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article imageReview: New on DVD for December 23 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 23, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a moving story inspired by unimaginable circumstances; a complex television series the demands your attention; and a thriller that never stops twisting.
Corner Gas: The Movie (Blu-ray)
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Video Services Corp.
It’s been five years, and there’s still not a lot going on 40 kilometers from nowhere. But that’s all about to change as the fine folks of Dog River, Saskatchewan face their biggest crisis ever. Brent (Brent Butt) and the gang discover that the town’s been badly mismanaged, leaving residents with little choice but to pack up and leave. As residents make one last rally to save Dog River as they know it, they discover a devious plan by a corporate giant that would change life for Dog Riverites forever.
While the television series did not have an ambiguous ending, there was still a lot of talk about reviving the show on the big screen after the finale. It took a few years and the roll out was controversial (as it appeared there was little attempt to recover the government funding), but it did finally happen. The personalities of Dog River are exactly as fans remember them, making this seem like an extended episode from the series. In that sense there is little to comment on as admirers would be satisfied with narrative and others would remain unswayed regarding its quality.
Special features include: commentary by executive producers Brent Butt, David Storey and Virginia Thompson; extended scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; sing-a-long mashups; blooper reel; and trailers. (Video Services Corp.)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Fox Home Entertainment
It is 2026 and humanity has been pushed to near extinction by a deadly virus. When a group of survivors desperate to find a new source of power travel into the woods near San Francisco, they discover a highly evolved community of intelligent apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis). The two species form a fragile peace but dissention grows and the groups find themselves hurtling toward all-out war.
The ape lifestyle is a reflection of the human one that existed before the plague or the industrial revolution. The evolution of their community is remarkable, but its similarity to human civilizations means the Shakespearean level of its collapse is inevitable. Fear is shown to be a terrible disease that easily spreads with detrimental results. Of course it's all reminiscent of the settlement of America and the dispute over resources. The special effects in the film are outstanding. The humanity Serkis instils in Cesar is off-putting in its authenticity, but it’s precisely that quality that draws the audience to the apes’ cause. As the picture slowly evolves into a war film, the tone of the narrative becomes darker. There are still the necessary clichés, though overall the movie strikes the right chords.
Special features include: commentary by director Matt Reeves; deleted scenes with optional commentary by Matt Reeves; “Journey to Dawn”; “Andy Serkis: Rediscovering Caesar”; “Humans and Apes: The Cast of Dawn”; “The World of Dawn”; “The Ape Community”; “Move Like an Ape: An Artist s Artist’s Medium”; “Weta and Dawn”; “The Fight for a New Dawn”; and four galleries. (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Equalizer (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
McCall (Denzel Washington) is a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by, he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help — he is The Equalizer.
On paper this reads as a compelling, action-packed thriller starring actors well-versed in this style of narrative. On screen though, stretched to more than two hours, it plays out astoundingly dully. Watching McCall’s attention to detail (O.C.D.?) on repeat is tedious. Though Teri’s character seems integral to the plot, she’s only briefly permitted to hint at the potential McCall feels so inspired to protect. Likewise Teddy (Marton Csokas) is supposed to be notorious for his ruthless tactics, yet his character is quite selective in flexing his muscles. Director Antoine Fuqua is known for slow-burning, intense films, but he misses the mark with this one. The personalities are poorly developed, causing the story to seize up any time something violent is not occurring. The film's only saving grace is the cool action sequences in which McCall speedily disarms multiple assailants with his bare hands. But even they are weighed down by nonsensical close-ups.
Special features include: “Home Mart: Taking Care of Business One Bolt at a Time”; “Children of the Night”; “Inside The Equalizer”; “Denzel Washington: A Different Kind of Superhero”; “Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua”; “One Man Army: Training and Fighting.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Extant: The First Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
When astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry) returned from a 13-month solo mission aboard a space station, she did not come back alone. Against all odds and explanation, she is pregnant. Her doctor, Sam Barton (Camryn Manheim), is baffled. While Molly acclimates to life back on earth, she struggles to make sense of the events surrounding her miraculous, mystery pregnancy and tries to balance life with her ambitious husband and increasingly enigmatic son. After her husband John (Goran Visnjic) and she were unable to conceive, he used his skills as a robotics engineer to create their “son,” Ethan. Ethan is a “humanich” — a humanoid robot who serves as the prototype of John’s career-defining project.
It’s really a no-brainer as to why Steven Spielberg would gravitate to this project as it deals with two of his career interests: aliens and artificial intelligence. The series is structured as a bit of a mystery that gives its first major shock at the end of the opening episode. As Molly tries to figure things out alone, there are a number of flashbacks to her space mission and before the launch. In the meantime, puzzle pieces involving the organization she works for are gradually revealed as well as their questionable tactics. Then there’s the side story with Ethan and the issue of whether an empathetic robot programmed to learn rather than obey is practical or safe. The overall story seems lifted from what may have been early movie script and it’s debatable which is actually the better format for the narrative, but the excellent casting definitely gives favour to the series.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Story of Extant”; “Extant: Filming Season One”; “Extant: The Cast”; “The Mythology of Extant”; “The Offspring”; “The Future World of Extant”; “The Visual Effects of Extant”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Good Lie (DVD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Home Video
In 1983, orphans of the civil war in Sudan, known as The Lost Boys, travelled nearly a thousand miles on foot, enduring unspeakable circumstances in search of refuge. Over a decade later, a humanitarian effort would bring thousands of these survivors to America.
The story begins with a horrible re-enactment of the violence that orphaned the children and led to the establishment of refugee camps at Sudanese borders. Their treacherously long journey from their village and eventual flourishing at the camp is compressed into about 30 minutes. The remainder of the movie focuses on the obstacles they face in America and the difficulties adapting to such a different culture. Though the film is not based on any particular person, it's inspired by many of their lives and rings true for those who experienced the war and immigration. The young, inexperienced actors do very well and Reese Witherspoon doesn't attempt to outshine their performances, rather embracing her role as a supporting character.
Special features include: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette. (Warner Home Video)
Intruders: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
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BBC Home Entertainment
Jack Whelan (John Simm), a former LAPD cop finds the quiet idyllic life he has created with his wife, Amy (Mira Sorvino), shattered when she vanishes. Jack is drawn deeper into the mystery when his high school friend, Gary Fischer (Tory Kittles), shows up on his doorstep asking for help with a murder case. What Jack uncovers leads him down the dark path of his own past and closer to the terrifying revelations about a secret society known as Qui Reverti. In order to conceal the truth, an assassin named Richard Shepherd (James Frain) is embarking on a series of lethal executions and is in pursuit of a seemingly innocent nine-year-old girl, Madison (Millie Brown) — a run away with a score to settle who could be the end of them all.
This is a show that requires patience and consideration. The opening couple of episodes are simply about presenting viewers with the happenings of the secret society. Any specifics are unclear and drawing connections between occurrences is difficult at first. Audiences are just meant to follow along, keeping track of what they see. The explanation is not spoon-fed either, though it is eventually provided as the characters begin to have more interactions with each other. The hope is that once the pieces finally do start to fit together, audiences are hooked into needing to find out what exactly is going on and how it will play out. Though that can be a dangerous bet to make, at only eight episodes it’s not as much of a longshot as it may seem.
Special features include: “Inside the Intruders.” (BBC Home Entertainment)
Legacy of Rage (DVD)
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Shout Factory
Brandon Ma (Brandon Lee) is a regular guy working in Hong Kong, who is set up by his drug-dealing best friend, Michael (Michael Wong), to take the rap for the murder of an undercover cop. Michael also has eyes for Brandon's girl, May (Regina Kent). While Brandon languishes in jail, May gives birth to their child and flees to Brazil to avoid the lurid clutches of Michael, who has become a big crime boss. Brandon gets out of prison after eight years, learns the truth, and goes after Michael for revenge.
This was Lee’s first feature film role and the only Hong Kong picture he’d ever make. The movie has one of the best and least ambiguous ways of identifying the good guy in the picture: Brandon runs across the city, chasing a bus while carrying a lost child so she can be reunited with her family, demonstrating his compassion and fitness. Michael’s villainy is so outrageous in comparison, you can’t wait for him to get his comeuppance via Brandon’s vengeance. The martial arts sequences are quite suggestive of his father, Bruce Lee’s, style and sense of justice. And the final shootout is entirely overblown, but totally fitting in the context of the film.
Special features include: commentary by Mike Leeder and director Ronny Yu; and trailer. (Shout Factory)
Mork and Mindy: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Mork (Robin Williams) is a misfit alien who departs from the faraway planet of Ork to come study “crazy” earthling customs. After touching down near Boulder, Colorado, Mork encounters the beautiful college student Mindy (Pam Dawber). The two strike up a charming and entertaining friendship that is full of good times and unexpected surprises.
It was always obvious Williams was an unmatched comedic talent. Early evidence could be found in his stand-up routines, but the full-time role on this television series really let him shine for a mass audience before he moved to film. Mork from Ork is a beloved character who never grew tiresome. In the opening seasons, much of the comedy was derived from his unfamiliarity with Earth and human customs. As time went on, he adapted and the show evolved with him. Thirty years later, each episode is still hilarious and Williams’ performance is still exceptional as is the chemistry he had with Mindy; it’s no wonder the network decided to give Mork his own sitcom after a couple of appearances on Happy Days (his encounters with The Fonz are included in this collection).
Special features include: two Happy Days episodes featuring Mork in his TV debut; and gag reels. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Tales from the Crypt/Vault of Horror (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Tales from the Crypt: When five unwary travelers with dark hearts stumble into a series of catacombs, they find themselves in a cavern with no way out. But the horror’s only just begun as a mysterious figure appears to reveal to each person the shocking events that will lead to their well-deserved, untimely — and unavoidable — demise.
Vault of Horror: Five unsuspecting hotel guests step into an elevator, which leads them into an underground vault. Trapped with no way out, each guest shares a gruesome tale of an encounter with death. But as the stories unfold, the men begin to suspect that their presence in the vault is no coincidence, and that the only way out is death.
These films are some of the earliest and most memorable horror anthologies with several of the stories being adapted for other collections years later. In each film, a group of characters are gathered and stories of their grisly and horrific fates are recounted. The overall quality of tales in the first picture are better than the second, though the latter is nothing to turn ones nose at either. From the first movie, the one about the maniac Santa can get some pulses racing; while the home for the blind is an ironically dark story. From the sequel, the standout tales involve a man whose neatness drives his new bride mad and an artist who gains voodoo abilities that eventually backfire. In addition, the nods to its predecessor are enjoyable.
Special features include: unrated and theatrical versions of Vault of Horror. (Scream Factory)
Traffickers (Blu-ray)
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Well Go USA Entertainment
Young-Gyu (Chang Jung Lim) was the best. He was an organ dealer, smuggling body parts for sale to the highest bidder. His crew was the best — an organized team of professionals with top skills and no conscience. But when one of them dies on the job, the crew scatters. Now he fronts stolen goods, and has fallen in love with Yoo-Ri (Yun-hie Jo), a ticket agent at the port terminal. Her father is dying, and when she turns to a ruthless loan shark for help, Young-Gyu goes on a search to find his old partners for one last job.
The Korean picture attempts to be very complicated with several interweaving stories that take quite a bit of time to finally intersect. As a result, it's difficult to become involved with the characters personally because the viewer is preoccupied with trying to connect the dots. The despicable nature of everyone involved also keeps audiences at a distance. Once it finally begins to make sense, the payoff of all the secrecy is somewhat underwhelming. While Young-Gyu is supposed to be the criminal-making-good, even his character lacks depth or many redeeming qualities. The one thing this picture isn't is merciful with its characters, which is actually one of its strongest attributes.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA Entertainment)
More about Review, The Good Lie, Intruders, dawn of the planet of the apes, The Equalizer
 
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