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article imageReview: A friend in need is a friend indeed in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 4, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the latest chapter in a man’s fight against darkness; a film very deserving of a high-def transfer; an unbelievable true story; a distinct portrayal of the emotional consequences of war; and extreme discipline run amok.
Across the Universe (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The rock musical re-imagines America in the turbulent late-1960s, a time when battle lines were being drawn at home and abroad. When young dockworker Jude (Jim Sturgess) leaves Liverpool to find his estranged father in America, he is swept up by the waves of change that are re-shaping the nation. Jude falls in love with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), a rich but sheltered American girl who joins the growing anti-war movement in New York’s Greenwich Village. As the body count in Vietnam rises, political tensions at home spiral out of control and the star-crossed lovers find themselves in a psychedelic world gone mad.
In a musical reminiscent of Hair, fuelled by a soundtrack of Beatles tunes, one can only become swept up in the melodic narrative. In traditional genre form, the group’s famous songs are used to express the character’s emotions, which also informs the story. Unlike Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which also featured the group’s music, this film has a clearer and more relatable narrative. The interpretations of the music by the performers varies, depending on its context within the story, but at least two of the more memorable renditions are “Oh! Darling” and “My Guitar Gently Weeps” by a couple of secondary characters. Director Julie Taymor builds a fantastically entertaining picture around some of the most popular music in history, saturated in colour and desire.
Special features include: commentary by director Julie Taymor and music producer/composer Elliot Goldenthal; deleted scene; extended musical performance; five behind-the-scene featurettes; and rehearsal footage. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Class of 1999 (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
The time is the future, and youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones” into which not even the police will venture. When Miles Langford
(Malcolm McDowell), the principal of Kennedy High School, decides to take his school back from the gangs, robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest (Stacy Keach) provides “tactical education units.” These human-like androids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to handle discipline problems. These kids will get a lesson in staying alive!
This film feels like a predecessor or inspiration for Disturbing Behavior, which reversed the roles of students and teachers but shared a similar premise. It features a relatively well-known cast, including Keach, McDowell and Pam Grier and all of who portray their roles of super strict disciplinarians perfectly. Some of the teens are also familiar from other ‘80s and early ‘90s movies, though their punk attire serves as somewhat of a disguise. An unruly society and the degeneration of the school system are problems often seen in dystopian futures with this one primarily marked by gangs, drugs and graffiti. Nevertheless, the story is amusing and delivered by a group of actors who prove more than capable of selling audiences on this bizarre reality.
Special features include: commentary by producer/director Mark L. Lester; “School Safety,” interviews with producer/director Mark L. Lester and co-producer Eugene Mazzola; “New Rules,” interview with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner; “Cyber-Teachers from Hell,” interviews with special effects creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton; “Future of Discipline,” interview with director of photography Mark Irwin; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Gothic (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Five famous friends spend a hallucinogenic evening confronting their fears in a frenzy of lunacy and horrifying visions in this fictional tale, which tells the story of Mary Shelley’s (Natasha Richardson) conception of Frankenstein on one debauched night in Lord Byron’s (Gabriel Byrne) home.
While the recent feature, Mary Shelley, attempts to demystify the writer and the origin of her most famous work, this film takes the opposite approach. Taking place during a retreat to Lord Byron’s palatial home in the country, the group is subjected to his cruel — and mystical — games. Although the weekend begins with the host terrorizing his guests, it’s not long before something else replaces him as their tormentor. Whether induced by hysteria, drugs or the supernatural, there are some crazy things that plague them throughout the night. As director Ken Russell was known for his quirky films, it’s not surprising to see some peculiar elements and set designs incorporated in the picture. But the actors are up to the task, no matter how strange.
Special features include: commentary by Lisi Russell and film historian Matthew Melia; isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Thomas Dolby; “The Soul of Shelley,” interview with actor Julian Sands; “Fear Itself,” interview with screenwriter Stephen Volk; “One Rainy Night,” interview with director of photography Mike Southon; still gallery; TV spot; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
In Her Name (DVD)
Untitled
Icarus Films
In 1982, André Bamberski (Daniel Auteuil) learns about the death of his 14-year-old daughter, Kalinka, while she was on vacation with her mother and stepfather (Sebastian Koch) in Germany. Convinced that Kalinka’s death was no accident, Bamberski begins to investigate.
Based on the real-life struggle of a father seeking justice, the amount of time it takes to officially apprehend his daughter’s killer is astounding… as is the extensive political interference on the murderer’s behalf. Equally astonishing is Bamberski’s decades-long dedication to ensuring the man goes to prison. As the years pass and audiences are shown the important pieces of this seemingly endless fight, the same approach to the narrative that makes it captivating and fast-paced also prevents viewers from really connecting to the characters. While they can be made to admire (or question) the father’s perseverance, very superficial and selective details mean they don’t know enough about him to join rather than just follow his quest.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Last Flag Flying (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Lionsgate Home Entertainment and VVS Films
In 2003, thirty years after they served together in the Vietnam War, former Navy Corps medic Richard “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) reunites with former marines Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) on a different type of mission: burying Doc’s son, a young marine killed in the Iraq War. Doc decides to forgo a burial at Arlington National Cemetery and, with the help of his old buddies, takes the casket on a bittersweet trip up the East Coast to his home in suburban New Hampshire. Along the way, Doc, Sal and Mueller reminisce and come to terms with shared memories of the war that continues to shape their lives.
This is a pretty solemn road trip movie as Doc shows up with a big ask for a couple of guys he hasn’t seen in several decades. But even though they’ve grown into different people, their experiences together — good and pretty bad — created a bond that can be forgotten but not broken. Sal and Mueller are essentially the devil and angel on Doc’s shoulders, constantly fighting with each other about the best next step. Sal’s rebellious, impulsive nature generally wins, but even he demonstrates compassion when it’s needed most. Director Richard Linklater brings together a powerhouse cast to tell an emotional story about the aftermath of war, from the somewhat unseen perspective of veterans of one war dealing with the casualties of another.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Veterans Day”; and outtakes. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment and VVS Films)
Legend of the Naga Pearls (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Well Go USA
After being defeated by humans centuries ago, the Winged Tribe has lost their ability to fly. Seeking vengeance, a royal descendant of the tribe has begun searching for the magical Naga Pearls, which he plans to use to destroy the humans. When the legendary pearls fall into — and out of — the hands of Heiyu, a wily human street punk, he must join a team of unlikely heroes as they race to prevent the destruction of their people.
This is a fairly straightforward fantasy picture in which the formerly superior, ruling class has laid low, biding their time until they could challenge for power again. Heiyu and his two cohorts are not average humans trying to save the world, but rather people with special abilities or stakes in the battle who are each fighting for personal reasons. The confronting Winged Tribe appear as a vicious gang of demonic-looking fiends that are no match for the people they face. Using a combination of CGI and wire-fu, the clashes are high-flying and engaging. The only issues some viewers might have with the picture is it primarily unfolds in the dark or in darkened scenes, which may make it difficult to see all the action if one’s screen has trouble with opaqueness.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Napping Princess (Blu-ray & DVD)
Untitled
GKIDS
The year is 2020, three days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. While she should be studying for her exams, Kokone Morikawa often dozes off, entering a dream-world called Heartland full of fantastic motorized contraptions. But when her father, a talented but mysterious mechanic, is kidnapped for stealing technology from a powerful corporation, it's up to Kokone and her childhood friend Morio to save him. Together they realize that Kokone's dream-world holds the answers to the mystery behind the stolen tech, uncovering a trail of clues to her father's disappearance and ultimately a surprising revelation about Kokone's family.
The original title of this story is “Ancien and the Magic Tablet,” which may make more sense or give away too much in the title — though the story is initially so confusing, a little hint may not be a terrible idea. The narrative begins in a fantastic world in which a king runs an auto plant and dictates the cars his citizenry must own. His daughter is young and rebellious, and insists on helping battle the kaiju terrorizing the city. This is intertwined with the story of a teenage girl in the real world whose father is distant and mother is passed, and is about to become entangled in some sort of conspiracy. It takes some time to sort out all the details regarding the characters and their connections to each other, which is somewhat unfortunate since it’s a rather intriguing story once it can be understood.
Special features include: interview with director Kenji Kamiyama; introduction at Japanese premiere;
greeting at Japanese release; Okayama scenery; special interview with cast; special TV program; TV spots; and trailer. (GKIDS)
Ray Donovan: Season Five (DVD)
Untitled
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Ray’s (Liev Schreiber) ongoing family upheaval has taken an emotional toll, leaving him more vulnerable than ever. LA’s preeminent fixer is heading into uncharted territory and will soon discover that some damage can’t be controlled.
Each subsequent season of this series has been a little rougher than the last, and this one is definitely the toughest of them all as one of the main characters slowly dies over multiple episodes. This death has serious repercussions for everyone and puts a strain on many of their relationships. Meanwhile, Bunchy makes yet another incredibly stupid mistake that he likely won’t be able to fix on his own. Mick ropes his youngest son into helping him sell a movie script he’s written, which somehow gets them caught up in a murder cover-up and blackmail fiasco. Ray is once again on a rollercoaster of nearly losing everything and then pulling it back together, though there are some things he just can’t fix or choices he won’t be able to reverse.
Special features include: commentary by Paula Malcomson and David Hollander; “Dog the Dog”; “On Death and Dying”; “Nothing Goes Right for Bunchy”; and “Terry Donovan and Parkinsons.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
More about Last Flag Flying, Ray Donovan, Across the Universe, Class of 1999, Gothic
 
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