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article imageReview: New on DVD for March 17 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 18, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a couple of misguided horror movies; two TV series rooted in history; epic missions by renowned heroes; an entertaining dramatic comedy from Chris Rock; and an adrenaline-fuelled documentary.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Shout Factory
In the mid-16th century, after annihilating the Incan empire, Gonzalo Pizarro (Allejandro Repullés) leads his army of conquistadors over the Andes into the heart of the most savage environment on earth in search of the fabled City of Gold, El Dorado. As the soldiers battle starvation, Indians, the forces of nature and each other, Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), "The Wrath of God," is consumed with visions of conquering all of South America and revolts, leading his own army down a treacherous river on a doomed quest into oblivion.
Throughout his career, director Werner Herzog has displayed a fascination with the Amazon, indigenous slaves and impossible tasks. In this picture, much of the narrative takes place on a raft built by the soldiers as it floats down river supposedly towards El Dorado. One of the oddities is the presence of two women on the mission, which is addressed when a leader says it was against his better judgement to bring them. It doesn’t take long to realize Aguirre is insane, usurping the band of men to create a new empire in opposition to Spain. As the story continues, his methods become less reasonable and the crew begins to turn on itself. This is a film typical of Herzog in its eccentricities and style with a conclusion that’s predictable but appropriate.
Special features include: commentary by writer/producer/director Werner Herzog; commentary by Werner Herzog, moderated by Laurens Straub (in German with English subtitles); still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Annie (DVD)
Untitled
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a spunky upbeat foster kid who’s also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York. Everything’s about to change when a hard-nosed tycoon (Jamie Foxx) takes her in and believes he’s her guardian angel, but Annie’s sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook on life just might mean it’s the other way around.
This is another case of Hollywood recycling a classic for a modern day audience. The updates to the picture are acceptable, unmistakably rooting it in the age of mobile technology and social media. Even the new songs are seamlessly incorporated into the narrative, giving a slightly new perspective on certain personalities. However, it seems in an attempt to make the characters more real, they casted people who lack any remarkable singing or dancing abilities. With the exception of Jamie Foxx who’s released his own album, none of the actors have professional voices — a general requirement for musicals. They may capture the energy of the movie, but this is not a soundtrack to be repeated.
Special features include: commentary by director Will Gluck; a making-of featurette; and “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” music video. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Florence is thrown into chaos in the wake of the Pazzi conspiracy and Leonardo da Vinci (Tom Riley) must push the limits of his mind and body to defend the city against the forces of Rome. When the dust settles, friends are buried and rivalries are enflamed. While the Medicis go to unthinkable lengths to deal with new threats, da Vinci continues on his quest to find the fabled Book of Leaves and uncover the secret history of his mother. He'll come to realize that he has lethal competition in his quest — new enemies who may be even worse than the forces of Pope Sixtus. His search will take him to faraway lands and force him to re-evaluate everything he knew about the world and his own personal history.
Beginning in the midst of the chaos of the uprising, there is no time missed between the season finale and premiere. In this chapter, da Vinci’s mind becomes more fascinating than ever. His understanding of the human body informs what is possibly the first blood transfusion, his problem-solving abilities get him through a series of seemingly impossible trials and his wit remains a constant source of amusement. With so much treachery and confusion afoot, the episodes are largely divided between a great many storylines that seemingly have no bearing on da Vinci’s quest for the Book of Leaves — until it does. The cliff-hanger at the end of the season finale allows for a very significant moment to remain unresolved and is literally concluded as the fuse of a canon disappears, making the opening minutes of next season the much anticipated.
Special features include: “The Journey Begins: Season 1 Recap”; “Creating the New World”; “A Closer Look”; and “New Sets.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Exodus: Gods and Kings (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Fox Home Entertainment
In this Biblical tale, Moses (Christian Bale) defies the Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 400,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
Most viewers are familiar with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956), which accomplished quite a bit in terms of special effects for the time period. It also presented a more complete account of Moses’ life. However the overall foundation of the story remains the same, even if the presentation is significantly altered. Under Ridley Scott’s direction, there is a major shift in focus to the violence of the story. Moreover, the quality of the special effects contributes to the more visceral nature of the narrative. Not only does it bring home the vastness of the armies and the exodus, but also the pervasiveness and harshness of the epidemics. Each of the top-billed actors, which also include Sir Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver, are very sombre. The seemingly constant life-or-death state of existence makes for very grim performances.
Special features include: commentary by director/producer Ridley Scott and co-screenwriter Jeffrey Caine; deleted and extended scenes; and “The Exodus Historical Guide.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
Foxcatcher (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is struggling in obscurity and poverty in Wisconsin when he is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move on to his lavish estate to form a team and to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Schultz seizes the opportunity, eager to step out of the shadow of his revered older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), a prominent wrestling coach and Gold Medal winner himself. With his vast financial resources and state-of-the-art training facility at Foxcatcher Farm, du Pont appoints himself head coach of the team, eager to win the respect of his peers and the approval of his condemning mother (Vanessa Redgrave).
This film features some remarkable transformations from its actors as well as its characters. Contrary to Tatum’s usual vibrancy, Mark is a sullen young man who says very little. However under John’s tutelage, he gains self-confidence and eventually learns how not to exist in anyone’s shadow. Carell is aged and cordially condescending with a desire to finally excel at something that he can never fully realize. Though it always seems like something sinister bubbles under John’s surface, it’s quite unsettling when it finally erupts. Ruffalo/Dave is the least altered, portraying a supportive brother and a father who is trying to do what’s best for his children. The narrative does not get caught up in the wrestling aspect of the story, but rather the dynamic that develops between Mark and John. Mark’s journey to realizing his patron is the worst thing that could have happened to him is captivating but too late.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and “The Story of Foxcatcher.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
I Am Zozo (DVD)
Untitled
Anchor Bay Entertainment
On Halloween night, five teens decide to liven up their party with some innocent fun by summoning the spirits. At first, it’s all nervous laughter and scoffing. Then the night takes a sinister turn as the Ouija board reveals truths, exposes secrets it cannot possibly know and triggers inexplicable events within the darkened house. As the session continues, an entity reveals itself: Zozo. And as the terrified teens are about to discover, once you make contact with this ancient demonic force, you’re no longer playing a game…the game is playing you.
Like “Thin Man,” Zozo is an urban legend that circulates the Internet. As noted in the movie, people around the world claim to have encountered the force via an Ouija board. This is not the most terrifying horror movie as the spirit remains unseen and most of its physical presence is achieved through parlour tricks; though their actual conversation with the board is somewhat disturbing. The movie is shot to look like a home movie using super 8 mm, but it’s never clear who in their group (if anyone) is operating the camera even though it’s often meant to look like it’s being captured in the first person. The interview bonus feature is supposed add credibility to the picture, but it accomplishes the opposite.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and “Interview with actor Darren Evans.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Muck (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Anchor Bay Entertainment
After narrowly escaping an ancient burial ground, a group of friends find themselves trapped between two evils, forcing them to fight, die, or go back the way they came.
This film appears to be the product of giving film students with no real interest in the genre a lot of money to make a horror movie. The plot is somewhere between thin and non-existent with the part about them starting in a haunted burial ground never emerging until much later when it’s revealed they somehow lost two friends in the marshes (not burial ground). As his remaining friends rest in an old farmhouse, Adam runs past numerous houses to a bar to call for help in the form of his drunk cousin rather than police. Meanwhile, the group is attacked by a set of painted, shirtless men with poor fighting skills. Kane Hodder has a brief appearance in which he repeatedly body slams his opponents. There’s also a five-minute opening credit sequence with a dancing, half-naked woman; a lingerie fashion show consisting of at least five pairs of bras and panties in the washroom of a bar; a girl who spends the entire movie running in her underwear in spite of the various opportunities for her to put on clothes; and multiple close-ups of bouncing breasts as the owner screams. Only one of these women is a former Playboy playmate. This is not a horror movie – it’s a peep show.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Following up his father's Academy Award-nominated On Any Sunday, Dana Brown shows that the passion for riding motorcycles is as strong as ever. A modern take on the original, this film captures the heart and soul of motorcycle culture and the fearless riders taking biking to brave new heights all over the world. It goes inside customized bike shops with Hollywood stars like Mickey Rourke; soars through the air with athlete and professional daredevil Robbie Maddison; and rides alongside visionaries in Africa, who use motorcycles to save lives.
A lot of people think motorcycles are deathtraps on two wheels and enthusiasts are crazy for liking them in spite of that fact. And while they offer less protection than the metal cage of a car, they share many of the same qualities. Brown admired the appeal of his father’s documentary from the ‘70s so he decided to make a follow-up, highlighting the new and enriched world that evolved since the original film. From various forms of racing to the modern-day Evel Knievel to the familial aspect of the sport, Brown explores people’s love of motorcycles from all perspectives. One of the film’s greatest achievements is its accessibility. It’s unnecessary for audiences to know anything about bikes and the narrator ensures they remain up-to-speed with whatever is on screen at the time.
Special features include: “Riders for Health”; “The Brown Legacy”; “Robbie Maddison's Drop In”; KTM/Kurt Caselli Bike Build”; and tailers. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Penguins of Madagascar (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Untitled
DreamWorks Animation & Fox Home Entertainment
Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) join forces with the elite North Wind team to save the world the evil Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich).
The voice cast is a key element to any animated film. With the penguins in the spotlight, it’s terrific to have the original actors return to do their vocals. This feat of continuity is likewise achieved by keeping writer/director Eric Darnell at the helm. But there are also great opportunities for new personalities to share the stage. Benedict Cumberbatch is an excellent match for the handsome, no-nonsense husky that leads North Wind. Malkovich’s off-the-wall performance captures Brine’s madness impeccably well, making the villain one of the film’s most entertaining elements. Having to incorporate the other characters and stretch the story beyond 30 minutes is a bit of a constraint for the normally free-rein penguins. As a result they are not always as over-the-top as audiences may be used to, but they still manage to be as amusing as ever.
Special features include: deleted scene; “Top Secret Guide to Becoming an Elite Agent”; “Flipper Slap Shake Waddle and Roll”; “Do The Penguin Shake with tWitch”; “Madagascar Mash Up”; “Global Flight Plan”; “Cheezy Dibbles Ad”; “He is Dave” music video; “Celebrate” music video; image gallery; and theatrical trailer. (DreamWorks Animation & Fox Home Entertainment)
Something Wicked (DVD)
Untitled
ARC Entertainment
Inspired by true events, a young couple seeks to re-build their lives after a disastrous car crash that kills her parents. But secrets from their past threaten to disrupt their budding relationship. Christine (Shantel VanSanten) is stalked by a creepy, masked stranger, while James (John Robinson) experiences freakish encounters that nearly kill him. Christine’s sister-in-law, Susan (Brittany Murphy), a psychiatrist who observes the couple's deteriorating relationship, sets out to determine what sinister forces are driving the madness. As she digs for answers, she finds out some things are best left unknown.
This movie is trying to be disturbing in so many ways, it’s easy to lose interest in the convoluted storyline. Opening with a gruesome car accident, the film then turns into a strange stalker movie in which Christine’s sanity is questioned along with everyone else’s. Her older brother is uber creepy in a way that makes the rest of the narrative seem less important. Her boyfriend appears to be the perfect guy, though it’s not hard to figure out what dark secret he’s harbouring. The young man with aggressive fantasies and a possible history of violence is just one more strange character to add to the pile. This is Murphy’s final movie and unfortunately it’s a forgettable one.
There are no special features. (ARC Entertainment)
Top Five (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a former stand-up legend who returns to New York to promote his latest film on the eve of his wedding to a self-absorbed reality TV star (Gabrielle Union). While wandering the city with a mysterious and charming journalist, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), Allen confronts his past and contemplates his future through a series of riotously funny encounters.
This film basically takes place as Andre and Chelsea wander New York together on foot and via his chauffeured car. Chelsea presses him for intimate details and Andre takes her on a stroll through his life, from wedding preparations to family reunions. The movie has a bit of a Woody Allen feel as the pair have inane disagreements, deliberate about life and the choices they’ve made, confront adversity, and tiptoe around their sexual tension. The archival footage of Rock’s early stand-up performances is great contribution to his character, while the collection of his comedic friends that appear help maintain the picture’s flow. Though the events that occur on this one day are clearly plot devices, the film still works as a comedy grounded in compressed reality.
Special features include: commentary by Chris Rock and JB Smoove; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “It’s Never Just A Movie: Chris Rock and Top Five”; “Top Five Andre Allen Stand-up Outtakes”; and “Top Five Moments You Didn’t See in the Film.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
TURN: Washington’s Spies: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell) is a farmer living in British-occupied Long Island who bands together with his childhood friends to form the Culper Ring — an unlikely team of secret agents who not only went on to help George Washington turn the tide of the war but also gave birth to modern spy craft.
For war aficionados, this depiction of the formation of the Culper Ring (nearly the Culpepper Ring) is a fascinating exploration of the events that led to this small network of men working together. The dramatic embellishments fit in seamlessly with the historical account unfolding and fills in the gaps where nothing spy-related is occurring. Abe’s love triangle, his friend’s standoff with a superior and various battles keep the series relatively interesting. Bell, Seth Numrich and Daniel Henshall are quite likeable as the “good guys,” while Burn Gorman, Samuel Roukin and JJ Field play charming “bad guys.”
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The History of TURN: Washington's Spies”; and “From Art to Image.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
More about Exodus Gods and Kings, Penguins of Madagascar, Foxcatcher, Da Vinci's Demons, Aguirre the Wrath of God
 
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