Maika: The Girl From Another Galaxy (Vietnam, Well Go USA, streaming, PG, 105 min.). The film, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the Kids section, is Vietnam’s first children’s science-fiction feature and the country’s second-ever entry in the sci-fi genre. The family-friendly adventure is based on a beloved Czechoslovakian television series (1978-1983) that became a cultural sensation in Vietnam throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, to the extent that the titular character has been cited as influencing consumer behaviors that range from children’s haircuts to baby name choices.

The film begins a year after Hung’s (Lai Truong Phu) mother died. Now the 8-year-old and his father Thanh (Ngòc Tuòng) live in an apartment above his father’s cell phone repair shop. Hung’s only real friend My (Khánh Như) and her family moved out, leaving Hung, who likes to fly his Comet remote airplane (the fun beginning sequence), has been left on his own, as his father works long hours below in his shop. Two goons, hired by the building’s owner, are trying to force all the tenants out so he can sell it for triple the value.

One night, Hung sees a glowing purple object streak across the sky and crash into a nearby lake, which just happens to be near property the unscrupulous, ultra-wealthy space program developer Nghia (think Elon Musk, only villainous) has recently bought up. The now-damaged vehicle contained Maika (Chu Dièp Anh, voiced by Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), an alien who takes the form of a young girl with purple hair. While investigating, Hung nearly drowns trying to retrieve Comet from the lake, but Maika rescues him, and their strange friendship begins.

The two bad guy goons are there for obvious comic relief. Since it is a film for kids, there are the obligatory fart jokes. Hung’s flying antagonist CuBeo ends up helping Hung and Maika, to whom he is attracted. Product placement is a bit obvious, especially when the biggest events take place in the Disney World-like Sun World amusement park.

All in all, the film is entertaining and offers some laughs, as well as a wonderful music score by Christopher Wong. Reportedly, writer-director Ham Tran (“Journey from the Fall,” “Bitcoin Heist”) began work on the film shortly after the death of his own mother, which influences the way Hung and his father’s grief is handled. In addition to a flying moment, the film is very like “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” in that Maika is trying to fix her antenna so she can call home for rescue. Grade: film 3 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz aka Ensayo De Un Crimen (Mexico, 1955, VCI Entertainment/MVD Visual, Blu-ray, NR, 99 min.). Some consider this to be Luis Buñuel’s most underrated film. As usual, it combines the macabre with comedy. Most of the film is a flashback confession of the title character to murders he wanted to commit, but actually didn’t, as outside forces actually do the deeds.

The film begins with the introduction of Archibaldo as an overindulged young boy of privilege. He is given a music box, a family heirloom, that allegedly caused the death of an enemy when played. The boy decides to test it out, setting his sights on his nanny, wishing for her death. When moments later, a stray bullet from a revolutionary’s gun sails though the window and kills her, Archie is convinced it was no accident. He carries the mindset of a serial killer into adulthood, plotting and fantasizing the deaths of women he encounters.

One of his alleged victims is a woman who models for department store mannequins, which leads to a very perverse date. Another is his much younger bride. Ernesto Alonso plays the adult Archibaldo.

The restored, black-and-white film comes with a visual essay (26:40) on Buñuel’s career by Dr. David Wilt, who points out how two of the actors died before the film’s premiere — Miroslava, who played Lavinia, and Jose Maria Linares-Rivas, who played Willy Corduran — and co-screenwriter Eduardo Ugarte died six months after the premiere. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extra 2 stars

Symphony for a Massacre (France, 1963, Cohen Film Collection, NR, 110 min.). This new release is of the 2016 restoration of Jacques Deray’s strangely named film. According to the extra, the title was chosen to resemble that of another recently popular film in France. Nonetheless, the engaging story has to do with five businessmen, who own and operate a dance hall/casino, who combine their funds for one last drug purchase ($500,000) to set them up for life. However, one of the five men cleverly arranges to steal the money and arrange an alibi. The five then start dying one by one, some because the betrayer made two foolish mistakes.

The five men include the eldest one, Paoli (Charles Vanel, “The Wages of Fear”), who finalizes the deal; Moreau (Jose Giovanni), who is the one to deliver the funds after a ride on the late train; Maurice Clavet (Michel Auclair), who runs the gambling tables; Valoti (Claude Dauphin), who will handle the distribution arrangements; and Christian Jabeke (Jean Rochefort in his first serious lead role), who is off to Brussels for a business meeting. The first wrinkle is Jabeke is having an affair with Valoti’s wife (Daniela Rocca). Michele Mercier plays Clavet’s worried wife.

The sole extra is a discussion of the film by journalist and biographer Jean-Philippe Guerand (“Jean Rochefort, pince sans rire”) and film historian and author Francois Guerif (“Le film noir American”). They discuss, in separate, intertwined interviews, the production history, visual aesthetics and dialog of the film (28:21). Grade: film 3 stars; extra 2 stars

NCIS: The 19th Season (CBS/Paramount, 5 DVDs, NR, 14 hours 52 min.). The veteran Naval Criminal Investigative Service series sees People’s Choice Award winner Mark Harmon retire his lead role as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The season starts with a search for Gibbs after wreckage from his boat is found, without any sign of him. It turns out, Gibbs was on a secret mission to track down a serial killer. Leading the search are Agent Jessica Knight (Katrina Law) and Special Agents Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Nickolas Torres (Wilmer Valderrama). Special guest stars include Pam Dawber (“Mork & Mindy”) and Denise Crosby (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”).

The set comes with more than 45 minutes of special features, including “Being Gibbs” (10:28), on shooting on location in Alaska (5:43), Brian Dietzen and Scott Williams discussing “The Helpers” (5:40), on Gary Cole and Law joining the show (7:58), a look at Torres and Jane Tennant (7:33) and an overall cast look (11:18).

NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 13 (CBS/Paramount, 5 DVDs, NR, 15 hours 41 min.). During this season, the spinoff show marked its 300th episode. Much of the action centers around Special Agent G. Callen’s (Chris O’Donnell) pursuit of Russian operative Katya (Jana Kolesarova), whose use of deepfakes to pose as Callen put the whole team at risk. Other threats come from Chinese intelligence, white nationalist militias, the Mob, and an online army of murderous internet trolls.

The set comes with more than an hour of special features, including an overview of the season, the addition of Gerald McRaney as a series regular as Admiral Kilbride (he had made guest appearances previously), the cast and crew discussing the 300th episode, deleted and extended scenes, and a gag reel.

NCIS: Hawai’i: Season One (CBS/Paramount, 6 DVDs, NR, 14 hours 12 min.). The newest series in the NCISverse stars Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant, the first female special agent in charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor. Tennant has thrived and risen through the ranks by equal parts confidence and strategy in a system that has pushed her back on her every step of the way. Her team includes field agents Kai Holman (Alex Tarrant), Jesse Boone (Noah Mills) and Lucy Tara (Yasmine Al-Bustami), plus tech specialist Ernie Malik (Jason Antoon). Also in the cast are Tori Anderson as FBI Agent Kate Whistler and Kian Talen as Tennant’s son, Alex.

The set contains both parts of the special crossover with “NCIS.” There are more than 45 minutes of bonus features, including a look into making the series, costume designer Luke Reichle giving a tour of the costume department, production designer Andrew Bernard and set decorator Carrie Stewart discussing the sets and a look at Nickolas Torres and Tennant (also available on the season 19 “NCIS” set).

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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