Lectures For Lifelong Learners!

“Last Night in Soho” and “The Addams Family 2” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

A Hard Day’s Night

Beatlemania was in full swing in 1964 when “A Hard Day’s Night” was released, and the opening credit sequence wastes no time dropping us in the middle of it. We see John (John Lennon), George (George Harrison), Paul (Paul McCartney), and Ringo (Ringo Starr) as they race through city streets, donning disguises and hopping over obstacles as they’re chased by screaming fans on their way to catch a train.

The opening is perfect, as it sets a tone that is ridden straight through the movie’s 87-minute run time. The fab four are young, hip, cool, energetic, funny, charming, and irreverent. This is in sharp contrast to the middle-aged authority figures in their lives, most notably manager Norm (Norman Rossington), who does his best to keep their wilder tendencies in check. John in particular seems to cause him a lot of trouble.

The lads, however, are not the only troublemakers. While the clever quips and bits of bother they find themselves in can be chalked up to the exuberance of youth, Paul’s grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) is on a whole other level. He revels in stirring up trouble by pitting people against each other. His skills at doing this are hinted at in an early scene on the train, where he causes tension between Norm and his assist Shake (John Junkin). We see it in full swing in the third act where he convinces impressionable young Ringo that he isn’t living his life to the fullest, prompting Ringo to skip out on the last rehearsal before a live TV show gig the band has booked that evening. While this may be a Beatles movie, Grandfather is the most memorable, and arguably the most entertaining, character.

This wouldn’t be a Beatles movie without music, and “A Hard Day’s Night” has many tunes that have since become classics, including “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Tell Me Why,” “If I Fell,” and of course the title track, “A Hard Day’s Night.” It’s one thing to hear the songs and yet another to see them performed. One of the highlights of the movie comes at the end, in which we’re treated to an extended sequence of The Beatles performing their hit songs, complete with cutaways to the adoring fans cheering them on and saying the names of their favorite Beatle.

A lot of movies are fun to watch, but few are as infectious as “A Hard Day’s Night.” It’s imbued with a manic energy that perfectly captures the spirit of youth, no matter the decade. Buy it.

Also New This Week

Last Night In Soho

I will give co-writer/director Edgar Wright the credit he deserves for “Last Night in Soho.” The concept of the story, in which a young modern-day woman with psychic abilities named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) rents an apartment in north London and sees visions of the life and struggles of its mid-1960s occupant Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), is an intriguing one. The rules on how Eloise experiences what Sandie experiences are fast and loose (sometimes she observes Sandie, other times she sees through Sandie’s eyes), but the scenes are technically proficient and performances are solid all around.

However, an interesting concept and a technically well-made movie only go so far in narrative cinema. The story has to be solid and the characters have to be believable, and this is where “Last Night in Soho” has issues. While I did admire what I will call a furthering of the twist at the end and leave it at that to avoid spoilers, the reveals up to then are predictable for anyone who understands the story writing concepts of the red herring and economy of characters.

Speaking of characters, there is a moral statement that Eloise makes at the end that makes me not like her—and I was already on the fence regarding her at that point—but that is low on the list of character problems. The main issues come with two supporting players: the cruel and snobby Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen) and love interest John (Michael Ajao). The problem is they don’t feel like characters as much as they feel like plot devices. Neither one behaves in a way that they should and the only reason they act a certain way is because it’s who the story needs them to be at any given time. This causes “Last Night in Soho” to ring one too many false notes, as well-done as it may be. Stream it.

The Addams Family 2

Like the theme song says, the Addams family lives in a museum where people come to see ’em. While a lot of fun can be had at the Addams residence, I appreciated that “The Addams Family 2” took the family out of their comfort zone and sent them on a cross country road trip. We step away from the doom and gloom of the household and see how the family handles warmer, sunnier locales like Niagara Falls, Miami, and the Grand Canyon. There are some funny moments as they explore the unfamiliar.

If only “The Addams Family 2” was more of an episodic road trip and had less to do with a greedy, unscrupulous scientist named Cyrus Strange (voice of Bill Hader) who tries to convince Gomez (voice of Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (voice of Charlize Theron) that Wednesday (voice of Chloe Grace Moretz) is actually his daughter and not theirs. This story is less inspired and less funny, with side characters like It (voice of Snoop Dogg) and Mr. Mustela (voice of Wallace Shawn) weaving in and out try to liven things up. There is only so much they can do though, and an entire subplot involving Grandma (voice of Bette Midler) is almost completely abandoned and totally pointless. I wish that the road trip gags were enough to recommend “The Addams Family 2,” but sadly they are not. Skip it.

More New Releases

“The Last Son,” in which an outlaw attempts to end his evil family line, starring Sam Worthington, Machine Gun Kelly, Thomas Jane, and Heather Graham; and “Red Stone,” about a hitman tasked with hunting down a teenager who witnessed the murder of his older brother at the hands of a ruthless Southern crime lord, starring Neal McDonough, Alexandria DeBerry, and Michael Cudlitz.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover and author of the novel “Takedown,” which is available on Amazon, iTunes, and more. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.