This week's releases include an apocalypse movie that gives its audience some credit; a Western that must settle for two-out-of-three; a stunning stop-motion animation from Tim Burton; and the latest from a dance franchise that has yet to become stale.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The Apparition (Blu-ray)
When frightening events start to occur in their home, young couple Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) discover they are being haunted by a presence that was accidentally conjured during a university parapsychology experiment. The horrifying apparition feeds on their fear and torments them no matter where they try to run. Their last hope is an expert in the supernatural, Patrick (Tom Felton), but even with his help they may already be too late to save themselves from this terrifying force.
When the characters in a haunting movie continue to act in ways that either allows the problem to persist, or makes it worse, it's difficult to care about what happens to them. Unfortunately, this is the case in this picture. First a character aware of what's happening ignores the signs and actual warnings that something evil is afoot. Then everyone bands together to literally amplify the situation. Then it concludes with a nonsensical ending. Casting Twilight's Greene and Harry Potter's Felton gives viewers an idea of who the expected audience was for the movie, but moviegoers deserve better. It delivers on the creepy a couple of times, but when you're constantly annoyed by the narrative it's hard to feel scared.
Special features not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Anchor Bay Films
The Day (Blu-ray)
A group of five survivors (Shawn Ashmore, Dominic Monaghan, Ashley Bell, Shannyn Sossamon and Cory Hardrict), armed with shotguns, axes and machetes, wander the back roads of a ravaged landscape looking for refuge. As war ravages humanity, destroying civilization and most of life on earth, the survivors realize they must do whatever it takes to stay alive. Lost, starving, and exhausted, they seek shelter in a seemingly safe abandoned farmhouse. However, while searching for food and resources, they unwittingly set off a trap signaling to their ruthless predators lying in wait to begin their deadly attack. With food and ammunition dwindling, the group must make a desperate final stand over a 24 hour period, battling for their ultimate survival.
When it comes to post-apocalyptic movies, we’ve pretty much seen it all. Here you get to pick your poison because the filmmakers don’t want to waste you’re valuable time duplicating what you’ve already seen; instead, they jump right into the middle of the story and never look back. Not only does the narrative not reveal the source of the desolation, it leaves the viewer to piece together key parts of the story, including who these people are to each other and what the constant threat is to their existence. It creates a more engaging experience, requiring thought and attention. The film is as visually stark as its environment, displaying drained colors and muted tones. There is a gradual build up to the violence, which is portrayed effectively; and even though it has a high body count, it’s not exceptionally gory. It’s impossible for a movie in this genre to be entirely unpredictable so you’ll probably figure out what they’re afraid of early on, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few surprises in store as well.
Special features include: commentary by executive producer/director Doug Aarniokoski, producer Guy Danella and writer Luke Passmore; and the trailer. (Anchor Bay Films)
The three Bondurant boys (Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf), along with their sultry new hire (Jessica Chastain), command the most lucrative bootlegging operation in Franklin County, Virginia. The locals consider them “indestructible.” But the law—in the form of a corrupt special deputy (Guy Pearce)—wants a cut of their action, at any cost. When youngest brother Jack gets a taste of power with a deadly gangster (Gary Oldman) the whole business blows sky high.
The Western is a genre that never really goes out of style. The line between right and wrong may be a little blurry, but it's always clear with which side your alliance should lie. In this movie, the brothers (based on real-life, Depression-era siblings who were widely known roughnecks and moonshiners) are lawbreakers, but their enemy lacks a code of honour or any shred of humanity. What is an otherwise excellent picture is spoiled repeatedly by an insufficient performance by LaBeouf. Hardy is brilliant as the man of few words. With a single grunt, he conveys whole sentences. Pearce’s Charlie Rakes is a fearful villain, sporting the coldest stare and total lack of compassion. Barely recognizable, he intimidates most people into submission with threats that are far from idle and gloves clearly meant to keep his hands clean during his dastardly deeds. Then there’s LaBeouf who sticks out like a sore thumb in his inadequacy to carry the role. He never appears comfortable in the part.
Special features not available. (Alliance Films)
ParaNorman (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Norman is a boy who must use his ability to see and speak with the dead to save his town from a centuries-old curse. In addition to spooky zombies, he’ll also have to take on mysterious ghosts, wily witches and, worst of all, clueless grown-ups. But this young ghoul whisperer will soon find his paranormal abilities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
If it's one thing the Brits know, it's black comedy. This is by no means the darkest humour to emerge from the U.K., but some caution should be exercised before allowing younger children to watch who may not be ready to face the sometimes crueler realities of life. The narrative also addresses a deeper theory of revenge, questioning the Biblical philosophy of "an eye for an eye" during a very touching exchange between Norman and the vengeful witch. The stop-motion animation is once again mesmerizing. A complementary style for the ghoulish narrative subject, the macabre zombies and plump townsfolk come to life on screen becoming more than the standard cartoon. Moreover, the sets are stunning, particularly the dark magic that swirls menacing, richly coloured clouds in the sky. The film is funny, but it also shows its depth with some thoughtful contemplation as well.
Special features not available. (Alliance Films)
Step Up Revolution (DVD)
Emily (Kathryn McCormick) arrives in Miami with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer and soon falls in love with Sean (Ryan Guzman), a young man who leads a dance crew in elaborate, cutting-edge flash mobs, called "The Mob." When a wealthy businessman (Peter Gallagher) threatens to develop The Mob's historic neighborhood and displace thousands of people, Emily must band together with Sean and The Mob to turn their performance art into protest art, and risk losing their dreams to fight for a greater cause.
This is the next installment in the Step Up franchise, which sets the dancing in Miami. In the first 20 minutes of the film, each five-minute interval marks a to-be-developed plot point in the picture: the dance crew performs flash mobs; they're going to come up against big business; the boy meets the girl; and their poverty will play a role. Surprisingly, they're still able to do something new with this series, having the dance crew perform flash mobs instead of just competing with other dancers. This also results in one of the most eclectic collections of dance styles working together in a single film. As always, the soundtrack is energizing and brings you into the story – not that there is a whole lot of story to follow. But these movies are about the mesmerizing choreography and beats, and on that front it delivers.
Special features not available. (Entertainment One)