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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Antlers, Zeroes and Ones, The Unhealer, Whitstable Pearl and more

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Zeroes and Ones

Antlers

What happens when you want to make an A24 horror film but A24 doesn’t show up? You turn to Fox Searchlight’s new horror outing, Antlers. For those of you unfamiliar, A24 makes incredibly moody, atmospheric, and overrated horror movies that all feel stylistically exactly the same (think Hereditary, Midsommar, The Witch, etc.) and of which I am most decidedly not a fan. Well, Antlers really wants to be an A24 film. Ostensibly the story of a small town in Oregon, and the teacher and her young student who face off against a primal elemental monster, the film is exceptionally quiet, except when it forces unnecessarily loud noises on you in order to manufacture scares. It’s slow and humorless, and features characters who never once smile or talk like real people. It also likes to set up scenes that leave you wondering what the hell is even happening and then slowly dole out explanations that aren’t all that interesting. On top of all that, the film is really dark. Not just in tone, but also in that “I can’t see a damn thing that’s happening on the screen!” kind of way. So… yay. If that sounds like your thing, I guess give Antlers a try. Me, I wasn’t a fan.

Zeroes and Ones

Ethan Hawke stars in this new film from director Abel Ferrara, who’s not exactly known for making the most mainstream fare out there. The film’s description sounds pretty straightforward: “An American soldier stationed in Rome with the Vatican blown up, embarks on a hero’s journey to uncover and defend against an unknown enemy threatening the entire world.” However, the film is anything but straightforward. Instead, it’s a weird trip of a movie, with a twin brother, numerous scenes that are cryptic at best, some meta moments with actors and filmmakers, drug use, and more. I’ve never really been a fan of the few Ferrara films I’ve seen, and I can’t say this one changed my mind at all.

The Unhealer

Elijah Nelson takes the lead role but supporting actors Natasha Henstridge, Lance Henriksen, and Adam Beach take up all the real estate on the cover of The Unhealer, a fun new horror thriller that doesn’t pull any punches. When a bullied high school student accidentally gains supernatural powers, he begins to seek revenge on the bullies that accidentally killed someone close to him. From there, things kick into overdrive, with no small amount of gore and killings to fuel the proceedings. The film also has a black sense of humor, giving it a unique feel that sets it apart from a lot of what passes for horror genre outings these days. The film has some flaws and it’s clearly a lower-budgeted affair, but by and large I think horror fans will enjoy it.

For the Love of Jason: Series 1

This DVD collection compiles the first season of For The Love of Jason, a new show on UMC, or the Urban Media Channel. UMC has been bringing out a number of new series but is starting them all off small so far, giving us mostly six or eight episode seasons. Over the course of six episodes here, we meet Jason, an African-American thirtysomethibng dealing with… well, life. It’s not a complicated premise for a show; we see him deal with dating, work, family, and all the usual pressures that come with being in your thirties. Trell Woodbury is quite good in the lead role (he also wrote many of the episodes), and the show has a strong supporting cast that makes this more of an ensemble show with a number of characters rather than focusing solely on the title character. It’s a solid enough dramedy that will likely gain fans as it continues.

Whitstable Pearl

Acorn TV specializes in bringing us TV offerings from the UK (as well as a few other locales around the world) and its latest offering is Whitstable Pearl: Season One, a cozy mystery series set in a coastal English town. Based on the novels of Julie Wassmer, the show follows Pearl Nolan, a one-time police officer and now-restarauteur who ends up solving mysteries in her small town. There are new mysteries every episode, but there’s also a story through line that carries through all the episodes until it’s wrapped up in the season finale. Lead actor Kerry Goodman is outstanding and she carries the show well, and she plays terrifically off of Howard Charles as a surly police officer who ends up investigating the same cases as Pearl. It’s nothing terribly original, but if you like a good mystery show with a charming locale and enjoyable characters, check out Whitstable Pearl.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Hinterland: The Complete Series – Also from Acorn Media this week is a new 7-disc collection of the hit mystery show from the UK called Hinterland, which collects all 13 episodes (three seasons’ worth) of feature-length mysteries (each episode is 90 minutes long). The show focuses on police detective Tom Mathias, who — of course — has some personal demons driving him. In addition to murders, he often investigates cases with missing children, so this isn’t exactly a light or fun show. It’s an intense mystery series with complex characters and a dark undercurrent. It’s quite well made, and there isn’t a bad performance to be found anywhere, even if it’s a little more serious of a show than I usually get invested in. Fans of mystery shows who aren’t afraid of a little bit of tougher material will definitely find a lot to like here.
  • Atlanta Braves World Series Champions 2021: The Movie – Fans of the Atlanta Braves or Major League Baseball in general will want to pick up this new 2021 World Series film. While there’s a more complete eight-disc set that gives you every single game of the world series, this 90-minute film lets you relive the Braves’ journey to their exciting championship in a year where sports were anything but guaranteed. It’s narrated by rapper/actor Ludacris, and it boils down all the excitement of their playoff run and the World Series games into a thrilling narrative journey. Honestly, I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I like these World Series films a lot because you get all the best moments without having to sit through a half dozen actual baseball games. This is a must-have for die-hard fans of the Braves!
  • The Gardener – This is one of those movies that’s hard to find much to say about, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a solid B-movie action thriller that takes a million different action flick tropes and combines them into one movie. Charles Bronson lookalike Robert Bronzi in the lead role? Check. Bad guys wearing creepy masks breaking into a home? Check. Seemingly unassuming gardener character who secretly has mad fighting skills? Check. Cheesy dialogue? Check. Fun action? Check. I mean, it’s all there. It’s an easy way to kill 90 minutes and then forget your ever saw it. And sometimes that’s exactly what you want.
  • Roh – This new Malaysian horror film (which apparently means “Soul” in Malaysian) was apparently the country’s submission for Best International Film at the 2020 Academy Awards. It didn’t win anything (I don’t believe it was even nominated), but it says something about the quality of the film that this was the one they chose to submit. The film follows a mother and her young son and daughter who live in the woods (the film is set at an unspecified time, but it’s clearly in the past) who are visited by a bedraggled young girl, seemingly an orphan. Of course, anytime you come across a little girl wandering by herself in an Asian forest, you know nothing good is going to happen, and Roh doesn’t challenge that convention. Like some of the A24 films I mentioned above, this is one of those movies that uses long bouts of silence as well as mood and atmosphere rather than excessive gore and jump scares. It’s certainly effective in creating a sense of creeping dread. Did I like the film? Honestly, not entirely, but I didn’t dislike it, either. I can appreciate it as a well-made work from a first-time writer/director, and I can see where a lot of horror fans will dig it.

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