Neal McDonough, Tim Blake Nelson & Sam Hazeldine shine in their new films


Neal McDonough’s performance in “Apex” elevates the film. (Photo courtesy of RLJE Films)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (OPINION) — The work of very talented actors are featured in three new movies available through digital platforms this week.

“Apex” Grade 2 ½ stars: Without Neal McDonough, this action movie would have barely risen above the mediocre level. He is such a good actor that even the mundane gets better.

His latest turn at helping improve a film is “Apex.” The film – available Nov. 12 through On Demand and other digital platforms – has McDonough portraying Rainsford, a ruthless hunter of humans. He and his five hunting buddies finally meet a worthy prey in ex-cop Thomas Malone (Bruce Willis) serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. He is offered a chance at freedom if he can survive a deadly game of Apex.

Willis comes across as tired and bored while McDonough provides enough energy for both of them.

“Old Henry” Grade 3 stars: Tim Blake Nelson takes advantage of finally being cast in a movie where he doesn’t have to be loud or over the top. His latest role is a man of few words who only becomes a person of action as a last resort.

He stars in the Western about a widowed farmer and his son living in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906 who get caught up in a battle over stolen money. The film looks like a standard Western but there is a smart twist to the tale.

That twist only works because Nelson brings a performance worthy of Oscar attention.

 “The War Below” Grade 3/12 stars: This film is based on the true story of working class miners who were rejected from serving in the war. They are recruited by Colonel “Hellfire Jack” Norton-Griffiths (Tom Goodman-Hill) to take on the task of digging a tunnel underneath from the allied trenches to the German enemy lines in hopes of successfully setting off bombs and saving the allied war effort.  

The film looks at a handful of heroes but it is the work of British actor Sam Hazeldine, who plays William Hawkin, that stands out in the crowd. He brings a quiet dignity and determination to the role of one of the patriotic miners that serves as the emotional anchor for the film.

New on DVD and Blu-ray as of Nov. 9

“Reminiscence” Grade 3 stars: First-time feature film director/writer Lisa Joy has quietly woven together a love story with a dystopian vision and wrapped it in a cautionary tale. The fact the pacing is a little slow crashes against the traditional summer offering where fast action and big explosions are the norm.

It is OK to be a little methodical when the story survives on such a heavy romantic beat. The chemistry first exposed in “The Greatest Showman” between Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson expands into a heart-touching formula.

At its heart, “Reminiscence” is a time travel movie but it isn’t hampered with all the pitfalls those types of movies end up facing.

“Batman: Year One”: The animated film based on 1987 DC titles from Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli depicts young Bruce Wayne’s return toGotham City in his first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed superhero.

“A Gift from Bob”: Street musician gets a very special holiday present.

“Tina”: An intimate look at the legendary queen of rock and roll.

“Emily in Paris: Season One”: Lily Collins stars in this tale of a young woman who moves to Paris for work but finds a new life.

“The Emperor’s Sword”: Deranged rebel seizes power and stages a massacre during his search for a deadly sword, leaving only one survivor. 

“Snowpiercer: The Complete Second Season”: Survivors of the revolution are trying to pick up the pieces and maintain a fragile peace with Layton (Daveed Diggs) emerging as the train’s leader.

“Surviving Supercon”: The film shines a light on the behind the scenes of the independent comic and pop culture conventions.

Available through digital platforms

“Violet”: Violet Calder (Olivia Munn) realizes that she can no longer ignore the daily barrage of self-criticisms (voiced by Justin Theroux) that clouds her life and looks for a new path to follow. 

“Stratton Castle: Tale of Jessie Golden Heart”: This film based on a true story explores the forbidden passion that transcends the social classes of 1800’s Scotland.

“See You Next Christmas”: Two people who meet each year at a holiday party begin to suspect they should be together.

“Two Yellow Lines”: A father and daughter reconnect during a trip through the wilderness.

“Hard Luck Love Song”: Charismatic troubadour hustles pool in dive bars, lives out of cheap motels and makes bad decisions.

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