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article imageReview: New on DVD for October 7 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 7, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a biopic of the man behind many celebrity careers; a period comedy that quips about death and facial hair; the second season of a thrilling TV series; and an animated classic from 1959.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Studios Home Entertainment
When Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) loses his fickle fiancée (Amanda Seyfried) to Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a mustachioed dandy, he rebounds hard with Anna (Charlize Theron), a gorgeous gunslinger new to his Old West town. What he doesn’t know is that Anna’s ex, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), is the most dangerous desperado on the horizon and he’s on his way to reclaim his gal — by whatever means necessary.
MacFarlane's comedy has always been hit and miss, but he’s still an entertaining comedian with a lot of funny ideas. Much of the film’s comedy is built into the outlandishness of the characters and their relationships. Edward’s (Giovanni Ribisi) girlfriend, Ruth (Sarah Silverman), is a prostitute in a brothel but believes they should refrain from having sex before marriage because they’re both good Christians. Foy believes his moustache makes him superior to clean-shaven men, expressing his advantage in the do-si-do song, "If You’ve Only Got a Moustache.” Though the characters are grounded in 1882, many of their perspectives on their environment are informed by modern day views and knowledge. In addition there are a number of amusing cameos, including Bill Maher, Ryan Reynolds, Dennis Haskins, Gilbert Gottfried, Ewan McGregor, and a surprise crossover from another offbeat Western. The downside of MacFarlane’s dusty variety show is it’s too long. The general shtick of how unappealing living in the West could be does grow weary and at nearly two hours the jokes start getting stale.
Special features include: unrated version of the film; unrated commentary with director/producer/co-writer Seth MacFarlane, co-writers and executive producers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, and star Charlize Theron; alternate opening and ending; deleted/extended/alternate scenes; “Once Upon a Time in A Different West”; “The Good, The Bad and the Increasingly Decreasing Population”; “A Fistful of Dirt…In Your Mouth”; and gag reel. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Home Video and Cartoon Network
This season features fearsome creatures, such as wolves who like hugging, an unstoppable horde of penguins and a vampire queen who plays bass guitar.
The brief tales of Finn and Jake's ventures range from cute to funny to bizarre. Finn's crush on the Flame Princess is adorable as he risks his safety to prove his feelings and perhaps gain a kiss — with some exaggerated fire protection of course. The revelation that Jake is a super sore loser comes in a hilarious war of wits in a card battle game. Finn's beginner's luck infuriates Jake and jeopardizes their friendship. The Ice King's desire for a mate goes too far when he constructs a Franken-bride from his favourite parts of all the other princesses. Luckily and unsurprisingly, she turns out to be smarter than her creator. The fun never stops with more than five hours and 26 episodes of amusing adventures.
Special features include: commentaries; and “Distant Bands: The Music of Adventure Time.” (Warner Home Video and Cartoon Network)
The Devil Incarnate (DVD)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment & RLJ Entertainment
The future looks bright for newlyweds Trevor (Rod Luzzi) and Holly (Graci Carli), but their dreams are about to devolve into a nightmare of unspeakable terror. On a random visit to a tarot reader, they encounter a mysterious old woman who tells them that Holly is pregnant. But soon, their joy is overshadowed by a mounting sense of dread that something sinister lurks within Holly’s womb. As the child grows within her, she begins to exhibit increasingly bizarre and violent behavior. Desperate to save his wife and unborn child, Trevor searches for answers and discovers Holly may have fallen prey to an ancient curse spawned by an evil demon with an insatiable lust for blood.
This movie hints at a couple of different theories regarding the source of the family’s problems, but it never really hashes any of them out. The encounter with the psychic is fingered as the obvious culprit for the bizarre happenings, but Holly also has a mysterious history that is basically glossed over. It’s likely an attempt at misdirection by the filmmakers that actually turns out to be quite misleading. The suggestion that Holly’s estranged family may be involved is raised and briefly investigated. When it appears a character is about to share the information for a key turning point in the tale, the narrative is taken in a wholly divergent direction. Even the story about the tarot reader is not fully explored, resulting in a brash conclusion that still fails to answer any questions of why Holly was chosen.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment & RLJ Entertainment)
The Following: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Home Video
With serial killer and cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) presumed dead, ex-FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has spent a year rebuilding his life. But a horrific killing spree motivates Hardy and his ex-partner, Agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), to contact the lone survivor, Lilly Gray (Connie Nelson). As Hardy investigates on the down-low with the help of his niece, NYPD cop Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup), it’s not long before he is once again an assassin’s target. Fanatical new characters bring danger and intrigue to the ghastly game, leading to an intense showdown.
After the first season's cliff-hanger, some may be disappointed by the opening scenes of this season's first episode. But it's a slow burn and events from that brutal night return later to have a significant impact. Acting independently without his direction, Joe's supposed admirers are even more vicious as they attempt to lure him out of hiding. This season also provides overwhelming evidence that crazy attracts crazy as Joe encounters new players who are even too extreme for his liking. As Ryan tries to track down Joe's latest haven for murderers, Joe is attempting to marry his brand of cult leadership to another man's philosophy with mixed results. In comparison, this season seems much more violent as every episode includes some sort of bloody mess, often with multiple victims. But it's also just as captivating as the chapter of Ryan versus Joe that preceded it.
Special features include: severed scenes; season two alternate ending; 14 behind-the-scenes featurette; “Following Marcos Siega”; “The Religion of Joe Carroll”; “Bound by a Common Foe”; “The Joe Mask”; 2013 Comic-Con panel; gag reel; and sneak peak of Silence. (Warner Home Video)
Houdini (Blu-ray)
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Lionsgate
Houdini’s (Adrien Brody) ability to escape from handcuffs, strait-jackets and water tanks is legendary – breaking the shackles of his past proved more challenging. HISTORY®’s miniseries follows the world-renowned master of escape’s transformation from immigrant into the world’s first superstar. Driven, disciplined and actively chasing the American Dream, Houdini constantly pushed his physical limits to accomplish feats of strength that amazed audiences in an age of spectacle. And though they saw what he wanted them to see, his reality was more elusive than his escapes.
The Jewish Hungarian immigrant was the world's greatest escape artist and renowned debunker of fraudulent psychics. But most people only know bits and pieces of his personal life, if anything. Even his death is clouded in misinformation. This three-hour miniseries reveals the man behind the illusions, beginning with his impoverished childhood as the son of a rabbi to his death that can be somewhat attributed to his amazing showmanship. Learning his trade in the train cars of a traveling circus, the boy from Brooklyn peddled his talents to help feed his family and bring a smile to his mother's face. Brody genuinely portrays the magician's initial whimsy, which eventually gave way to an insatiable desire for attention and fame. Nothing was ever enough so each new trick had to be bigger and/or more dangerous than the last. His relationship with his wife slash assistant is also a major part of the movie as they were practically inseparable until Houdini's death.
Special features include: “The Great Escapes”; “The Real Houdini”; “Cheating Death”; and “Houdini the Great.” (Lionsgate)
Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Warner Home Video
An alien race, undefeatable by any existing military unit, has launched a relentless attack on Earth, and Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself dropped into a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage is thrown into a time loop, forced to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again and again. Training alongside warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), his skills slowly evolve, and each battle moves them one step closer to defeating the enemy.
Cruise has been a staple of the sci-fi genre lately, fighting aliens, stopping clones and, now, time traveling. This movie is a nightmare version of Groundhog Day as Cage relives the same day countless times, waking each time to a drill sergeant screaming maggot in his face rather than the musical stylings of Sonny and Cher. Though not a common practice, in light of poor results at the box office Warner Bros. decided to use the film’s tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat,” as the home entertainment title (vs. just Edge of Tomorrow as it did for the theatrical release) in an attempt to rebrand the movie with a more appropriate name. The picture’s overall premise is intriguing as Cage and Rita attempt to use the alien power to their advantage and stop the war. However, as the new title suggests, planning for this triumph requires repeatedly and purposely killing Cage to restart the day. Rita, a.k.a. the Angel of Verdun, is a powerful figure who carries an oversized blade reminiscent of a video game character. Cage is her complete opposite before his specialized training turns him into an elite soldier. The action scenes are quick and impressive, and the aliens combine many familiar elements to create an intimidating enemy.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Storming the Beach”; “Weapons of the Future”; and “On the Edge with Doug Liman.” (Warner Home Video)
Million Dollar Arm (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds that business has changed and things aren’t going well for his career. In a last ditch effort to save his livelihood, he concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a major league baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “The Million Dollar Arm.” With the help of cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), he discovers Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma), two young men who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to America to train. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India, the boys, who have never left their rural villages, are equally challenged when they come to the States. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, JB — with the help of his charming friend Brenda (Lake Bell) — learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.
The cultural differences and contrasting customs in India supply a lot of humour as JB tries to pull everything together in a country that apparently runs on bribes. In fine Hollywood tradition, the young men's amazement is soon replaced with sadness and frustration. Of course these narratives are about redemption (no matter how many times it takes to get it right). It's during this stage of the script that the story becomes incredibly sweet. The boys get more comfortable and JB transforms into less of a jerk by viewing them as people rather than investments. Hamm once again takes on the role of committed bachelor and workaholic — a character-type in which he excels. The addition of Arkin as the only scout willing to make the trip is brilliant. Bell pushes through the smaller part to make her charming presence felt each time she appears. And Sharma, Mittal and Pitobash (the unpaid intern) are the most authentic element of the picture, perfectly portraying the small fishes dropped into a giant aquarium of shiny things and lined with spectators.
Special features include: alternate ending; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; and outtakes. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
The film tells the wondrous tale of Princess Aurora who is cursed by the evil Maleficent, protected by three loving fairies and, ultimately, saved by Prince Phillip and “true love’s kiss.”
It’s the 55th anniversary of Disney’s beautiful love story and it’s looking better than ever. The animated musical fantasy captured audiences with its mesmerizing soundtrack and epic tale of good versus evil. The main number, “Once Upon a Dream,” replays in viewers’ minds long after the final rendition plays out the film. It also introduced one of the studio’s most memorable villains, notable for her total contempt for the royals and transformation into a formidable dragon. The doting forest animals and devoted fairy guardians provide warmth to the sometimes dark narrative. The Good Fairies’ battle over the colour theme for Aurora’s birthday celebration is absolutely unforgettable and always amusing. This is definitely one of Disney’s definitive classics and the last of their animated films to use hand-inked cels.
Special features include: commentary by John Lasseter, Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin; “Once Upon A Parade,” starring Sarah Hyland; “Art of Evil: Generations Of Disney Villains”; “@DisneyAnimation: Artists In Motion” (extended edition); three never-before-seen deleted scenes; BEAUTY-OKE “Once Upon A Dream”; ‘The Sound Of Beauty: Restoring A Classic”; a making-of featurette; and “Eyvind Earle: A Man And His Art.” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
SUPERMENSCH: The Legend of Shep Gordon (Blu-ray)
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RADiUS
In his directorial debut, Mike Myers steps behind the camera to document the remarkable career of friend and Hollywood insider Shep Gordon. He isn’t a household name, but Gordon became a beacon in the entertainment industry after a chance run-in with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin launched his career in 1968. Since then, he has managed an endless list of talent, including Alice Cooper, Blondie, Luther Vandross, Anne Murray and Raquel Welch. His management of Emeril Lagasse was the driving force behind the “Celebrity Chef,” concept that turned the culinary arts into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. Capitalist, protector, hedonist, pioneer, showman, shaman… Shep, or Supermensch, is beloved by the countless stars he’s encountered.
Consumers of celebrity biographies of a certain era have probably come across the name Shep Gordon, but the man behind some of the industry's greatest acts is so much more than a manager. If you've seen Super Duper Alice Cooper, then the first part of the documentary will sound familiar. After describing Gordon’s early professional failings as a probation officer, it traces his origins as a talent manager and the career launch of his first client, Alice Cooper. As their livelihoods have been so intertwined, this occupies approximately the first 30 minutes of the movie. Interviews with Gordon’s celebrity friends reveals a man who is caring, thoughtful and devoted to the people with whom he chooses to surround himself. His close friendship with the Dalai Lama is an interesting contrast to the early years that were filled with drugs and women. In the end, Myers directorial debut creates a likeable documentary about a likeable man who would never be a household name in spite of being a beacon of the industry.
There are no special features. (RADiUS)
More about Review, a million ways to die in the west, Sleeping beauty, The Following, edge of tomorrow
 
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