What is it? A group of women in an isolated religious community meet to decide their response to a tragic truth.
Why see it? I’ll fully admit to a possible bias on this one as I watched Sarah Polley’s latest with my infant daughter asleep on my lap, but this captivating look at women coming together to protect their own is supremely affecting. An adaptation of a novel, it unfolds like a play as the women gather in a barn while the men are away to discuss how they’re going to react to realizations of widespread abuse within their community — stay, fight, or leave. Varied perspectives combat each other as they discuss what brought them to this point and where they’re going next, and it’s a heartbreaking journey towards empowerment. There’s humor and wisdom, and above all there’s humanity given life by Polley’s script/direction and the performances of Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Frances McDormand, Ben Whishaw, and more.
Leonor Will Never Die
What is it? A retired screenwriter finds herself in an unfinished action script.
Why see it? Charm goes a long way when it comes to filmmaking, and this Filipino gem is the epitome of that statement. The film follows Leonor, an older woman whose youth was spent writing scripts for low budget action movies. An accident leaves her in a coma where she finds herself living her final, unfinished script, complete with action set-pieces, villains, and more. It’s more than a little rough around the edges at times, but it’s also a sweetly creative nod to the importance and power of storytelling. Movies are life, and this passionately creative little comedy is bursting with it.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, short film]
Phenomena [4K UHD, Synapse Films]
What is it? A young girl with some buggy friends faces off against a killer.
Why see it? It’s safe to say that Dario Argento’s best film is Deep Red, but if pressed I’d happily admit that Phenomena is my favorite. It’s a big, sprawling horror film delivering faux giallo thrills packaged alongside heavy metal, a hero who controls bugs, a razor-wielding chimpanzee, Donald Pleasence, a deformed killer, bitchy teens, remote European locations, and more. It’s a wild concoction that finds horror, thrills, and bonkers beats while also tossing in gore, maggots, chase scenes, and a sedate Jennifer Connelly. The new 4K looks fantastic as it finds richness in the dark shadows while popping with color and detail. All three cuts of the film are included here in 4K, so if you didn’t already pick up the limited edition this is a must own.
[Extras: Three versions in 4K, commentaries, documentary, featurette]
What is it? A young woman finds herself in an intervention.
Why see it? Anna Kendrick is primarily known for bubbly, brainy, comedic performances in similarly lightweight films, but here she steps up to the plate for something far more serious. She plays Alice, a young woman in an abusive relationship who heads off for a girls weekend only to discover they’ve actually planned an intervention for her. The film hits the right notes on the topic and finds some minorly harrowing beats, and while there’s not much meat on the bone it works due mostly to the strength of the performances. It’s ultimately as much a story about the importance of friendship as it is a cautionary tale about abuse.
What is it? An obese man attempts to reconnect with his young daughter.
Why see it? There are two big names associated with this film — director Darren Aronofsky and actor Brendan Fraser. It’s perhaps telling that the only one being talked about is Fraser as his performance is both eye-catching and affecting. More than that, it’s a comeback of sorts for an actor who was once a blockbuster leading man, and all of that led to enormous acclaim and his recent Best Actor win for the film. No one’s talking about Aronofsky, though, because the film itself isn’t really all that great. Fraser is strong, and the film’s focus on empathy and compassion is evident, but it’s a cruel, arduous journey towards an ending that chooses a fantastical out. At nearly two hours it’s far from an easy watch, but depending on what you get our of it, it might just be a necessary one.
Also out this week:
All Eyes Off Me, The Apology, A Bag of Marbles, The Core [4K UHD], Flamingo Road [Warner Archive], Glorious, Last Hurrah for Chivalry [Criterion Collection], A Man Called Otto, Nazi Spy [Warner Archive], Neptune’s Daughter [Warner Archive], The Prince and the Showgirl [Warner Archive], The Prince of Egypt [4K UHD], Streets of Fire [4K UHD]
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