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article imageReview: Reaching into the past for this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 29, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a noteworthy anniversary; an eccentric Asian crime drama; a reunion with all the right stuff; a different take on the rape-revenge narrative; and a lot of TV.
The Bear: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Set in 19th-century British Columbia, the film follows the story of a young cub and an adult grizzly as they join forces to survive the perils inherent in their mountain habitat. With each passing obstacle, the two bears further develop a friendship that can only make them stronger — but will it be enough for them to overcome their most deadly enemy?
Before computer animation evolved into its current state and feature-length nature documentaries became viable theatrical projects, filmmakers used to employ real, trained animals to tell complex stories. There were a number of cat and dog adventures, but this movie related an impossible and heart-rending tale of survival against nature and man. The use of actual bears gives the picture an everlasting quality that is effective to this day. Moreover, filming in British Columbia’s wilderness also gives it a sense of realism. There’s no narration or attempt to put a human voice to the animal’s interactions; rather their carefully planned interactions with each other and their environment is enough to communicate the story and its eventual message. In addition, the nearly hour-long making-of bonus feature provides some interesting insight into how they were able to shoot the movie.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Shout Factory)
Black Coal, Thin Ice (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA Entertainment
Ex-cop Zhang Zili (Fan Liao), seriously wounded five years earlier while working on a gruesome coal-plant murder case, was forced to retire from the police force due to his injuries. Five years later, the killer strikes again and Zhang, now a factory security guard, is determined to redeem himself and solve the case on his own. After his investigation, he discovers that all of the victims seem to be related to a mysterious woman named Wu Zhizhen (Lun Mei Gwei) who works in a dry cleaning shop. Zhang ends up falling in love with her, but in uncovering the truth finds himself in great danger.
Much of this movie is a bizarre mix of weird and grotesque, giving it the aura of a David Lynch feature. The murder mystery takes many turns, never ending where it’s expected until it fades to black suddenly in what would have seemed like the middle of another rather curious scene. Zhang is a complex character whose path changes several times throughout the narrative from pitiful to drunkard to determined but unsanctioned detective. His investigation is unconventional as he becomes emotionally involved with a person of interest, yet it doesn’t deter him from being thorough when following clues. The whole aesthetic is dark and often dreamlike, which gives the mystery a surreal quality as well.
Special features include: trailer. (Well Go USA Entertainment)
Deuces Wild (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Set in 1958 Brooklyn. N.Y., Leon (Stephen Dorff) and Bobby (Brad Renfro) are brothers and members of the local street gang known as the Deuces, who rule their ‘hood. Tensions escalate when the Deuces come into conflict with rival gang leader, Marco (Norman Reedus). With a turf war all but inevitable, neither side can anticipate the tragic consequences of their actions.
This movie tries to recreate the successes of films from the ‘80s that focused on the same period (The Outsiders, The Wanderers, Rumble Fish, etc.), casting good-looking talent and building a narrative around a turf war. It’s also a coming-of-age tale from Bobby’s perspective, who initially believes being man is putting the hurt on everyone that looks at him the wrong way. The story sometimes gets a little too complicated with the threat of drugs coming into the neighbourhood and a crooked leader, but most other elements are typical of the drama: a couple of rumbles, a forbidden love and some unfortunate deaths. The cast was well selected to fit their roles so no matter the quality of the script, they’re all where they need to be.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Entourage: The Movie (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Home Video
Movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) is back and so are his boys Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon). Vincent’s also back in business with super-agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Their relationships and ambitions may have changed, but the bond between them remains strong as they navigate the capricious and often cutthroat world of Hollywood.
This movie was created for fans of the series. There’s no attempt to re-introduce the characters for a new audience or appeal to a different demographic; it’s basically a continuation of the eight-season TV show and plays like an extended episode of the same. The guys are still playing with the latest toys, dating beautiful women and getting in all sorts of trouble. Vince is living the dream helming an expensive feature; Eric is a producer and expecting father; Turtle is still chauffeuring everyone even though he now lives in the biggest house; Drama finally becomes an Internet sensation; and Ari still experiences intense emotional outbursts in spite of his anger management sessions. In the end, it’s just great to have the guys back together doing what they and we love in between countless cameos by a range of celebrities and sports stars.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Making of Hyde”; “The Gang — Still Rockin’ It”; “Hollywood, Baby!”; “Meet the newest member of Entourage”; “Lucas Ellin is Jonah Gold”; and gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
Gotham: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Warner Home Video
When rookie Gotham City detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) — dedicated to restoring his crime-ridden metropolis to its decent and illustrious past — catches the case of a murdered socialite couple, he promises their shattered surviving son, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), he’ll find their killer. It is an obligation and an obsession the will cost him dearly — and set the stage for the gritty and exciting world of Gotham.
So much has been done about Bruce Wayne’s origins as a masked vigilante, it’s nice to go even further back to see from where some of the other major players came. Within the first episode, other than the obvious suspects (Gordon, Bruce and Alfred), audiences meet younger, pre-costume versions of Catwoman, Penguin, The Riddler and Harley Quinn. Later episodes also introduce The Scarecrow, Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-face and The Joker. The first season is full of Easter eggs for the DC Comics’ fans. In addition, the Marvel rival finally gets the storytelling right by not really compromising it for a broader audience. It’s dark, gritty, unapologetic about the wickedness that dominates the city and expects its viewers to know who these characters are in the grand scheme of things.
Special features include: unaired scenes; “Gotham Invented”; “Gotham: Designing the Fiction”; “The Game of Cobblepot”; “Gotham: The Legend Reborn”; DC Comics night at Comic Con 2014; character profiles; and gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
The Originals: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Warner Home Video
As this season opens, werewolves rule New Orleans’ French Quarter for the first time in centuries, leaving the vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) plotting his revenge and vowing to take down anyone who poses a threat to baby Hope. As long-buried family secrets are revealed and the Mikaelson matriarch returns to make her demands known, it’s clear that a treacherous, bloody battle is in store.
The answer to last season’s cliff-hanger is apparently a lot of bloodshed spread out over 22 episodes. The Mikaelsons can never seem to play nice with each other — or stay dead for that matter, though that may not be such a bad thing in the end. Baby Hope is at the centre of a lot of nefarious plots, but her existence also appears to be the wake-up call certain supernatural beings need to stop grinding their axes. Dahlia is unquestionably this season’s big bad, though that doesn’t stop certain other vampires from challenging for the throne. The finale is much more reflective than expected, but fitting nonetheless and leaves the door open for certain characters to choose their own next steps.
Special features include: unaired scenes; “The Originals: Always and Forever”; “The Originals: The Awakening” web series; Come Visit Georgia PSA”; 2014 Comic Con panel; and gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
Return to Sender (Blu-ray)
RLJ Entertainment
Miranda (Rosamund Pike) is a dedicated nurse, an exquisite cake maker and an impeccable friend. But when she agrees to a blind date and the wrong man comes to her door, her perfect world is shattered by a brutal assault. Even after her attacker, William (Shiloh Fernandez), is convicted and locked away for the crime, Miranda can’t overcome the fear and trauma enough to put her orderly life back together. Desperate for closure, she reaches out to William — first through letters, then prison visits — and slowly builds a relationship with him. But when William is paroled and comes looking for her, Miranda seizes the opportunity to exact revenge.
Rape-revenge films were popular in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, making a comeback in recent years with horrific remakes of the genre’s more prevalent titles. The first element that differentiates this movie is in spite of the violent nature of the subject, it’s not the focus. Instead, the emphasis is placed on the psychological consequences of the incident. Any aggression that occurs after the rape is either passive or happens off-screen. As a result, the pace is slower than its counterparts’. However portions of it remain very disturbing, displaying a different type of hostility. Miranda’s tactics are unquestioningly effective, but one inevitably has to wonder about her sanity; particularly in regards to her ability to befriend her assailant. Miranda is quite similar to Pike’s character in Gone Girl, but she adapts her performance by toning down the crazy and vindictiveness.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Sixth Season (DVD)
Warner Home Video
After spending an entire summer heartsick, grieving the loss of both her boyfriend and her best friend to the Other Side, Elena (Nina Dobrev) returns to Whitmore College for her sophomore year determined to move on. But Damon (Ian Somerhalder) refuses to give up and makes his way back to Elena’s side, only to realize he’ll have to make her fall in love with him all over again. With Bonnie (Kat Graham) trapped in the prison world, Stefan (Paul Wesley) on the outs with Caroline (Candice Accola) and Mystic Falls under an anti-magic spell, convincing Elena to start over will be no easy feat.
When Dobrev announced she would be leaving the series after this season, it was difficult to imagine how the show would go on without Elena; but the writers handle her exit beautifully with a walk down memory lane and not-too-sad goodbyes to close the season. Though there’s a lot to digest before that happens. Apparently unsatisfied with the departure of the vampire-werewolf hybrids, this season introduces witch-vampire hybrids in the form of an unexpected appearance from the Salvatores’ past. As per usual, there’s quite a bit of kidnapping, neck snapping and involuntary blood-drinking, but it’s still working for them. The last minutes of the finale establish a definite curiosity for the next season as viewers are left to wonder, “What happened in Mystic Falls?”
Special features include: commentary on “Let Her Go”; unaired scenes; “The Vampire Diaries: Good Bite and Good Luck”; “The Vampire Diaries: Best. Reactions. Ever”; “Come Visit Georgia PSA”; 2014 Comic Con panel; and gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
The Woods (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Amidst the splendour of rural New England sits Falburn Academy, a boarding school for young, impressionable and in some cases, troubled girls. Isolated from the outside world, Falburn sits near the woods — a sinister cluster of trees that appears to act as a protective wall. Heather Fasulo (Agnes Brucker) is the school’s newest student. After setting fire to a forest, rebellious Heather is sent to Falburn to provide her with a sense of stability. Heather’s increasing nightmares prove to be more than homesickness when she discovers that the woods hold a chilling and terrifying secret.
The woods have almost always had significance in horror movies, generally representing some sort of evil or imminent death. In this movie, genre director Lucky McKee makes it clear from the title that the forest beyond the school is sinister — except in this case you don’t have to go to the woods, it will come to you. With Heather’s record, she unsurprisingly doesn’t take the new rules or mysterious disappearances lying down. But if your dad is played by Bruce Campbell, you better believe he’ll be coming back for a piece of the action. McKee keeps the lighting low and the atmosphere tense, often making it seem like the woods are everywhere as the Academy’s ulterior purpose comes to light.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
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