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article imageReview: Fantasy runs amok in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 21, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an outstanding sci-fi picture that rivals its A.I. contemporaries; a couple of entertaining animated series that rely on very short formats; and a fantastic action picture featuring Donnie Yen.
6 Degrees of Hell (DVD)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada & Breaking Glass Entertainment
In a Northeast Pennsylvania haunted hotel tourist attraction, two friends, Chris (David J. Bonner) and Kellen (Joe Raffa), unwittingly release a deadly evil by transporting a collection of haunted objects to the hotel as props. Also visiting the hotel is a local TV ghost hunter (Kyle Patrick Brennan) who is determined to confront an evil that has haunted him all his life — one he believes is responsible for his sister’s death years ago and is now trying to get to another woman (Nicole Cinaglia). The threads of their own personal horrors draw paranormal investigator Kyle Brenner (Corey Feldman) to pull all the threads together.
As disturbing as some of the monsters may appear, they’re nothing without a good storyline. It would seem filmmakers attempted to adopt the style of a haunted house in which scary-looking characters that threaten your personal space is enough to frighten patrons; however, the screen creates a barrier that negates this threat and makes the constant display of bad-mannered fiends monotonous in spite of the decent make-up effects. Also, there are too many plots to create a cohesive movie. There is the struggling haunted hotel owner, the girl with psychic abilities, the boy obsessed with his sister’s death, the body-hopping demon, the purposeless paranormal investigator and the rival issues of several other characters – there’s no focus and it hurts the film.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; Corey Feldman behind-the-scenes featurette; “Northeast Pennsylvania Ghost Detectives promo”; the “Real Hotel of Horror” walkthrough; “Joe vs the Hotel”; Corey Feldman interview with Connie Roberts; and world premiere. (Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada & Breaking Glass Entertainment)
Adventure Time: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
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Cartoon Network
Are you a Jake fan? Great because season five has a ridiculous amount of momentous Jake moments. Like when he became Jake the dad; that time he tracked down Jake, Jr.’s kidnapper (sort of); who can forget the masterpiece that is his most delicious sandwich? He shares these moments with his best bro Finn and friends.
The adventures of Finn and Jake continue for another season and 52 episodes. But after this many years and hundreds of stories, the focus has become wider spread. Though there is a larger focus on Jake, there are several episodes in which the two main protagonists are not even featured. Audiences learn why Marceline has soft spot for the Ice King, which is actually a pretty unexpected account of their relationship. Beemo becomes lost in the woods and meets her potential true love with explosive consequences. Meanwhile, Jake contends with being a father to five kids who have varying degrees of his and Lady’s abilities. And Finn becomes drunk with power when he discovers miniature versions of all their friends.
Special features include: “Adventure Time Forever”; animatic clips; and “Special Snail Hunt.” (Cartoon Network)
Ex Machina (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s brilliant CEO, James (Oscar Isaac), programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence. Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive android (Alicia Vikander), and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest dreams.
This is a top-quality, onion-style story. The technology behind the breakthrough is unimportant as pointed out by James early in the narrative. This film is about the experience of communicating with a self-aware, artificial intelligence and the eccentric genius that created it/her. Regularly peeling away the layers, nothing is ever as it seems and Caleb is just a pawn in a very dangerous game. Most of the narrative unfolds within the confines of James’ secluded house, which heightens the intensity as there is no escape from the experiment or its participants. The three actors are flawless. Isaac assertively portrays James, an alcoholic, ego maniac who enjoys dancing to disco. Gleeson’s Caleb is a naïve young man who overestimates his value while simultaneously suffers from low self-esteem issues. And Vikander’s dance background allows her gracefully depict the recently born robot.
Special features include: “Through the Looking Glass: Creating Ex Machina” five-part featurette; eight behind-the-scenes vignettes; and SXSW Q&A with cast and crew. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
I, Madman (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
After a spine-tingling paperback catches the imagination of bookstore clerk Virginia (Jenny Wright), she seeks out the author's second book, I, Madman. But once she opens the cover, its eerie tale of obsessive love comes to life, catapulting a disfigured, scalpel-wielding killer (Randall William Cook) from the world of fiction onto the streets of Hollywood with one demented goal: to win Virginia's love, one murder at a time.
This is a bit of a pulpy crime novel combined with a horror thriller. Virginia’s cop boyfriend keeps the law consistently engaged, though it’s not like anyone believes the murderer escaped from a book. The villain is generally shrouded in the shadows, rarely revealing his face until he’s had the opportunity to assemble a new one. Moreover, most of the mutilations occur off-screen though one of the bodies is presented post-disfigurement. It’s unclear how any of this came about, which is a bit of a hole in the script. Otherwise it’s just the run-of-the-mill story about a twisted and violent stalker who happens to be the character from a book.
Special features include: commentary by director Tibor Takacs with actor and artistic supervisor Randall William Cook; “Ripped from the Pages,” a making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Cook; still gallery with optional commentary by Cook; and theatrical and home video trailers. (Scream Factory)
Kung Fu Killer (Blu-ray)
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Well Go USA
A vicious killer (Baoqiang Wang) stalks the streets of Hong Kong, systematically executing top martial arts competitors. Xia (Donnie Yen), a convicted killer and kung fu expert, offers to help police find the killer and put him behind bars in return for his own freedom. The killer eludes them again and again, taunting the cops — and Xia, his new target — to discover his next moves. Xia refuses to play his lethal game, until the killer threatens the woman he loves most.
It’s rare martial arts is dealt with in such a methodical and philosophical manner in action films. The key to solving the murders is understanding the path of a master. Wang’s battles with his adversaries (or at least those audiences see) are spectacular. The killer’s exceptional skill in multiple disciplines is remarkable and matched by abilities of his opponent. In addition to showcasing his own talents, Yen continues to show he is equally accomplished behind the camera. He doubles as the action director, ensuring all the fight sequences are perfectly executed whether or not he is on screen. This is an exciting, high energy picture that captures viewers with its captivating cat-and-mouse pursuit and amazing, no-gun contests.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
Robot Chicken: Season 7 (DVD)
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Adult Swim and Warner Home Video
Another season’s worth of award-winning frenetic fried fowl from deep in the heart of Adult Swim’s late-night animation plantation. Contained within: Every lovingly crafted episode from your favourite psychotic purveyors of stop-motion animated sketch comedy.
The first episode deals with the shows (fictional) cancellation via an orgy and slaughter, which confirms no concessions are made regarding the integrity of the series — though the opening title sequence is new. There is an episode dedicated to “Bitch Pudding,” who is nearly killed and discovers she does have an ounce of compassion in her body. And there is another devoted to all the holidays, including Christmas. In addition, Skeletor sets out to destroy a tourist trap; Lion-O Thundercat turns out to be the least motivating leader ever; Scrooge McDuck has a horrific run-in with the cast of Duck Dynasty; Baloo has flashbacks to his days as a pilot for the military; and Disney’s princesses go on a rampage.
Special features include: commentary on all 20 episodes; bonus Christmas special with commentary; featurettes; and cut sketches. (Adult Swim and Warner Home Video)
More about Ex Machina, Kung Fu Killer, Robot Chicken, Adventure Time, I Madman
 
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