Mack & Rita (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or DVD, PG-13, 94 min.). It always is a pleasure to watch Diane Keaton (“Annie Hall”), especially when she plays comedy as she does in this body-swapping film, even if the script is somewhat flimsy.

Mack (Elizabeth Lail) is a 30-year-old author, who has the usual second book writing block and her agent has reduced her to earning by being an internet product influencer. Much of the film is about influencing and it is pretty deadly stuff. Mack was raised by her grandmother, whose lifestyle, clothing and so on she so admired that she often says she feels like a 70-year-old woman in a 30-year-old body. During her best friend Carla’s (Taylour Paige) bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs, Mack has a desire to lie down, so she enters the tent of a “regress and be blessed” past life specialist (Rex Smith), who uses a junked tanning bed as his meditation chamber. Mack emerges as a 70-year-old (Keaton).

The “new” Mack immediately confides in Carla, who all-too-easily believes her, and “new” Mack goes back to her apartment in Los Angeles as Mack’s Aunt Rita. Throughout the film, Keaton has chances at physical comedy, including falling into a swimming pool and being jerked around by a Pilates machine. A wasted scene, unless you like rainbow coloring on the screen, has her try mushrooms. Rita also begins to bond much more closely with neighbor-dog watcher Jack (an appealing and handsome Dustin Milligan) than Mack ever did. She also gets invited into Carla’s mother Sharon’s (Loretta Devine) wine circle of older ladies, played by Lois Smith, Amy Hill, and Wendie Malick.

Everything leads to the expected kiss with Jack and the usual business-or-friendship conflict, in which Rita chooses wrongly despite her initially correct intentions.

Extras include a “making-of” with cast interview bits (10:46) and a look at the film’s fashion (4:31). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 2 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Fall (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or DVD, PG-13, 107 min.). This is one of those films that is so intense that for a long stretch, I was just wishing it would get over. It does not have the best title, as it can be considered both misleading and a spoiler. A better title would have been “Tower,” because a 2,000-foot abandoned TV tower in the desert is what the two protagonists climb and then get stuck atop of when the final 200 feet of ladder fall off the structure and they only have 50 feet of rope.

The two young women are Becky (Grace Caroline Currey), who is still grieving the climbing death of her husband Dan (Mason Gooding of Hulu’s “Love, Victor”), shown in the brief prologue, and her best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner), who also was on the climb that killed Dan. Hunter, who is a video blogging daredevil (more silly vlogging stuff), convinces Becky to emerge from her drunken funk – something dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of TV’s “The Walking Dead” in a very small part) could not manage – to make the risky climb and scatter Dan’s ashes from the top of the antenna tower. (Apparently the B-67 tower is real and was once the fourth highest structure in the United States.) Ironically, once stranded up the tower, they can get no cellphone service.

The climb up the tower and then the ladder collapse are the highlights here. The film then stretches things the bit, including an attack by a vulture.

Directed and written by Scott Mann (“Heist”), with cowriter Jonathan Frank, the film will induce vertigo, if you are so inclined, and is not for those who fear heights. The two actresses did all their own stunts on a 100-foot tower that was placed near a 2,000-foot cliff for the total height effect. The filming was in the Mojave Desert, adding to the remoteness. Those details are in the ‘making-of’ featurette (15:42). The Blu-ray also comes with a music video and audio commentary by Mann and James Harris, who produced. Grade: film 2.75 stars; extras 2 stars

The “Gothic Fantastico” box set is opened up. Courtesy Arrow Video.


Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror (Italy, 1963-66, Arrow Video, 4 Blu-rays, NR, 371 min.). The 1960s were the golden era for Italian gothic horror films. Of the four black-and-white films here, both “Lady Morgan’s Vengeance” and “The Blancheville Monster,” are set in Scotland in the past, while “The Third Eye” and “The Witch” are set in 1960s Italy. The films are of mixed quality.

In “Lady Morgan’s Vengeance” (1965, 81 min.), Susan, who is about to reach her majority with her 21st birthday, arrives home with architect Pierre, her secret lover. However, shady Lord Harold informs her that her Uncle Neville has died. Harold also has replaced all the staff and now is assisted by sinister housekeeper Lillian. When Pierre heads for Paris, Harold has him knocked out and thrown off the boat. As a result, Susan ends up marrying Harold, although their marriage is sexless. The viewer learns Pierre has survived, but first in a coma and then with amnesia. Meanwhile, Lillian is using hypnotism on Susan, while Neville, who also is alive (!), is being tortured in the bowels of the castle. The vengeance comes late in the film, when things become fun and more twisted, including hauntings.

Extras include audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; an introduction by Mark Thompson Ashworth (4:38); a visual essay by Kat Ellinger that links the film to Japanese horror, including the Grudge spirit (21:29); interviews with Erika Blanc (24:04; Lillian) and Paul Muller (20:03; Harold); a 1993 audio interview with director Massimo Pupillo (20:16); the lengthy, all-illustrated 1971 piece on the film from Suspense magazine; and an image gallery.

In “The Blancheville Monster” aka “Horror” (1963, 88 min., both Italian and English versions), Emilie, who has been away at school, returns with her lover John Taylor and his sister Alice, her best friend. There is a similar setup, as Emilie’s father has died, and all the servants have been changed. The film owes its inspiration to Edgar Alan Poe’s “Premature Burial” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” even naming Emilie’s controlling brother Roderic, as in “Usher.” Apparently, efforts are afoot to kill Emilie due to a century-old gravestone prophecy that she will bring about the end of her family’s line. The film has lots of walking and talking, and no real thrills. The ending is predictable.

Extras include audio commentary by Paul Anthony Nelson; Ashworth’s introduction (6:49), a visual essay by Keith Allison on the Poe connection (20:54); an interview with filmmaker Antonio Tentori (13:55); and an image gallery.

“The Third Eye” (1966, 87 min., both Italian and English versions) is an early film in Franco Nero’s career. He plays young Count Mino, who spirals into madness after his domineering mother and fiancée Laura are killed by his jealous servant Marta (Gioia Pascal), who is secretly in love with him. It was the mother who instructed the servant to get rid of Laura. As the film turns creepy, the count, who has taxidermized birds, has recovered Laura’s body and similarly preserved it, keeping it on his bed. He also starts picking up strippers and prostitutes and killing them. Things turn complicated when Laura’s look-alike sister (both played by Erika Blanc) shows up. The film tries to be sexy, but in a very chaste way, probably due to censorship fears.

Extras include audio commentary by Rachael Nisbet; Ashworth’s introduction (6:15); a visual essay by Lindsay Hallam, who notes the similarities with “Psycho” (12 min.); another interview with Blanc (15:40); and an image gallery.

“The Witch” (1966, 109 min., both Italian and English versions) has a give-away title that ruins the film’s central mystery. A womanizer (Richard Johnson as Sergio) is lured to organize an old woman’s (Sarah Ferrati as Consuelo) library by the presence of her alluring daughter (Rosanna Schiaffino as Aura). Sergio was correct that Consuelo had been following him for some time. One problem with the new arrangement, which requires Sergio to live with the two women, is the presence of the previous librarian (Gian Maria Volonte as Fabrizio), who was also Aura’s lover. The film has some good music and a dead body tied to railroad tracks. It maintains a good mystery of what the heck is going on.

Extras include audio commentary by Ellinger; Ashworth’s introduction (3:46); a visual essay by Miranda Corcoran on witches (24:25); an interview with Tentori (18:38); and an image gallery. The set comes with a double-sided poster and an 80-page book with new writings. Grade: each film is 3 stars, except for The Blancheville Monster 1.5 stars

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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