the characters can't outrun their pasts, neither can they escape familiar plot contrivances that try too hard and achieve too little.

The Program **½ Directed by Stephen Frears. An Irish sports journalist (Chris O’Dowd) becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's (Ben Foster) performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances and starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong. The film makes passing references to the power of celebrity and the Live Strong narrative — the cyclist admits to telling people what they wanted to hear — but it never goes deep on what it was that produced the awfulness that is Lance Armstrong.

Dirty Grandpa ½* Directed by Dan Mazer. Right before his wedding, an uptight guy (Zac Efron) is tricked into driving his grandfather (Robert De Niro), a lecherous former Army Lieutenant-Colonel, to Florida for spring break. It can be definitively stated that this movie is utterly unfunny.

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