‘The Sea of Trees’ awash with dark poetry
Sure, “The Sea of Trees” (2016, Lionsgate, PG-13, $20) was booed at Cannes but don’t let that discourage you. A third-act swerve into sentimentality aside, the movie is full of dark poetry.
Matthew McConaughey stars as a despondent professor who travels to Japan’s Suicide Forest to kill himself. But he decides not to go through with his plan after encountering a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) in dire need of help.
As the men struggle to find their way out of the leafy labyrinth, the movie flashes back to McConaughey’s complicated relationship with his wife (Naomi Watts). Director Gus Van Sant not only captures the eeriness of the forest but he brings a rawness to the scalding scenes between McConaughey and Watts. Extras: featurette.
Also New To DVD
Imperium (2016, Lionsgate,
R, $20): While this hurtling thriller doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen before, it still manages to be a suspenseful dive into the heart of darkness. Daniel Radcliffe stars as an FBI agent who, at the urging of his resourceful boss (Toni Collette), poses as a Nazi in order to find the white supremacists who’ve stolen toxic materials that could be used to build a dirty bomb. Straightforward and occasionally very scary, “Imperium” will keep you on the edge of your seat. Extras: featurettes and commentary by director Daniel Ragussis.
*** What We Become (2016, Shout Factory, unrated,
$30): Zombies go international with this Danish horror thriller that looks at how a middle-class family named the Johanssons (Mille Dinesen, Troels Lyby, Benjamin Engell) deal with an undead outbreak in the ‘burbs. Despite a couple of nerve-shredding scenes, this suspenser never shakes off a feeling of familiarity. “What We Become” is particularly dinged by one-dimensional characters and director Bo Mikkelsen’s inability to sustain a sense of claustrophobia. Extras: none.
*** The Midnight Swim (2016, Candy Factory, unrated,
$20): After their mother’s suspicious drowning death, three estranged sisters (Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino, Lindsay Burdge) gather together at their family’s lakeside home to reconnect. After invoking the local legend of the Seven Sisters, the women notice strange things happening, including the appearance of dead birds outside their door. Writer/director Sarah Adina Smith aims to unsettle viewers rather than scare them silly but the end result is a confusing and poorly paced drama populated with characters who never make much sense. This one swims in the shallow end. Extras: none.
Gypsy (2016, Shout Factory, unrated, $15): There’s no musical that blends great tunes, humor and emotional fireworks as magnificently as this stunner based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (Lara Pulver). As Rose, the stage mother to end all stage mothers, Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”) is a powerhouse. Despite starting off on a bad note thanks to too-chaotic opening number, the actress quickly settles into the role, peeling back layers of a complicated woman who craves stardom for her daughters at any cost. Staunton also sells the quieter moments, especially a lovely duet with Peter Davison on “You’ll Never Get Away From Me.” Bravo. Extras: none.
*** The Captive (1915, Olive,
unrated, $25): Once thought lost, Cecil B. DeMille’s silent romance has been given a lovely spit-and-polish job for its Blu-ray debut. Set during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, “The Captive” stars Blanche Sweet as a peasant from Montenegro who’s unable to work her farm alone after her brother goes off to war. She eventually receives help from a Turkish nobleman (House Peters) who’s a prisoner of war. Watching this pair fall in love, despite being from different classes and on opposite sides of the conflict, is surprisingly moving. Featuring a new score written by Lucy Duke, “The Captive” is a major find for
silent film fans. Extras: none. *** Miss Sadie Thompson (1953, Twilight Time,
unrated, $30): Clad in a red dress, backed by a swinging jazz orchestra and lusted after by an entire bar full of Marines, Rita Hayworth practically sets the screen ablaze as she performs “The Heat Is On.” Now on 3D Blu-ray, “Miss Sadie Thompson” is a surprisingly progressive musical that pits the sultry Sadie against a hypocritical missionary (Jose Ferrer) who has the hots for her. In between discussions of morality and sizzling dance numbers, Sadie falls for a love-struck soldier (Aldo Ray.) Prepared to be wowed. Extras: commentaries and intro by Patricia Clarkson.
The Exorcist III: Collector’s Edition (1990, Shout Factory, R, $30): The second “Exorcist” sequel bombed in theaters but the thriller, now on Blu-ray, boasts some intriguing ideas about the nature of evil. It also expertly blends elements of a detective saga with a theological puzzle and a slasher flick. George C. Scott stars as a police officer who’s trying to solve a series of brutal murders that appear to be the work of the Gemini Killer despite the fact that the serial slayer was executed 15 years earlier. “Exorcist III” deserves a second look. Extras: theatrical and director’s cut, featurettes, bloopers and deleted scenes.
“The Sea of Trees” is now available on DVD.