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article imageReview: Courage is only one part of the equation in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 3, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include enhanced versions of world-expanding animated films; an honest portrayal of bullying; a strange of reluctant bravery; a surprising resurrection of a franchise’s heart; and a drunk pilot who thinks he’s immortal.
A Silent Voice: The Movie (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Shout Factory
When a deaf elementary school girl named Shoko is forced to transfer to a new school after a boy named Shôya constantly bullies her, Shôya suffers over the consequences of his guilt for years. Upon entering high school, Shôya finally decides he must find Shoko, to make amends for what he did in elementary school and to become her friend. Along the way, he meets new and old faces, and struggles with many complicated relationships and feelings.
This is a complex narrative that mirrors the confusion of adolescence. The first act unfolds over a few months of grade school in which Shoko is mercilessly tortured by several of the kids in her class. In spite of their cruelty, she is continuously apologetic. Even though he didn’t act alone, Shôya bears the sole blame for her transfer and it haunts him through the years. The slow friendship that blooms when they’re reunited is redeeming for both of them. However, it occurs in a fog of fear, remorse, anger and suicide; it also doesn’t help that one of their former classmates hasn’t grown out of her callousness. The English dub doesn’t always match the exact sentiment of the original Japanese, but it appears to be close enough.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Archer: Danger Island: The Complete Season Nine (DVD)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Get ready for a change of scenery with the semi-functioning alcoholic seaplane pilot, Sterling Archer (Jon H. Benjamin), a lush on the lush South Pacific island of Mitimotu in 1939. While the rest of the world is concerned about the impending Second World War, Archer is only concerned with who's buying his next drink. Along with his trusty co-pilot Pam (Amber Nash), Archer must navigate quicksand, cannibals, super-intelligent monkeys, poison darts, pirates, and did we mention quicksand?
This new approach to TV series in which creators deliver standalone seasons is really working for some shows. One of the key differences here is it’s all the same people with many of the same personality traits portraying different characters in different scenarios. The two most interesting changes to the dynamics this season are Archer and Pam are best friends, and Krieger is a talking parrot. Toss in some sex-deprived Germans and a priceless artifact hidden somewhere in the jungle, and you have a recipe for fun. With only eight episodes, the season speeds along at a steady pace while still giving audiences everything they’ve loved about the show for nearly a decade. David Cross guest stars as an anthropologist with Stockholm syndrome, which makes their time with the cannibals that much more amusing.
Special features include: “Inside look: Making Archer”; and “Crackers' Costumed Playings.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
Bumblebee (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Cybertron has fallen. When Optimus Prime sends Bumblebee to defend Earth, his journey to become a hero begins. Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager trying to find her place in the world, discovers and repairs the battle-scarred robot, who’s disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle. As the Decepticons hunt down the surviving Autobots with the help of a secret agency led by Agent Burns (John Cena), Bumblebee and Charlie team up to protect the world.
This is the best Transformers movie in a while because it returns the focus to the narrative’s relationships and the action is more of an accessory. Bumblebee has always been a fan-favourite because he’s sweet and funny, winning over audiences immediately and pulling at their heartstrings when he’s injured or sad. Steinfeld represents every kid who ever wanted their own Transformer, while also providing the other half of the film’s heart. Cena’s role is limited, but his primary role is to provide a bit of comic relief — particularly when he points out the most obvious reason not to trust the Decepticons. The action sequences are still highly impressive, delivering the level of destruction viewers have come to expect while also adding some finesse to their match-ups. The movie eventually brings it all full-circle for Bumblebee in a fitting end.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “Sector 7 Archive”; “Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen”; “Bee Vision: The Transformers robots of Cybertron”; and outtakes. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Gosford Park (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Academy
Set in 1932, the action unfolds during a weekend shooting party hosted by William McCordle (Michael Gambon), and his wife Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas) at his estate, Gosford Park. Among the guests are friends, relatives, the actor and composer Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), and an American film producer (Bob Balaban). When Sir William is found murdered in the library, everyone — and their servants — becomes a suspect.
In spite of being a subdued drama-turned-murder-mystery, this film is an epic production. The 2001 cast alone was beyond impressive, also including Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith and Emily Watson. This was possibly Robert Altman’s most accomplished film as he directed a huge speaking cast that was constantly in motion. One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is the focus on the service staff as their narratives are clearly more central than the squabbling socialites. The bonus features reveal they had consultants on set to ensure everything was accurate and the attention-to-detail really pays off. While the murder does add an element of intrigue, it’s simply another complication in an already lively weekend — and is inelegantly treated as such by almost everyone present.
Special features include: commentary by director Robert Altman, production designer Stephen Altman and producer David Levy; commentary by writer/producer Julian Fellowes; commentary by critics Geoff Andrew and David Thompson; deleted scenes; introduction by Andrew; new interviews with executive producer Jane Barclay and actress Natasha Dwightman; making-of featurette; “Keeping Gosford Park Authetic”; Q&A with Altman and cast; trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick. (Arrow Academy)
Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms and Blood & Iron (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Sword of Storms: A folklore professor becomes unwittingly possessed by the ancient Japanese demons of Thunder and Lightning. But when The Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense (B.P.R.D.) dispatches a team of agents to investigate, a cursed samurai sword sends Hellboy (Ron Perlman) to a supernatural dimension of ghosts, monsters, and feudal mayhem. Now, while pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and fishboy Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) battle one very pissed-off dragon, a lost and cranky Hellboy must find his way home. Even if he can survive the perilous journey, how much crap does a guy have to put up with from the two most vengeful and ferocious spirits of Japanese legend?
Blood & Iron: When Hellboy, Liz Sherman, and Abe Sapien are assigned to investigate the ghost-infested mansion of a publicity-hound billionaire, they uncover a plot to resurrect a beautiful yet monstrous vampire from Professor Bruttenholm’s (John Hurt) past. But before they can stop her bloodbath, Hellboy will have to battle harpies, hellhounds, a giant werewolf, and even the ferocious goddess Hecate herself. How much crap does a guy have to take from a Hungarian Blood Countess before he and his surrogate father can avenge the souls of the damned?
With the original movie cast lending their voices to these animated films, they’re essentially extensions of their live-action counterparts. Both movies are full-length narratives in which B.P.R.D. takes on a new case that expands not only their fictional world but fans’ knowledge of the characters. The first film is centred around an ancient Japanese legend, but transporting Hellboy into the past gives it a whole new perspective. Similarly, the tales of vampires and Elizabeth Báthory are well-known, but it’s more interesting in the context of Bruttenholm’s past. These pictures have a lot in common with their theatrical predecessors, but the medium allows storytellers to take their adventures even further since there are fewer restrictions on what can be shown on screen. The result is bigger and badder villains in even more remote locales.
Special features include: Sword of Storms commentary by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, supervising producer/director Tad Stones and director Phil Winstein; Blood & Iron commentary by Mignola, Stones and Vic Cook; “A New Breed: Creating the New Hellboy”; “Conquering Hellboy: The Actor’s Role”; “A View from the Top: The “Heads” Sequence”; “Tales from the Tomb: A Look Inside Blood & Iron”; “’Iron Shoes’ with Introduction by Mike Mignola”; and “Reversal of Fortune, Professor Bloom’s Story.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Horror Express (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Video
Renowned anthropologist Saxton (Christopher Lee) boards the Trans-Siberian Express with a crate containing the frozen remains of a primitive humanoid which, he believes, may prove to be the missing link in human evolution. But all hell breaks loose when the creature thaws out, turning out to be not quite as dead as once thought.
The background to this movie is as remarkable as the film itself. It would be the final pairing of Lee and Peter Cushing, who plays Saxton’s curious friend… but it almost never happened. Cushing nearly pulled out of the project, riddled with grief following his wife’s recent passing, but Lee convinced him otherwise. The story recounted more than once in the bonus features and their performances are typically flawless so one would never know otherwise. The film is a strange mix of zombies and science fiction as a seemingly long-dead fossil regains consciousness and starts to kill the train’s passengers; its existence, however, may come from the stars. That said, the movie has little in common with John Carpenter’s The Thing, though they’re based on the same source material. Telly Savalas’ appearance as a Russian officer provides some oddly placed comic relief, but no one can escape the predictable ending. Although it’s not related to this production, the discussion of Hollywood’s blacklist in the bonus features is quite enlightening.
Special features include: commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman; “Ticket to Die”; “Night Train to Nowhere”; “Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express”; “Notes from the Blacklist”; and “Telly and Me.” (Arrow Video)
The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot (Blu-ray)
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RLJ Entertainment
Since WWII, Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott) has lived with the secret that he was responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler. Now, decades later, the US government has called on him again for a new top-secret mission. Bigfoot has been living deep in the Canadian wilderness and is carrying a deadly plague that is now threatening to spread to the general population. Relying on the same skills that he honed during the war, Calvin must set out to save the free world yet again.
As the cast and crew note, the title really does say it all. However, as simplistic as that is as an explanation, the presentation is more complex. Barr is living out the remainder of his days in the same peaceful small-town he was born. He keeps to himself mostly and is haunted by the memories of his past. His talent with languages meant he was tasked with the most important mission in WWII and he was successful, though no one would ever know. But when he finally returned home, life had moved on without him. Now, his government is disrupting his tranquility with the strangest of requests – because he’s shockingly the only man on the continent who can do the job. Elliott is perfect for this role as he can portray both Barr’s quietude and dexterity, while also connecting to the audience in this bizarre tale.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; interview with composer Joe Kraemer; Elsie Hooper short film; and concept art gallery. (RLJ Entertainment)
Phantom Lady (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Academy
After a fight with his wife, Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) heads to a bar to drown his sorrows. There he strikes up a conversation with a mysterious, despondent lady who agrees to accompany him to a show uptown but withholds her name. Arriving home, Scott is met by grimly countenanced cops — his wife has been strangled with one of his neckties and he is the prime suspect. He has a solid alibi, but his theatre companion is nowhere to be found and no one remembers seeing them together. When Scott is charged with murdering his wife, it falls to his devoted secretary ‘Kansas’ (Ella Raines) to find the phantom lady and save Scott from the electric chair.
This is a truly thrilling whodunit as one mystery leads to another. Beginning with the woman with no name, Scott has the PG-equivalent of a one-night stand in which neither party expects to see the other again or knows enough about them to track them down. The latter of course becomes a problem when she’s his only alibi. Next is the question of why no one would remember this rather distinctive woman who accompanied him? Finally, who would want to frame Scott and be able to do so in such a short amount of time? Less traditionally, the secondary investigation that may actually clear Scott’s name is led by Kansas and she does a much better job at being a gumshoe than the police. The bonus feature about film noir is an excellent way to delve deeper into this picture, while also feeling a bit like a concentrated film class on the subject.
Special features include: “Dark and Deadly: 50 Years of Film Noir”; rare, hour-long 1944 radio dramatization of Phantom Lady by the Lux Radio Theatre; stills gallery; and reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options. (Arrow Academy)
The Possessed (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Video
Bernard (Peter Baldwin) is a depressed novelist who sets off in search of his old flame Tilde (Virna Lisi), a beautiful maid who works at a remote lakeside hotel. Bernard is warmly greeted by the hotel owner Enrico (Salvo Randone) and his daughter Irma (Valentina Cortese), but Tilde has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Bernard undertakes an investigation and is soon plunged into a disturbing drama of familial secrets, perversion, madness and murder.
Bernard is trying to recapture a moment in his life, but nothing goes as he’d hoped. He returns to the same hotel, requests the same room in which he wrote his book and eventually seeks out the barmaid he met. Unfortunately for him, he’ll never have the opportunity to see her again. Unwilling to accept her fate and encouraged by an equally skeptical local, Bernard begins his own investigation even though he’ll never be satisfied with the truth. Following up on a combination of rumours and hunches, Bernard discovers a game of lust that appals him and will forever taint his once happy memories of the lakeside getaway. In the end, his persistence is his downfall as there’s little he can do with the information once he has it.
Special features include: commentary by writer and critic Tim Lucas; “ Richard Dyer on The Possessed”; “Lipstick Marks”; “Youth Memories”; “The Legacy of the Bazzoni Brothers”; original trailers; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips. (Arrow Video)
The Prisoner (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Academy
In an unnamed Eastern European capital, an iron-willed Cardinal (Alec Guinness) is arrested by state police on charges of treason. Tasked with securing a confession from him by any means necessary is a former comrade-in-arms from the anti-Nazi resistance (Jack Hawkins). Knowing the Cardinal will never fold under physical torture, the Interrogator instead sets out to destroy him mentally, breaking his spirit rather than his body.
This is one of those minimalist stage plays that only makes a good film adaptation if it stars great actors. Guinness certainly fits the bill, imbuing the character with humanity and imperfection. It takes a formidable man to play opposite such a renowned performer and Hawkins more than holds his own in the reviled role. The Cardinal is often alone in the frame, reacting to his scant prison cell or trying to stave off insanity by talking to himself. Using classic techniques, including perpetual daylight, Hawkins butts his power against the Cardinal’s faith and is determined to make the Cardinal confess, regardless of whether it’s best for anyone. Guinness is so convincing, his character’s arc can sometimes be difficult to watch, bringing audiences through the screen into his uncomfortable existence.
Special features include: select commentary by author/critic Philip Kemp; and “Interrogating Guinness.” (Arrow Academy)
More about Bumblebee, Archer Danger Island, The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot, Hellboy Animated, A Silent Voice
 
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