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article imageReview: New on DVD for May 17 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 17, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include De Niro in a role suitable(?) for his age; a horror anthology with skilfully built atmosphere; a psychological thriller about a family’s devolution; and an excellent and dark anime series.
Death Note: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Warner Home Video
Light Yagami is a genius high school student who is about to learn about life through a book of death. When a bored Shinigami, a god of death, named Ryuk drops a black notebook called a Death Note, Light receives power over life and death with the stroke of a pen. Determined to use this dark gift for the best, Light sets out to ride the world of evil — namely the people he believes to be evil. The consequences of Light’s actions will set the world ablaze.
Even though this is an anime series, in some ways the storyline resembles that of many live action crime thrillers that follow a serial killer — because at the heart of the narrative, that is what Light’s actions equal. With Ryuk at his side, Light uses his intelligence to outmanoeuvre police, other Death Note owners and even a Shinigami. Over 37 episodes, he causes the death of hundreds of people whose elimination he deems will improve the fate of the world, or simply prevent him from being caught. Expectedly, many people praise his vigilante justice while others fear the slippery slope he’s begun to descend. The narrative takes an unforeseen turn midway through the series, which both slows the show’s pace and boosts its intrigue. It’s often surprising how dark the tale becomes, but it’s also one of the anime’s most appealing aspects.
Special features include: commentaries; interviews with the Japanese creators; behind-the-scenes footage with the English and Japanese voice cast; and production art. (Warner Home Video)
Dirty Grandpa (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
VVS Films
Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is one week away from marrying his boss’s uber-controlling daughter, putting him on the fast track for a partnership at the law firm. However, when the straight-laced Jason is tricked into driving his foul-mouthed grandfather, Dick (Robert De Niro), to Daytona for spring break, his pending nuptials are suddenly in jeopardy. Between riotous frat parties, bar fights, and an epic night of karaoke, Dick is on a quest to live his life to the fullest and bring Jason along for the ride. Ultimately, on the wildest journey of their lives, “dirty” Grandpa and his uptight grandson discover they can learn from one another and form the bond they never had.
If you’ve harboured a deep-seated desire to watch De Niro swear like a gangsta and try to have sex with strange yet beautiful college student (impeccably played by Aubrey Plaza), this is the movie for which you’ve been waiting. He dances, smokes weed, drinks constantly, kicks butt and spouts wisdom — even though Efron reveals his more mature partner didn’t always understand what he was saying. Jason makes respectable efforts to keep his grandfather on track, but it’s understandably difficult to tell his family’s grieving patriarch what to do. Instead he’s more often convinced to follow grandpa’s lead, which eventually lands him naked and in jail. This is a pretty standard role for Efron, who is eventually able to draw on his standard talents of singing and baring his sculpted muscles. Amusingly, there is also a running gag involving a drug dealer named Pam (Jason Mantzoukas) who appears to be above the law in the most absurd and inappropriate ways.
Special features include: “Filthy Filmmakers Who Have No Shame” audio commentary; making-of featurette; “Lessons in Seduction”; “Daytona Heat”; “‘I Got Nothin’ to Hide: A Look at Daytona’s Most Vibrant Drug Dealer”; and gag reel. (VVS Films)
“I Saw What You Did” (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Teenagers Libby (Andi Garrett) and Kit (Sara Lane) have found a new way to entertain themselves: by calling up random strangers and tormenting them with a warning: “I saw what you did, and I know who you are.” But when a man (John Ireland) who has recently murdered his wife becomes their latest victim, the tables are quickly turned and this wrong number may mean their number is up.
This narrative tells the reverse of the more contemporary story, I Know What You Did Last Summer. In this case the girls are innocently delivering the message and unknowingly stumble upon a real-life murderer. It’s clear early on the teens are unconcerned about the consequences of their actions, initially calling people and pretending to be the mistress of the man whose home they’ve rung. Ireland is a fairly compelling character, acting both cautiously and erratically following his wife’s murder. Even more interesting are his interactions with his nosey neighbour (and potential mistress) played by Joan Crawford. In spite of not having a significant part in the film, she predictably and certainly leaves her mark anyway. The movie’s most amusing element occurs at the end when the credits are preceded by a very bouncy ditty that implies there was never anything to really be concerned about as it was all just fun and games.
Special features include: photo gallery; and theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)
Southbound (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
On a desolate stretch of desert highway, weary travelers — two men on the run from their past, a band on their way to the next gig, a man struggling to get home, a brother in search of his long-lost sister and a family on vacation — are forced to confront their worst fears and darkest secrets in a series of interwoven tales of terror and remorse on the open road.
Horror anthologies have always been popular genre offerings as they deliver a series of haunting tales within the same runtime of a regular feature-length film. Previously, it was common to have a framing narrative that linked the otherwise unrelated stories together as in Tales from the Darkside and Creepshow. The latest trend weaves in connections between these seemingly separate accounts, implying they are all unfolding in the same universe and even timeline. Horror icon Larry Fessenden’s voice often comes over the radio as these strangers become caught in a web of demons, sacrifice and death. Although they’re not the most frightening tales, there is something inherently creepy about their experiences — particularly the man trying to get home — that audiences will find difficult to ignore.
Special features include: commentary; deleted scenes; outtakes; and photo gallery. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Witch (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures and Lionsgate
A Puritan family who were banished to the edge of the known wilderness suspects an unseen, unspeakable evil is at work after the disappearance of one of their five children.
This film has little in common with more traditional, mainstream horror movies. There is no definitive antagonist lurking around every corner for the audience to direct their scorn. The distortion of the truth until the very end of the narrative is very well-crafted. In the meantime, the unnerving momentum gradually builds with every new incident and allegation as each becomes increasingly distressing. The entire picture appears darkened or dulled as if even the sunlight cannot penetrate the metaphorical dark clouds that hover over the family. Essentially a psychological thriller, what makes the film so disturbing is the evolution of the family’s breakdown. Casting relatively unrecognizable but extremely capable actors goes a long way in allowing viewers to be drawn into this unsettling tale in which the truth is constantly in question; and in which the family may not survive its eventual exposure.
Special features include: commentary by director Robert Eggers; “The Witch: A Primal Folklore”; Salem panel Q&A; and design gallery. (Elevation Pictures and Lionsgate)
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