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article imageReview: A double edition of New on DVD for May 5 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 6, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the original ‘Mad Max’; his bear-y adorable antithesis; complete sets of some of TV’s best; and a couple of Oscar nominees showcasing their merit.
The Barber (Blu-ray)
ARC Entertainment
Eugene van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) is a small-town barber hiding a dark secret. Twenty years earlier he was arrested for several gruesome murders, but was released due to insufficient evidence. The detective in charge of the case killed himself in despair. Now the detective’s son, John (Chris Coy), is in town, with a few secrets of his own.
This is a murder mystery that attempts to keep audiences on their toes. On one hand, John’s obsession with the case that sent his father over the edge may be mirroring his fixation to the point that it could also destroy him. Never questioning whether his father was correct, he simply sets out to prove Eugene is guilty — possibly by any means necessary. On the other hand, Eugene seems like a harmless old man who may just be the victim of mistaken identity. The story unfolds slowly as John tries to get closer to Eugene and then find evidence of his guilt. Glenn’s performance is steady with few facial expressions and an even tone throughout. Coy’s is the opposite as he’s driven by emotion and the need to validate his father’s suspicions.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; and an alternate ending. (ARC Entertainment)
The Boy Next Door (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a high-school literature teacher struggling to get back in the dating game after separating from her cheating husband while raising her adolescent son. When handsome and charismatic 19-year-old Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door, Claire has a moment of weakness that leads to an intimate night together. Noah’s attraction quickly turns into a violent obsession, threatening to tear apart Claire’s world and endanger the people she loves.
The escalation of Noah’s obsession is surreal. The morning after their sexual encounter, he’s already punching a wall because Claire is backpedalling. Granted the film is only 91 minutes, but it would seem this all occurs in little more than a couple of weeks. Before things go sour, both characters are sexualized. But it’s Lopez — the female character — generally in the voyeur position. However, the objectification lens is reversed when they finally have sex. The close-ups are primarily of an almost-nude Lopez. And since this is the only really sexy scene in the film, these images are recycled throughout the remainder of the picture. While obsession and stalking aren’t really laughing matters, for the most part, the script is ridiculous.
Special features include: commentary by director Rob Cohen; deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Cheers: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Sam Malone (Ted Danson) is a former relief-pitcher for the Boston Red Sox turned sober saloon owner of a popular neighbourhood spot. From snotty erudite Diane (Shelley Long), a chronic academic forced to become a waitress when her fiancé dumps her to ruthless corporate careerist Rebecca Howe (Kristen Alley), relegated to riding herd over this unruly bunch, Sam remains a (somewhat) calming presence. Add to the mix wisecracking Carla (Rhea Perlman), suds-slurping regular Norm (George Wendt), know-it-all letter-carrier Cliff (John Ratzenberger), gentle-spirited Coach (Nicholas Colasanto), sweet-natured Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson), and freelance shrink Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), and you’re all set to raise a glass.
It may seem strange to assert that one’s home away from home is a bar, but that’s what Cheers was for the oddball cast of staff and regulars. Particularly in the early years, viewers rarely saw the characters outside the walls of the drink establishment. Sam’s office was the setting of a number of intimate conversations and encounters, unfitting for the drink pouring station or billiards table. Each of the actors in this TV show would forever be associated with their characters as everyone truly did know their names, though Harrelson did eventually distance himself from the dim-yet-loveable bartender and Grammer turned his personality into a very successful spinoff series. With so many offbeat characters, the storyline possibilities were extensive and even after seven seasons it was still a sad day when the doors to Cheers were closed for the last time.
Special features include: all extras released on individual season sets, such as “Setting The Bar: A Conversation with Ted Danson”; “Love At First Fight: Opposites Distract”; “Coach Ernie Pantusso’s Rules of the Game”; “I’ll Drink To That Stormin’ Norm-isms”; “It’s A Little Known First: Cheers Trivia Game”; “Strictly Top Shelf: The Guys Behind the Bar”; “Cliff’s Notes: The Wisdom of Cliff Clavin”; “Carla The Comeback Queen: Insults For Every Occasion”; and “Di Another Day: Diane Chambers From A-Z.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
From a Whisper to a Scream (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
On the night his niece is executed for committing a string of brutal killings, historian Julian White (Vincent Price) reveals the sinister secrets of her hometown, Oldfield, Tennessee; a horrific hamlet that spawns evil. But as the town's murderous legacy is exposed with White's chilling accounts — including stories of a necrophiliac madman, a voodoo priest with life-prolonging powers and a legion of children with an appetite for flesh — White doesn't realize that he is about the write the final chapter of Oldfield's morbid history in his own blood.
Old school horror anthologies are still some of the best. This one maintains a particular theme, linking all the stories to the town though they otherwise share no relation to each other. Each unfolds at an even pace, beginning with the creepy “beware of your neighbour” type of story before reaching a more gruesome climax. Price is eternally one of the best storytellers to have ever graced the screen, his legendary timbre relating the tales of murder and monsters in a manner that demands and holds the viewer’s attention. The stories are equally captivating by not relying solely on their monsters to disturb audiences.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Jeff Burr; commentary with writer/producer Darin Scott and writer C. Courtney Joyner; “Return To Oldfield”; “A Decade Under The Innocence”; still gallery with commentary by writer/director Jeff Burr; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
The Fugitive: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Dr. Richard Kimble (Richard Janssen) is a dedicated doctor falsely accused and convicted of killing his wife. While being transported to death row, a freak train accident allows him to break free from the custody of Lt. Philip Gerard (Barry Morse). While Gerard chases down Kimble, the good doctor is on a quest to find his wife’s real killer — the one-armed man who Kimble witnessed fleeing the scene of the crime. Switching identities while helping strangers in need along the way, Kimble’s life is constantly on the move, but he will not stop until justice is found.
This type of story in which the protagonist moves from town to town helping strangers they’ve encountered in one way or another was popular several decades ago (so much so that even a dog, The Littlest Hobo, adopted it). Kimble and Gerard were the only constants as the latter repeatedly “just missed him” à la Carmen Sandiego. In the first season each episode began with Kimble’s uncommon escape before launching into his latest tale of being a Good Samaritan told in three acts; it was subsequently replaced by a voiceover monologue in later seasons. Both Kimble and Gerard’s dedication to their search is at the centre of the series, which remained interesting for much longer than one would expect based on such a simple concept.
Special features include: episodic promo for “Landscape with Running Figures”; and “Composer Dominic Frontiere: Season of Change & The Color of Music.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Gambler (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) a brilliant professor leading a secret double life as a high-stakes gambler. When Jim is forced to borrow money from a notorious gangster, he places the lives of those he loves in mortal danger. With time running out, he must enter the criminal underworld and risk everything to keep from losing it all.
Audiences are used to seeing Wahlberg in roles that require more brawn than brain, portraying characters who exist on either side of the law. Therefore playing a philosophy professor with profound insights into human existence and a desire to deconstruct his own life is a departure for the actor. Yet he lends the character a sense of humanity and possibility inherent to himself. This remake of the 1974 film of the same name matches its predecessor in many ways, though it also changes the protagonist's trajectory. Wahlberg's Jim is very different from James Caan's depiction; he still has a chip on his shoulder, but its effects on his actions vary as the contemporary gambler rushes toward a form of suicide and the older player revels in the adrenaline of violence.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “Mr. Self Destruct: Inside The Gambler”; “Dark Before Dawn: The Descent of The Gambler”; “Changing The Game: Adaptation”; “In The City: Locations”; and “Dressing The Players: Costume Design.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
JAG: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Judge Advocate General officers (a.k.a. uniformed lawyers) Harmon “Harm” Rabb, Jr. (David James Elliott), Sarah “Mac” MacKenzie (Catherine Bell) and their team work the front lines of justice.
Before NCIS, this series took television audiences into Naval courtrooms in a similar fashion to Law & Order. Where the spin-off show centres on criminal investigations and the whodunit aspect of crime dramas, its predecessor focused on the action in the courtroom defending and prosecuting criminal cases under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Also similar to its contemporaries, episode plots were adapted from news headlines, such as bombings, the rescue of a downed pilot and a cable car disaster. This series lacked the humour of its successor, but its characters were still interesting and the intrigue of cases were more pivotal to maintaining viewers’ attention.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; “How the Series Took Flight”; “JAG: An Inside Look”; and “The Military Accuracy.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Mad Max: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
In the ravaged near-future, a savage motorcycle gang rules the road. Terrorizing innocent civilians while tearing up the streets, the ruthless gang laughs in the face of a police force hell-bent on stopping them. But they underestimate one officer: Max (Mel Gibson). And when the bikers brutalize Max's best friend and family, they send him into a mad frenzy that leaves him with only one thing left in the world to live for — revenge.
This timely re-release of the gritty Australian cult classic is not only an excellent transfer of the film, but it also contains new interviews with cast and crew that allow them to reflect on their experiences shooting the low budget action picture and reveal details of which many fans may be unaware. In spite of being made in 1979, the film stands the test of time and is still enjoyable nearly four decades later. This film gave birth to the Max that proliferates in pop culture. In only his second big screen role, Gibson became an icon. The story is very basic and familiar, but the performances by villains Hugh Keays-Byrne and Tim Burns make the outlaw bikers a memorable power. The barren landscape and supped up cars create a straightforward apocalyptic world that serves as the perfect groundwork for the sequels that would follow.
Special features include: commentary by art director Jon Dowding, director of photography David Eggby, special effects artist Chris Murray and Tim Ridge; new interviews with Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel and director of photography David Eggby; “Mel Gibson: The Birth Of A Superstar”; “Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon”; photo galleries; TV spots; and theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)
Mahogany: The Couture Edition (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
A Chicago secretary (Diana Ross) becomes a high fashion model and world famous designer in Rome.
Ross’ follow-up to portraying Billie Holiday leaves a lot to be desired — at least from a modern perspective. She is radiant and exudes so much energy, one has to wonder how much of it could possibly be natural. The story begins at the height of her success, followed by a flashback that composes most of the movie reciting her journey to the top. Every man she encounters is toxic to her dreams and/or self-esteem, yet the film’s biggest failing is her response to their treatment. As a result, half the picture is a stunning portrayal of fashion and an underdog achieving her goals, while the other is an infuriating display of an oppressed woman being treated poorly by a series of more powerful men.
Special features include: photo gallery; and collectible fashion photography cards. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Masters of Sex: Season Two (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Having been dismissed by Maternity Hospital, Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) needs a place where he and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) can resume their work. But thanks to their study’s controversial topic — sex — they are forced out of two more hospitals before deciding to open their own clinic. With the seeds of the sexual revolution being sown and the simmering civil rights movement exploding around them, the intimate relationship they started under the guise of their research unravels as the result of Masters’ sudden impotence. With the prospect of treating sexual dysfunction becoming increasingly important to their patients and themselves, at home Masters confronts his wife’s growing disaffection and the unexpected return of his estranged brother, while Johnson faces a crisis of her own when the publicity surrounding their work places the custody of her two children in doubt.
This season has a much different tone than the first. The opening season consisted of more playful storylines as Masters and Johnson conducted the study via trial and error. Masters’ uncomfortableness and Johnson’s ability to put people at ease was the perfect balance. This season focuses more on their intimate relationships and issues with the study taking a backseat to their personal involvement. The problem with this approach is they were never constructed as very likeable characters, making this switch in attention a difficult adjustment particularly in the early episodes. At about the midpoint of the season, the storylines once again garner interest but this chapter is definitely a step down from the initial one.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Making History”; “The Men of Sex: Actors’ Roundtable”; and “The Women of Sex.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Miami Blues: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Veteran criminal Frederick Frenger, Jr. (Alec Baldwin) has moved to Miami to get a fresh start at robbing a whole new set of people. But when his streetwalker-gone-straight teen wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) begins to suspect his criminal behavior, and an obsessed cop (Fred Ward) begins to close in, he will need a lot more than luck and a bogus badge to escape the crossfire.
This is an eccentric crime thriller with a kooky protagonist. Junior is most definitely a career criminal, jumping from one illegal act to the next just to get ahead. He’s also a little unhinged, often behaving erratically. The story becomes most interesting after Junior steals a police badge and he runs around posing as a cop during an apparent local crime spree, interrupting robberies and then completing them himself. A young Baldwin embraces his character’s madness, never attempting to make him sympathetic but rather just interesting. Leigh’s character is quite precious, measuring Junior’s ability to be a good man by his tolerance of her cooking and aversion to domestic violence. Ward is excellent in the role of the persistent, nonconformist detective who fits into their world almost too effortlessly.
Special features include: new interviews with actors Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh. (Shout Factory)
Mr. Turner (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Spanning the last 25 years in the life of Britain’s most revered painter, James W. Turner (Timothy Spall) is a portrait of a complex, contradictory man whose relationships with his family, fellow artists and lovers were often as turbulent as the canvases he painted.
The film drops viewers into Turner’s middle-age in which he is already an established painter who is gradually and reluctantly on his way out of the art world. Spall’s Oscar best actor nomination is quite deserving as he spent years of pre-production doing training and research to ensure they got it right, including a painting tutor. He captures the curmudgeonly man inside and out, transforming completely to deliver a genuine performance. In addition, the attention to the sets and production design is impeccable. Filmmakers recreated the galleries that played such a significant role in Turner’s notoriety as well as the picturesque landscapes that inspired so many of his works. Everyone involved in this picture goes through a lot of effort to ensure its accuracy and it shows a great deal.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Mike Leigh; deleted scene; “Many Colours of Mr. Turner”; and “The Cinematic Palette: The Cinematography of Mr. Turner.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Paddington (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Anchor Bay Entertainment and TWC-Deminsion
A young Peruvian bear, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined until he meets the kindly Brown family (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) who take him home after reading the label around his neck. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rare talking bear catches the eye of Millicent (Nicole Kidman), a museum taxidermist.
From his passion for marmalade sandwiches to his good manners to his well-intentioned clumsiness, Paddington is just as you remember him and more than able to win the hearts of the uninitiated. His appearance is a cross between a stuffed teddy and a young grizzly dressed in his uncle’s hat and eventually his signature blue duffle coat. Most of the picture’s early mishaps are related to his unfamiliarity with the world, but it’s that same inexperience that makes him loveable and occasionally a hero. Assisting Paddington puts the Browns in some interesting situations. And their nosey neighbour, Mr. Curry, is played flawlessly by the newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi. It's generally impossible not to chuckle at some cute or funny moment in the movie and likely equally impossible to complete the film without feeling a little cheerier than before it started.
Special features include: “Meet the Characters”; “When a Bear Comes to Stay”; “From Page to Screen”; and “Shine” lyric music video. (Anchor Bay Entertainment and TWC-Deminsion)
The Pyramid (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The age-old wonders of the world have long cursed explorers who’ve dared to unlock their mysteries. But a team of archaeologists gets more than they bargained for when they discover a lost pyramid unlike any other in the Egyptian desert. As they begin to uncover its horrifying secrets, they realize they’re being relentlessly hunted by an ancient evil more nightmarish than anything they could have imagined.
The Egyptian pyramids are a source of awe and mystery, consequently making them the ideal subject for horror imaginings. The strangeness of this particular pyramid is revealed at the film’s start and it only gets odder from there. The events in the first act that result in the main characters’ inevitable entry into the mystifying structure aren’t the least predictable, but nothing outside of the pyramid’s walls are especially interesting anyway. Once inside, the archaeologists and documentarians are confronted with a cat-rat hybrid that turns out to be the least of their worries. The actual monster of the story is generally unique even if it doesn’t fit into the narrative that well.
Special features include: extended ending; “Fear”; “Partners”; “Space Archaeology”; “Egyptian Myths”; and image gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Selma (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Dr. Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) rallied his followers on the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in the face of violent opposition, an event that became a milestone victory for the civil rights movement.
Often when choosing to relate the life of a historical figure, filmmakers attempt to encompass as much of their lives as possible into a two-hour movie. However this frequently results in a noticeably incomplete rendering of the subject’s existence. With numerous depictions of King’s life already available, this film chooses to focus on one of the countless crusades in which he participated or led. It was one of his most significant marches, though not one widely known prior to the film’s release. Still, it’s not just about King; a lot of attention is directed to many of his friends and colleagues who worked to organize the townspeople and stood tall next to them in the face of violent opposition — a scene that is expertly reconstructed via archival footage and recreations, which force audiences to relive the brutality of that day in a manner that is very affecting.
Special features include: commentary by director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo; commentary by director Ava DuVernay, director of photography Bradford Young and editor Spencer Averick; deleted and extended scenes; “The Road to Selma”; “Recreating Selma”; “Glory” music video featuring John Legend and Common; “National Voting Rights Museum and Institute”; “Selma Student Tickets: Donor Appreciation”; historical newsreels; and photo gallery. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Taken 3 (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The hunter becomes the hunted when former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) finds himself framed for the brutal murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Consumed with rage and pursued by a savvy police inspector (CForest Whitaker), Mills must rely on his “particular set of skills” one last time to find the real killers, clear his name, and protect the only thing that matters to him now — his daughter (Maggie Grace).
Not everyone can begin an action career in their mid-50s, but Neeson has certainly pulled it off. Though at 62, it would seem the search is being given priority over the tussling. Of the three films in the series, this one is the least physically combative — though he does engage in a wild police chase that results in a 15-car pile-up on the freeway and multiple “squished” cars. It’s understandable and expected that this picture would not revolve around yet another kidnapping, but that doesn’t stop the movie from feeling like it was squeezed from an already dry fruit. Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen’s half-hearted effort to alter the always similar narrative one more time comes up short to say the least. Bryan’s cell conversations with the inspector convey the same badassery, although it seems misplaced since Dotzler is one of the good guys. The incorporation of a Russian enemy also appears to be an unnecessary need to link to the previous villains when more local bad guys may have made more sense. Fans of the previous two films will feel compelled to see Bryan Mills’ last venture, but nothing can then erase the disenchantment that’s sure to follow. It simply isn’t as much fun. There isn’t enough action and it’s just too straight-faced, even for Neeson. And finally, for some unknown reason, it’s also the longest film in the franchise.
Special features include: an unrated cut of the film; deleted scenes; “Sam’s Bunker A.K.A. The Rabbit Hole”; “Taken to L.A.”; “ A Taken Legacy”; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Wedding Ringer (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Doug (Josh Gad) is a socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams, Doug is referred to Jimmy (Kevin Hart), who provides flattering best men for guys in need.
This movie is sort of a combination of Hitch and The Wedding Date with a little bit of ingenuity built-in. The relationship between Jimmy and Doug is less of a mentor-mentee and more of a rent-a-friend. Doug purchases the super-package, requiring Jimmy to also find him a group of groomsmen. It’s mostly in the scenes that centre on this eclectic crowd that the movie takes a dip as they are generally too weird even for this narrative; though there is a pre-wedding game of football in which they excel. The bro chemistry between Gad and Hart is entertaining as they each seem to push each other to higher limits of comedy and camaraderie. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s bridezilla is not a far reach from her The Big Bang Theory character, so she’s adequate and delivers the necessary range of emotions convincingly.
Special features include: deleted scenes; select scenes commentary by director Jeremy Garelick and Josh Gad; “Going to the Chapel of Love”; five outtake reels; “Line-o-Rama,” short collections of alternate shots of jokes on set; and Aloe Blacc’s “Can You Do This” music video. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
More about The Boy Next Door, Mad max, Taken 3, Paddington, The Gambler
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