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article imageReview: New on DVD for August 6 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 7, 2013 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include TV comedy gold; a faithful adaptation, for better or worse; a new twist on a worn storyline; a couple of documentaries that command your attention; and a film that still entertains 50 years after its original release.
Community: The Complete Fourth Season (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Entering their epic senior year at Greendale Community College, these people aren’t just a study group, they’re family! They’ll have to be, if they hope to survive a comedy-crammed year with everything from an alienating sci-fi convention, a German re-invasion and a Thanksgiving dinner from hell, to a hostage-taking Christmas, a life-changing father/son reunion and even a transformation into puppets!
It's the Greendale study group's final year of college, which means they're reviving every gag from the last three years and taking it to the limit. Abed TV dominates the first episode as he tries to deal with anxiety caused by change using Britta's ill-advised therapy technique. The group's first official couple is out of place, but eventually leads to an interesting Freaky Friday homage. The darkest timeline makes a fun return, though it seems like there were some missed opportunities in the episode. "New Jeff" isn't as entertaining as the old one and few of the narrative developments appear to carry over to more than one episode, but this remains one of the best comedy shows on television.
Special features include: cast and crew commentary on each episode; deleted and extended scenes; “Inspector Spacetime: Inspection,” a behind-the-scenes tour of the Inspector Spacetime convention; “Adventures in Advanced Puppetry” featurette; and outtakes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Ishtar (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rogers and Clarke (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman) are two inept songwriters, down on their luck and desperate for money. Taking the advice of their shifty agent, the duo is whisked off on a tour of the mystical republic of Ishtar. On their arrival, our heroes are separately recruited into spying for opposing sides of a planned revolution, while simultaneously vying for the attention of a gorgeous female freedom fighter (Isabelle Adjani). But Clarke and Rogers make worse spies than they do songwriters, and soon they’re left stranded in the desert with only a blind camel and several CIA assassins for company.
Special features not available. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Magic Magic (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
In a foreign country, far from home, Alicia (Juno Temple) arrives in South America to vacation with her cousin, Sarah (Emily Browning). When Sarah is suddenly called away, Alicia is stuck on a remote island off Chile with three of Sarah’s friends, including Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and Brink (Michael Cera), an American exchange student with a sadistic streak. Bewildered, frightened, and unable to sleep, Alicia’s reality becomes a nightmare from which there is no waking. Ancient indigenous rites, disturbing animal behavior and captivating hypnotic trances come together in an intense exploration into the darkest corners. When the games go too far, reality unravels with astonishing and deadly consequences.
Special features not available. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
On the Road (DVD)
Entertainment One
The film tells the story of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a devastatingly charming ex-con and his girl, Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Traveling cross-country, Sal and Dean venture out on a personal quest for freedom from the conformity and conservatism engulfing them in search of the unknown, themselves, and the pursuit of “it” - the pure essence of experience.
The characters in Jack Kerouac’s book and this film are pseudonyms for real-life influencers of the Beat Generation; though if you're familiar with these personalities, the names do little to conceal their identities. Sal's narrative is lifted from the novel and carries through the whole picture. Rather than be intrusive, it saturates Kerouac's voice and point of view into the entire film. His perspective is expressed in folksy prose that sounds like Americana poetry. However the movie frequently jumps forward months at a time because noteworthy things just don't happen to regular people every day nor are they extraordinary by most standards: road trips, parties, concerts, infidelity and speeding tickets comprise the narrative’s significant events. It’s Kerouac's way with words that makes it all seem more substantial. Riley inhabits the role of Sam/Kerouac, bringing both the words and actions to life, further confirming his talent for relating real-life personalities. Hedlund is a gorgeous maverick, making every moment spent with Dean exciting.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Entertainment One)
The Place Beyond the Pines (Blu-ray)
Entertainment One
Luke (Ryan Gosling) gives up his job as a motorcycle stunt performer in order to provide for his new family. Avery (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious rookie cop, struggles to make his way in a corrupt police department. Their two worlds collide when Luke takes part in a string of bank robberies and the consequences of their shocking confrontation will reverberate into the next generation.
On the one hand, this is a trilogy rolled into one picture. Each of these stories could have been expanded to standalone, but are instead connected to create an overarching narrative of tragedy and discovery. Though told as they are together, they could have used some condensing. The triptych influence is derived from the rich colour palette and the idea that these are three narratives arranged almost parallel to each other. The unfortunate part of this script is the stories have been seen numerous times before; though the fact that it is strikingly executed elevates the picture to some level above mediocrity. The opening appearance of Gosling’s tattoo-covered, naked torso sets the stage for his dark, troubled stare and soft interior. He’s the bad boy with a sensitive side just trying to do the best he can. Cooper’s character is similar emotionally, even though his background is poles apart. But there’s more insecurity behind Avery’s actions than Luke’s. Underneath all the drama, there are glimmers of greatness; but it just doesn’t break all the way through.
Special features include: commentary by co-writer/director Derek Cianfrance; deleted and extended scenes; and “Going to The Place Beyond the Pines.” (Entertainment One)
Sushi: The Global Catch (DVD)
Kino Canada
Have you ever eaten sushi? If so, the phenomenal growth in demand for sushi has come at a cost: overfishing has led to depleting fish stocks, which in turn has threatened the balance of the ocean's ecosystems. Is the current sushi trade sustainable? What can be done to ensure that the prized Blue Fin Tuna exists for future generations to come? This timely documentary -- winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the 2012 San Francisco Green Film Festival -- poses some important questions that all sushi lovers should give thought to before placing their next order of sushi.
It's becoming increasingly necessary for consumers to become conscious of where their food comes from and its impact on the ecosystem. This documentary does not set out to villainize any industry or activity, but rather inform viewers so they can make educated decisions about their consumption. Following the journey in reverse order from restaurant to ocean, director Mark Hall speaks to respected sushi chefs in Japan and the U.S., seafood dealers, fisherman, academics and activists. Sticking to the facts and letting "experts" do the talking allows the film to remain impartial and avoid being preachy or extreme, while making a convincing argument that this is an important issue that requires your attention.
Special features include: theatrical trailer; and stills gallery. (Kino Canada)
The Sword in the Stone (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
This is the journey of a young orphan named “Wart” and the extraordinary wizard Merlin. According to legend, only someone with the purest character and inner strength can pull the enchanted sword from the stone and claim the throne of England. Armed with newfound confidence and the power of friendship, Wart discovers his destiny and learns the best magic is the kind you find inside yourself.
While this is a version of the tale of how Arthur became King of England that is not the focus of the narrative. This movie is a fun story about the friendship developed between Arthur and the wizard Merlin that includes time spent as a fish, squirrel and bird, each of which result in some fur-raising antics (and heartbreak). The film’s climax occurs when Merlin faces off against a witch in a magical duel rather than when Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. The educated owl is amusing and the picture has a vibrancy that computer animation cannot capture. Though it was released a year earlier than the live-action animation crossover The Incredible Mr. Limpet, the adventures are quite similar in nature.
Special features include: new alternative opening in which Wart meets Merlin; “Music and Magic: The Sherman Brothers”; sing-along with the movie; “All About Magic” (excerpt); “A Knight for a Day”; and “Brave Little Tailor.” (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Thick of It: Series One to Four (DVD)
BBC Home Entertainment
This series chronicles the blunders of the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, a government department barely registering on the national radar. In this Ministry, every announcement is followed by a whirlwind of U-turns, every policy is a scramble and every mishap is met with abuse from the Prime Minister’s policy enforcer. This is the original BBC inspiration for the HBO series Veep and the Academy Award-nominated film In the Loop.
Appearing to be genuine political ineptitude is the series' main strength. Beginning with the ousting of the previous Social Affairs minister, viewers are given a taste of the cutthroat dealing that occurs in Parliament. New minister Hugh Abbott is surrounded by staff who unfortunately share his instinct for misunderstandings and poor decision-making, turning each episode into a folly of errors that they try to quietly disguise. Of course it generally reaches the ears of the party’s spin doctor, who steps in with an iron hand to remedy the situation and protect the interests of the prime minister’s office. The cast is expanded in later seasons with some replacements, but the core remains. It's never so extreme as to seem ridiculously out of touch with reality, but just incompetent enough to be believable. It also maintains the element of realism by regularly mirroring actual political storylines and satirizing real-life politicians.
Special features not available. (BBC Home Entertainment)
To the Wonder (Blu-ray and DVD)
VVS Films
After visiting Mont Saint-Michel — once known in France as the Wonder — at the height of their love, Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck) come to Oklahoma, where problems soon arise. Marina makes the acquaintance of a priest and fellow exile (Javier Bardem), who is struggling with his vocation, while Neil renews his ties with a childhood friend, Jane (Rachel McAdams).
In spite of the above description, director Terrence Malick's latest screen venture does not have much of a script. Most scenes are silent or muted; those that aren't have minimal but significant dialogue or a voiceover. There is no soundtrack, but the film is striking. The words of the speaker sound as if they are from journal entries, or just thoughts released into the universe with no particular care about who may or may not hear them. Visually the film is lyrical in its melodic framing and rhythmic editing. These imperfect love stories are emotionally raw, using the power of body language to convey feelings instead of whispered sweet nothings and tearful confessions. Though it initially feels like a fleeting experience, the film proves quite haunting in the days following.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (VVS Films)
West of Memphis (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
This documentary tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to stop the State of Arkansas from killing an innocent man. Told and produced by those who lived it, Damien Echols and Lorri Davis, the film uncovers new evidence surrounding the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, and exposes the wrongful conviction of three teenagers who lost 18 years of their lives imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
Countless instances of institutional injustice occur daily around the world. These men happen to catch the attention of some influential people who became determined to shed light on their plight and see that it was remedied. The West Memphis Three were also the subjects of the documentary trilogy Paradise Lost, but this film is to some extent the Cliff's notes version. The focus on Damian Echols is likely due to his death sentence, but the deleted scenes show significant time was also devoted to Jessie Misskelley Jr., the alleged confessor. The movie does an excellent job tracing events from the initial accusations to the discovery of new evidence to the eventual deal reached that gave the three men their freedom. It's not unbiased, but it does include interviews with people of differing opinions.
Special features include: commentary by director Amy Berg, Damien Echols and Lorri Davis; deleted scenes; and “Damien’s Past Re-Creations.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Digital download
The follows filmmaker activist Rob Stewart as he embarks on a four-year adventure through 15 countries to find the key to empowering a sweeping conservation movement across Canada and the world. After travelling to some of Earth’s most beautiful and fragile ecosystems, learning from the top environmental scientists and participating in major anti-pollution protests and rallies across the globe, Rob leads audiences to the ultimate understanding – that the younger generation is our future. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment and D Films)
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