By Robin E. Simmons

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DONT BREATHEDON’T BREATHE

I think it was Alfred Hitchcock who said the secret of suspense is the friction of hope and fear rubbing together. I have always appreciated the art of creating fear whether in books or movies. I love this very smart and twisty premise that forces us to sympathize with home invaders and not the residents. Exactly who is the victim here? This minimalist take on the old but reliable haunted house horror genre is creepily effective with scares that will make you squirm or jump depending only on ho hard you are gripping the armrests of the chair you’re in. The isolated Detroit setting adds immensely to the chills when three heedless thieves break into the home of a rich blind man (Stephen Lang) thinking they are pulling off the perfect heist and it’s gonna be easy pickings. I don’t have to tell you how wrong they are.

I was blown away by the exquisite set-up of the story and how surprising and disturbing the delicious shocks that followed. I think I literally held my breath for much of the next 90 minutes. I definitely remained uncomfortable through but in a very good way. We like scary movies because they are a safe way to face our fears. So, a big recommendation for one of very best horror flicks of the year. Co-writer/director Fede Alvarez has made a cult classic. Consider this chilling and deeply unsettling thriller an early Halloween treat.


 

NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
JUNGLE BOOK 1THE JUNGLE BOOK

With the heavy load of disappointing reboots and sequels on the big screen so far in 2016, this beautiful rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved tale of a young boy growing up in the jungles of northern India a companion piece to Disney’s fine “Tarzan” upgrade released a few weeks earlier. In fact, this beautiful version of Kipling’s tale can almost be enjoyed as a Tarzan origin story although it is not. However, in many ways, it is a sweet companion piece to Burroughs’ iconic tale.

Director John Favreau has gone to great lengths to create a photo-realistic, live -action adventure that makes young Mowgli’s world tactile, immersive and believable. Neel Seth is just about perfect as the “man cub.” Wonderful voice work imbues all the talking animals with a verisimilitude of nuanced personality traits. Standouts are Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba and Christopher Walken (he gives voice to Louis the Monkey King and he is superb).

For a generation that still hold Disney’s wonderful 1967 animated version close to their hearts, this film will never fully supplant the classic hand-drawn version. However, this lush iteration references some of the classic beats of the former and is eye-popping and satisfying. It has received global acclaim from critics and audiences alike. So far, the theatrical release has earned about a billion bucks. This great-looking home version will only further stuff the Disney coffers. It’s a perfect family film that will be watched again and again if not for the story then for the breathtaking art and superb craftsmanship. I can’t wait for another chance to enter Mowgli’s world. This is cinematic state of the art and it is spectacular. Nice extras include a terrific commentary from Favreau as well as a couple of making-of featurettes. Highest recommendation. Disney. Blu-ray.


 

ONES BELOW 2THE ONES BELOW

Written and directed by David Farr (“The Night Manager”), the intense psychological thriller features riveting performances from Cléménce Poésy (“Harry Potter”), BAFTA nominee David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore and Laura Birn.

Expecting their first child, Kate (Poésy) and Justin (Moore) become friendly with their new neighbors, Jon (Morrissey) and Theresa (Birn), who are also expecting, in the downstairs apartment. Things take a dark turn after a dinner party upstairs and the new neighbors start to show sinister intentions toward Kate and Justin after an unfortunate tragedy strikes. The relationship turns threatening, leaving the couple fearful for their well-being. With an ending that leaves an unsettling feeling of despair, this psychological battle of wills with the tenants in the apartment downstairs continuously grasps the tension and tone, keeping the dread and suspense cranked up to an all-time high. Make no mistake, this smart psychodrama is relentless. I loved it. Magnolia Entertainment. Blu-ray.

Comments? RobinESimmons@aol.com

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