On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 5, 2020

The breadcrumbs never led anywhere good. And in Osgood Perkins' beautifully haunting Gretel & Hansel-which the son of Anthony Perkins directed-there are no literal breadcrumbs, but only the seeming promise of certain death wherever the adolescent Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and her even younger brother, Hansel (Samuel Leakey), choose to go. At a slim eighty-seven minutes, the story both hews very close to that classic Grim tale while also taking its own liberties in advancing Gretel forward in age and lending her the role of a potential apprentice to the witch she and her brother stumble upon in the woods. Alice Krige plays said storied witch in this slightly altered narrative that lends the film enough treats (figuratively speaking) to entice the audience in the plight of the children and the dilemma Lillis' Gretel ultimately must deal with, but the star of the show is Galo Olivares' cinematography as the film looks like what a Terry Malick horror movie might look like if produced and/or distributed by A24. And I say "horror" with slight pause as there are certainly moments and imagery intended to elicit a scare, but this is more interested in the elaborate and ornamental gothic style that naturally elicits a creepy and uncomfortable tone more so than it does a straight-up scary one. Given the uneasy nature of the story and where all is inevitably heading, the cramped aspect ratio yet expansive lens Olivares uses allows for that visual prowess to not only be disturbingly pretty, but part of the storytelling; emphasizing the uneasiness the children begin to feel in that house in the woods where everything is too good to be true yet there's too much for it to mean nothing at all. Gretel & Hansel essentially feeds (figuratively speaking) the audience the idea that these children escape the terror with a lesson learned, but implying that to come of age surrounded by adults who care little for you and only how you benefit them (as well as trying to eat you or your sibling) would never leave one without scars that will eventually need to be tended to. Video review here. B-

In this comic book take on Groundhog's Day Vin Diesel plays a slain soldier with superpowers who is re-animated time and time again to carry out the nefarious deeds of one, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce). Now, it's not without understanding that I went into Bloodshot realizing there was an audience out there for both the film and this character that I simply wasn't a part of. Director Dave Wilson is a storied visual effects guy who makes his feature debut with this film is based on a Valiant Comic series that began in 1992 and-from what I can tell-is the small comic book house's most popular character. Again, it's not hard for me to understand why this might be the case given the character's story is largely that of Steve Rogers combined with the aforementioned reliable trope that is throwing your protagonist into a time loop and forcing them to learn a mandatory lesson in order to set things right, but just because I understand it doesn't mean I get it. This little chestnut of a plot device could easily come off as little more than cliché, but given we've seen it used as recently and to great effect in movies like Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day there was a sliver of hope that at least one of the film's two major components might be executed effectively. Unfortunately for Sony and Diesel (not to mention Wilson), there will be no 2 Blood 2 Shot as this thing was doomed even before it delayed its release to the weekend before the world shut down. This is to say that Bloodshot utilizes neither the appeal of its titular character nor does it do anything fresh or different with the time loop conceit despite having the hook that this time loop exists only because our villains repeatedly wipe a super hero's brain clean in order to use him to fulfill their own personal agendas. Wilson seemingly decided to try and replicate everything he's seen people do before rather than strike out on his own in any regard as Bloodshot doesn't so much seek to set itself apart from the pack as much as it does just try to fit in. It is in this quest for genericness that viewers might spot blatant rip-offs or "homages" to genre wizards like Sam Raimi and Michael Bay not to mention the fact that-like in his fellow super soldier's film-there is an action sequence that takes place on an elevator. Ironically enough, it's this elevator sequence that contains what feels like the only piece of inventive filmmaking on display. What's not ironic is the fact a movie that largely rests on a cyclical plot does in fact get old pretty quick. D

Right off the bat I'd like to acknowledge the fact I live in Hot Springs, Arkansas which is situated about forty-five minutes north east of Glenwood where writer/director and actor Clark Duke was born; his experiences in the area clearly informing his connection to and desire to adapt John Brandon's best-selling book of the same name. And yes, the climactic scene of the movie takes place on historic bathhouse row, and was shot about five minutes from my house in downtown Hot Springs National Park. I say all of this not to try and convince you of how cool I am (unless it's working, then yes-I'm very cool), but instead to make it clear there will be no playing favorites here simply because the movie takes its name from the state I've called home for nearly three decades and because I recognized a few locations. In fact, despite the title of the film Duke and his crew shot the majority of his directorial debut in Alabama rather than in or around the Little Rock area as the movie suggests. So while there is certainly a layer of appreciation and affection for some of the sites we see and the accents we hear, there was almost more of an eagerness to see these things serve as a backdrop for what is a genre of movie we're all very familiar with whether from the natural state or not. Arkansas pays plenty of homage to the overall tone of the state, especially in its flashbacks to the mid to late eighties as we're delivered the backstory of Vince Vaughn's character, Frog, as he belts out the Gatlin brothers and cruises past open fields and dilapidated barns in his Nissan Fairlady 300ZX Coupé. At one point, Vaughn's Frog asks a couple of his associates what they're up to in which they respond with a generic comment before summarizing the feeling as being, "asleep at the wheel of the American dream." There's almost no better phrasing one could have concocted to define the stagnant air of progress yet fierce commitment to maintaining aged ideals (some good, not all bad). It is in this kind of mentality that we find the best facets of Duke's film as he's not simply telling a story of the "Dixie mafia" and funneling said crime/drama through the lens of the south, but he's utilizing this contradictory air of the south where everything feels ironic without the slightest bit of intent to add specific tone to his crime caper. Arkansas, the film, although a story about drug dealers is mostly a story about two generations of men whose aspirations are only limited by the economic options of their environment and whose intelligence is only undermined by their (mostly) unassuming appearances dictated by that same environment. Full review here. B+

I Still Believe chronicles the true-life story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his journey of love and loss that looks to prove there is always hope. The film features Riverdale's K.J. Apa as Camp, Britt Robertson as Melissa Henning with supporting turns from Gary Sinise and Shania Tawin.

Writer/directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy) enlist Riley Keough in The Lodge-an A24 horror release-where she portrays a soon-to-be stepmom who is snowed in with her fiancé's two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.

Steve Coogan and Isla Fisher star in writer/director Michael Winterbottom's Greed in which the frequent collaborators take on the seemingly fun task of satirizing the world of the super rich.  


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