This week’s roundup includes reviews of several new films in theaters and/or streaming, including a tentative romance starring Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline, “The Good House”; a documentary about the rock group Chicago, “The Last Band on Stage”; and a sentimental drama set in rural England during WWII, “The Railway Children.”
In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week
The Good House (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)
Not many actresses are as able to navigate the tricky, even treacherous emotional terrain of Hildy Good, an alcoholic real estate agent with a messy professional and personal life, as Sigourney Weaver, who explores every nuance—even finding some that probably didn’t exist in Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky’s direction or their and Thomas Bezucha’s script. Weaver even makes the problematic bits (like directly addressing the camera) work like a charm; her winning presence makes this equally toughminded and soggy character study a bit of a must-see. She is joined by her long-ago (“Dave” and “The Ice Storm”) costar Kevin Kline, who like Weaver is unafraid to display physical and emotional nakedness onscreen.
The Enforcer (Screen Media)
Despite Antonio Banderas’ best efforts, which are typically middling to begin with, Richard Hughes’ improbable drama about the brutal enforcer for the vicious head of the local underworld organization (Kate Bosworth, playing gleefully against type) who suddenly develops a conscience and tries rescuing a teenage girl from sexual exploitation—reminding him of his own young daughter—itself exploits its sexually charged scenario. The blonde Bosworth, here in a black wig, is a hoot as the nasty crime boss, but little else here is very satisfying, unfortunately.
The Last Band on Stage (Gravitas Ventures)
The Windy City’s own Joe Mantegna is the perfect narrator for this enjoyable trip through rock band Chicago’s storied history; director Peter Curtis Pardini focuses on the group’s fraught last couple of years after performing a final concert in Las Vegas before COVID shut everything down for more than a year. We see Chicago’s members either adjusting or not to life at home, not making music, not being on the road, and how they eventually get back in physical and mental shape to perform: first on Zoom, then finally at a real concert venue in the Midwest in the summer of 2021.
Life Is Cheap…But Toilet Paper Is Expensive (Arbelos)
In Wayne Wang’s disappointingly hit-or-miss black comedy, a man arrives in Hong Kong from san Francisco bearing a suitcase that gangsters have handcuffed to him so he won’t lose it before getting it to another mobster, all while assorted others swirl around him, displaying outlandish and antisocial behavior in explicit visualization of the tongue-in-cheek title. Wang’s 1989 feature has its admirers, and it’s certainly a spirited effort, but it’s loose and ragged, only coming into focus occasionally through the excess violence and crude humor.
The Railway Children (Blue Fox Entertainment)
The original “Railway Children,” released in 1970, starred a then-teenage Jenny Agutter as one of the title kids: fast forward to 2022, and Agutter returns as the grandmother of a village family taking in city kids during the bombings of the UK in WWII. Morgan Matthews’ sequel passes nicely enough; it’s too bad, though, that it mainly stays on the surface, rarely delving into the pathos involved for youngsters at such a fraught moment in their lives. Happily, the acting, led by Agutter and various young performers, is superb, which gives the dramatics more urgency.
Ten Tricks (Cinedigm)
Richard Pagano’s silly but amusingly adult roundelay introduces a middle-aged madam hoping to have a baby and several of her workers—both female and male—who are dealing with their customers, both successfully and unsuccessfully. Although an ungainly mix of smuttiness, alternatingly stilted and interesting dialogue and even an occasional insight, it gains a measure of stature from the performances, like the outstanding Brittany Ishibashi as one of the call girls and, as the madam, the touchingly vulnerable Lea Thompson—who, nearly four decades after her debut, remains an appealing presence onscreen.
4K/UHD/Blu-ray Release of the Week
The Lost Boys (Warner Bros)
Joel Schumacher’s horror comedy about young vampires terrorizing the fictional California town of Santa Carla is drenched in the year 1987 (the summer it was released), as the guys and gals’ big hair, the synth-laden score and smattering of pop songs by the likes of INXS, Echo and the Bunnyman and Foreigner’s Lou Gramm threaten to overwhelm its genuine smarts and funny/icky vibe. The cast is top-notch: Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann and Bernard Hughes as the elders complement the dynamic young cast of Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patric, the Coreys Haim and Feldman and Jami Gertz. The striking visuals look spectacular on UHD, which includes Schumacher’s commentary, while other extras—retrospective featurettes and interviews, deleted scenes, and Gramm’s video for his tune “Lost in the Shadows”—are on the Blu-ray disc.
Blu-ray Release of the Week
Leonard Bernstein Boxed Set (C Major)
This five Blu-ray set contains several of Leonard Bernstein’s European concerts from the last years of his life (he died in 1990 at age 72)—the earliest is from 1976, of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique,” while the rest are from the ‘80s and early 1990, when he led the Vienna Philharmonic in Jean Sibelius’ seventh symphony. These are typically idiosyncratic Bernstein performances, as he remains a whirlwind on the podium, even jumping up and down to punctuate the final notes of the Berlioz, but they’re all worth watching from at least an historical perspective. The fifth disc is a lovely tribute to the composer-conductor, “Bernstein at 100,” a 2018 concert at Tanglewood’s summer festival in western Massachusetts’ bucolic Berkshires, where the highlights are soprano Nadine Sierra as soloist in Bernstein’s “Kaddish” symphony and mezzo Isabel Leonard singing Maria in excerpts from his classic “West Side Story” score. There’s fine hi-def video and audio.
DVD Release of the Week
Pissarro—Father of Impressionism (Seventh Art Productions)
Although not as well-known as other contemporaries such as Renoir and Monet, Camille Pissarro gets a lot of love in this 90-minute documentary about his life and art, as experts from the art world discuss and dissect his importance and legacy. The film follows the straight line of others in the valuable Exhibition on Screen series through narration of his life and glimpses at his art as we hear about how he was thought of by his fellow Impressionists, who named him—unsurprisingly—“the father of impressionism.”