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A trio of independent films about women leads new movies on video

POSTED: September 7, 2017 3:20 a.m.
Chris Hicks/

Kate Mara is excellent as real-life dog-handler Marine "Megan Leavey." The film is now on Blu-ray, DVD and major streaming sites.

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“Megan Leavey” and two more low budget, independently produced films about women lead this week’s new movies on Blu-ray, DVD and various streaming sites.

“Megan Leavey” (Universal/Bleeker Street, 2017, PG-13, featurette). The title character here is a real-life Marine corporal who joins up to escape an unhappy life, only to discover that military service doesn’t leaven her anti-social anxieties. But when she’s ordered to clean up the K-9 unit as a disciplinary measure, Leavey forms a surprising bond with one of the more aggressive bomb-sniffing dogs and decides to become its handler.

After more than 100 missions in Iraq, the dog is wounded and taken out of service, prompting Leavey to try and adopt him, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Kate Mara is excellent in the title role, and the filmmakers provide an uplifting experience without letting the narrative get too sentimental or drift into bathos.

“The Wedding Plan” (Lionsgate, 2017, PG, in Hebrew with English subtitles, photo gallery). Noa Koler is wonderful in this Israeli comedy-drama as a 30-something Orthodox Jew who longs for true love and is devastated when her fiancé bows out during preparations for their wedding. But rather than abandon the ceremony, she decides to find another fiancé. The film is overlong and has an odd penchant for extreme close-ups, but Koler is a delight, and as a peek into a culture with which many of us are unfamiliar, it’s fascinating.

“Beatriz at Dinner” (Lionsgate, 2017, R for language and violence). A knockout performance from Salma Hayek anchors this “what-if?” social-commentary parable. She’s a poor Mexican immigrant eking out a living in Los Angeles as a spiritual health practitioner when, through convoluted circumstances, she clashes with an arrogant, bigoted real estate mogul (John Lithgow, also terrific). The subsequent fireworks make for a provocative yarn, though it’s also stagey and somewhat unfocused. With Chloë Sevigny, Connie Britton and Jay Duplass.

“Lowriders” (Universal, 2017, PG-13, featurettes). In East Los Angeles, a teenage street artist (Gabriel Chavarria) is torn between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture and his brother’s criminal activity while trying to find his own voice through his art. Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”) and Melissa Benoist (“Supergirl”) have supporting roles.

“Band Aid” (Shout!, 2017, not rated/probable R for sex, nudity, language; deleted scenes, music video, bloopers). Actress/screenwriter Zoe Lister-Jones adds “director” to her résumé with this raw comedy-drama about a married couple whose incessant fighting has gotten quite nasty. So the wife suggests setting their arguments to music and forming a band. It's an interesting idea sabotaged by an abundance of raunchy R-rated excesses.

“All Eyez On Me” (Summit, 2017; R for language, drugs, violence, nudity, sex; deleted scenes, featurettes). Gritty biographical film of rapper/actor Tupac Shakur, played by newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr., taking the performer from his early days of struggle in New York to his eventual stardom as an influential hip-hop artist and actor in major movies to his death at age 25 as the victim of a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.

“The Ghoul” (Arrow, 2017, not rated/probable R for language, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). It’s unfortunate that this murder mystery wrapped up in a thick psychological melodrama is saddled with a title that at first glance says “Horror movie.” This is the story of a detective (or is he?) who goes undercover as a psychiatric patient and sinks into paranoid fantasies (or are they?). Think nightmarish and ethereal, along the lines of “Fight Club” or “Lost Highway” or “Memento.”

“First Kill” (Lionsgate, 2017, R for violence and language, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers). Hayden Christensen is a Wall Street broker who takes his bullied 11-year-old son on a hunting trip to toughen him up. Soon they bump up against a corrupt police chief (Bruce Willis) who is out to score some stolen bank money. It's typical, violent, straight-to-video fodder.

“Iron Protector” (Well Go, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence, in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurettes). Think of this as “The Bodyguard” with martial arts. Wu-Lin (writer-director Song Yue), the last of a Chinese clan of “Iron Feet” fighters, is hired to protect the daughter of the richest family in the City of Stone but when the family’s daughter is kidnapped he single-handedly takes on a violent gang.

“Security” (Universal, 2017, R for violence and language, featurette). Antonio Banderas stars here as a former war hero suffering from PTSD and working as a night security guard at a shopping mall when a gang of ruthless bikers and their psycho leader (Ben Kingsley … yes, that Ben Kingsley) break in, chasing an 11-year-old girl who is set to testify against them.

“Pitching Tents” (Monarch, 2017, not rated/probable R for sex, nudity, language, drugs). At “trout camp,” graduating high school boys smoke pot and spy on topless girls, a la “Meatballs.” Set in 1984, this raunchy comedy could be mistaken for a justly forgotten teen sex romp from that era.

“Chronically Metropolitan” (Universal, 2017, not rated/probable R for language, deleted scenes, alternate ending, featurette). This cliché-ridden comedy-drama about self-centered Manhattan-ites follows a young writer who returns home to face relatives after publishing a story in the New Yorker with thinly veiled versions of dysfunctional family members. Chris Noth and Mary-Louise Parker (who seems to still be her character from Showtime’s “Weeds”) are his parents.
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