Blu-ray Tuesday: ‘X-MEN: APOCALYPSE’, ‘INTO THE FOREST’, ‘SWISS ARMY MAN’ and Criterion’s ‘VALLEY OF THE DOLLS’

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Preston Barta // Editor

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE |
Rated PG-13, 140 min.
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: James McAvoyMichael FassbenderJennifer Lawrence,Nicholas Hoult,Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee

Wicked explosions, chaos-hungry villains and zombie swarms — cinema loves its end-of-the-world movies.

The predetermined X-MEN: APOCALYPSE again focuses on an all-powerful mutant (a wasted Oscar Isaac) who wants to destroy the world to make a better one, and it’s up to the good guys (James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and others) to conquer evil before mankind is destroyed.

A pop-culture intake comprised of nothing but visuals is as harmful as an all-cheeseburger diet. Occasionally, ridiculous can be tasty and entertaining. Both THOR movies exemplify this, with their humorous tone and charming characters carrying audiences through their nonsensical plots.

APOCALYPSE, on the other hand, doesn’t further the development of this franchise or offer much to admire. It instead recycles devices from previous X-MEN films and hopes you’ll enjoy the ride for what little it is worth.

Read Courtney Howard’s review here.

Extras: Deleted and extended scenes, wrap party video, gag reel, audio commentary with director Bryan Singer (X-MEN, X2) and writer Simon Kinberg (X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST), photo gallery and an hour-long documentary about the film (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE UNEARTHED).


INTO THE FOREST
Rated R, 101 min.
Director: Patricia Rozema
Cast: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max MinghellaCallum Keith RennieMichael Eklund and Wendy Crewson

The idea of building a new life without modern technology is a scary thought.

What would we do without our computers, cell phones, televisions and power?

We’d have to return to our basic human needs, such as safety, shelter and hunting for food.

Just like the characters in INTO THE FOREST — a story of two sisters (Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood) who must learn to survive on their own after the world goes dark due to a massive power outage — filmmaker Patricia Rozema (MANSFIELD PARK) does a commendable job of making her audience feel just as isolated and unsafe.

This is one of those films not so much built for entertainment. While it is often gripping and terrifying, it’s primary objective is to put the viewer in the shoes of this particular scenario and cause them to ask about the concepts of humanity and family.

Perhaps there are other, more amusing films that delve into similar subjects, but none are as visceral or didactic as INTO THE FOREST. It’s a cold slice of reality that captures how traumatic events can shape a person’s character and defines one’s actions.

Extras: A making-of and an audio commentary with Rozema.


SWISS ARMY MAN
Rated R, 95 min.
Director: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

This beautiful little film may not be about the world’s demise, but like INTO THE FOREST, it centers on survival.

You really have to allow the ridiculousness of writing-directing team Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s premise wash over you. But thankfully — with its grand whiff of erection jokes and wonderful sense of imagination — SWISS ARMY MAN’s heart beats louder than its flatulence.

The story is simply about a man (Paul Dano) who is stranded on a deserted island with a farting corpse (a very good Daniel Radcliffe) he befriends.

The whimsical visuals and deep philosophical reflection may be too much for some viewers, but those who are open to new storytelling concepts will find themselves completely lost in this alive and moving tale.

Extras: A behind-the-scenes, a featurette on the creation of Radcliffe’s character, deleted scenes, and a Q&A and audio commentary with filmmakers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan.

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967): Criterion Collection
Rated PG-13, 123 min.
Director: Mark Robson
Cast: Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Paul BurkeSharon TateTony ScottiMartin MilnerCharles DrakeAlexander Davion and Lee Grant

Based on Jacqueline Susann’s novel of the same name, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is an outrageous and sad tour of three women’s careers in the most lucrative female industry: entertainment.

You have the unstable darling – Neely O’Hara (a captivating Patty Duke), the Marilyn Monroe-type – Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and the goody two-shoes of the trio – Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins). Through these women eyes we see that classic storyline of the rise and fall in the world of fame. We watch as they overcome pain, hardships and drug abuse, all while handling the pressure of everyday life.

Like this year’s THE NEON DEMON, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS plays like classic trash – a highlight reel of these women enduring mental breakdowns and swallowing their “dolls” (what they call their pills). As over-the-top and dated as the material is – given that the author wrote it during the ‘40s and ‘50s, and the film’s story is set in the year of its release in 1967 – it has much else to appreciate, such as the dialogue (look out for the pool scene), lush costumes and hair, and the committed performances (most notably Duke).

Note: VALLEY OF THE DOLLS released last week on Sept. 27.

Extras: Original film trailers, new featurettes with Vanity Fair writer Amy Fine Collins, a video essay by critic Kim Morgan (Doll Parts), archival interviews with cast and crew members (this feature is great), an audio commentary with Parkins and journalist Ted Casablanca, and a 30-page illustrated booklet featuring Glenn Kenny’s Essay “This Merry-G-Round.”

Also available on Blu-ray, DVD and/or streaming:

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL (our review), BANSHEE: SEASON 4, BEING CHARLIE, CONSTANTINE: THE COMPLETE SERIES, DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID, JOSHY, KNIGHT RIDER: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1982-1986), THE LAST KING, MIAMI VICE: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1984-1989), THE MIDDLE-EARTH THEATRICAL COLLECTION (THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT trilogies), THE MIND’S EYE, NASHVILLE (1975): CRITERION COLLECTION, PENNY DREADFUL: THE FINAL SEASON, POLICE ACADEMY: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (1984-1994), PREACHER: SEASON 1 (our review), PRINCE MOVIE COLLECTION (1984-1990), THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (our review), SATANIC, SHARKNADO: THE 4TH AWAKENS, THE VENTURE BROS: SEASON 6, VIKINGS: SEASON 4 and THE WAILING.

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.