Movies Till Dawn: More (Mostly) New Movies

Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018, 20th Century Fox) Blessed with boundless confidence, stratospheric vocal ability and (reportedly) additional incisors (“extra teeth means extra range”), Indian-British Farrokh Bulsara scales the heights and plumbs the depths of ’70s rock as Freddie Mercury, singer for Queen. Rami Malek‘s wholly committed, Oscar-nominated performance as Mercury is the chief selling point for this biopic by Bryan Singer (who was replaced by Dexter Fletcher); he’s well matched by Aiden Gillen (manager John Reid), Joseph Mazzello (a bemused John Deacon) and Aaron McCusker (Mercury’s SO Jim Hutton) and the lavish period detail, all of which help to overcome the bland, TV-movie scripting and by-the-numbers direction. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray includes the full recreation of Queen’s Live Aid performance and two making-of featurettes.

At Eternity’s Gate” (2018, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) Appropriately expressionistic biopic of Vincent Van Gogh from director Julian Schnabel, who benefits greatly from Willem Dafoe‘s Oscar-nominated performance as the artist in his final years, as he struggles to balance the intensity of his work with the mental illness that would claim his life. Schnabel’s direction and script – co-written by Jean-Claude Carriere (“The Unbearable Lightness of Being”) and editor Louise Kugelberg – and direction favor an elliptical approach that echo’s Van Gogh’s state of mind, but which blooms into vibrancy when he paints; as a biopic, it may require some mental athletics, but as a depiction of the ecstatic nature of the creative state, “Eternity” is exceptional. With Oscar Isaac as Paul Gaugin and Rupert Friend as Van Gogh’s brother, Theo; Lionsgate’s Blu-ray includes spare commentary by Schnabel and Kugelberg and several making-of featurettes.

Let the Corpses Tan” (2018, Kino Lorber) In this corner of an abandoned monastery on the Corsican coast: performance artist Elina Lowensohn and her lover/partner/frenemy Marc Barbe, who while away the hot afternoons with veiled anger and paintings created with pistols. In the other: burglar Stephane Ferrara and his gang, who have made off with a fortune in gold bullion and (coincidentally) Barbie’s wife and son to ensure their getaway. Between them: a dogged motorcycle cop, and you, the viewer, who is subjected to a non-stop assault on the senses by nearly every aspect of the film. Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, who paid overripe tribute to the giallo in their previous efforts (“Amer”), now turn their caffeinated camera to European crime and Western pictures, whose brawny, color-saturated and violence-soaked style they clearly adore as much as their own; “Corpses” is gorgeous and brutal and occasionally overwhelming to behold, and Lowensohn (a ’90s indie favorite from “Nadja”) is a formidable lead, but if you’re not a diehard fan of the pictures that the directors are feting, you might find the whole thing somewhat precious and self-impressed. Kino’s Blu-ray includes the U.S. trailer and devotional commentary by critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and John Edmond.

The Vanishing” (2018, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) What proves to be the undoing for three Scotsmen (Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells) minding a lighthouse on an island in the Hebrides isn’t the loneliness and monotony of their job, or even the punishing elements; rather, it’s a wooden trunk, and the man washed ashore with it, that leads to suspicion, mistrust and murder. Dark UK thriller based on fact benefits greatly from flinty turns by Mullan and Butler (who co-produced, and is better here than in any of his recent action vehicles), which do more to impart a mounting sense of paranoia and dread that the script by Celyn Jones and Joe Bone and direction by TV vet Kristoffer Nyholm (though the gloomy Scottish locations and photography by Jergen Johansson help). Lionsgate’s Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette.

Iceman: The Time Traveler” (2018, Well Go International) Sequel to Law Wing-cheung‘s 2014 3-D martial arts fantasy about a soldier (Donnie Yen) frozen during the 15th century and thawed out in modern-day Hong Kong; here, Yen and sidekick Wang Baoqiang return to the Ming Dynasty to stop Simon Yam from taking over the kingdom. Critics on both sides of the Pacific spared no quarter in lambasting this expensive flop (which drew more attention for a legal fight between Yen and its producers), and while it’s true that “Time Traveler” is needlessly convoluted (the first 10 minutes are spent reprising the entire previous film) and both Yen and director Raymond Yip have done better elsewhere, it’s not completely dreadful; at 55, Yen is still an impressive physical performer, and his action set pieces are the primary reason to sit through the picture. Well Go’s Blu-ray/DVD combo offers an English-languge option and trailers.

Coby” (2017, Film Movement) French/US co-production follows Midwesterner’s Suzanne’s transition from female to Coby (and later, Jacob/Jake), as well as the impact of the decision on those around him. Director Christian Sonderegger – who is apparently Coby’s half-brother – employs an observant but unobtrusive camera, which yields remarkably intimate footage of conversations between Coby and his family and girlfriend as they grapple with his new identities, which change, mature and adapt over the course of the documentary’s running time; the result is moving and honest without being manipulative or mauldin, and as a model of quiet individual and family courage and understanding, it’s hard to beat. Film Movement’s DVD includes deleted scenes.

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 Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, 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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