Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Don’t Breathe

Children’s movies “The BFG” and “Pete’s Dragon” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Most movies that follow a character arc of a mean or evil character becoming friendly or good involve an epiphany for that character. That is, on their journey from being a morally bankrupt person to becoming a just and righteous person, there are events that show them that what they’re doing is wrong and they have a change of heart. In the spirit of the Christmas season that is now upon us, think of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch or Charles Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge. “Don’t Breathe” gives us no such character arc, yet by the end of the movie house burglar Rocky (Jane Levy) comes out as the slightly lesser than two evils when compared to the man (Stephen Lang) whose house she’s robbing.

Rocky, her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), and her friend Alex (Dylan Minnette) are all raising money to move away from their depressing Detroit neighborhood to start life anew in California. They do this by robbing houses that are alarmed by the company Alex’s dad works for and that he can disable, and Money knows the fence who can turn the goods into cash. After an unimpressive haul, Money gets a tip on a man who is the only one living in an empty neighborhood. The man is an ex war vet whose daughter tragically died in an accident, and he received a bundle of money in the settlement. He keeps this money in the house. All they have to do is go in and take it.

The special twist with the man is that he’s blind. It’s bad enough these three lowlifes are stealing things from people’s houses. Now they are planning to steal cash from a man who lost his vision serving this country, plus his daughter—his only known relative—recently died, which leaves him all alone and isolated. It can’t get much worse for this guy. That is, unless a bunch of lazy degenerates think it’s okay to break into his house and steal the settlement money.

The goal of the three friends to rob this man is absolutely despicable. Alex originally objects, but then acquiesces with barely a nudge from Rocky. There is a scene with Rocky and her family that shows how awful her mother is and how much she cares for her little sister. It explains why she wants to get the money—she plans on taking her sister with her to California. I still don’t care. Like many a parent has said to many a child: That’s a reason, not an excuse. Burgling anyone’s house is wrong. Burgling a vet’s house or a disabled person’s house is really, really wrong, and burgling a disabled vet’s house is incomprehensibly egregious. As far as I was concerned, these three vermin would get what they deserved once the blind man fought back.

For the first part of the burglary, that’s how things play out. Money has a knock out gas that he assumes worked on the blind man, but it doesn’t. Using his heightened senses of hearing and smell, the blind man hunts them down and chases them through the house. I have to give a lot of credit to writers Fede Alvarez (who also directed) and Rodo Sayagues for finding clever and ingenious ways to keep the burglars in the house and keeping the suspense ratcheted up high.

Then a pretty shocking and disturbing plot twist happens. It turns out that the money isn’t the only secret the blind man is keeping. He’s doing something pretty horrific that he needs to keep hidden. This is where the movie gets really interesting, because from here on, events happen that flip the morality switch. What happens between Rocky and the blind man creates a situation in which she is the less bad person between the two. She doesn’t get this way through any kind of growth or character development—heck no, she still wants that money—but comparing her actions to the blind man’s actions gives her a slight upper hand morality-wise. It’s an interesting and unexpected shift that takes place, and it helps “Don’t Breathe” to be a stand out thriller. Buy it on Amazon: Don't Breathe [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week


To clear things up for all of the dirty-minded out there who think that the “F” in the title “The BFG” might stand for a something else, it actually stands for “Friendly.” “BFG” is short for “Big Friendly Giant,” a nickname given to a sweet-faced, soft-spoken CGI giant (voice of Mark Rylance) by young orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill).

While the CGI on the BFG--as well as the handful of other giants in giant country--may be impressive looking, looks can be misleading in other areas. For instance, the BFG kidnaps Sophie out of her orphanage after she sees him stalking the streets of London in the wee hours of the morning. Once back in giant country, she protests, explains that no one would believe her if she told anyone about him, and demands to be released. The BFG says no and that she will be with him for the rest of her life. This hardly sounds like a friendly giant to me. Selfish and scared is more like it.

Good thing for the plot of “The BFG” that Stockholm Syndrome kicks in extremely quick for Sophie. Once she sees how badly he is treated by other giants, her heart goes out to him and the two from an unusual friendship. They even drink a special green drink together, in which the bubbles go down instead of up. This leads to gastric distress and the letting out of what the BFG calls “wiz poppers.” If you can’t figure out what a wiz popper is, just know that Shrek would be proud.

Sophie is in constant danger of discovery while in giant country, which makes the BFG keeping her there even more irresponsible. At one point, Sophie asks him if he will eat her. He seems offended by this and condescendingly tells her that she shouldn’t assume the he will eat her because he’s a giant. Yet, the reason that she needs to be kept hidden from all of the other giants is because if they found out about her, they would eat her. So, she was right. Basically, giants do eat children and the BFG is the exception rather than the rule. Her presumption about him because he is a giant is correct.

The BFG’s “job,” as far as I can tell, is to collect dreams from the dream world and give them to people in the real world. Here is where I give “The BFG” credit for a lot of imagination. The trip that Sophie and the BFG take to the dream world is full of magical discovery and wonder. The dreams are like different colored fireflies buzzing around. The BFG catches them in a net, puts them in a jar and gives good or bad dreams to people at night.

Then things get really messed up. In another act of cowardice and selfishness—this time aided by Sophie—the BFG gives the Queen (Penelope Wilton) a nightmare showing giants taking and eating children. After meeting and having a meal with the BFG in a scene that is cutesy but goes on way too long and ends with the Queen doing a wiz popper (the movie couldn’t sink much lower by this point), the Queen calls in her army to go to giant country, remove the other giants from their homes, and take them into exile.

Wait—what?! The queen had a dream about giants doing bad things, and based on the word of one little girl and one giant, she displaces them from their homeland. No neutral, non-biased, third party investigation. No evidence gathering or hearing the other side of the story from the other giants whom she plans to attack and forcibly rip from their homes. How was she so sure that Sophie and the BFG didn’t have a hidden agenda or ulterior motive? Because they did. BFG was tired of being bullied and having to hide Sophie, so they manipulated the government into displacing those they didn’t get along with.

What the hell kind of lesson is this for kids? Believe every rumor and don’t look into anything for yourself? Whenever you don’t like something, just complain to the government and make them pass laws and do things to prevent everyone else from enjoying it just because you don’t like it? Ugh—there’s enough of that nonsense in our society already. We definitely don’t need more of it, nor do we need a movie that teaches the next generation that this self-entitled intolerance is the way to behave. Skip it.

Pete’s Dragon

The dragon in “Pete’s Dragon” looks fantastic. I respect the fact that they took it in a different direction and made it a hairy creature, rather than something lizard-like. This is probably an homage to the original 1977 “Pete’s Dragon,” in which the dragon was scaly and reptilian, but had a tuft of purple hair on his head. In this 2016 update, the dragon is completely mammalian.

Much like the original movie, this iteration of “Pete’s Dragon” involves an orphaned child named Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his faithful dragon Elliot. But this time around, Elliot is more than a pet. After the oh so predictable opening in which we see Pete’s parents die in a car crash and him rush off into the woods, a big green dragon rescues Pete and takes him under its wing—literally and figuratively. Pete is cared for by the dragon as he lives in the woods with it.

Fast forward five years and Pete and his dragon are discovered by logging brothers Jack and Gavin (Wes Bentley and Karl Urban) as well as Jack’s park ranger girlfriend Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). This is where the action should ramp up and interesting things should happen—but they don’t. Unlike the original, which had the benefit of some abusive adoptive parents chasing Pete as well as an evil doctor who is after Elliot to round out the story, this version of “Pete’s Dragon” has little else to offer story-wise, and as a result is a bit of a slog.

It looks like the movie might take an environmentalist angle, but it doesn’t. After all, it’s typical in mainstream movies that loggers=bad and/or destructive. Here, the loggers actually turn out to be good people. While I appreciate “Pete’s Dragon” avoiding such a worn out cliché, it would have been best if they found something else for this movie to be about. Instead, it’s only about Pete coming back into humanity after living in the woods, then about the dragon getting captured, and then this movie essentially turns into “Free Willy” for the final act.

Since this is a movie aimed at children, I have to take note and exception to Grace’s behavior toward Gavin—or more specifically Gavin’s car—in two scenes. Once in the beginning, and once at the end, she throws his keys away to prevent him from driving. At least the second time around he is there to see where she throws them, but the first time he is not there at all. That’s a disturbing message to send to children: It’s okay to mess with the property of those with differing views and opinions. The self-righteous thoughtlessness is appalling. What are we teaching children--that as long as they feel morally superior to someone who has a different point of view, they can engage in whatever destructive behavior they want? That’s terrible! No wonder supposedly peaceful and tolerant protesters feel justified to loot and riot. They learned in movies that it’s okay, because they’re so right. Please folks, save your children from becoming smug, self-righteous, and destructive, and save yourselves from watching a predictable, boring movie. Skip it.

More New Releases: “The Wild Life,” animated “Robinson Crusoe” story told through the point of view of a parrot named Tuesday; and “Baked in Brooklyn,” about a college graduate (Josh Brener) who loses his job and decides to sell weed in Brooklyn to pay the bills.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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