Editor’s Notes: One Eyed Girl, Minions, Jellyfish Eyes, and Tabu are out on their respective formats December 8th.
One Eyed Girl
One Eyed Girl (Dark Sky Films) is a thriller about a man drawn into a cult-like sect. Travis (Mark Leonard Winter) is a young, mentally fragile psychiatrist on the brink of a nervous breakdown after the death of a former patient. His life appears to take a turn for the better when he meets Grace (Tilda Cobham-Hervey, 52 Tuesdays), a mysterious teenager who represents a secret church that promises salvation to even the most troubled of its members.
Intrigued, Travis joins the group and meets its leader, the charismatic Father Jay (Steve Le Marquand), who indoctrinates him into the sect’s often radical practices. When a series of tragedies befalls Father Jay and his flock, Travis must decide if his loyalty lies with Father Jay, the elusive Grace, or himself.
The performances of Le Marquand and Winter are strong and their roles well written. Australian writer/director Nick Matthews, rather than fall back on thriller flick cliches, paints their characters in shades of grey, keeping the viewer guessing and maintaining suspense as to how the two men will affect each other. The tone of the picture is deadly serious — almost frigid. There is no comic relief in this study of the effect of guilt and the search for inner peace. One Eyed Girl is Matthews’ first feature film.
Special features on the Blu-ray release include commentary with Matthews, writer/actor Craig Behenna, and producer David Ngo; and five behind-the-scenes featurettes on casting, music, production design, and the genesis of the project.
Minions (Universal Home Entertainment) begins at the dawn of time. Originating as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters, from Tyrannosaurus Rex to Napoleon. Consistently unsuccessful at keeping their masters, the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression. But one Minion, Kevin, ventures out into the world alongside teenage rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. The quest eventually leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock), the world’s first ever female super-villain. Their travels take them from Antarctica to 1960s New York City to “mod” London, where they must save all Minions from annihilation.
A spin-off from the Despicable Me films, Minions places the little yellow critters center stage rather than as supporting players and they simply can’t carry a feature film. They are not helped by a script that’s light on comedy. The movie gets points for its soundtrack, which consists of music by the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and other ‘60s groups, suggesting that the film is geared more to parents rather than kids. There are also numerous references to other movies, such as the James Bond films, Cast Away, and Ghostbusters, which the adults might appreciate but will probably fly over the heads of children.
The character of Scarlet Overkill is pretty cool. The Minions, however, are cute but nearly indistinguishable from one another, and this works against the picture. Kids respond to “star” characters like Mickey Mouse or Charlie Brown or Elsa (Frozen) or Princess Merida (Brave). Such characters are the hook that draws the viewer into the story. As sidekicks and supporting characters the Minions are fine. As leads, they fall short.
Bonus extras on the 3-disc 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include three new mini-movies; deleted scene; Around the World Interactive Map; the featurette “Behind the Goggles,” which traces the story of the Minions; and an in-depth look at the film’s animation. A Digital HD copy is also included.
Jellyfish Eyes (The Criterion Collection), directed by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, is a live-action children’s fantasy that takes place in a small town where all the kids have fantastical pets that they control with electronic devices. What the children don’t know is that the pets have been created by an evil organization as part of a mind control plot.
The creatures, ranging from a human-sized frog to a sprite with a huge metal box for a head, are more than a showcase for Murakami’s expansive visual imagination. They tie into the movie’s theme of how imagination plays a constructive role in child development.
The creatures are brought to life by a combination of puppetry and computer animation, but the overall movie tends to resemble a kids’ video game. Though each creature is unique in design and personality, their child owners are like clones of one another. As for the adults, we never understand the motivation of the caped, hooded villains. They, too, are indistinguishable from one another.
This strange, if whimsical, tale might confuse younger viewers. There’s no explanation of why the creatures look the way they do. The plot is unexceptional and relies on schoolyard conflicts that fail to energize the narrative. Endless violent fight scenes make the film unsuitable for very young viewers. The film failed to light up the box office in its native Japan.
Bonus features on the new high-definition digitally mastered Blu-ray release include a new interview with director Takashi Murakami; “Making F.R.I.E.N.D.s,” a look at the creation of the film’s creatures; “Takashi Murakami: The Art of Film,” a new behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the film; theatrical trailer; and a critical essay.
Tabu (Kino Lorber) is the last film made by F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) before he was killed in a car crash at age 42. For this film, he teamed up with Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North) and set out for Bora Bora in 1929 to tell a story of forbidden romance using Polynesian natives for actors. Expert diver Matahi falls madly in love with Reri just before she becomes their tribe’s chosen one to be sacrificed to the gods. Reri is now untouchable, off limits to all men. If she is seduced, death will come to her and her lover. Matahi and Reri run off together. The many hardships they encounter force Matahi to dive in shark-infested waters for valuable pearls.
Over the course of nine months, drawing inspiration from the picturesque landscapes and people of the Tahitian islands, the filmmakers fashioned an emotionally rich story of romance between a young man and woman as civilization falls upon their primitive island. The film was originally released in a shortened and censored form. This restoration is Murnau’s approved version in its most complete form. Flaherty withdrew from the project when he and Murnau disagreed on the approach to the film. Flaherty wanted to shoot a straight documentary of native life, Murnau wanted a scripted film. Though made after the advent of sound, Tabu is essentially a silent picture with visuals telling the story, accompanied by an orchestral score.
Special features on the Blu-ray release include “The Language of Shadows: Tabu”, a 15-minute documentary on the making and restoration of the film; “Tabu: Takes and Outtakes,” 26 minutes of previously unseen sequences; “Tabu: A Work in Progress,” 15 minutes of raw camera footage, with narration; and “Hunt in the South Seas,” a 1940 ethnographic short compiled from unused footage from Tabu.