Movies Till Dawn: New and Notable

Ready or Not” (2019, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) In order to marry her wealthy fiancé, Samara Weaving must participate in his family’s tradition of forcing brides-to-be to survive a night in their Old Dark House while the intended in-laws, armed to the teeth, hunt her down. Irreverent comedy-horror by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillettt of the Radio Silence collective flew under most viewers’ radar, which is a shame, as its mix of suspense, grisly violence and pointed black humor (leveled mostly at unfettered privilege and marriage traditions) is delivered with a deftness that at times is on par with “Get Out”; the supporting cast, which features Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody and Henry Czerny, underscore the film’s bloodthirsty glee with appreciable spirit. Fox’s Blu-ray includes commentary by the directors and Weaving, as well as a making-of doc.

City on a Hill” (2019, CBS DVD) Newly minted assistant DA Aldis Hodge finds an unlikely ally in his quest to fight corruption in 1990s-era Boston in loose-cannon FBI agent Kevin Bacon. First season of this Showtime crime series is front-loaded with talent – the ensemble cast includes such inveterate scene stealers as Jonathan Tucker, Jill Hennessy, Cathy Moriarty, Kevin Dunn, Sarah Shahi and James Remar, while series showrunner Tom Fontana (“The Wire,” “Oz”) shares producer credit with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Barry Levinson and Jennifer Todd – and if “City’s” ambitions are sometimes slowed by its complicated plot, the writing and performances smooth over any rough spots (and as a Boston native, the accents were mostly spot on to me). CBS’s four-disc set includes multiple making-of docs and a look at Kyra Sedgwick (Bacon’s spouse) directing an episode.

Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank” (2004, Kino Lorber) The subject of this documentary, acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank, found this 2004 BBC documentary too personal to allow for a wide release until 2019, the same year he passed away at the age of 95. Expanded by 25 minutes from its original 60-minute running time, “Home” is a bit like its subject: ornery, disjointed and melancholy, but always returning to the work, regardless of time, age and inspiration. Though glimpses of a career overview, including his best-known work (“The Americans,” “Pull My Daisy“) and rarely seen efforts, as well as his relationships with his wife, artist June Leaf, and his two late children, are provided, what results is less of a biography than a catalog of the ups and downs of pursuing a life in art.

Pasolini” (2019, Kino Lorber) Wish fulfillment as feature film: Abel Ferrara channels his admiration for director and kindred spirit Pier Paolo Pasolini into a mediation on the hours before his murder in 1975, with Willem Dafoe as Pasolini contending with the fallout from “Salo,” musing on future projects, and indulging in his personal and political passions. As with Ferrara’s other films (“Bad Lieutenant,” “Ms. 45,” “The Addiction”), his focus with Pasolini lies somewhere between the arthouse and the grindhouse – dramatizations of his novels and unfinished projects in the former, Pasolini’s taste in hustlers, which may have led to his death in the latter – but Dafoe’s performance and Ferrara’s eye for detail make up for any inconsistencies on either end. Kino’s Blu-ray includes a conversation between Ferrara and Dafoe and a making-of doc.

Saint Bernard” (2013, Severin Films) Aspiring conductor Jason Dugre’s tenuous grasp on sanity unravels in spectacularly grotesque fashion after his attempt at a major concert performance – which, to be honest, existed largely in his own warped mind – goes awry. Aggressively surreal exercise by veteran special effects designer Gabriel Bartalos, a frequent collaborator with Frank Henenlotter, whose own explorations into the ickier aspects of human biology and aberrant psychology are echoed in the film’s parade of (exceptionally well made) latex creatures and calamities; as pure freakout, “Bernand” offers up body horror, taboo takedowns (Bob Zmuda appears as a priest on the take), a sky-diving chicken and visually assaultive cameos by Henenlotter, Warwick Davis and “Twilight Zone” writer George Clayton Johnson. For those who consider “Eraserhead” passé; Severin’s Blu-ray includes a making-of doc.

Also: Shout! Studios is releasing “Rabid,” a grisly remake of David Cronenberg‘s 1977 body/medical horror film, with Laura Vandervoot as a disfigured fashion designer who discovers that an experimental skin graft has restored her beauty and improved her standing in the couture world, but also given her a decidedly unpleasant appetite. The Soska Sisters co-write and direct; wrestler C.M. Punk and cult favorite Lynn Lowry are among the cast. “Rabid” opens in digital and On Demand formats, as well as in select theaters, including the Arena Cinelounge Hollywood, on December 13.

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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