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August '23 Digital Week IV

In-Theater Releases of the Week 
Liam Neeson is back but he’s not better than ever: this routine remake of a Spanish thriller about a financial guru who is trapped with his children in his car with bombs under their seats has moments of tension and excitement, but mostly it’s Neeson barking at his kids, soon-to-be ex-wife, the bomber, and the cops as he tries to find a way to survive.
Nimród Antal directs with a sledgehammer, and the final twist unmasking the villain is patently ridiculous. While Embeth Davidtz is wasted as Neeson’s wife, their teenage kids are enacted persuasively by Jack Champion and Lilly Aspell.
Blue Box 
(Norma Productions) 
In Michal Weits’ authoritative documentary, the director matter-of-factly rattles the skeletons in her country’s—and family’s—closet by revealing the painful truths behind the actions of her great-grandfather Yosef Weitz, one of the leaders of the Jewish National Fund, which bought up much Palestinian land that led to Arab resistance and his own prescient prediction that Jews and Arabs would not be able to live together.
Using a treasure trove of Weitz’ diaries and letters to bolster the factual evidence she presents, Weits also weaves in several tense interviews with family members that are fraught with uncomfortable conversations underlining the divide between those who believe the “official” history and those who are more skeptical.
In Israeli director Ann Oren’s convoluted but mildly diverting psychological study, a young woman named Eva takes over sound recording on an ad shoot after her sibling Zara suffers a nervous breakdown. Eva starts growing a horse tail after observing one and the previous naïve woman begins a hedonistic sexual relationship with a local botanist.
Oren tosses in bits of Greenaway, Breillat, and even Bunuel, but despite the secondhand imagery and ideas and complete lack of humor, the thought-provoking film is anchored by a formidable performance by the striking actress Simone Bucio as Eva.
4K/UHD Release of the Week
The Blackening 
It’s not surprising that this relentlessly scattershot horror parody was originally a short, since, at 95 minutes, obvious comic moments become numbing after awhile: some viewers might even miss a couple of good jokes during the end credits.
The cast is game—even though the hilarious Jay Pharoah is offed far too early—but defeated by material that’s been done to, um, death, and director Tim Story and writers Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins (who also stars) never bring their A game. The film looks sharp in ultra hi-def; extras include a commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes and several making-of featurettes.
Blu-ray Release of the Week 
Königskinder/Royal Children
This opera by German composer Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) is filled with complicated relationships and lovely vocal sections that come across beautifully in director Christof Loy’s clarifying 2022 production at Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam.
Of course, excellent lead performances by Olga Kulchynska, Daniel Behle, Josef Wagner and Doris Soffel greatly help, as does the music making by the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus of Dutch National Opera and a children’s chorus, all under the direction of conductor Marc Albrecht. There’s first-rate hi-def video and audio.

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