A pretty wide selection of releases for May 11 and I’ll start with the one I enjoyed the most, Morgue. I’m not usually a fan of paranormal films especially ghost based films with jump-scares, but overall I did enjoy this horror flick out of Paraguay. It’s about a down-on-his-luck guy who takes a job as a security guard at, you guessed it, a morgue. He thinks he’s in for an easy night, but slowly things start moving, a body on the slab is creeping him out, a person walks in who shouldn’t be there, etc. Yes it relies heavily on jump-scares and things off camera, but I can 100% see Hollywood remaking this for the US. It reminds me of Rec and how how Hollywood remade that into Quarantine. The lead actor is great in the role and you slowly put together the pieces of why it’s happening to him as the film spills out its twist. If you are a fan of paranormal fans and don’t know about this one, I recommend it.
Second we have the biggest release of the week in terms of names, The Mauritanian. Based on a true story, the film stars Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Zachary Levi. Rahim plays the titular character, a man taken to Guantanamo Bay and held for years because they think he helped recruit the men involved in the 9/11 hijacking. He was from Mauritania and lived in Germany after fighting with Al-Qaeda against the Soviets. As he says in the film, he was on the same side as the US and is not a terrorist. His cousin was with bin Laden and called him from a bin Laden satellite phone and the US took possession of him and kept him locked up in Cuba. Foster plays a lawyer who tries to get him released and Cumberbatch is the US military lawyer in charge of prosecuting him. The acting is top-notch with Rahim receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Lead Actor and Foster winning the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe. It is a Hollywood film so you know which way politically the film will lean, but it does take shots at all those involved. I had never heard of the man’s story and you can probably guess what will happen, but the timeline, with how long it took, is pretty shocking. I’m not overly big into political movies nowadays, but the acting is very, very good.
Third we have Freedom. This German film is about a woman who up and leaves her family. She seemed to have a good life, husband, two kids, all the normalcy you expect at that point in time, but something drives her to leave without telling anyone. She makes her way to Bratislava hooking up with random men, befriending a stripper and her husband, taking a job cleaning all without really explaining why or telling her family she is alive. Her husband is a lawyer dealing with a case that involved an immigrant being in a coma and he leans on his coworker. Their kids are confused by all of it. The lead actress is great in the role and even though they don’t give a full explanation behind everything, I like that despite her being the lead character, they don’t necessarily make her out to be the hero. She’s shown in a light that isn’t positive nor negative. I respect that.
On the flipside of that is The Columnist. I’m sure words like “necessary” or “relevant” will be used to describe the film and I could not disagree more. It wants to be like Promising Young Woman, but in that movie you understand the protagonist’s motive. Here you simply get murder. The film wants you to root for the female columnist who hunts down people who are mean to her on social media and kills them, but what she does is simply murder. She’s a serial killer however you want to look at it. Don’t get me wrong I’ve rooted for serial killers before, American Psycho and God Bless America come to mind, but she’s a hypocrite here. She writes articles that are simply her opinion and over time the hate filled comments, tweets and replies have gotten to her. Sure, we all can agree online trolls are the worst, but she tracks them down and kills them for not being nice. She asks why can’t people be nice and share different opinions, but then murders those who have different opinions because they wrote bad things about her online. God Bless America is a dark comedy about a guy killing people who aren’t polite and this wants to be a dark comedy, but it did not work for me. I did not care about her and her cause. I’m sure others will love it though.
Next is the sci-fi flick Lapsis. It’s quite the odd movie. The whole plot involved laying cable in a forest area. There is deeper meaning to the movie involving working classes, money and big business, but so much time is spent watching the main character hiking and laying cable you kind of don’t pay attention to the narrative. His brother is sick and in order to get him help he takes a job laying cable for a big corporation. He’s given an ID that isn’t his which helps him make more money than someone who is new. He meets a woman on the path and they talk about the evil corporation and trying to take them down and stopping robots who will lay more cable if they pass you. I’m sure someone will find the deeper meaning in all of it, but it didn’t really work for me. The main character is a good schlub who knows nothing about technology and genuinely wants to help his brother, but do you really need to see countless minutes of people walking dragging a wheeled device to lay cable?
James Garner’s Tank gets a new Blu-ray this week. I saw it as a kid, but haven’t seen it since then. Garner plays a sergeant-major new to town and the army base. At a bar he clashes with a local cop (James Cromwell) and the town sheriff doesn’t take it lightly. He plants drugs in Garner’s son’s school locker getting the boy (C. Thomas Howell) arrested and Garner loses his mind. He takes his Sherman tank out to rescue his son and ride to freedom. It’s corny of course, but Garner is great in these roles. I’m sure it has a ton of fans who will love this Blu-ray that comes with commentary.
Quantez gets a Blu-ray this week as well. Starring Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Malone, MacMurray plays the leader of a group of robbers trying to make it to the Mexico border and stop at the abandoned town of Quantez. They aren’t sure why the desert has reclaimed the empty town, but they stop to rest, maybe eat and soon run into some natives and infighting. MacMurray has a past they aren’t fully aware of and one of the group members was raised by natives and wants to double cross them. There’s the young guy, the dame, the other guy who is tired of being told what to do, very classic western storytelling. I had never seen it before watching this Blu-ray, but both my parents remembered it from back in the day. This new release also comes with commentary.
Horizons West stars Robert Ryan, Rock Hudson and Julie Adams and is about two brothers, one trying to make an empire for himself after getting caught in gambling debt, the other brother becomes a lawman forced to stop his brother’s life of crime. The brother stockpiles land and gains enemies among them his father and lawman brother. It’s another film that is classic western storytelling and looks great. It also comes with commentary.
Giants and Toys is a 1950s Japanese film about different candy makers and the lengths they go to compete with one another. One company finds an odd looking woman to be the face of their brand, but her stardom grows bigger and they have a hard time keeping her in line. One company has a fire destroy much of their product while the other company remains on top. It’s about corporate espionage and what it takes to find out what your competitors are doing better than you. Japan had a run of these types of movies that show the dark side of marketing, corporate greed and backstabbing.
Now for some TV releases. A Suitable Boy is a period piece about 1950s India. There’s a main family and the daughter is the key character but other powerful families are involved. India was settling in with their independence, but there was political upheaval between Muslims and Hindus. The daughter is a free spirit who the mother is trying to arrange a marriage for like her other family members. She wants nothing to do with any of it and falls for a Muslim man who she hides early on in the show. A son is with an older woman who is a singer and he is a bit too out of control for his family’s liking as well. It’s 6 episodes over 2 discs and I liked it. I actually learned a bit about their history and culture. The lead actress (the daughter) is utterly charming and the show was an easy binge over two days.
Last we have Man With a Camera The Complete Series. It ran from 1958-1960 with Charles Bronson playing Mike Kovac, a former combat cameraman turned freelance photographer in New York City who could get the tough shots no one else could. It was an early ABC show and it looks a bit aged now because it wasn’t the highest budgeted show in the world then, but it did use some great camera technology for the time period. It was a drama so Bronson got himself into a lot of predicaments that the cops and newspapers needed help with. The show changed tone over time with it being more about him taking photographs for clients early on and later becoming more of a detective type himself. It’s not great, but you could see Bronson had something about him. It has some cool guest stars like Gavin MacLeod, Yvonne Craig, Angie Dickinson, and more. If you are a Bronson fan, this is a must own.