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article imageReview: This week signals the start of holiday release season Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 17, 2015 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include new gory, lenticular Blu-ray packaging for a popular series; the conclusion of a series and another that just seems to be getting started; and a box set that significantly extends your viewing experience beyond the Shire.
12 Disasters (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
It’s Christmas season in the mountain village of Calvary, but merry and bright have suddenly fled town: there are mass bird deaths; blood red water running from faucets; and grandmas impaled by humongous flying icicles. And for 18-year-old Jacey (Magda Apanowicz), a newly discovered gift has led her and her dad (Ed Quinn) to the revelation that a beloved holiday carol may hold the key to a yuletide Mayan apocalypse. Can their desperate search for five golden rings now stop a global cataclysm of tornados, volcanoes and killer twinkle lights?
Most people are aware of the morbid origins of "Ring around the Rosie," but who would have thought “The 12 Days of Christmas” held the key to stopping an apocalypse. In spite of it being set during the holidays, the apocalypse seems more like the kind people were afraid would occur at the millennium. It’s easy to overlook the mediocrity of the special effects because the extreme absurdity of the disasters is so amusing (see death by string of rogue Christmas lights). Also, even though the prophesy is tied to ancient beliefs, the narrative clearly pits logic against blind, misguided faith. Luckily being the chosen one and her family seems to be connected to some sort of primeval security system, so their enemies are repeatedly thwarted by the powers that be.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Black Sails: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
The Walrus crew is stranded with an army of Spanish soldiers standing between them and their precious Urca gold. And with their crimes against their brethren no longer a secret, Flint (Toby Stephens) and Silver (Luke Arnold) must join forces in a desperate bid for survival. Meanwhile, Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) struggles to maintain her grip on Nassau, as a new breed of pirate arrives in the form of Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy), a man for whom violence isn’t just a tool — it’s a pastime. As blood is spilled and tensions mount, Charles Vane (Zach McGowan) must decide which he values more: Eleanor’s life or the respect of his men. And unbeknownst to all of them, a prize of immeasurable value has already been smuggled onto the island; one whose discovery will alter the very landscape of their world and force everyone in Nassau toward the ultimate judgement: are they men or monsters?
This season is even darker than the last, revealing dangerous desires and pitiful histories. Eleanor and Vane come to a precarious agreement based on a forbidden attraction; meanwhile Bonny discovers things about herself that will eventually make her as strong on the inside as she appears on the outside. Ned is a despicable character that shakes things up in the mostly peaceful colony. However the most significant revelation of this season is the episode that chronicles why Flint became a pirate and what his connection is to Miranda Barlow. The final episodes are a deciding point for everyone on and off the island as the lines in the sand become abundantly clear and lead to new alliances. Next season promises some exciting new directions for several of the characters based on the final moments of this chapter.
Special featurs include: “Inside the World of Black Sails”; “Man O’ War”; “Expanding Worlds”; “High Seas Action”; and “History’s Influence.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Christmas Consultant (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Christmas is just around the corner but suburban workaholics Maya Fletcher (Caroline Rhea) and her husband Jack (Barclay Hope) are too busy to get into the holiday spirit. As their Christmas to do list grows and deadlines fast approach, holiday spirit is at an all-time low. With Christmas only 10 days away, Jack encourages Maya to hire a specialist to help with the planning. Enter Owen (David Hasselhoff), the most sought-after Christmas consultant in town. Decorating the house, caroling and planning a family Christmas pageant are all part of Owen’s scheme to make this a magical Christmas for the Fletchers. Slowly he wins over the entire family except for Maya, the supermom who just wants to be able to do it all. With Owen’s help and a little Christmas magic, the Fletchers are in for a Christmas that none of them will ever forget.
The only thing more annoying than spending Christmas with judgemental relatives is to be shown-up by someone you invited into your home. There are a number of things about this narrative that’s frustrating. Owen is hired to take the pressure of a perfect holiday off the extremely busy parents, yet they — mostly Maya — are constantly called up on to fulfill duties for which they still don’t have time. In addition, Maya’s boss is the source of a large percentage of the stress yet none of the responsibility is laid at her feet. However, if you get past the vilification of the mother, what remains is a rather goofy, feel good movie in which the grumpy characters experience such a turn of heart, it would seem Owen’s secret is actually Prozac.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Home Video
When Buddy (Jim Parsons) discovers his true identity, he sets off in search of his father in New York City. That’s when the real adventure begins. Sing along as Buddy and his new friends bring the spirit of Christmas back to the Big Apple.
For adults who love the Will Farrell live action movie, but may not be able to share it with children who aren’t yet ready for 97 minutes of entertainment this animated film is the perfect solution. Although it’s half the time, it captures the essence of the original picture but in a manner that will appeal to younger audiences. It doesn’t include any of the music from the first soundtrack, though there is plenty of singing throughout the movie. Parsons is a wonderful choice to voice Buddy as his enthusiasm shines through the character’s personality, whereas Ed Asner is the only actor to return and reprise his role as Santa.
Special features include: “Elf-in’ All the Way: Inside Buddy’s Recording Sessions.” (Warner Home Video)
The Following: The Third and Final Season (DVD)
Warner Home Video
After a harrowing game of cat and mouse that led to the capture of serial killer and cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) in season two, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has finally moved on. He’s returned to the FBI to work with his niece, Max Hardy (Jessica Strong), and partner, Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), and he’s found new love with Dr. Gwen Carter (Zuleikha Robinson). But Ryan’s happiness is quickly shattered when another threat rises to tear open old wounds and expose the sins of the past. With Joe awaiting execution, the team must unravel a twisted matrix of murder before it destroys them all. Behind it lies a horrifying possibility: Can someone even more dangerous than Joe Carroll be at large?
One couldn’t have expected a series about the hunt for one man and his disciples to go on very long, so it’s not surprising this show got the hook when it did. Carroll is a bit of a Hannibal Lecter this season, counselling Ryan on his pursuit of another serial killer while drawing him back into their bizarre connection to each other. The new characters introduced this season are equally if not more sadistic than those that came before them as they mingle with some familiar faces from previous seasons. The most disturbing is a man who believes he’s a craftsman who is skilled in manipulating his victims into small spaces. Writers did find a Ryan a new enemy on which to focus his own confusing inclinations should the series have continued, but it’s unlikely fans will lose sleep with the show ending as it does.
Special features include: severed scenes; “When Heroes Lie”; “Evil has Many Faces”; “The Art of the Crime Scene Photo”; “Ryan and Romance”; “The Following: Funny AND Die”; New York Comic-Con Panel 2014; and gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy — Extended Edition (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Home Video
Sixty years before J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings saga, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey takes them through treacherous lands swarming with Trolls, Goblins, Orcs, giant spiders and deadly Wargs. Along the way, Bilbo also meets the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis) who would change his life forever. Finally reaching the Lonely Mountain, they face their greatest danger: Smaug. Meanwhile, Sauron, the Dark Lord, sends forth legions of Orcs to attack the Lonely Mountain, and Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life as five great armies go to war. As darkness converges, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide — unite or be destroyed.
This trilogy takes many liberties with the story, making significant changes to the dwarves’ relationship with the elves, as well as altering timelines since shorter periods are more suitable for movies. This is taken even further in the extended editions as the new, added story elements are expanded even more. The need to construct these films as a prequel to the LOTR trilogy seems to be the main motivation for the extraneous accounts at the expense of actual stories included in the book. That said, director Peter Jackson takes the world he perfected in LOTR and transfers it the land of the prequel. The return of Serkis as Gollum continues his flawless portrayal of the desperate character. Also reprising his role, McKellen adjusts the wizard’s personality to match the younger, less grave version featured in this picture. The production value is on par with that of the first epic journey. Fortunately the appearance of Smaug is not a disappointment as he looks as mammoth and intimidating as Tolkien's words would have you believe. The final installment likely has the least in common with the book as the embellishments to extend the story take up the majority of the narrative. The love story between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Fili (Dean O'Gorman) is further explored as is the taboo nature of their feelings. The massive war comprises the core of the film and while it’s comparable in size to The Return of the King, it’s not quite as spectacular. Nonetheless, the steady, speedier pace makes the last movie the best of the trilogy.
Special features include: filmmaker commentaries; video blogs; Appendices parts 7-12; “Peter Jackson invites you to the set”; production videos; “Recruiting the Five Armies”; “Completing Middle-Earth”; “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth” parts 1-3; and “The Last Goodbye” music video. (Warner Home Video)
Jimmy’s Hall (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
In 1921, Jimmy Gralton's (Barry Ward) sin was to build a dance hall on a rural crossroads in an Ireland on the brink of Civil War. Young people could come to the hall to learn, to argue, to dream; but above all to dance and have fun. As the hall grew in popularity, its socialist and free-spirited reputation brought it to the attention of the church and politicians, who forced Jimmy to flee and the hall to close. A decade later, as Jimmy reintegrates into the community and sees the poverty and growing cultural oppression, the leader and activist within him is stirred. He makes the decision to reopen the hall in the face of whatever trouble it may bring.
Though it’s not often mentioned outright, this is a story about the presence and influence of the IRA in Ireland, and the British/Catholic opposition to its existence. Though Jimmy is viewed as a hero within his community and by his compatriots, he seems to be acting rather innocuously most of the time. However, in the face of sovereignty, their benign attempts to retain and pass on their culture were deemed hostile and publicly shamed. The meaning behind the dialogue in this picture is much more important than most of the actions, including the police’s physical pursuit of Jimmy. It all seems very authentic and the actors are particularly convincing in making their case for independence.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Living In Oblivion (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
The leading man (James Le Gros) has just had a disastrous one-night stand with the leading lady (Catherine Keener); the cinematographer (Dermot Mulroney) is breaking up with the assistant director (Danielle von Zerneck); the director's (Steve Buscemi) mother has wandered onto the set; and the little person (Peter Dinklage) hired for the dream sequence has a big attitude.
Generally when a filmmaker makes a movie about making a movie, especially one as stylized as this one, they are attempting to convey some knowledge or message to viewers. In this case, writer/director Tom DiCillo wished to illustrate the number of elements required to come together to make a picture and, accordingly, how many things can go awry during a shoot. Through these quirky characters, he demonstrates how each person’s efforts are critical to the film’s success and how even a single mistake can ruin a shot or even a day. Presented in segments from the perspective of different cast and crew, the narrative switches between real and imaginary sets though it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference since both are mired in similar troubles. The then green cast is excellently suited for this bizarre take on their business that’s now fixed in a ‘90s time warp.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Tom DiCillo; deleted scene; “In Our Own Oblivion: The Miracle of Making a Film”; and “Q&A with Tom DiCillo and Steve Buscemi.” (Shout Factory)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Home Video
At the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) must put aside longstanding hostilities to stop a mysterious international criminal organization bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of world power. With only one lead, the agents race to find a vanished German scientist who is the key to infiltrating the organization.
Based on a TV sitcom from the ‘60s, this film reboots the comedy about rival spies united by mutual interests. The movie is limited to a single mission, though its parameters are constantly changing. Both Cavill and Hammer play amusing caricatures of period spies who must live up to particular stereotypes. As a result, Solo is a suave womanizer and Kuryakin is a by-the-book machine. They also each have their own humorous idiosyncrasies and gags that are often performed at the expense of their so-called partner. Alicia Vikander portrays a young woman enlisted to aid their mission, but she is exceedingly overshadowed by her co-stars’ charisma even when she tries to establish a foothold. Hugh Grant has a small role as an agent from MI6 and essentially their handler in the field.
Special features include: “The Guys from U.N.C.L.E.”; “Spyvision: Recreating the ‘60s Cool”; “A Higher Class of Hero”; “Metisse Mortorcycles: Proper — and very British”; “A Man of Extraordinary Talents”; “U.N.C.L.E.: On-set Spy”; and gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
Mom: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Warner Home Video
A year of sober living under the same roof has brought the mother and daughter, Bonnie (Allison Janney) and Christy (Anna Faris), closer than ever… to killing each other. Christy’s wishful-thinking financial plan gets the family evicted, forcing wild-at-heart Bonnie to step up her game or lose the family she just found. Just as the women are starting to get their lives on track, the death of a loved one sends them reeling.
The comedy continues to be sharp this season, though they do deal with some heavy issues throughout and particularly at the end. Bonnie still has a wicked tongue, though she tries to apply her quick wit to fib her way through job interviews at high-profile agencies. Christy starts to buckle under the pressure of being sober, a mom, daughter and sole provider, which is all exasperated by challenging family members and incompetent co-workers. Yet the mother-daughter duo always finds a way to laugh and persevere, even if it’s at each other’s expense. Christy’s daughter, son and father all have a significant impact on her life this season; unfortunately their effect mostly stems from them leaving her in some way.
Special features include: gag reel. (Warner Home Video)
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (Lenticular Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
After waking from a coma in an abandoned hospital, police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds the world he knew gone — ravaged by a zombie epidemic of apocalyptic proportions. Nearby, on the outskirts of Atlanta, a small encampment struggles to survive as ‘the dead’ stalk them at every turn. Eventually, Rick joins the group and together they travel from one disaster area to the next, searching for a safe and secure home. The world has changed and they need to figure out how to survive it – and each other.
This television series is based on a popular graphic novel of the same name by Robert Kirkman. However, the illustrated series is popular not because it features lots of zombie-related gore, but because it centres on great character development. That’s what makes it an excellent source for the television show. The first season consisted of only six episodes, but they are each outstanding. The dynamics within the group are portrayed incredibly well and the production value is first-rate. AMC is becoming known for presenting quality television and is definitely competing with HBO in this arena. Though they may be showcasing fewer titles, AMC is proving to be a heavyweight and this programme further established their presence.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; “Inside The Walking Dead: Episode 1-6”; a sneak peek with writer/producer Robert Kirkman; “Behind the Scenes Zombie Make-up Tips”; a convention panel with producers; extra footage: “Zombie School”, “Bicycle Girl”, “On set with Robert Kirkman”, “Hanging with Steven Yeun”, “Inside Dale’s RV” and “On set with Andrew Lincoln”; and a trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season (Lenticular Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
After a zombie apocalypse, a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), travel in search of a safe and secure home. However, instead of the zombies, it’s the living who still remain that may be the biggest threat. At the end of the first season the characters were in the midst of a high-intensity struggle to survive, fleeing the CDC as it burst into flames. Now they are still fighting zombies, and each other, facing more threats and obstacles than ever before.
The series picks up where the first left off with Rick still dangling the secret shared with him by the CDC tech. The focus remains on the characters, who are motivated by, among other things, the undead menace. The first episode introduces a zombie phenomenon not yet seen on the show: a horde passes them on a highway, creating excellent tension and great visuals. Although with the addition of a doctor character, it seems as if people are getting injured more than ever. The series continues to mix story lines from the comics with new developments and never-before-seen character arcs, keeping it fresh and interesting.
Special features include: commentary on five episodes; eight deleted scenes; six webisodes; “All the Guts Inside”; “Live or Let Die”; “The Meat of the Music”; “Fire on Set”; “The Ink is Alive”; “The Sound of the Effects”; “In the Dead Water”; “You Could Make a Killing”; “She Will Fight”; “The Cast on Season 2”; and “Extras Wardrobe.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season (Lenticular Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
In this uncertain world, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his band of survivors must not only fight the dead, but also face a whole new fear: the living. In this season, Rick and his fellow survivors continue to seek refuge in a desolate and post-apocalyptic world and soon discover that there are greater forces to fear than just the walking dead. The struggle to survive has never been so perilous. This season also introduces new characters, including the Governor (David Morrissey) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), along with her zombie pets.
This season takes a more apocalyptic tone by adding a new element to fear: other humans. The introduction of Woodbury, a small guarded, fully functioning town, turns out to be the worst threat they've faced thus far. The Governor is not as wholesome as he tries to appear, with more monsters hiding in his closet than a sane person would be comfortable. With Rick still not at 100 per cent, Darryl's (Norman Reedus) role in the prison and the series was given the opportunity to grow; but the return of his brother jeopardizes everything he's worked to protect. As is necessary in a show with relentless risk, several core characters are permanently written out — some of which evoke a surprising emotional reaction.
Special features include: commentary on five episodes; six deleted scenes; “Rising Son”; “Evil Eye”; “Gone, But not Forgotten”; “Heart of a Warrior”; “Michonne vs. The Governor”; “Safety Behind Bars”; “Making the Dead”; and “Guts and Glory.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Lenticular Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
In the new season, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the group of survivors are fostering a thriving community in the safe haven of the prison only to have it short-lived as the group loses everything — their home, family, and friends — to the threat of the walkers, outside threats and the hidden dangers brewing inside the fences. The group of survivors are broken apart and sent on divergent paths, unsure of everyone else’s fate as they are exposed to new dangers, new enemies, and heartbreaking choices. They will have their faith thoroughly tested — a faith that breaks some of them and redeems others.
Nothing lasts forever — especially in this apocalyptic world. Rick's dream of a peaceful farming life is short-lived. Even the sanctuary of the prison is eventually destroyed. Carl (Chandler Riggs) takes on more grown up responsibilities, which means he finds himself in more dangerous situations more frequently. Carol (Melissa McBride) makes calculated decisions independent of the will of the group, which has significant consequences. Michonne (Danai Gurira) goes through several stages as she hunts for the Governor, revisits her past and makes an important decision regarding her future. Encountering other survivors always has mixed results and this season is no different. Darryl (Norman Reedus) joins another nomad group that has a different way of running things while the promise of a safe haven may not be as good as it sounds.
Special features include: five commentaries; deleted and extended scenes; “Inside” the show; making-of featurette; “Drawing Inspiration”; “Hershel”; “The Governor is Back”; “Society, Science and Survival”; “Inside KNB EFX”; and “A Journey Back to Brutality.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
We Are Your Friends (DVD)
Warner Home Video
Aspiring DJ Cole (Zac Efron) is a 23-year-old who spends his days working in the Valley and his nights dreaming of making it in L.A. As Cole tries to create tracks that will set the world on fire, he meets James (Wes Bentley), a famous DJ who could be the key to his success. Friendship, love and betrayal interfere but eventually inspire Cole as he struggles to find his voice and create his own future.
This is a fairly typical story of a young entertainer trying to make a name for himself. He spins in small local clubs which his friends help promote and plays the odd private event. His luck changes when he meets a formerly successful DJ who takes him under his wing and offers to introduce him to the right people and hone his skills. The souring of this friendship and other tragic circumstances eventually lead him down the right path to success. Though we’ve seen it all before, this movie has an energetic soundtrack and Efron is solid having learned how to be confident in the face of an overwhelming DJ table prior to the shoot. The rest is carried by an acceptable dynamic between him and Bentley. The most interesting scene is one in which Cole describes the key to engaging a crowd and getting them on side with the DJ — the talent he’s nearly perfected and now must make his own.
Special features include: “How Zac Efron Learned to DJ.” (Warner Home Video)
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