Editor’s Notes: We Are the Flesh, Contract to Kill, Moonlight, & Rules Don’t Apply are out on their respective formats Tuesday February 28th.
We Are the Flesh
We Are the Flesh (Arrow Video) is a bizarre Mexican horror film that offers a grim portrait of humanity. A young brother and sister (Diego Gamaliel, Maria Evoli), roaming an apocalyptic city, take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit (Noe Hernandez). He puts them to work constructing a huge, cavernous structure where he acts out his insane and depraved fantasies. Trapped in this maddening world under his malignant influence, they find themselves sinking into the realm of dark, forbidden behavior.
Nothing is off limits in this film from writer-director Emiliano Rocha Minter. It’s a gory horror film that shocks for shock’s sake. There are intense scenes of incest, butchery, cannibalism, and blood spurting that will likely turn off many viewers. Despite these scenes, or maybe because of them, the film has the quality of a stream-of-consciousness nightmare, with disturbing, unforgettable images flashing before the viewer. It can reasonably be argued that the movie is pure exploitation. Yet there is artistry involved in the photography, the swirl of colors dominated by vivid reds, and its depiction of humanity’s basest perversions.
If you like formula horror, such as slasher films, monster movies, or psychological terror, We Are the Flesh isn’t for you. It pulls out all the stops and assaults the viewer with the most unsettling images Minter can conjure up. One thing is certain. After watching the film, you will never forget it.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release include a new video essay; original theatrical trailer; stills gallery; Dentro and Videohome, two short films by Emiliano Rocha Minter; new interviews with director and cast members; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork. The unrated film is in Spanish, with English subtitles.
Contract to Kill
Contract to Kill (Lionsgate) stars Steven Seagal as government enforcer John Harmon, who’s worked for both the CIA and DEA. He is investigating a terrorist plot that leads him and his team — consisting of FBI agent Zara Hayek (Jemma Dallender) and drone expert Matthew Sharp (Russell Wong) — to Istanbul. There, they uncover an extremist plan to use the smuggling tunnels of the Mexican cartels to bring deadly weapons and leaders into the United States. To prevent an attack on America, Harmon must turn two lethal forces against one another before his time and luck run out.
Shot in Romania, the film takes place in Mexico and Turkey and features a supporting cast of mostly Romanian actors. Seagal’s films are known for action, and lots of it. But this one hits a new low. The bargain-basement budget is apparent in nearly every frame, the acting is weak (to put it kindly), and the story itself is treated in a matter-of-fact manner. It’s generic action with minimal attention to characterization and interesting twists on a familiar plot. Seagal had his movie heyday about 15 years ago, but keeps hanging in, starring in generic action flicks in which he plays a larger-than-life character who manages to save the day. His recent pictures blend together with little distinction. “Contract to Kill” is no exception.
The widescreen Blu-ray release contains a making-of featurette and trailer gallery. A digital HD copy is enclosed.
Unlike any other film released in 2016, Moonlight (Lionsgate) is an extremely personal film. More than a coming-of-age movie, it addresses the question of how tough a person is supposed to be, how tender, how brave. Three stages play out in the life of a young man., and.
The young Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) lives with a crack-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) and looks up to local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who becomes a surrogate father to him. As a teenager, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is burdened with shyness, a sexual identity crisis, and bullying issues. He’s subjected to homophobia at school and must deal with his mother’s often desperate addiction. At every stage, Chiron says little, but conveys volumes. Sanders as the teenage Chiron is especially moving. The adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) has learned how to cope with his world.
The movie portrays its characters as human beings rather than stereotypes. Drug dealers are seldom shown on screen as thoughtful, caring individuals with a heart. Though the cast is entirely African-American, Moonlight is universal in its themes of family, understanding and acceptance of one’s sexuality, and the importance of role models. Director Barry Jenkins has provided an extremely thoughtful vision of love and acceptance.
Bonus extras on the widescreen Blu-ray release include audio commentary with director Barry Jenkins, making-of featurette, and behind-the-scenes looks at the movie’s music and location filming in Miami. A digital HD copy is included. The movie is also available on DVD.
Rules Don’t Apply
Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century-Fox), is set mostly in late 1950s Los Angeles. Aspiring actress, songwriter, beauty queen and devout Baptist Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and her young, ambitious, deeply religious Methodist chauffeur, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), both struggle with the weird proclivities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire they work for, Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty), who, at this point, has become an aviation entrepreneur, film producer, real estate tycoon, and occasional pilot.
Marla and Frank’s attraction to each other not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes’ Number 1 rule — no employee is allowed to have any relationship with a contract actress. Hughes’ behavior draws them both deeper into his bizarre world, and their lives are changed.
The period setting is interesting, but the plot meanders and lacks focus. Beatty’s Hughes has difficulty relating to other human beings, often stammering and reluctant to deal directly with people. Writer-director Beatty attempts to show us the odd, off-centered world of Hughes, a larger-than-life figure, known these days mostly as an eccentric legendary Hollywood figure. By focusing on a couple of “little” people in his world, the film takes us through the side door into the mogul’s strange world.
Ms. Collins and Mr. Ehrenreich (who was terrific as the singing cowboy in Hail, Caesar!) lack spark as a couple, undermined by routine writing and lack of on-screen chemistry. Beatty has assembled a first-rate supporting cast, consisting of Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Ed Harris, Oliver Platt, and Martin Sheen, but the movie never rises above an interesting period fable.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include a making-of featurette, the music video “Rules Don’t Apply” performed by Lily Collins, and a stills gallery. A digital HD copy is enclosed.