Blu-ray Reviews: ‘AMERICAN HONEY’, ‘THE DRESSMAKER’ and Twilight Time’s November releases


Preston Barta // Editor

Rated R, 163 minutes.
Director: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough

A24 is one of the best film studios working today. It’s responsible for the awards-sweeping MOONLIGHT and upcoming 20th CENTURY WOMEN. Never do their films set out to make the big bucks with traditional material. They’re more about the art and unique voices. You know, what movies should be about.

The studio’s upcoming home release of AMERICAN HONEY won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival back in May and has the talented Andrea Arnold (FISH TANK) at the helm. Even at a run time that clocks in at nearly three hours, it had all the signs of being the next favorable adventure about wayward youth.

It follows the story of an 18-year-old girl named Star (newcomer Sasha Lane) who leaves her sad Oklahoma life to jump in a van full of adolescents (including international weirdo Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough) doing what they can to turn a dime, which primarily involves selling magazine subscriptions to the wealthy.

After intrigue kicks out after the first hour or so, what remains are the same pretty images we’ve seen countless times before. Repeated imagery (a lot of van riding) and scenes can be effective — just look at Spring Breakers or Richard Linklater films (BOYHOOD, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!) — but sadly, American Honey doesn’t offer anything to walk away and reflect on. It’s more focused on immersing you in its world, and that’s just not enough.

Extras: An interview with Sasha Lane and Riley Keough (granddaughter of Elvis Presley).

Rated R, 119 minutes.
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Cast: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving

While this Kate Winslet-starring drama has the appeal to make you want to pick it off the shelf and watch it straight away, THE DRESSMAKER is a true endurance test.

The story centers on a dressmaker (Winslet) who returns to her hometown to use her dressmaking skills to get revenge against someone who wrongfully banished her from the town because of some childhood crime.
That’s a bizarre storyline to get behind, and also feels incredibly familiar — especially if you consider the whole “someone comes into a town, shakes it up and pisses a lot of people off” type of narratives that have come before, like CHOCOLAT and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.

THE DRESSMAKER desperately tries to find a groove by being stylistically quirky and dark, but in the end, all the components of filmmaking (screenplay, casting, direction, etc.) fail it.

Extras: Photo gallery and two featurettes (“The Story” and “Designing THE DRESSMAKER”).

TWILIGHT TIME’s November releases

Last month’s Twilight Time (a retro movie restoration company) releases — available today exclusively on — includes 1956’s MOBY DICK (the must-own of the November bundle for its display of impressive visual effects, especially considering the Gregory Peck-starring whale chase story released 60 years ago), 1984’s MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON (a surprising moving and comical take on immigration, with a tender performance from the late Robin Williams), 1968’s THE BOSTON STRANGLER (a unique spin on the story of a serial killer, completed with a first-rate turn by Tony Curtis), 1968’s PRETTY POISON (a darkly comical thriller about finding love in a hopeless place), 1958’s I WANT TO LIVE! (let’s just say Susan Hayward completely deserved her Academy Award for her portrayal of real-life convicted criminal Barbara Graham in this stunning drama) and 1977’s GRAN BOLLITO (otherwise known as BLACK JOURNAL, this deranged film marks another true tale of a serial killer that’ll stick in your memory).

Extras: Each film comes with audio commentaries by various film historians and talent, isolated score tracks and original theatrical trailers.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.