Eclectic mix of movies in various genres arrives on DVD, Blu-ray this week
Posted July 13, 2016
An inspirational documentary about a rape survivor leads an eclectic array of movies on Blu-ray and DVD this week.
“Brave Miss World” (Rocket Girl, 2013, not rated/probable PG-13, featurettes, trailer). A few weeks before winning the 1998 Miss World pageant, 18-year-old Israeli model Linor Abargil was raped at knifepoint in Milan, Italy, by her travel agent, someone she trusted. Encouraged by her mother, Abargil summoned the courage to push for prosecution and eventually saw her attacker convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
This documentary, by Cecilia Peck (daughter of Gregory Peck), chronicles those events, but the film is primarily about what happened next, following Abargil as she travels the world as an activist for victims of sexual assault, hoping to embolden them to follow her example.
The film offers some less fruitful digressions here and there, but Abargil’s story and her ability to speak powerfully to the subject give a real sense of passion to what is already a moving and forceful subject. It’s also quite timely, given the current media discourse about rape on college campuses and elsewhere. (Available on various streaming sites and on Blu-ray and DVD at bravemissworld.com/buy)
“Boy & the World” (Gkids/Universal, 2015, PG, featurette, music video, trailer). A little boy attempts to reunite with his family in this brilliantly colorful Brazilian animated feature. Its abstract, minimalist style and a worldview through the eyes of a curious child blend with thoughtful musings on class distinction, rural life vs. city life, the industrial age and the environment, war and peace, etc. The result is a real feast for the senses.
“Electra Woman & Dyna Girl” (Sony, 2016, not rated/probable PG-13, audio commentary, featurettes). The engaging personalities of internet comics Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart and knowing nods to 21st-century technology give a boost to this feature-length adaptation of the unabashedly silly Sid and Marty Krofft children’s superhero spoof that followed the campy 1960s “Batman” template. It seems to be aimed at teens or tweens but has a few surprisingly vulgar gags. Andy Buckley (“The Office”) co-stars.
“Endgame” (Shout!, 2015, not rated/probable PG-13, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). Rico Rodriguez (“Modern Family”) is an angry young chess prodigy at an impoverished Texas school who, with help from a caring teacher (Efren Ramirez, “Napoleon Dynamite’s” Pedro), leads his team to state finals. The well-intentioned underdog tale is OK but suffers from far too many subplots and jarring shifts in tone, mixing drama, tragedy and comedy (and a few surprisingly crude one-liners).
“Dear Eleanor” (Sony, 2016, PG-13, audio commentaries). This wacky comedy set in 1962 follows two small-town teen girls (Isabelle Fuhrman, Liana Liberato) who take daddy’s car and head across the country to New York to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. Along the way, they meet up with a variety of goofball characters, including an aunt who’s an exotic dancer (Jessica Alba) and an affable Alcatraz escapee (Josh Lucas). Luke Wilson co-stars.
“Joseph and Mary” (Cinedigm, 2016, not rated/probable PG-13). This is another speculation about Jesus’ childhood, which naturally brings to mind “The Young Messiah,” although this one is wrapped around the story of a devout, revenge-seeking rabbi (Steven McCarthy) who must eventually learn to forgive. In a pair of bizarre casting choices, 31-year-old Lara Jean Chorostecki plays Mary and Kevin Sorbo, who is pushing 60, is Joseph.
“I Saw the Light” (Sony Classics, 2016; R for language, sex, nudity; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Strong performances from Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen help this otherwise superficial, by-the-numbers biography of country singer Hank Williams, who hit the big time and then died in the early 1950s at age 29. Co-stars include Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford and David Krumholtz.
“By the Sea” (Universal, 2015; R for sex, nudity, language; deleted scenes, featurettes). Angelina Jolie Pitt (as she’s billed here) wrote and directed this aloof art-house trifle, which is so gauzy-pretty that it often feels like an extended cosmetics ad. Her husband, Brad Pitt, co-stars, and they play a married couple trying to mend their broken marriage at a seaside Paris hotel during the 1970s. But when she begins voyeuristically observing a young honeymooning couple in the next room, tragedy is very obviously foreshadowed.
“The Mermaid” (Columbia, 2016, R for violence, in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurettes, music video). To help protect their ocean home, the last evolved sea creatures send a mermaid to assassinate a real-estate developer, but she instead falls in love with him. This zany, wacky Chinese comedy-fantasy with sudden bursts of surprisingly harsh violence is likely an uneasy and uncomfortable mix for Western audiences. Co-written and directed by Stephen Chow (“Shaolin Soccer,” “Kung Fu Hustle”).
“Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” (Well Go, 2016, not rated/probable PG-13, in Mandarin with English subtitles). Lots of special-effects eye candy are seen in this otherwise rather juvenile Chinese creature feature that begins in 1979 as an archaeological team is decimated in Mongolia after discovering a bed of ancient monsters and an interdimensional portal. The narrative then shifts to modern-day New York where the lone survivor of that expedition is still obsessed with what happened, eventually receiving word that other survivors have suddenly cropped up, along with the monsters.
“600 Miles” (Lionsgate, 2016, R for language and violence). Tim Roth is a U.S. agent on the trail of an arms-smuggling Mexican cartel whose weapons are easily obtained thanks to lax U.S. gun laws. But after a bust goes awry, he’s captured by a teenage gun-runner and initiates a cat-and-mouse strategy to keep himself alive.
“Term Life” (Universal, 2016, R for violence and language, featurette). A thief (Vince Vaughn) is in trouble when his latest heist results in the killing of a mobster’s son. Now, he’s targeted by both the mobster and by the kid’s killers, a band of dirty cops (led by Bill Paxton). So he does the logical thing — he takes out life insurance, making his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) the beneficiary. A good cast — Terrence Howard, Jon Favreau, Taraji P. Henson, Mike Epps, Annabeth Gish — is squandered in this failed film noir based on a graphic novel.
“The Adderall Diaries” (Lionsgate, 2016; R for language, drugs, sex; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, trailers). A writer (James Franco) haunted by an abusive relationship with his father (Ed Harris) is obsessed with the ongoing trial of a high-profile murder case. Adapted from Stephen Elliott’s memoir, though Elliott has since disavowed it. Amber Heard, Christian Slater, Wilmer Valderrama and Cynthia Nixon co-star.
“Code of Honor” (Lionsgate, 2016; R for violence, sex, nudity, language, drugs; trailers). After his family is killed, a former special-ops agent takes to ridding the (anonymous) city of its criminal element, “Death Wish” style. It's another mindless straight-to-video Steven Seagal vehicle, which he turns out like widgets these days. This one was filmed in Salt Lake City and environs, with Michael Flynn, R.D. Call and other local actors joining Seagal, Craig Sheffer and Louis Mandylor.
“The Levenger Tapes” (Lionsgate, 2016, R for violence and language, trailers). After three college students disappear during a weekend getaway to the wilderness, all that remains is a video camera, so police go through the found footage to discover what happened in this slasher flick with supernatural overtones. Apparently these kids never watched “Don’t Go in the Woods.”
“Search Party” (Universal, 2016; R for language, drugs, nudity, sex). When he’s jilted at the altar, a groom follows his fiancée to Mexico, where she’s gone to their honeymoon destination alone. But along the way, he’s carjacked and left in the middle of nowhere. So he calls his pals. It's “Runaway Bride” meets “The Hangover.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.