Editor’s Notes: The Initiation, Indignation, Band of Robbers, and Into the Badlands: Season One are out on their respective home entertainment formats November 8th.
The Initiation (Arrow Video) focuses on Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga), a college student and member of the Delta Rho Kai sorority who has a special ritual in store for her — an after-hours break-in of her father’s department store. What begins as a night of harmless college fun turns dangerous when, once inside the enormous mall, Kelly and her fellow pledges find themselves locked in for the night with a lethal intruder stalking the corridors.
Made during the era when slasher films dominated movie screens, “The Initiation” follows a tried-and-true formula: isolate a group of young, attractive people in a desolate setting with no means of escape and introduce a killer intent on wiping them out, one by one. For a slasher film, it has overly long, often unnecessary exposition before the bloodshed commences. Once it does, the murders are reliably gory and grisly. Vera Miles (Psycho) and Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead) co-star.
Bonus features on the newly restored Blu-ray release include audio commentary; “Sorority Saga,” a brand new interview with writer Charles Pratt, Jr.; “Pledge Night,” a new interview with actor Christopher Bradley; “Dream Job,” an interview with actress Joy Jones; extended scene; original theatrical trailer; original screenplay and production schedule; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork.
Indignation (Lionsgate), based on the best-selling novel by Philip Roth, is a period drama about Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), the bright son of a New Jersey butcher. He is dazzled when he arrives at Winesburg College in Ohio in 1951 by the picturesque Norman Rockwell-look of the campus and its sweater-clad undergrads appearing more like Hollywood extras than real people..
Overwhelmed by his disrespectful roommates, the demands of his parents back home, and the college’s requirement that students attend religious gatherings several times a year, and an intrusive dean (Tracy Letts), Marcus tries to acclimate himself. He is extremely articulate, but has trouble understanding his fellow students, especially the intriguing, troubled Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). When their first date ends in an unexpected sexual act, he is flabbergasted.
Director James Schamus captures the period of the pre-rock ’n’ roll 1950s effectively as students conform to the norms of a repressed society and aren’t encouraged to question or make waves. However, the film lacks sufficient dramatic tension to sustain its coming-of-age tale. Without Roth’s poignant prose, the movie is merely a glimpse of societal conventionalism as America gets back to normal life after World War II.
Mr. Lerman is very good, suggesting Marcus’ youthful, but ultimately catastrophic combination of intelligence, innocence and stubbornness. He delivers his dialogue with a suggestion of seething outrage beneath a veneer of politeness. Ms. Gadon never really connects with her performance of Olivia. Though she has has more than average drama in her life, Marcus finds her difficult to understand, and the audience has the same problem. Up to a point, we’re interested because Marcus is, but Olivia is not adequately explored — a flaw that diminishes the film’s overall effectiveness.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include the featurettes “Timeless: Connecting the Past to the Present” and “Perceptions: Bringing Philip Roth to the Screen.” A digital HD copy is included.
Band of Robbers
Band of Robbers (MVD Visual) imagines how Huck Finn (Kyle Gallner) and Tom Sawyer (Adam Nee) continue their mischievous pursuits as adults. Huck has recently been freed from prison after committing a minor crime. He reconnects with his old pal, Tom, who is now a cop who doesn’t exactly subscribe to the motto “To serve and protect.” Tom proposes that he and Huck assemble a band of robbers to plan a heist at a pawn shop believed to contain a fortune in gold.
Co-directors Aaron and Adam Nee borrow freely from the two Mark Twain novels, modernizing both characters and situations while retaining a connection to the originals. Divided into segments to suggest literary chapters, the movie features narration by Huck, and much of the dialogue comes directly from the original books.
Tom and Huck long for adventure and even though Tom is nearly 30, he still harbors childish dreams about being a hero and finding buried treasure. Becky Thatcher (Melissa Benoist, TV’s Supergirl) is a wholesome police officer assigned to work with Tom.
Band of Robbers, a blend of nostalgia, innocence, and the quest for risky exploits, works best for those who’ve read the Mark Twain books and will recognize references. Those who haven’t might regard it as an oddball tale of two immature guys enmeshed in flights of fancy. The brothers Nee are intelligent filmmakers who have dared to pioneer intriguing dramatic territory, resulting in a quirky comedy/drama about the joys of retaining wide-eyed enthusiasm well into adulthood. It may be the best time travel movie that doesn’t involve time travel.
There are no bonus features on the DVD release.
Into the Badlands: Season One
Into the Badlands: Season One (Anchor Bay), set in a feudal society centuries from the present, is about the spiritual journey of Sunny (Daniel Wu, Warcraft) and M.K. (Aramis Knight), a teenage boy who harbors a unique ability, and their growing relationship as teacher and student. Both discover their true purpose and decide to explore what lies beyond the borders of the Badlands, which is divided among seven rival Barons who control the resources necessary to daily life and enforce their rule with the aid of armies known as Clippers.
For decades, Quinn (Marton Csokas) has been unchallenged as the Badlands most powerful Baron, but the territory’s newest Baron, The Widow (Emily Beecham), has begun staging daring attacks on Quinn’s transport vehicles, provoking him to fight.
This action drama is an amalgam of martial arts films, and movies about dystopian societies, particularly the Mad Max series. Though the initial episode is drawn out and slow in parts, the fight scenes in subsequent installments are outstanding highlights and are staged excitingly, often resembling those in feature films. Rather than attempting to create a believable fight through editing, choppy editing and frequent cutaways, the show allows us to see the intricate choreography in longer, uninterrupted takes. It’s unusual, but most welcome, to experience this quality on a TV program
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray release include 8 behind-the-scenes, making-of featurettes that focus on the staging of fight scenes, production design, and a discussion of characters, and a digital comic. A digital HD copy is enclosed.