Movies Till Dawn: Short and Sweet and (Mostly) Brand New, Part 2

Skate Kitchen” (2018, Magnolia Home Entertainment) Shy New York tomboy Rachelle Vinberg finds acceptance and confidence – and considerable drama – when she joins an all-female skateboard crew. Dramatic feature debut of Crystal Moselle (“The Wolfpack“) benefits greatly from her largely non-professional cast, all real skaters, who have both the physical talent to carry out the athletic requirements of their roles, as well as a considerable screen presence. And if the story strays into conventional territory with the introduction of Jaden Smith as a low-key romantic interest for Vinberg, its fresh and honest depiction of young women with complex lives that don’t anchor around boys or parents more than makes up for it. Magnolia’s DVD includes behind-the-scenes featurettes on two complicated stunt set pieces and deleted scenes.

Kin” (2018, Lionsgate) Boy Meets Gun: the discovery of an extraterrestrial weapon adds to the mounting troubles of lonely teenager Myles Truitt, his adoptive dad Dennis Quaid and brother Jack Reynor, who has run afoul of crime boss James Franco. Ambitious science fiction thriller – which, as many have noted – bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1978 cult favorite “Laserblast” – provides a wealth of special effects and boom-and-crash moments but wan characterizations that leave the cast with little to do (especially Zoe Kravitz as an amiable exotic dancer); only Franco, who gives another determinedly eccentric turn, appears to be having any fun. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray-DVD combo includes commentary by sibling directors Jonathan and Josh Baker with writer Daniel Casey, as well as their short “Bag Man,” which inspired the film, deleted scenes and VFX breakdowns.

Making a Killing” (2018, MVD Visual/Cleopatra Entertainment) Low-budget desert noir with Michael Jai White as a New Mexico police detective investigating the murder of a small-town mortician (Christopher Lloyd) and convicted pedophile that may have died trying to retrieve rare coins from the town’s other mortician (character actor Mike Starr), who also doubles as mayor and priest. Though Devin Hume‘s film – reportedly based on a true story – lacks occasional script clarity, it has an agreeably morbid atmosphere and a terrific cast of underrated and appropriately gritty players, especially White, who does well playing against his usual superhuman screen persona. MVD’s DVD includes the theatrical trailer.

Goldstone” (2016, Lightyear Entertainment) Hard-living Aboriginal detective Aaron Pederson arrives in the remote Australian mining town of Goldstone to search for a missing Asian tourist, and learns that those in charge – mayor Jacki Weaver, mine boss David Wenham and land council chief Tom E. Lewis – are united in protecting the town’s secret source of income. Sequel to 2013’s excellent “Mystery Road” reunites Pederson with writer/director/editor/composer Ivan Sen, whose mixture of Western tropes, noir structure, and social consciousness feels unforced and fresh; he has an ideal leading man in Pederson, a wrecking ball fueled with righteous anger at casual cruelty, and an ace supporting cast that includes Alex Russell as Pederson’s reluctant second, Aboriginal legend David Gulpilil and Hong Kong action icon Cheng Pei-Pei as a thorny madam. Lightyear’s Blu-ray includes numerous featurettes on Sen, his cast and the production.

The Inheritors” (1983, Mondo Macabro) Teenager Nikolas Vogel finds an outlet from his miserable home life (dad’s a drip, mom’s a gorgon) in a neo-Nazi group that espouses nationalist pride while fomenting anarchy. Well-timed release of this controversial Austrian drama by Walter Bannert, which was withdrawn from theaters during its initial release and not screened in its native country until 2015; though blunted by tawdry forays into an exploitative territory and ham-fisted scripting, its core warning about the candle flame appeal of ultra-extremism to disaffected youth remains pressing. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray offers a 2K restoration of the film from the original negative, as well as the original English and German trailers and liner notes by “Fangoria’s” Michael Gingold.

Pin Cushion” (2017, MVD Visual/Cleopatra Entertainment) To her growing dismay, eccentric British mum Joanna Scanlan finds that she is unable to prevent her sheltered daughter (Lily Newmark) from suffering the same torment at the hands of schoolmates and strangers that she endured at that age, and continues to endure as an adult. Writer/director Deborah Haywood‘s feature debut has a heartbreaking premise that’s handled with considerable sensitivity by its leads, but also manages to find a core of bitter humor in the mother and daughter’s willfully insular lives and the viciousness that being an outsider can produce in others. One’s own experience with the blank-faced cruelty in schools or small towns will determine exactly how amusing you’ll find “Pin Cushion,” but Haywood and her cast make delving into those dark corners worthwhile.

And: We reviewed “MDMA” (2018), Angie Wang‘s ballsy memoir about dealing ecstasy while attending college during the 1980s, during its brief theatrical run. Those who missed it – and it’s worth seeing for its grit and performances by Annie Q as Wang and Francesca Eastwood  – can amend that situation with the Blu-ray from Shout Factory, which adds commentary by first-time writer/director Wang and a fistful of making-of featurettes.

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About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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