After-Christmas offerings range from dramatic to humorous
This week, we begin in the Texas Hill Country:
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (***1/2) Rated R, 96 minutes.
A pastoral reverie disguises the dark cloudy nature of this drama from writer-director David Lowery.
A tortured Casey Affleck plays Bob Muldoon, an ill-fated, small-time hoodlum with big dreams but scant abilities. Jailed for 25 years for a crime he says he did not commit, he escapes a few years later, intending to return to his Texas home to his wife (Rooney Mara) and a daughter he has never seen.
An intense Ben Foster plays the lawman on his trail, and Keith Carradine is an avuncular protector.
Lowery jumbles his chronology to convey his near hallucinatory narrative, giving his film a deceptive softness.
The film has been compared to a Terrence Malick film, which is true and a compliment.
The DVD includes the 13-minute “making of” featurette “Untitled Ross Brothers Documentary,” three deleted scenes, a five-minute “behind-the-scenes” segment, a music video with Keith Carradine, and the complete, 85-minute St. Nick, David Lowery’s first movie.
Himalaya (***1/2) Kino Lorber gives a Blu-ray debut to this haunting 1999 film from director Eric Valli.
He chronicles an intergenerational feud for a village’s supremacy in the Dolpo region of Nepal, home to the the majestic mountain chain that gives the film a haunting beauty.
Using non-professional performers and the region’s inhabitants, the film focuses on an older man who loses his son in an accident.
The son had been destined to lead the village on their next dangerous yak trek to trade salt for supplies.
When another young man steps forward to lead the group, the older man takes it on himself to lead yet another group, setting off a dangerous competition during the fluctuating, temperamental weather.
Roadblocks on the trek as well as ample human drama elevate a gripping narrative played out under spacious skies.
Not rated, 108 minutes.
The new Blu-ray includes commentary, a 26-minute “making of” featurette as well as the Electronic Press Kit.
The Family (***) Robert De Niro continues his late-life blossoming as a funnyman in this humorous trifle.
He plays Giovanni Manzoni, a one-time Brooklyn mob boss. But after snitching on some good fellas even before the movie begins, Giovanni hides in a witness protection program along with his wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), young son, Warren (John D’Leo), and daughter, Belle (Dianna Agron).
They land in semi-seclusion in a small town on the Normandy coast, a place where everyone conveniently speaks English.
But the family naturally does not fit in, as the haughty Giovanni, like the fallen Lear, believes he “is not entertain’d with that ceremonious affection as you were wont.”
He’s not above beating up a shyster plumber or abducting an officious mayor who won’t listen to his problems.
Simultaneously, a gang of hit men track down Giovanni and his family, which results in a third act shootout that completely changes the film’s tone.
Tommie Lee Jones smirks his way through as Robert, the baby-sitting FBI agent in charge of the Manzonis.
Rated R, 112 minutes.
The DVD includes a 10-minute “making of” featurette and a brief segment on the film’s spicy dialogue.
Angel of the Skies (**1/2) The titular angels in this action-adventure saga set before and during World War II are the aircraft that the soldiers relied on.
A South African pilot (Nicholas van der Bijl) joins Great Britain’s Royal Air Force and experiences some chauvinistic hostility from other officers. But he acquits himself well.
In the meantime, his pregnant girlfriend waits for him.
Unfortunately, once in the air for several fighting scenes, the film’s special effects look ordinary and remarkably dated.
When a crew crashes behind enemy lines, the surviving crew has the usual encounters: with Germans, friendly farmers, unfriendly farmers and various others.
Entertaining enough if not particularly ground-breaking.
Not rated, 102 minutes.
Don Jon (***) Joseph Gordon-Levitt does triple duty, writing, directing and then starring as Jon Martello in this engaging morality tale.
He’s smart, young, handsome and a success with women. But despite carousing with buddies in bars every night, he hides his dirty little secret of being addicted to pornography.
He especially keeps it from his traditional girlfriend, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a proper young lady with a fondness for old romantic movies.
When she finds out about Jon’s weakness, however, it results in an unexpected showdown for all.
With Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Glenne Headley. Rated R, 90 minutes.
Also on DVD: Apparition, Last Love, Lovelace, Sweetwater, Vendetta.