“Tyrel” (2018, Magnolia Home Entertainment) Tyler (Jason Mitchell, “Straight Outta Compton”) is the only African-American guest invited to a birthday celebration that grows more chaotic as the weekend wears on. Comparisons to “Get Out” are obvious, but don’t quite fit director Sebastian Silva‘s indie drama, which is more a chronicle of death by a thousand microaggressions than a full-bore freakout; “Tyrel’s” numerous pieces also don’t add up to a memorable whole, though Michael Cera and Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum stand out among the drunken throng, and as a depiction of privilege unbound, it has its share of discomforting moments. Magnolia’s DVD includes an interview with Silva.
“Ben is Back” (2018, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) A surprise return home by teenager Lucas Hedges – who’s in recovery for drug addiction – throws a spotlight on how issues of trust are handled by his mother (Julia Roberts), stepfather (Courtney B. Vance) and siblings. Writer-director Peter Hedges (Lucas’s father) does well by the strain on family dynamics caused by Hedges’ presence, where he’s well supported by his cast, but the picture goes astray in a curious turn towards mystery territory in its second half. The result is well intentioned, but that energy eventually sputters out. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray/DVD includes commentary by Hedges pere.
“Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms” (2018, Shout! Factory/GKids) Have a supply of handkerchiefs at the ready before watching this animated Japanese-language feature about a mother’s love for her child. Though steeped in fantasy trappings, including warring armies, magical races and a brace of dragons, “Maquia” – which marks the directorial debut for veteran anime writer Mari Okada – is, at is core, a deeply (read: monumentally) bittersweet story about an immortal woman’s relationship with the human child she adopts. Though the denouement of this relationship is evident as soon as the film begins, it’s to Okada’s credit that the complex, epic-scaled story is so well-crafted (and beautifully animated) that the waterworks it produces may take still you by surprise. The subtitled Shout/GKids Blu-ray/DVD includes a making-of featurette and trailers.
“Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes” (2018, Magnolia Home Entertainment) Doc tracing the arc of Fox News chief Ailes, whom we can largely credit for stoking the vituperative tone of national discourse. The perspective leans decidedly left and without a great deal of nuance, though you can argue that its subject was lacking in that department as well: Ailes seemed to run on two tracks – salaciousness and self-importance – which informed his interactions with Nixon, Reagan, and Trump, as well as the fear-mongering focus of Fox News. If you see Ailes as the match that lit the fire on which we currently cook, “Divide” offers a wealth of testimony from Ailes’ associates and former employees to support that stance; if you don’t, there isn’t much here to change your mind.
“The World Before Your Feet” (2018, Kino Lorber) As is often the case with documentaries about obsessions, how Matt Green traverses all 8,000 miles of New York City’s five boroughs on foot is less important – or compelling – as why he does it. Jeremy Workman‘s feature gives elliptical reasons for Green’s quest (several ex-girlfriends offer more concrete opinions) but mostly serves as his traveling companion, taking in places and unique individuals that would be easily missed, were Green not so committed to completing his task. The leisurely pace may cause some viewers’ interest to lag, but when Green stops and takes in his surroundings – whether it’s the grave of salsa queen Celia Cruz, or an out-of-the-way garden – there’s a genuine and very welcome sense of real contemplation and appreciation. Kino’s DVD includes deleted scenes and an interview with actor-turned-producer Jesse Eisenberg.
“Tea with the Dames” (2018, MPI Home Video/Sundance Selects) Charming roundtable conversation with four iconic British actresses – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins – who discuss their lives and careers at Plowright’s country home. Given that all of the participants are in their eighties, age and its toll on their careers and talents are on the menu but not the central focus; rather, their lively and often earthy observations give credence to the notion that time has little impact on ambition, honesty and tolerance for dismissive directors, critics and nagging insecurity. A smart, salty chaser to your next Brit-flick/TV binge.
And: “The Revelation of Lee “Scratch” Perry” (2018, Megawave/MVD) documents the reggae/dub pioneer at work on his 2010 album “Revelation” at his studio/home in Switzerland. Shot in mostly static takes by producer Steve Marshall, which are interspersed with Perry holding court on all manner of cosmic issues (subtitles are provided), this is for only the staunchest of Scratch devotees. “Far from the Tree” (2017, MPI Home Video) expands on Andrew Soloman‘s book about families that coalesce around children with conditions (Down syndrome, autism, dwarfism) that, by societal standards, would deem them as different. Director Rachel Dretzin skirts a sentimental tone but manages to provide an affecting portrait of familial and individual resilience. Sentimentality is also an issue for “Un Traductor” (2018, Film Movement), but the drama, based on directors Rodrigo and Sebastian Barriuso‘s father, who served as a translator for Russian victims of the Chernobyl disaster, steps too far into heartstring-tugging territory, and is saved only by Rodrigo Santoro‘s turn in the lead.