Independent films highlight this week's new movies on DVD and Blu-ray
Posted January 18
This week’s new movies on Blu-ray and DVD are dominated by independent productions, and some are definitely worth checking out.
“Long Way North” (Shout! Kids, 2016, PG, in French with English subtitles or in dubbed English, featurettes, art galleries, storyboards). A young Russian aristocrat in 19th-century Saint Petersburg defies her parents and sets out to find her grandfather, an explorer who designed an Arctic ship, headed to the North Pole and hasn’t been heard from since. Vivid art and strong characterizations make this French animated feature a cut above the rest.
“The Babymooners” (Candy Factory, 2017, not rated/probable PG-13). This is a goofy, low-budget domestic comedy about a New York couple having their first child and worrying about how their lives will change. Clocking in at just 75 minutes, the film is written and directed by married couple Shaina Feinberg and Chris Manley, who also star. Feinberg is particularly charming, especially as she begins a video diary for her unborn child. The film is quirky, amusing and Woody Allen-ish.
“Zero Days” (Magnolia, 2016, PG-13, featurette, trailer). Alex Gibney’s documentary about the looming dangers of digital warfare focuses on malware that was unleashed after a black-ops cyber attack by the United States and Israel on an Iranian nuclear facility. The Stuxnet virus is self-replicating and inadvertently spreads beyond its intended target.
“Keeping Up With the Joneses” (Fox, 2016, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes, photo gallery). Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play a weary, long-married suburban couple that feels a bit overwhelmed by their new neighbors (Gal Gadot, Jon Hamm), who seem to be perfect. But it turns out they are spies, and soon all four are up to their necks in danger. Some amusing ideas are undermined by overblown special effects and especially by Galifianakis’ unfunny oddness.
“The Girl on the Train” (Universal, 2016; R for violence, sex, language, nudity; deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). An alcoholic prone to blackouts is obsessed with her ex-husband and his new family, whose home she passes twice daily on a commuter train. She also becomes obsessed with the couple that lives next door to her ex, and when that wife is brutally murdered, she becomes a suspect. Emily Blunt delivers a terrific performance in this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel, but the film itself is slow, morose and could do with an injection of suspense.
“Kevin Hart: What Now?” (Universal, 2016, R for language, alternate opening, deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes, bloopers). Hart does his typically profane stand-up act in front of 50,000 people at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field in and around a silly extended James Bond spoof, which features Halle Berry, Don Cheadle and Ed Helms, among others.
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” (Universal, 2016, PG-13, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). In 1967 Los Angeles, a scam artist, with help from her two daughters, pretends to be a spiritual medium. But when she adds a Ouija board to the act, she unwittingly summons a demon that possesses her 9-year-old. This is a prequel to the 2014 horror film “Ouija.” Henry Thomas shows up as a priest.
“The Whole Truth” (Lionsgate, 2017, R for language and violence). A teenager (Gabriel Basso) confesses to stabbing and killing his father (Jim Belushi), but despite the confession and overwhelming evidence, the boy’s attorney (Keanu Reeves) promises his mother (Renée Zellweger) that he’ll get the boy off. As Reeves’ colleague (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) investigates, however, it looks like the mother is the killer and the son is protecting her. But there are more twists to come in this so-so courtroom thriller.
“Come and Find Me” (Lionsgate, 2016, R for language and violence, audio commentary, featurette). Aaron Paul (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) is an ordinary guy who finds himself mixed up with Russian mobsters and government agents when he goes searching for his missing girlfriend, who was apparently operating under an assumed identity. It is written by Zack Whedon (younger brother of Joss), who also makes his directing debut.
“Train to Busan” (Well Go, 2016, not rated/probable R for violence, in Korean with English subtitles or dubbed English, featurettes, trailer). This Korean zombie horror film puts the action on a bullet train from Seoul to Busan, as passengers find themselves the subjects of an undead feeding frenzy. The tension is derived from victims having nowhere to go, and the gore is more restrained than most such films, though still rather queasy.
“Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050” (Universal, 2017; R for violence, language, sex, nudity; deleted scenes, featurettes). Corman’s 1975 exploitative cult favorite “Death Race 2000” spawned a remake in 2008, followed by two straight-to-video sequels. But this one is a direct sequel to the ’75 flick, as Malcolm McDowell rules the USA — or rather, the UCA, United Corporations of America — and sanctions a gory, pedestrian-killing Death Race, which is broadcast in a virtual reality format. Think “Mad Max” meets “Network,” purposely made to resemble 1970s schlock.
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.