Editor’s Notes: Come What May, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series – Season Three, Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Edition, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, Burn Country, Nerdland, Little Sister, & The Eagle Huntress are out on their respective formats Tuesday February 7th.
Come What May (Cohen Media Group) takes place in 1940. To escape the imminent German invasion, the inhabitants of a small village in northern France flee their homes, like so many millions of their compatriots. Max (Joshio Marlon), a German boy, travels with them. His father, Hans (August Diehl), opposed the Nazi regime and was imprisoned in Arras for having lied about his nationality. Hans is eventually set free and sets off to find his son, accompanied by a Scottish soldier who is trying to get back home.
Though the film is not especially original, it is a well-crafted World War II drama focusing on the millions of people displaced during the German invasion of France. Director Christian Carion makes the story personal by focusing on the theme of family members reuniting in a world of chaos, but also tends to make it overly melodramatic. His depiction of atrocities directed against innocent people is gripping, and he takes his time developing characterization, so the pace is not what most people are used to in Hollywood films. Performances are natural and completely believable, and the often serene and lush landscapes contrast with the horrors of family separation and an unknown future under occupation. The atmospheric score was written by Ennio Morricone.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include a making-of featurette; “Behind-the-Scenes With Ennio Morricone;” audio commentary with director Christian Carion; interview with director Carion and Richard Pena, former program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and theatrical trailer. The film is in French, German and English, with English subtitles.
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series – Season Three
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series – Season Three (Entertainment One) is based on Robert Rodriguez’s original film and follows Seth and Richie Gecko as they continue to fight their way through the frightening world of “culebras,” the vampire-snake hybrids that control hidden empires in Texas and Mexico. Once the most intimidating outlaws in the land, the Gecko brothers made a run for the border two years ago to save their lives — and their fortune. After stumbling into a bar full of bloodsuckers and bandits, they encountered the vampire goddess Santanico (Eiza Gonzalez), joining her cause to settle an old score, and it won them a place in the culebra world. Now that world is on the verge of destruction as new enemies seeking domination gather to take them down. But, in typical Gecko fashion, Seth and Richie assemble an unlikely crew to take on the forces of evil.
Season 3 attempts to offer up a “monster of the week” as well as providing episodes with a multi-episode story arc. The approach works very well and continues to be both exciting and creative, even though is often slips into the realm of camp. New cast joining the third season are Ana de la Reguera, who will have a recurring role as Lord Venganza Verdugo, one of the seven remaining culebra Lords; Marko Zaror as Zolo, an Aztec warrior trained in Hell; Tom Savini as Burt, a retired marijuana-smoking demon hunter; and Maurice Compte as Brasa, a mysterious Rasputin-like figure who takes on the Gecko brothers.
All 10 Season 3 episodes are contained on the 3-disc Blu-ray release. Bonus extras include Season 3 Catch-Up; trailers; Inside the Episodes summaries; deleted scenes; audio commentaries with cast and crew; and several behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Edition
Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Edition (Lionsgate) celebrates the box-office sensation of 1987 starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. Set in 1963, the film takes place at Kellerman’s, a resort hotel in the Catskills. Seventeen-year-old “Baby” Houseman (Grey) plans to be in the Peace Corps next summer, so this is expected to be her last summer as a worry-free adolescent. Baby is bored by most of the older guests at the hotel. One night, however, Baby hears what sounds like a party going on in the employee’s quarters and pokes her head in to discover most of the hotel staff enjoying a sensual form of close dancing. Baby is attracted to handsome Johnny Castle (Swayze), a dancer in the show’s floor show, which leads to unforeseen problems.
The plot of Dirty Dancing is a pure formulaic tale of love from two sides of the tracks, but it has a raw energy that drives the film forward along with a great score including “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Do You Love Me,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” “Love Is Strange,” and the Academy Award-winning “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” The chemistry between Swayze and Grey is excellent, making for a believable romance. Director Emile Ardolino underscores themes of class bigotry, preconceptions, and suppressed desire in a coming-of-age movie that takes place during the last throes of America’s innocence. The civil rights movement, Vietnam, and political assassinations will all occur soon after the period depicted.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack include never-before-seen interviews with Patrick Swayze; never-before-seen “Happy 30th Birthday” salute with celebrity fans; outtakes, deleted, and alternate scenes; interviews with cast members Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, and writer Eleanor Bergstein; two filmmaker commentaries; and music videos. A digital HD copy is included. Also available is a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Collector’s Edition containing all of the above plus compact mirror, 108-page shooting script, vintage Kellerman Resort postcards, Kellerman resort brochure, dance step cards, original theatrical mini one-sheet poster, and “I carried a watermelon” wristlet wallet.
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (Lionsgate) is a musical tribute documentary about the musician and poet regarded as one of the greatest of the last century. Born in Canada in 1934, Cohen entered the pop music scene in 1967, inspiring generations with his unique personality and haunting music. Director Lian Lunson celebrates Cohen’s legacy by showcasing his music, poetry and life. Performances are featured by some of the musicians whose lives he has influenced, including U2, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Martha Wainwright, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
The film is filled with complimentary comments about Cohen via several talking heads interviews that tend to be dull and repetitive, and are a combination of old and contemporary material. The most revealing segments are those narrated by Cohen himself as old home movies are shown. His religious background — Jewish and Zen-Buddhist — is also explored.
The concert, performed at the Sydney Opera House in January, 2005, features Nick Cave (“I’m Your Man” and “Suzanne”), Rufus Wainwright “Hallelujah”), Perla Bertalla (“Bird on a Wire”), Anthony Hegarty (“If It Be Your Will”), Martha Wainwright (“The Traitor”), and Jarvis Crocker (“I Can’t Forget”). Unfortunately, some of the singers mispronounce the lyrics so badly it’s hard to understand what they’re singing. This is especially sad and annoying since the concert is supposed to be a tribute to Cohen. Cohen himself, backed by U2, performs “Tower of Song.”
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include audio commentary with director Lian Lunson, a conversation with Leonard Cohen, and additional performances of Leonard Cohen songs not seen in the movie. A digital HD copy is included.
Burn Country (Sony Home Entertainment) explores the difficulties of cultural assimilation. Osman (Dominic Rains), an Afghan journalist, arrives in Northern California following an unexplained exile, where he’s taken in by Gloria (Melissa Leo), a local no-nonsense police officer who’s acting as his host mother. Her biological son is still in Afghanistan and she’s putting up his overseas friend as both a favor and possibly as a proxy for her son who is not eager to return from his job as war correspondent. Osman gets a job with the local newspaper monitoring the police blotter, and he’s befriended by a town troublemaker (James Franco).
Rains is an interesting actor and turns in a credible performance as a man trying to acclimate himself to a new country and culture, but the script is all over the place and works against him. The town has a surprisingly broad range of corruption and violence. There’s a flirtation between Osman and an actress (Rachel Brosnahan) that seems contrived, James Franco turns in an over-the-top performance, and a mystery that surfaces never builds up steam.
There are no bonus features on the DVD release.
Nerdland (Sony Home Entertainment) is a feature-length animated film about aspiring actor John (Paul Rudd) and wannabe screenwriter Elliot (Patton Oswalt), slacker best pals who have seen their dreams of stardom slowly fade away. With their 30th birthdays coming up and desperation growing, they decide that in a celebrity-obsessed world, there are more ways to get famous than ever before. They vow to become famous by the end of the day, at any cost. With the half-hearted support of an eccentric collectible store owner (Hannibal Buress) and a pair of equally fame-hungry women (Riki Lindome, Kate Micucci), John and Elliot travel to Los Angeles on an attention-grabbing series of publicity stunts and failed heroics. During their exploits, they inadvertently become key witnesses in a high-profile crime that makes them household names. But their sudden fame is not what they anticipated.
Though the idea is interesting in light of the spate of YouTube and reality TV “celebrities,” the film is that rare entity — an animated film intended for adults rather than kids. The central characters are hardly sympathetic, since their dream of fame for fame’s sake is rather shallow. Failures at their careers, they look for an easy way to make their mark on society, resorting to elaborate adolescent-style pranks to put them on the map. The story works for a while, until the movie drags along more to fill out an 85-minute running time than to move along the narrative. Rudd and Oswalt strive mightily to make the tepid jokes work, but they are unfortunately saddled with a largely unfunny script.
There are no bonus features on the unrated Blu-ray release.
Little Sister (Kino Lorber), directed by Zach Clark, tells the story of Colleen Lunsford (Addison Timlin), a nun-in-training who’s sequestered herself away from her dysfunctional family and suicidal mother (Ally Sheedy). She has found a joyful purpose in community service with the Sisters of Mercy. When she gets a message from her mother that her brother Jacob (Keith Poulson) is home from the Iraq war, she returns to her childhood home in Asheville, North Carolina, discovering her old room exactly as she left it — painted black, its walls plastered with goth/metal posters. Her parents are happy to see her, but the atmosphere is filled with discomfort and awkwardness. Her brother, whose face was disfigured by burns received when a bomb hit his convoy, lives as a recluse in the guesthouse.
There have been many movies about dysfunctional families, some serious dramas, others broad comedies. Little Sister is mostly dramatic, but it does have humor, mostly provided by the always optimistic Colleen. Far from being a Pollyanna, she brings an air of hope into a family living under a bleak cloud of depression and sadness. Video clips showing Colleen and Jacob as kids tend to tug at our hearts, but the film is otherwise free of manipulative sentimentality. It feels authentic and resonates because we feel for the characters and understand their despair. Colleen is the catalyst who tries to bring normalcy back to a broken family.
The film is often like eavesdropping on a family therapy session. These characters are interesting and flawed, but it’s their weaknesses and fragility that inspire us to empathize with them. Performances are uniformly first-rate, and Ms. Timlin, in particular, is perfectly cast as a young woman reconnecting with family, resolving long-resented issues, and confronting her own family loyalty.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include deleted and extended scenes; home videos; excerpts from “Rock & Roll Eulogy,” Zach Clark’s debut feature; “pro-Star Entertainment” commercial; Q & A with Ally Sheedy and Zach Clark, hosted by Peter Travers; and theatrical trailer.
The Eagle Huntress
The Eagle Huntress (Sony Home Entertainment) is a documentary that follows Aisholpan, a 23-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the Mongolian steppes, the film is both breathtaking and visually exciting.
Director Otto Bell met Aisholpan and her family on the very day they were heading into the mountains to capture an eaglet for her to train. The film shows her as she trains her eagle and competes in the Golden Eagle Festival and deals with the often unwelcoming topography as she pursues her quarry. Drone photography and panoramic long shots accentuate the grandeur of the environment and underscore the insignificance of an individual within this epic landscape.
Particularly beautiful are shots of the eagle in flight as it sails magnificently through the air homing in on the arm of Aisholpan. Though the movie may be considered an anthem of female empowerment, it’s the spectacular photography that gives it distinction. Combining this little-known competition with a young girl’s personal story allows the viewer to see the various stages in training for this rigorous sport. A scene in which Aisholpan is lowered by her father down a steep cliff face to snatch a young eagle from its nest is a real nail-biter.
Bonus extras on the widescreen Blu-ray release include commentary with director Otto Bell and the making-of featurette “Capturing the Eagle Huntress.” Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) narrates.