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IR BD Review: GRETA [Focus/Universal Studios Home Entertainment]

In playing the abject plot points of a thriller, the essence of the noir and gender roles always can play a basis in the plot. By changing the dynamics, the intention can become darker in behavior and motivated by different inklings of character. Granted the idea needs to be motivated but it also has to have the right actors making the progression work. “Greta” as a movie is interesting in its set up but gets a little sloppy in terms of its irony as it moves towards its conclusion. Isabelle Huppert gives a dynamic approach to a reverse sort of Hitchcock anti-hero/villain whose focus seems idealized but slowly falls into disrepair. Chloe Grace Moretz works in the same dynamic but in reverse with a inherent bravery that shows a lack of fear and focused intention. The ideology is understood yet the choices and decisions of each show a vicious nature and naivete respectively. However the want from both sides can and is misdirected a times.

Moretz’s character is completely correct in her response but also short sighted in her impact. All the characters see through the other’s lies which is why it is harder for the less experienced protagonist to outfox an older, more cunning adversary. Maika Monroe plays an additional key role in Moretz’s roommate and while her plot intuition and points are valid, her actions can be foreseen. Director Neil Jordan, known for his movies such as “The Crying Game” and “Interview With A Vampire” knows how to approach this kind of film with uneasiness but also with a sense of the macabre which made “Interview” such a dynamic film. Jordan’s films aren’t for all viewers but do approach the essence of human behavior in an alterior way. The way he approaches little details either in the way that Isabelle Huppert orders her wine or deals with her new dog gives the characters a sense of pinpoint accuracy without pure psychological definition.

New York gets a couple of moments though the main interiors seem to have been shot mostly in Toronto. While the film keys nto almost a “Rear Window” motif on the imprint of the initial trailer, its essence becomes more of a psychological thriller in the full viewing. The dark hues of shadows that are hallmarks of Jordan’s work are very much in play within the movies in the night time scenes. The wide shots in the entrances of the subway systems in New York also relay the claustrophobic expanse of the underground world.

The deleted scenes add some small elusive details that don’t summarily affect the plot but the aspect of the firing of Moretz’s character, Huppert’s research of her protege per se and a family member’s subsequent runaround in the legal system in NY do give a greater sense of the world and the requisite plot machinations. The “Enemies & Friends” featurette shows the essence of what appealed to the actresses from different perspective, not the least being creating a psychological thriller with 3 female leads that does not need a male focal point to help drive or resolve the plot. All said, “Greta” is an effective psychological thriller with a degree of tension balanced with formulaic structure using a different construct to propel its characters.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR Blu Ray Review: SICARIO – DAY OF THE SOLDADO [Sony Pictures Home Entertainment]

Following up on a singular film like “Sicario” is a hard prospect. The essence is that bigger isn’t always better but also the texture of certain films cannot be replicated. Denis Villenueve (who elected to make “Blade Runner 2049” instead of this film) had such a specific notion of the texture with its sheer brutality and overtones along with a protagonist point of view and an extended superstructure which made it extremely unique. “Day Of The Soldado” fares better than most sequels simply because the ideas behind it are even more prevalent than when the first film was made and even since this sequel itself was released in theaters with everything that is happening along the Mexican border near San Diego. The essence is that the two lead characters of Matt and Alejandro (as played by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro respectively) have to grow and be held accountable in certain ways for their actions. Of course, there is no way to parallel or even come close to the conclusion of the original “Sicario” which this reviewer initially stated in a way as a “reverse Scarface” after seeing it at the premiere in Cannes a couple years back. Here there is no true segment like that though one involving Alejandro in the desert is pretty wrenching and oddly enough sets another structure in motion that might be interesting to contemplate should the story continue. The director in Stefano Sollima, an Italian filmmaker who made the TV series “Gomarrah” on the mafia in Italy was a great choice but again is no Denis. However with original writer Tye Sheridan writing the sequel and completely understanding the machinations  of his world and Darius Wolski who has shot “Fight Club” & “Se7en” for David Fincher, the behind the scenes elements are up to scale. Even Isabella Moner who helped lead the most recent “Transformers” movie shows a definite range as the kidnapped daughter of a drug lord here and holds her own. The Special Features on the disc are succinct and very intuitive of the characters and what the film is trying to achieve from the locations and “making of” to hyperfocusing with the actors on what makes the characters tick. “Day Of Soldado” is not its predecessor but it does a good job in trying to maintain the bar.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR Blu Ray Review: MILE 22 [STX/USHE]

The integration of global cinema is finding the right balance that appeals to all corners while still remaining edgy. For most places, this involves moving towards the center and not necessarily to the darker elements. Director Peter Berg seems in his movies with Mark Wahlberg (who also produces) to find that interesting mix between personal story, political underpinings and essential practical action. Their previous collaboration: “Patriot’s Day” was more specifically encompassed with a certain idea of an American style response within the Boston Massacre in a town that is very close to Wahlberg’s heart. But like Berg’s “The Kingdom”, what their latest “Mile 22” does is push the idea of the edge of the zone while still embracing new ideas. While Wahlberg is the marquee star here, it is the breakneck pace of the film which allows not just him but the other actors, especially Iko Uwais, the star of the breakout Indonesian action film “The Raid” to shine. The fact that this film can operate on that level as well as the film Wahlberg is trying to make is admirable. Some of the facts get muddled since the script is somewhat scitzophrenic and trying to move too fast but the action is just as frenetic and almost overtakes what Berg is trying to do. At its core, “Mile 22” is a stopwatch action film; point A to point B involving the need to deliver an asset. However using different places and streets to its advantage is key. As shown in the bonus features (and in its initial release) part of the big street scenes were shot in Bogota, Colombia. Having been to the city for a wedding, there is so much possibility to its back and main streets (although it is set to mirror at Southeastern Asian fictional city). Bogota is used to a point but also as a angle to bring more film production despite the country having a somewhat checkered tourism past from decade to decade. The stunts are interesting but most of the material on the Blu Ray was originally created as publicity material for the original release so no new material is here though what is included should be fodder for any regular cinema collector. Another stand out is Lauren Cowan, who brings to mind a 2018 version of Bridget Moynahan (who starred with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell in “The Recruit” in the early 2000s). This reviewer has not experienced her screen presence as Maggie in “The Walking Dead” but her steel here hopefully bodes for more focal elements on the big screen as well. “Mile 22” is an expert exercise by two filmmakers wanting to push the boundaries but also understanding the need for entertainment, however hard nosed, within the audience.

B

By Tim Wassberg

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