This week’s releases include a refurbished franchise; a comedic creature feature that will have audiences drunk with laughter; the sober consideration of an unspeakable act; and two first-rate BBC first seasons.
Aftershock (Blu-ray & DVD)
In Chile, an American tourist’s vacation goes from good to great when he meets some beautiful women travellers. But when an earthquake ravages the underground nightclub they’re in, a fun night quickly turns to terror. Escaping to the surface is just the beginning as they face nightmarish chaos above ground.
This may sound like a natural disaster movie, but it’s actually just a gore fest featuring rising star of carnage, Eli Roth. This bloody nightmare turns vicious when a bunch of violent offenders escape the local prison and take vengeance on the city that incarcerated them. Citizens are cautious of helping the strangers in fear of the letting in the evil that’s been let loose in the city. Roth and his formerly merry band of tourists try to sneak around the unfamiliar territory, unsuccessfully avoiding the brutes that now patrol it. Women are raped, people are shot and maimed, and bloodied survivors continue their search for refuge. If you long for the days of blood soaked streets, this movie will fill the void with a number of creative deaths and plenty of brutality.
Special features include: commentary by actor/producer/co-screenwriter Eli Roth; a making-of featurette; and “Shaking Up the Casting Process.” (VVS Films)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
In the frenetic underbelly of Los Angeles, Agent Maxwell (Dolph Lundgren) closes in on an international cocaine smuggling operation run by criminal mastermind Vincent Camastra (Vinnie Jones). When Agent Beverly Royce goes undercover with the drug dealers and finds herself deeper then she can handle, the case becomes personal for Maxwell who has to combat ruthless killers and dirty cops (Randy Couture).
If you listed all the bad stereotypes from undercover cop movies and get rich dealing drugs stories, you could compare it to this narrative for a perfect match. The brains and the muscle expand a cocaine dealing enterprise by making a deal with a dangerous man. Both partners seem to have a few screws loose, though the audacity of one far outweighs the other. In the meantime, a dirty cop with a substance abuse problem tries to replace his lost income by tracking and harassing the neighborhood's newest kingpins. Lundgren is the officer with a stellar arrest record who vows to clean up the streets, while a deep undercover cop is rapidly losing perspective. It's all familiar and crammed into a mushy narrative that rarely offers anything to justify the movie's existence.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Attack (Blu-ray & DVD)
Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) is an Israeli Palestinian surgeon, fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society. He has a loving wife, an exemplary career, and many Jewish friends. But his picture perfect life is turned upside down when a suicide bombing in a restaurant leaves nineteen dead, and the Israeli police inform him that his wife Sihem, who also died in the explosion, was responsible. Convinced of her innocence, Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland and enters the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the truth.
This is a complex tale that rivals the challenging dramas about families who discover their child was the perpetrator of a school shooting. The torment of not knowing does not vary significantly in spite of the difference in relationship. The trail of evidence, on the other hand, creates a new facet of exploration. Amin's private investigation of his wife's actions yields no concrete answers, aligning his experience with the real-life ambiguity that many feel when addressing these situations. Nonetheless, it does still provide a non-judgemental depiction of the reasoning that supports such hate as well as the reaction to the bombing on both sides of the border. The concluding scene between Amin and his colleague speaks volumes of the ongoing conflict of which this film only captures a small section.
Special features include: interview with director Ziad Doueiri; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (D Films)
The Capture of Grizzly Adams (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
After being wrongly accused of a crime, James “Grizzly” Adams (Dan Haggerty) finds refuge in the wilderness and companionship in Ben, a grizzly bear he raised from a cub. Years later, when Adams learns that his young daughter is in trouble, he returns to civilization and is captured by Frank Briggs (Chuck Connors), a corrupt man determined to see Adams pay for the alleged crime. Set on clearing his name, Adams seeks support from a local woman, Kate Brady (Kim Darby), and his old friend, Ben, to bring justice against those framing him.
Based on a real-life animal wrangler of the same name, the film and TV series brought the mountain man even greater fame. As shown in the movie, he befriended and trained bears for a living. Haggerty portrayed the nature lover in each rendition, really making the likable character his own over the years. This narrative draws a distinct line between the good and evil personalities as Adams is framed for murder by a devious businessman. There's no question of whose side the audience should be on, recalling the moral clarity of the classic Westerns. A bit of a hero picture, there is a fair amount of action around Adams as he tussles with his enemies and slips through the law's fingers. Though Adams would clearly rather be a pacifist, his compassion is never more evident than when he is with his daughter.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Dexter: The Final Season (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) spent his days solving crimes and his nights committing them, but never before has he had to deal with a more abhorrent and deranged enemy then he does now: himself. Six months after the stunning murder of Lt. LaGuerta, Dexter’s estranged sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) tries to cope with her guilt in her brother’s crimes, while an emotionally vulnerable Dexter comes face-to-face with a psychopathologist who knows the code that has motivated his every murder.
Dexter’s unexplainable need for acceptance and human connections have repeatedly made his double-life more demanding than would typically be necessary. Upholding his strict moral code of only killing murderers, Dexter has fended off the guilt of his crimes. But the sudden appearance of a woman who knows more about Dexter than he knew about his own history once again sends his world spinning. Paired with the emergence of an elusive serial killer known as the “Brain Surgeon,” Dexter races to maintain control and protect those who are important to him. Debra has increasing difficulty dealing with the knowledge of Dexter’s diversion, but involving herself in other matters acts as a brief distraction. In the final episodes, Dexter decides to pursue true happiness with his son and a lost love, but the irony of his existence may prove overpowering.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; “From Cop to Killer” featurette; “Episode 1 – with the creators”; “Episode 2 – directed by Michael C. Hall”; “Episode 3 – dissecting a scene”; “Episode 4 – with the creators”; and “Ray Donovan: Season 1 – Episode 1 & 2.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Frances Ha (DVD)
Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn't really have an apartment. She is an apprentice for a dance company, but she's not really a dancer. She has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren't really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles.
Writer/director Noel Baumbach's work placed him in the same category as Wes Anderson, delivering wordy, quirky period dramas centering on families and relationships. This is somewhat of a departure from that path. Co-written by Gerwig, this picture takes a more focused look at one woman's confused journey through her late 20s. Enjoying this movie, however, depends on the viewer liking its protagonist as every scene revolves around her impulsive and directionless behaviour. Frances' friendship with best friend Sophie suffers the growing pains of at least one of them growing up. Meanwhile Frances aimlessly wanders from her parents to friends' couches to Paris. Though as time passes, it becomes obvious she's not the only one unsure of her future -- Frances is just worse at hiding how lost she is.
There are no special features. (Mongrel Media)
An idyllic remote Irish island is invaded by enormous, bloodsucking, tentacled aliens. With islanders turning up decapitated and drained of blood, the inhabitants learn that the creatures—called Grabbers—are allergic to alcohol, making intoxicated people toxic to eat. Overrun and under attack, the hopeless locals realize that in order to stay alive through a storm that's keeping everyone trapped on the island, they're going to have to band together at the pub and do their best to survive the night.
In the spirit of Tremors, Slither and Gremlins, this movie has a lot of fun with its perilous situation. The characters never stop making jokes, though often a simple reaction can be funny enough. The banter between the alcohol-dependent Garda Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle) and straight-laced Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) is entertaining, though all the characters employ Irish wit that makes for snappy comebacks and sharp remarks. Just the initial concept of combating a threat through inebriation is so absurd it's amusing – though it beats their defenses of a chair, knife and rolled up magazine. It perpetuates the stereotype that the Irish like their liquor and beer, but with good cause. The title, perhaps an homage to Ridley Scott's face-grabber, isn't very scientific but it supplies an apt description of the monsters.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and theatrical trailer. (M.O. Pictures)
While life spirals out of control for Danny (Daniel Louis Rivas), he must fight tooth and nail to kick his habit and rescue himself from the personal Hell his brother Nicky (Robert LaSardo) has consigned him to, whilst simultaneously attempting to repair the deeply damaged relationships with his increasingly bizarre friends and family.
This is a trippy picture that ranges from bizarre to confusing to disturbing to inspiring. It’s never quite clear what is happening, except that drugs can have a terrible effect on the mind and perception. Nicky is an amusing character, acting as the man-sized monkey on Danny’s back. One moment he seems to be trying to help Danny, and the next Nicky is betraying his trust and forcing Danny to do things against his will. The zombified murder victim wandering the halls is only topped by the arrival of Danny’s insane and estranged father. In spite of its peculiar nature, this film shows ingenuity and talent for budget filmmaking, story structure and character development. The conclusion is inspired, attaching one final and fascinating layer to the film in its final moments.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Adam Mason, co-writer Simon Boyes, producer Charisse Sanzo and actor Daniel Louis Rivas; behind-the-scenes featurette; photo gallery; screen test; and trailers. (Indiecan Entertainment)
Man of Steel (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man (Henry Cavill), he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
When rebooting a franchise, a re-imagining of the story seems inevitable. In this instance, filmmakers begin the narrative on Krypton, Superman's home planet. Russell Crowe's Jor-El is the personification of the radical diplomat Kal-El's father was always perceived to be, standing against Zod's (Michael Shannon) tyranny and entrusting the future of their race with a newborn. The crossover between past and present to illustrate Kal-El a.k.a. Clark Kent's early life on Earth is tiresome and would have been better conveyed in fewer fragments. With director Zack Snyder at the helm, the film meets its quota of explosions and destruction without issue; though watching aliens that resemble humans repeatedly throw each other through buildings and skid through obstacles on a mile-long path does get old. Cavill fills the superhero's red boots well enough, although the story could have used some tightening – especially at a runtime of nearly two-and-a-half hours.
Special features include: “Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel”; “Strong Characters, Legendary Roles,” explores the legendary characters of the Superman mythology and how they have evolved in this new iteration of the Superman story; “All-Out Action,”goes inside the intense training regimen that sculpted Henry Cavill into the Man of Steel and Michael Shannon and Antje Traue into his Kyptonian nemeses; “Krypton Decoded,” Dylan Sprayberry (Clark Kent, age 13) gives the lowdown on all the amazing Krypton tech, weapons and spaceships featured in Man of Steel; and “Planet Krypton,” the world’s first exploration of Krypton and its lost society. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Paradise - Season One (Blu-ray)
BBC Home Entertainment
Set amidst the Victorian splendor of Britain's first department store, this is a rags-to-riches story of a young girl who falls in love with the intoxicating charms of the modern world. As Denise (Joanna Vanderham) finds her feet as a lowly shopgirl, she must navigate her way through power struggles, intrigues and affairs. When the shop's dashing and reckless owner, John Moray (Emun Elliot) spots her talents, she knows she can use this opportunity to rise to great things.
Fans of Mr. Selfridge would find this more traditional English series interesting as it too takes place in a London department store; though store owner John Moray (Emun Elliott) lacks the same jump-off-the-screen charisma as Jeremy Piven. The staff, however, make up for his slight lack of personality. Their interactions make up a large portion of the narrative as they compete with each other for commissions and Moray's favour, and deal with the typical social complications of living in a dormitory. The inclusion of a few characters from outside the retail haven allows the story world a little more flexibility for romance and conflict, of which there is plenty.
Special features include: “Behind the Doors of Paradise,” includes a tour of The Paradise set; cast interviews; and a visit to the show’s costume department. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Silk – Series One (DVD)
BBC Home Entertainment
Silk follows the rivalry, tension, passion and intrigue of life on the front line of criminal law. Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) is a brilliant, passionate defense barrister with a reputation for defending the poor and downtrodden. She is about to embark on the next step of her career and apply to be a member of the highly prestigious Queen's Counsel. But she's not the only one at her chambers applying. Joining Martha is Clive Reader (Rupert Penry Jones); charming, ruthless, funny, gifted and dangerous. Only one is likely to be made QC, so how they perform in court is vital and Clive knows how to play the game.
With the proliferation of police and courtroom dramas populating North American television schedules, one may wonder why they should look across the ocean for another. Even so, this is a quality addition to the genre, with wigs and accents for some variation. The differences in the judicial system may be a little puzzling at times, but the cases are intriguing as well as the rivalries. Martha often wonders if she's defending the right cases or if she's doing what's best for her clients, taking each one very personally. The appropriate mix of personal and professional keeps this series fresh and appealing.
Special features include: a behind-the-scenes featurette. (BBC Home Entertainment)