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article imageReview: New on DVD for July 15 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 16, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include: an animated version of a modern-day Blaxploitation flick; the second season of one of TV’s best series; an improved sequel; and an earnest first feature.
Anna Karenina (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Set in Imperial Russia in the 1870s, this is a tale of passion, betrayal, society, and the search for happiness. Anna (Nicola Pagett) is young, beautiful, and trapped in a loveless marriage to the high-minded, much older Karenin (Eric Porter). When she meets debonair cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Stuart Wilson) on a Moscow train platform, she can’t resist looking back and sealing her fate.
Spanning 10 episodes of 50 minutes each, this UK television event has more opportunity than a feature-length film to include more details from Leo Tolstoy's extensive novel. As a result, even though it takes some liberties with the material, this adaptation is one of the most comprehensive screen depictions of the book. Akin to Masterpiece Theatre, the sets and costumes are suitably lavish while the picture quality and camerawork is pedestrian and dated. Nonetheless, the timeless tale of lust, heartbreak, betrayal and compromise is portrayed well by the actors. In spite of the very stagey appearance, Pagett and Wilson turn in excellent performances capturing the qualities of their respective characters.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
Black Dynamite: Season One (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Home Video & Adult Swim
The series’ titular character Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is a 1970s renaissance man with a kung-fu grip. He is a lover and a fighter who is not afraid to leap before he looks. His sidekick extraordinaire is Bullhorn (Byron Minns), the brains and cunning that complements Black Dynamite’s hard-hittin’, bone-crushin’ style. Providing comic relief on the mean streets is Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson) and classing up the place is the gorgeous Honey Bee (Kym Whitley).
Based on the 2009 critically-acclaimed movie of the same name, the TV series offers the film's characters (and its actors) new life as they take on fresh, bizarre cases. White returns to the title role and the private investigator's personal theme music remains intact, even if he's more outrageous than before. The episodes poke fun at trends, celebrities and pop culture of the 70s, but the first one is the best chapter featuring a young Michael Jackson and explaining his numerous eccentricities. It doesn't quite capture the magic of the film, but it's still a delight to revisit the characters. With The Boondocks' Carl Jones leading creative, expect much of the same style of hard-hitting humor that doesn't shy away from much of anything (see the episode titled "Race Wars" for a solid example).
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and video commentaries with series creator Carl Jones and cast members. (Warner Home Video and Adult Swim)
Orphan Black: Season Two (Blu-ray)
BBC Home Entertainment
The new season hits the ground running with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) in a desperate race to find her missing daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) — a wild pursuit that brings her head-to-head with ruthless pro-clone, Rachel (Maslany). This season also rejoins Sarah’s clone sisters Alison (Maslany) and Cosima (Maslany) as they struggle to keep their clone world a secret and pick up the pieces of their broken lives — all while dealing with the harsh reality that no one around them can be trusted.
Maslany continues to shock and amaze as she portrays a half-dozen characters in the intense television series. The deeper Sarah digs for answers, the more complex their history is revealed to be and the more risky it becomes for all of them. Helena steals the spotlight repeatedly as her violent psychosis disrupts Sarah’s search for answers. The daunting task of going up against a resourceful corporation presents difficult choices for the clones, causing them each to choose what best suits their lifestyles and goals. But knowing they can trust no one but each takes its toll. Alison’s shattered perfect life leads her down a path of destruction and absolution. Cosima has the ability to get closest to Dyad, but the necessity of her involvement takes on new meaning as the season progresses. Sarah continues to prove she’s a survivor — a trait that has had a surprising impact on Kira’s personality. Rachel is a victim of circumstance, though she would never admit it. Felix is still a favourite, acting somewhat as the heart of the show especially when things get dark. And in the end, an utterly meaningless scene of the sisters revelling in each other’s company is one of the most poignant.
Special features include: deleted scenes; four behind-the-scenes featurettes; “The Cloneversation with Wil Wheaton”; and “Clone Club Insiders.” (BBC Home Entertainment)
Rio 2 (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The party continues when Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their three kids take a walk on the wild side, and embark on a colorful, comical, music-filled journey through the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit into his new surroundings, he goes beak-to-beak with the villainous Nigel (Jemaine Clement), and meets the most fearsome adversary of all: his father-in-law.
Where the first film felt forced, the sequel is much more natural. Though it's difficult to separate the image of Eisenberg from his voice, Blu is a very amusing character. In the family adventure he behaves like a modern day city bird thrust into the wilds with nothing but a fanny pack to support his comfortable lifestyle. The music is also better incorporated into the narrative rather than bursting out of nowhere. Blu and Jewel's kids don't leave a lasting impression, though her father and former playmate have larger personalities. The return of Nigel gives the film a goofy quality that will appeal to children as his repeated attempts at revenge backfire à la Wile E. Coyote. His companions — a lovesick poisonous frog and anteater — are also entertaining.
Special features include: “Rio Refresher”; deleted scene; “Boom, Shake, Snap: The Local Sounds of Brazil”; “Birds and Beats: The Singing Talents of Rio 2”; “Nigel the Shakespearean Cockatoo and Friends”; “You Be the Judge Auditions”; “Music, Dance, Sing-Along Machine”; “What is Love” lyric video by Janelle Monáe; "I Will Survive" multi-language sequence; still gallery; and theatrical trailers. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Road to Paloma (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Wolf (Jason Mamoa) is a Native American on the run after avenging his mother’s murder. As he flees across the desolate American West on his motorcycle, he’ll discover that justice has a cost — Wolf’s search for redemption will reveal secrets and take him on a journey where the roads have some very unexpected turns.
No doubt Jason Mamoa could pass for a WWE wrestler, but not all the films to which the company is attached star their homegrown talent. This is Mamoa's directorial debut, which he also produced and co-wrote. Though the movie is not perfect, it's genuinely heartfelt both as a personal project and profound journey for Wolf. Each stop along the road trip is meaningful to Wolf and brings the audience one step closer to him and learning his history. Visiting his family as he travels — as well as his real-life wife, Lisa Bonet — he is shown to be an incredibly kind soul who stands up for what is right. His spontaneous friendship with Cash is strange, especially when he seems to be dragging Wolf down with him. But they find something in one another that extends beyond their love of motorcycles. The ending is the most disappointing aspect of the film, as it haphazardly ties up loose ends.
Special features include: deleted scene. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Shark 4 Movie Collection (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Sharktopus, Dinoshark, Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Bait 3D.
The recent revival of substandard movies featuring man-eating sharks has been a lot of fun for B-movie fans. While they all share the same ridiculous premise, the scripts, acting and special effects are of varying quality. Roger Corman's two pictures in the collection are about shark hybrids that reap havoc on unsuspecting tourists. The CGI creatures are slightly better than average and the scripts are intentionally comedic. Jersey Shore Shark Attack is an unmistakable parody of the MTV reality show in which the Guidos and country club kids must ban together against industry and a horde of angry albino sharks. The only disappointment is not getting to watch all these annoying characters get devoured. Bait is the one movie in the collection that did receive a theatrical release and is available in 3D. Therefore the Aussie production is overall better quality. It's also reminiscent of one of the best recent big fish pictures, Deep Blue Sea.
Special features include: commentary by producers Roger and Julie Corman; commentary by producers Roger and Julie Corman, and director Kevin O’Neill; commentary by executive producers Barry Bernholtz and Jeffery Schenck, producer Peter Sullivan and director John Shepphird; on-set featurette; and storyboard gallery. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
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