Editor’s Notes: Batkid Begins, Manglehorn, and Reign: The Complete Season 2 are out on their respective formats October 8th.
Batkid Begins (Warner Home Video) is a documentary that explores the intense outpouring of spontaneous support for a five-year-old child nearing the end of his three-year treatment for leukemia. The San Francisco-based Make-A-Wish organization was ready to grant young Miles Scott’s wish to be a superhero, specifically Batman, his favorite. Miles knew the superhero from the Adam West TV show, not the theatrical motion pictures that depicted the caped detective in a much darker manner. Miles and his dad had lots of time to bond over the show during the bleakest years of the boy’s illness.
San Francisco served as Gotham City for a day and the events grew beyond the resources of the Make-A-Wish foundation. Villainous plots for Miles’ Batkid alter ego were planned for the youngster to foil. Social networking played a vital part in obtaining volunteer contributions. The San Francisco Opera made the costumes, Apple volunteered its communications team to handle the press, acrobat/inventor Eric Johnson suited up as Batman to accompany Miles on his exploits, “Dark Knight” composer Hans Zimmer supplied music for the event, and San Francisco’s mayor and chief of police enthusiastically acted as if they were running Gotham City. Even though the events of the day are covered in all their make-believe splendor, director Dana Nachman diligently focuses on Miles, outlining his medical history, the way his cancer threw his family into a tailspin, and the resilience and perseverance it took for the boy to get through his treatment.
This is a hard movie to resist. The looks on Miles’ face as he is immersed in the world of Batman can melt the most austere viewer. The documentary is an affirmation of the kindness and empathy of strangers when they know it’s directed to a child who’s gone through tough times. There are no bonus features on the DVD release.
Manglehorn (IFC Films) is the story of a solitary man who has retreated from life but discovers one last chance at happiness. Reclusive small-town Texas locksmith A.J. Manglehorn (Academy Award winner Al Pacino) has never quite recovered from losing the love of his life. Fixated on her memory, he feels closer to his beloved cat than to the people around him and prefers to find comfort in his work and daily routine. He has closed himself off from the world and watches as the world moves on without him. He does maintain intermittent contact with his son, Jacob (Chris Messina) and takes misplaced pride in a former protege gone astray. He also establishes a cautious friendship with a kindhearted, lonely woman from the local bank (Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter). As this solitary man approaches the possibility of new love, he finds himself torn between living in the past and embracing the present.
Though Pacino as a Texan is pretty much of a stretch, it’s nonetheless enjoyable to watch the veteran actor exercise his chops in this character study. Things start slowly, as we see the title character’s bleak day-to-day existence. These scenes go on long after we’ve gotten the idea that he is lonely and self-absorbed. The scenes between Pacino and Hunter are more successful in allowing us to see what makes Manglehorn tick.
The structure of the picture is episodic, with several vignettes contributing to a portrayal of the central character. Pacino, unshaven, with greasy hair, inhabits the role, but the overall effect of both film and actor is underwhelming. Think of “Manglehorn” as boutique movie making — an independent film without Hollywood’s gloss that focuses more on people than cataclysmic events or superheroes.
The only bonus feature on the Blu-ray release is the movie’s theatrical trailer.
Reign: The Complete Season 2
Reign: The Complete Second Season (Warner Home Video) begins with Mary and Francis on the throne of a nation in crisis. France is rocked by the after-effects of the Black Plague, a disease that has crept inside the castle walls, taking thousands upon thousands of lives across the land, ravaging the stability of a country. From the ashes, powerful lords rise to carry out personal, religious, and political vendettas, taking lives and tearing at Mary and Francis’ commitment to each other and their people. Friendships are tested, loved ones murdered and betrayed. Meanwhile, a mysterious and deadly threat snatches victims from village streets and castle corridors, leaving evidence of savagery that looks like the work of monsters — mythical creatures who are the subject of nightmares but who walk among us doing the Devil’s bidding.
Reign is not afraid of launching several subplots in its first episode of the season, “The Plague.” Production values are still a major appeal of this medieval soap opera. Taking a cue from Game of Thrones, the writers have incorporated many characters, all with their own self-serving motives and capable of doing whatever it takes to achieve them. Mary has learned from past events and now knows she wants to reign with fairness and respect. She also wants to earn the respect of the nobility. When this doesn’t work out, she knows how to take matters into her own hands.
Bonus extras on the 5-disc DVD set include deleted scenes and the behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, “Playing By Her Rules: A Day on Set With a Queen and Her Court.”