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article imageReview: New on DVD for February 10 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 11, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a love story worth staying in for; some things to keep the kids entertained; horror movies of varying quality; a pristine sci-fi picture; and a violent tale of brotherhood.
101 Dalmatians (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Disney Home Entertainment
Pongo, Perdita and their super-adorable puppies are in for thrills, hilarious spills and an epic action-packed adventure when they face off with Cruella De Vil. When Cruella dognaps all of the Dalmatian puppies in London, brave animal heroes launch a daring plan to save all puppies from her clutches.
One of the wonderful things about Disney is the timelessness of their animated movies. This film was made in 1972 and has remained a favourite through several generations. And even though there was a live-action version made with the same title a few years ago, this is the one that sticks in people’s minds. The puppies are incredibly adorable with individual personalities and discernible physical traits so you can refer to them by name. The great escape is thrilling as Cruella’s lackeys give chase and then heartrending as their tiny legs trek through the snow to go home. This isn’t one of Disney’s most musical pictures, but it doesn’t need to be to be memorable.
Special features include: “Dalmatians 101”; “Lucky Dogs”; “Walt Disney Presents ‘The Best Doggoned Dog in the World’”; “The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt” animated short; and Disney View. (Disney Home Entertainment)
ABCs of Death 2 (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp.
The film is comprised of twenty-six individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given free rein in choosing a word to create a story involving death.
One can imagine certain letters require a little more ingenuity than others. Though that's not to say those with more common letters select the most obvious or easiest answers — for example “B is for badger” by Julian Barratt. The opening credit sequence is a stunning start to the film. Thumbing through the pages of an old pop-up style storybook, the old-fashioned figures are decapitated, severed in half and used as a tree swing to the tune of an eerie song. The cleverly animated introduction sets the tone for the movie, which surpasses the first. LWhere the initial set of directors saw the film as a gimmick and an opportunity to shock audiences into remembering their segments, many of the new shorts display a dark sense of humour that is more entertaining and will have a wider appeal.
Special features include: filmmaker commentaries by more than 26 directors; behind-the-scenes featurette; making-of featurettes; galleries; and “AXS TV: A Look At ABCs of Death 2.” (Video Services Corp.)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Disney Home Entertainment
Alexander is experiencing the most terrible and horrible day of his young life and wonders if bad things only happen to him. But he discovers he’s not alone when his dad (Steve Carell), mom (Jennifer Garner) and siblings live through their own terrible day.
This is a goofy comedy geared specifically towards children, but not so silly that accompanying adults can't enjoy it — or even identify with aspects of it — too. The camera takes turns following each member of the family as they confront their worst days. Each time the focus returns to them, a new layer of bad is being piled on in spite of their best efforts to contain it. To keep things light, most of the complications are of their own design with no one to blame but themselves. The script directs the majority of the amusement, but it's Carell who brings an inherent humor to his character. Most of the other laughs are circumstantial, while he delivers a physical style of comedy that is always good for a giggle.
Special features include: “Alexander… In Real Life”; “Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos: The Australian Outback Yard Party”; “Walkabout: A Video Diary”; “And the Delightful, Magnificent, Very Good Bloopers”; and The Vamps’ “Hurricane” music video. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Brotherhood of Blades (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA Entertainment
Lu, Shen Lian, and Yichuan: three sworn brothers and deadly Jinyiwei — Secret Police of the Imperial Guard. The new Emperor’s first mission is find and annihilate the corrupt fugitive Eunuch Wei and his followers. But one mistake reveals the truth — the three men are pawns in a deadly game, unleashing a chain of secrets, conspiracies, and lethal consequences.
Like zombie movies in the West, Asia produces a lot of sword movies that inevitably vary in quality – this one isn’t perfect, but it’s one you should still make an effort to see. The end becomes a little muddied as the picture disproportionately cuts between three showdowns involving each of the guards and seemingly misses the most important parts of each. Nonetheless, the story takes precedence over most of the fighting though even that which is included remains impressive. The narrative increases in complexity and frustration with each new development as the impulses of one of the brothers repeatedly ruins the others. Unfortunately, the dual ending is mostly unnecessary and feels a bit extraneous to the story.
Special features include: trailer. (Well Go USA Entertainment)
Dorothy in the Land of Oz (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
After a visit from her old friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, Dorothy’s carried back to Oz by a green turkey balloon. There, she makes new friends before facing off against Tyrone the Terrible Toy Tinkerer.
This expansion of The Wizard of Oz introduces new friends as well as a new villain. The ‘80s Thanksgiving TV special only loosely incorporates the holiday, though the animated balloon turkey called “Gobbler” nearly makes up for it. Once again, Dorothy is whisked away to Oz. On the road to complete a new quest, she meets Jack Pumpkinhead, The Hungry Tiger, and Tic Toc. The story feels more superficial and less thought-out than the original, tying a bow on the ending even though it doesn’t make the most sense; particularly the suggestion that a familiar looking Tyrone the Terrible Toy Tinkerer could somehow become a Santa Clause-type figure.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Fear Clinic (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Dr. Andover (Robert Englund) is a fear doctor who attempts to cure patients suffering from crippling phobias by placing them inside his exposure therapy invention, The Fear Chamber, where he induces and controls hallucinations.
This movie begins with one interesting idea and then tries to run a little too far with it. There have been other narratives about doctors harming/trying to help people with phobias by confronting them with their fears, but this story is less inherently nefarious and takes a supernatural approach to what could go wrong. Englund is more vulnerable than he usually is in a horror movie, as Andover crumples under the possibility of his treatment being an ultimate failure. Though the phobias are explained in the special features, it’s not entirely clear what everyone is afraid of in the narrative other than their common experiences in a diner shooting. Thomas Dekker has not been seen in many things since The Terminator TV series was cancelled, but he’s actually quite competent in the role of a man who is physically and emotionally paralyzed.
Special features include: behind-the scenes featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Egyptologist Naihla Khalil are both professors at a leading medical university. Victor’s latest grisly “experiment” is the re-animated corpse of a sadistic madman and Naihla’s most recent find is the cursed mummy of an evil pharaoh. When the two monsters face-off in an epic showdown, no one is safe from the slaughter.
Most of this movie is simply comprised of the marrying of the two classic stories, which are essentially told separately save for a few crossovers involving Naihla. A doctor becomes the pharaoh’s slave and brings him victims to regain his strength. Meanwhile, Victor employs a ghoul to bring him body parts for his experiment. Those hoping for a drawn out battle between the two monsters will be disappointed as the title fight is relatively brief and occurs at almost the very end of the picture. Both creatures look fairly good, but little else can be said about this half-baked movie idea.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Damien Leone and cinematographer George Steuber. (RLJ Entertainment)
In Your Eyes (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Rebecca (Zoe Kazan), a lonely housewife in New Hampshire, suddenly discovers that she shares a strange connection with Dylan (Michael Stahl-David), a struggling ex-con in New Mexico — they can see through one another's eyes and experience sensations felt by the other. Though they've never met, the two share a unique, unparalleled intimacy by being in each other's heads and begin a long-distance relationship unlike any other.
As if it hasn’t been said enough, Joss Whedon (who wrote the film’s script) is brilliant. This is an effortless love story that hooks the viewer early and has their heart racing along with the characters’ at the end. Rebecca and Dylan couldn’t be more different, but their connection is stronger than anything either has ever experienced. In a world in which so many couples are meeting online, this is a unique approach to finding that special someone who isn’t necessarily in your backyard. Even though they spend the majority of the film talking but not seeing each other, Kazan and Stahl-David create an undeniable chemistry by which their characters and the audience are swept up. Finding a balance between the romance and sci-fi elements of the narrative, Whedon crafts a story that makes up for all the pandering smut that’s usually released around Valentine’s Day.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Life’s a Breeze (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp.
A family in Ireland is struggling to stay afloat and together through hard times. When the family makes a well-intentioned attempt to clean out their mother’s house and accidentally trashes a mattress she has been stashing her life savings in, Nan (Fionnula Flanagan), her unemployed slacker son Colm (Pat Shortt), and his niece Emma (Kelly Thornton), must overcome their many differences to lead their family in a race against time to find a lost fortune.
As tedious as the search sounds, the Irish comedy manages to keep it lively and entertaining the whole way through. In the process of trying to find the money, Emma bonds with the grandmother she initially dreaded even having to visit. From tracking down the guy who carried away the trash to sifting through landfills to making a monumental and boneheaded mistake, the family keeps their sense of humour and in turn delivers a lot of laughs to the audience. Moreover, Irish comedies are generally more circumstantial and self-deprecating, making them seem more effortless in their cinematic wit. Nan is quiet much of the time, while Colm speaks far too much for his own good. And even though the kids’ attitudes towards their mother’s money could be improved, the overall story is heartfelt.
There are no special features. (Video Services Corp.)
Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Love At First Bite: When Count Dracula (George Hamilton) is forced out of his castle to make room for an Olympic training facility, he relocates to New York City in search of discos, blood banks, and the fashion model who just might be the girl of his dreams.
Once Bitten: When a vampire Countess (Lauren Hutton) seeks virgin blood, she soon discovers that it’s not as easy to come by as it was in the good old days. When she crosses paths with the still-virginal Mark Kendall (Jim Carrey), it's a race against time to get to him before he gets it on.
Love at First Bite’s Hamilton is probably the most tanned Dracula to ever grace the screen and few have been better dancers. His seduction of Susan Saint James is as over-the-top as one would expect from an extravagant vampire, while Richard Benjamin’s attempt to slay the monster with a Star of David and silver bullets is quite ridiculous. On the flipside, Once Bitten is the epitome of an ‘80s teen romantic comedy with a supernatural twist. The dance-off at the high school Halloween party to Maria Vidal’s “Hands Off” is an absolute highlight. In one of his earliest roles even before he would breakout on In Living Color, Carrey proves he is a born entertainer. It gets a little silly in parts, particularly at the end, but that’s to be expected. It’s likely to still rank high among the comedian’s fan’s favourite performances.
Special features include: theatrical trailers and radio spot. (Scream Factory)
Peter and the Magic Egg (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
When Mama and Papa Doppler are in danger of losing their farm to the greedy Tobias Tinwhiskers, it’s up to their son Peter and his animal friends to save it.
While many people speak to their animals and sometimes dress them up, this story suggests that doing so makes them as human as us and can therefore give them the ability to speak — one can only assume pet fashion was not as popular in 1983 as it is now. Tin Whiskers is an amusing villain, using the mechanization of his body to intimidate townsfolk. The mystical elements of this story are many, but that’s what makes it so charming: Peter ages rapidly, Mother Nature knows the Easter bunny and a hatched comedian saves the day.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Poker Night (Blu-ray)
XLrator Media
A young detective (Corey Large) is caught in a sadistic game of cat-and-mouse when he is kidnapped and tormented by a masked serial killer. In order to survive, the rookie must use the wisdom imparted to him by senior detectives on their regular poker night.
The story is as muddled as the description makes it sound. The movie jumps back and forth between the detective’s recent past, the tales of his poker buddies (in which he portrays them) and his current situation as a hostage. While it’s generally clear which part of the narrative is being recounted, there’s nothing linear about how it unfolds. Nonetheless, by the grace of the tough guy cops comprised of Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Ron Eldard and Titus Welliver, and an interesting script that keeps the viewer engaged until the very end, this film is actually enjoyable. Michael Eklund delivers a great performance as the sadistic serial killer that always seems to be one step ahead.
There are no special features. (XLrator Media)
Predestination (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The film chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career. Now, on his final assignment, the Agent must recruit his younger self while pursuing the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
Time travel narratives can be very tricky. The temporal paradox, as it’s become known, is the issue of a change in the past affecting future events. Particularly in a movie that circles in on itself, continuity problems can arise quite easily. One of this film’s greatest accomplishments is it conquers this paradox with authority. Post-viewing, one can map out all the narrative events without finding any holes in the story or aspects the filmmakers failed to consider. Hawke does very well to portray the retiring agent who has pieced it all together, but must still allow it to play out to avoid causing any ripples in his own timeline.
Special features include: “A Journey Through Time” featurette; and bloopers. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Race for your Life, Charlie Brown (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Ah, the joys of camp: the fresh air! The lousy chow! The obnoxious kids from that other tent! Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock and the rest of the Peanuts gang are ready to face whatever camp throws at them. And when the day of the Big Rafting Race comes around, they’ll fearlessly take to the water, pitting the boys against the girls — and Snoopy and Woodstock against all of them — as they face raging rapids, wild weather, and sneaky sabotage from a bevy of bunkhouse bullies. Teamwork, courage and leadership are the keys to success. Will Charlie Brown have what it takes to be a leader?
When the Peanuts gang are forced to interact with other children, the results can be nothing but hilarious. While the bullies are consistently pointing the clueless kids in the wrong direction, the effects of each wrong turn are very amusing. The girls raft is ruled by a strict democracy in which every decision requires a vote — no matter how pressing or intuitive. Conversely, the boys elect Charlie Brown to lead though he’s not always up to the challenge. In the meantime, Snoopy and Woodstock get up to their shenanigans with almost dire consequences. Not just for holidays, every Peanuts special proves worthy of a watch and a few giggles.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Rosewater (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Home Entertainment
A Tehran-born, Canada-based journalist, Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal), returns to Iran to interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the country’s contentious 2009 presidential election. As Mousavi’s supporters were protesting Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration even before the polls closed, Bahari endured personal risk by sending footage of the street riots to the BBC. For this, Bahari was arrested by police led by a man known only as “Rosewater.” He was tortured and interrogated over the next 118 days, while his wife embarked on an international campaign to have her husband freed and media outlets kept the story alive.
This is a compelling story that is reflective of any number of political uprisings recently seen in the news. Governments struggle with the speed with which not only reporters, but citizens, can disseminate information they’d prefer did not extend past their borders. As the specialist accuses Bahari of his efforts to spread anti-Iran propaganda via Newsweek, he can only laugh pointing out that weekly magazines are a dying medium and there are far better digital ways to spread such material. Jon Stewart’s directorial debut mimics the structure of his television show, addressing serious topics with a sense of humour. This can be effective, but at times seems to undermine the seriousness of the situation. It’s likely Stewart’s inexperience that leads him to be a little heavy-handed when making certain points or connections, but the power of the story and Bernal’s performance outshine most of the picture’s flaws.
Special features include: “Iran’s Controversial Election”; “The Story of Maziar Bahari”; “Real Spies have TV Shows”; “What Happens in New Jersey…”; and “A Director’s Perspective.” (Universal Home Entertainment)
ARC Entertainment
In a future world not too far away, multimillionaire Steve Battier (Rutger Hauer) is dying from a terminal disease. He accepts an offer from a biotechnological company that provides a very select group of clients the opportunity to be young again and free from disease — but there is a catch. Steve is joined by nine other powerful players of the world, and they scheme against each other to survive. It soon turns into a game of death for all but one. He will enjoy all the seductions of youth, but may have to pay the ultimate price.
Though it sounds like a cutthroat battle to the death à la The Hunger Games, it’s really not nearly as interesting. The older bodies are in a lab somewhere mostly unseen while younger bodies act out their murderous desires. The source of these youthful avatars is concealed and even though they are handpicked by the player, they bear little resemblance to him or her. Between making out, building flimsy alliances, plotting to kill each other and actually committing murder, there is very little plot. A single episode of Survivor holds more intrigue than the full 100 minutes of this movie.
There are no special features. (ARC Entertainment)
Vampire’s Kiss/High Spirits (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Vampire's Kiss: Teetering on the edge of sanity, volatile literary agent Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) tries to find purpose in his life through a cutthroat work ethic and a hedonistic night life. But when an encounter with a mysterious beauty leaves Loew convinced that he is turning into a vampire, his behaviour turns positively outrageous.
High Spirits: When a castle-turned-hotel owned by Peter Plunkett (Peter O’Toole) falls on hard financial times, he comes up with an idea to turn the place into a tourist attraction by billing it as Europe's most haunted castle. But just when it seems he'll have to give up the ghost, some real phantoms show up — and they're none too thrilled about being exploited.
The pairing of these films is a little odd. They are both excellent genre films of the ‘80s, but they have rather different tones. Vampire’s Kiss is the eccentric tale of man going mad. While it’s humorous, it’s also very dark. Cage’s portrayal of Peter as a narcissist with a weird, pretentious accent is both uncomfortable and compelling. His spiral into insanity is delirious and eventually wretchedly terrifying. On the other hand, High Spirits is a straight-up comedy that’s filled with slapstick, inappropriate romances and floating furniture. Steve Guttenberg, Beverly D’Angelo, Liam Neeson, Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly and Peter Gallagher are all kept swept up in the supernatural love story with hysterical results. The hijinks of O’Toole and company are equally amusing with bed sheets and pulleys, but they’re no match for their ghostly ancestors.
Special features include: commentary by Vampire’s Kiss director Robert Bierman and actor Nicolas Cage; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
White Bird in a Blizzard (DVD)
Video Services Corp.
Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve (Eva Green), a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman — disappears just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother's absence and certainly doesn't blame her doormat of a father, Brock (Christopher Meloni), for the loss. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve's disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother's departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it.
A common theme in most of director Gregg Araki’s films is sex. He unabashedly explores the desires and temptations of young people without romanticizing it or trying to make it more wholesome than reality dictates. This movie uses the disappearance of Kat’s mother as a trigger for her to further liberate her sexuality in opposition to the repression she felt permeated their home prior to her leaving. This indifference and self-involvement allows her to ignore the signs of truth and live in blissful ignorance until it finally smacks her in the face. The beautiful dreams that inspire the title are some of the few moments in which Araki gets to infuse the story with his signature artistry. This film is likely his most accessible picture for mainstream audiences, while maintaining though diluting his usual style.
Special features include: commentary by director Gregg Araki and actress Shailene Woodley; deleted and extended scenes; interviews with Araki and Woodley; “AXS TV: A Look at White Bird in a Blizzard”; and theatrical trailer. (Video Services Corp.)
More about 101 Dalmatians, The ABCs of Death 2, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Ver, rosewater, Predestination
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