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article imageReview: This week’s releases reach into recent history for inspiration Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 11, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include this year’s early favourite for best superhero movie; another babysitter under threat; new releases related to beloved movies; and an early depiction of body horror.
A Tale of Two Cities (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Charles Dickens' tale is brought to life in an adaptation of the literary classic set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. French aristocrat Charles Darnay and London lawyer Sydney Carton (both played by Chris Sarandon) are mutually in love with the beautiful Lucie (Alice Krige). As the world around them grows more and more uncertain, one of them will make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love and honor.
This is one of Dickens’ longer and proportionally less interesting novels, so it’s not entirely surprising the first half of the film is monotonous and the entire runtime is 146 minutes. Fortunately, the story begins to gain momentum when Sarandon’s characters finally return to France. He does a fair job differentiating the personalities as the narrative prescribes there be only minor physical distinctions between the men. To its benefit or detriment, the film is relatively faithful to the source material and even maintains the anti-Hollywood ending; though the concluding fates of the various characters are very fitting and would have suffered from any alteration.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
The Boy (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a young American woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote English village. She soon discovers that the family’s 8-year-old is a life-sized doll that they care for just like a real boy, as a way to cope with the death of their son 20 years prior. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring Greta’s worst nightmare to life, leading her to believe that the doll is actually alive.
It’s always the babysitter that gets the short end of the stick in horror movies. In this case, Greta must also accept some of the blame since she doesn’t run the way of her predecessors when things start to get creepy; instead, her reaction is reminiscent of the mother’s fascination with the supernatural in Poltergeist. In the end this is a narrative that’s been done before, but filmmakers put an interesting twist on the recycled tale to give it a fresh and appealing new appearance. Best of all, it strings audiences along until it decides to reveal the truth. Cohan is a capable actress, acting appropriately frightened or captivated as required; her backstory is a little convoluted, but it still works.
There are no special features. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Deadpool (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) was a mercenary-for-hire, working out of a small local bar where he met the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). It doesn’t get much more perfect than their relationship, until Wade is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Desperate for a cure, he agrees to an experimental treatment. The cruel therapy gives Wade remarkable regeneration abilities, but leaves him physically and unrecognizably scarred. Unwilling to face Vanessa, he creates a secret identity — Deadpool — and tears apart the city looking for those responsible for his new appearance.
The top priority for everyone involved was to make sure it was done right — and part of that meant embracing the R-rating and not watering down Deadpool’s integrally raunchy personality and graphic fighting style. ‘Pool consistently proves he is quick on his feet both physically and mentally, showcasing improvisational skills many fans will not even be aware Reynolds possessed. On top of all the traits mentioned thus far, there is one that goes even further to distinguish Deadpool from other characters: either by voiceover or talking into the camera, he erases the existence of a fourth wall and treats the viewer as a friend. Rather than chronologically recounting Deadpool’s origin, the story begins on the way to an adrenaline-fuelled action sequence and highway chase. This crazy, off-the-wall pursuit is funny, fast-paced and bloody as he shoots and stabs his way through a succession of henchmen. In between the mayhem, he takes the time to explain how he got here in a series of flashbacks. As mentioned, Reynolds surprises with how perfectly he is cast in the role of the foul-mouthed mercenary. From the flawless and casual line delivery to the exceptionally sculpted physique to the physically demanding battles, he absolutely brings it and leaves nothing on the table.
Special features include: commentary by Ryan Reynolds and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick; commentary by director Tim Miller and Deadpool co-creator/comics artist Rob Liefeld; deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by director Tim Miller; “From Comics to Screen… to Screen”; “Deadpool’s Fun Sack”; gallery; and gag reel. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Death Becomes Her [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Two narcissistic arch rivals (Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn) discover the ultimate accessory — a potion that will keep them forever young — when they meet a mysterious enchantress (Isabella Rossellini) with deep ties to the Hollywood elite. But they get more than they bargained for when their newfound beauty only intensifies their vanity — and rivalry.
This is an absurd horror comedy that features some wonderful actresses who demonstrate both beauty and humour. It’s sometimes hard to believe the great Meryl Streep was in such a silly movie, but she appears to have had as much fun as anyone else on set. A dowdy Bruce Willis plays the third member of their perplexing love triangle, concealing all the qualities that would make these women’s relentless attraction to him conceivable. The narrative is a little choppy, but the goofy special effects and over-the-top characters make up for any of the minor problems. After all, it’s not often you’ll see Streep’s head turn 180 degrees. The film is quotable, entertaining and deservedly a fan favourite.
Special features include: new and vintage making-of featurettes; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Have Gun — Will Travel: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
The adventures of Paladin (Richard Boone), a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.
Each episode begins with a close-up on Paladin’s weapon and Boone’s voiceover delivering a significant line that will be repeated later in the context of the narrative. The episodes tell stand-alone stories, though there are some characters who appear regularly. Paladin is well-dressed, well-spoken, well-mannered and well-equipped in almost any situation. He has a strict code of ethics by which he operates during a job, though money is generally the primary influencer that decides whether he accepts an offer. The plots are not overly complicated, but also tend to include a twist or hurdle that only presents itself midway through the narrative. Boone portrays a modern cowboy of the time who is also suave, intelligent and captivating.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes episodic information on selected episodes; production notes; and cast biographies. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Independence Day - 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
When massive spaceships appear in Earth’s skies and blast destructive beams of fire down on cities all over the planet, a determined band of survivors must unite for one last strike against the invaders before it’s the end of mankind.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Will Smith punched an alien in the face and said, “Welcome to Earth!” Even after two decades, this action sci-fi picture continues to hold up. The special effects, which were a mix of CGI, costumes and miniatures, remains convincing enough. In addition, the humour hasn’t lost its charm. The banter between Smith and Jeff Goldblum in the alien spaceship is still hilarious, as is Judd Hirsch’s portrayal of Goldblum’s father. Moreover the explosions are still mesmerizing, although watching the bonus feature on how they were created takes some of the magic out of it. This release also includes the original theatrical ending that was fortunately rejected by test audiences in which Russell Case (Randy Quaid) saves the country in a biplane. Most of the original, surviving cast (except for Smith) will be returning for this summer’s sequel, so this is a great opportunity to get reacquainted.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Roland Emmerich, and co-writer/producer Dean Devlin; commentary by Oscar-winning special effects supervisors Volker Engel and Dough Smith; “Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward”; making-of featurette; “Combat Review”; “ID4 Datastream Trivia Track”; “Creating Reality”; “ID4 Invasion Mock-umentary”; “Monitor Earth Broadcasts”; gallery; and gag reel. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Regression (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment & Elevation Pictures
Minnesota, 1990. Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) investigates the case of young Angela (Emma Watson), who accuses her father, John Gray (David Dencik), of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery.
In the ‘80s, there was what many now refer to as “Satanic panic.” As heavy metal and outcasts embraced the symbolism and fear of devil worship, witch hunts and the prosecution of innocents began to once again stifle the country. While most stories focus on the accused, this film looks at the phenomenon from an investigator’s perspective. Kenner is appalled by Angela’s accounts of abuse at the hands of her family. As those involved seem to have repressed their participation, Raines sees this case as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of regression therapy. However, this narrative illustrates how even those trained to thoroughly analyze a situation can become caught up in the emotion of such an abhorrent indictment.
Special features include: “Ethan Hawke — Bruce’s Obsession”; “Emma Watson — The Complexity of Angela”; “The Cast of Regression”; and “The Vision of Regression.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Scream: The TV Series: Season 1 (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
What starts as a YouTube video going viral, soon leads to problems for the teenagers of Lakewood and serves as the catalyst for a murder that opens up a window to the town's troubled past.
If Wes Craven provided his blessing to the series’ production, audiences should also be willing to give it a chance. Thankfully, they won’t be disappointed. While recycling many of the same concepts from the original trilogy — a device most obvious in the first episode — it develops a new world in which this serial killer can play his/her game, while also observing the rules with which fans of the genre are so familiar. Moreover, admirers of Craven’s source material will enjoy recognizing various similarities between plots, characters and kills. In spite of having to stretch the story over 10 episodes, series creators manage to keep the identity of the killer at least somewhat ambiguous until the big reveal in the season’s final episode.
Special features include: deleted scenes; promotional gallery; and gag reel. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Sssssss (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Dr. Carl Stoner (Strother Martin) is a respected snake expert who masks a frightening desire to transmute a man into a king cobra. Realizing that his new lab assistant, David (Dirk Benedict), is the perfect specimen, the demented doctor begins administering injections of "immunization serum." Soon, David begins experiencing strange side effects: his skin is shedding while his body shape is changing. But before he realizes the horrible truth, the metamorphosis from human to serpent has begun.
It’s difficult not to wonder if this film served as some level of inspiration for Kevin Smith’s Tusk, though it’s is much less horrific. There’s no mystery to Dr. Stoner’s intentions as the side effects of the first injection and those following make David’s eventual evolution quite evident and inevitable. Nonetheless, David’s gradual transformation is fairly calculated and the ultimate attempt by filmmakers to have it occur on-screen is commendable for the era. Martin is excellent, skilfully walking the line between mad and gifted genius through his mannerisms and speech patterns. There’s also something very sinister about Dr. Stoner and the story as he commits an irreversibly cruel crime in the name of science.
Special features include: “My Reptilian Past – an interview with actor Dirk Benedict”; “The Herpetologist's Daughter – an interview with Heather Menzies”; photo gallery; radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
You’ll Like My Mother (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Why did they fear Francesca’s baby? When her husband is killed in Vietnam, Francesca Kinsolving (Patty Duke) finds herself alone and pregnant. She makes her way to Minnesota in order to meet her late husband’s mother, certain that she'll be greeted with open arms. But Francesca soon discovers that there may be more to the Kinsolving family than she ever imagined and that this simple family reunion is only the beginning of a waking nightmare.
Meeting the in-laws is already considered a big deal by most, so one can only imagine the added pressure of having to do so after your partner’s passing. Francesca braves a long journey and wintry weather to meet her mother-in-law, but the welcome she receives is far from warm. The story becomes very complicated, very quickly as Francesca uncovers a family secret while being held hostage by the worsening weather and her inhospitable host. Duke is competent as her character bounces between hysterical, angry, composed and determined to escape. However Richard Thomas often steals the spotlight as the villain lurking in the shadows, menacing and unpredictable.
Special features include: interviews with Richard Thomas and Sian Barbara Allen; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
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