Picks of the week
(PG-13, 109 minutes, Fox): Written by series creators Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and directed by French action workhorse Olivier Megaton, the finale of the “Taken” franchise dutifully cleaves to the contours of a well-established and viscerally satisfying formula, which dictates a brief introduction to the sleepily domestic life of retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), followed by 75 minutes or so of frenetic action triggered by some attack on and/or abduction of a loved one. Here it is not an act of kidnapping that sets our hero off, as in the first two films, but the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), for which Bryan has been framed. As in “The Fugitive,” Bryan goes on the lam to clear his name and find those responsible for the murder, all the while staying one step ahead of Forest Whitaker, who plays the dogged detective charged with bringing him in – and while leaving a trail of dead bodies in his choppy wake. Contains violence and some coarse language. Extras: A deleted scene, “Sam’s Bunker a k a The Rabbit Hole” featurette, a Los Angeles locations featurette and “A Taken Legacy” wrapup. On Blu-ray: an uncut version of the film.
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(R, 102 minutes, Fox): A wintry pall enshrouds even the sunniest Los Angeles locales in this drab, dramatically inert redemption story enlivened by a sharp performance by Jennifer Aniston. Playing a deeply scarred woman coping with chronic pain, unresolved trauma and an alarming fascination with the suicide of an acquaintance, Aniston proves that her comic gifts of timing and delivery serve her well, even in the most dire of circumstances. “Cake” is structured as something of a mystery as far as the source of Claire’s psychic and physical wounds, but viewers will suss out the situation within minutes. That could be a testament to Aniston’s expressive talents, but it also suggests that screenwriter Patrick Tobin and director Daniel Barnz have created a schematic tale of overcoming grief and guilt that ultimately feels more calculating than genuinely bold or new. The same goes for the series of encounters that spur Claire along a bumpy journey that veers between hope and self-annihilation, from her loyal, patient housekeeper (played with graceful authority by Adriana Barraza) to a handsome widower played by Sam Worthington. No doubt Aniston deserves more roles like this one, which earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations, but in less maudlin, more surprising movies. Contains profanity, substance abuse and brief sexuality. Extras: An introduction to the cast and the featurette “The Many Layers of Cake: Learning to Live Again.”
‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’
(unrated, 99 minutes, in Farsi with subtitles, Kino Lorber): Iran’s first vampire movie is a haunting story of love between two misfits who shouldn’t be together. In its doomed yet somehow hopeful spirit, it’s closer to the noir sensibility of “Let the Right One In” than the pop-horror of “Twilight.” The titular black-robed beauty who drives the action of filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s visually striking and surprisingly moving black-and-white film is no helpless victim. Rather, the movie’s nameless, nocturnal protagonist (Sheila Vand) is a vampire, but also a sort of darkly feminist avenging angel. The development of the relationship between a young man named Arash and the bloodsucker lies at the heart of the film, but the girl’s resistance to drinking Arash’s blood is told largely through silent, sidelong glances. Few words are spoken in this movie, yet it’s as eloquent a tale of love and sublimated lust as you’re likely to see. Contains violence, drug use, nudity and sensuality. Extras: Deleted scenes, a Q&A with Amirpour hosted by Roger Corman at the Hammer Museum and a booklet essay by Indiewire film critic Eric Kohn. On Blu-ray: Behind-the-scenes documentary produced by Vice, a talk with Amirpour and Vand, additional behind-the-scenes footage, and a collectible version of the first two issues of the comic book, written by Amirpour and drawn by Michael DeWeese.
“Bleaching Black Culture”
“Eclipse Series 42: Silent Ozu”
“Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed”
“Like Sunday, Like Rain”
“The Walking Deceased”
“The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne”
“Deep in the Darkness”
“Ghoulies & Ghoulies II”
“Escape From New York Collector’s Edition”
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Series”
“Naked & Afraid: Season 1”
“The Musketeers: Season 2”
“Sweet Lorraine” (April 23)