‘The Purge: Election Year’ aims for cultural relevance, falls short
You have to give the filmmakers behind “The Purge: Election Year” (2016, Universal, R, $30) credit for attempting to be topical by including a Hillaryesque presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell) who promises, if elected, to end the tradition of government-sponsored violence known as the Purge.
But for all its talk about class warfare, “Election Year” is little more than a carnage-fest in which disposable characters are shot, stabbed or otherwise slaughtered every few seconds. Skip it. Extras: featurettes and deleted scenes.
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Swiss Army Man (2016,
Lionsgate, R, $20): It’s easily the most unique movie of 2016 but it’s far from the best. Paul Dano stars as a man seemingly marooned on a desert island who finds salvation via a very flatulent and eventually talkative corpse (Daniel Radcliffe). Dano and Radcliffe enjoy plenty of trippy, surreal adventures as they trudge through the woods discussing family, food and how to pick up girls. Too bad “Swiss Army Man” runs out of gas long before the finale. Extras: deleted scenes, featurettes and commentary by filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The Innocents (2016, Music
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Len & Company (2016, IFC,
unrated, $20): After a public meltdown, a punk-rocker-turned-music-producer (Rhys Ifans) retreats to his country estate to decompress. But instead, he winds up playing host to his needy assistant (Keir Gilchrist), pop-star protégé ( Juno Temple) and dropout son (Jack Kilmer). This is Ifans’ movie and he’s priceless in a role that could easily have slid into stereotype. Despite a third-act swerve into melodrama, “Len” emerges as a sharp and soulful character study of man who’s not quite the curmudgeon he appears to be. Extras: none.
Wild Oats (2016, Anchor
Bay, PG-13, $20): Until it falls apart in the final reel, this buddy comedy is a delightful showcase for Shirley MacLaine and Jessica Lange who star as mismatched buddies having the adventure of their lives. The early scenes are the funniest as the pals survive the funeral of MacLaine’s husband and try to navigate their way through an automated customer service call. After a computer glitch bestows $5 million on the pair, they head to the Canary Islands for some fun in the sun. MacLaine clicks with a stockbroker (Billy Connelly) while Lange finds romance with a younger man. Lange and MacLaine are better than the material but it’s still a treat to see these two icons enjoying a bawdy escapade or two. Extras: none. Diary of a Chambermaid (2016, Cohen, unrated, 20): Benoit Jacquot’s adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s once-scandalous novel won’t make anyone forgot the versions starring Paulette Goddard and Jeanne Moreau. Still, this beautifully shot drama is a wonderful showcase for Lea Seydoux (“Spectre”) who brings resentment, vulnerability and a hint of melancholy to the role of a Parisian chambermaid angry about having to toil for a petty mistress and her lascivious husband. Forget about the huge gaps in the story and the pacing problems and watch Seydoux shine as brightly as polished silver. Extras: featurette. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971, Criterion, R, $30): Behind every great fortune is a great crime. No movie better illustrates that old adage than Robert Altman’s anti-western, a still-astonishing chronicle of small-time brothel owners (Warren Beatty, Julie Christie) who build up their business only to see it threatened by a mining corporation. Working with genius cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and making use of haunting songs by Leonard Cohen, Altman captures what life was like at the turn of the century in a small, dingy frontier town. Now on Blu-ray, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” is, at once, a heartbreaking romance, a stinging condemnation of greed, and an oater that subverts nearly every cliché of the genre. Extras: featurettes and commentary by Altman.