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article imageReview: New on DVD for March 18, 2014 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 18, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a few more Oscar nominees; horror from the old school and new; a Troma sequel to a Troma film; and the still talented Catherine Deneuve.
American Hustle (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Entertainment One
The film tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting.
The opening shot is an undeniable attention grabber — audiences are invited behind the curtain to witness the construction of the most elaborate comb over to ever appear on screen. This introduction to the players is lifted from the middle of the narrative. It then rewinds to Irving's streetwise beginnings and tells the story of his partnership with Sydney. While nothing about Richie is known before he met the con artists, the brief glimpses into his home life and his other interactions tell viewers everything they need to know. The indulgent lifestyle of the '70s and early '80s informs the overall aesthetic of the picture. The extravagant wardrobes, unnecessarily large homes and luxury hotel rooms adorned with gold and opulent accessories fill every scene. This is a departure for each of the main actors in the film, but director David O. Russell clearly admires their talent as he’s worked with them all previously.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; and a making-of featurette. (Entertainment One)
Atlantis: Season One (DVD)
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BBC Home Entertainment
Far from home and desperate for answers, Jason (Jack Donnelly) washes up on the shores of an ancient land – a world of bull leaping, oracles and palaces so vast it was said they were built by giants. This is the lost city of Atlantis. But beneath the surface of this enticing place is a dark and simmering past; a complicated web of treachery and deceit in which Jason himself now seems inexplicably bound by a destiny he doesn’t fully understand. Aided by the studious young Pythagoras (Robert Emms) and the overweight, overbearing Hercules (Mark Addy), Jason embarks on a voyage of discovery which sees him brush shoulders with Medusa (Jemima Rooper), come face to face with the Minotaur and even do battle with the dead.
This show shares many qualities with BBC's Sinbad series previously reviewed here, though it is a bit more enjoyable. This is thanks to the casting of Addy, who is a natural comedian portraying Hercules' cynicism, selfishness and klutziness to a tee. The camaraderie he shares with his co-stars also appears genuine. On the other hand, the least authentic element of the story is the first episode in which Jason awakens in this strange land and is immediately able to assimilate as well as take on its people's causes as his own. Since little is known about the Lost City, creators have adopted various Greek myths to incorporate into the weekly adventures. This seems strange at first, but by placing less focus on the setting of Atlantis it becomes more acceptable and functional.
Special features include: interviews with cast and crew; and behind-the-scenes footage. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Doc McStuffins’ Mobile Clinic (DVD)
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Disney Junior
Now, if you can’t come to Doc, she can come to you. When your toys are hurt or sick, the “Doc Mobile” will there quick with everything needed – including on-site cuddles- to fix them good as new. Ride with Doc and her trusty team as they rescue Dress-Up Daisy from a tree. Then, race to the park in time to help a windup mouse get back to doing flips.
Mimicking her mother who is a doctor for humans, Doc puts toys and their owners at ease before diagnosing the problem (a missing wind-up key, loose chip, water logging, something stuck in the mechanics, etc.). The first episode launches her mobile clinic to help her efficiently fix toys away from home. The fun part of all this is when Doc is alone with her inanimate patients and stuffed friends, they come to life to express their symptoms and assist respectively. This show seems geared at making young viewers less anxious about their visits to the doctor, particularly through the song, "It's Time for a Check-up." Each episode also includes a lesson, such as always wear your helmet, tell an adult if you get hurt and not all toys can go in the water.
There are no special features – but it does come with a small, branded tote. (Disney Junior)
Frozen (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Fearless optimist Anna (Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey — teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven — to find her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.
Once again Disney delivers a female-driven narrative, featuring actual princesses. It carries most of their other signatures as well: a loveable (and easily marketable) character, a handsome love interest with little interest to start, an enemy posing as a friend, dead parents (because they almost always have to get that one in there), and a great soundtrack of original music, including Oscar best song, "Let it Go." In spite of the familiarity of the tried-and-true formula, this is a stellar film with beautiful castles of ice and stone (inspired by Quebec's Hôtel de Glace), a well-imagined frozen port of tall ships, and characters full of personality that audiences are excited to follow. Though Disney could never go to credits with an unhappy ending – even if it eludes to it – the conclusion is a good fit for the story. Anna and Elsa's tale is an instant classic.
Special features include: deleted scenes; a making-of featurette; “D’frosted: Disney’s Journey from Hans Christian Anderson to Frozen”; “Let It Go” music video; and “Get a Horse!” Mickey Mouse short. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Horror at 37,000 Feet (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
On a flight from London to Los Angeles, a wealthy architect (Roy Thinnes) and his wife (Jane Merrow) have rented out a jumbo jet’s entire cargo hold to transport a precious artifact – an altar from an ancient abbey. But they’re unaware of its deadly secret. Also aboard the ill-fated trip is a drunken, cynical ex-priest (William Shatner), an arrogant millionaire (Buddy Ebsen) and a doctor (Paul Winfield) and a heroic pilot (Chuck Connors). Not long after departure, crew and passengers alike face airborne jeopardy and supernatural horror as a demonic entity escapes from the altar, seeking to possess a hapless victim as well as seek revenge on those would desecrate the sinister deity’s ancient ritual site.
This film transfers all the typical signs of a haunted house to the confines of an airplane, which is interesting in some respects and just ridiculous in others. Ghostly voices are heard through the in-flight headsets, extreme cold that can freeze a man solid infiltrates the cabin from the cargo hold, and an unnatural wind holds the plane in place in the air preventing it from moving in any direction. The visual effects are average for 40 years ago, using blinking lights and smoke to indicate the presence of evil. It also relies heavily on sound effects to create a spooky atmosphere. Shatner's priest takes centre stage as his loss of faith becomes a liability for the other passengers aboard the plane. However, being confronted with the proof of a devil may alternately renew his belief in God.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
In Fear (Blu-ray)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment
Young couple Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) are driving to a festival in the remote Irish countryside on one of their first dates. But when they leave the main road to look for their hotel, they quickly become hopelessly lost. Now the night is coming. The fear is growing. And they are not alone.
Some of the most terrifying horror movies do not focus on supernatural monsters killing innocent victims. Some of the scariest films are about people stalking and frightening other people for their pleasure. Anyone who has ever become lost in an unfamiliar city or isolated area knows the frustration that turns to anger and sometimes panic. These feelings are amplified as the day grows into night. It slowly becomes evident someone is deliberately messing with the couple. But with no way out, the fear is allowed to nestle in next to the characters and the audience. In the end, filmmakers take their foot off the gas pedal for a moment only to throw a wrench in the engine that turns the whole thing upside down. This surprising turn of events makes the rest of the picture worth the trip. Then it delivers an ending that makes little sense and feels like somewhat of a cop out to put a bow on the final minutes.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Jeff Dunham’s Achmed Saves America (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Achmed the Dead Terrorist unexpectedly finds himself in Americaville, USA. There, Achmed is mistaken as a French exchange student while he bumblingly plots to destroy the town and all its “infidels.” But when exposed to the sweet things in life, including all-you-can-eat buffets and frozen yogurt, Achmed’s campaign of hate turns into a patriotic, all-American lovefest.
Dunham recorded a live-action introduction for the animated comedy special in which he and Achmed summon a fairy who grants Achmed's false wish to star in a cartoon. Beginning with a brief illustration of how Achmed was killed, he suddenly finds himself trapped in enemy territory and about to be discarded as road kill. While Dunham insists in a bonus feature that the film is meant to cause audiences to love America more, it humorously calls out a lot of the country's less flattering aspects. This includes the gluttony and wastefulness of the "unlimited" all-you-can-eat buffet; the desire for easy answers that include praying for a miracle when in a bind; and the gun culture that has everyone and their mother packing. One of the most amusing lines has a redneck declare his admiration for the Team America song, “America, F#@% Yeah!" adding "it's not ironic if you don't get the joke."
Special features include: commentary by Jeff Dunham and friends; and a making-of featurette. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Jungle Book 2 (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Now that Mowgli’s living in the “man-village,” he cherishes his new best friend and little brother, but he still has that jungle rhythm in his heart. He misses hanging out with happy-go-lucky Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. Yearning for freedom, Mowgli runs off into the jungle – and encounters his enemy Shere Khan. This time, he’ll need both his new human family and his old jungle friends to help save the day.
For those who ever watched the first movie and wondered what happened to the boy who was raised by wolves after he moved into the human village, this sequel answers the question. It turns out he adapted surprisingly well, entertaining his new family with tales from the jungle and re-enacting them with shadow puppets. Like most sequels, this film does not measure up to the original though it's not as bad a follow-up as some others. The already established relationships, particularly between Baloo and Mowgli a.k.a. Papa Bear and Little Britches, are welcome returns. Similarly, already knowing what to expect from certain other personalities adds to the entertainment as audiences are able to experience them again from a more relatable perspective (i.e. someone not raised by animals).
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Legacy of The Jungle Book”; sing-along songs; and music videos. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Blu-ray)
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Entertainment One
The film chronicles Nelson Madela’s (Idris Elba) early life, education, marriage to Winnie Mandela (Naomie Harris) and 27 year prison sentence before becoming South Africa’s first democratically elected president and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society.
Many people may be unaware of the blemishes in Mandela’s past, but the film does not aim to shield them from the truth; rather, it paints a comprehensive picture of a man who made history. The one element of Mandela's personality Elba unquestionably captures is his charisma. The passion for his cause and the love for his country radiate from his eyes. While it's impossible to squeeze all the meaningful moments of a person's life into a single film, this narrative tries its best. At 140 minutes, it may be too earnest in its efforts. The first hour concludes with Mandela’s imprisonment while the majority of the second occurs during it. As noted, Elba is outstanding as Mandela, truly showcasing the scope of his talents. He is transformed into a determined young man in his 20s and aged to a relentless political activist in his 70s. Yet he is sometimes outshined by Harris who portrays Winnie with confidence and inner strength.
Special features include: commentary by director Justin Chadwick; behind-the-scenes featurette; “Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn’t”; and tribute video gallery. (Entertainment One)
On My Way (DVD)
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Métropole Film Distribution
An ex-beauty queen’s (Catherine Deneuve) late-life crises sends her out on the highway and into a slew of adventures. What begins as a drive around the block turns into a bumpy road trip filled with chance encounters, the rekindling of her relationship with her daughter, and a new bond with her grandson.
While this narrative contains many elements, one of the key questions it tries to answer is what happens to a bombshell when she becomes a senior. As one somewhat tactless PR representative puts it, "Life goes on." Most of the limitations Bettie experiences are ones she's created for herself. But this impromptu road trip proves she's still capable of having fun and is still desirable – two things she'd forgotten under the stress of a struggling business and burdensome mother. Deneuve hasn’t lost a thing over time. Though she has aged, her eyes remain poignant and her figure just slightly more rounded. Experiencing some degree of a mid-life crisis allows Bettie to reconnect with everything, including her family, her womanhood and her past.
There are no special features. (Métropole Film Distribution)
Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 (Blu-ray)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment
Welcome to Tromaville High School. Your typical high school populated with your basic football jocks, wannabe prom queens and glee club hopefuls. Did I say “typical?” After all, this is Tromaville High, where the glee club has mutated into the hideous Cretins after eating tainted tacos courtesy of the Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. Chrissy and Lauren, two innocent lovers/bloggers, must not only fight the adolescent beasts and freaks, they must also defeat the evil Conglomerate. Will they, along with their mutant pet duck, save Tromaville High and the rest of society? Directed by cult movie legend Lloyd Kaufman, this film has satire, sci-fi, plenty of Troma’s world famous green goo, and themes of anti-bullying and LGBT rights.
It's not terribly important you see the original Class of Nuke 'Em High films from the '80s and early ‘90s; comic book legend Stan Lee (billed as Peter Parker) provides an adequate summary of the events that led to the destruction of the previous institution at the start of this picture. However, you should be aware of the type of movie you are settling into as it appeals to a particular taste. Kaufman and Troma have made a living on peddling their unmistakable green goo, gross out horror and countless naked breasts. This story sees teens melting into unrecognizable puddles of flesh, others growing enormous genitals and "duck rape." But it's all presented with humor in the way only Kaufman knows how. Also amusing are the Cretins' delightful sounding a cappella renditions of classics such as "Sweet Adeline," "Goodnight Ladies" and "Did it Hurt When You Fell from Heaven." Ending just on the edge of the last mutant rampage, volume two will likely bring an equally over-the-top solution to the problem.
Special features include: commentary by writer/producer/director Kaufman, producer Justin A. Martell, executive producer Matt Manjourides, associate producer Regina Katz and writer Travis Campbell; commentary by actors Zac Amico, Clay von Carlowitz, Catherine Corcoran, Stuart Kiczek and Asta Paredes; “Casting Conondrum”; “Pre-production Hell with Mein-Kauf(man)”; “Special (Ed) Effects”; Cell-U-Lloyd Kaufman: 40 Years of TROMAtising the World; “Architects of Fear – Edison Device” music video; and Volume 2 trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Sparks (DVD)
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RLJ/Image Entertainment
After a radioactive meteor strikes Earth, a genetically altered group, known as The Rochester 13, gain astonishing, superhuman powers. Ian Sparks (Chase Williamson) doesn’t feel remotely super, but after his parents’ death he throws himself into battle against the criminals plaguing the mean streets of New York. Teaming up with, and falling hard for, the beautiful Lady Heavenly (Ashley Bell), the unstoppable duo quickly decimates the city’s army of thugs. But when they tangle with the nation’s most twisted arch-villain, they end up losing everything — including each other. Sparks’ rage-fueled quest for vengeance ignites a battle that will change the world and alter his destiny forever.
Every superhero has a reason for joining the fight against crime. But Sparks' origin story is more complicated than even he understands – and possibly more complicated than is really necessary for the story. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, it seems Sparks' destiny was written without him ever realizing it. However, the details of his narrative are many and somewhat muddy. Still, this 1930s man in tights in the vein of The Spirit or even The Watchmen is a captivating character surrounded by some interesting personalities. Jake Busey is somewhat one-dimensional as the second-rate super, but Clancy Brown's performance takes a positive turn as Sparks' mentor. Williamson is hit-and-miss throughout, but that's likely more to do with the inconsistency of the script than his performance.
Special features include: commentary; making-of featurette; and outtakes. (RLJ/Image Entertainment)
Twisted Tales (DVD)
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RLJ/Image Entertainment
Horror legend Tom Holland dares you to join him for nine totally twisted tales. The anthology of darkness includes a new drug that offers users a glimpse of the future with beastly consequences; a murderous husband stalked by his own cell phone; and a jilted lover wreaking satanic vengeance. The nightmarish action then leads to worlds haunted by dark magic, demonic possession, vampires, witches and more. It features genre stars Danielle Harris, William Forsythe, Ray Wise, Sarah Butler and A.J. Bowen.
Originally a web series, the quality of this collection of horror shorts varies greatly. The first, "Fred and his GPS," is short but not incredibly enticing or frightening. The same is true for several of the others that follow, particularly and surprisingly the last episode, “Vampire Dance." Though about half are actually noteworthy. While the conclusion of "Shockwave” is not beyond prediction, it does present an interesting study in survival instinct. "Boom" is a thrilling twist on the tale of a scorned lover's revenge. "Cache" stands out by creating an intense chase vibe without a physical pursuer. But the best is "The Pizza Guy," which is the longest at approximately 30 minutes and features an excellent impersonation of Spicoli who may also be the devil.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurettes for select episodes. (RLJ/Image Entertainment)
Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Each year, Rabbit plays Easter Bunny, but this year he’s decided it’s “Spring Cleaning Day,” and he orders everyone to hop to it: scrubbing, dusting, and mopping. All his pals are disappointed – especially little Roo – until Rabbit learns that putting others first and showing friends how much you care turns every day into a precious gift.
The title of this movie is quite misleading. It has little to do with the Hundred Acre Wood’s youngest resident enjoying the typical signs of spring, such as leaves on the trees, new blooms and warmer weather. This is a film about Easter. Roo and his neighbours are excited to paint and hunt for eggs, though Rabbit has decided to enlist everyone for spring cleaning duty instead. Then it takes a page out of Charles Dickens’ classic to travel through time and show Rabbit the consequences of his actions. Maintaining the aspects of a storybook world, said journey is accomplished by moving forward and backward through the pages of the book. The lessons are multiple as Roo attempts to make Rabbit happy and Rabbit discovers his way or the highway is not a sustainable motto for friendship.
Special features include: “Get Up and Dance!” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
More about American Hustle, Mandela Long Walk to Freedom, Frozen, In Fear, Atlantis
 
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