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article imageReview: New on DVD for June 10 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 10, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include film noir for the small screen; assassins in the sky; a movie documenting an inventor’s artistic proposition; a comedy starring one of the U.K.’s most obnoxious personalities; and the origin story of an unlikely hero.
A Short History of Decay (DVD)
ARC Entertainment
Nathan Fisher (Bryan Greenberg) can’t seem to quite get it together. He’s a wannabe writer living in Brooklyn, temping at an ad agency while bouncing from plays to novels to screenplays without ever finishing anything. When his ambitious novelist girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui), about to publish her first book, finally gets fed up and decides to leave him he resolves to get down to some serious work once and for all. But life intervenes. After getting a call that his father (Harris Yulin) has had a stroke, Nathan heads to Florida where he’s called upon to deal with his father’s failing health and his mother’s (Linda Lavin) early Alzheimer’s.
This story is likely to be told more often as more filmmakers experience similar situations with their parents. It's a snapshot of Nathan’s life at this chaotic time, though he's a bit of an exasperating character. He's endlessly drifting, even when he's supposedly buckling down. He has no idea what he wants out of life and therefore has no long-term goals and aimless ambition. His parents, on the other hand, are interesting personalities. His father is a likeable curmudgeon that no one wants to upset, while his mother is sweet and gentle. Even though audiences are dropped into the middle of Nathan’s drama, the narrative has a clear beginning. Conversely, there is no closure at the end; the camera simply stops following the characters and provides no resolution, which makes the time spent watching feel somewhat fruitless.
There are no special features. (ARC Entertainment)
Alan Partridge (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp.
Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) finds himself at the centre of a siege when a disgruntled fellow employee (Colm Meaney) decides to hold their station hostage after learning that he’s getting fired by the new management.
For 20 years, Alan Partridge’s perpetually self-destructing career has fascinated fans via radio, television and a web-com. Now he’s taking his insults to a feature-length film. This is a humorous look at an extreme version of someone employed in the entertainment industry and what happens when the self-centred man is put in a position to be heroic. In short, he has an enormous ego and is willing to sacrifice others to save his own skin. However, the British comedy does not let him off lightly for these propensities but rather uses them to put Alan in precarious and hilarious situations. He's literally caught with his pants down, must talk his way back into the siege to save face and is illogically trusted with the task of talking down the gunman. Coogan once again proves competent in the role of a mouthy imbecile who manages to talk his way into more crises than out of them.
Special features include: making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; and AXS TV: “A Look at Alan Partridge”. (Video Services Corp.)
Devil’s Knot (Blu-ray)
RLJ Entertainment
May 5, 1993, West Memphis, Arkansas. Three young boys playing in the nearby woods never come home for dinner. In the rush to find and convict the killers, police focus on a trio of teenagers suspected of devil worship. As the mother of one of the murdered boys (Reese Witherspoon) tries to come to grips with this unspeakable tragedy, she is desperate to believe that the killers have been found and will be brought to justice. It is only when an investigator (Colin Firth) reveals that the evidence doesn’t all add up, that the community is forced to face the reality that the true killer might still be out there.
Many people are already familiar with the plight of the West Memphis Three; and for those acquainted with the details, this fictional rendition will add little to their knowledge of the case. In fact, viewers that have seen the documentaries chronicling their story probably know more than is included in the film. Nonetheless, dramatizations are an effective means to sharing injustices with a wider audience so the movie will serve its purpose. Little focus is actually placed on the accused, but rather the other players involved in their conviction. There is a lot of time dedicated to what occurred outside of the courtroom, as well as recreating the countless errors made during the trial. Witherspoon’s distraught mother is convincing as she struggles with the weight of her doubt and grief.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; and “Getting into Character: The Cast of Devil’s Knot.” (RLJ Entertainment)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
CIA recruit Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is caught in a dangerous web of intrigue spun between his unsuspecting fiancée (Keira Knightley), a shadowy government agent (Kevin Costner), and a ruthless Russian criminal (Kenneth Branagh). Ryan must quickly evolve from analyst to full-fledged operative to stop a devastating terrorist plot against the United States.
Though this film revives Tom Clancy's character, it is the first in the franchise not based on one of his books. This story is a prequel to the other narratives, tracing Jack's path from soldier to analyst to full-fledged field agent. It appears his dedication to truth and justice has always fuelled his career choices, determined to do what's right at all costs. Pine is a good choice to preclude the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck who have also portrayed Jack over the last 20-plus years. Still, Pine's interpretation is closest to Ford's capturing the same humour and charm that gives the character his longevity. Director Kenneth Branagh is proving quite adept at presenting a commendable balance between action and character development.
Special features include: commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura; deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura; “Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room”; “Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit”; “Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action”; and “Old Enemies Return.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Non-Stop (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
During a transatlantic flight, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) receives a series of cryptic text messages threatening that a passenger will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into an off-shore account. With the lives of hundreds of passengers hanging in the balance, Marks must draw on all of his training and skill to uncover the killer traveling on the aircraft.
Even in a confined space, the hunt for a possible killer is exhilarating. Moreover, the stealth and cleverness of the scheme is attention-grabbing. The murderer is able to orchestrate scenarios that act in his favour, access restricted areas and shift suspicion to innocent bystanders all without ever being seen. Even though suspicion is strategically directed in Bill's direction, the audience is resolutely on his side. The film does not take itself too seriously, but it's also far from a Snakes on a Plane level of absurd. Prejudiced comments by a rude passenger, witty dialogue layered over the typical action movie exchanges and a hero determined to save everyone at any cost to himself are just some of the included genre elements. Neeson is a natural at sounding confidant and giving orders. And moments later he can seem lost and broken, then flick a switch and be back in charge. Julianne Moore's objection to being called "ma'am" is perfect and she plays the confused but determined accomplice well.
Special features include: “Non-Stop Action”; and “Suspense at 40,000 Feet.” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Resurrection – The Complete First Season (DVD)
ABC Films
What happens when someone who you’ve mourned and buried mysteriously appears at your doorstep, as if not a single day has gone by? The lives of the people of Arcadia, Missouri are forever changed when their deceased loved ones miraculously return, causing them to confront the emotional depth of their relationship and what it means to be given a second chance.
It becomes quite clear in the first few episodes that the series must have been originally dubbed "The Returned" and was renamed post-production. None of the concepts akin to "Resurrection" play a significant role in the narrative and the dead are repeatedly said to have “returned,” which then becomes a noun. The story is structured as a mystery in which a federal agent allows himself to become embroiled. He and the local doctor attempt to discover the “why” to a lot of questions. Each chapter introduces a new element, ranging from a strange psychic connection between the returned to new people coming back from the dead to a backlash by the townspeople. It's not the most compelling television, but offers just enough to keep viewers coming back.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Resurrection: Building a Mystery”; “On Location in Georgia”; and bloopers. (ABC Films)
Robocop (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The year is 2028 and OmniCorp, the world’s leader in robot technology, sees a golden opportunity to reap billions for their company. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit – is critically injured, OmniCorp grabs their chance to build a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and will stop at nothing, no matter the cost to Alex, to make sure the program succeeds. But OmniCorp never counted on one thing: there is still a man fighting inside the machine.
The doctor responsible for the technology is a peculiar character. At the outset, he is adamant about not compromising his beliefs for the RoboCop project. But as each new complication arises, his resolve quickly fades and soon maintaining Murphy’s humanity is no longer a priority. Kinnaman's portrayal of the half man, half machine is different than his predecessor's as he awakens conscious of his condition and must come to terms with his new body. His personality is slowly stripped away, creating a different relationship than audiences had with director Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Michael Keaton is the ruthless head of OmniCorp who effortlessly lies to everyone and is ruled by the bottom line, while Jay Baruchel is perfect as the soulless marketing executive who would throw his own mother in the line of fire if it translated to increased revenue. This remake strays significantly from the original. But it maintains some of Verhoeven’s satirical touches and dark comedy, while advancing the technology, updating the setting and providing a new perspective.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “OmniCorp Product Announcement”; and “Robocop: Engineered for the 21st Century.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Spike Lee Joint Collection: Vol. 1 (Blu-ray)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
25th Hour: In 24 short hours, former king of Manhattan Monty Brogan (Ed Norton) will go to prison for seven long years. In his last day on the outside, Monty tires to reconnect with his father, reunite with two old friends and figure out if his girlfriend was the one who tipped off the cops.
He Got Game: A convict given one shot at a second chance to be a father to his estranged son Jesus. Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) is granted temporary release from state prison in order to persuade his son, the nations’ top college basketball recruit, to play ball for the Governor’s alma mater.
25th Hour answers a version of the question, "What would you do if you only had 24 hours left to live?" Even though jail and death are separate sentences, Monty spends his last day as a free man as if it may be his last day on Earth. Norton's portrayal allows the audience to sympathize with his character, even when others point out the harm he's inflicted and profited on as a drug dealer. In addition, the cast of well-known actors delivers in every role.
In He Got Game, it's not immediately revealed why Jake is in prison, but the reason is eventually voiced before being re-enacted later in the picture. Jake’s character is more difficult to like because behind his remorse is the same selfish, hard ass that went away six years ago. Instead, Jesus draws more of the audience's focus as he is faced with a number of decisions that he chooses to bear the weight of alone.
Special features include: new commentary by director Spike Lee and actor Edward Norton; new commentary by director Spike Lee; commentary by screenwriter David Benioff; deleted scenes; “The Evolution Of An American Filmmaker”; “Ground Zero - A Tribute”; and commentary by director Spike Lee And Actor Ray Allen. (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
The Spike Lee Joint Collection: Vol. 2 (Blu-ray)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Summer of Sam: During New York City’s infamous summer of 1977, friends in a small Italian neighbourhood become convinced that the notorious killer is someone close to home, the madman’s reign of terror sparks a wave of distrust that tears relationships apart.
Miracle at St. Anna: Stationed in Italy, four members of the U.S. Army’s all-black, 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldiers, are trapped behind enemy lines after one of them risks his life to save a traumatized young boy.
Summer of Sam is less about the killer and more about what his reign did to the city and how it affected a particular group of characters. Notions of racism, vigilantism, misogyny and machismo all rear their ugly heads. There are interludes featuring the delusional ravings of the Son of Sam murderer; though the use of children's building blocks to spell out words appears to be mostly stylistic. The ensemble cast is superb with even Lee jumping in to play the role of a Harlem news reporter, but John Leguizamo and Adrien Brody are the key characters and portray their parts to a tee.
Though this narrative is comprised of fictional events, Miracle at St. Anna is inspired by the true and little publicized heroics of WWII's 92nd division that was composed of the U.S. Army's black enlisted men. The tale is an extensive one that addresses many issues, including white commanding officers, dissent within the ranks, the hospitality of their Italian hosts, the role of local rebel units, and the brutality of the Nazis.
Special features include: commentary by director Spike Lee and actor John Leguizamo; new commentary by director Spike Lee and screenwriter James McBride; deleted scenes; “Deeds Not Words”; and “The Buffalo Soldier Experience.” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Tim’s Vermeer (Blu-ray & DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the art world: How did Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning a decade, Jenison’s adventure takes him to Holland, on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and eventually even to Buckingham Palace. The epic research project Jenison embarks on is as extraordinary as what he discovers.
When the average person views a piece of art, they admire the talent, and subjectively judge the quality and appeal. Conversely an art student may look deeper, contemplating the materials used and influences for the work. And then there are people who view the piece with an entirely different eye. Jenison is one of those people. Penn Jillette was right when he thought Tim's project was well-suited for cinema. The initial investigation lifts the veil so the audience may view Vermeer's work with the same scrutiny. Then the experimental phase proves there is validity to the theory as Jenison, the unprofessional artist, creates unbelievably detailed paintings using the apparatus in his hypothesis. The final step is the most painstaking and fascinating as Jenison meticulously attempts to replicate Vermeer's famous painting entitled, "The Music Lesson." Though the activity is wholly mad, there is something captivating about the lengths of his determination. On the other hand, the narrative concludes and the climax just sort of falls off the edge.
Special features include: commentary with Teller, Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette & Farley Ziegler; deleted, extended and alternate scenes; and Toronto International Film Festival Q&A. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
True Detective: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are two detectives and former partners who worked in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division in the mid-1990s. At first glance, Hart and Cohle couldn’t be more different. Hart, a native Louisianan, is an outgoing family man with two kids, whose marriage to wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) is buckling under the stress of the job. Cohle, a former undercover narcotics detective from Texas, embraces isolation, articulating a pessimistic, even bleak, world view. But they share an obsession with justice and a facility for violence that will inflict irreparable damage on both men. In 2012, the two are interviewed separately by investigators about their most notorious case: the macabre 1995 murder of a prostitute by a possible serial killer with disturbing occult leanings. As they look back on the case, Hart and Cohle’s lives collide and entwine in unexpected, sometimes catastrophic ways, and their personal backstories and often-strained relationship become a major focal point of the investigation.
There are so many cop dramas on television, it's difficult to draw any meaningful distinction between them anymore. But if HBO was going to enter this arena, one expected it to be not only a cut above the rest but different than the current prime time offerings. This series scores off the charts in both categories. The presentation is unique in that it is looking back at a major investigation through multiple perspectives simultaneously, essentially creating two mysteries to be solved: who is the serial killer and what do these cops want with Rust? The gritty, almost sepia tone to the picture is reflective of the rundown Louisiana landscape they must canvas and the horrific nature of the crime. The first episode slides slowly out of the gate, gradually pulling the viewer into the narrative so by the end of the initial 60 minutes they're hooked. McConaughy and Harrelson's off-screen friendship is likely a contributing factor to their on-screen chemistry, but they are also both amazing actors that raise this intriguing concept to the next level.
Special features include: two commentaries featuring Nic Pizzolatto, T Bone Burnett and executive produce Scott Stephens; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Inside the Episode”; “Up Close with Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson”; “A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
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