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article imageReview: Everyone carves their own paths in this week’s releases - part 2 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 23, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an intimate portrait of a historical figure; a realistic depiction of a young woman’s choice; a couple of docs about niche interests; two vintage comedies that still make you laugh; and tales of vigilante justice.
Gamechangers: Dreams of Blizzcon (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
The documentary enters the unexplored realm of professional eSports, as told through the eyes of two of the world's best “StarCraft II” players.
Video game contests have exponentially grown over the last decade. Now, major competitions are key attractions at conventions, they’re live streamed in cinemas and the grand prize is up to six figures. People train year-round, honing their skills — because winning is indeed a matter of strategy — before playing versus in a public forum. The documentary shows the players practice as a team in spite of being isolated from each other in individual cubicles with noise-cancelling headphones and their eyes glued to the screen. This is even more extreme in the final 16 as each contender is put into a private soundproof room. The featured competitions are a few years old, but if anything the hype has only increased since then.
Special features include: theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Be careful what you wish for. With their after-school junk business, best friends Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) hope to find treasure in other people’s trash. But when cleaning out the old Stine house, they open a locked book that frees a supernatural nightmare — Slappy! Now, with the help of Sonny’s sister Sarah (Madison Iseman), they’re in a race against time to get the sinister dummy and all the creatures he’s brought to life back into the pages before he unleashes total pandemonium.
Most kids in the ‘90s read at least one of R.L. Stine’s young adult horror novels. Now these movies are introducing a new generation to his work. Slappy was one of his more memorable and menacing characters. Watching him on screen is just as creepy, if not creepier, than reading about his terrifying antics. Slappy looks like an average ventriloquist dummy, but his intentions are sinister. He’s also not big on hiding the fact that he’s not inanimate, which can quickly complicate situations. Jack Black makes an appearance, though his role in this picture is much smaller than the previous one. Naturally, the kids live in a town very enthusiastic about Halloween, which makes for a lot of great monsters-come-to-life when Slappy goes haywire.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Meet The Monsters”; “Science With Slappy”; “Junk Brothers – Call Now”; “Slappy's Audition”; gag reel; and three “Slappy-Oke Sing Alongs.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Hate U Give (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what's right.
This is a provocative story that couldn’t be more pertinent to the current political and social landscape. As Starr faces pressures from both sides of the argument of whether she should testify, she becomes acutely aware that one option is safest for her and her family, and the other is best for a community desperate to finally get justice. The late 2Pac Shakur defined T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. as “the hate u give little infants f*cks everybody” and this movie explores the truth of that statement. Hate, fear and misunderstanding are such powerful motivators, and they’re so easily passed from one generation to the next regardless of whether or not they’re founded. As is the case with many films tackling such an important subject, it gets a little heavy-handed as it nears the end and tries to drive its message home to audiences. Still, the top two-thirds of this movie is an excellent depiction of a reality that’s often over-simplified and has a lot of gray area.
Special features include: commentary by George Tillman, Jr., Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Angie Thomas and Craig Hayes; extended scenes; “Starting a Conversation”; “The Talk”; “Code Switching”; “The Heart of Georgia”; and “Thank U Georgia.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
Hobbyhorse Revolution (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
Over the past 10 years, hobbyhorse riding has become a global phenomenon and a way of life for thousands of young people. The film follows three young girls — Aisku, Elsa and Alisa — whose lives have been transformed by their new interest: hobbyhorses. Despite a lack of understanding by some, the girls bravely and spiritedly pursue their hobby.
This is a phenomenon that’s largely flown under the radar for a long time, primarily because those who practice the hobby have kept it secret for fear of ridicule. The girls describe encountering classmates while taking their hobbyhorse for a walk and being teased or even having things thrown at them. On the flipside, they feel accepted and special when with other enthusiasts, which is at least one reason why they refuse to give it up. The girls have exceptional imaginations but very different personalities that may not align with what audiences expect. While Elsa is a bit homelier with a typically girly room, Aisku is a troublemaker, and Elsa has fire engine red hair and a punk aesthetic. Although it may be difficult to understand, it’s clear they’ve all found something to which they feel like they belong.
Special features include: theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
Maniac [Limited Edition] (Blu-ray)
Blue Underground
Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) is a deeply disturbed man, haunted by the traumas of unspeakable childhood abuse. When these horrific memories begin to scream inside his mind, Frank prowls the seedy streets of New York City to stalk and slaughter innocent young women. Now Frank has begun a relationship with a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro), yet his vile compulsions remain. These are the atrocities of a human monster, a.k.a. “Maniac.”
This is a splatter, slasher picture that features a human serial killer rather than a supernatural one, which made it scarier to many. Frank’s murders are brutal and primarily target women, while the men they are with are dispatched much quicker and usually first to contribute to his soon-to-be victim’s terror. The killings are linked to a delusion involving mannequins that he adorns with his trophies and treats as if they were real. Tom Savini’s special effects are great and include exploding his own head as he makes a cameo as one of Frank’s victims. The ending makes sense in relation to his delusions, while also providing a satisfying conclusion for audiences. The three-disc limited edition comes with many bonus features, including a soundtrack CD, but some of the most intriguing are the vintage news reports condemning the film’s violence and misogyny.
Special features include: commentary with producer/director William Lustig and producer Andrew W. Garroni; commentary with producer/director William Lustig, special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell's assistant Luke Walter; “Returning to the Scene of the Crime with William Lustig”; “Anna and the Killer,” interview with star Caroline Munro; “The Death Dealer,” interview with special make-up effects artist Tom Savini; “Dark Notes,” interview with composer Jay Chattaway; “Maniac Men,” interview with songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky; “The Joe Spinell Story”; “Maniac Controversy”; TV and radio spots; theatrical trailers; soundtrack CD; and collectable booklet with new essay by Michael Gingold. (Blue Underground)
Peppermint (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Five years after her husband and daughter are killed in a senseless act of violence, a woman (Jennifer Garner) comes back from self-imposed exile to seek revenge against those responsible and the system that let them go free.
This narrative typically has a male lead, but the gist is the same: a mild-mannered professional’s world is turned upside down by unexpected violence and they decide to take matters into their own hands. After a brief period of training and preparation, they set out to deliver vigilante justice because it’s better than no justice at all — it’s amazing what people can do when they have nothing left to live for. However, making this film’s protagonist female is not the problem; rather, it’s a lack of script development. In between acts of revenge, there has to be some substance to connect viewers to the main character and this movie has nothing to offer in that department. It’s unfortunate since Garner is pretty badass, but there’s little else to support her.
Special features include: commentary by director Pierre Morel; and “Justice.” (Elevation Pictures)
Topper Takes a Trip (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
Marion Kerby (Constance Bennett), the attractive screwball ghost from the first 'Topper' comedy, comes back into his life so she can join her husband 'up there' by helping the meek banker (Roland Young).
This is a follow-up to a movie that also featured Cary Grant, but he’s unfortunately left out of this one save for a brief cameo at the beginning and a few flashbacks. Marie, on the other hand, is glued to Topper’s side, though she’s far from the angel on his shoulder. After his previous antics, Topper’s wife is seeking a divorce so Marion makes it her mission to get them back together and hopefully earn passage to join her own husband. A trip to Paris, a rigged game of roulette and a gold-digging bachelor are just part of the screwball sequel that keeps Topper on his toes and everyone else wondering what they have or not seen.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Who We Are Now (Blu-ray)
Recently released from prison after a 10-year incarceration, Beth (Julianne Nicholson) is working with her public defender (Jimmy Smits) to get her son back from the sister who was awarded legal custody while Beth was in prison. She forms an unlikely alliance with Jess (Emma Roberts), an idealistic young protégé of the public defense team, who decides to take on Beth’s cause whether she likes it or not.
This is a snippet of several people’s lives, though the key focuses are clearly Beth and Jess. Audiences are dropped into the middle of their narratives and left to figure it out as clues to their personalities and situations are trickled out. Beth’s years in jail have not benefitted her temper at all, while Jess is struggling to figure out who she is. Their stories do not fit neatly together nor does their ultimate meeting turn out as expected, but they do help each other understand who they want to be tomorrow. Unfortunately, even though everything about this movie is adequate, nothing or no one really stands out.
Special features include: theatrical trailer. (Filmrise)
Check out the first round of this week's releases.
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