Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageReview: This week’s new releases cover almost every genre of film Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 25, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a real-life demonstration of heroism; one of Michael Mann’s best films; a sequel that fails to live up to the original; a great female-driven comedy; and the revival of a martial arts legend.
Bad Influence (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Shout Factory
Quiet, unassuming financial analyst Michael Boll (James Spader) lives a successful-yet-timid life, lacking in risks or rewards. When he crosses paths with the enigmatic Alex (Rob Lowe), the two form a friendship based on ever-increasingly bold behavior. When Michael's new pal pushes things too far, however, Michael wants out. But the mysterious Alex has no desire to set him free from the seductively dangerous lifestyle into which he's dragged him.
Having appeared on the scene at similar times and in similar ‘80s-themed movies, it’s not surprising the two starred in a movie together. However, the film’s subject may not be what audiences would have predicted at the time. This is a thriller in the same vein as Single White Female as Alex infiltrates Michael’s life and attempts to help him achieve his ideal self by destroying his relationships and physically intimidating his enemies. But when formerly complacent Michael becomes intimidated by his new persona, Alex doesn’t want to just walk away from his pet project. Lowe’s blend of charm, good looks and crazy eyes is one of the film’s best assets, while Spader is equally convincing as a guy who hesitantly got on the rollercoaster and now can’t find his way off.
Special features include: “Under The Influence — interview with writer David Koepp.” (Shout Factory)
Eleventh Hour (DVD)
Untitled
Acorn
When science threatens humanity, one man is there to save it. With mysteries involving experimental human cloning, ruthless polluters and resurgent viruses, each episode involves the ever evolving world of contemporary science.
Although Patrick Stewart has had a great many other roles since helming the Starship Enterprise, it’s always fun to see him return to the domain of science. In this four episode series, the acclaimed government physicist applies his knowledge to solve crimes with broad impacts. As he’s not a qualified member of law enforcement, he’s also assigned a security detail played by Ashley Jensen. She’s very capable and never hesitates to chase the villain when they’re finally able to confront them. Their relationship is at the centre of the narrative: he respects her job, generally obeying when she gives him orders, and she respects his sense of justice, disobeying certain instructions for the greater good.
There are no special features. (Acorn)
The Finest Hours (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Disney Home Entertainment
The film is based on the true story of the greatest small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history. In 1952, a massive winter storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, ripping a T-2 oil tanker in half and trapping more than 30 sailors (led by Casey Affleck) inside its rapidly sinking stern. When word of the disaster reaches the U.S. Coast Guard, four men led by Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) set out in a 12-seat boat on a daring mission to rescue the stranded men, braving freezing cold, 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds, and guided by Webber’s vow that “We all live, or we all die.”
It begins months before the incident, following Bernie as he meets and falls in love with his would-be wife, Miriam (Holliday Grainger). She provides the third narrative perspective of the concerned families hopelessly awaiting news. While the life-threatening events of the other narratives are captivating, Miriam lends some energy to the overall picture. There is a fair amount of build-up to the rescue, attempting to establish the mindsets of the men involved as well as recount the chain of events that led to its success. Once Bernie launches, the film maintains a frantic atmosphere. The film expertly recreates these events so the audience becomes equally consumed with the precariousness of their situations, which works far better without the theatrical 3D element. Although Pine and Affleck are the main characters, this is truly an ensemble picture with many of the supporting cast that comprises their crews making an impression as well.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story”; “Brotherhood”; “Two Crews”; “What is your Finest Hour?”; and “The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard.” (Disney Home Entertainment)
French Postcards (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Olive Films
The film tells the story of a group of American students attending Paris’ Institute of French Studies for a one-year stay. The students include Joel (Miles Chapin), conflicted, by-the-book and searching for true romance; Alex (David Marshall Grant), a carefree romantic who'll find love in the wrong place; and Laura (Blanche Baker), the unofficial narrator of the group via her postcard writing to a never-seen boyfriend back in the States.
This is one of those idealized years abroad in which you never see any of the students in a classroom because the trip is really about life experiences. They talk about studying and tests, but academics are clearly second, third or lower to absorbing the culture and finding romance. Joel is a sweet character and easy to like, so it’s fitting that he be the most dominant of the three. His naiveté is amusing and never a source of ridicule – though his French is not spared mockery. Laura is the next most interesting personality as the cheerfully masked bitterness she conveys in her letters never fail to amuse. Conversely although Alex is a little odd, he’s also the most cliché of the group and consequently the least interesting. Notably, Mandy Patinkin makes an appearance as a handsy local that offers to show Laura the sites.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Guns for Hire (DVD)
Untitled
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Beatle (Michele Hicks) is an unconventional lone-wolf assassin. Her only friend, and confidant, is her psychiatrist (Orlando Jones). But when she’s hired to assassinate the person who taught her everything she knows, things start to get complicated. Can she survive Athena’s (Ever Carradine) vengeful former employer, and the detective (Raffaello Degruttola) who’s been watching her every move? Can Beatle get the job done, or is she too close to see the big picture? Who will survive in this high stakes film of mystery, intrigue, and murder?
This already unconventional story about a lesbian hitwoman only gets stranger as the narrative continues. The interrogating officer believes he knows the whole story; so rather than ask Beatle a lot of questions, he recounts the entire incident himself – with a lot of admitted embellishments to make it sound better. He especially focuses on the emotional bond that forms between Beatle and the suicidal Athena, as well as the actions of the male villains from whom Beatle must protect her latest client. The last act delivers some interesting yet logical twists that transform the narrative, though the very last exchange between characters is superfluous.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
How to be Single (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
There’s a right way to be single, a wrong way to be single, and then…there’s Alice (Dakota Johnson). And Robin (Rebel Wilson). Lucy (Alison Brie). Meg (Leslie Mann). Tom (Anders Holm). David (Damon Wayans Jr.). Ken (Jake Lacy). New York City is full of lonely hearts seeking the right match, be it a love connection, a hook-up, or something in the middle. And somewhere between the teasing texts and one-night stands — what these unmarrieds all have in common — is the need to learn how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love.
These narratives have been told solely from the guy’s perspective for so long, it’s refreshing to finally see the female point-of-view portrayed on screen — and, most importantly, not have it be a watered-down, mushy romantic comedy. Each of the main characters is at a different point of their life, looking for different things in a partner, including unapologetic one-night stands. All of their lives don’t revolve around “finding a man,” but rather finding their own happiness in whatever form it may take. However they still find the time to mingle a man’s story with the women’s; and even though it’s probably a little idealistic, it’s not one that hasn’t been included in more conventional films. The cast is also great and Wilson expectedly stands out in scenes that clearly involved some improvisation.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Pros and Cons of How to be Single”; “Rebel Rabble: A Look at Rebel Wilson”; “The Best Idea Wins! The Humor of How to be Single”; “Rebel Wilson Outtakes”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Iphigenia (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Olive Films
This is the film adaptation of the Euripides tale, which tells the story of a father torn between duty to his country and duty to his family. Believed to be cursed by a powerful and angry goddess for his slaying of a deer, Agamemnon (Costa Kazakos) must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia (Tatiana Papamoskou) to remove the curse which has prevented the winds from blowing and his ships from moving forward on their mission to Troy.
Shakespearean plays and Greek tragedies have a lot in common, so fans of one are often admirers of the other. The entire narrative openly questions the validity of their predicament as the army was dispatched because Paris took Helen to Troy, and now the niece of the offended is meant to also die for their misdeeds. There is a fair amount of overacting as Iphigenia’s mother curses everyone and Achilles offers his sword, but Kazakos’ Agamemnon is always spot-on whether he’s angry, defeated or sorrowful. The story unfolds in a limited number of locations as all the characters eventually gather in and around the King’s stone house, but filmmakers’ sparing expansions of the set add to the characters’ concentrated despair.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
The King and Four Queens (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Olive Films
Dan Kehoe (Clark Gable) is a smooth-talking con man in hot pursuit of a gold fortune. Seeking the spoils of a heist gone bad by the McDade brothers, Dan sets about romancing each of their wives (Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Barbara Nichols and Sara Shane) in hopes that one of them knows where the gold is hidden. Jealousy among the women soon turns them against one another as they pursue the less-than-scrupulous Dan, all under the watchful eye of their quick-on-the-trigger mother-in-law Ma McDade (Jo Van Fleet).
This is an entertaining comedy Western in which Gable is the film’s only male for approximately 90 per cent of the movie. The women each have unique but somewhat stereotypical personalities, including aspiring singer and quiet yet clever homemaker. Of course none of them can resist Kehoe’s charm as he modifies his approach to suit each of the women’s characters – even their stubborn, old mother-in-law who applies the theory of Schrodinger’s cat to insist they are all still married until the identity of the rumoured one surviving McDade brother is revealed. Nonetheless, in spite of their weakness around Kehoe the film’s females are all very capable mentally and on the draw.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Lou Grant: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Untitled
Shout Factory
Having lost his job at WJM-TV's news department, Grant (Ed Asner) leaves Minneapolis for the West Coast, where he takes over as the city editor for the Los Angeles Tribune. There, Grant guides his team of journalists through the constant challenges of the newspaper business. The show explores both the inner workings of the Tribune and the societal issues that influenced its readers.
For those who have never encountered the inner workings of a real-life newsroom, it can be hard to believe that they’re as fast-paced and provocative as generally depicted on the screen. Yet even though every day doesn’t present equally challenging situations, meeting deadlines and going to print daily while obeying the rules of law and ethics is not always smooth sailing. In the first season, this news team encounters some very intriguing issues that many journalists may legitimately come across in their careers. From being witness to a crime to outing friends and enemies in compromising positions to dealing with unforeseen outcomes related to an investigative story. It’s also fascinating to watch how information gathering was done before the internet and consider how that may have affected the quality of stories.
Special features include: interview with Ed Asner. (Shout Factory)
Manhunter (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Shout Factory
Former FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen) reluctantly returns to his old job to track a horrific serial killer known as "The Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan) But in order to get into the mind of this maniac, Graham must face another: Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), the imprisoned psychiatrist whose own insanity almost cost Graham his life — and whose insights into "The Tooth Fairy" could prove as dangerous as the killer himself.
Sixteen years before the version starring Sir Anthony Hopkins would reach screens, acclaimed writer/director Michael Mann adapted Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and created what is surely the superior film. Petersen’s insightful detective reluctant to immerse himself in the case is flawless, as his interactions with Cox’s ever-cryptic yet provoking Hannibal. Although it was still early in his career Noonan’s depiction of the delusional “Toothy Fairy” is impeccable, delivering a precise combination of creepy and deranged. Most notably, Mann produces this excellent adaptation by relying on the story and talented cast to grip audiences rather than the gorier aspects of the crimes, which are largely committed off screen. Finally, the six new, in-depth interview featurettes with the cast and crew are fantastic.
Special features include: director’s and theatrical version; commentary by writer/director Michael Mann; “The Manhunter Look”; “Inside Manhunter”; “The Mind of Madness — an interview with William Petersen”; “Courting A Killer — an interview with actress Joan Allen”; “Francis Is Gone Forever — an interview with actor Tom Noonan”; “The First Lecktor — an interview with actor Brian Cox”; “The Eye Of The Storm – an interview with director of photography Dante Spinotti”; “The Music of Manhunter”; still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Outsiders: Season One (DVD)
Untitled
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
For untold generations, the Farrell, Shay and McGintuk families of Kentucky’s Shay Mountain have existed as a society unto themselves, living by the same laws and rituals as their pagan fathers. But these fiercely insular clans are about to face the gravest threats they have ever known, not only from the outside world but from within their own ranks. Asa Farrell (Joe Anderson), a black sheep who dared leave the mountain in a vain attempt at a normal life, must now try to preserve the volatile community he tried so hard to escape.
This show is being dubbed the new series meant to fill the hole left in the viewing schedules of Sons of Anarchy fans, likely in no small part to the casting of Ryan Hurst (SOA’s Opie) as one of the lead characters alongside Anderson, David Morse, Kyle Gallner and Gillian Alexy. The Mountain clans are a rough bunch who fight each other for fun and honour, so it’s no surprise they’re prepared to fight tooth-and-nail to preserve their way of life on what they consider to be their land. Unfortunately those making the decision are not the smartest of the group, which results in in-fighting, assassination attempts and unnecessary deaths. It’s not as sophisticated as its predecessor, but it still weaves an interesting tale.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Up on the Mountain: The First Season”; and “Meet the Farrells.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Olive Films
The opportunistic, womanizing Parisian journalist, Georges Duroy (George Sanders), known to the women who love him as “Bel Ami,” uses his charms to climb the ladder of Paris society while discarding those whose usefulness has run its course. Using those around him to further his aspirations, Georges will find in his friend and former fellow soldier, Charles Forestier (John Carradine) a benefactor whose kindness he’ll reward with betrayal. The women who travel in and out of Georges’s life include Charles’s wife, Madeleine (Ann Dvorak), the beautiful and blinded-by-love Clotilde de Marelle (Angela Lansbury) and the lovely young heiress Suzanne Walter (Susan Douglas).
In spite of Georges’ seemingly legitimate introduction to high society, it doesn’t take the observer long to realize he is a fraud and scoundrel. He wins the affections of several women without ever fully committing to any one of them, in spite of public appearances and marriage proposals. Poor Clotilde de Marelle gets the worst of it as she has the unfortunate circumstance to actually fall in love with Georges. However, the motion picture association dictated that no ill deed should go unpunished; therefore the rogue gets his comeuppance in the end in the most appropriate manner for his betrayals and the narrative.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Rise of the Legend (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Well Go USA
A martial artist with extraordinary power (Eddie Peng) returns to the town where his father was murdered to face off against a ruthless crime boss (Sammo Hung) and bring justice back to the people.
Although the focus is Peng’s character, as the backstory for the main narrative is revealed so is the much greater involvement of his childhood friends and fellow orphans. Their commitment to revenge for all the wrongdoings they experienced as children is extraordinary and in itself the stuff of legends. In spite of not being a trained martial artist prior to shooting, Peng appears incredibly capable on screen displaying a combination of incredible skill and wire fu. However, even though there are a number of impressive action sequences — including a few notable turns by Hung — the film’s increasingly complex and intriguing narrative is its greater asset.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
Risen (DVD)
Untitled
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a powerful Roman military tribune, and his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumours of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.
The resurrection has been portrayed on screen countless times from a variety of angles, yet this one remains somewhat unique. While most are aware the Romans attempted to disprove Jesus’ rising from the grave, their investigation has never really been represented with such detail. This is primarily Clavius’ story as he struggles to find the truth and then wrestles with its meaning as only one possibility proves plausible. In addition to chronicling his search, the movie also depicts what happened to Jesus after he emerged from the cave – which turns out to be quite a lot. Although the narrative’s focus is Clavius’ faith, this isn’t exactly a traditional Christian picture.
Special features include: commentary; “The Mystery of The Resurrection: Making Risen”; “A.D. Jerusalem”; and “Script to Screen.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Toxin (DVD)
Untitled
VVS Films
A pharmaceutical company recruits a well-known scientist (Danny Glover) to help develop a vaccine against a deadly virus that threatens to wipe out the entire human population.
This movie is light on the logic, light on the special effects and consequently light on the reasons to watch it. Not sure what drew Glover or Vinnie Jones to the project, but it wasn’t worth theirs or audience’s time. The symptoms of the virus are generic as are most of the characters from the military funders to the scientists to the stereotypical young people who find trouble in a cabin in the woods. The filmmakers’ attempts to turn it into a larger conspiracy are too little, too late in this rather tedious thriller.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
Zoolander 2 (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Untitled
Paramount Home Media Distribution
When a mystery assassin starts killing off the world’s most beautiful people, haute-shot Interpol agent Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz) learns the key to this deadly plot lies with Derek (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson). Recruited for a top secret mission, they must return to the world of high fashion, reclaim their fame, and save the day. The only things standing in their way: the criminal mastermind Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and his evil fashion protégé (Kristen Wiig).
This movie attempts to recreate the humour of the first film, in most cases by repeating it. Few of the jokes are original and the most enjoyable ones are those drawn from its predecessor. As a result, the movie is far sillier than the original — and not always in a good way as it sometimes just seems to be trying too hard to recapture its former glory. However, the one legacy this picture does soundly carry forward is the inclusion of countless cameos. Familiar faces appear when you least expect them, instantly adding something to the most mundane scene. The original cast reprises their roles with equal vigor, seamlessly stepping back into the beloved personas they created 15 years ago. Unfortunately the script is trying so hard, it fails to find new and more relevant ways to entertain audiences.
Special features include: “The Zoolander Legacy”; “Go Big or Go Rome”; “Drake Sather: The Man Who Created Zoolander”; and “Youth Milk.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
More about The Finest Hours, Zoolander 2, Manhunter, Rise of the Legend, Bad Influence
 
Entertainment Video
Latest News
Top News