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article imageReview: Art records and imitates life in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 5, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a beautiful celebration of cinema; an epic addition to a legendary franchise; a night of workplace inhibition; complete collections of a couple of female-led TV dramas; and a documentary about documentaries.
Child Eater (DVD)
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MVD Visual
Babysitting can be a real nightmare — especially for Helen (Cait Bliss), who's stuck looking after Lucas (Colin Critchley), a frightened boy who says he hears noises coming from his bedroom closet. But then Lucas disappears, possibly at the hands of an infamous supernatural serial killer who, as legend has it, eats children's eyes to keep from going blind. Helen's only option? Enter the dark, creepy woods where the mythical "Child Eater" lives in an attempt to save Lucas from a grisly fate.
In spite of efforts to build a backstory for the monster, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. A man going blind began to eat children’s eyes in search of a cure, but that doesn’t explain how he became a seemingly invincible monster who’s still basically blind. Most of the “adults” appear to be barely out of high school and the ones older than that are even more useless. The mysteries of the woods — and Lucas’ closet — remain dark, unknown places filled with unexplainable horrors. The Child Eater seems to be everywhere, causing Lucas to be repeatedly snatched in a “there he goes again” manner, which just adds to the overall absurdity of the narrative.
Special features include: commentary by director Erlingur Thoroddsen and stars Cait Bliss and Jason Martin; deleted scenes; and trailer. (MVD Visual)
Cinema Paradiso [25th Anniversary Remastered Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Academy
Salvatore di Vita (Jacques Perrin), a.k.a. “Toto,” is a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena (Agnese Nano) and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.
This multi-award winning picture, including an Oscar for best foreign language film, is an enchanting narrative about the magic of cinema. Toto’s obsession with the local theatre from such a young age infuses the movie with such contagious passion. Other cinephiles will recognize themselves in him and the wonder he experiences watching these stories unfold on screen. His relationship with Alfredo is also incredibly charming as the older man tries to direct Toto into any other profession, even though his advice is no match for the young man’s love of cinema. The series of events that occur around Salvatore’s return to his childhood home share a meaningful connection that is both appropriate and somewhat melancholy. The film’s terrific performances elevate the two or three hour picture (depending on which version you watch) to great heights of entertainment and memory.
Special features include: Cannes Festival theatrical version and director’s cut; commentary by director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus; “A Dream of Sicily”; “A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise”; “The Kissing Sequence”; original director’s cut theatrical trailer; and 25th anniversary re-release trailer. (Arrow Academy)
Cooking at the World’s End (DVD)
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Film Movement
Set against the beautiful backdrop of Spain’s northwestern coastal provinces, the film documents a land and people rich in passion and culture. It follows the rise of Grupo Nove, an association of leading chefs who joined forces in 2003 to transform Galician cuisine. Now boasting a total of nine Michelin stars, Grupo Nove's innovative concept of gastronomy — at once rooted in tradition, yet uniquely modern — has inspired a new generation of cooks and brought international acclaim to the region.
This is not your typical food documentary since the focus is not on the cuisine. The camera takes audiences into the backroom discussions about opening Grupo Nove’s membership to new applicants rather than relying on symbiosis to grow their ranks, which reveals the elitist view some of them have of the group. The film also explores the local farms they use to supply their produce and meat, and their unique approaches to cultivating these resources. Moreover, since the focus is on the group, no individual member is profiled in detail; though the film does visit the kitchens of some of their restaurants. Unfortunately, the lack of concentration on a specific element of the collective or cuisine creates a rather mediocre, vague experience.
There are no special features. (Film Movement)
The Creeping Garden (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Arrow Academy
Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction. The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly life forms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us.
This is a strange documentary that focuses on a non-sentient organism, creating the illusion of a natural, biological threat a la the pods Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Scientists discuss these strange life forms in great detail, examining their lifespans, survival instincts and food cycles. Meanwhile extreme conspiracy theorists share their fears of the yellow fungus taking over — ideas that are supported by bizarre news reports of unexplained sightings that later resolved themselves. In spite of the bizarre subject matter, the documentary creates an atmosphere akin to a science fiction movie, in which one expects more disturbing revelations regarding the organism’s capacity to inflict harm or widespread damage. The bonus features are extensions of what appears in the film, expanding on the already weird investigation.
Special features include: commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp; “Biocomputer Music”; “Return to the Fungarium”; “Feeding Habits of Physarum”; three cinema iloobia short films: “Milk” (2009), “Rotten” (2012) and “Paramusical Ensemble” (2015); Angela Mele’s animated slime moulds; gallery; theatrical trailer; reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork; and bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack by producer and musician Jim O’Rourke. (Arrow Academy)
For the Love of Spock (DVD)
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MVD Visual
The film tells the life of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played him for nearly 50 years. It’s a complex but loving tribute to an icon and a father, as told by his son, filmmaker Adam Nimoy.
Adam Nimoy had embarked on the making of this film before his father’s passing; but afterwards, the context was unavoidably altered and became an even deeper exploration of Spock and Leonard. However, more than that, it’s a celebration of the man’s fictional and real life. Although the actor would always be associated with the Vulcan he portrayed for so many years, Adam does an excellent job of highlighting the many other roles Leonard played behind-the-scenes in the franchise, including directing and standing up for his co-stars, as well as the many things he did before and after Star Trek. Leonard’s family is also very honest about the roles he played in their lives, especially his children who had an uneven relationship with the busy actor. The documentary is informative, entertaining and genuinely moving — a fitting tribute for Leonard and everything he represented.
Special features include: commentary by director Adam Nimoy, David Zappone and Scott Mantz; “Leonard Nimoy’s Boston Special”; “Star Trek Trivia with Jason Alexander”; Kickstarter video gallery; Tribeca Q&A with Nimoy and Zachary Quinto; on set with The Big Bang Theory; and trailers. (MVD Visual)
The Good Wife: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Publically humiliated when her disgraced husband goes behind bars after a political scandal, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) reinvents herself and creates a new life practicing law and navigating the treacherous world of politics.
Inspired by the many political scandals of recent years and the lawyer wives that stood by their disgraced husbands’ sides, this show fictionalizes the life of the wife following a separation. Having left a successful legal position to focus on her children and husband, Peter’s (Chris Noth), career, Alicia must now prove 13 years of being a stay-at-home mom have not blunted her courtroom skills. By the end of the first season, she’s proven her value to the law firm and continues to build her reputation as a formidable attorney. There are season/series spanning storylines involving Alicia’s relationship with Peter and former-flame-now-boss Will (Josh Charles), as well as cases that are concluded in a single episode. This approach works very well in maintaining audience interest in the characters and show, who in some ways find themselves back where they started in the series finale.
Special features include: cast and crew commentaries; deleted scenes; “The Education of Alicia Florrick: Making Season One”; “Aftermath: Real-Life Events”; “Alicia Florrick: Real Deal Inside the Episode”; Alan Cumming’s videos; “An Evening with The Good Wife”; “Season 1 DVD Release Party”; “A Conversation with the Kings”; campaign music videos; “The Good Wife: A New Beginning”; “Research and Development”; “A Bi-Coastal Affair”; “Alicia Florrick at a Crossroads”; “Seat of Power: Directing The Good Wife”; “Standards & Practices: Sex and The Good Wife”; “The Ties that Bind”; “Style Evolution: The Fashion of The Good Wife”; “New Season, New Alicia”; Thicky Trick music video; “Requiem for a Friend: Inside Episode 515”; “Follow the Leader: Inside the Season Finale”; “The Temptation of Alicia Florrick: The Good Wife”; “The Esteemed Women of Sunday Nights: Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski”; “All Good Things: Farewell Alicia Florrick”; “Final Score: The Music of The Good Wife” “Finale Party: At the Red Carpet”; “It’s a Wrap”; on-air promos; and gag reels. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Medium: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette) receives glimpses from the future and messages from beyond the grave. With her uncanny skills, she helps District Attorney Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval) and Detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt) crack seemingly unsolvable crimes. Yet her powers often have a price. Allison’s loving husband Joe (Jake Weber) helps Allison cope with her increasingly complicated life as their daughters Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva) and Bridgette (Maria Lark) reveal psychic gifts of their own.
There series was inspired by a real-life medium of the same name who claimed to have worked with law enforcement. During the first season, Allison must convince her family, co-workers and herself that her visions are real and can help solve criminal cases; however after doing so, she becomes an indispensable member of the team. Sometimes her gift causes tension between her and Joe, though they’re most trying times stem from non-supernatural conflicts. Nonetheless, strange occurrences such as a temporary inability to understand anyone do put a strain on things. When the series appeared to plateauing, the increasing prevalence of their daughters’ psychic abilities injected new life into the show. The season finale is a little too contrived, but still a good fit to close the series.
Special features include: commentaries; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “The Story of Medium”; “Interpreting Allison DuBois”; “The Reel Allison DuBois”; “Medium in Another Dimension”; “A Day in the Life of the DuBois Daughters”; the Museum of Television & Radio Q&A with cast and creative team; “Drawing on Dreams”; “Directing with David Arquette”; “Acting is my ‘Racquet’”; “Joe’s Crayon Dream”; “Introducing Cynthia Keener”; “Script to Screen: ‘Apocalypse Now’”; “Curious Maria”; “Jake and Patricia Q&A”; “The 100th Episode of Medium”; “A Celebration”; “Zombies on the Loose: The Making of ‘Bite Me’”; “The Mind Behind Medium”; “The Music of Medium”; “Non-Fat Double Medium”; “Medium: Shadows & Light”; “Meet Detective Lee Scanlon”; “Medium Around the World”; gag reel; and TV spots. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Office Christmas Party (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
When an overbearing CEO (Jennifer Aniston) decides to close her hard-partying brother’s failing branch, he (T.J. Miller) and his fired up co-workers (Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon) decide to throw an epic office party to land a big shot client and save everyone’s jobs. Fueled by booze and bad decisions, things quickly spiral out-of-control in one of the craziest nights of their lives.
This is an incredibly raunchy comedy similar to Horrible Bosses (with which it also happens to share a couple of actors), but with a more concentrated narrative. The ensemble cast shares the spotlight fairly evenly, which is fitting since there’s a lot of comedic talent amongst them. The first half of the movie, involving inappropriate workplace behaviour and planning the party, is the strongest with it slowly declining after Miller falls off the wagon. It begins to trade bawdy comedic wit for outright debauchery and shock humour. Also, the “serious” sexual tension between Bateman’s and Munn’s characters is so unnecessary and generally a downer. However, McKinnon is a fantastic weirdo from start to finish. And you don’t want to miss these deleted scenes, which are in addition to the extra stuff in the unrated cut of the movie.
Special features include: commentary by directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck; deleted scenes; “Throwing an Office Christmas Party”; and outtakes. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Lucasfilm
In a period of great conflict, a group of unlikely heroes led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a daring fugitive, and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a rebel spy, band together on a desperate mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.
There’s something very satisfying about watching a story unfold in a universe you know, but have it be fresh and unexpected. As nothing was ever known about the mission that would lead to rebel victory in A New Hope — except that Rebel spies stole the secret plans during their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire — this film’s creators sort of had carte blanche when deciding on its direction and personalities. The film is rich in compelling characters, new worlds and early alliance politics. Not limited to alien diversity, they show brave men and women from every species and race fighting on the side of good for the safety of the universe. The combination of this exceptional cast and director Gareth Edwards’ desire to make a great film results in one of the most thoughtful, stimulating and moving film’s in the franchise’s history. And the bonus feature regarding the creation of everyone’s favourite droid, K-2SO, provides fascinating insight into this new beloved character.
Special features include: “A Rogue Idea”; “Jyn: The Rebel”; “Cassian: The Spy”; “K-2SO: The Droid”; “Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills”; “Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & the Revolutionary”; “The Empire”; “Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One”; “The Princess & The Governor”; “Epilogue: The Story Continues”; and “Rogue Connections.” (Lucasfilm)
Three (Blu-ray)
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Well Go USA
When three disparate souls — a doctor desperate to redeem her reputation (Vicki Zhao), a policeman who will go to any length to seek out justice (Louis Koo), and a criminal with a gunshot wound to the head (Wallace Chung) — are thrown together in the hustle and bustle of an emergency room, a hospital descends from a pristine sanctuary to an explosive battleground.
Taking place almost solely in a hospital, this film mixes the crime drama with a suspense thriller. The criminal is a fast-talking mastermind that is always one step ahead of the cops. The doctor is an overly ambitious neurosurgeon whose determination has begun to put her patients at risk. And the cop is willing to do anything to find out the truth and protect his peers. They’re a threesome of disasters waiting to happen, surrounded by lively characters that are more than happy to help push them over the edge. Though the lead-up to the end is spine-tingling, the actual conclusion is somewhat nonsensical and disappointing.
Special features include: “Master Director Johnnie To”; and “Three Complex Characters.” (Well Go USA)
To Tell the Truth: Working for Change and The Strategy of Truth (DVD)
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Icarus Films
Working for Change: explores the birth of the social documentary, featuring interviews with several members of the first wave of documentary filmmaking, as well as contributions from historians and critics, and a wealth of footage: essential viewing for anyone interested in film history and the power of media as a voice for truth-telling.
The Strategy of Truth: explores the role of film as propaganda during World War II, and the different forms it took around the world. It also raises the central question of whether a film can be both documentary-reflecting the truth and propaganda. Featuring archival footage from the British, German, and American propaganda effort, along with interviews with film historians and veterans of the celluloid war effort, the film illuminates the complicated relationship between propaganda and documentary.
These two hour-long documentaries explore the power of documentary filmmaking in the context of social turmoil and conflict. The first is an interesting examination of why the social documentary was born and the approach used when capturing their subjects, which required some delicacy to make them comfortable in front of the camera. The second film compares the role of propaganda in the three countries – while they had similar goals, their approaches (and thus success) differed greatly. The Nazi party was very adept at this style of filmmaking, recruiting Leni Riefenstahl to shoot many of their pictures. Alternatively, the Brits had trouble finding their groove; though the Americans eventually did figure out how to sway their citizens. Depending on the viewers’ interests, one may be more interesting than the other; but the stakes were obviously higher during the latter period.
Special features include: interviews with Alec Baldwin, Agnes Varda, Kevin Brownlow, Jeffrey Richards, Jo Fox & David Culbert on the importance and making of documentaries; “Let There Be Light”; and “The Autobiography of a 'Jeep'.” (Icarus Films)
Why Him? (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Ned (Bryan Cranston), an overprotective but loving dad, and his family visit his daughter at college, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). A rivalry develops, and Ned’s panic level goes through the roof when he finds himself lost in this glamorous high-tech world and learns that Laird is about to pop the question.
The obnoxious son-in-law is definitely not a new concept in cinema, but there’s a certain finesse to making it funny rather than annoying and this film doesn’t quite get there. Franco’s character is so over-the-top and insufferable, a lack of social skills can only explain some of it. Yet, the only disconcerting positive is how comfortable he appears to be in this role. Cranston is perfect as the dad being pushed over the edge, finding a balance between irate and anxious about the future of his family. While the scenarios provide crude, slapstick humour, they are so extreme it’s difficult to stay in the narrative. Similarly, Kaley Cuoco’s disconnected voice as Laird’s personal version of Siri is too all-knowing, but amusing.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer John Hamburg, co-writer Ian Helfer and editor William Kerr; deleted scenes; “47 Minutes on the Can”; “Why Gustav?”; “Barb Fleming: America's Mom”; “Lou The Entertainer”; “Richard Blais: Twisted Chef”; gag reel; gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)
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