by Bryan Theiss
This week we’ve got some horror, some adventure, a mafia epic, a lesbian romance, a favorite comic book anti-heroine, nightmare-inducing ‘80s animation, two things starring Michael Peña, and much more. Here are the new titles we put out today, all of which you can rent by mail:
This unique French animated feature from 2015 uses a mix of drawing, painting, magnetic ink and 3D animation to tell the story of a West African boy traveling across WWI Europe in search of his brother.
(In French with English subtitles.)
The true story of Louisa Gould (Jenny Seagrove), who took in and protected an escaped Russian POW boy (Julian Kostov) on the Nazi-occupied island of Jersey. Screenwriter Jenny Lecoat is the real Gould’s great-niece.
BIRDS OF PREY (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
After breaking up with the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) unites bodyguard/nightclub singer Black Canary (Jurne Smollett-Bell), crossbow-wielding vigilante Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and cop Montoya (Rosie Perez) against psychotic gangster Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). This funny, colorful and very R-rated DC Comics movie spins off of Robbie’s performance in Suicide Squad, but director Cathy Yan made a much more coherent and likable movie, full of great action and a sweet depiction of friendship among misfits.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
CALL OF THE WILD
The 2020 adaptation of Jack London’s classic adventure novel stars Harrison Ford and tries the new approach of animating the dog. It’s written for the screen by Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) and it’s the first mostly-live-action movie from Chris Sanders, director of Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
FANTASY ISLAND (a.k.a. BLUMHOUSE’S FANTASY ISLAND)
Naturally, the ‘70s/‘80s ABC show has been reborn as a horror movie from the studio that gave us The Purge, Insidious and Happy Death Day. Hopefully The Love Boat is next. Michael Peña (Ant-Man) inherits Ricardo Montalban’s Mr. Roarke role, welcoming five guests (including Maggie Q, Lucy Hale and Jimmy O. Yang) to his remote tropical resort where their dreams will come true… IN A SCARY WAY. “When the fantasies turn to nightmares, the guests have to solve the island’s mystery in order to escape with their lives.” Includes both the theatrical release and an unrated version.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
FROM ICELAND TO EDEN (2019)
A young couple start working as drug dealers in Reykjavik, then try to start a new life by stealing from an infamous drug lord. We’ll see how that works out.
(In Swedish with English subtitles.)
GRETEL & HANSEL (2020)
Director Osgood Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter) puts an arty, atmospheric horror spin on the Brothers Grimm tale. Sophia Lillis (It) plays Gretel, Alice Krige (Star Trek’s Borg Queen) plays the witch. Chandler Levack of The Globe and Mail writes, “Everything about Gretel & Hansel is weirder, smarter and way more cinematic than I’d expected, thanks to some fascinating movie choices made by director Oz Perkins.”
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
H20: THE MOLECULE THAT MADE US
“Earth is alive because of liquid water and the human story is intimately connected to our relationship with it. But the growth of our civilizations has created a dangerous dependence on a precious resource that may be about to run out.” From PBS. Runs 180 minutes.
HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME
German filmmaker Thomas Heise shares the stories of three generations of his family, reading their letters about living through WWI, Nazi Germany, communist East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
(In German with English subtitles.)
A songwriter (Juno Temple) and friends chase a record producer (Simon Pegg) across L.A. when he stops taking his schizophrenia meds. Also starring Alexandra Daddario. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it gives “a sympathetic and appropriately downtempo look at a musician’s mental illness… without engaging with foolish cliches about creativity and madness.”
MORE BEAUTIFUL FOR HAVING BEEN BROKEN (Director’s Cut)
After the death of her mother, a suspended FBI agent (Zoe Ventoura) escapes to a small ranch town, where she falls in love with a former dancer (Cale Ferrin) raising a special needs son. From Nicole Conn, writer/director of Claire of the Moon, Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending. The Advocate calls it “her most personal lesbian-themed feature film yet.” Also starring French Stewart, Bruce Davison, Felissa Rose and Joe Charbanic.
NARCOS: MEXICO – SEASON 1
The companion series to the popular Colombia-set show Narcos dramatizes the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the ‘80s and the origins of the war on drugs. It stars Michael Peña as a DEA agent and Diego Luna as Felix Gallardo, who unified small time cannabis growers and traffickers to build a drug empire.
THE REST OF US
When her ex-husband dies and has his house repossessed, Cami (Heather Graham) reluctantly allows his much younger second wife (Jodi Balfour) and her daughter (Abigail Pniowsky) to stay with her. Johanna Schneller of The Globe and Mail writes, “I believe that people behaving well can be every bit as dramatic as people behaving badly. Here’s a movie that proves me right, softly.”
SHAMELESS-COMPLETE 10TH SEASON
More of the popular Showtime series starring William H. Macy. Luis Guzman appears as a guest star, so it must be pretty good.
“Shot in the US, Brazil, China, Germany, and the UK, System Error explores the notion of endless growth in conversations with advocates such as a Brazilian soybean magnate, an algorithmic trader, finance journalists, and multinational executives. The film is divided into chapters on subjects including the amorality of GDP, destructive agriculture, the decoupling of finance from the real-world economy, and automation.” From the director of The Big Sellout and Speed: In Search of Lost Time. Counterpunch.org writes, “In challenging the paradigm of growth, the film is the perfect prism through which to see the apocalyptic period we have entered.”
After Nosferatu but before Faust and Sunrise, F.W. Murnau directed this fable about a woman trying to convince her husband that their morally superior guest Tartuffe (Emil Jannings) is a hypocritical lech. Includes audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth, restored German release with orchestral score by Robert Israel, and U.S. release with music by Giuseppe Becce.
THE TIMES OF BILL CUNNINGHAM
The story of the late New York Times fashion, society and street photographer told through his photographs and a recently unearthed six-hour interview from 1994. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post says it “plunges us into a world that feels both immediate and heartbreakingly gone forever.”
THE TRAITOR (2019)
“Based on a true mafia takedown” in the 1980s, The Traitor is a new film from veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellochio, writer/director of Fists in the Pocket (1965). It tells the story of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the first Sicilian Mafia boss to turn state’s evidence. Nominated for best film, director, screenwriter and actor at the European Film Awards.
(In Italian with English subtitles.)
This Irish-Danish-Belgian science fiction co-production stars Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg as a young couple who go to check out a house in a strange new development called Yonder, are abandoned by the real estate agent and find they don’t know how to leave.
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS (1986)
Writer/illustrator Raymond Briggs and the TVC London production company followed their beloved classic The Snowman with this eerie, uncomfortably timely animated feature about an English couple (Peggy Ashcroft and John Mills) who survive a nuclear war and remain optimistic that everything will be back to normal soon. It features music by Roger Waters and a title song by David Bowie.
This new edition comes from the cult film label Severin’s new Severin Kids imprint, but they probably meant that as a joke. It includes a feature length documentary about director Jimmy Murakami, a making-of featurette, an audio commentary with first assistant editor Joe Fordham and film historian Nick Redman, an interview with Briggs, isolated music and effects audio track, and Protect and Survive, a film designed to be broadcast in the case of imminent nuclear attack!