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article imageReview: New on DVD for February 3 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 3, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a trio of Studio Ghibli films new to Blu-ray; a top-notch action picture; and a horror movie that doesn’t venture outside the box.
The Bridge: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Fox Home Entertainment
Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) and Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) are brought together again by the murder of a cartel member whose body is found in El Paso. Meanwhile, reporters Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Mendez (Emily Rios) venture deeper into the border region underworld to follow the path of a money-laundering operation. The unraveling mysteries quickly pull all of these compelling characters into a complex web of cartel assassinations, crooked cops and the explosive Juarez drug war.
This season, which is also the series’ last following FX’s decision not to renew for a third, pulls away from the serial killer plot that drove the first. Instead the focus shifts to drug trafficking and money laundering — businesses with far more potential for character development and moral struggles. Sonya finds her world turned upside down when it seems everything she believed in was based on some untruth. Marco becomes further entwined with cartel boss Fausto Galvan, while promising to help a new ambitious district attorney remove corruption from the police force. The reporters get ever closer to a real story, only to realize it’s unlikely anyone will want to touch it once they’re done. No longer propelled by the hunt for David Tate, the characters are given the opportunity to bring the attention back to the fascinating world of corruption and narcotics. In addition, the introduction of Franka Potente’s character adds a whole new level of complexity and creepiness to the season.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Building the Bridge: Wrap-up”; and “Blurring the Border Line.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
Coffee Town (DVD)
Shout Factory
We all have our favorite hangouts, but how far would you go to protect your beloved coffee shop? When Will (Glenn Howerton), a website manager for an electronics company, discovers that the local Coffee Town — which he uses as his own personal office — is scheduled to be converted into a bistro, he leaps into action. With the help of his two best friends (Steve Little and Ben Schwartz), Will enacts a plan to stage a robbery in the hopes of convincing the corporate interest behind the switch that the neighbourhood is unsafe. Can Will save his "office," overcome his rival, the disgruntled barista Sam (Josh Groban), and win the heart of his coffee-house crush Becca (Adrianne Palicki)?
There is a new generation of self-employed twenty- and thirty-somethings that work out of coffee houses throughout the Western world. Starbucks created these table hogs, but they’ve spread beyond the franchise’s doors to the far reaches of anywhere that provides free Wi-Fi. There are rivalries, strategies and hurt feelings, but to the victor goes the prime table. The premise of the film is relatively simple, but the leading men make it unpredictably hilarious. In only 90 minutes, the script is politically incorrect countless times and the guys’ let every inconsiderate thing naturally roll off their tongues. By the end, you know their scheme is going to go terribly wrong but you can’t wait to see how it actually evolves. The final twist’s contribution to the overall narrative is debatable, but no less entertaining than the rest of the picture.
Special features include: commentary by Brad Copeland, Ben Schwartz & Glenn Howerton; and deleted scenes. (Shout Factory)
John Wick (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Home Entertainment
When sadistic young thugs senselessly attack John Wick (Keanu Reeves) — a brilliantly lethal ex-assassin — they have no idea that they’ve just awakened the boogeyman. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, Wick embarks on a merciless rampage, hunting down his adversaries with the skill and ruthlessness that made him an underworld legend.
Reeves has been trying to gain and maintain the respect of audiences for much of his career. He renewed some people’s faith with The Matrix trilogy, but most of his subsequent pictures were unremarkable. Then this film happened and suddenly Reeves had recovered some cool. He does not speak very often in the movie (which some would say this is an advantage), but he comes across a total bad-ass. The slow burn through the first act builds exceptional intensity that serves the remainder of the narrative very well. When the mystery of Wick’s identity and influence is resolved, there’s nothing left to do but sit back and watch his bloody revenge unfold. Moreover the soundtrack, which includes a track from Marilyn Manson, is noticeable but in a way that adds to rather than intrudes on the film.
Special features include: commentary by filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch; “Don't F*#% With John Wick”; “Calling in the Cavalry”; “Destiny of a Collective”; “Assassin’s Code”; “Red Circle”; and “NYC Noir.” (Universal Home Entertainment)
Ouija (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
After Debbie (Shelley Hennig) suddenly dies, her best friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) attempts to contact her using an antique Ouija board she finds in Debbie’s room. When the curious teen begins asking the board questions and stumbles upon the mystery of her friend’s death, Laine discovers a resident spirit calling itself DZ, and eerie, inexplicable events begin to follow her. The group of friends digs deeper into the history of Debbie’s house and are shocked to find that Debbie wasn’t the first victim — and won’t be the last if they don’t figure out how to close the portal to the spirit world they’ve opened.
Often times, even non-believers will avoid spirit boards. There's simply something disturbing about a board game that has the potential to communicate with the dead. It's been used in numerous horror films as the conduit for bad things; the only difference this time is it comprises the name of the film as well. The tale's twist is quite conventional for this type of hostile ghost story and has even been featured in an episode of the TV series, Supernatural. Most of the story's developments are quite predictable, removing a lot of the picture's potential to be scary though the frightening scenes are executed visually well even if they aren't especially effective. The group of haunted teens are adequate even as they miraculously uncover the details of their poltergeist problems with a single search on the Internet.
Special features include: “The Spirit Board: An Evolution”; “Icon of the Unknown”; and “Adapting the Fear.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
Pom Poko (Blu-ray & DVD)
Disney Home Entertainment
The raccoons of the Tama Hills are being forced from their homes by the rapid development of houses and shopping malls. As it becomes harder to find food and shelter, they decide to band together and fight back. The raccoons practice and perfect the ancient art of transformation until they are even able to appear as humans. In often hilarious ways, the raccoons use their powers to try to scare off the advance of civilization. But will it be enough? Or will the raccoons learn how to live in balance with the modern world?
From the same director as Grave of the Fireflies comes this enchanted story of environmental destruction and adaptation. The narrator walks audiences through the tale as if he were reading it from a storybook, pointing out the animals’ errors and flaws. The account itself spans many years and illustrates the impact of smaller projects and major developments on the local wildlife, i.e. the racoons. Their experimentation with transformation is very entertaining as they practice turning into similar-sized objects and gradually working their way up to humans who can blend into the world beyond the trees. Guidance from those that have mastered the craft leads to much more advanced illusions that really demonstrate the imaginations of the creators. As with most Studio Ghibli pictures centred on some controversy, there is no happy ending — just a conclusion that for better or worse is the most appropriate.
Special features include: original Japanese storyboards; and original Japanese trailers. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Porco Rosso (Blu-ray & DVD)
Disney Home Entertainment
When “Porco” (voice of Michael Keaton) — whose face has been transformed into that of a pig by a mysterious spell — infuriates a band of sky pirates with his aerial heroics, the pirates hire Curtis (voice of Cary Elwes), a rival pilot, to get rid of him. On the ground, the two pilots compete for the affections of the beautiful Gina (voice of Susan Egan).
It’s widely known that director Hayao Miyazaki is fascinated by aviation — an affinity that has shown through his work more than once. This is an exciting tale of rivalries that are often played out in the air, though their ground interactions are equally entertaining. The “Boss” pirate is reminiscent of Bluto in both his appearance and personality, and is voiced perfectly by Brad Garrett. Curtis is the “typical” over-confident American who falls in love with every pretty face he comes across and will join whichever side is willing to pay more. Porco is a fascinating character. The origin of his curse is suppressed for the majority of the film, yet he makes no attempt to reverse it; instead he embraces its ability to separate him from everyone, preferring the detachment he is afforded by being a pig. Even in the end, the fates of some of the characters are revealed while the most curious one is left up to viewers to decide.
Special features include: “Behind the Microphone”; interview with Toshio Suzuki; original Japanese storyboards; and original Japanese trailers. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Tales from Earthsea (Blu-ray & DVD)
Disney Home Entertainment
In the land of Earthsea, crops are dwindling, dragons have reappeared and humanity is giving way to chaos. Journey with Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk (Timothy Dalton), a master wizard, and Arren (Matt Levin), a troubled young prince, on a tale of redemption and self-discovery as they search for the force behind the mysterious imbalance that threatens to destroy their world.
This is a curious tale of magic and corruption. It’s difficult to determine what side of good and evil Arren is on as audiences see him commit a brutal crime at the beginning of the film, which is then ignored for a large section of the narrative as he proves to be more vulnerable than expected. However, there are obviously greater evils afoot that take priority during this time. When Arren and Sparrowhawk enter a town early on, it is populated with slave traders who kidnap people to sell openly in the marketplace. This is a Studio Ghibli film likely more suited for slightly older audiences as it deals with some serious and dark issues, but that doesn’t take away from its striking appearance and captivating storyline.
Special features include: “The Birth Story of the Film Soundtrack”; “Behind the Studio: Origins of Earthsea”; original Japanese storyboards; and original Japanese trailers. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
The rural town of Elwood has always been a "bubble" against the backdrop of a suspected global virus where infected humans don’t die; instead they roam around trying to spread the sickness in a grisly, horrific way. The Zombie Killers, a small band of young adults trained by ex-military soldier Seiler (Billy Zane), have sworn to protect the town and aim for the head if anyone threatens Elwood’s last survivors.
The filmmaker appears to have had one innovative idea for part of a zombie picture and filled in the rest of the outline with plot elements from The Walking Dead. Utilizing paint ball as the gateway for teens to train to be a better squad of defenders makes good sense — the equipment is similar and it preserves their precious supply of ammo. However, the rest of the narrative is recycled right down to Zane's final speech. The precariousness of a wire fence standing between the survivors and the undead, and the God-like tendencies of the town's leader is not new. On the other hand, incorporating the myth of the elephant's graveyard is interesting but doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; “Bloodbath & Beyond”; and “The Look of Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
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