Movies Till Dawn: Son of (Mostly) New Movies

A Vigilante” (2018, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) Domestic violence survivor Olivia Wilde provides a unique service to others like her: she removes their abusers from their lives with a brutality matching, or surpassing their own. Potent and timely mix of steely-eyed thriller and character study is no revenge fantasy: first-time filmmaker Sarah Daggar-Nickson‘s interest lies more in the emotional toll of violence on Sarah and her clients, which provides Wilde with some moments of raw-nerve acting. The film shifts into more traditional (and less compelling) suspense territory in its final third, but Daggar-Nickson and Wilde (who also served as co-producer) manage some remarkable scenes, both kinetic and quiet, that have greater staying power than any gun-heavy action-thriller. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray/DVD set includes a making-of featurette.

Gloria Bell” (2019, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) If 50-ish divorcee Julianne Moore feels the tug of loneliness, age and dissatisfaction, she does her best to exorcise them at the local dance club. There, she meets John Turturro, with whom she enters quickly into a relationship that, like many others in her life (her ex-husband, played by Brad Garrett, children Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius, and a co-worker played by Fassbinder veteran Barbara Sukowa, all excellent) seems stuck somewhere between past and future. Chilean writer/director Sebastian Lelio‘s remarke of his 2013 f “Gloria” doesn’t have much new to say about the difficulties people face in middle age, but he has the benefit of Moore, who doles out the happiness and disappointment behind her eyes in just the right amounts, to underscore the magic and misery of the everyday. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette and commentary by Leilo.

Tito and the Birds” (2018, Shout! Factory) Ten-year-old Tito continues his late father’s experiments in translating the language of birds in the hopes that they may provide a solution to an epidemic of anxiety that leaves its victims so paralyzed that they become living, semi-human rocks. Award-winning Brazilian animated feature is distinguished by its bold, brushstroke-style visuals, which shift in color and tone with the emotions in each scene, and a timely storyline about political fear-mongering (by a real estate tycoon, no less) for financial gain. The story itself is convoluted, but its message and striking look should appeal to animation fans of all stripes. Shout’s Blu-ray includes interviews with co-writer/director/producer Gustavo Steinberg and producer Daniel Greco.

Broken Flowers” (2005, Kino Lorber) Businessman Bill Murray – a former ladies’ man turned to stone by age and melancholy – learns that he has a son and sets out to find which of his past girlfriends might be the mother. What sounds, on paper, like an exercise in teeth-clenching broad comedy is, in the hands of Murray and director Jim Jarmusch, a bittersweet meditation on What You Have and What You’ve Lost, rendered in the fine-grained deadpan style that is a trademark of both star and filmmakers. Murray, doubling down on the man-out-of-time mode employed one year prior in “Lost in Translation,” but he’s well-matched by a remarkable cast of actresses, including Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Julie Delpy, Tilda Swinton and Chloe Sevigny, each of whom can be charged with stealing some aspect of their respective scenes. Kino’s Special Edition Blu-ray includes an interview with Jarmusch, a compilation of outtakes and a minor, if amusing extended scene.

The Kid” (2019, Lionsgate) On the run after murdering their violent father, siblings Jake Schur and Leila George are drawn into the spiraling orbits of outlaw Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and his friend turned pursuer, Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). Western drama, directed by actor Vincent D’Onofrio, looks approximately dust-swept and sun-baked (courtesy of DP Matthew J. Lloyd) buts moves along lines of myth-vs.-reality and inescapable fate already covered in dozens of other six-gun pictures. De Haan and Hawke (who both excel at playing morally complicated men) help to elevate the premise beyond metaphoric exercise, and Chris Pratt plays well against type as Schur and George’s deranged uncle. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette.

Triple Threat” (2019, Well Go Entertainment) Tricked into rescuing terrorist Scott Adkins from a prison camp, mercenaries Tony Jaa and Tiger Chen team up with Iko Uwais to stop him from murdering a criminal reform activist (Celina Jade). Putting together Thai phenom Jaa (“Ong-Bak”), Chinese fight choreographer Chen (“The Matrix”) and Indonesian actor Uwais from “The Raid” as a sort of three-man Dirty Dozen sounds like an action fan’s dream come true, but stunt coordinator turned director Jesse V. Johnson grounds them with a wobbly plot and perfunctory fight coverage or choreography. Thankfully, quality is won over by quantity through fights with an array of tough guys, ncluding Michael Jai White, UFC champ Michael Bisping, and Ron Smoorenburg, and some impressive stand-alone stunts (Adkins vs. a moving car). Well Go’s Blu-ray includes interviews with the cast and trailers.

Mutual Appreciation” (2006, Arbelos Films) Hapless Boston musician Justin Rice arrives in Brooklyn and quickly becomes embroiled in not one but three complicated relationships – with the girlfriend (Rachel Clift) of his best friend (writer-directed Andrew Bujalski), a college radio DJ (Seung-Min Lee) and her brother (Kevin Micka), who signs on to drum for his band, which has already broken up. Your feelings towards the mumblecore movement will most likely inform your appreciation of this indie comedy-drama, but Bujalski has a keen understanding of the unsteady conversation and awkward emotional exchanges – which actually reveal more about the speaker than any Big Movie Moment – that are inherent to the post-college, pre-grownup mindset. It’s likely that “Mutual Appreciation” will set off more than a few pangs of nostalgia, mixed with flashbacks to embarrassing moments, for viewers on the far side of their respective degrees. Arbelos’ Blu-ray includes a 2K restoration of the film (taken from its 16mm negative), a new interview with Bujarski and his 2007 short “Peoples House,” which features characters from “Appreciation,” liner notes with essays by Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) and Will Sheff (Okkervil River) and a very amusing commentary track featuring the parents of the cast and crew, who are unafraid to voice their opinion on the film’s high points and perceived shortcomings.

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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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