Last Night in Soho

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Horror;
Box Office $10.13 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg.

Viewers heading into director Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho expecting to soak in more of his unique style and penchant for classic rock might be in for a bit of a shock when he veers a seemingly mundane story about a girl struggling with college life into an intense psychological horror film.

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) heads to London to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. New to the big city, she finds comfort in her love of the music and aesthetics of the 1960s — imparted unto her by her late mother. After a personality clash with her roommate, she decides to rent a room from an elderly woman (Diana Rigg) whose rustic style and strict moral code seem to suit Eloise just fine.

However, Eloise soon begins to have vivid dreams in which she lives in the 1960s as an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose own ambitions are quickly shattered when she’s pimped out by her potential manager (Matt Smith) to fulfill the sexual desires of potential benefactors.

When Eloise encounters landmarks from her dreams in real life, she begins to suspect she’s experiencing visions of events that really happened, and uncovering the mystery of what happened to Sandie consumes her life — even as those around her suspect she may be falling victim to the same mental illnesses that eventually led her mother to commit suicide.

The film starts innocently enough, with Eloise being something of a stand-in for Wright in terms of wanting to live in an idyllic version of the 1960s. Eloise’s seeming descent into the madness of reliving the tragedy of Sandie, however, makes for a very disturbing journey when all is said and done.

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The Blu-ray offers some rather extensive extras, including a number of in-depth behind-the-scenes featurettes. The 10-minute “Meet Eloise” focuses on McKenzie’s character and performance, while the nine-minute “Dreaming of Sandie” focuses on the performances of Taylor-Joy and Smith. The eight-and-a-half-minute “On the Streets of Soho” delves into filming on location in the real Soho neighborhood of London, while the 12-and-a-half-minute “Smoke and Mirrors” and the 11-minute “Time Traveling” focus on the film’s visual style, visual effects and re-creating the vibrant energy of the 1960s.

Also included are four animatic versions of sequences, running 13 minutes, plus hair and makeup tests, lighting and VFX tests, and some interesting footage of the rehearsal and filming of one of the film’s key dance sequences.

Viewers should also enjoy the two detailed commentary tracks, one with Wright and co-writer Kristy Wilson-Carnes, which is focused more on story development and the ideas that influenced the film, and a second with Wright alongside editor Paul Machliss and composer Steve Price, which offers more technical details.

In addition, there are six deleted scenes that run a total of just over nine minutes.

Rounding out the set are some of the film’s trailers and a five-minute music video of Taylor-Joy singing a slow-tempo version of the 1964 Petula Clark song “Downtown.”

Old

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Thriller;
Box Office $48.24 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Emun Elliott, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre.

Director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest twisty thriller offers a disturbing examination of the concept of time and the aging process.

The story involves a family on vacation at a tropical resort. As a bonus perk, they are whisked away to a secluded beach with a few other families to spend a day relaxing in peace and quiet.

Things quickly go awry, however, when the older members of the group begin to experience health problems, while the children seem to be years older than they should be after a few hours.

They deduce that the cliffs surrounding the beach are composed of a strange type of strange type of rock that emits radiation that speeds up the body’s cellular processes, causing the visitors to age roughly one year each half-hour.

Making matters worse, the rock walls seemingly have them trapped on the beach, as the ocean currents make it difficult to swim away.

They also learn that someone in each family has a disease or illness, and it seems they were manipulated into visiting the resort and herded onto that beach, a suspicion compounded when they discover they’re being watched.

The story is built around the notion that time is a valuable resource that shouldn’t be squandered, hammered home by the scenario of parents literally watching their children grow into adulthood right before their eyes. Another member of the group is a model to whom the very concept of growing old suddenly becomes the immediate horror she must confront.

While the premise is fascinating, Shyamalan’s efforts to explore it are somewhat uneven, as scenes of creepy tension are often undercut by clunky dialogue.

The Blu-ray includes some deleted scenes that are too short to have much impact, and a few interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes, particularly one that explores the relationship between Shyamalan and his daughter, who worked as an assistant director on the movie.

The same extras can be found on both the regular Blu-ray and the 4K disc.

Jojo Rabbit

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Comedy;
Box Office $33.31 million;
$29.99 DVD, $37.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language.
Stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates.

Writer-director Taiki Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit delivers what may be the most concise cinematic spoof of the Nazis since Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

The film has drawn some controversy for its flippant portrayal of the Nazi regime, but its dark humor succeeds mostly in demonstrating how irrational Hitler’s racial philosophies were. At its core, Jojo Rabbit is a screed against idolizing charismatic government figures who demonize others for personal power.

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Based on Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, the film tells the story of a 10-year-old German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who wants nothing more than to serve the Third Reich. Jojo has an imaginary friend in the form of Hitler (played with over-the-top aplomb by Waititi himself in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator), who constantly spouts Nazi talking points as motivation. At a Hitler youth camp, however, Jojo ends up accidentally blowing himself up with a grenade, scaring his face and rendering him unsuitable for most military duties other than running errands around the city as it prepares for the coming Allied invasion.

As Jojo recovers, he hears strange noises in his home and discovers a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the attic, though he comes to realize he can’t turn her in for fear of the trouble it would bring his mother (Scarlett Johansson), though she is fervently anti-Nazi and a supporter of the resistance.

Inspired by an offhand comment by his youth squad’s commander (Sam Rockwell), Jojo studies the girl, hoping to write a book to help Nazi officers better recognize Jews in their mission to remove them from Germany. Some of the tropes spouted by Jojo and the officers in his company rival Borat in their absurdity. Over time, of course, Jojo ends up developing an affection for the girl.

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Focusing the film through Jojo’s perspective allows Waititi, who ended up winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, to maintain a lighter tone for most of the story while veering into the more serious aspects of the subject matter when necessary, leading to a film that is both funny and emotionally affecting.

Waititi’s offbeat brand of comedy carries over into the Blu-ray’s bonus materials, particularly a very funny commentary track in which he starts off discussing the film by himself, but tires of that so he begins calling members of the cast to talk to about their experiences in making the film. It ends up being an interesting spin on the typical template for dispersing information in a commentary.

For a more traditional glimpse behind the scenes, there’s a half-hour featurette that delves a lot into the performances, sets and costumes.

The Blu-ray also includes nine minutes of deleted scenes, which is mostly extra footage of Waititi doing his shtick as Hitler, plus a three-and-a-half-minute outtakes reel.

Vudu, as it tends to do, offers a two-minute “Taika Talk” featurette with footage culled from other videos.