Amsterdam

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

20th Century;
Mystery;
Box Office $14.95 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for brief violence and bloody images.
Stars Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Zoe Saldaña, Anya Taylor-Joy, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Taylor Swift.

Director David O. Russell’s Amsterdam may have been slammed by critics and flopped at the box office, but can any movie that features Taylor Swift being run over by a car really be all that bad?

Amsterdam tells the story of three friends from World War I who reconnect in 1933 when they are embroiled in a murder mystery. Christian Bale plays Dr. Burt Berendsen, who spends his time crafting cosmetic prosthetics for war veterans and experimenting with developing more-potent painkillers. He’s contacted by a war buddy named Harold (John David Washington) who now serves as a lawyer, regarding the death of their former commanding officer.

Swift plays the general’s daughter, who suspects foul play and enlists Berendsen to conduct an autopsy despite the authorities ruling he died from natural causes. After being warned to drop the inquiry, she’s pushed into the street by a hitman (Timothy Olyphant), who immediately pins the blame on Harold and Burt when she’s immediately mangled by a passing vehicle.

As the police investigate the pair, they reveal that the general was indeed poisoned, and set forth to clear their names. The clues lead them to their old friend Valerie (Margot Robbie), who they haven’t seen since the war, when she was their nurse helping them recover from war wounds in Amsterdam.

With her help, they learn about a plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a famous general (Robert De Niro) as dictator.

The story is based on a real conspiracy from the 1930s called the Business Plot, though the names of the real-life particulars have been changed for the purposes of this fictionalized recount.

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The film offers some engaging performances and glitzy visual style, but the meatiness of the fascinating source inspiration for Russell’s screenplay is lost a bit in the breezy way it tells the story, touching on themes of racism and corporate politics for good measure.

What ends up on screen is more of a muddled conflagration of eccentric characters and a hyperkinetic obsession with the trappings of the period, coming across like the underwhelming love child of Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers.

The lone extra on the Blu-ray is the 15-and-a-half-minute “Welcome to Amsterdam” featurette, a typical assemblage of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and filmmakers praising each other for their skill and craftsmanship. It’s not unearned, but there’s too much unrealized potential given the level of talent involved.

Possessor (Uncut)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Well Go USA;
Thriller;
Box Office $0.75 million;
$29.98 Blu-ray, $34.98 UHD BD
Not rated.
Stars Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kaniehtiio, Horn, Raoul Bhaneja, Gage Graham-Arbuthnot, Gabrielle Graham.

Director Brandon Cronenberg, son of legendary body horror filmmaker David Cronenberg, follows in his father’s footsteps with an absolute mind-trip of a sci-fi thriller.

The film deals with assassins who can take over the minds of others and use their bodies to commit the crimes for which they’ve been hired. The hosts are typically people associated with the victim, allowing them to get close enough for the hit while covering the tracks of those behind it. The hosts are then made to kill themselves so the possessors return to their own bodies.

However, those who possess the victims sometimes lose themselves in the alternate identity, requiring a strict regimen of psychological monitoring.

One such assassin is Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), whose increasing emotional detachment leads her to struggle to remember how to be herself when with her husband and son, while her thoughts are dominated by violent imagery. Her boss (Jennifer Jason Leigh) would prefer she didn’t allow her personal attachments to interfere with her job.

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The film is presented in a sort of alternate 2008, where the only change from our world is the possession technology — a covert team subdues the intended victim and implants a device in their brains that allows the assassin to control their bodies remotely using a VR headset.

Vos’ latest mission is to take over the life of a man named Colin Tate (Christopher Abbot) in order to kill his girlfriend’s father (Sean Bean), a wealthy CEO. The attack is brutal — an ingenious use of makeup and puppet effects. However, Vos has trouble forcing Colin to kill himself, and as a result he begins to take back control of his body.

What follows is a visual whirlwind of filmed psychosis, as the struggle between Vos and Colin plays out both in his head through grotesque but memorable symbolic imagery, and in the real world as the company attempts to contain him while freeing her.

Loaded with violence and unerotic sex, Possessor is not for the faint of heart. The film has been marketed as “uncut” to indicate it’s the unrated version that ran at film festivals and is considered to be the definitive version by the filmmakers, distinguishing it from a slightly shorter ‘R’-rated version that played in some theaters and is available separately on Blu-ray.

The uncut Blu-ray is available on its own and as part of the 4K Ultra HD combo pack. The 4K disc includes just the unrated cut and no extras.

The Blu-ray includes three of the films’ trailers, plus three behind-the-scenes featurettes that run under 15 minutes each — one about the story, one about the psychological themes of the film, and one about the visual effects.

There are also three deleted scenes running a total of eight minutes that detail more about the possessor process and its psychological effects.