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Digital Journal Reports

article imageReview: New on DVD — Films from the '90s Special

The new releases include a number of films from the ‘90s; a rich and seductive vampire picture; and a lesson in scaring.
Byzantium (DVD)
Mongrel Media
Introverted Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and the outgoing Clara (Gemma Arterton) both carry secrets from deep in their shared past—all 200 years of it. Shacked up in the seedy Byzantium Hotel, they scheme to keep their secrets from unsuspecting new marks in this seductive, stylish new take on the vampire genre.
From the director of Interview with the Vampire, this film recaptures the stylish, seductive darkness that permeated that film. Switching between the past and present, Eleanor reflects for the hundredth time on the tale that Clara recounted when explaining how they came into being. Images of the past are slightly more muted than the contemporary world, fading the offenses and sickness that informed their existence. The present is more sensual as the power now lies with them and their cravings pull them in different directions. After two centuries, Eleanor understands but no longer condones her mother's tactics -- a rift that widens each day. The source of their transformation is breathtaking in both its natural and unnatural state, the blood red waterfalls repeatedly filling the screen in all its glory.
Special features include: cast and crew interviews; and theatrical trailer. (Mongrel Media)
Down Periscope (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Veteran skipper Thomas Dodge (Kelsey Grammer) will never be a textbook officer, but he’s a brilliant seaman who’s always wanted to command a nuclear submarine. Instead, he’s given the helm of The Stingray, a diesel-powered World War II sub crewed by a collection of maladjusted, mistake-prone misfits (Lauren Holly, Rob Schneider and Harry Dean Stanton), then ordered to take on the U.S. Navy’s best in a crucial war game.
This is old school, Police Academy- style comedy set deep in the ocean. Grammer takes the helm as a by the books leader who throws it all to the wind when given the barely sea-worthy sub. Jokes about his second-in-command being a woman proliferate the first-half of the script, though she eventually earns their respect (even though it was generally just given to male officers). The band of misfits that makeup his crew are the typical bunch of comedic screw-ups, including a man who has an issue with the volume of his voice, another that's been electrocuted more times than he can count and a guy forced into service by his decorated father. The hijinks still stand-up even if some of the humour is a little dated.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Inventing the Abbotts (DVD)
Forbidden love and impossible dreams intertwine when the handsome, working-class Holt brothers are drawn to the beautiful and wealthy Abbott sisters.
This is an epic love story that spans several years and separations. Joaquin Phoenix still had an air of innocence that allowed him to be the younger, more naive and sensitive brother who truly falls head over heels with his Juliet played by Liv Tyler, who is perfection in his eyes. In the meantime, Billy Crudup uses his devilishly good looks to seduce the sisters in an attempt to ruin their family's reputation as an act of revenge for the wrongs they've committed against his kin. In spite of their attractions to each other, these families are like oil and water just waiting for the slightest spark to set the whole thing ablaze.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Killer Tomato double feature (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Killer Tomatoes Strike Back: They may be full of vitamin C, but they’re also vicious and Dr. Gangreen (John Astin), a crazed scientist, is using them to take over the world. Responsible for the near-annihilation of humanity in the past, Gangreen now launches a tomato PR campaign on a trashy talk show. Fortunately, the professor’s plot for world domination is foiled by hard-bitten detective Lance Boyle (Rick Rockwell), who doesn’t believe in killer tomatoes, although his gorgeous associate, a tomatologist, is determined to make him a believer, and she’s just the tomato to do it.
Killer Tomatoes Eat France!: Filmed in France, the juicy plot unfolds as the evil professor Gangreen (Astin) and his bungling henchmen Igor (Steve Lundquist) create a new strain of tomatoes to devour the country. Only a young American tourist claiming to be Michael J. Fox (Marc Price) and his girlfriend (Angela Visser), who’s one hot tomato herself, can stop them. The battle rages from the dungeon of France’s newest tourist attraction, “Igor’s Really Big Castle,” to a Ben-Hur style car chase around the Arc de Triomphe and a heavy metal rock riot at the Louvre.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Monster’s University (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Ever since college-bound Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal) was a little monster, he has dreamed of becoming a Scarer—and he knows better than anyone that the best Scarers come from Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike's plans are derailed when he crosses paths with hotshot James P. Sullivan, "Sulley" (voice of John Goodman), a natural-born Scarer. The pair's out-of-control competitive spirit gets them both kicked out of the University's elite Scare Program. To make matters worse, they realize they will have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right.
Going back into the histories of already established characters is tricky, but it has great entertainment potential. This is Mike and Sully’s origin story. The one restraint Pixar appears to have obeyed is not stretching the narrative to tie in too many characters from the first film. They use this movie as an opportunity to imagine new types of monsters and introduce new personalities to audiences. It's obvious creators were influenced by frat/college movies of the '70s and '80s. Of course the vulgarity of the genre is cleaned up for a Disney audience, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Even when they’re not getting along, Mike and Sully play great on screen together. More than a decade later, Crystal and Goodman step back into their respective green and blue feet flawlessly. Steve Buscemi also reprises his role, exploring how Randy became the bitter nemesis of their future.
Special features include: The Blue Umbrella theatrical short; commentary; deleted scenes; “Campus Life”; “Story School”; “Scare Games”; “Monthropology”; “Welcome to MU”; “Music Appreciation”; “Scare Tactics”; “Color and Light”; “Paths to Pixar: MU Edition”; “Furry Monsters”; “Set Flythroughs”; art gallery; and promo picks. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
With all the new social rules on political correctness, the only fun left at Port Charles University is The Pit, an outlawed underground fraternity house. Here, no behaviour is too offensive and no lifestyle too bizarre. These fraternity brothers and sisters are lazy, lawless and loud – and determined to turn PCU back into the party school it was meant to be.
This frat movie sits somewhere between Animal House and Van Wilder, both in chronology and style. Jeremy Piven is the lifetime student reveling in the party atmosphere and avoiding most academic elements of the educational institution. His group of outcast brothers and sisters aren't as distinctive as those that came before them, but they are the type of low-attention span, burnout, misfits one expects to find lounging around The Pit. Facing off against the fun-killing University president (Jessica Waiter) and her rival fraternity minions (David Spade), the group must band together to pull off the biggest fundraising party the campus has ever seen -- with the help of funk legend George Clinton.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Toys (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Leslie Zevo (Robin Williams) is a fun-loving adult who must save his late father’s toy factory from his evil uncle (Michael Gambon), a war-loving general who builds weapons disguised as toys. Aided by his sister (Joan Cusack) and girlfriend (Robin Wright), Leslie sits out to thwart his uncle and restore joy and innocence to their special world.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Trapped in Paradise (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Bill (Nicolas Cage) is a good-hearted guy doing his best to keep pathological Dave (Jon Lovitz) and kleptomaniac Alvin (Dana Carvey) out of trouble. But the two small-time crooks lure their brother into robbing a bank in the small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania, where pulling off the heist is a snap compared to getting out of the town after a snowstorm hits. The brothers soon discover that all their big-city smarts are useless against the unsuspecting, good-hearted townsfolk who shower them with kindness at every turn.
Before Cage began starring in the unintentional comedy, he featured in a few genuine ones. As the nice brother, he struggles to keep the other two in line in the face of unbelievable kindness. The dialogue is cynical, witty, and above all, funny.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Vital Signs (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Third-year med school means too much work, too little respect, and striving to impress the chief of surgery (Jimmy Smits). When Michael (Adrian Pasdar) falls in love with fellow student Gina (Diane Lane), whose boyfriend is a resident, he risks his entire future. As the pressure mounts and the emergencies continue nonstop, Michael and Gina learn whether or not they have what it takes to save lives.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Volcano (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Something unspeakably chilling is heating up the City of Angels. Beneath the famed La Brea Tar Pits, a raging volcano has formed, raining a storm of deadly fire bombs and an endless tide of white-hot lava upon the stunned city.
This was one of many natural disaster films to surface in the late ‘90s. It contains just enough truth to at least be somewhat frightening at first – before it becomes wholly ridiculous. Tommy Lee Jones leads the charge as the head of a crisis agency called the Office of Emergency Management (O.E.M.), which has complete authority in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. His master plan involves directing and diverting the lava from the city’s centre to a less hazardous location. His sidekicks include Anne Heche, a geologist who predicts the disaster, and Don Cheadle, who mans the office while Jones manages the crisis on the ground. Evidently a model of cooperation and humanity, the city’s emergency workers and citizens join forces to save their home. The near-misses and miracle solutions are heavy-handed, but mostly entertaining.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
More about byzantium, Monster's University, Down Periscope, Inventing the Abbotts, Killer Tomatoes Eat France
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