Digital Week - January 15th
Blu-rays of the Week Halloween (Universal) Forty years after the original slaughter by Michael Myers, original survivor Laurie Strode—now a grandmother—always felt he would return to finish her off: now that he’s (improbably) escaped from prison, will her own paranoid behavior (learning how to shoot and booby-trapping her home) help her, her daughter and her granddaughter survive another attack? This belated sequel disappoints mainly because David Gordon Green directs only a few sequences interestingly; the rest are familiar cookie-cutter slasher movie moments. Jamie Lee Curtis is in fine form, but the killings are uninventive (lone exception: a quick knifing in front of a living room window) and even original director John Carpenter’s score is a trite throwback to the dull sounds of yesteryear. There’s a solid hi-def transfer; extras include deleted and extended scenes and several featurettes. Madeline’s Madeline (Oscilloscope) A stunning performance by newcomer Helena Howard brilliantly anchors Josephine Decker’s alternately marvelous and frustrating character study about a teenager in a theater troupe whose personal and acting lives intertwine. Nearly as good as Howard are Miranda July as her single mom and the always underrated Molly Parker as the troupe’s director, and Decker insightfully shows how these women navigate emotional bumpy terrain, but her visual tricks remain off-putting and opaque rather than illuminating and urgent. The hi-def transfer looks great; extras comprise a Decker interview, deleted scenes, rehearsal footage and the film’s dazzling trailer. DVDs of the Week Eating Animals (Sundance Selects) The U.S. (and the world) has turned to factory farming in order to sate the enormous appetites of our growing population since the 1970s, and Christopher Quinn’s documentary—based on Jonathan Safer Foer’s book—is an urgent expose into the underhanded ways that such methods are gaining traction with the tacit approval of the government. Narrated by Natalie Portman, the film also shows the small but real pushback by farmers who have decided not to ruin the environment and our very lives by trying humane and ethical practices. Extras are two deleted scenes and a short Foer interview. Far from the Tree (Sundance Selects) Based on a book by Andrew Solomon, whose being “different” from his family led to his parents being unable to deal with his homosexuality, Rachel Dretzin’s touching documentary explores with extreme tact how several “different” people interact with their loved ones and others. There’s a 41-year-old man with down syndrome; an autistic teenage boy who does not speak; a dwarf couple hoping to have a child; and a young man who murdered a young boy. The interviews with these people and family members are done so artfully and intimately that the emotions can’t help but spill out, making this essential for anyone with an ounce of empathy. Extras are deleted scenes.