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article imageReview: Ambition has mixed consequences in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 2, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the economic crash from a different perspective; a director’s extended cut; a reimagining of history; the concluding chapter of a horrific narrative; two interesting collections; and a few complete series.
The Anne Bancroft Collection (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
The collection, curated by Anne Bancroft’s husband, writer/director/producer Mel Brooks, includes the films Don’t Bother To Knock (1952), The Miracle Worker (1962), The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Graduate (1967), Fatso (1980), To Be Or Not To Be (1983), and for the first time on Blu-ray, Agnes Of God (1985), and 84 Charing Cross Road (1987).
Bancroft’s movie career was impressive and wide-ranging as she took on incredible challenges, became an icon and helped break down barriers. While her on-screen debut was sultrier, she would gain widespread recognition 10 years later for resuming her Broadway role playing Helen Keller’s determined and blind teacher. The film also garnered her only Oscar from five lifetime nominations. Yet, a few years later, at only 35, she’d become forever enmeshed with the name Mrs. Robinson, which became a euphemism for a sexy older woman pursuing a younger man. Having spent the last couple of decades in front of the camera, she decided to write and direct her first (and only) feature, in which Dom DeLuise is exceptionally cast in a role that requires sympathy as well as the ability to laugh. She’d try different genres throughout the rest of her career, expanding a filmography that already had several peaks.
Special features include: original bonus features, including commentaries, interviews, featurettes, isolated scores, trivia and trailers; and 20-page booklet with essays and liner notes by film historian and TCM host Alicia Malone. (Shout Select)
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
For years, fans have been delighted watching their favorite physicists Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) navigate the universe and everyday life along with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and fellow scientists Howard (Simon Helberg), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), as well as other beloved characters.
It’s hard to believe a sitcom about four scientists was on the air for 12 seasons, but they were proof nerds truly had become popular. More than that, the emergence of an accepted fandom culture and new attention for STEM jobs meant there were a lot of people who could identify with their exploits. From their dedication to getting tickets to the next comic con or Star Wars first screening, or their elaborate cosplay, or video game nights, or excitement over grants and hard-to-understand discoveries, these didn’t just appeal to a niche audience anymore. Of course, there were also the stereotypes of their trouble with girls, attachment to their mothers and other quirks, but they overcame many of these complications over the course of the series. The show’s finale sees them come a long way with Sheldon summarizing how much they’ve all meant to and changed each other over the years. There were definitely more laughs than tears, and sometimes a combination of the two. Their friendship is commemorated in this limited-edition boxset with a striking book that includes a fun pop-up.
Special features include: nearly 12 hours of extras along with an additional disc including three exclusive and never-before-seen featurettes. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Cotton Club Encore (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In this 1930s-era drama, Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club becomes a hotbed of passion and violence as the lives and loves of entertainers and gangsters collide. Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s extraordinary film is brought to vivid new life in The Cotton Club Encore.
When it was first released in 1984, the film ran 105 minutes, and was critiqued for excess musical numbers and its focus on the club’s black performers. Now considered one of the director’s most accomplished films, he’s been afforded the opportunity to release the picture that best matches his original vision. Restoring 35 minutes of never-before-seen scenes and musical sequences, the film digs deeper into the individual storylines and divides. Coppola’s ability to stitch together extraordinary dance numbers with deplorable violence — even choreographing a couple’s physical altercation on the dance floor — is remarkable. There are also a number of well-known actors, several in the early stages of their careers, in the movie, including Richard Gere, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Gregory Hines, Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne.
Special features include: introduction to The Cotton Club Encore by Francis Ford Coppola; and The Cotton Club Encore Q&A. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Fly Collection (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
This collection features 1958’s The Fly starring Vincent Price, The Return of the Fly, in which the son of the original scientist continues his father’s work and The Curse of the Fly, in which a woman finds she’s married into the wrong family. David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly electrified audiences with its ground-breaking, gooey effects and the riveting performance by Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, a scientist whose teleporting experiment takes a tragic toll. The hair-raising sequel to the remake stars Eric Stoltz as Seth Brundle’s son, who is beginning to show the effects of his father’s experiment.
This collection captures all the iterations of this sci-fi classic, from the iconic, squeaky “Help me! Help me!” to the juicy, human-sized insect gone mad. In the first film, audiences only get a glimpse of the monster as the mutated scientist keeps his bug head and arm under wraps for most of the picture. In the second movie, the son’s shady partner causes the experiment to go awry, though the end result is different. It’s also strange as the filmmakers opted to make the picture black-and-white even though the first one was made in colour. Cronenberg’s film is a full reimagining of the story that relies on his fascination with body horror and transformation. Goldblum’s character transforms slowly so audiences can experience Geena Davis’ horror simultaneously. In the sequel, the boy is entirely normal… until he isn’t. Where the earlier films were somewhat limited by their special effects, the newer versions use the improvements to their full advantage.
Special features include: original bonus features, including commentaries, deleted and extended scenes, alternate endings, interviews, featurettes, still galleries and trailers. (Scream Factory)
Gotham: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The story behind Detective James Gordon's (Ben McKenzie) rise to prominence in Gotham City in the years before Batman's arrival.
The series was initially going to centre primarily on Gordon’s eventual rise to GCPD commissioner, but over the course of five seasons they introduced a number of villains from the DC series as well as tied in the origins of the Dark Knight. Gordon was always a good cop, but Gotham makes it difficult to stay one. This prequel-style narrative shows even some of the DCU’s worst criminals were once normal people, at least to some degree. However, when they go bad, they go really bad, either by their own design or via unconscionable experiments carried out at Arkham Asylum. In the meantime, a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) grapples with his parents’ murder and his desire for revenge. It’s during these years that one can see how the bond between him and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) was established. The series goes pretty dark in the final season before fast-forwarding a decade to wrap things up and bring the characters up to speed with their more familiar situations.
There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Hustlers (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The film follows Destiny (Constance Wu), a young stripper struggling to make ends meet. That is, until she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the club’s savvy top earner, who shows her the way toward making big bucks. But when the 2008 economic collapse hits their Wall Street clientele hard, Destiny and Ramona concoct a plan with their fellow strippers to turn the tables on these greedy power players.
In the last few years, there have been several movies about the economic collapse. Some attempt to explain the events that led to it, while others focus on those “most affected” by it. However, this is a perspective not yet seen or really considered as workers who depend on other people’s incomes are often ignored in these stories. It would appear Lopez has been staying in impeccable shape via stripper aerobics since she looks so natural in the few scenes shot on stage at the club. The tale is one of women doing what needs to be done to make ends meet — and then some — essentially becoming self-serving Robin Hoods. If the Wall Street guys get to live large by potentially bilking other people, these ladies aren’t going to pass on the opportunity to do the same. Nobody is really right in this situation, but it is the type of real-life story that makes a rousing movie. In spite of portraying very different characters than usual, Wu and Lopez are great and have an authentic friendship on-screen.
Special features include: commentary with director Lorene Scafaria. (Elevation Pictures & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
IT Chapter Two (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), he has returned to terrorize the town of Derry once more. Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways. However, people are disappearing again, so Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home. Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all... putting them directly in the path of the shape-shifting clown that has become deadlier than ever.
At two hours and 49 minutes, this chapter is a slower burn than the first one. Audiences are becoming acquainted with them as adults, while they’re becoming reacquainted with themselves as children via a series of tasks assigned by Mike. Finding them alone, Pennywise zeroes in on their fears — then and now — in an attempt to break their spirit and commitment. These thrilling sequences feature the clown in unimaginable forms that will make people’s skin crawl and pimple with disgust and dread, respectively. It’s interesting to see two actors, years apart, depicting the same character. The eerie atmosphere is established in the opening scene before Pennywise even appears on screen and is then repeatedly heightened by his presence. On the flipside, there are still a number of laughs and snickers to occasionally alleviate the tension.
Special features include: commentary with director Andy Muschietti; “Pennywise Lives Again!”; “This Meeting of the Losers Club Has Officially Begun”; “Finding the Deadlights”; “The Summers of IT: Chapter One, You’ll Float Too”; and “The Summers of IT: Chapter Two, IT Ends.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Loudest Voice (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
The series chronicles Roger Ailes’ (Russell Crowe) relentless, stop-at-nothing mission to start Fox News and build it into a force that changed the media landscape…and the sexual indiscretions, manipulation and intimidation tactics that tainted his legacy. It also touches on defining moments in Ailes’ political life, where he arguably became the Republican Party’s de facto leader, reshaped public opinion and set the stage for Donald Trump’s presidency. In today’s politically charged media landscape, no figure loomed larger than Roger Ailes, and this is the inside story of his rise and fall.
The seven-part limited event series portrays a man who was given incredible power by a white, male oligarchy that decided he could lead them into a new era. However, Ailes’ tactics were aggressive and he didn’t respond well to anyone who disagreed with him. His misogynist behaviour towards women was even more deplorable as he used their career goals to manipulate them into trading sex to further their career. This portrayal suggests Ailes had few redeeming qualities and even fewer people who actually liked him, though many respected him. Yet, his contributions to 24-hour news channel and influence on the media landscape are undeniable. Crowe embraces every poisonous boil of Ailes’ personality, delivering a performance that is nuanced but generally unsympathetic.
Special features include: “Creating The Loudest Voice.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Millennium Actress (Blu-ray & DVD)
Eleven Arts
When the legendary Ginei Studios shuts down, filmmaker Genya Tachibana (Shôzô Îzuka) and his assistant are tasked with interviewing its reclusive star, Chiyoko Fujiwara (Miyoko Shôji), who had retired from the spotlight 30 years eariler. As Chiyoko recounts her career, Genya and his crew are literally pulled into her memories where they witness her chance encounter with a mysterious man on the run from the police. Despite never knowing his name or his face, Chiyoko relentlessly pursues that man in a seamless blend of reality and memory.
While this narrative does consist of a series of flashbacks, it’s told in a much more interesting way. As Chiyoko recounts events from her past — not just about her film career, but also the significance of a key she deems precious — audiences are transported into the unfolding scene so they’re watching it from within alongside Genya and his assistant. Satoshi Kon’s animation style does an excellent job of creating a realistic narrative in which a woman is essentially in love with a shadow. It turns out everything really does come full circle in the end, though in this case it may have do so more than once, just missing the mark by a hair each time.
Special features include: interviews with the producers and voice cast. (Eleven Arts)
Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Entertainment
The film visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his long-time stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore.
Even though the film is definitely a Quentin Tarantino picture, it differs from his typical fair. Most noticeably, it’s not especially violent. It’s midway through the movie before anyone even engages in a fight — though the wait is rewarded as the first bout is staged with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). On the other hand, the closer the film gets to its conclusion, the bloodier it becomes. In addition, the plot for this picture is very thin and much less complex than the director’s typically elaborate, intricate storylines. Rick and Cliff are on fairly straight paths, though they do have some notable experiences. Most recently, when creating fiction grounded in real events, Tarantino has taken the liberty to rewrite history in ways that allow the good guys to triumph. Although the amendment doesn’t have the same historical impact as the changes in Inglourious Basterds, it is still an entertaining deviation from what really occurred.
Special features include: additional scenes; “Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood”; “Bob Richardson — For the Love of Film”; “Shop Talk — The Cars of 1969”; “Restoring Hollywood — The Production Design of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; and “The Fashion of 1969.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
UltraSeven: The Complete Series steelbook (Blu-ray)
Mill Creek Entertainment
In the Age of Interplanetary Wars, Earth is in danger from those who would threaten its very existence. From their massive underground complex near Mt. Fuji, the Ultra Guard, an elite unit of the Terrestrial Defense Force, stands vigilant as our decisive first-line of defense. But unbeknownst to his teammates, Dan Moroboshi is secretly an extraterrestrial aiding them in their fight to preserve the future of humanity. Dubbed Ultraseven, he aides the Ultra Guard in fighting back alien hordes that would doom the world to conquest. A far greater threat emerges, though, as Ultraseven sees the consequences of his power: can he maintain his soul in the face of constant violence, even when that is necessary to protect his newfound friends?
This series was produced by the same creative crew that brought Ultraman to the screen, making it the third series in the Ultra franchise. The Tsuburaya team continues to deliver gigantic monsters and impressive special effects, but now with a group of heroes to keep them at bay. The science fiction themes ranged from racial injustice to the terrible consequences of war, finding ways to explore these issues in an entertaining, but meaningful way. While the two previous shows were obvious precursors to the more widely popular Power Rangers franchise, this series has clearer connections to the Western version with its team approach and alien support.
There are no special features. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
More about It Chapter 2, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Hustlers, The Anne Bancroft Collection, The Big Bang Theory
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