Blu-rays of the Week
Gabrielle Union makes a kick-ass heroine in this derivative but fun thriller as a mother who takes revenge on the murderous thugs who invade her dead father’s home looking for a stash of cash and take her two children hostage.
A scant 88 minutes—the unrated cut is barely a minute longer—James McTeigue’s drama is nearly all twisty action, and Union throws herself into the role with intensity, whether climbing the roof or turning the tables on the thugs. The hi-def transfer is stellar; extras include an alternate opening, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes and director’s commentary.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.
Arrow—Complete 6th Season
Oliver Queen, aka Arrow, now adds the even more difficult job of father to his already packed resume of mayor and superhero, which gives the series’ latest season its forward momentum. Also helping is that a group of past villains now threatens him and Star City, so he recruits several compatriots for a battle royale that highlights these 26 action-packed episodes.
The hi-def transfer is immaculate; extras are four featurettes and four cross-over DCD comics episodes from other series.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Director-cowriter John Cameron Mitchell pointlessly expands Neil Gaiman’s 2006 short story about a cult of extraterrestrial hotties in late ‘70s England, and hits us over the head with punk and hormonal teen angst that rarely becomes interesting or insightful.
Elle Fanning is completely lost trying to make sense of her ridiculous character, and the rest of the cast doesn’t stand a chance in this bloated adaptation of a concise 18-page story. On Blu-ray, the movie looks fine; lone extra is a short making-of.
Life of the Party
Here’s another lazy Melissa McCarthy vehicle: she joins her daughter at Decatur U. after her husband drops her for the local realtor.
Once in her dorm room, this mousy middle-aged housefrau becomes big woman on campus, seducing a bartender half her age (her ex’s new wife’s son, naturally) and living a fantasy life only possible when the star and her director husband Ben Falcone write a script accentuating easy laughs. It looks decent on Blu; extras include a gag reel, deleted scenes and featurettes.
Strike Back—Complete 5th Season
Section 20 has recruited a fresh team of commandos to continue the undeclared but seemingly endless war on terror in the ten episodes that make up the series’ fifth season, punctuated by derring-do and triumphant breakthroughs.
Although the repetitiveness of their actions and ops slows down its momentum, there’s still much there to entertain. It all looks great on Blu; extras comprise making-of featurettes.
The Yellow Birds
This earnest-to-a-fault Iraq war drama attempts to distinguish itself from other similarly-themed films about our soldiers in a remote area of the world where they are neither wanted nor respected, but its story of two platoon buddies and how one must keep his promise to the other’s mother just feels derivative and stale.
Director Alexandre Moors gets good performances by Ty Sheridan and Alden Ehrenreich as the grunts and Jennifer Aniston as the grieving mom, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t already been done more affectingly. There’s a very good hi-def transfer; lone extra is a making-of featurette.
DVD of the Week
Spiral—Complete 6th Season
This first-rate French crime series returns for one of its most engrossing, if grisly, seasons yet: the Parisian police unit led by Capt. Laure Berthaud (recently back from maternity leave, she must balance her lack of motherly instinct with her sickly premature daughter) conducts a murder investigation involving corrupt cops, while Judge Roban and Josephine Karlsson deal with demons of their own as their professional lives demand even more.
Skillfully written and directed, Spiral is riveting thanks to an explosive cast led by Caroline Proust as Laure, Philippe Duclos as Roban and a pair of extraordinarily diverse performers who also made A French Village a must-watch: Thierry Godard as Gilou (Laure’s partner turned lover) and Audrey Fleurot as Josephine.
CD of the Week
Two decades ago, a series of recordings released under the “Entartete Musik” rubric covered composers whose music was suppressed by the Nazis; the great thing about that invaluable series was its paving the way for other labels to release music by these forgotten but worthy names. This disc pairs cello concertos by Franz Reizenstein and Berthold Goldschmidt, the latter well-represented by “Entartete music” (including a recording of this concerto by Yo-Yo Ma).
These performances by soloist Raphael Wallfisch and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under conductor Nicholas Milton’s baton are filled with energy and finesse, providing glimpses of voices that were only temporarily quieted (Reizenstein died in 1968, Goldschmidt in 1996).