BLU-RAY REVIEWS: Anchor Bay Recent Releases
After.Life, Abandoned, and Operation: Endgame on hi-def home video...
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Over the couple of months, Anchor Bay Entertainment has released a number of new films to Blu-ray, including the horror film After.Life, the thriller Abandoned, and the action/comedy Operation: Endgame.
To be honest, when I first saw After.Life advertised, I immediately though "low budget." Why I can't quite understand, but this didn't look to me like something that was going to be a very good movie. After all, what are Christina Ricci, Justin Long and Liam Neeson all doing in a horror film?!?
Howver, once I got over myself and popped this in, I couldn't stop watching. Seriously. I literally didn't go to the bathroom or leave the couch for a full 103 minutes. After.Life is that good...and here's why...
First, the acting is great. Ricci, Long and Neeson are marvelous in their respective roles and truly deliver. Each takes on their character with a passion that makes for exciting character development and interaction.
Ricci and Long play Anna Taylor and Paul Coleman, a twenty-something couple who've been living together and planing a life. Sadly, their relationship is on a downward swing. When Paul attempts to make the next step (marriage proposal!), Anna freaks and sadly gets into a violent car accident which finds her at the local funeral home, ready for handling by the creepy mortician Eliot Deacon (Neeson).
Now Deacon isn't your run of the mill mortician, he seems to be able to commune with the dead and thus, he and Anna strike up an odd relationship which finds Anna questioning her life, her relationships, her love for Paul, and her accepting death with Deacon as her counselor and spirit guide. These characters each fulfill their defined roles in the film and, thanks to well-rounded acting and solid performances, make this truly an ensemble to appreciate.
Second, the script is very very well written and extremely well paced. I would almost consider After.Life a perfectly paced movie. There's no unnecessary clutter, no missing links, no babble...everything is effectively and efficiently used.
The story thus follows Anna and Deacon discussing life and death, all the while the passionate Paul - since he's not related and can't see her body - refusing to accept Anna's death and using his every means to see her one last time before she's put in the ground.
What's enthralling is the constant need to reexamine the film's basic premise and the questions Anna continues to ask herself over and over "Am I really dead?" and "Did I ever really live?" Deacon, as a the lonely mortician with only bodies as buddies, seeks to help her answer these, all the while passively spurring Paul's desire for the one thing he can not have.
The blu-ray includes a number of special features, including a full feature audio commentary with co-writer/director Agneska Wojtowicz-Vosloo. Agneska opens herself to the viewer and delivers a great commentary full of information about the intentional way in which the film was written, produced, and shot. Everything from colors and setting to characters and pace is discussed, and those who enjoy the film as much as I will appreciate the insight. The disc also includes as short making-of featurette entitled "Delving into the After.Life: The Art of Making a Thriller." Again, co-writer/director Wojtowicz-Vosloo is here to comment and reveal exactly what she had in mind for the ending of this film. In fact, while some fans may think otherwise, the film was only meant to end in one certain way and here, the co-writer/director tells all. (SPOILER ALERT: Do not watch this short before watching the film unless you want to ruin the experiance).
Overall, After.Life was one of the most enjoyable and pleasing home viewing experiences I've had this year. Sadly, it seems After.Life never received the attention I think it so richly deserved, but I hope to see more amazing work from Wojtowicz-Vosloo and am thankful for this film.
Rated R for nudity, disturbing images, language and brief sexuality, After.Life is available now on home video.
While I've never been much of a fan of Brittany Murphy, it's no doubt she'll be missed. Her work encompassed everything from memorable teen angst comedies like Clueless to miss-the-mark thrillers like her last film (reviewed here) entitled Abandoned. Unfortunately, Abandoned shouldn't be remembered as the actresses final film as it's not that memorable. In fact, Abandoned isn't really that great of a film and this is truly unfortunate.
Abandoned is a simple film: Mary (Murphy) takes her boyfriend (played by Dean Cain) to the hospital for surgery and returns to pick him up only to find he's not there. In fact, the hospital doesn't even have a record of him ever being there. Soon, Mary is facing off against uncooperative doctors, nurses, a strict hospital administrator (Mimi Rogers) not to mention a psychologist (Peter Bogdanovich) once it's revealed Mary is on some pretty potent prescriptions. But that doesn't stop Mary from searching high and low for her beloved.
We've seen it all before: missing person, psychotic breaks, creepy hospitals...it's all here. While it tries hard to be a thriller, Abandoned unfortunately seems to be going through the paces of what most moviegoers have come to expect from a modern-day thriller; just enough twists and turns until the final reveal which will miraculously shed light on the film's entire plot and our main character's frantic search. And, while that's true, the film's poor production value makes it difficult to watch.
As much as I wanted to enjoy Abandoned, I just couldn't. Even with Murphy trying hard to do well with the script, she looks terrible; not to mention the melodrama and somewhat ridiculous dialogue just couldn't deliver. The directing isn't on par with memorable thrillers and seems almost a step in the wrong direction for director Michael Feifer (B.T.K., Ed Gein), who's done better in the past.
To top it all off, the Blu-ray of Abandoned doesn't include a single special feature. Not one. Nada. Nothing. Zip. While I don't necessary expect a full length commentary, a short behind-the-scenes featurette or even a few interviews with the cast or crew would have been nice.
As I said before, as much as I wanted to like Abandoned, I couldn't. With mediocre acting, poor pacing, and with some almost absurd dialogue, the film misses its mark and, unfortunately, will only be remembered by those who see it as the last film of Britney Murphy.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, Abandoned is available now on home video.
There was a time when if you said the name Zach Galifianakis, people would look at you like you had something stuck in your throat. Now, after the success of The Hangover, he's everywhere...including in Operation: Endgame...for a measly 10 minutes. That's not to say the film isn't good, but I rarely enjoy a film that tries to mislead me by placing a famous actor front and center on the packaging without the film actually featuring him "front and center" in the film.
Again, that's not to say Operation: Endgame isn't good. In fact, I enjoyed it greatly. It's rare to find a film that mixes gratuitous violence and hilarious jokes in such a straightforward, political way.
The story follows a day in the life - and death - of two teams of assassins who, simply put, work for the US government and know too much. Given instructions to kill one another in order to ensure evidence of the previous White House's administration won't be found out, you have a face off of epic proportions, including - on one side, the anal-retentive, geopolitical conservatives while on the other you have the loose-tongued, irresponsible liberals. The simple idea of these two teams even work in the same office is funny, but when both teams are called back to HQ for this special operation, you know things are gonna get down right dirty...
Numerous well-known actors and actresses make an appearance here, including Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible), Rob Corddry (Daily Show, Hot Tub Time Machine), Maggie Q (CW's Nikita), Emilie De Ravin (LOST), and both Jeffrey Tambor and the previously mentioned Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover). Truly an ensemble cast, no one actor or actress stands out, though Corddry has by far the best dialogue which will have most people either blushing or wetting themselves with laughter.
Well worth noting are the two security guards - Neal (United States of Tara) and Carl (Pushing Daisies) - who watch from the safety of their security office as the madness, mayhem and sheer carnage that take place happens.
The plot is well paced and, at 82 minutes long, short-lived. Essentially, Operation: Endgame sets itself up, delivers, and then resolves any and all issues by show's end. And, while maybe not the most spectacular action comedy film I've ever seen, it's witty and crass one-liners, gratuitous violence, and over-the-top plot make it one of the most unique.
Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language including sexual references, Operation: Endgame is available now on home video.
Be sure to check out these three new films on home video now and check back soon for more reviews of recent box office and retail store releases.
- Jess C. Horsley