This week’s releases include an adventure fuelled by alcohol; a host of boundary-pushing women; an enchanted love story; an outrageous comedy; a distinctive personality caught on film; a beautiful mess; and a dog with a potty-mouth.
Straight-A college student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) has always done what’s expected of him. But when his two best friends Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) surprise him with a visit for his 21st birthday, he decides to do the unexpected for a change, even though his critical medical school interview is early the next morning. What was supposed to be one beer becomes a night of chaos, over indulgence and utter debauchery.
This rite-of-passage, mission-oriented, booze fest has been created and recreated for the screen countless times. From teddy bear circumcisions to punishments that match their formerly dream-like crime to a quest to reach the "tower master," this film still manages to makes some original contributions to the genre. One of the best elements of the film is the chemistry between the three main characters; without which, the entire movie would be unwatchable. The jokes are expectedly crass, racist, sexist and often hilarious. But the film as a whole is hit-and-miss. A scene that garnered numerous laughs could be followed by another that might only get a snicker. It seems to work best when they're not trying so hard to make it funny; the comedy that develops within the scene is far more effective.
Special features include: “Levels of Intoxication”; “Tower of Power”; and gag reel. (Entertainment One)
The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
A guilt-ridden Corpse takes on a heavy burden when he agrees to help a Fallen Angel keep the other undead in their graves and the powers of evil from corrupting our world. This animated living dead story is based on the cult underground Dynamite comic series, “The Living Corpse Exhumed” by Ken Haeser and Buz Hasson.
There are two parallel stories being told: the tortured father and the tormented son. The problem is the repetition within each tale. Each time you check in with the boy, he's being bullied by his peers; every visit with the soulful zombie is another plea to reach his loved ones. Moreover, the video game-style of animation lends nothing to the film. Just as we've become desensitized to the violence featured in many games, this style distances the viewer from what is supposed to be a touching narrative. While some of the action sequences still work, the lulls and disconnect really hurt this adaptation.
Special features include: Digital copy of “The Living Corpse: Haunted” comic. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
American Mary (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a keen, intelligent but broke, medical student on her way to becoming a surgeon. To pay her bills, Mary goes looking for work in a seedy nightclub where she ends up putting her medical skills to use – getting paid by the club owner (Antonio Cupo) to ‘sew up’ one of his crime riddled defects. Mary is contacted the next day by the strange and mysterious Beatress (Tristan Risk), a dancer from the club and living embodiment of a freakish cartoon character who proposes that Mary fill a much needed void in the underground body modification community providing services that mainstream surgeons won’t touch. As Mary’s financial situation improves, her journey from promising medical student leads her to become a cold and distant woman as she slips deeper and deeper into a dark underworld.
This is a challenging film. It defies any single definition, but is exceptional in so many ways. Canadian writers/directors Jen and Sylvia Soska, a.k.a The Soska Twins, achieve in creating a dark, amusing and, most importantly, captivating film, that takes audiences on a unique journey. Not only are viewers inside Mary's head, but they are invited into the intriguing world of body modification. Isabelle is outstanding. Her performance is chilling as she acts without emotion in every situation. She definitely achieves a new level in this role. Overall, it's also a great looking picture. The primary use of red and black, and the duller day scenes set the tone for the film. And while it's about cutting into flesh, it's not excessively bloody. The cinematography always brings the viewer’s eye back to Mary as it is her behaviour driving the narrative, not necessarily the procedures she performs.
Special features include: commentary by directors Jen and Sylvia Soska and actress Katharine Isabelle; and a making-of featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Brass Teapot (DVD)
John (Michael Angarano) and Alice (Juno Temple) are 20-something, married, very much in love, and broke. Once voted "most likely to succeed," Alice struggles to make ends meet while her friends enjoy the good life. John, neurotic and riddled with phobias, just wants to get the bills paid. But an accident leads them to a roadside antique shop where Alice is drawn to a mysterious brass teapot. It isn't long before they realize this is no ordinary teapot and that perhaps they have found the answer to all of their financial woes.
This movie exceeds all expectations. What could have been a gory send up to the Monkey's Paw is actually a lighthearted comedy about love and pain. Their discovery of the teapot's magical ability is completely innocent and even when they're tempted to fall under its evil spell they remain likeable. Their appeal is only enhanced by the humorous greed that is constantly threatening to disrupt their happiness. Temple and Angarano are wonderful, never appearing truly malicious or beyond redemption. This is an excellent feel good picture that will surprise viewers with the warm fuzzies when it ends.
There are no special features. (M.O. Pictures)
Kivalina v. Exxon (DVD)
In an epic battle against the world's biggest polluters – the oil and gas corporations – Kivalina, a tiny village in Northwest Alaska struggles to survive and save itself from the consequences of global warming.
This documentary humanizes the issues of climate change, illustrating its effects through the personal stories of the people in this drowning community. While the title suggests it’s about a David v. Goliath court battle, it actually focuses on the many difficulties faced by the residents of Kivalina with an occasional interjection by the lawyer; though this massive undertaking could have been compelling. While the history and issues facing the area are interesting, they also become repetitive. The inability to hunt whales due to the lack of ice and the obstacles to moving the community make up the majority of the narrative. This is an important story, but it could have been told more effectively.
There are no special features. (Entertainment One)
Movie 43 (Blu-ray)
No inappropriate storyline is off limits, including a “ballsy” blind date, a middle school “period” piece and more.
It was difficult to know what to expect at the start of this picture and it doesn't stop being shocking until the final credits roll. The most fascinating element is the star power connected to such absurd narratives, which includes Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Emma Stone, Richard Gere and Justin Long. It's disturbing, disgusting and grossly inappropriate at every turn; but it generally does a great job spoofing those typically magical movie moments, from a couple's "first time" to the inspiring dressing room speech to an underdog basketball team. The guilt-ridden laughs are inevitable.
Special features include: deleted short “Find Our Daughter.” (Entertainment One)
Lifelong friends Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reggie (Tom Courtenay), together with former colleague Cissy (Pauline Collins), are residents of Beecham House, a home for retired musicians. Every year on Giuseppe Verdi's birthday, the residents unite to give a concert to raise funds for their home. But when Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a former grande dame of the opera and Reggie's ex-wife, moves into the home to everyone's surprise, the plans for this year's concert start to unravel.
In a word, this film is sweet. There is humour and joy throughout the whole picture. Even the challenges of old age are approached lightheartedly rather than regretfully. Cissy's worsening Alzheimer’s is simply a part of who she is – an aspect to which her friends have adapted, reminding her and caring for her when necessary. Wilf uses his stroke as an excuse to speak without a filter, making hilarious comments and flirtatious advances to every woman he meets. The entire narrative and its characters are driven by music. Few scenes occur without some form of a soundtrack. The cast of actors is rounded out by many professional musicians and opera singers, relishing an on screen opportunity to showcase their talents once more. Actor Dustin Hoffman steps behind the camera for the first (credited) time to direct the film and he does a fantastic job with the adapted play. Everything plays out perfectly on the screen.
Special features include: commentary by director Dustin Hoffman; and behind-the-scenes featurette. (Entertainment One)
Skull World (Blu-ray)
Raven Banner Entertainment
Greg Sommer is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, encased in a jean jacket vest. An enterprising man in his early 30s, Greg, and his alter-ego Skull Man, are at war. Box Wars that is. Welcome to Greg’s world. A world of warriors, magic and glory. A world of metal. Greg is building the Canadian-chapter at Box Wars, an international underground movement of cardboard-based combat. The documentary follows several years in the life of Greg, and sheds light on exactly what makes him and his goals in life so unique.
As the title implies, to some extent Sommer lives in a world of his own creation. A Halloween costume morphed into an alternate personality that allows him to be louder and braver. Without the mask, he's a caring, spiritual guy who has a lot of innovative ideas, which he funds by living in his mom's basement. Strangely, even though you wouldn't think it, Sommer is a pretty interesting subject. Much of this fascination is provided by his investment in officially establishing Box Wars in Canada, led by his alter ego Skull Man. Slightly less involved than cosplay, armoured in often elaborate cardboard creations, men and women battle each other with weapons of their own making. Sometimes a good story can be found just by training the camera on the right person. This is a very straightforward documentary about one man's journey over several years to make his dreams a reality, which include a DVD to peddle at his own Fan Expo booth, a TV show, a trip to Australia and a real-life girlfriend who is accepting of his unique personality.
Special features include: commentary by director Justin McConnell and Greg Sommer; “Skull Man’s Rockin’ Commentary Experience”; 16 deleted scenes; seven extended segments and battles, including full-length Australia trip; photo galleries; and trailer. (Raven Banner Entertainment)
Stoker (Blu-ray and Ultraviolet)
Fox Home Entertainment
Following the tragic death of her father on her eighteenth birthday, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) meets Charlie (Matthew Goode), her charismatic uncle, whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with India and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman), both are drawn to his charming and calming demeanor. But it soon becomes clear that Charlie’s arrival was no coincidence, and that the shocking secrets of his past could affect India’s future or shatter it completely.
This film exists in moments. While watching the movie, most of the events are predictable. The script never attempts to deviate and surprise audiences with the unexpected. Instead, it sets out on a beaten path and follows it straight through to the last act. However, the mastery is in the delivery of these predictable scenes. South Korean director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) frames the shots to produce seamless parallel editing. He uses a shot's depth to reveal additional layers of the story. Creative lighting and editing create suspense within a scene, in spite of knowing exactly what's about to unfold. In short, this film is gorgeous. Moreover, Goode is outstanding. His piercing gaze and striking good looks make it easy to ignore Charlie's odd behavior.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “An Exclusive Look: A Filmmaker’s Journey”; Theatrical Behind-the-Scenes: Mysterious Characters, Designing the Look, and Creating the Music; Red carpet premiere: Emily Wells’ performance of “Becomes the Color”; “Hypnotherapy”; “Becomes the Color” free song download; and image galleries. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Tower Block (DVD)
One tower block. Fifteen tenants. One sniper. Someone is picking off the last remaining occupants, using a high powered, silenced rifle. Nobody has heard the shots, and no help is coming. If the terrified victims can't figure out how to escape, they're all going to be killed, one by one.
When confining the action to a single location, it can be challenging to maintain the momentum as well as the audience's interest. But a good idea executed well can make an exciting low budget picture. And the U.K. is proving increasingly adept in this style of filmmaking. The source of the threat is predictable enough, but it’s not a mystery waiting to be solved. It's a story about survival – and with all night to plan the odds are in the sniper's favour. The consistency with which the action moves forward is quite impressive. There are numerous surprises along the way and most of the characters do more than just whine about their situation, though that job is assigned to a couple of tough guys rather than a woman. Cockneys vs Zombies writer James Moran is carving an entertaining screenwriting niche for himself.
There are no special features. (M.O. Pictures)
The Wild West (DVD)
BBC Home Entertainment
Was General Custer little more than an inept, vain man? Was Wyatt Earp a hero at the O.K. Corral, or a villain? Did Billy the Kid deserve his sentence of execution? Audiences have been captivated by the Wild West and its thrilling tales of heroism and triumph over adversity. But where does truth separate from fiction in these legendary stories? Blending fast-paced drama with the latest archaeological, forensic and ballistic research, this series brings the truth to life.
There are no special features. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Wilfred: The Complete Season 2 (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
Ryan (Elijah Wood) is making a fresh start with a real job and a new girlfriend. But with Wilfred’s (Jason Gann) help, Ryan discovers he still has a lot to learn about life, including “squishy” viral videos and the on-going cuteness war between dogs and babies.
It would seem that Wilfred's amnesia would have let Ryan off the hook, giving him an easy out. Instead the sabotage continues and the talking, man-sized dog repeatedly thwarts Ryan's attempts at redemption. But it's not all bad. This season Ryan finds a way to win over his boss and he's given the opportunity to make up with his sister. He's also able to finally put aside his pursuit of Jenna when he finds a girl that actually reciprocates his interest. This show is still brimming with dark humour and new ideas. Not all of Wilfred's antics are gold -- but he's a dog so what more could you expect.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Stay,” exclusive short; “News at Noon with Jenna”; Wilfred/Ryan mash-up; and blooper reel. (Fox Home Entertainment)