A French WWI drama and a Chinese WWII comedy lead new movies on video
Posted June 21
A wide variety of new foreign and independent films are on home video platforms this week.
“Frantz” (Music Box, 2017, PG-13, b/w, in French and German with English subtitles, deleted scenes, featurettes, poster gallery, 16-page booklet). Immediately after World War I, a young French veteran visits a small-town gravesite in Germany and is spotted by the grieving woman who was engaged to the buried soldier. This pricks her curiosity, which leads to their becoming acquainted, and she also introduces him to her late fiancé’s parents. But the Frenchman has a dark secret that will test their rapport.
French filmmaker François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “8 Women”) has created a low-key, wonderfully evocative look at two lost souls and the tragedy that brings them together, as well as the misunderstandings that ensue. And it’s richly photographed in vivid black and white. Film buffs will recognize this one as a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s “Broken Lullaby” (1932).
“Railroad Tigers” (Well Go, 2017, not rated/probable PG-13, in Mandarin with English subtitles or dubbed in English, featurettes, trailer). In 1941, an unassuming Chinese railroad worker (a bearded Jackie Chan) forms a band of misfits to take on the invading Japanese army as it withholds provisions from the locals. If this one’s any indication, 63-year-old Chan has no intention of slowing down, but writer-director Ding Sheng, in his third film with the star, isn’t quite up to Chan’s filmmaking prime.
Still, there’s enough enjoyable comic action to call it a return to form, and the wild train stunts may bring to mind Buster Keaton’s “The General,” which Chan has often said is his favorite movie. And maybe it will motivate you to seek out some of Chan’s best early work (“Supercop,” “Drunken Master II,” “Project A”), or, for that matter, Keaton’s “The General.”
“Life” (Columbia, 2017, R for violence and language, deleted scenes, featurettes). Six astronauts (including Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station examine a rock sample from Mars and unwittingly unleash a single-cell organism that goes all “Alien” on them. There’s not much new in this horror movie set in space, but it does deliver some chills, and far too much foul language.
“Showing Roots” (Lionsgate, 2016, not rated/probable PG, featurette). This is a well-intentioned but misguided TV movie about whites and blacks in a small Southern town having epiphanies about race as they watch the original TV miniseries “Roots” in January 1977. A blonde Elizabeth McGovern plays the town’s leading bigot and owner of the beauty parlor where Maggie Grace (“Taken”) and Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”) work. “Roots” star Cicely Tyson is also here. (The DVD is exclusively at Wal-Mart for the first month or two.)
“Un Padre No Tan Padre (From Dad to Worse)” (Lionsgate, 2017, PG-13, in Spanish with English subtitles). A grumpy 85-year-old man is kicked out of his retirement home and forced to move in with his middle-aged son, whose house is operating on a commune basis with a wide variety of eccentrics as housemates. To no one’s surprise, Dad doesn’t fit in. Predictable culture-clash gags dominate this Mexican comedy, with a bit too much vulgar material.
“The Wedding Party” (Candy Factory, 2017, not rated/probable R for language). This profane, sleazy and cliché-ridden comedy-drama with myriad soap opera subplots takes place entirely during a wedding and the reception that follows. There’s also a less than profound message — men are morons who need to learn to listen to women. But mostly this independent production hinges on a gimmick: It claims to have been filmed in one long, continuous take, and it certainly looks like it. The staging is clever but the script is hit and miss, and at a full two hours it’s way too long.
“Wichita” (Candy Factory, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence, language, sex, drugs). This weird genre hybrid starts out as a very broad backstage Hollywood comedy, following Jeb (Trevor Peterson), the creator of a failing children’s TV show. He’s pressured to come up with 30 scripts in 30 days, so he takes five writers to a ski lodge for a creative retreat, where he’s revealed to be a creepy voyeur with video cameras in every room. Then the film switches gears and becomes a run-of-the-mill slasher-horror flick. The title comes from a brief foreshadowing reference to the BTK Killer having been from Wichita.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at email@example.com.