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article imageReview: New on DVD for August 19 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 3, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the penultimate season of an award-winning series; a superhero’s most difficult challenge; the monstrous effects of global warming; and one of the best movies of last year.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
For Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: Oscorp.
There's something about this franchise that seems to prevent filmmakers from getting it all "right" the way they often do in the Marvel universe. In this case, the dramatic elements of the story are planned and executed quite well; but the blockbuster action sequences don't mesh with the rest of the picture. The love story between Peter and Gwen plays out perfectly. Their adoration for each other leaps off the screen (possibly due in some part to their real-life relationship). The dialogue, though sometimes cheesy, flawlessly captures this chapter in their lives together. And Peter's secret identity acts as the definitive wedge that would forever remain between them. Conversely, the big fight sequences lack the finesse of the drama and overwhelm audiences with computer-generated visual effects. The most significant offender is the Matrix-style slow motion that seems to occur whenever Spider-Man is battling an evildoer. It's distracting and unnecessary.
Special features include: commentary by Marc Webb; deleted scenes with commentary; a making-of featurette; “Lessons Learned: Development and Direction”; “Heart of the City: Shooting in New York”; “Triple Threat: Attack of the Villains”; “A More Dangerous World: Transforming Electro and the Green Goblin”; “A Bolt From the Blue: Visual Effects”; “Spidey Gets His Groove Back: Music and Editing”; and Alicia Keys “It’s On Again” music video. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Blood Glacier (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Janek (Gerhard Liebmann) is a technician on a climate observation station high up in the German Alps, one of a team of scientists preparing their outpost for visit from the Environment Minister. Their routine is interrupted by a strange discovery; a red liquid pouring from a nearby glacier, melted free from the ice crust that is shrinking with climate change. When the 'glacier blood' comes in contact with the local wildlife, it causes changes that are at first curious, then horrifying. Soon Janek and his team have their hands full defending themselves and the station against a growing horde of biological monstrosities. Using every tool at their disposal they must learn to work together to survive the onslaught.
Even though the core premise is exaggerated, the survival of the fittest theory and nature's ability to adapt to changing environments is the driving principle behind evolution. This organism is the ultimate natural geneticist, selecting traits from various species and creating super-beasts with the best DNA combinations. The results are fearsome, though most of the abominations are never wholly visible on camera. The isolation of the location prevents the interference of outside intervention – at least until the light at the end of their dark tunnel comes within reach: a helicopter rescue that needs to be requested by an inopportunely misplaced satellite phone. Director Marvin Kren’s timely horror picture (which originally screened under the title, The Station) is an effective thriller with surprising scares and a chilling, if overstated, message about the dangers of climate change.
Special features include: trailer (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
Atlantic City, February 1924: Picking up eight months after the events of the previous season, Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is laying low at the end of the Boardwalk after barely surviving an overthrow by Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale). But the calm will be short-lived, as Nucky faces new challenges, including a clash with a violent Harlem power broker, a battle with his brother Eli (Shea Whigham) over Eli’s college son, and the irresistible lure of lucrative – and perilous – opportunities in Florida.
Nucky (Steve Buscemi) regained his title as the boss of Atlantic City, but the position is rife with problems as the list of players continues to increase. With Eli’s (Shea Whigham) son Willie (Ben Rosenfield) joining the crew, the Thompsons are truly running a family business though not everyone is in agreement on its affiliations. Chalky’s (Michael K. Williams) profile on the show continues to increase as he plays a greater role in controlling the territory. This however means he is now ascribed significant rivalries of his own with which he must deal. Throw a couple of beautiful women into the mix and he’s in for a world of trouble. With each season the body count rises and this year’s significant losses definitely strike a chord. Meanwhile, Margaret’s (Kelly Macdonald) story doesn’t end now that she’s walked out on Nucky – nor does her association with the city’s seedy underbelly. As it stands now, it seems the series will end on a high note in its upcoming final season.
Special features include: six commentaries with cast and crew; “Boardwalk Chronicle”; “Season 3: Revisited”; “The Onyx Club: A Step Back in Time”; PaleyFest panel; “Scouting the Boardwalk”; “Becoming Harrow”; and “New Characters.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
Jarhead 2: Field of Fire (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Battle-scarred and disillusioned by the war, Corporal Chris Merriman (Josh Kelly) is put in charge of a unit whose next mission is to resupply a remote outpost on the edge of Taliban-controlled territory. While driving through the hostile Helmand province, a Navy SEAL (Cole Hauser) flags down their convoy and enlists the unit on an operation of international importance: they must help an Afghan woman famous for her defiance of the Taliban escape the country. Without tanks or air support, Merriman and his team will need all the courage and firepower they can muster to fight their way across the war-torn country and shepherd the woman to safety.
The first film was a gritty portrait of life as a marine, digging deep into the psyche of his anxieties, disappointments and triumphs. The second film is more traditional, following the general war movie conventions of immediate and mass casualties, irrational acts of bravery and burying the hatchet. As everyone attempts to downplay the abilities of a supply unit, the standard response is "they're marines." The obvious connotation being they all go through the same basic training and no contribution is too small. There's an attempt to attach viewers to the unit's members so they're lives and deaths will have the appropriate effect, but the filmmakers’ success is minimal. Audiences may say "awe," but it's not going to elicit any more of an emotional response.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Leviathan (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
On the dark and forbidding ocean floor, the crew of a deep-sea mission rig discovers a sunken freighter that harbors a deadly secret: a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. With a storm raging on the surface and no hope of rescue, the captain and his team are propelled into a battle for survival against the ultimate foe – a hideous monster that cannot die and lives to kill.
What if the creature in The Thing had lived deep underwater? That is basically the premise of this movie, which was produced seven years after the aforementioned picture. It also borrows from Alien for good measure as the crew alternately evades and hunts the science experiment gone wrong. Trapped in a submarine, the crew are stalked by a monster that absorbs their bodies so it can grow larger. Most of the film relies on close-ups of searching tentacles that wrap around its prey and the remains of its suffering victims because the whole picture is more hideous than threatening. Peter Weller, from Robocop fame, is the story's hero, though Ghostbusters' Ernie Hudson is another familiar face who shouldn't be counted out of this traditionally entertaining creature feature.
Special features include: new interviews with actors Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson and creature effects artists Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.; and the theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Only Lovers Left Alive (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Two fragile and sensitive vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), are both cultured intellectuals with an all-embracing passion for music, literature and science, who have evolved to a level where they no longer kill for sustenance, but still retain their innate wildness. Their love story has endured several centuries but their debauched idyll is threatened by the uninvited arrival of Eve’s carefree little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who hasn’t yet learned to tame her wilder instincts.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “Traveling at Night with Jim Jarmusch”; and Yasmine Hamdan "Hal" music video. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Prisoners of War: Season Two (DVD)
Video Services Corp.
Beginning where the first season ended, Nimrod (Yoram Toledano) and Uri (Ishai Golan) continue to pick up the pieces of their lives, but are now shocked to discover that Amiel Ben Horin (Assi Cohen) is alive and living as a Muslim in Syria. The two contact Haim and implore him to investigate. Has Amiel been turned? Has he joined the terrorist organization that kidnapped and held them for 17 years? All the while, Amiel is torn between his allegiance to family and homeland, and a chance to live a new free life.
After a full recap of the first season the show backtracks to the day of Nimrod and Uri's release, but with the addition of two more perspectives. One is Ami, who now resides in Syria in the home of his former torturer whose son he mentors. The other is the widow and son of a man murdered by one of the terrorists released in exchange for the hostages, which once again more poignantly raises the question of whether the price was too high. Still unable to escape their shared pasts, Nimrod and Uri choose significantly different paths in their attempts to move on. With the entire cast returning to reprise their roles, this is a seamless continuation of some of the most compelling television to be released.
There are no special features. (Video Services Corp.)
The Sacrament (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp.
Two Vice Media correspondents set out to document their friend’s journey to find his missing sister. They travel outside of the United States to an undisclosed location where they are welcomed into the world of “Eden Parish,” a self-sustained rural utopia, comprised of nearly two hundred members. At the center of this small, religious, socialist community is a mysterious leader known only as “Father.” As their friend reunites with his sister, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems. What started as just another documentary shoot soon becomes a race to escape with their lives.
Director Ti West was inspired by the Jonestown incident in Guyana in 1978. Worried he would be unable to secure the funding to make the miniseries he desired, he composed a feature-length film that goes behind the walls of a supposed utopia or possible cult. Subtlety is one of the filmmaker's specialties. Upon arriving at the compound and speaking to some of its residents, the place appears to be the real deal. But off-tour things are different and far from perfect. Closer inspection reveals the cracks beneath the paint that run deep into the foundation of Eden. This is another found footage film, but it's structured well and works within the narrative to the extent that most of the time the medium is not even top-of-mind.
Special features include: commentary with writer/director Ti West, AJ Bown and Amy Seimetz; “Creating The Sacrament: Revealing the Vision”; “Working with the Director: The Ti West Experience”; “Preparing for Takeoff: Behind the Scenes Helicopter Sequence”; and “AXS TV: A look at The Sacrament. (Video Services Corp.)
Septic Man (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Jack (Jason David Brown) is a sewage worker who’s determined to uncover the cause of the town’s water contamination crisis. But when he becomes trapped underground in a septic tank without food or water he undergoes a hideous and repulsive transformation. He may have been Jack when he entered the tank, but he’ll become Septic Man before he leaves, assuming he leaves at all.
The most challenging aspect of this movie is getting past the opening scene. Your perseverance won't necessarily be rewarded, but it's the only way to get to the nut of the film. The picture begins in the vilest bathroom in which a woman is being indescribably ill before leading into a news story about the local water contamination. The creators have historically displayed an affinity for the extreme and disturbing, but this movie is their nastiest by far. Jack is trapped in a pool of rotting flesh and unimaginable waste that infects every part of his being. The film is so visceral the viewer's senses are nearly accosted by its foulness. The story itself is ridiculous and mostly a vehicle for the gross-out production.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Toy Story of Terror! (Blu-ray)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
What starts out as a fun road trip for the Toy Story gang takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate.
One of the fascinating things about this franchise is the original voice cast, which includes Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, continues to return even for small pictures such as this one. The Halloween special is cute and funny as expected with a smart script that recalls classic horror tales of the '30s and '50s about haunted houses and mysterious disappearances. Mr. Pricklepants's narration of events is hilarious as he surmises the situation throughout the adventure. "And so it begins." New character, Combat Carl (Carl Weathers), is a comical take on G.I. Joe-type action figures. The short, “Partysaurus Rex,” is a vibrant and fun story that literally puts the spotlight on a background character and the vintage toy commercials are amusing.
Special features include: commentary; deleted scenes with editor introductions; three vintage toy commercials, which can be viewed as act breaks during the film or separately with director introductions; three “Toy Story Toons” shorts; and “Team of Specialists.” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
More about Review, only lovers left alive, Boardwalk empire, The Amazing SpiderMan 2, Blood Glacier
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