SALT LAKE CITY — (KUTV) Having a hard time trying to find a gift for a movie fan? Here's a tour through some of the noteworthy recent theatrical titles that have made their way to DVD and Blu-ray in the past few months.
Crazy Rich Asians: Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) travels with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to Singapore to meet his family completely unaware that Nick's family is among the city's most famous. "Crazy Rich Asians" is built on a traditional romantic-comedy genre's frame, but the Asian cultural differences and fantastic cinematography from Vanja Cernjul make this more than just another rom com.
Alpha: Set at the end of the ice age, "Alpha" tells the story of a young man who is separated from his family and befriends a wolf as he travels home. It's a beautiful film, but those who have an aversion to subtitles might find the film a little problematic.
Blindspotting: Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal star in this story about two friends heading in opposite directions. Collin (Diggs) has three days left of probation. He eyes the chance to start again, but Miles (Casal), his childhood best friend, is proving to be a roadblock.
First Reformed: Ethan Hawke stars as Toller, a troubled minister, in Paul Schrader's "First Reformed." Haunted by personal tragedy and an increasing dependency on alcohol, Toller finds himself adrift in a crisis of faith just as his church prepares to celebrate its 250th anniversary. Schrader, the writer behind "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull," has crafted a masterful character drama with surreal elements that should result in Oscar nominations for at least its screenplay and Hawke's performance.
Eighth Grade: One of my favorite movies from 2018 is "Eighth Grade," a coming-of-age drama from Bo Burnham starring newcomer Elsie Fisher. The story follows Kayla (Fisher), a socially awkward teenager, as struggles through her last week of eighth grade. The film is extremely well written and offers a look into the pressures and difficult decisions for young people. It might be the most important film that parents of teenagers and young teens themselves could see.
BlacKkKlansman: Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American, takes a job as a police officer in a rural Colorado town. Faced with racism from his fellow police, Stallworth looks to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan to root out prejudice and expose its membership. Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" is based on a true story. It feels like a farce, but the further you get into the film the heavier the material becomes.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again: Caught somewhere between a sequel and a prequel, "Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again" is essentially just an excuse to play ABBA's greatest hits as sung by famous people. There's bits an pieces of a story, but the narrative is secondary to the songs. That said, it is beautifully shot and easy to enjoy. If you liked the first film, you'll love this sequel.
Leave No Trace: Ben Foster stars as a veteran with PTSD who attempts to escape the horrors of reality by living illegally with his daughter in the forest outside Portland, Oregon. Despite constantly moving to keep from being discovered, the father and daughter are eventually found by officials who threaten to separate the duo.
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts: This Indonesian film has the bravado of a spaghetti western and shares certain blood drenched thematic elements with the "Kill Bill" films. The film is Indonesia's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. It's probably a little too raw for the Academy's tastes, but there's no denying that there's something electric about this movie.
Sorry to Bother You: Director/writer Boots Riley's "Sorry to Bother You" is a film that isn't easy to classify. It's dark, more than a little absurd and an interesting exploration of capitalism. The story finds Cassius "Cash" Green, an black telemarketer who finds success after he adopts a "white voice." It's strange, but necessary and entirely engrossing experience.
Isle of Dogs: "Isle of Dogs," the latest film from director/writer Wes Anderson, is a wonderfully strange stop-motion-animation voyage to a near-future where all the dogs of Japan have been sent to Trash Island, an isle covered in waste and refuse. It would seem that Japan's Mayor Kobayashi is more of a cat person. However, his nephew Atari misses his beloved dog Spots and steals a small airplane to travel to the island in hopes of finding his lost pet. I love this movie.
Juliet, Naked: Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, "Juliet, Naked" finds a long-suffering girlfriend (Rose Byrne) who breaks up with her boyfriend (Chris O'Dowd) and unexpectedly starts a relationship with his obscure singer-songwriter idol (Ethan Hawke).
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as J. A. Bayona takes over the director's chair in the latest entry in the Jurassic Park franchise. Mercenaries have returned to the former site of the Jurassic World theme park to collect DNA from the remains of the Indominus rex, but things, as they often do, quickly spiral out of control.
Mandy: Nick Cage goes full tilt in this hallucinatory revenge drama that finds a man hunting down the drug-fueled biker gang who killed his girlfriend. If you like extreme gonzo cinema, "Mandy" might be the wildest ride you take this year.
Marrowbone: This horror/thriller stars George MacKay stars alongside Anya Taylor-Joy in this story about a young man who tries to maintain the illusion that his mother is still alive while trying to protect his siblings from the violent father they were forced to flee from.
The Meg: Jason Statham stars in "The Meg," the story of a massive shark that attacks an underwater research center leaving only Jonas Taylor (Statham) to save the day. The film works best when it isn't taking itself seriously, it stumbles when it tries to present itself as a thriller based on real science.
Hereditary: This horror/thriller dwells upon a family who have just lost their matriarch, but the darker aspects of grandma have far reaching consequences that have a dramatic impact on those left alive. Something is haunting the family, but to what end? I'm already shipping Academy Award nominations for Toni Collette and writer/director Ari Aster and wait impatiently for anything actress Milly Shapiro will do in the future.
Ocean's 8: With a worldwide total that nearly reached $300 million, "Ocean's 8" was a successful spin-off to the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise. The film features Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling in a narrative that sees a group of women plan the perfect heist at the annual Met Gala, the most exclusive party in the fashion industry.
A Quiet Place: The inhabitants of the world have been savagely killed by creatures that track their prey through sound. Holed up on a farm, a family of survivors have learned to exist in almost absolute silence. This fantastic creature feature stars John Krasinski Krasinski, Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds.
Searching: John Cho stars in this mystery thriller about a father who is trying to locate his missing daughter using clues left behind on her laptop.
Skyscraper: When his family is trapped in a burning, high-tech skyscraper, Will Sawyer will stop at nothing to save them. It's a prototypical Dwayne Johnson action film, but it's infinitely more enjoyable than some of the actor's recent films.
The Toybox: This relatively obscure horror release featuring Denise Richards and Mischa Barton. The narrative revolves around a family taking a trip out into the desert in a RV that turns out to be haunted. It sounds a bit silly, but you'd be surprised (I certainly was) at how effective a film that knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything more than that can be. It's certainly not perfect and there is some unfulfilled potential, but "The Toybox" is far better than you'd expect from a B-grade horror film.
Ready Player One: The OASIS is a virtual reality world where the masses flock to in hopes of escaping the depressing reality of the real version. James Halliday, one of the creators of the OASIS, has died, but his parting message reveals that he has hidden a series of keys that will transfer ownership of the OASIS to whomever is first able to claim all three. Steven Spielberg directs Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn in this tribute to the pop culture of the 1980s.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado: Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin return in this sequel that finds federal agent Matt Graver (Brolin) asked to assemble a team to kidnap a drug lord’s daughter in the hope that it will spark a war between the major Mexican cartels.