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article imageReview: A keen sense of humour runs through this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 5, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include another thrilling season catching bad guys; a raunchy comedy with a female lead; every joke from a hit comedy series; a musical coming-of-age story; and a compelling recreation of real-life events.
The Adventures of Panda Warrior (DVD & Digital copy)
When Patrick (Rob Schneider), a peaceful soldier from ancient China, is magically transported to Merryland and turned into a Panda, he must join forces with Peggy the flying pig (Lauren Elizabeth), GoGo the daring goat (Haylie Duff), and King Leo the courageous lion (Norm MacDonald) in order to free the once-peaceful world from the tyranny of the evil nine-headed snake that has enslaved them.
Everything about this movie screams Kung Fu Panda rip-off — except to say it pales in comparison is an understatement. The computer-animated film shares a similar storyline, featuring an inept character who must become an adept warrior. He’s predictably assisted by his more qualified animal friends who have rather strong and sometimes strange personalities. Unfortunately their attempts to differentiate the movie from its counterpart results in unclear direction and poorly developed characters. This band of headstrong warriors fails to connect with the audience and feels long in spite of only being 78 minutes in length. Conversely, the episodes of award-winning Miniscule are very amusing and feature an interesting animation style.
Special features include: “Bringing the Characters to Life”; and Miniscule bonus episodes. (Lionsgate)
The Blacklist: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
FBI Agent Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone) is now a fugitive and on the run with criminal mastermind Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader). With Assistant FBI Director Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) under investigation, a conflicted Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) leads the FBI Task Force on a massive manhunt for Liz and Red. As they struggle to stay one step ahead of their former colleagues, Liz immerses herself into Red’s underworld of disreputable contacts and covert operations. Liz is on an unpredictable journey of self-discovery and all the pieces of her life, including her indefinable relationship with Tom, will be drastically challenged as she continues to believe Red holds all the answers.
The first third of the season focuses on Red and Liz trying to clear her name by tracking down more mysterious villains from Red’s list who may have information about who orchestrated Liz’s framing. In spite of leading the hunt for Liz’s arrest, her FBI colleagues continue to provide assistance as necessary. As the plot thickens and the cabal’s reach reveals itself in unexpected places, everyone must make difficult decisions regarding their commitment to justice or friendship. The middle episodes go back to the status quo of Red providing tips to the FBI, though they encounter some strange circumstances including another Reddington. The final third of the season is a roller coaster of emotion with not quite unexpected results.
Special features include: episode commentaries; deleted and extended scenes; “From the Shadows: Villains of Season 3”; “Creating The Stunts: Script to Screen”; “Outside the Box: Making The Blacklist Comic Book”; “All About Aram”; “Red’s Gems: Favorite Lines From Season 3.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Bronze (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
A decade ago, Hope Ann Greggory (Melissa Rauch) was America's sweetheart. Her inspired performance on a ruptured Achilles at the world's most prestigious gymnastics tournament clinched an unlikely bronze medal for the U.S. team and brought glory to her hometown of Amherst, Ohio. But years later, still living in her dad’s (Gary Cole) basement and sporting her daily uniform of a Team USA gym suit with teeny-bopper bangs, ponytail and scrunchie, she spends her days at the mall milking her minor celebrity for free food and favours. Hope's routine is upended when she learns that she must coach Amherst's newest gymnastics prodigy Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) in order to receive a sizeable financial inheritance. The hard-edged yet insecure Hope is faced with a serious dilemma: does she jeopardize her "hometown hero" status by devotedly training this rising star to achieve the dreams she never could? Or does she attempt to sabotage the impressionable Maggie to ensure that she remains the one and only star in Amherst?
This is a witty, cynical comedy in which the main character is not meant to be likeable, though she is entertaining. With a mouth like a sailor on leave, self-pity overwhelming any sense of ambition and a general mean streak, Hope lives a life in total opposition to her name. Her relationship with her father makes him look like a saint for putting up with her, while the townspeople appear to tolerate even her worst behaviour. Although as the narrative continues, Hope’s steely exterior is somewhat explained and even justified as her past betrayals are revealed. Sebastian Stan and Thomas Middleditch are also part of the excellent cast that make this a dark and amusing movie.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Confirmation (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
In July 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce) to fill Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. In October, during the final days of Thomas’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, both Newsday and NPR broke the story that one of Thomas’ former employees, law professor Anita Hill (Kerry Washington), had accused him of sexually harassing her ten years earlier. These revelations triggered a maelstrom of events, with both Hill and Thomas testifying about the allegations before a stunned and riveted television audience.
The subject of this docudrama is especially relevant as a woman’s claim of sexual harassment or assault is still questioned and rejected 25 years later. Hill is purposely humiliated during her testimony, while Thomas is repeatedly given the benefit of the doubt and the ability to direct the proceedings. The real-life events of this movie are also relevant because they motivated women to run for office and resulted in an influx of female candidates who were disheartened by Hill’s experience. Finally, it also speaks to the character of a Supreme Court Justice who, in spite of these revelations and a close vote, now makes major decisions that affect the whole country. The cast is perfectly selected and do an excellent job recreating this noteworthy moment in history.
This week’s releases include: Kerry Washington and Wendell Pierce on the historical impact; and character spots. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Key & Peele: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele's subversive sketch comedy show is now available in its entirety, from Mr. Garvey's irrepressible rage to every incarnation of the East/West Bowl rivalry to Luther, Obama's anger translator.
Five seasons and 53 half-hour episodes equal a lot of sketch comedy. Like all variety shows, not every skit is funny — but luckily most of them are very comical. There are regular characters, such as the aforementioned translator for POTUS (who eventually encounters Hilary Clinton’s comparable interpreter), and the hilariously mismatched couple, Andre and Tina. Their material is inspired by a variety of sources, from pop culture to film and television to real-life events to relationships to prejudices. They play male and female characters in their narratives, and often have guest stars help out with larger storylines, including Ty Burrell, Ernie Hudson, Rashida Jones, Mekhi Phifer, Rob Riggle, Rebecca Romijn and many others. Fittingly the show ends with a nod to their first episode, “Bitch.”
Special features include: “Obama’s Anger Translator”; “Vandaveon and Mike”; “The Van and Mike Show”; “The Super Episode: Best of Seasons 1 & 2”; and outtakes. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Mother’s Day (DVD)
Elevation Pictures
In the week before the one day of the year when Mom comes first, the lives of a group of strong, loving and wildly imperfect women, from a divorced mother dealing with her kids’ new stepmom to a young mom trying find her own birth mother, remind us that every mom is her own kind of hero. As Mother’s Day approaches, each of them is about to prove the power of the maternal bond in sweet, smart, sassy and sexy celebration of mothers everywhere.
The variety of mothers and family structures in this film cover almost every possible situation… which isn’t necessarily a good thing. While it’s wonderful the movie is being inclusive, there is too much narrative hoop-jumping required to make it so. The transitions between stories is somewhat choppy and the mother connection isn’t enough to link them together. Nonetheless, Jennifer Aniston’s divorced mom contending with her ex-husband’s younger, new wife is probably the best narrative in the whole movie as her legitimate but emotional reactions to circumstances are very entertaining. Obviously elements of the other narratives are amusing, but they’re not as engaging on a whole.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and gag reel. (Elevation Pictures)
Saving Mr. Wu (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA
Four devious criminals, one chilling scam: pose as cops, kidnap a victim, and if no ransom comes in 24 hours, the target dies. Tonight they caught a movie star (Andy Lau) and the countdown begins.
This movie may have been based on real events, but the dramatization of the kidnapping is not nearly as gripping. The movie star occasionally imagines what it would be like to employ the skills of one of his fictional characters and escape, but instead he must rely on his charm and the criminals’ greed to survive. In the meantime, the police investigation primarily involves interrogating one of the suspects and pressuring him to cooperate. In other words, most of the movie features a bunch of guys sitting in different rooms, waiting for something to happen. Unfortunately, without creating a connection to any of the characters, the movie lacks tension or reason.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Well Go USA)
Sing Street (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company
A 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents’ relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not part of a band…yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he’s promised - immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos.
This is a fabulous coming-of-age story with an even better soundtrack. The music sounds familiar as it is entirely inspired by different genres from the ‘80s. The music videos are amateur takes on trends from the same era, including goofy costumes, make-up and gimmicks. However, at the heart of all this flair is Conor and his desire for escape from his otherwise challenging teenage existence. What begins as a ploy to get a girl gradually turns into much more as Conor and his fellow band of outcasts find a way to belong and a dormant penchant for rebellion. Their enthusiasm for the music and creativeness with the music videos that no one ever sees contribute to the film’s charm as much as the young actors embodying these captivating characters.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Writer/director John Carney and Adam Levine talk Sing Street”; and cast auditions. (Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company)
More about the blacklist, The Bronze, Sing Street, The Adventures of Panda Warrior, Confirmation
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