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article imageReview: New on DVD for February 23 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 24, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a few animated films that will appeal to various ages; a grisly double feature about unrelated transformations; a loyal yet contemporary retelling of a classic story; and an accidental female action lead.
Batman: Bad Blood (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Warner Home Video
The Gotham City night sky erupts in flames as Batman battles Firefly, Tusk and Killer Moth. But when the smoke clears, Batman is missing and the mysterious Batwoman is the only witness to the events. Now with the Bat Signal going unanswered and a city on edge, Nightwing and Robin form an alliance with Batwoman and newcomer Batwing. Together, they’ll fight to uncover a sinister plot that involves mind control and a monstrous new villain known only as Heretic.
These animated comic book movies are a fresh way for audiences to engage with the classic storytelling medium, bringing the tales from the page to the screen with a clear commitment to the source. This narrative addresses a question asked by many: What happens if Batman dies? Luckily he’s no longer the only superhero protecting the city of Gotham, though his absence is felt by everyone. Uniting a group of crime fighters all inspired by the original Bat makes for some interesting dynamics, but one can’t deny they look like a formidable team when together. The core villains are less engaging as they are more like henchmen with less distinct personalities than their greater counterparts.
Special features include: “Putting the Fight in Gotham”; “Expanding the Batman Family” and sneak peek at Justice League vs. Teen Titans. (Warner Home Video)
The Curse / Curse II: The Bite [Double Feature] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
The Curse: Life on the family dairy farm is difficult for young Zach Hayes (Wil Wheaton): hard work, long hours and the normal family squabbles. But after an ice-blue meteor plunges through the midnight sky and lands on their property, it gets worse. Zach and the local doctor discover that something inside the meteor is infecting every living thing on the farm. Fruits, which look perfect on the outside are teeming with worms and Zach's family is beginning to change hideously.
Curse II: The Bite: Two young lovers, Clark (J. Eddie Peck) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen), travelling through the desert unwittingly pass through an abandoned nuclear test site which has become a breeding ground for deadly mutant killer snakes. When Clark is bitten, he undergoes a grotesque transformation into a hideous snake monster.
In spite of sharing a name, these movies have nothing in common. The first centres on a blended family in which the mother’s children clearly drew the short straw. However there are so many competing priorities and opinions from real estate interests to stubborn ignorance, the only true focus is on Zach’s attempts to protect his family from the hideousness that arises in the meteor’s wake. The second film relates to radiation poisoning and mutations that are simply ridiculous. Clark’s reaction lacks the courage of Evil Dead’s Ash, choosing to conceal his evil wound rather than try to destroy it. Combined with a lot of frivolous filler and senseless characters, the only thing to keep viewers engaged is a morbid obsession to see it through to the silly end.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
Extraction (Blu-ray)
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VVS Films
When a terrorist group kidnaps retired CIA field operative Leonard Turner (Bruce Willis), his son Harry (Kellan Lutz), a government analyst who has been repeatedly down for field service, launches his own unsanctioned rescue operation. While evading highly skilled operatives, deadly assassins, and international terrorists, Harry finally puts his combat training to the test in a high stakes mission to find his father and to stop a terrorist plot.
Harry is understandably willing to do anything to find his father, but the speed in which he resorts to extreme violence is somewhat surprising. The only other unexpected development is the significance of Gina Carano’s role in the picture (versus the need to give them a romantic history because the only way a man and woman could know each other is if they dated). Carano undoubtedly overshadows Lutz as she’s more physically capable and charismatic than him. In addition, she portrays the only really interesting role since it doesn’t fit squarely in the traditional formula. Unfortunately the list of unpredictable things in this film is incredibly short. Harry’s bloody quest across the city proceeds as expected with lots of punching, shooting and some stabbing. When the time comes, he’s also unoriginally betrayed — a “plot twist” that can be easily prophesied near the movie’s start.
Special features include: commentary with director Steven C. Miller and actor Kellan Lutz; deleted and extended scenes; making-of featurette; and extended interviews with cast and crew. (VVS Films)
Frankenstein (DVD)
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VVS Films
Set in present day Los Angeles, the film is told entirely from the perspective of the monster (Xavier Samuel). After he is artificially created, then left for dead by a husband-and-wife team (Danny Huston and Carrie-Anne Moss) of eccentric scientists, Adam is confronted with nothing but aggression and violence from the world around him. This perfect creation-turned-disfigured monster must come to grips with the horrific nature of humanity.
Although set in contemporary society, the core of this script is a rather faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s century-old story. The monster’s origins are clearly not traditional, but even though it’s far-fetched it does present an interesting example — or warning — of science run amok and doctors playing God. In this sense, it has a very similar feel to movies that centre on artificial intelligence. As this tale has been retold on screen countless times, it’s difficult to add anything new to the conversation; so in most cases, audiences will settle for an adequate adaptation. By seamlessly transferring the narrative to a modern setting and not trying to over-complicate or over-stylize the picture, filmmakers deliver a satisfactory portrayal of a classic monster.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
The Good Dinosaur (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Untitled
Disney Home Entertainment
The film asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely, and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In this journey into the world of dinosaurs, an apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers of what he is truly capable.
Children’s stories are forever populated with anthropomorphic animals, including dinosaurs. Most filmmakers, however, have only gone so far as providing human voices for these creatures that still generally behave like beasts. This film goes much further in assigning human behaviours to the no-longer-extinct reptiles, even suggesting they engaged in agriculture. Moreover the humans are on the opposite end of the civilization spectrum, acting like dogs rather than traditional people. This requires a greater suspension of belief than the typical narrative, which may be easier for young children than their adult companions. Nonetheless, Arlo and Spot’s friendship is heartwarming enough to win over most audiences to some degree. While it’s often interesting to learn about the film’s creation via the bonus features, the most appealing extra in this release has nothing to do with the picture’s conception. “Recyclosaurus” chronicles an interoffice competition in which each of the animation departments create a representation of Arlo using recycled products; amusingly, the most impressive piece doesn’t look like much — until it casts its shadow.
Special features include: commentary by director Peter Sohn, story supervisor Kelsey Mann, supervising animator Mike Venturini, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan, and supervising technical director Sanjay Bakshi; deleted scenes; Oscar-nominated short, Sanjay’s Super Team; “True Lies About Dinosaurs”; “Recyclosaurus”; “The Filmmakers’ Journey”; “Every Part of the Dinosaur”; “Following the T-Rex Trail”; “Dino Bites”; and “Hide and Seek.” (Disney Home Entertainment)
The Iron Giant: Signature Edition (DVD)
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Warner Home Video
This is the tale of an unlikely friendship between an alien robot from outer space (Vin Diesel) and a rebellious boy named Hogarth (Eli Marienthal). A bedraggled mom (Jennifer Aniston), a paranoid government agent (Christopher McDonald) and a sympathetic beatnik (Harry Connick, Jr.) all conspire to create a gigantic, out-of-this-world adventure.
This “signature edition” release doesn’t mark a milestone anniversary (17 years), but it does follow the film’s theatrical re-release and includes both the original and new versions of the movie. Though the differences are not significant, there is a fascinating added scene that depicts one of the Giant’s nightmares on Dean’s television. In spite of its initial absence, it is a pivotal moment in the character’s development. The voice cast is excellent and incredibly well-suited for their roles. In hindsight, it’s somewhat amusing to compare Diesel’s voice work since in both the cases of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Groot and the Giant he’s required to express a wide range of emotions with few (or one) words.
Special features include: commentary by director Brad Bird, head of animation Tony Fucile, story department head Jeff Lynch and animation supervisor Steven Markowski; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; original opening sequences; motion gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Video)
Jesus of Nazareth: The Complete Miniseries [40th Anniversary Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
From the Nativity to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the life of Jesus (Robert Powell) is presented with stunning depth, gravity and emotion.
This 1977, four-part television event features a stellar cast that includes Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, Olivia Hussey, Ian McShane, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer and Michael York. It faithfully portrays the biblical story with few embellishments or extrapolations. However it is somewhat curious that with so much time, the Last Supper and all that follows is restricted to the final part of the series. While most of the first part is dedicated to the virgin birth, the next three hours depicts Jesus’ acts of kindness and selflessness that drew the loyalty of his followers. Powell physically resembles the traditional image of Jesus and his representation is soulful; however, as Jesus’ life nears its end, Powell’s portrayal becomes increasingly trancelike, which is somewhat disconcerting.
Special features include: interviews with actor Michael York and best-selling author Jean-Pierre Isbouts. (Shout Factory)
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar (DVD)
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Disney Home Entertainment
Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, is the new leader of “The Lion Guard,” an elite team of animals tasked with preserving the Pride Lands. He assembles a group of unlikely heroes: Bunga the honey badger, Fuli the cheetah, Beshte the hippo and Ono the egret. They use their unique abilities to defend the Pride Lands from predators and maintain balance within the Circle of Life.
This is a charming extension of The Lion King that focuses on Simba’s offspring, though their ancestors Mufasa and Scar also play a role in the story. While it begins with Kiara’s training to become queen of the Pride Lands, it quickly shifts to Kion’s inherent right to lead the area’s protectors. His team is unconventional but adorable; and given the opportunity, they prove to be stalwart defenders. In the meantime, the hyenas and vultures are up to their usual evil plotting and will, of course, provide the squad their first real test. In addition to those mentioned, the film would not be complete without appearances by the beloved duo, Timon and Pumbaa.
Special features include: “Here Comes the Lion Guard” music video by Beau Black. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Millennium / R.O.T.O.R. [Double Feature] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Millennium: When safety investigator Bill Smith (Kris Kristofferson) looks into a disastrous airplane crash, he soon makes a shocking discovery — one that will impact the future of humanity itself. The beautiful but mysterious Louise (Cheryl Ladd) may prove to be the key to it all — but can Smith figure out the truth in time?
R.O.T.O.R.: When corrupt Police Commander Earl Buglar (Michael Hunter) orders the development and construction of the ultimate weapon in the war on crime, robotics expert Barrett Coldyron (Richard Gesswin) warns against the dangers of such a project — and loses his job in the process. But when the prototype R.O.T.O.R (Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research) is accidentally activated, the city is suddenly faced with a rampaging mechanical maniac acting as judge, jury, and executioner — and only Coldyron can stop him.
Airplane crashes are often at the centre of peculiar mysteries, though this one takes an unexpected sci-fi twist. Kristofferson’s character is investigating a perplexing but otherwise ordinary crash until he recovers some alien hardware. In the meantime, people 1,000 years in the future live in perpetual fear of their world being destroyed by a time travel paradox caused by just such a mistake. The whole thing is quite bizarre — particularly Ladd’s hairstyles — but relatively entertaining. Still, the first picture is undoubtedly the stronger of the two features. The initial impression of the second picture is it’s a RoboCop spin-off, but nothing could be further from the truth. After going on a killing spree, the stereotypical, mustached bike cop engages in a drawn out chase after an innocent woman while his inept creators conspire to destroy him with a tiny key. Unfortunately the acting matches this horrendous story.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
The Serpent and the Rainbow [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
A Harvard anthropologist (Bill Pullman) is sent to Haiti to retrieve a strange powder that is said to have the power to bring human beings back from the dead. In his quest to find the miracle drug, the cynical scientist enters the rarely seen netherworld of walking zombies, blood rites and ancient curses.
Based on a book and to some extent a true story, this film was director Wes Craven’s attempt to pull away from the horror genre. Unfortunately studio execs did not agree with this direction, obviously ensuring they’d be able to market the movie’s gruesome final act. Voodoo and traditional zombification has a long history with genre cinema, inspiring some of the earliest horror pictures. However, to some extent, this movie is more of an exploration of the culture and its beliefs rather than its typical and complete exploitation. In one of his first roles, Pullman is put through the wringer; but his commitment to the role is essential to the narrative that tries to explore possession and black magic.
Special features include: commentary by actor Bill Pullman; making-of featurette; still gallery; TV spot; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
More about Extraction, Batman Bad Blood, The Good Dinosaur, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Curse
 
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