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New Releases for Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Blood Orange

Genre: Thriller

Directed by: Toby Tobias

Run time: 85 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: VOD

The Lowdown: What an amazing six months for longtime genre icons.

First, Henry Rollins finally got a showcase for his superb talent in late-2015's “He Never Died,” and now Iggy Pop, a rock and roll pioneer with a spotty filmography mostly comprised of weird supporting roles and Jim Jarmusch films, gets a major, meaty part in Blood Orange and he absolutely kills it.

Blood Orange, the debut feature from writer-director Toby Tobias, is a slow, languid character study; a poignant treatise on aging, the true meaning of love and the benefits of open relationships; and an erotically-charged thriller that delivers in its wonderfully thorny third act.

But back to Pop.

At 69 years of age, Pop has the leathery, creased face of a man who has not just lived life but devoured it. He plays Bill, a wealthy recluse who lives in a breathtaking Spanish villa with Isabelle, a stunning woman more than half his age, who has the body and looks of a femme fatale but actually lives by a very specific code. The men she uses for sexual gratification, she only sleeps with three times. The men she loves, like Bill, she never lies to and is fiercely loyal.

Isabelle is more wealthy than Bill having previously been married to a millionaire business tycoon, a la Anna Nicole Smith, who left his entire fortune to her when he died. The tycoon’s son, Lucas, can’t handle that fact and he seeks out Isabelle at her remote compound to inform her that his father’s will has been invalidated by a court and he’s set to reclaim the fortune he thinks she stole from him. He also happened to have slept with Isabelle while she was married to his Dad, but they never did it more than three times, and he foolishly believes she might return to his arms.

Bill invites Lucas to stay at their home for a day or two and try to sort out his issues with Isabelle. He takes Lucas hunting and imparts his wisdom about relationships, old age and the meaning of life. Pop shines during these exchanges, truly relishing the opportunity to show that he is capable of bringing genuine pathos to a role tailor-made for his persona. This is his “Slingblade,” his “Gran Torino,” and he fully commands every scene that he’s in delivering a performance that, in a perfect world, would garner him awards-season recognition.

Blood Orange isn’t concerned about moving too quickly. It methodically unspools, allowing the serene landscape and the idyllic lifestyle of Bill and Isabelle to lull viewers into a false sense of comfort. As the true thrust of its plot is carefully revealed, Blood Orange pulses with energy and quickens its descent into more traditional noir territory without ever losing its ability to slyly tweak expectations.

I was transfixed and fully engaged throughout Blood Orange, which delighted me. It’s so nice to come across an unsuspecting little dark jewel of a movie that both surprises and excites you.

This is one to definitely seek out. Blood Orange is now available on DVD and most video-on-demand platforms.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Kacey Clarke is smoking hot as Isabelle.

Nudity – Yes. Gore – Minimal.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Grifters.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

The Witch: A New England Folktale (Lionsgate, 90 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Writer-director Robert Eggers has done something truly remarkable with The Witch.

First, he has fully cleared the high bar set for his debut feature by the early critical hype of festival screenings that declared The Witch this year’s “It Follows.”

Second, by fully immersing his film and cast in rural 16th century Puritan times, and demanding authenticity down to the distinct language and dialect spoken by settlers centuries ago, he has created a masterful slice of genuine horror that is firmly entrenched in its period aesthetic but echoes the current state of U.S. culture and viral chaos in a way that burrows deep into your subconscious and forces you to consider its modern-day implications.

The Witch also happens to be the best damn movie made in I don’t know how long about our collective fascination with spell-casting, baby-eating, forest-dwelling sorceresses so steeped in American cultural mythology.

Eggers achieves all this with an amazing, ridiculously young cast of actors, including Anna Taylor-Joy as Thomasin, the eldest Puritan daughter, who fully inhabit their roles as part of an exiled family forced out of its village and struggling to survive in the then-brutally harsh New England wild.

The Witch deftly toys with what it meant to hold steadfast beliefs at a time in history when the unknown and the supernatural seemed wholly real and incredibly dangerous.

The Witch steeps dread upon mounting dread by ratcheting up the isolation of the family’s settlement. It draws you in by slowly, carefully introducing its fantastical elements in a grounded, believable fashion that helps underscore how someone might have felt so many years ago when confronted with things that defy explanation.

It's in those eerie, unsettling moments that I believe The Witch so accurately holds a mirror up to today’s fascination and gullibility with social media and viral Internet rumors that can completely destroy an innocent life and reputation with a single keyboard stroke.

How else to explain how a child’s unsubstantiated accusations against a blood relative could immediately stoke doubt and disbelief in the heart of a parent.

When The Witch lets loose with the crazy, whoa boy, hold on tight.

Eggers is like a gleeful, malicious puppeteer in the film’s fantastic third act. By this point, The Witch is just firing on all cylinders. The woods themselves become an active participant, a vibrant evil character of terrifying uncertainty, propelled by Mark Korven’s deliciously sparse and unnerving score. You will believe that a goat can be the manifestation of pure evil. And the final, jaw-dropping image that Eggers uses to conclude his pitch-black fairy tale is so wickedly beautiful and powerful that I can’t help but think it will become an iconic scene in horror history that film purists point to for years to come as a reminder of the genre’s indelible impact on cinema.

Southbound (Sony, 89 minutes, R, DVD): I love a good anthology. The problem is there just aren’t that many good anthology movies that can maintain a consistent tone throughout while switching writing and directing duties between different creative voices for an average of four to five segments.

Southbound is a good anthology. It wisely focuses the majority of its action in and around a truck stop diner and interstate motel along a dusty stretch of desolate highway somewhere in the southwest.

Part of the reason the film works so well is the talented roster of directors assembled, which includes David Brucker (who co-directed 2007’s “The Signal”), Patrick Horvath (who co-directed 2012’s “Entrance”) and Radio Silence, the creative collective that helmed the best segment of 2012’s “V/H/S”). The fourth director, Roxanne Benjamin, also was involved in “V/H/S,” as was Bruckner.

Each of the segments in Southbound concern people who are lost, spiritually or emotionally, or those trying to atone for some perceived sin. And each of the protagonists finds himself or herself suddenly thrust into a dangerous and unfamiliar place, a kind of purgatory for predators, where the normal laws of society have no meaning or effect.

It’s not a particularly scary movie, but it is unnerving and there are definitely moments that will creep deep under your skin and stick there, like a splinter shard that breaks off, becomes infected and slowly starts to throb.

Southbound is one to definitely check out.

Not to be Overlooked:

Deadpool (Fox, 108 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): It’s raunchy, ridiculously violent and wildly inappropriate, and that’s just the title-opening credits sequence, which should go down as one of the most brilliant three and a half-four-minute-segments to come along in quite some time.

And, for the record, Ryan Reynolds, all is forgiven. You are hereby absolved of any guilt by association for Deadpool 1.0 in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and for simply being involved in “Green Lantern.”

If you haven’t seen Deadpool, the uber-hard-R Marvel Comics adaptation, and let’s be serious, not many people haven’t seen Deadpool, then you have no one to blame but yourself for missing out on one of the all-time best superhero flicks ever made. Reynolds, director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick absolutely nail every aspect of “the Merc with a Mouth,” Marvel’s boundary-breaking, fourth-wall talking, nearly invincible antihero. In the process, they also deliver the best Colossus ever conceived for the big screen (Colossus, for the uninitiated, is a mutant and member of the X-Men who can cover his entire body in impenetrable steel).

This is the kind of movie that just makes me giddy because it achieves everything my inner-12-year-old comic book-loving nerd hoped and dreamed I would someday see up on the big screen.

Also Available:

Dirty Grandpa

Kindergarten Cop 2

A Perfect Day

I Saw What You Did


Cop Rock: The Complete Series

The Films of Maurice Pialat

A Married Woman

City of Women

Hired to Kill

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