Cinemas & Home Entertainment This Week…
GRIM PICKINGS this week includes key dates to dismember with the gritty sophomore feature from THE BABADOOK filmmaker opening in cinemas while home entertainment delivers the genesis of a supervillain.
Writer/director Jennifer Kent delivers her sophomore feature, following her 2014 multi-award winning THE BABADOOK, and at its heart it’s a bold and bleak rape-revenge tale set within colonial Australia. While THE NIGHTINGALE is at times challenging to endure due to its brutal (yet not graphic) sexual violence, its impossible not to be engaged, this is a masterful filmmaker rendering a heartfelt and honest depiction of Australia in a time that cinema has largely ignored. Both plotting and pacing veer a little left of course during the film’s unnecessarily prolonged third act but ultimately its the sum of the parts that make THE NIGHTINGALE such a well crafted work of modern storytelling and historical representation. Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.
DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE
From producer Dallas Sonnier and critically acclaimed filmmaker S. Craig Zahler, the genre mashup maestro responsible for BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 and BONE TOMAHAWK comes this hardboiled and highly engaging crime thriller that packs brutally confronting violence, strong characterisation and complete disregard for political correctness into a mix of visceral action and soulful character study. Two police detectives (Mel Gibson & Vince Vaughn) who find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics is leaked to the media. With little money and no options, the embittered policemen descend into the criminal underworld and find more than they wanted waiting in the shadows.
Take equal measures of SUPERMAN and THE OMEN and you’ve got BRIGHTBURN, a subversive take on a super-villain tale. While the film’s basic story structure is born from traditional superhero mythos, it’s BRIGHTBURN’s approach to plotting that takes the narrative into dark territory, one that is more akin to horror than the aforementioned genre. At a tight ninety minutes, the film succeeds at both building the origin story of its principle character, Brendon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn), while delivering an onslaught of gripping carnage in the process. BRIGHTBURN’s tone is a genuinely unsettling one, ripe with suspense and shocking in its depiction of violence, in fact the film’s onscreen gore is some of the best we’ve seen on the big screen in many years. With a no holds barred script by Brian & Mark Gunn (JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND), assured direction of David Yarovesky (THE HIVE) and solid performances from Elizabeth Banks (THE HUNGER GAMES), David Denman (THE OFFICE) and Dunn (AVENGERS: ENDGAME), BRIGHTBURN has quickly become one of our favourite films of 2019 thus far! What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? Sony Pictures’ 4K Ultra-HD/Blu-ray & Blu-ray releases contain an insightful and engaging Audio Commentary with Director David Yarovesky, Cinematographer Michael Dallatorre, and Costume Designer Autumn Steed; 3x ‘Quick Burns’ vignettes hosted by Actor Elizabeth Banks, Producer James Gunn & Director David Yarovesky; two featurettes ‘Hero Horror’ and ‘ Nature vs Nurture’ that explore everything from the film’s genre-bending content and tone to the motivations of the central character.
Rock biopics are in vogue and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY co-director Dexter Fletcher (EDDIE THE EAGLE) helms this sometimes ugly but always magical account of Elton John’s life. Adopting a musical structure, ROCKETMAN distances itself from the aforementioned feature with its narrative approach, allowing anything seemingly important that’s gone untold or perhaps been conveniently repurposed to be completely forgivable…never let a true story get in the way of a good opportunity to break out in song! However the songs do tend to go on and on, leaving little time to bring about any genuine depth to Elton’s story, a shame given how fascinating a character he is. That said the costuming, production design, choreography and just about everything on a technical level is perfect, there’s no doubt that ROCKETMAN’s style is befitting of the legend that is Elton. The fantastical journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John, set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. Paramount Pictures’ 4K Ultra-HD/Blu-ray and Blu-ray releases contain 4x Extended Musical Numbers with introduction by Director Dexter Fletcher, 10x Deleted Scenes with introduction by Fletcher once again, 5x Production Featurettes ranging from Actor Taron Egerton’s transformation into Elton to a behind-the-scenes look at Taron and Elton’s studio sessions and finally a functionality to Sing-Along with 13x select songs from the film!THE HUSTLE
Aside from its gender-swap, there’s little in the way of reworking the 1964 film BEDTIME STORY from its 1988 remake DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS with the exception that THE HUSTLE’s approach is a lot less charming and a lot more slapstick than its predecessor. While the jokes don’t always hit their mark, there’s enough to keep one entertained and engaged for its rather brisk 94 minute duration, helped greatly by Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson’s strong screen chemistry and ability to riff off one another. Hathaway and Wilson star as female scam artists, one low rent and the other high class, who team up to take down the dirty rotten men who have wronged them. Universal Pictures’ Blu-ray contains an Audio Commentary with Director Chris Addison and three Production Featurettes.
POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU
Rarely video games make great source material for films, far too often the essence of the game is lost in favour of an entirely new storyline i.e. SUPER MARIO BROS, RESIDENT EVIL and so on however POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU manages to do things a little differently. While maintaining vital elements of the long-running gaming franchise and the right amount of new material, it succeeds in creating a refreshing, funny and engaging mystery that will no doubt appeal to just as many audiences invested in the gaming franchise as to those not so familiar with it. Shoutout to Ryan Reynolds for injecting the character of Pikachu with such an endearing, hilarious and distinct personality! The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe. Roadshow’s 4K Ultra-HD/Blu-ray & Blu-ray releases contain an Audio Commentary, a plethora of Production Featurettes, an Alternate Opening scene and Music Video.
Grim Pickings is written weekly by Jarret Gahan.