New to View: Dec. 27
By Bob Bloom
The following Blu-rays and DVDs are being released on Tuesday, Dec. 27, unless otherwise noted:
American Honey (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet)
Details: 2016, Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Rated: R, language, sexual content, nudity, drug and alcohol use
The lowdown: “American Honey” is an odyssey through a panorama of America most of us rarely see.
The film follows a group of disenfranchised and disaffected youths who travel the Midwest to earn money by selling magazine subscriptions that nobody wants to buy.
The film has a Dickensian tone to it, as the youngsters must make sales daily or be stranded on the spot.
The focus of this 162-minute feature is Star (Sasha Lane), who flees her troubled home to join the traveling sales crew run by Krystal (Riley Keough) and her top seller, Jake (Shia LaBeouf).
An immediate and flirtatious attraction is sparked between Star and Jake. That relationship is the centerpiece of the movie.
The film follows Star’s gradual acceptance into the group she learns and understands the rules of this very small and tight community.
Lane’s performance holds your attention. She acts tough, yet underneath she is scarred and vulnerable. She sees the group as the family she wishes she had back home.
“American Honey” is a complex movie. Its subject matter is bleak and dark, yet the free-wheeling, optimistic spirit of the group keeps the movie grounded enough that some sunshine seeps in to give you hope for the future.
The film is, at times, difficult to accept. However, it offers an appealing look at a slice of Americana that many of us have never seen — or simply ignored.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.33:1 (16×9 enhanced) full-screen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: A featurette with Lane and Keough discussing the film is the major bonus component.
Snowden (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet)
Details: 2016, Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Rated: R, language, sexual content, nudity
The lowdown: Depending on your political bent, Edward Snowden is either a hero for exposing the U.S. government’s program of extensive and illegal collection of data on its citizens or a traitor for telling the world about the program.
It is clear where director Oliver Stone stands on the issue. In “Snowden,” he frames the former CIA and NSA employee as a patriot and idealist whose idealism is shattered as the extent of U.S. domestic-spying activities becomes clearer to the intellectually gifted young man.
Snowden’s story is known well enough that Stone focuses more on the analyst’s gradual disillusionment with the federal agencies that used the excuse of protecting its citizens to delve deeply into the details of their private lives.
In the real world, of course, this issue is much more complex with shades of grey about national security, terrorism threats and constitutional issues.
As a moviemaker, Stone has simplified all of this — Snowden is right; the government is wrong.
In taking this tact, Stone serves more as a defense attorney for Snowden than a cinematic chronicler of his actions.
Even with a strong and committed performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden, what the needed was less of a soapbox and more humanity.
Technical aspects: Blu-ray: 1080p high definition, 2.40:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles; DVD: 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen picture; English 5.1 Dolby digital; English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus components include a featurette on the making of the movie, deleted scenes, a question-and-answer session with Snowden, Stone, Gordon-Levitt and costar Shallene Woodley.
A Man Called Ove
Details: 2016, Music Box Films
Rated: PG-13, adult themes, disturbing images, language
The lowdown: This highly-acclaimed Swedish drama — it earned a 92 percent positive rating at Rottentomatoes.com — tells the story of a stereotypical grumpy old man, the next-door neighbor who is a curmudgeon with set-in-stone principles and a short temper.
Beneath that rough exterior, though, is a lonely man who still is grieving his late wife.
His life changes, though, when a happy and outgoing young family moves in next door, creating an unlikely friendship and bringing some joy back into the old man’s life.
And while the film does feature several clichés and travels a familiar, well-worn path, it gradually embraces you with its warmth and humanity.
Technical aspects: 2.35:1 widescreen picture; Swedish 5.1 Dolby digital; English subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include a featurette on the Ove in all of us and a director and cast question-and-answer session at Scandinavia House in New York City.
The Magnificent Seven (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet)
Release date: Dec. 20
Details: 2016, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rated: PG-13, graphic and intense sequences of violence, language, smoking, suggestive material
The lowdown: Director Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven” mixes the right amount of traditional Western with enough of a contemporary anti-capitalist vibe to make it palatable to young, modern filmgoers.
Again working with Denzel Washington, Fuqua’s film is long on action, but short on character development.
But who cares when fancy gunplay and explosions rock the screen and a one-dimensional, black-hearted, despicable industrialist gets his just desserts in the last reel.
And since we live in a more multicultural world, Fuqua’s Old West does not center on six white gunslingers (plus one young Mexican fast-draw) protecting a village of poor Mexican farmers.
Here, we have a diverse group of men led by lawman Sam Chisolm (Washington), aided by card-sharp gunfighter Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Ethan Hawke (Goodnight Robicheaux), ex-Indian fighter Sam Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), knife expert Billy Rocks (Byung–Hun Lee), Mexican bandit Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), protecting the small town of Rose Creek from the ruthless and murderous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his brutal army of hired guns.
The stakes are higher in Fuqua’s world. In John Sturges’ 1960 version, the seven gunfighters — among them Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn — were battling a cadre of bandits, led by Eli Wallach, who annually came to the village to steal food and supplies for the winter.
Here, the townspeople face extermination: Bogue demands that they sell him their land for a mere $20 or be buried under it.
This solid Western tips its 10-gallon hat to the past, as well as providing a political dynamic that resonates with the 21st century.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 2.39:1 widescreen picture; English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 audio description track and Spanish 5.1 Dolby digital; English SDH, English and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus materials include a featurette with Fuqua and the cast breaking down key scenes and discussing the making of the movie; deleted scenes; a look at the gunslingers; a featurette on the taking of Rose Creek; a behind-the-scenes look at directing the movie; a “Rogue Bogue” featurette; profiles of the seven; and a featurette on the film’s music and its ties to the classic Elmer Bernstein score for the Sturges version.
Phantasm: Ravager (Blu-ray)
Release date: Dec. 6
Details: 2015, Well Go USA Entertainment
Rated: Not rated, violence
The lowdown: This fifth and final installment of Don Coscarelli’s cult science fiction-horror series finds Reggie crossing many dark dimensions in search of his friend, Reggie.
Along the way, he must fight for his life and existence as well as confront the evil Tall Man in his home world.
The entire original cast returns for this final outing, including horror icon Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man, who brings his Sentinel Spheres with him.
Technical aspects: 1.78:1 (16×9 enhanced) widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include a commentary track, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and bloopers and outtakes.
DIGITAL DOWNLOADS and STREAMING
Insecure: Season 1 (HBO Home Entertainment, Jan. 2)
Murdoch Mysteries: Season 10 (Acorn TV, Jan. 2)
Coming next week: Girls: The Complete Fifth Season
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He reviews movies, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow Bloom on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook. Movie reviews by Bloom also can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.