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article imageReview: Animals and murder comprise this week’s new releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 5, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include two first seasons that land at opposite ends of the spectrum; a buddy cop comedy from Asia; animals taking revenge; and an adorable alien outcast.
The Affair: Season One (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
This new series explores the emotional and psychological effects of an extramarital affair between Noah Solloway (Dominic West), a married father of four spending the summer at his in-laws’ estate, and Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson), a waitress working to piece her marriage back together in the wake of tragedy. The narrative presents the events from both male and female perspectives.
The concept of this series is an intriguing one, viewing different perspectives of the same events from its two key participants. Each nearly 60-minute episode is divided into two equal halves, generally beginning with Noah’s account. However the absence of a third-party’s version makes it impossible to know which description is the most correct. Moreover, they don’t always begin with the same time frame so it can be difficult to compare the stories; particularly when large sections of their narratives do not intersect or are vastly different. Nonetheless, the show has a more serious issue: its main characters are not especially interesting, making it difficult to be invested in the outcome of their relationship or the parallel investigation being conducted. The lack of chemistry between the actors is just one of the contributing factors.
Special features include: “Tale of Two Costumes”; character profiles; Happyish episodes one and two; Ray Donovan – season one, episode one; and Madam Secretary – season one, episode one. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Black & White: The Dawn of Assault (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Suspended detective Wu (Mark Chao) finds himself back in the thick of things when he crosses paths with Triad member Xu (Bo Huang), who's looking to unload a stash of hot diamonds. When Xu's deal turns into a shoot-out and the diamonds go missing, the cop and the criminal reluctantly join forces to retrieve them. Before long they find themselves not only to be the hunters, but the hunted as their mission escalates into something bigger and more dangerous than they'd ever expected.
Though this is a prequel to a popular TV series in Taiwan, it’s not necessary to be familiar with the characters to enjoy the movie. It’s basically a buddy cop comedy with its two protagonists hailing from opposite sides of the law. Their contrasting occupations result in multiple conflicts of interest and hijinks. Xu is a fast-talker, willing to say anything that’ll save his neck; this leads to some amusing conversations between him and Wu throughout the course of the film. At one point Xu claims he’s just a well-dressed security guard that happened on a gunfight and in another he promises to turn himself in if Wu will release him from being the third-wheel in a fist-fight. Wu is very action-oriented, but willing to bend the rules if it means justice will be served in the end. Their dynamic is reminiscent of similar American movies, complete with a lot of explosions and betrayals.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Burying the Ex (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
It seemed like a great idea when all-around nice guy Max (Anton Yelchin) and his beautiful girlfriend, Evelyn (Ashley Greene) moved in together. But when Evelyn turns out to be a controlling, manipulative nightmare, Max knows it’s time to call it quits. There’s just one problem: he’s terrified of breaking up with her. Fate steps in when Evelyn is the victim of a fatal, freak accident, leaving Max single and ready to mingle. Just as Max is thinking about moving on with what could be his dream girl, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), Evelyn returns from the grave and is determined to get her boyfriend back — even if that means transforming him into one of the undead.
The early ‘90s version of this story, My Boyfriend’s Back, is more romantic and playful than this contemporary version. Evelyn’s return is not a cause for happiness as Max believed he was given an easy though morbid way out of their relationship. However the film becomes far more entertaining once the living dead enters the picture. Before, Max and Evelyn were a comically doomed couple with her slowly driving him to the nearest exit; but after, her boundless commitment is an endless source of humour as she picks up where they left off and Max lives in fear of her love for him and the even scarier possibility that his new girlfriend may run into his old one. It’s not the greatest zombie-rom-com, but it certainly has its moments.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
Chocolate City (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Welcome to Chocolate City, where the music is hot, the mood is magical, and the dancers are simply delicious. Women go wild when the arrival of a young, new dancer (Robert Ri’chard) has the spot sizzling like never before. Michael, a college student, is struggling to help his mother (Vivica A. Fox) make ends meet. When his part-time job doesn’t pay the bills, he begins to find success at the nightclub dancing as “Sexy Chocolate.” As the money starts rolling in, Michael must deal with the unexpected pressure of being the new favourite flavor while hiding his “job” from his mother and girlfriend.
It’s not surprising that the success of Magic Mike would spur imitators trying to capitalize on an already established audience. However when the copycat not only repeatedly calls out its predecessor but completely misses its raison d'etre, it can’t be forgiven. In spite of trying to incorporate a coming-of-age plot, the first film captured a wide audience because it was fun; a fact upon which they seize in the sequel. Unfortunately this picture simply switches back and forth between Michael’s faith and financial issues, and the stage. Where the latter should be entertaining, it’s just a repeat of handsome men looking intently at the camera as they recycle the same gyratory moves. It all gets old quite quickly, shockingly making a movie about strippers rather boring.
Special features include: blooper reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Dead Lands (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp.
Hongi (James Rolleston) — a Maori chieftain's teenage son — must avenge his father's murder in order to bring peace and honour to the souls of his loved ones after his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery. Vastly outnumbered by a band of villains, led by Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka), Hongi's only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden Dead Lands and forge an uneasy alliance with the mysterious "Warrior" (Lawrence Makoare), a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years.
The script was written in English then translated to Maori and reinterpreted to English for the subtitles. Fortunately the dialogue does not appear to have lost anything in the many translations. The conversations between Hongi and the Warrior are some of the most entertaining aspects of the picture. The many hand-to-hand battles are well choreographed and fast-paced. The speed in which they attack each other emphasizes the power with which they deliver each blow. Thus, the fights are captivating in their strength and precision. One of the key conflicts occurs between a woman and the Warrior in a river bed, which is equally as impressive as the men's fights. They all use authentic weapons matched to the character's personality that range from a ceremonial staff to blades outlined with razor sharp teeth. Overall, the key players are exceptional and the ensemble provides the necessary authenticity.
Special features include: making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes comparisons; “Exploring The Dead Lands”; interview with Janet Cameron; and theatrical premiere Q&A. (Video Services Corp.)
Home (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
DreamWorks Animation & Fox Home Entertainment
When Oh (Jim Parsons), a lovable misfit from another planet lands on Earth and meets a teenage girl named Tip (Rihanna), the two unlikely friends embark on the greatest journey of all time... the journey home.
There are two audiences to which this film is trying to appeal: fans of Parsons and The Big Bang Theory, and younger children. The most entertaining aspects of the film deal with Oh’s social awkwardness and ignorance of Earth — both characteristics shared to some extent by Parsons’ TV personality. Even several of Oh’s facial expressions are recognizable and clearly fashioned after the actor’s famous looks. At the same time, much of the movie is quite silly. From Boov mistaking washing machines for houses to Captain Smek’s “shhsher” with which he quiets other Boov by smacking them on the head, it’s not incredibly smart but it’s still entertaining. Once Oh and Tip are comfortably in the wind, the quality of the film takes a bit of a dip too. The story is put on autopilot until they reach their destination; then the pace gradually improves again. Oh and Tip’s journey is far from perfect, but still an enchanting road trip as her cat, Pig, curls up on Oh’s head in the Slushious.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Best Party Ever!”; “Party Play All”; “Oh’s Shake Your Boov Thing”; “Feel the Light” music and lyric videos by Jennifer Lopez; “Oh’s Boovy Jukebox”; “Oh’s Party Planning Tips”; “Almost Home”; “Testing Lab”; “Be an Artist!”; “Stars of Home.” (DreamWorks Animation & Fox Home Entertainment)
How to Get Away with Murder: The Complete First Season (DVD)
ABC Studios
Each year, Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) chooses several top, first-year law students to assist with her high-profile, albeit morally ambiguous, court cases. But the lines between defending and committing murder soon begin to blur when Annalise and her students become intimately involved in a sordid homicide that could destroy them all.
Unlike most television crime shows, this one focuses on covering your tracks after a crime has been committed instead of trying to catch the perpetrator of a crime. This in itself is an interesting departure from the typical primetime fare. Annalise’s win-at-all-costs approach to her practice also gives the show a darker perspective. While all viewers may not like her character, she is incredibly engaging and effectively draws viewers into the narrative. The typical drama of lust and competition plague the selected students, but they contribute to the story’s intrigue; although the romance at the centre of overarching plot is probably the least appealing of the series’ relationships. There’s no closure in the season finale, which instead ties up most of the loose ends in the current plot while extending the circumstances to a whole new mystery to investigate next season.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “First Year Law”; “Bye Felicia” music video by Asher Millstone; and bloopers. (ABC Studios)
Into the Grizzly Maze (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
After a relentless grizzly starts to wreak havoc on a small town, the sheriff (Thomas Jane) heads into the forest to find his ecologist wife (Piper Perabo) but instead crosses paths with his estranged, ex-con brother (James Marsden). They soon find themselves on the run from the massive killer bear.
Like Jaws before it, the bear is not just territorial but protesting against the violence that’s been inflicted on its brethren and home. This family is simply caught in the crosshairs of the beast’s revenge. The sordid history between the brothers is fairly negligible to the overall narrative, which centres on the bear’s war against humans; it simply serves as a way to make the characters more real. Jane and Marsden are both used to playing the hero, though it’s necessary one concede to the other to avoid unproductive clashes between alpha males. Nonetheless both men are models of traditional masculinity, rescuing women in need and staring death in the face.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
This movie features anacondas large enough to crush an SUV and crocodiles strong enough to leap into speedboats. And when they’re not hunting their human prey, they’re more than willing to take on each other.
Both of the films named in this movie’s title had multiple sequels that viewers of this picture will not necessarily have seen, but that’s of no importance. The advantage of having watched this hybrid’s predecessors is the recognition of a couple of characters (played by Yancy Butler, Robert Englund and Annabel Wright) and an acquaintance with the search for an immortality potion. But the only real reason to watch this film is to see giant crocodiles fight giant snakes with the strength to crush a car. In spite of the subpar CGI beasts, it’s still an incredible sight.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
White God (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp.
When young Lili (Zsófia Psotta) is forced to give up her beloved dog Hagen because its mixed-breed heritage is deemed "unfit" by The State, she and the dog begin a dangerous journey back towards each other. At the same time, all the unwanted, unloved and so-called "unfit" dogs rise up under a new leader, Hagen, the one-time house pet who has learned how to bite the hands that beat him all too well from his "Masters" in his journey through the streets and animal control centers.
Beginning with the desire to make a movie about a dog, this film evolved into a beautiful and heart-wrenching picture that’s both metaphor and emotional journey. For writer/director Kornél Mundruczó, the tale of this involuntary separation represents the political and cultural tensions plaguing contemporary Europe. Both Lili and Hagen are helpless to oppose their cruel superiors, forced to yield to their commands in spite of their best efforts. Defeated and alone, both embark on destructive paths in objection to their treatment. This film is a difficult watch, short on the warm and fuzzy moments. Yet the power it exerts over the audience is a testament to its quality and skillful filmmaking, featuring epic scenes with real dogs never-before-seen on screen.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; interview with writer/director Kornél Mundruczó; interview with animal coordinator/technical advisor Teresa Ann Miller. (Video Services Corp.)
More about How to Get Away with Murder, Home, The Dead Lands, Burying the Ex, white God
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