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article imageReview: New on DVD for June 11 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 13, 2013 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include two outstanding new television series; an extension of a familiar story; a father putting it all on the line; a musical that doesn’t follow current trends; a captivating documentary; and three Disney library releases.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire / Atlantis: Milo’s Return– 2-Movie Collection (Blu-ray & DVD)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) and his fearless crew dive into the mysteries of the sea. The group’s underwater expedition brings them face-to-face with gigantic sea monsters, spectacular spirits and the mythical land of Atlantis while they discover the power of friendship and teamwork.
The story of a treasure hunt has no trouble catching the attention of an adventurer. There's built-in danger and excitement, good guys and bad, and love and loss. Even in cartoon form, Atlantis captures all of these elements to create a memorable and enjoyable movie. The imagery of the lost city is beautiful, powered by a captivating blue energy. In addition to the surface narrative, it also raises important environmental questions about natural resources and its effects on local inhabitants. And even though it's only his voice, Fox's jovial personality beams through Milo and immediately draws audiences to the character. The rest of the crew are given interesting personalities, but not enough screen time to really get to know them. The sequel is episodic with the explorers travelling to distant locales to fight monsters generated by Atlantis' power. It includes a kraken, but still doesn't quite measure up to the first film.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “How to Speak Atlantean”; and “Atlantis – Fact or Fiction?” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Emperor’s New Groove / Kronk’s New Groove – 2-Movie Collection (Blu-ray & DVD)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
The Emperor’s New Groove: When the young and spoiled Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is transformed into a llama by his sinister advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her henchman Kronk (Patrick Warburton), it takes a thoughtful peasant named Pasha (John Goodman) to restore the kingdom and show Kuzco just how much fun it is to be true to yourself.
Kronk’s New Groove: Kronk cooks up a get-rich quick scheme to impress his Dad. But when things go wrong, Kronk kicks into comical high gear and discovers that the true riches in life are his friends and being “true to your groove.”
This movie is not one of the studio's time-honoured favourites. While a talking llama with a bad attitude sounds good in theory, it mostly comes across as an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the classic Beauty and the Beast – minus Beauty. Emperor Kuzco's journey with Pacha is amusing as he constantly tries to usurp him rather than owe Bob a favour in return. On the other hand, Pacha is loyal to the kingdom, putting aside his personal feelings to serve the crown. Spade is fitting as Kuzco, often portraying antagonizing characters in live action pictures. Goodman is also solid as the large physical presence with heart. Switching the focus to Kronk for the second film, they try to rely on his goofiness to carry the movie; but slapstick can only go so far.
There are no special features. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become the ultimate vigilantes, hellbent on retribution. Now, they must face an evil greater than anything they’ve seen: a terrifying new threat so massive, it could destroy the world as we know it.
Based on the original fairy tale, it's not that far-fetched to turn the siblings into monster hunters and the story into the premise for an action picture. The witches are hideous, powerful and unexpectedly adept at hand-to-hand combat. Hansel is a strange mix of arrogance and humility, while Gretel is the more grounded of the two. Expanding on the gruesome details the Brothers Grimm were so fond of, the filmmaker makes an incredibly gory movie in which a number of people lose their heads in large splashes of blood. The troll is easily the best part of the film. Using animatronics rather than CGI, he appears more relatable and is easier to like than a computer animation. It's always commendable when a filmmaker opts for practical rather than computer-generated effects and characters.
Special features include: extended cut of the film; “Reinventing Hansel & Gretel”; “The Witching Hours”; and “Meet Edward the Troll.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
House of Cards: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Ruthless and cunning, Congressman Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) stop at nothing to conquer everything. This wicked political drama penetrates modern Washington D.C.’s shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption.
This is an original Netflix series based on the BBC series of the same name. The shows are similar as are the central character's ambitions, but the American version has more bite. Spacey's Underwood is far more ruthless but just as eloquent about his deception as Ian Richardson. His asides with the camera/viewer is a part of his charm and lets audiences feel as if they are in on the plan at every turn—though by the last few episodes you may not want to feel as much of an accomplice anymore. Claire is as scheming as her husband, aiding him in his plots and devising plans of her own; but she allows her emotions to inform her actions more often. The ease with which Underwood manipulates and uses people is astounding, entertaining and sometimes frightening.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Hunky Dory (DVD)
Entertainment One
Viv (Minnie Driver) is a fiery high school drama teacher determined to fire up her hormonal, apathetic students by putting on the best end-of-the-year show the school has ever seen—a glam rock-infused musical version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. But as the Welsh summer of 1976 begins to heat up, can she compete with the typical teenage distractions of sex and drugs with some great rock and roll?
With the popularity of teen musicals such as Glee and High School Musical, it's easy to be skeptical about new movies in this genre. But rooting the story in the '70s and giving it a great rock soundtrack, including well-sung covers of songs from legendary artists like David Bowie, The Beach Boys, ELO, and The Byrds, sets this picture apart. It's somewhat reminiscent of the 2004 movie Get Over It, which centred on a production of A Midsummer's Night Dream, but this is more down to earth. The kids are going through the regular teen issues ranging from unrequited love to divorced parents to bullying, though their stories are overshadowed by that of Viv. Her free spirit gets under the skin of the more traditional teachers at the school and they make sure they inform her of their disapproval at every opportunity.
Special features include: cast and crew interviews. (Entertainment One)
Jack & Diane (DVD)
M.O. Pictures
Jack (Riley Keough) and Diane (Juno Temple), two teenage girls, meet in New York City on a hot summer day and connect immediately. Bubbly and naive, Diane's charming innocence softens tomboy Jack's tough-skinned heart. But when Jack discovers that Diane is only visiting, she pushes Diane away. Overwhelmed by her new feelings, Diane's emotions begin to cause mysterious and violent changes to her body. Young love is a monster—can Jack and Diane survive?
Temple and Keough are excellent. They share an awkward chemistry that leaps off the screen and wraps audiences in the euphoria and frustration of young love. It's sweet but not cookie-cutter or idealistic. However, their engaging performances are soured by the "monster" element of the film. Feeding into the ideology that female sexuality is evil, the girls' attraction to each other is portrayed as a hideous beast that mutates each time they grow closer. It can only be hoped that this is unintentional, but it makes their love seem unnatural. In addition, the attempt to deal with other aspects of female sexuality is handled distastefully in the name of another plot device.
There are no special features. (M.O. Pictures)
Killing Lincoln (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
This documentary recounts the events surrounding the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. While some aspects of the plot to slay Lincoln and cripple the newly forming union are widely known, much more of the history unfolds here. As John Wilkes Booth becomes increasingly obsessed with removing Lincoln from office, a secret faction of conspirators forms, and ultimately empowers Booth to carry out an event that changed America forever. Narrated by Tom Hanks.
It's not often a historical documentary is compelling – it's not like there's going to be a surprise ending. Yet this one manages to feel a little like an investigative thriller akin to Law & Order. Following the final weeks of Lincoln's life, Hanks delivers a countdown to the fateful moment in the president’s box when he would be shot by Booth. As the time grows closer, the narrative increases in intensity. Rather than end at the assassination, the story continues by taking up a countdown to the day Booth would be tracked down and killed. Billy Campbell and Jesse Johnson convincingly portray Lincoln and Booth respectively, allowing much of the tale to unfold as a traditional film while Hanks provides the context for each diorama.
Special features include: commentary by executive producer and screenwriter Erik Jendersen; interview with co-author Bill O’Reilly; a making-of featurette; and promotional features. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Lilo & Stitch – 2-Movie Collection (Blu-ray & DVD)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Lilo and Stitch: Lilo is a lonely little girl, and Stitch the mischievous little creature from outer space. When Stitch crash-lands in Hawaii, Lilo adopts him as her pet, but he soon turns her world upside down. Stitch takes Hawaii by storm, wreaking havoc and hanging ten while he evades the alien bounty hunters who are after him, and also learning about loyalty and friendship.
Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch: As Stitch settles into life with his human family it appears his molecular makeup is out of whack and his friendship with Lilo is threatened as a result. Lilo and her friends must find a way to restore his “goodness” level before he ruins everything, including Lilo’s big hula competition – the same competition her mother won years before.
This film produced one of the most lovable, marketable characters in Disney's arsenal of cute. Stitch is adorable and funny, grabbing audience's hearts in an instant. His disguise as a pound puppy is the hilarious plot device that keeps on giving. Lilo's untraditional family is also a rarity in general audience fair, but with the accepting message of family no matter what they show an exemplary love for one another. The other characters are a lot of fun and provide great range to the story from the clumsy hunters to the unconventional social worker to the by-the-rules alien boss. The constant capture and escape of Stitch is one of the more entertaining, recurring occurrences. The second picture pulls even harder on the heartstrings when Stitch and Lilo's friendship is risked by bioengineering error when Stitch was created. His determination not to let Lilo down is touching—and their fascination with Elvis is amusing.
There are no special features. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Newsroom: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & DVD)
The behind-the-scenes drama takes a look at a cable-news program at the fictional ACN Network, focusing on the on- and off-camera lives of its anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), new executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), their newsroom staff (John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn and Dev Patel), their news-division boss (Sam Waterston), and corporate owner (Jane Fonda). Overcoming a tumultuous first day, the team sets out on a patriotic if quixotic mission to reclaim the legacy of Murrow and Cronkite in the face of a fickle audience, corporate mandates and tangled personal relationships.
The first episode of this series is a hard-hitting, dramatic introduction to the stresses of television producing and news reporting. Everyone is aware of the decline in TV and paper news consumption. The Internet has changed the landscape and is making journalists work harder and adapt to maintain their audiences. MacKenzie's approach is not to pander to the lowest common denominator, but to give viewers the important information on top news items so they can make informed decisions of their own. Will has been coasting on high approval ratings because he stopped asking the hard questions—but that changes the moment she’s hired. Of course there's romantic tensions because a good TV series is also about relationships, but they're only a fraction of the overall that comes together to create exciting and intense episodes. Covering the news from 2010 allows the show to use real stories, beginning with the BP oil disaster. With talent like David Fincher and Joel Schumacher behind the camera, Daniels and Mortimer in front of it, and Aaron Sorkin creating the whole thing, it's no wonder this series is an instant hit.
Special features include: five commentaries with cast and crew, including Aaron Sorkin, Daniels, Mortimer and more; deleted scenes; “The Rundown,” detailed discussions about shooting the first season; “Mission Control,” a behind-the-scenes featurette; “Inside the Episodes.” (HBO)
Oz The Great and Powerful (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Diggs must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity, and even some wizardry, Diggs transforms himself into the great Wizard and a better man.
Though Diggs is the story's protagonist, it is as much about his arrival in Oz as it is about the history of the witches. It shows the caring but clever nature of Glinda the Good Witch (Williams), as well as Evanora's (Weisz) hand in turning her kind-hearted though ill-tempered sister Theodora (Kunis) into The Wicked Witch of the West. Viewers are also given the opportunity to meet the non-munchkin inhabitants of Oz, including the Tinkers, Farmers and an orphaned but spirited china girl (Joey King). Director Sam Raimi’s history with monster movies also influences his direction of the Wicked Witch. He obviously encourages Kunis not to be afraid to be over-the-top in her green garb. And the final "monster" is sure to remind fans of a Deadite. Rather than spend too much time focusing on already established details like the flying monkeys, this film shows audiences what they’ve yet to see.
Special features include: “My Journey in Oz by James Franco”; “Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions”; “China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief”; “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz”; “Mila’s Metamorphosis”; “Walt Disney and the Road to Oz”; and Disney’s Second Screen. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Snitch (Blu-ray & DVD)
Entertainment One
A successful businessman (Dwayne Johnson) learns his son is facing 10 tough years in a federal prison for drug possession. Convinced it was a setup, he volunteers to become an undercover informant and infiltrate a ruthless cartel. Now, with his back against the wall and his life totally on the line, he must expose the true criminals before they discover his identity.
Not surprisingly, Johnson is typically casted in action movies—he has the physique and the experience. But even though there are a couple of action sequences in this picture, they're not physically demanding. In this film, Johnson cannot rely on his brawn to win the battle. His character is just a well-to-do businessman willing to do anything to save his son, even though that means going well beyond his realm of experience. Is the story likely? Probably not, though they try to make it as realistic as possible by not making the father appear to be a superhero. Everything he does is from instinct, not skill. Nonetheless there's some intense moments during a car chase on the highway. Johnson is believable as the worried father, though there is still something missing from his portrayal. Barry Pepper is great as the cop with undercover experience acting as John's guide into the crime world.
Special features include: commentary by director Ric Roman Waugh and editor Jonathan Chibnall; deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Entertainment One)
More about Oz the great and powerful, Snitch, the newsroom, House of Cards, Hansel & Gretel
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