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Video releases for May 2020

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NEW YORK — The following are capsule reviews from Catholic News Service of new and recent video releases available on DVD and/or Blu-ray —  as well as for online viewing. Theatrical movies have a Catholic News Service classification and Motion Picture Association rating. These classifications refer only to the theatrical version of the films below, and do not take into account any extra content.


Brahms: The Boy II (2020)


After being traumatized by a violent home invasion, a British businessman (Owain Yeoman), his American wife (Katie Holmes) and their young son (Christopher Convery) temporarily relocate from London to a house in the English countryside where the lad unearths an antique doll that turns out to be more terrorist than toy. Returning director William Brent Bell's follow-up to his 2016 film alternates between the occasional good jolt and long periods of tedium, with the silliness of the premise never out of the frame. While there's little to object to in a horror flick that most teens can likely handle, there's not much entertainment value to the proceedings either.


Watch out for: Occult themes, some stylized violence, a few gruesome images, veiled references to marital sexuality, a single instance each of profane and crude language. Spanish titles option.


Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG-13. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)


The Captive Heart (1946)


World War II drama about life in a German POW camp for a group of British officers, one of whom proves to be a Czech (Michael Redgrave) who escaped from a concentration camp and took the papers of a dead British officer just before the fall of France in 1940. Directed by Basil Dearden, the British production is warmly human in its depiction of the camp inmates coping with four years of imprisonment and the plight of the dead officer's family when the Czech imposter turns up in place of their expected son.


Rated: A-I, general patronage; MPAA: Not rated. (KL Studio Classics; also available on Blu-ray)  


Downhill (2020)


Awkward moments abound in this comedy about a husband and father (Will Ferrell) whose momentary act of cowardice suddenly alters how his spouse (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and two sons (Julian Grey and Ammon Ford) view him. In adapting Ruben Ostlund's 2014 film "Force Majeure," directors and co-writers (with Jesse Armstrong) Nat Faxon and Jim Rash quietly uphold marital fidelity, though a minor dalliance on the part of the wife and its aftermath are among the elements that restrict the appropriate audience for their largely unsatisfying remake.


Watch out for: Considerable sexual content, including a brief scene of masturbation and numerous sexual jokes, offscreen marital sensuality, drug references, fleeting irreverence, about a dozen rough terms, occasional crude language. Spanish language and titles options.


Rated: L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; MPAA: R. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)


Emma (2020)


Delightful screen version of Jane Austen's classic novel in which the young British gentlewoman of the title (Anya Taylor-Joy) tries her hand at matchmaking on behalf of a fortuneless friend (Mia Goth) while flirting with a visitor (Callum Turner) to her small country town and repeatedly locking horns with an old friend (Johnny Flynn). Director Autumn de Wilde's feature debut captures perfectly Austen's droll insights into human nature, from the medical paranoia of Emma's father (Bill Nighy), with his perpetual fear of drafts, to the good-hearted dullness of a trivialities-spouting neighbor (Miranda Hart). Only the momentary introduction of a bit of visual earthiness, presumably meant to balance off the overall painterly elegance of the picture, need give parents pause. Possibly acceptable for older teens.


Watch out for: Fleeting rear male and partial female nudity in a nonsexual context, an illegitimacy theme, one mild oath. Spanish titles option.


Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)


The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961)


British World War II tale set in Malaya where a patrol (led by Richard Todd) captures a Japanese soldier (Kenji Takaki), then find themselves cut off from base and quarrel over what to do with their prisoner before trying to fight their way out. Directed by Leslie Norman from Willis Hall's play, the picture focuses on the characters, especially the undisciplined private (Laurence Harvey) who tries to keep his mates from mistreating the frightened prisoner which hits home when the patrol faces capture or death.


Watch out for: Wartime violence including menacing situations and a military atrocity.


Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: Not rated. (KL Studio Classics; also available on Blu-ray)


Onward (2020)


Using a spell, two teenage elven brothers (voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) bring their father back from the dead for 24 hours. But the magic goes awry so that he is only resuscitated from the waist down. To acquire the mystical gem that can restore him fully, they embark on a hazardous quest, trailed by their fiercely protective mom (voice of Julia Louis-Dreyfus), her centaur boyfriend (voice of Mel Rodriguez) who's a police officer, and a lion-like creature (voice of Octavia Spencer) who has the ability to defeat the dragon that, unbeknown to the boys, guards the jewel they seek. Though it reaches a heartwarming conclusion, director and co-writer Dan Scanlon's animated adventure is loaded down with an overly detailed mythos, values focused primarily on self-empowerment and a passing allusion to a same-sex relationship that, though brief, amounts to propaganda aimed at youthful viewers.


Watch out for: Occult themes, considerable peril, a reference to homosexuality, one mild scatological joke. Spanish language and titles options.


Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)


Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)


There's something oddly mechanical and even maladroit about this adaptation of the Sega videogame. On a lengthy road trip from rural Montana to San Francisco, the super-speedy extraterrestrial character of the title (voice of Ben Schwartz) interacts with various humans, most prominently a sheriff (James Marsden) he's befriended, while being pursued by his nemesis, a mad scientist (Jim Carrey). Onto this mix of animation and live action has been larded considerable sentiment in the form of a subplot involving the protagonist's improbable yearning to belong to a family. Director Jeff Fowler's film doesn't constitute original comedy gold, but children should find some level of fascination


Watch out for:  Intense action sequences, a single scatological reference.


Rated: A-II, adults and adolescents; MPAA: PG. (Paramount Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)


The Way Back (2020)


Director Gavin O'Connor's sports drama tells a story of hope and redemption after devastating loss. When the basketball coach at the Catholic high school he attended suffers a heart attack, a former hoops star-turned-alcoholic-construction-worker (Ben Affleck) reluctantly agrees to take over the program. As he exerts a positive influence on the players (most prominently Brandon Wilson and Melvin Gregg), he finds a new sense of purpose and begins to heal. The film, penned by Brad Ingelsby, does nothing to break free of the traditional formula of sports movies. Yet Affleck carries the proceedings with able acting and the younger members of the cast, especially Wilson, give believable performances as well. An upbeat tale, though one permeated with off-color dialogue.


Watch out for: Mature themes, including alcoholism, a few instances of profanity, frequent crude and crass language, a vulgar sexual reference. Spanish titles option.


Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: R. (Warner Home Video; also available on Blu-ray)


Bloodshot (2020)

Vin Diesel plays a Marine whose macho dreams come true when a doctor (Guy Pearce) uses nanotechnology to bring him back from the dead and endows him with superhuman fighting abilities in the process. He employs his new powers to track down and slay the crazed assassin (Toby Kebbell) who killed both his beloved wife (Talulah Riley) and him. But, as the fellow patient (Eiza Gonzalez) for whom the widower rapidly falls knows, all is not as it seems. Director David S.F. Wilson's passable Valiant Comics adaptation mostly avoids gore but the warrior's drive for revenge is only partially made less problematic by twisty plot developments.

Watch out for: A vengeance theme, much harsh but bloodless violence, a few gruesome images, a marital bedroom scene with partial nudity and some sensuality, about a dozen uses of profanity, one milder oath, a single rough term, considerable crude and crass language. Spanish language and titles options.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG-13. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)

Gretel & Hansel (2020)

Child abandonment and hunger are the backbone of this horror-film framing of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale. Gretel (Sophia Lillis), who is 16 in this version, has to decide whether bounteous meals from a forest witch are worth the risk to her and her 8-year-old brother Hansel (Sammy Leakey). Holda the witch (Alice Krige), of course, has murderous culinary intentions. Screenwriter Rob Hayes and director Oz Perkins also give Holda an origin story.

Watch out for: An occult theme, fleeting gore, a scene of drug use, a reference to menstruation.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG-13. (Warner Home Video; also available on Blu-ray)

I Still Believe (2020)

Fact-based romantic drama tells the love story of future Christian music star Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) and the fellow college student (Britt Robertson) for whom he fell at first sight. Their relationship is initially hindered by the fact that his friend and professional mentor, an already established singer (Nathan Dean), also loves the young lady. But a much greater challenge arises later when she is diagnosed with cancer. Directors and brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin's winning film, which the former co-wrote with Jon Gunn, also features Gary Sinise and Shania Twain as Camp's parents. In keeping with the song and book from which the movie takes its title, nondenominational affirmations of faith permeate the ups and downs of the tale as well as the musical interludes by which it's paced, making this congenial fare for Christians of various stripes while the absence of objectionable elements renders it suitable for all but the youngest moviegoers.

Watch out for: Mature themes, brief medical gore, a couple of marital bedroom scenes.

Rated: A-II, adults and adolescents; MPAA: PG. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)

The Rhythm Section (2020)

An ordinary woman (Blake Lively) becomes an unlikely assassin to hunt down the killers of her family in this revenge thriller, directed by Reed Morano and based on the novel by Mark Burnell. When a journalist (Raza Jaffrey) reveals that the airplane disaster which killed her parents and siblings was not an accident but an act of terrorism, the woman is determined to hunt down the bombmaker (Tawfeek Barhom). A former special agent (Jude Law) agrees to train her into a first rate-killer, and the quest begins. She is assisted by another former agent and potential love interest (Sterling K. Brown), who may be the reddest of herrings. While the heroine's fight against evil is laudatory, viewers of faith cannot condone the film's endorsement of revenge and the ensuing violence.

Watch out for: Bloody violence, brief nudity, implied nonmarital sex, a prostitution theme, drug use, pervasive crude language.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: R. (Paramount Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020