New to Blu-ray/DVD: I’ll Take Sweden, Midnight Special, Knight of Cups, & Going Away


midnight special 1

Editor’s Notes:  I’ll Take Sweden, Midnight Special, Knight of Cups, & Going Away will be released on their respective formats June 21th.

I’ll Take Sweden

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 1.55.59 PM

I’ll Take Sweden (Olive Films) stars Bob Hope as oil executive Bob Holcomb, a widower and single dad. He accepts a transfer to Sweden hoping to keep his daughter, JoJo (Tuesday Weld, Pretty Poison), far away from carefree, guitar-playing boyfriend Kenny Klinger (Frankie Avalon, Beach Blanket Bingo). But Bob doesn’t realize that Sweden is a lot more liberal as far as romance goes. Bob manages to fall for attractive interior decorator Karin Granstedt (Dina Merrill), but once again has to interfere in his daughter’s love life when she’s pursued by notorious Swedish lothario Erik Carlson (Jeremy Slate).

The 1965 film is an excuse for Hope to make wisecracks and sarcastic comments. The story is negligible and attempts to titillate with a milieu of sexual freedom but is constrained by the Production Code, still in effect at the time (it would collapse three years later). The Nat Perrin screenplay comes off as kind of creepy, with the father a little too concerned with his daughter’s love life. All good-natured innocence 50 years ago, the movie is pretty corny when viewed today. This is far from Hope’s best.

There are no bonus features on the unrated widescreen Blu-ray release.

Midnight Special

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 1.58.25 PM

Midnight Special (Warner Home Video) is about the relationship between gifted child Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) and his father, Roy (Michael Shannon). As the film opens, father and son, along with friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), are racing through the night. We find out they are fleeing from religious extremists and local law enforcement. Alton has supernatural powers that enable him to hack into encrypted government data, manipulate all forms of technology, and shoot light beams from his eyes that impart wisdom on their target. The boy must be at an unspecified location in four days and dad is dedicated to make that happen, even though the search for Alton has rapidly escalated to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government.

Though the movie is rooted in a science-fiction premise, it is mostly about the extent to which a parent will go to protect his child. We empathize with the plight of father and son as they attempt to hide from the clutches of those who want to exploit Alton’s abilities. The establishment is clearly the villain here, with authority figures as evil antagonists.

Filled with a sense of paranoia, Midnight Special is reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Though the latter deals with an alien invasion, it tells of the clever way outer-space visitors intend to conquer earth — one person at a time, by replacing human beings with aliens that use human bodies as shells.

Shannon, whose face usually suggests intimidation or authority, takes on a different kind of role as a concerned, loving father. Kirsten Dunst co-stars as Alton’s mother and Adam Driver plays an NSA agent. Young Mr. Lieberher plays Alton as a regular kid dealing with his powers in a remarkably mature manner.

Bonus extras on the widescreen Blu-ray release include character profiles and The Unseen World, a featurette in which director Jeff Nichols discusses the film’s premise.

Knight of Cups

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 2.02.31 PM

Knight of Cups (Broadgreen) follows writer Rick (Christian Bale) on an odyssey through the hedonistic pleasures of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he searches for both love and a sense of purpose. His quest takes him to mansions, resorts, beaches, and clubs as he struggles over complex relationships with his brother, Barry (Wes Bentley), and father (Brian Dennehy). Longing to break his self-imposed prison of disenchantment, Rick seeks adventures with six women: rebellious Della (Imogen Poots); his physician ex-wife, Nancy (Cate Blanchett); Helen (Freida Pinto), a model; Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a woman he wronged in the past; playful stripper Karen (Teresa Palmer); and innocent Isabel (Isabel Lucas).

Director Terrence Malick created his best work in the 1970s with Badlands and Days of Heaven. Since then, however, he has veered from traditional storytelling, replacing it with striking imagery but annoying voiceovers and the barest of plots wrapped in stylistic film flam. If Knight of Cups were a thesis for a film major, it might be tolerable. When you’re Malick, however, using the film medium to foist a curious, confusing vision on moviegoers is sheer self-indulgence.

Christian Bale, who has proved his acting ability many times over in films with a solid story and well drawn characters, meanders through the picture looking lost and out-of-touch. Malick has him look off dramatically at nothing in particular, perhaps in an attempt to convey depth and significance where there are none. Despite its impressive cast, the movie lumbers along, seemingly endless. With no real plot to latch onto and a central character who is more a philosophical statement than a real human being, Knight of Cups, rated R, is a disappointment.

The only bonus extra on the Blu-ray release is a making-of featurette.

Going Away

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 2.05.46 PM

Going Away (Cohen Media Group) is a romantic drama focusing on loner Baptiste (Pierre Rochefort), a gifted substitute elementary school teacher in the south of France. He’s adept at making schoolwork come alive for his students, yet never remains in the same job for more than a semester. Left in charge of Mathias (Mathias Brezot) one weekend by the child’s negligent father, Baptiste accompanies the boy to his mother, Sandra (Louise Bourgeon), a fragile woman who works on the beach. An erratic parent eager to make amends, Sandra welcomes Baptiste and her son into her bungalow. For one magical day, they are united into something of a family. But the peaceful idyll doesn’t last. Sandra owes money and her creditors are pressuring her. She is once again forced to flee. To help her, Baptiste must return to his own roots and to dark, painful secrets within him.

The film is partly about the attempt to return home, only to discover old wounds and bad blood. Director Nicole Garcia elicits strong performances and creates a moody setting for the characters’ journey of discovery. Sandra’s debt seems out of left field — a handy plot point to introduce conflict. The cinematography of the south of France is breathtaking, and is vital in sustaining the film’s atmosphere.

The only bonus feature on the unrated DVD is a theatrical trailer. The film is in French, with English subtitles.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.