I’ve had a ton of Blu-rays and digital movies come my way the last few weeks, and I’ve wanted to highlight a few of them, in case you’re looking for something to watch this weekend or over the next few weeks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO Films): I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’d never heard the name Henrietta Lacks or her amazing story before. This was simply one of those films sent my way which I thought I’d give a chance. I’m certainly glad I did, as the legacy of Ms. Lacks is remarkable – she was an African American woman who, in 1951, had her cancer cells immortalized in the HeLa line of cells. Basically, these cells have been used countless times in major medical breakthroughs over the last 60 years. Sadly, nobody asked Ms. Lacks if her cells could be taken or used, and neither her nor her family ever received any sort of compensation for what essentially is her immortality.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on the book by Rebecca Skloot, who is portrayed in the film by Rose Byrne, who wrote a series of articles on Ms. Lacks and her family. Oprah Winfrey plays Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, and is absolutely captivating on screen. Deborah is hesitant to share her mother’s story with any reporter, and Oprah delivers the character as guarded but loving. It’s a bravura performance that can’t help but overshadow the rest of the film, which sometimes gets muddled as it moves across various timelines. However, Byrne and Winfrey have a great chemistry together, and help The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks rise above some of its pacing and script issues.
The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Brothers): The Princess and I went to see The LEGO Batman Movie when it was in theatres this past winter, and completely enjoyed it. Warner Brothers have absolutely nailed their LEGO film franchise, and having Batman the focus of one was a solid choice. Will Arnett voices the character perfectly – he’s got the growl going on, and his voice work allows the Dark Knight to take himself over-the-top seriously, while still holding true to the essence of Batman. It’s the idea that while he may feel alone, neither Batman nor Bruce Wayne every truly needs to be, if he allows himself to open up. It’s a sentiment that you can find in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, another animated big screen Caped Crusader adventure from back in 1993 that, while much darker in tone, mines much of the pathos (though with admittedly darker results).
Upon our rewatch, The Princess talked about how awesome The LEGO Batman Movie is, which is probably no better endorsement. She was especially excited to see that when the film was over, that there were four LEGO Batman shorts for her to enjoy. Even without those, though, this movie hold up, and is well worth a rewatch or ten.
Logan (20th Century Fox): A fitting end to Hugh Jackman’s nine-film run as the fan favourite X-Men character, Logan managed to transcend the superhero genre to become very much its own thing. Part future noir, part Western, part pure sci-fi – I really do hesitate to classify it as anything remotely super hero-like. It is, however, full of outstanding performances from both Jackman and Patrick Stewart, both aged and nearing the end of their days. Director James Mangold has included two versions of Logan in the new Blu-ray/digital set, including a black and white take that plays fine at home, but which dulls some of the violence of the colour version, which helped net the film its R-rating.
No matter how you slice it, Logan is Hugh Jackman’s final word on his defining character. He manages to go out on an outstanding and touching high that few actors so instantly identified with any character have had the chance to do. Here’s to one final SNIKT!