Editor’s Notes: The Wailing, Laid In America, My Many Sons, The Presidents Collection, & Complete Unknown are out on their respective home entertainment formats October 4th.
“The Wailing” (Well Go USA) is a suspenseful thriller that takes place in the isolated village of Goksung, in the mountains of South Korea. Jong-gu (Kwak Do Won), a bumbling policeman, is overwhelmed by a rash of murders plaguing the town. The murders seem random and involve family members slaughtering each other, houses being burned down, and peculiar rashes and boils appearing on certain people. Hysteria breaks out when the cause is eventually discovered to be a newly arrived resident of the town, an unnamed Japanese man (Kunimura Jun) living in a remote cabin in the mountains. When Jong-gu’s young daughter begins to exhibit the same symptoms, he consults a shaman for answers, unwittingly escalating the situation into something far more dangerous.
The Wailing combines elements of several genres. It begins as a comedic police procedural, introduces supernatural elements, and then touches on themes of colonialism. It combines an atmosphere of anxiety with graphic gore and hallucinogenic images. The victims take on the appearance of zombies and have a new taste for human flesh. There is also an underlying mood of paranoia as the townspeople’s panic increases just as the murders become more and more violent. The shift in styles is so unsettling that when an especially grim scene occurs, it is all the more shocking as it develops, unexpected, from the narrative.
Bonus extras on the unrated widescreen Blu-ray release include featurettes on the origins of The Wailing and a behind-the-scenes look at its production, and the movie’s theatrical trailer.
Laid In America
Laid In America (Universal Home Entertainment) is a raw, unrated comedy starring YouTube personalities KSI and Caspar Lee, playing two British high school exchange students desperate to lose their virginity with the girls of their dreams during their last night in America. Their friendship is tested as they blunder through the night to fulfill their fantasies before their flight back to the UK. To have a shot at realizing their goal, they have to get invited to the class bully’s house party. They hatch an elaborate, desperate plan to get in, which leads to an unexpected adventure. They must navigate a minefield of problems, ranging from gun-wielding gangsters to deviant drug lords.
The film attempts to copy the style of such teen sex comedies as American Pie and Superbad. However, the script is dreadful, the humor unfunny, and the leads overbearing. Watching the movie is like punishment for a crime you never committed. The energy level is amped up to fever pitch in the hope of making the film come to life, but it never does. It’s just a series of dopey scenes, noise, and dumb jokes. Laid In America is not only distasteful, it’s awful.
The only bonus feature on the unrated Blu-ray release is a making-of documentary.
My Many Sons
My Many Sons (Well Go USA) follows the true story of legendary basketball coach Don Meyer (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop) who, despite becoming wheelchair-bound after a nearly fatal car accident, surpassed Bobby Knight as the most winning basketball coach in NCAA history.
The story follows a common theme of sports dramas — how a stricken individual overcomes a serious physical obstacle to take his place once again on the field of competition. Usually the protagonist is a young athlete, but here it’s a coach well into his 60s who is hit with a series of bad breaks — first the car accident that costs him a leg and then the discovery of cancer. The script is intended to be inspirational but is so formulaic that it dulls appreciation for the story. Sports fans might enjoy the movie because of the sports background, but others will find it routine and unimpressive.
There are no bonus features on the unrated widescreen DVD release.
The Presidents Collection
The Presidents Collection (Lionsgate) is an eight-part survey of the personal lives and legacies of the men who have occupied the Oval Office. Originally broadcast on the History Channel, the DVD set has been updated to include President Barack Obama. Covering 1789 to today, it provides highlights from the administrations of all of America’s Commanders in Chief. Based on the book “To the Best of My Ability,” edited by Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson, the series features rare and previously unseen photographs and footage, and fascinating insights and details about the Presidents from journalists, scholars, and politicians, such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, and former President Jimmy Carter.
This is an enjoyable and informative look at each President, covering major historical events during his administration and pertinent details of his personal life and background. In general, the negatives are downplayed, casting our Presidents as nearly perfect. In its favor, however, the series has a quick pace, interesting facts, and plenty of visual material to enliven the mini-biographies. The narration by Edward Herrmann (who played FDR on more than one occasion) provides authoritative commentary. The profiles are by no means complete, but they cover the basics and serve as a quick primer on the Presidents and what they accomplished.
There are no bonus features on the 2-disc DVD release.
Complete Unknown (Sony Home Entertainment) introduces a woman who calls herself Alice (Rachel Weisz) in an opening sequence that shows her in various guises ranging from magician’s assistant to surgical nurse. In the present day, government employee Tom (Michael Shannon) celebrates his birthday with a group of close friends in Brooklyn. He is startled to see a woman from his past, Jenny — or Alice as she now calls herself — who first denies ever knowing Tom. As the evening progresses, however, she reveals a shocking secret. After disappearing from Tom’s life twenty years earlier, she began to reinvent herself every few years, taking on a new name, a new career, and a new life each time. Giving Tom a glimpse of what life could be like if he lets go of the safety and security he has so carefully created, Alice asks him to make a life-altering choice.
Alice is the life of the party, but when Tom and Jenny/Alice are alone, their stories begin to unfold. Tom’s marriage is on shaky ground and Alice represents the promise of starting anew. While Shannon assumes the role of a normal, down-to-earth person — a departure for him — Ms. Weisz has the tough task of representing a free spirit with no ties and the ability to become a new person whenever the mood strikes. The dialogue between them is often overly philosophic, better suited to a stage play. The ultimate question raised by the script is, “Is it better to live a life free of obligation, with no attachments, or to follow a predictable, stable path?” Because the film lacks a strong plot, the project comes off as a fantasy exploration of “What if…?” rather than a story of real people.
The sole bonus feature on the R-rated widescreen DVD is commentary with director Joshua Marston.