12 years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, where they soon become the target of the dollmaker's possessed creation, Annabelle.
Vitals: Director: David F. Sandberg. Stars: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Samara Lee, Tayler Buck, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Horror, Box office gross: $101.613
Extras: Deleted scenes. Blu-ray adds "The Horror Continues,"
"Horror Shorts: Attic Panic and Coffer," director’s commentary, "Directing Annabelle."
The surprise hit of the year — no surprise, actually, if you know the work of director Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead," 2004; "Hot Fuzz," 2007; "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," 2010, and "The World's End," 2013) and his offbeat movies that draw in diverse audiences and great reviews. Here he tells the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway car driver in Atlanta who drives for crime kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) to pay off an old debt. Suffering from tinnitus, Baby blocks the noise in his ears by constantly listening to music mixes on iPods — and although he's absorbed with his music, he's the best driver around. Doc never uses the same crew twice, and the current crew — consisting of trigger-happy Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm), an easy-going killer, and Darling (Eiza González), Buddy's lawless girl — have little faith in Baby — or Doc. When their heist goes wrong, Baby kills Bats using his car in an unbelievable way, Darling is shot dead by the police, and Buddy goes after Baby with a vengeance. On the run from Buddy, Doc and the police, Baby's only hope is to get of town fast with his money and his waitress girlfriend (Lily James). The beauty of the film is its no-frills dialogue, extremely fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping action, and its music — the actor's timing (in particular Baby's driving) and movements are synced with the killer soundtrack — that has become one of the best-selling records of the year). It's stylish, thrilling, exciting, innovative, well-directed and acted. Not to be missed.
Vitals: Director: Edgar Wright. Stars: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, with Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx. 2017, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Action Thriller, Box office gross: $105.930 million, Sony.
Extras: "I Need A Killer Track: The Music" featurette explores how the film's phenomenal soundtrack dictated both the writing process and all aspects of production; "That's My Baby: Edgar Wright" featurette follows Wright's vision of the film from its inception two decades ago, to its ultimate realization on the big screen; "Meet Your New Crew: Doc's Gang" behind the scenes featurette; "Devil Behind The Wheel: The Car Chases" featurette examines the amazing craftsmanship and sheer determination that made the film's incredible car chases possible, from closing down Atlanta's interstates to creating eyepopping maneuvers for a variety of vehicles; "Mint Royale — Blue Song" music video, directed by Wright years ago for the band Mint Royale, showcases some early inspiration for Baby Driver; director commentary; filmmaker commentary (Edgar Wright and director of photography Bill Pope). Blu-ray adds 20 minutes of extended/deleted scenes; "Mozart in a Go-Kart: Ansel Drives" featurette riding shotgun with star Ansel Elgort as he works with the talented stunt drivers to become the ultimate getaway driver; "Find Something Funky on There: The Choreography" featurette: With every frame of "Baby Driver" set to a specific beat, it took precise choreography by the cast, crew and editors to create a cinematic dance like nothing that's been done before; "Animatics" featurette with over 35 minutes of the numerous pre-vis animatics developed by Wright; "Ansel Elgort Audition"; "Annotated Coffee Run Rehearsal" featurette on Day one of production, which involved one of the film's most elaborately choreographed sequences where every movement is carefully crafted; "Hair, Make Up & Costume Tests"; "Complete Storyboard Gallery."
Lurid for its time, Don Siegel’s 1971 Civil War drama “The Beguiled,” about a Union Soldier hiding out in a girls boarding school in the South near the end of the Civil War, was all lust and sex and anger, as Clint Eastwood's woman-crazy soldier jumped from one bed to another. It was definitely a male-made and male-dominated film; an emblem of its time (even with the shocking, female empowered ending). Sofia Coppola decided to redo "The Beguiled" — from the women's point of view — and has made a gorgeous, lush drama that stays close to the framework of the original film, and Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel “A Painted Devil,” on which the first film was based. But where the 1971 version was gritty, this version is cool, with pastel colors, beautiful landscapes and sets, and a sound design of crickets and birds chirping. As the film progresses, the colors darken — as if to signify that the arrival of the wounded union solder at the girl's school has totally disrupted the natural order of things. Yes, there is lust and envy here, and while some of the girls allow themselves to be taken in by the soldier's flirting — or start to act out their own repressed sexuality with him — it's all pretty innocuous until the soldier makes a fatal mistake and sets off the film's denouement. As Corporal John McBurney, Colin Farrell steals the show, alternating between passive acceptance of his role with the woman and his desire to control the situation; his outbursts of anger are truly frightening. As headmistress for Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies, Nicole Kidman is the solid center of the film, playing a devout Christian who — though tempted by the flesh — controls her emotions for the good of her girls — she's not a prude, or repressed, just realistic. The supporting cast — Elle Fanning as a bratty, oversexed young woman, Kirsten Dunst as a shy teacher who thinks she's in love with McBurney, and Oona Laurence as the youngest of the girls, who finds the wounded McBurney in the woods, are all top-notch. Like the South of yore it portrays, Coppola's "The Beguiled" is slow and languorous, building up its plot to an explosive ending that really never comes. It's beautiful to watch, but, as a filmic meal, it doesn't have enough calories.
Vitals: Director: Sofia Coppola. Stars: Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, Oona Laurence.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: R, 93 min., Drama, Box office gross: $10.576 million, Universal.
Extras: "A Shift in Perspective": Filmmakers and cast discuss how this version of "The Beguiled" is a departure from the novel of the same name and its earlier film adaptation; "A Southern Style" behind-the-scenes featurette.
The Book of Henry
Sometimes things are not always what they seem, especially in the small suburban town where the Carpenter family lives. Single suburban mother Susan (Naomi Watts) works as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty friend Sheila (Sarah Silverman). Her younger son Peter (Jacob Tremblay) is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything is Susan’s older son Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother — and, through investments, of the family — Henry blazes through the days like a comet. Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina (Maddie Ziegler), has a dangerous secret — an abusive stepfather — and that Henry has devised a surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape in thrilling ways, Susan finds herself at the center of it.
Vitals: Director: Colin Trevorrow. Stars: Naomi Watts, Lee Pace, Jacob Tremblay, Maddie Ziegler, Sarah Silverman, Dean Norris, Tonya Pinkins, Jaeden Lieberher, Bobby Moynihan.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Drama, Box office gross: $4.288 million, Universal.
Extras: "Filming The Book of Henry," "The Book of Henry: The Cast."
The Dark Tower
Based on the best-selling book series by Stephen King. The last Gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil collide in the epic battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.
Vitals: Director: Nikolaj Arcel. Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert, Ben Gavin, Claudia Kim, Jackie Earle Haley.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min., Action-Adventure, Box office gross: $50.430 million, Sony.
Extras: Blooper reel, two featurettes: “The Man in Black” and “The Gunslinger in Action.” Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, "A Look Through the Keyhole," three more featurettes: “Last Time Around,” “The World Has Moved On …" and “Stephen King Inspirations." A HREF="../vidxplan.htm">
A Ghost Story
Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. A critical success but ignored by audiences — this is a mediation on love, loss and grief and not a scary story — and moviegoers just couldn't make heads nor tails of it via the film's trailers. Worth a viewing. Vitals: Director: David Lowery. Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Brea Grant, Will Oldham. 2017, CC, MPAA rating: R, 92 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.495 million, Lionsgate. Extras: Audio commentary with director David Lowery, cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, production designer Jade Healy, and composer Daniel Hart; “A Ghost Story and the Inevitable Passing of Time” featurette; “A Composer’s Story” featurette; deleted scene.