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article imageReview: New on DVD for November 4 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 5, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a Disney villain’s passionate backstory; the HBO series that changed the TV drama landscape; a witty and spontaneous parody; and the legend of a man lifted by the gods.
Deliver Us from Evil (DVD)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
A New York police officer, Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), begins investigating a series of bizarre and disturbing inexplicable crimes. When he uncovers that the crimes are of supernatural origins, he must join forces with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramírez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are taking over and terrorizing their city.
This is a crime thriller with a supernatural twist that is edgy and a little chilling. Sarchie’s partner, Butler (Joel McHale), calls it his radar, but Sarchie has an accurate and eerie sense of where danger and evil lurks that extends beyond just a gut feeling. Of course confronting the world’s wickedness is hard work and as Butler points out, Sarchie usually ends up needing stitches. But when an abusive husband is linked to a mother found foaming at the mouth and a creepy man who communicates with animals, Sarchie’s instinct turns into a deeper connection with the paranormal. The priest is a “specialist” who matches the cop’s intensity and provides the background knowledge to propel the story forward. Based on the real-life accounts of an NYPD officer, there is nothing exaggerated about the story and the actors take their roles seriously.
Special features include: commentary by director Scott Derrickson; and a making-of featurette. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Frontera (Blu-ray)
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Video Services Corp.
Miguel (Michael Peña) is a hardworking father and devoted husband who crosses the border illegally and is wrongfully accused of murdering the wife of a former sheriff (Ed Harris). Miguel’s pregnant wife, Paulina (Eva Longoria), lands in the hands of corrupt Mexican ‘Coyote’ smugglers as she tries to help her husband, while the ex-lawman investigates his wife’s death and unearths evidence that could destroy one family’s future.
The film opens by showing Miguel at home, demonstrating he is a respectable family man. They are all torn about him leaving, but everyone believes it’s what’s best in the long run. Saddled with a ne’er-do-well, the immediate worry is he is going to be the cause of Miguel’s downfall. The movie is filled with similar foreshadowing and misdirection. Harris’ character is a straight shooter, but it’s uncertain how he’ll respond under the grief of losing his wife. There is nothing clear-cut about the situation and it gets messier as the narrative continues. Longoria plays down her typical glam, generally disheartened and drab as she sets out on the treacherous journey across the border.
There are no special features. (Video Services Corp.)
Grace: The Possession (DVD)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Grace (Alexia Fast) is a beautiful, naive, virginal college freshman trying to deal with campus culture and her outgoing new roommate. But when a terror takes over her body and unleashes chaos, Grace returns to the cold clutches of her severe grandmother (Lin Shaye) and the strict rules of the Church. Haunted by the horrific death of her mother and her deeply ingrained destructive urges, Grace must stop the demon inside before it’s too late.
Each year several possession and exorcism movies are released, often straight to DVD. The recent trend has been expectant mothers, but some filmmakers still like the virginal teen controlled by some unseen force. This picture begins with what seems like an excellent approach to the subject, only to throw it out the window in the last act. The story virtually depicts what life in college would have been like if Carrie White had made it there. Overwhelmed by a new world of temptations, Grace begins to hallucinate frequently as if the internal conflict of free will versus her strict upbringing is causing a mental break. Thus her demonic visions could be a sign of mental illness, misdiagnosed as possession by a fanatically religious parish. Except that in the end she really is possessed by some evil being with supernatural powers and an aversion to holy water. A disappointing conclusion for a film that looked like it had the potential to do something distinctive beyond just shooting the entire picture from Grace’s perspective.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Hercules (3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Both man and myth, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) leads a band of mercenaries to help end a bloody civil war in the land of Thrace and return the rightful king to his throne. A tormented soul from birth, Hercules has the strength of a god but feels the suffering of a human.
Johnson is proof muscle doesn’t exclude brains. Legend tells of Hercules’ fierce victories against mythical monsters and other amazing feats that are sung in the 12 labours. But this film doesn't necessarily buy into all that hyperbole. It proposes that while the muscular hero was the leader, he achieved all of these legendary accomplishments with the help of his comrades. The movie matches the over-the-topness of the myth, not missing the opportunity for grandiose battles or bravado. It’s all very exaggerated from Iolaus’ overdramatic descriptions of their adventures to Hercules’ clear-cutting, club-wielding. Director Brett Ratner finds the right balance of ruthless clashes, an inflated storyline and occasionally amusing dialogue. Not to be taken too seriously, this picture has fun with the folklore to create a fairly entertaining experience for audiences — with or without the 3D.
Special features include: commentary by director Brett Ratner and producer Beau Flynn; deleted and extended scenes; “Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction”; “Hercules: Origins”; “Hercules and his Mercenaries”; “The Bessi Battle”; “The Effects of Hercules”; “Weapons!”; and “Hercules: The Tracian Gag Reel.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Land Ho! (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), a bawdy former surgeon, convinces mild-mannered Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), his ex-brother-in-law, to embark on an unplanned trip to Iceland with him. In an effort to get their grooves back, the odd couple set off on a road trip that takes them through trendy Reykjavik to the rugged outback. Mitch and Colin’s picaresque adventures through Iceland evolve into a candid exploration of aging, loneliness and friendship.
Though the idea of two elderly men hanging out is reminiscent of Grumpy Old Men, that’s pretty much the end of the films’ commonalities. Mitch is a bit of a smart aleck and Colin is his counter — the perfect combination in any buddy comedy. Their friendship appears genuine, naturally exchanging quips as if they’ve actually known each other for decades. Mitch seems crass at times, but his true nature shines through when his young female cousin and her friend meet them in Iceland for some free board and a night on the town. When she becomes ill, Mitch becomes quite fatherly. The guys’ journey is heartwarming and entertaining as they are reinvigorated.
Special features include: commentary with Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz; deleted scenes; and Los Angeles Film Festival Q&A with Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz and Elizabeth McKee. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Maleficent (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens her forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king’s newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl. And as the conflict between the two realms intensifies, Maleficent realizes that Aurora (Elle Fanning) may hold the key to peace in the land.
Maleficent is one of Disney’s greatest villains, but this narrative takes away her bite. The initial story of a woman scorned is a bit too cliché, though the real source of her anger is a far greater betrayal. In fact it’s so dark, it reads as a metaphor for rape. Many of the lines spoken at Aurora’s celebration are straight from the animated movie, though there is no singing in this picture with the original theme song, “Once upon a Dream,” only playing over the end credits. Jolie appears more comfortable in the role when Maleficent is being playful instead of wicked. For better or worse, this works in her favour as the supposedly nasty fairie spends most of her time caring for and nurturing Aurora. Having been sheltered from the world, Fanning’s Aurora wears her heart on her sleeve. Sam Riley is amusing at Maleficent’s familiar, transforming from crow to man to deliver some of the film’s best dialogue.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “From Fairy Tale to Feature Film”; “Building an Epic Battle”; “Classic Couture”; “Maleficent Revealed”; and “Aurora Becoming a Beauty.” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Planes: Fires and Rescue (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
When world-famous air racer Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting. Dusty joins forces with veteran fire-and-rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (voice of Ed Harris) and his courageous team, including spirited air tanker Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (voice of Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (voice of Captain Dale Dye) and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. Together, the fearless team battles a massive wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero.
Dusty is a nice plane with a bit of an ego. But when his friends need him, he always (eventually) comes through. In this case, he uses a mechanical grounding from racing to learn a new skill — extinguishing fires. Thus the picture recycles the same formula used in the first movie: Dusty tries to excel under the guidance of a former somebody with the support of his friends, old and new. He must overcome adversity and prove he’s got what it takes to a vocal naysayer, but it all ultimately works out. So if you (or your kids) liked the first film, this one will be enjoyable in exactly the same way.
Special features include: deleted scenes with filmmaker introductions; “Welcome to Piston Peak!”; “Air Attack: Firefighters from the Sky”; two animated shorts; exclusive animated short, “Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular”; and Spencer Lee music video, “Still I Fly.” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Reno 911!: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
The brave men and women of the Washoe County Sheriff's Department give you the 411 on the thin khaki line that keeps Reno, Nevada, on the straight and narrow. Led by short shorts-wearing Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), the officers attempt to keep the streets safe — mainly from themselves.
A satire of Fox TV’s COPS, the incompetent deputies claim to be subjects of a documentary series for the network. Only the basic plot elements are scripted, but all the dialogue is improvised. The deputies often speak directly to the camera between calls and some of the suspects are excited to be on the show. Terry the roller-skating prostitute (Nick Swardson) is a fan favourite and makes more appearances on the show than any other supplementary character. His improbable explanations when confronted by the deputies are always entertaining. As the show gained popularity, well-known comedic actors started making cameos, including Patton Oswalt, Rainn Wilson, Paul Reubens, Zach Galifianakis, Paul Rudd, George Lopez, Michael Ian Black, Jonah Hill and Christina Applegate. Extended storylines include a romance with a serial killer, attempting to sell his love child, imprisonment, life as civilians, and a gay wedding.
Special features include: commentary on 32 episodes; alternate, extended and deleted scenes; “Cop Psychology: Inside the Minds of Reno’s Deputies”; “Profiles in Valor”; and outtakes. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Sopranos: The Complete Series (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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HBO
Modern-day mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) deals with the difficulties of balancing his home life with the criminal organization he leads.
Families are a common subjects of television shows, but HBO once again broke ground 15 years ago by creating a drama that focused on a domestic family and the patriarch’s mob family. Like the leader of any large organization, Tony experiences a lot of stress. When he begins to have panic attacks, he starts to see a psychiatrist (Lorraine Bracco). His relationship with his mother (Nancy Marchand) becomes strained and dealing with his children’s knowledge of his real occupation can be trying. It doesn’t get any easier with attempts on his life, an imposing sister (Aida Turturro), uncontrolled outbursts and the responsibilities of officially being named boss. After six seasons and nearly 100 deaths, the series came to a well-organized conclusion. The show’s themes are neatly wrapped and all loose ends are tied to provide audiences with closure.
Special features include: 25 commentaries with cast and crew; two roundtable dinners with cast and crew; two-part interview with creator David Chase; lost scenes; and “Defining a Television Landmark.” (HBO)
Wolf (DVD)
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Video Services Corp.
Majid (Marwan Kenzari) is a talented kickboxer from a grey, anonymous suburb in The Netherlands. As his fighting prowess brings him increasing notoriety in and outside the ring, the worlds of kickboxing and organized crime begin to blur into each other, and Majid begins to lose sight of what it is he really wants.
Evocative of Raging Bull’s aesthetic, black and white suggests a certain level of grit appropriate for the film. Kenzari turns in a commendable performance as the disillusioned fighter making ends meet with a mix of menial, legitimate work and petty crime. It seems that a prominent violent streak is a magnet for criminal elements — and perhaps that’s the pictures main failing. It mostly regurgitates a series of clichés seen numerous times before, estranging audiences who are turned off by the unoriginal story that ignores opportunities to further develop the characters. Also, in spite of the noteworthy acting and attempt to explore the underbelly of Dutch society, the slow pace of the narrative is just another factor working against it.
Special features include: trailer. (Video Services Corp.)
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