This week’s releases include a hilarious undead comedy; a new personality from the English chameleon; new high-def Disney titles; a print and cinematic phenomenon; and a movie that turned a couple of nobodies into somebodies.
A Little Bit Zombie (Blu-ray)
The film follows the adventures of Steve (Kristopher Turner), a mild-mannered HR manager who becomes infected with a virus during a weekend get-away with his sister, Sarah (Kristen Hager), his best friend, Craig (Shawn Roberts), and his fiancée, Tina (Crystal Lowe). While he attempts to fulfill his overwhelming desire for brains, he must elude Max (Stephen McHattie), the obsessed zombie hunter hot on his trail with his partner Penelope (Emilie Ullerup), and avoid the wrath of his bridezilla-to-be. He tries to keep it together but his fiancée will do anything to make sure the wedding takes place, even when her husband-to-be is a little bit zombie.
One constant in Canadian cinema is its knack for creating good horror - or, in this case, comedy horror. While the main cast of vacationing friends are less recognizable, their pursuers are portrayed by McHattie (Pontypool and Watchmen) and Ullerup (TV’s Sanctuary and jPod). Nonetheless, the film is at its strongest as the tight knit group attempts to deal with Steve’s new lifestyle. His fiancée’s insistence that their plans move forward without a hitch is a consistent source of laughter, while his newfound need for brains is simultaneously gross and funny. The zombie hunters serve as a break from the primary narrative, providing certain plot devices and their own brand of humour.
Special features include: commentary by director Casey Walker, actors Turner and Roberts; a making-of featurette; “Meet the Cast” featurette; “Anatomy of a Vomit Scene” featurette; “Billy and his Dress” featurette; “Bug Splatter: A Science” featurette; “Destruction of a Phone” featurette; “Guns of ALBZ” featurette; three bonus videos; “Casey Walker’s Director Diaries”; blooper reel and outtakes; photo galleries; and trailers. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
A Separation (Blu-ray)
Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh, and sues for divorce when Nader refuses to leave behind his Alzheimer-suffering father. Her request having failed, Simin returns to her parents’ home but Termeh decides to stay with Nader. When Nader hires a young woman to assist with his father in his wife’s absence, he hopes that his life will return to a normal state. However, when he discovers that the new maid has been lying to him, he realizes that there is more on the line than just his marriage.
Special features include: commentary by director Asghar Farhadi; “An Evening with Asghar Farhadi”; and “Birth of a Director.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Aristocats (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
In the heart of Paris, a kind and eccentric millionairess wills her entire estate to ‘Duchess,’ a high society cat, and her three kittens. When the bumbling butler Edgar tries to pull off the ultimate catnap caper in order to secure the fortune for himself, it’s up to alley cat Thomas O’Malley and his band of swingin’ jazz cats to save the day.
Special features include: “The Lost Open”; “Oui Oui Marie” music video; deleted song “She Never Felt Alone”; “The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocats of Disney Songs”; “The Great Cat Family (excerpt)”; “Bath Day” short; Disney song selection; The Aristocats scrapbook; and Disney Virtual Kitten. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the gentle assistant funeral director in Carthage, Texas, strikes up an unusual relationship with wealthy widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Marjorie's oft-unpleasant demeanor has ostracized her among the majority of Carthage's residents, but Bernie emerges as her most trusted confidante, accompanying Marjorie on vacations and handling her business and personal affairs. But her venom curdles their union, and Marjorie ultimately turns up dead. Much to the surprise of the local district attorney (Matthew McConaughey), the town rallies behind Bernie, despite overwhelming evidence implicating him as Marjorie's killer.
Director Richard Linklater finds amusement in words and people's personalities rather than sight gags or slapstick. In spite of the talents of Black, MacLaine and McConaughey, they are outshined by the real life townspeople who are interviewed throughout the film, exuding genuine small town character and charming the audience with their quaint sayings and amusing observations. Slightly jarring, the opening scene is a detailed explanation of how to prepare a body for viewing; Bernie was a funeral director, or more commonly a mortician, and was often a guest lecturer at his alma mater because of the skill and care to detail he brought to the craft. It's difficult to determine if any of the people depicted are caricatures, though there's been no claim of personal misrepresentation by any of those involved. Footage of the real Bernie during the credits shows that Black even spent time with him while preparing for the film.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Amazing Grace,” discussion of Jack Black’s performance; “True Story to Film,” discussion of actual case; and “The Gossips,” casting of town’s people. (Alliance Films)
Paramount Home Entertainment
The Dictator (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
This is the story of North African dictator, Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), who on a visit to New York is stripped of his power and forced to get a real job at a Brooklyn health food store.
It takes a certain type of humour to enjoy Cohen's outrageous personalities. However, this is the first of his films that felt like it could appeal to a wider audience. Much of this can be attributed to the casting of other strong actors, including Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris. In this way, it feels more like a movie than a long-running joke. In addition, with the direction of Larry Charles, the satire is made more poignant while remaining humorous. Playing opposite Faris, Cohen's usual crassness becomes lighter and easier to laugh at. Audiences who did not find Borat and the like entertaining will probably pass this picture by, but if they enjoy good comedy it may be worth giving the actor another chance.
Special features include: unrated and theatrical versions; deleted and extended scenes; and music video for “Your Money’s on the Dresser.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Good Will Hunting (Blu-ray)
The most brilliant mind at America’s top university isn’t a student; he’s the kid who cleans the floors. Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a headstrong, working-class genius who’s failing the lessons of life. After one too many run-ins with the law, Will’s last chance is a psychology professor (Robin Williams) who might be the only man who can reach him.
The surprising Oscar win for new-to-Hollywood writers Damon and Ben Affleck turned the duo into household names. While one went on to have a successful run in a thrilling franchise, the other became a tabloid regular (though most of that has settled down now). But it's fun to go back and see where it all began for these guys. Damon showed promise as the delinquent genius though he still required some polishing, while Affleck was quite believable as the obnoxious sidekick. This was also another occasion for Williams to shine in a non-comedic role.
Special features include: commentary by director Gus Van Sant and writers Damon and Ben Affleck; 11 deleted scenes with commentary; behind-the-scenes footage; four-part retrospective: “Reflecting on a Journey: Good Will Hunting 15 Years Later; “Matt Damon remembers Good Will Hunting”; production featurette; “Academy Award Best Picture montage”; and “Miss Misery” music video. (Alliance Films)
Halloween 4 (Blu-ray)
He butchered 16 people trying to get to his sister. He was shot and incinerated, but still the entity that Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) calls “evil on two legs” would not die. Tonight, Michael Myers has come home again – to kill. This time, Michael returns to Haddonfield for Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) – the orphaned daughter of Laurie Strode – and her babysitter Rachel (Ellie Cornell).
Special features include: commentary by actresses Harris and Cornell; commentary by director Dwight H. Little and author Justin Beahm; Halloween 4/5 discussion panel; and theatrical trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Halloween 5 (Blu-ray)
Because hell would not have him, Michael Myers survived the mine explosion thought to have killed him. One year later, his traumatized young niece Jamie (Danielle Harris) is horrified to discover she has a telepathic bond with her evil Uncle – and that Uncle Michael is on his way back to Haddonfield. But Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) has a new plan to destroy the Boogey Man in his childhood home using Jamie as bait.
Special features include: commentary with actors Harris, Don Shanks and Jeffrey Landman; commentary by director Dominique Othenin-Girard and author Justin Beahm; on-the-set featurette; original promo; and theatrical trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Hunger Games (DVD)
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. Sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers in her younger sister’s place and must rely upon her sharp instincts when she’s pitted against highly trained Tributes who have prepared their entire lives. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
The best part of movie, and the biggest takeaway, was the film lived up to the hype as well as the expectations established by the book on which it's based. When compared to the source material, it's obviously condensed but includes most of the significant events from the original narrative. The transition from Katniss' internal dialogue to a film that did not require a voiceover to convey the same emotions or thoughts is noteworthy. Much of this is accomplished by taking the viewer outside of the arena during the Games. Unfortunately, the emotional intensity is lost in the adaptation. The cast is impeccable. Each of the actors embodies every aspect of his or her character perfectly. Finally, extravagant special effects are passed over to give the captivating characters the audience's full attention. Even the picture is often drained of colour, ensuring focus is placed on the people rather than the spectacle.
Special features include: “Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon”; a making-of featurette; “Letters from the Rose Garden”; “Controlling the Games”; “A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell; “Propaganda Film”; and “Marketing Archive.” (Alliance Films)
One in the Chamber (DVD and Blu-ray combo pack)
The stakes are high and so is the body count. In Prague, two skilled assassins make themselves available for hire to the Mafia. However, when one assassin, Carver (Cuba Gooding Jr), takes a job with a gang he was once hired to eliminate, it launches into an all-out mob war where survival is about as certain as the number of bullets left in the clip. To make things worse, another assassin (Dolph Lundgren) has been hired to take out Carver and the result will make the streets run red.
Gooding Jr. hasn't been up to much as of late, but there's nothing like starring in a movie alongside Lundgren to fix... wait. In any case, it gave the former A-list actor the opportunity to show he's still in shape and able to refrain from smiling for nearly an entire film. Unfortunately Lundgren steals his thunder, fully at home in the role of a tough-as-nails hired gun. He dominates the screen, both with his intimidating size and big personality, leaving Gooding Jr. at a disadvantage in trying to match him.
Special features include: a behind-the-scenes featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Pocahontas / Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Pocahontas and her friends Flit and Meeko find adventure at home and abroad in these two sweeping stories from the earliest days of American history.
Special features include: commentary; deleted scenes; “Drawing Inspiration: The Lost Story of Hiawatha,” Walt Disney’s never-before-seen tale that inspired the Pocahontas filmmakers; “Little Hiawatha” cartoon short; and deleted song: “If I Never Knew You.” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Two of the world’s bravest mice – Bernard and Bianca – as they set out on two thrilling rescue missions full of comic adventure while soaring through the Devil’s Bayou and flying sky high in the Australian outback. Buckle up for the ride of your life as these tiny heroes with great big hearts outrun and outwit their rivals to save the day.
Special features include: deleted song: “Peoplitis”; “The Three Blind Mouseketeers,” silly symphony animated short; “Water Birds,” Disney true-life adventure; “Someone’s Waiting for You” sing-along song; and a making-of the sequel featurette. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Revenge – Season 1 (DVD)
Wealth, beauty and power define the residents of New York’s most exclusive community, but one woman will stop at nothing to exact revenge from those who ruined her father’s life. Watch as Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) unfolds her brilliantly vindictive plot against Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), the reigning queen of the Hamptons, and all who destroyed her family. However, even the best-laid plans can unravel in the wake of an unexpected love triangle between Emily, the son of her greatest nemesis and a forgotten face from the past.
Special features include: commentary by creator Mike Kelley and actor VanCamp on the “Pilot” episode; “Nolan Ross Exposed”; “Roadmap to Revenge”; “At Home in ‘The Hamptons’”; “Haute Hamptons: Femme Fatale Fashion”; deleted scenes; bloopers; “Distance” music video by Christian Perri; “For You” music video by Angus and Julia Stone. (ABC Studios)