Icarus Films once more shows the immense value of world cinema as to the DVD release of the 2017 Indonesian feminist drama "Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts." This compelling movie with a strong live-stage vibe shows that Quentin Tarantino does not have the monopoly on Amazon warrior revenge films.
The 17 wins and 25 additional nominations for "Marlina" show that director Mouly Surya has all the right stuff; these accolades include numerous honors at the 2018 Film Festival Indonesia and Best Cinematography at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
The following Icarus trailer for "Marlina" clearly shows the Tarantino and classic Western influences on this must-see film.
The titular felon is a relatively recent widow living in relative isolation on her farm; as is typical for good storytelling, the extent of her woes is revealed throughout the film.
The nightmare begins within the first moments of "Marlina." Bad hombre Markus shows at her door and immediately plays cat-and-mouse. The horrible truth is soon shared when the interloper matter-of-factly tells his hostess that his gang is on their way to steal all of her livestock and to rape her if they have time after that theft. He adds insult to those imminent injuries by ordering her to start cooking dinner for the group.
As the film title indicates, things do not go as planned. This leads to the second act that centers around Marlina taking the long journey to the nearest town to report the crimes and her response with extreme prejudice. This trip involves both "persuading" a bus driver to co-operate and an overdue pregnant woman with her own man troubles to join the crusade.
The response of the police is true to factual and fictional patterns; any viewer with a soul will want to smash the typewriter of the cop who takes the statement of Marlina over his head.
The long arm of the law coming up short leads to showing that you sometimes must send a woman to do the job of a man. The even more sad truth as to this is that it demonstrates the limited extent to which the phrase "you've come a long way, Baby" applies.
All of this leads to a climax that brings the action back full circle to the beginning of the film; the sad messages as to this are that things never change and that you often much take matters into your own hands.
The bonus features include behind-the-scenes coverage and an interview with Surya.
The Lionsgate January 14, 2019 DVD release of "MacGyver" (2016) S3 provides a good chance to catch up on the rebooted exploits of titular highly resourceful spy Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) ahead of the February 7, 2020 S4 premiere on CBS. As shown below, a primary S3 theme is out with the old and in with the new (sort of).
The season premiere finds MacGyver living in a small Nigerian village with a beard in the wake of resigning from The Phoenix Foundation, where his ability to rapidly think on his feet as to using available items to save both the day and his hide makes him a star. This lifestyle change is attributable to a rough S2 reunion with his estranged father. Ala the central relationship in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Jim MacGyver (aka "Oversight") has been rough (and secretive) with his boy for what he thought was best for his offspring.
The game-changer is Dad showing up in Africa to get MacGyver to come home to rescue best buddy/co-worker/protector/father figure Jack Dalton (George Eads) from a highly precarious situation involving gun-running with a one-who-got-away nemesis in Eastern Europe. This is ahead of a well-publicized mid-season exit of Eads from the series for "personal reasons."
One of the more notable father-son adventures has them team up to hunt the hitman (Michael Des Barres, who plays Murdoc in the '80s "MacGyver") who is cleverly snuffing key witnesses in an upcoming trial. As our heroes do a couple of times in S3, our boys take a page from "Silence of the Lambs" by visiting super-villain Murdoc at the deep black-ops facility where he is being held, The value of the this consultant is his knowledge that is very helpful as to capturing the predator of the week.
Things really get interesting when Team MacGyver learns the extent to which they expertly have been played. One lesson here is to never trust any psychopath.
MacGyver fully gets to do what he loves best in a couple of episodes that have him save innocents despite facing obstacles that involve extreme prejudice. One outing requires especially intense improvising when a mission to deliver crucially needed oxygen to critically ill hospitalized children.goes horribly awry.
The similarities between the above episode and another in which a car accident diverts MacGyver from his original mission extends beyond an imminent life-or-death situation. He once again for the countless time learns that a seeming innocent may not be so innocent and that people often do the wrong thing for the right reason.
A favorite moment for past and former student at all educational levels occurs in a "Back to School" episode that has the "kids" (sans "Dad") go undercover at a university to bust a terrorist who is radicalizing the best brains there. This highlight has Angus schooling a professor who tries to both shame him and make him look foolish.
The rest of the 22 episodes are just as typically another workweek for a group that is tasked with putting right what once went horribly wrong.
The appeal of this reboot extends beyond Till having the looks and the personality of a farmboy despite always being the smartest guy in the room. There never is a dull moment, and seeing how what is at hand always is enough to "git 'er done" is entertaining.
Icarus Films provides a sadly timeless lesson in survival as to its double-feature DVD release of the Anne Georget documentaries "Imaginary Feasts" and "Mina's Recipe Book, Terezin 1944." This message is that mentally escaping a harsh reality is an effective tool for surviving seemingly fatal horrific hardship.
"Feasts" provides a truly in-depth look at prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, Soviet Gulags, and Japanese prison camps discussing their favorite meals in order to survive near starvation and other atrocities as to their confinement. These include an American soldier and a woman who pays a heavy price for her unwarranted reliance on the principle of diplomatic immunity.
The main focus is on female prisoners in a concentration camp who take thinking about their favorite foods to the next level; they risk heavy retribution to steal scraps of papers to write down the recipes for those treats. This extends to the contribution of each woman representing the cuisine of her region of her country. It is highly predictable that the French woman are the stars of this project.
A survivor, the ancestors of survivors. a historian, and a chef are among the talking heads who put everything in perspective. In addition to learning about these books, it is surprising to hear even more general information about concentration camps than many of us have known for decades. The relationship between the foods and their native regions is equally interesting.
"Book" tells about the pre-war life and the imprisonment of the author of that tome; we also learn of the post-war path of the book and the importance of it to the persons into whose hands it travels.
As indicated above, the larger impact of these films is how the prisoners used the books to survive when most of us would have chosen a run for the barbed wire as a relatively easy out as to a seemingly unsurvivable situation. It also provides perspective the next time that we endure an hour or so of hunger until our next meal, which likely will be exactly what we are craving at the moment. Even more importantly, fussing because a promised 30-minute wait at Olive Garden is at the 45-minute mark should be shame inducing,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement pairing the recent Blu-ray releases of the 1953 British comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt" with a Blu-ray of the (reviewed) 1949 Ealing social-commentary-dripping comedy "Passport to Pimlico" provides an excellent chance for a taste of what the "Titfield" back cover aptly describes as the strong contribution of Ealing to the golden age of British cinema. The numerous comment elements of "Titfield" and "Pimlico" include legendary Britwit T.E.B. Clarke being the scribe of both.
"Titfield" being the first Ealing film shot in Technicolor makes it especially apt for Blu-ray. The British countryside truly looks idyllic.
Fans of '60scom "Petticoat Junction" will recognize many elements of "Titfield." A primary premise of both comedies is quirky good-natured small-town folk heavily relying on a rail line that operates between their community and a nearby town. Although the Hooterville Cannonball of "Petticoat" fame survives numerous attempts to shut it down, the effort to cease the operation of Titfield rail service succeeds. The rest of the story is that eliminating this competition profits a local bus company.
The Titfield populace demonstrates their "keep calm and carry on" fortitude by deciding to run the rail service themselves. Getting the initial provisional approval is only the tip of the iceberg as to this titanic endeavor.
The numerous obstacles as to actually running the train include a lack of necessary experience with the exception of a man who clearly does not work and play well with others. This is not to mention the opposition of those wanting to derail this effort.
Hilarity soon ensues as to things such as first building up an adequate head of steam and subsequently preventing an overheating that threatens to turn a potential figurative train wreck into an actual one.
In classic film fashion, it seems that a combination of sabotage and ineptitude is leading to an inevitable bad end for the good guys. The ensuing hilarity begins with taking a page out of both incarnations of classic scifi series "Battlestar Galactica."
This is the beginning of an extended climax in which the train being allowed to continue operating is conditioned on it making a monitored run on time. Of course, hilarity with a heavy dose of keeping "the suit" oblivious to the actual situation ensues. Suffice it to say that Clarke shows his awareness of a Hollywood ending.
The copious "Titfield" BD extras shows the same love for the film that Classic demonstrates for "Pimlico." A written essay provides great insight into the film, the bonus feature "Making 'The Titfiled Thunderbolt'" expands on that. We also get a handful of other "behind-the-scenes' features and the original trailer.
The Cinema Libre Studio January 7, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2018 Laurence Fishburne drama "Imprisoned" provides equal portions of compelling action and food for thought. This is not to mention showing that revenge is a dish best served cold.
In true modern filmmaking style, the opening scenes of "Imprisoned" begin with the end of the story and lead to 90-or-so minutes that show how we get there.
In this case, former prison warden Daniel Calvin (Fishburne) revisits his old workplace just ahead of the imminent destruction of that structure. Flashbacks to an Attica-caliber riot help fill in part of the picture.
The plot thickens on turning back the clock 20 years; newly instated warden Daniel is at a local coffee shop to learn how to solve a problem like Maria. In this case, the trouble relates to that woman calling attention to questionable practices at the prison. The dual turning points are Daniel becoming infatuated with his new acquaintance and discovering that she is the wife of an ex-con regarding whom Daniel has an (arguably reasonable) enormous chip on his shoulder.
Aforementioned former guest-of-the-state Dylan fills in the rest of the story by telling Maria of the massive impact of his crime on then-prison-guard Daniel.
The reawakening of horrific memories prompts Daniel to plot against Dylan; this leads to a truly nefarious scheme that lands Dylan back in jail and Maria in the bed of Daniel.
These events play a massive role in the aforementioned prison rebellion. This is turn leads to arguably poetic justice.
The captivating appeal of all this is a well-written and acted story that is shot on a pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. That cinematography alone more than justifies shelling out a few extra bucks for the Blu-ray.
The plethora of bonus features include three deleted scenes, an interview with Edward James Olmos (who shines as the governor of the island), and an apt look at social-impact filmmaking.
The Film Movement recent DVD release of the 2018 Freddie Fox-narrated documentary "The Ice King" is an awesome follow-up to the Movement DVD of the (reviewed) more docudrama-style non-fiction film "Over the Limit." Both films expertly tell the tales of the lives and loves (and associated thrill of victory and agony of defeat) of nice young kids who train hard in pursuit of Olympic gold. These releases reflect the same principle of the NPR show "Only A Game" that being a "high brow" and a sports fan are not mutually exclusive.
In the case of "King," our hero is 1976 Olympics star John Curry. His stating that one does not train for decades simply to end up skating in a Bugs Bunny costume perfectly captures his edgy wit and wisdom that makes "King" an engrossing story even for folks with no interest in ice sports,
The following Movement trailer for "King" confirms that the story of the subject proves that truth is more compelling than most fiction; there also will be be no doubt that John will curry your favor. This is an addition to evoking envy as to seeing that this guy is blessed with equally strong talent, good looks, and a natural charm. You must watch the film to see his "Black Swan" side.
The strongest aspect of the convergence of truth and fiction relates to a strong "Billy Elliot" vibe that is triggered near the beginning of "King" and that lasts throughout the film. This includes a sense of the tragic trajectory that might have befallen fictional aspiring ballet star Elliot had he been born twenty years earlier.
Fox tells us of Curry, who is born in 1949, developing an early love of ballet and wanting to learn that art. Although the father of Curry is better educated and higher up on the economic latter than the father of Elliot, he still refuses to let his son study ballet.
The good news for the world is that the elder Mr. Curry agrees to the comprise of his son taking skating lessons. Although not explicitly stated, the clear message is that skating is acceptable to Curry Senior because it is less faggy.
The story of the first skating lesson of a five-year old (?) Curry is a "KIng" highlight. It truly is a portent of things to come on and off the ice.
We soon meet Heinz Wirz, who has the dual roles of being the principal talking head and the probable soulmate of Curry. The personal recollections of Wirz and segments of letters from Curry to that man fully show how their relationship is complicated. We also are reminded of the consequences of choosing Mr. Right Now over Mr. Right.
We also hear from the daughter of an early patron of Curry; she tells of Curry confiding in her while living with her family in NYC in the mid '70s. This surrogate sister also is a recipient of correspondence from Curry throughout his life.
Ice skater Johnny Weir directly provides a more modern perspective as an openly gay Olympic skater who has followed in the blade marks of Curry; indirectly, the friendship of Weir and fellow skater Tara Lipinski is reminiscent of the bond between Curry and fellow '76 Olympics star Dorothy Hamill.
AIDS provides the morality tale aspect of "King." We truly see how that epidemic ends the party for handsome, charming (bit with a major edge), talented young gay men such as Curry. Regardless of our placement on the Kinsey Scale, not many of us can relate to being as desired as Curry.
Most of us can relate to his excitement on someone who is out of his league making him the object of his affection. We can also relate to a limited degree when the honeymoon is over; only folks without a soul can consider a horribly lingering illness followed by a premature death an equitable price for the highly tempting availability of constant sex without any known consequences other than easily curable physical and emotional harm. One can only imagine how much better 2020 would be if we did not lose so many creative and caring people in the '80s.
The separate DVD extras include "On the Beautiful Blue Danube: Creating the Music of 'The Ice King'" and a Q&A with "King" director James Erskine.
A review of the theatrical release of Disney flick "Toy Story 4" aptly notes that "Toy Story 3" ends the adventures of Woody (Tom Hanks) et al on a perfect note that should have been the end of the story. This evokes strong thoughts of "Crystal Skull" being such a huge (and inconsistent) follow-up to the sublime "Last Crusade" in the Jones trilogy. Both "4" and "Skull" make one yearn for the days when big-screen tributes would consist of bigger, bolder, re-releases of the classics.
One of a two related general notes is that the once groundbreaking but now mature Pixar technology does not hold the same thrill as it does as to "Toy Story" (1995), which is the first Pixar feature film. Although "4" looks spectacular in 4K, it seems that even folks who could not color within the boundaries or draw a straight line but now can suss out how to operate an Apple watch can learn the Pixar system and do as well as (if not better than) the "pros."
The next related note is that a combination of having 4k at home and Disney sinking to the level of merely shamelessly rehashing old ideas has led to no longer seeing Disney films in theaters; it does not take long for 4K sets to hit the $15 mark, which is not much more than the price of a matinee ticket.
One of the biggest narrative flaws of "4" is that it quickly abandons the fun (tinged with some darkness in "3") of the original trilogy. Speaking from the perspective of someone who largely shares the views of W.C, Fields regarding kids (but not animals), "4" preying on the deepest fears of children is highly disturbing. This is aside from the creepy aspect of "Story" lore that the toys play dead whenever a meat suit of any age is around.
The cold open of "4" lulls viewers into a false sense of security as to both quality and tone. It is a flashback to a simpler and kinder time nine years ago. Now college man Andy is a happy everykid, and his friends with active secret lives are a large part of his life.
Sheriff Woody leads a harrowing covert mission to rescue an RC car that is left out in the rain; the thoughts regarding "It" are moderate, Bo Peep plays a pivotal role just ahead of being boxed up and shipped out. Woody pursuing this soulmate provides foreshadowing of stranger things to come.
We then move to the present; the Freudian nightmare begins with a superficial room cleaning leading to an angsty Team Woody being locked in the closet of new owner Bonnie, The symbolism is apt as to Woody and his rival for the affection of Andy turned best buddy Buzz Lightyear. The horror continues when all but Woody, who aptly remains trapped in the closet, make a great escape.
Woody soon takes (and mostly retains) center stage when he stows away in the backpack of Molly to support her during her kindergarten orientation; the activities of that day lead to Molly making new kid on the block Forky. Forky is a spork with googly eyes, a pipe cleaner for arms, and Popsicle stick feet.
Forky being a dim-witted freak is perfectly fine, and the other toys welcoming him into the tribe sends a very positive message. The problems with this character extend well beyond his intense suicidal tendencies in the form of frequent aggressive attempts to throw himself into the trash.
Suspension of disbelief allows accepting that toys that at most are occasionally brought to school can articulately think and talk. The fact that they have ears allows accepting that they can hear. However, Forky can speak within seconds of his "birth" and does not have ears.
A more annoying issue relates to big brother figure Woody explaining to Forky that the latter is a toy (rather than trash) because Bonnie writes her name on his feet. The first flaw in this logic is that the "Story" kids and their real-life counterparts do not "mark their territory" as to all of their playthings. There is no personal memory of ever having done that.
The even more annoying aspect of this is that, per Woody, the food that I would bring to work would come alive in the refrigerator. This is not to mention the beer that I would put in the counselors' refrigerator when spending college-era summers at a camp. The "Story" logic provides that I drank my friends and ultimately subjected them to an even worse fate.
The illogical plotting fully take place when Bonnie takes her toys on a RV road-trip; Forky does not suffer any harm on jumping out of the window of a vehicle that is going at least 45 mph. The same is true as to Woody, who goes after his friend. Woody stating that he easily can catch up with the group when they stop 5.3 miles down the road builds on this frustration as to the lack of logic.
A less annoying aspect of this is the bigger plot point that the "good" toys repeatedly go to great lengths to prevent Molly from losing current favorite toy Forky. Once more returning to real life, I do not recall any soul-scarring trauma on getting separated from favorite toys. The angst of Molly relates to Millennials and the next generation always getting participation ribbons and having every whim indulged.
Things turn truly dark on Woody and Forky taking a detour on almost reaching their destination; Woody finding evidence of Bo Peep prompts him to drag Forky into a dark antique shop. This leads to a fateful (and potential fatal) encounter with evil queen of the shop Gaby Gaby and her even more creepy ventriloquist dummy minions.
The plot thickening agent at this point is that Gaby essentially wants to harvest a kidney of Woody in the form of replacing her defective voice box with his functional one. The rest of the story is that this plaything that makes Annabelle look like Raggedy Ann thinks that an ability to speak when her string is pulled will prompt someone to want to take her home.
Woody gets away at the cost of Forky becoming a hostage; this leads to a standard "Story" development of the toys embarking on a perilous mission.
The most disturbing event as to the ensuing lack of hilarity would be a major spoiler that evokes thoughts of a #MeToo villain. The toys subsequently putting themselves at great risk solely to help psychopath Gabby is slightly less upsetting but makes absolutely no sense.
Another bothersome aspect of trying to find Gabby a good home reflects the same nth degree of corporate greed of Disney under Czar Robert Iger as does the film itself.
Team Pixar clearly is trying to guilt parents into buying their little darlings every toy that they want; the idea is that the Forky (or the Sven the reindeer, etc.) on the shelf at the Disney store will be miserable until a child brings it home to love. Again, I still like toys and collectibles (and have shopped at Disney World stores) but have not blinked an eye as to leaving lion cub Simba collecting dust under harsh fluorescent bulbs.
The bottom line regarding all this is that the cult of Disney is so pervasive that the above observations will not influence many people; however, these musings reflect that this childhood favorite studio is loosing its grip on those of us smart and insightful enough to see through the mouses**t.