Monday, June 20, 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.

Embrace of the Serpent **** Directed by Ciro Guerrera. The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of 40 years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant. Not nearly as great as Herzog’s films, or as monumentally deranged as Coppola’s, it nevertheless casts a spell of its own. It’s one of those films that, at least for me, grows in the memory because it has some of the most vivid images captured on film in recent memory, and also some of the most haunting.

Midnight Special ***½ Directed by Jeff Nichols. A father (Michael Shannon) and son (Jaeden Lieberher) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child's special powers. Nichols establishes such a grounded sense of atmosphere and such superb control of mood and pacing, that the odd hiccup barely matters. Only in its final stretch does the film start to lose its distinct identity.

King Georges ***½ Directed by Erika Frankel. A documentary about Philadelphia restaurateur Georges Perrier and the closing of his iconic French restaurant, Le Bec-Fin. Frankel has a fine eye for telling detail, and the result, while sentimental, is as irresistible as the dessert cart.

The Wave *** Directed by Roar Uthaug. Everyone in the Norwegian village of Geiranger knows that one day the mountain overlooking their homes will collapse into the fjord and set off a tsunami. When the alarm finally sounds, residents and tourists have 10 minutes to get to high ground. The human scale of this story about a very real threat to one Norwegian village makes the movie more tragic and also more chilling. But the main reason to rent or stream it is because it’s fun to see Hollywood disaster movie cliches rendered in Norwegian.

Anesthesia **½ Directed by Tim Blake Nelson. Multiple lives intersect in connection with the violent mugging of a Columbia University philosophy professor (Sam Waterston). The all-star cast is uniformly good, but the script lacks any sort of nuance to temper the pandering lecture. The irony of the film is that, while it uses interconnectivity as a storytelling mechanism, the characters do not really connect.

Going Away **½ Directed by Nicole Garcia. When young Mathias's (Mathias Brezot) father fails to pick him up from school, substitute teacher Baptiste (Pierre Rochefort) takes the boy on a weekend motorcycle journey. While teacher and pupil quickly form a bond, things grow more complicated when they happen upon Mathias's mother (Louise .Bourgoin). Despite its late shortcomings, this demonstrates Garcia’s ability to coax strong performances out of a relatively young cast.

Knight of Cups **½ Directed by Terrence Malick. A writer (Christian Bale) indulging in all that Los Angeles and Las Vegas has to offer undertakes a search for love and self via a series of adventures with six different women. This is a ponderous affair, never taking 30 seconds to make a point when four minutes is available. It’s the kind of film that will make viewers long for good, old-fashioned storytelling.

The Brothers Grimsby ** Directed by Louis Leterrier. A suave secret agent (Mark Strong) accepts a mission that requires him to go on the run with his brainless soccer hooligan of a brother (Sacha Baron Cohen). The film has the occasional laugh and a succession of finely wrought grossout spectaculars which are reasonably entertaining. But with its cod-Bond and mock-action material it carries a weird overall feel, like kids’ TV but produced on a lavish scale with added filth.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2Directed by Kirk Jones. There's a new wedding on the horizon for the Portokalos clan and with it comes a new assortment of family crises and secrets. Predictable, tired, formulaic, it makes up for its lack of originality with a bigger budget, louder jokes, louder costumes, and louder music.

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