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article imageReview: Determination leads to a host of problems in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 18, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an outrageous comedy about breaking the law for the right reasons; a minimal post-apocalypse drama; a period piece that boasts a complete role reversal; and a holiday re-release.
A Fish Called Wanda (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Archie Leach (John Cleese) is a weak-willed barrister who finds himself embroiled with a quartet of ill-matched jewel thieves — two American con artists (Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline), an animal-loving hitman (Michael Palin) and a London gangster (Tom Georgeson) — when one of them is arrested. Only two of them know the whereabouts of the diamonds, prompting plenty of farce and in-fighting as well as some embarrassing nudity and the unfortunate demise of some innocent pooches.
This is a classic screwball comedy with a dark side. Everyone is in it for themselves, but some more so than others. Curtis’ character has used her womanly wiles to wrap all the men around her dirty fingers, turning on the charm with whichever one best suits her purposes at any given moment… she also has an overwhelming attraction to Italian accents. In the hands of director Charles Crichton and Monty Python’s Cleese, the film’s comedy is often hysterical with just the right balance of exaggeration and urgency. There is also a lot of humour as they all try to simultaneously conceal and find the stolen diamonds. Each actor has their own comedic style, which combines to create non-stop hilarity as they play off of one another with ease and perfect timing; though Palin’s K9 mishaps are some of the film’s best moments.
Special features include: commentary by writer and star John Cleese; deleted and alternative scenes with introductions by Cleese; interviews with composer John Du Prez, production designer Roger Murray-Leach, executive producer Steve Abbott and makeup supervisor Paul Engelen; “John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance,” a 1988 documentary on the making of A Fish Called Wanda; “Something Fishy,” a 15th anniversary retrospective documentary; “Fish You Were Here,” a documentary on the film’s locations; “A Message from John Cleese”; gallery; trivia track; and theatrical trailer. (Arrow Video)
The Beguiled (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
When a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), is found near the school, he’s taken in by its headmistress, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman). As the young women provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries when McBurney seduces several of the girls.
Director Sofia Coppola creates exquisite female-led movies with excellent casts that challenge gender norms and relate captivating stories. Reversing roles in this instance, it’s the Southern belles who are peacocking for their manly guest. Each of them consistently attempts to spend additional time with the Corporal or spy him through a crack in the door. But the soldier is also smart enough to understand his future depends on these women and his maintaining their favour. Therefore, he’s attentive to each of his visitors; telling them what they wish to hear and assuring them of his affection. But unlike men who would sooner turn on each other than admit defeat, regardless of who McBurney chooses they will blame him — and since he chooses most wrongly, he is inadvertently punished most severely.
Special features include: “A Shift in Perspective”; and “A Southern Style.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Children of the Corn (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
A young couple (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) travelling cross-country find themselves stranded in the small town of Gatlin, where they meet a mysterious religious cult of children. With no adults in sight, the terror brews as the new arrivals find the secrets of the prospering corn fields and the children who inhabit them. Led by the mysterious Isaac (John Franklin) and the unhinged Malachi (Courtney Gains), the blood-curdling secrets of the children of Gatlin are soon revealed to their new ‘outlander’ guests.
There have been several film adaptations of Stephen King’s book, as well as numerous sequels. This picture starts with a menacing scene that, although confined to one space, is meant to be representative of similar happenings across town. The catalyst for the violence is never revealed, though audience’s quickly see who would’ve given the orders and ensured they were carried out. Most of the narrative relies on the performances of Franklin and Gains, though their internal squabbles has unexpected consequences. The look back featurette in the bonus features reveals some interesting tidbits about casting and the dynamics on set, including the town’s complete accommodation of the production.
Special features include: commentary by John Sullivan of and horror journalist Justin Beahm; commentary by director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains; making-of featurette; “It Was the Eighties!,” an interview with actress Linda Hamilton; “Return to Gatlin”; “Stephen King on a Shoestring”; “Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights and Sounds of Children of the Corn”; “Feeling Blue”; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin. (Arrow Video)
Demonic (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
The film centers on the aftermath of a horrific massacre where five college students were brutally murdered inside an abandoned home. Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) and psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello) question one of the few survivors who explains they were amateur ghost-hunters, seeking out paranormal phenomenon at the abandoned house, which was believed to be haunted. But what started out as a harmless activity turned into something truly terrifying.
This is essentially another found footage horror picture, though it uses the gimmick sparingly. Opening with the discovery of multiple dead bodies, the film splits into two parts: the police investigation and flashbacks to the events that led to the murders. Of course the bold young people make the stereotypical mistake of not leaving when they should, instead choosing to push further into the unknown. In the meantime, the non-believing authorities try to find logical answers to what unfolded while also searching for the still missing students — “the ghosts did it” just isn’t going to cut it for them. It’s a pretty standard haunted house movie, except for the ending which is relatively innovative and unexpected.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Dudes [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray & DVD)
Shout Select
Two city, street kids (Jon Cryer and Daniel Roebuck) along with their best friend, head west to look for the good life in California. On the way, the threesome come across a vicious biker gang leader (Lee Ving) and a pistol-packin' beauty (Catherine Mary Stewart) who takes them from heaven to hell.
This is the ultimate fish out of water story as a couple of NYC punks travel through the Heartland in an attempt to reach the stages of Los Angeles. They’re not exactly welcomed when their car breaks down in the Deep South and they need assistance. Instead they’re generally harassed until half the band gives up and goes back home. But the other guys are determined to get there or die trying – possibly literally. It’s a fun movie, but there’s not much there outside of some diehard stereotypes and predictably awkward moments. On the other hand, listening to Cryer describe the experience in the bonus features is somewhat redeeming.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Duckie Dude,” interview with Jon Cryer; “Suburbia Dude,” interview with Flea; “Dude Looks Like A Lady,” interview with Catherine Mary Stewart; “Mohawk Dude,” interview with Daniel Roebuck; “Writer and Producer Dudes,” interview with writer J. Randall Jahnson and producer Miguel Tejada-Flores; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is stuck in New York City, while his parents spend the holidays in Florida. And although Kevin finds food, lodging and fun using his dad’s credit card, he learns that the Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) have escaped prison and are also in New York. It looks like he’ll have to outrun and out-prank them — again.
It’s hard to believe this would happen again to the same kid, but it seems to have occurred in spite of all of their best efforts. No one has forgotten the previous year’s shenanigans, but that just isn’t enough to keep the family from becoming separated for a second time. This picture has a bit of a Charles Dickens flavour as Kevin wanders New York and meets some offbeat characters who teach him something about being a good person. On the flipside is Kevin’s latest attempt to thwart the Wet Bandits as they plan to steal money from needy kids via his usual, Looney-Tunes-style hijinks. Even so many years after its initial release, this is still a fun movie to watch… in moderation.
There are no special features. (Fox Home Entertainment)
The House (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
When Scott and Kate Johansen’s daughter (Ryan Simpkins) gets into the college of her dreams, it’s cause for celebration. That is, until Scott and Kate (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) learn that the scholarship they were counting on didn’t come through, and they’re now on the hook for tuition they can’t begin to afford. With the help of their friend and neighbour Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) — also in need of a major payday — they decide to open an illegal casino in his suburban house, risking everything together on a Vegas-style bacchanal where money flows, inhibitions are checked at the door, and all bets are off.
If a group of suburbanites decide to open an illegal casino in their gated community, one can only expect over-the-top shenanigans to ensue. The comedic trio leading the charge are fabulous together as they keep finding new levels of hilarity and absurdity in this fantasy goldmine. Scott’s fear of numbers is balanced by his well-earned reputation as a badass enforcer; once they’re in it, there’s no limit to what Kate is willing to do to meet their goal; and Frank is the crazy idea guy who always has a surprise for his partners in crime. In spite of the ludicrous scenario, this (R-rated) movie is mostly hilarious thanks to an amazing cast who all clearly know what they’re doing on screen.
Special features include: deleted, extended and alternate scenes; “The House: Playing with a Loaded Deck”; “If You Build The House They Will Come”; “Line-O-Ramas”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Legend of the Holy Drinker (Blu-ray & DVD)
Arrow Academy
Andreas Kartack (Rutger Hauer) is a homeless man living under the bridges of Paris. Lent 200 francs by an anonymous stranger, he is determined to pay back his debt but circumstances — and his alcoholism — forever intervene.
This is a slow but captivating drama that centres on a man desperately trying to repay a debt, but consistently getting in his own way of being able to do so. In the course of a few days, he’s lent the money, offered a job, given a comparatively swanky place to stay and partially guilted into helping an equally desperate friend. Andreas is very clearly a good man who is down on his luck, but also a victim of his alcoholism. He’s haunted by memories and unfulfilled obligations; yet he remains determined to fulfill his promise to the generous stranger — one day. Hauer is generally recognized for darker roles, but he’s exceptional in this moving drama.
Special features include: interview with actor Rutger Hauer; interview with screenwriter Tullio Kezich; and theatrical trailer. (Arrow Academy)
Pilgrimage (Blu-ray & DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Leaving his Irish monastery for the first time, a young novice (Tom Holland) departs with a devoted group of monks and a mysterious former Crusader (Jon Bernthal) as they attempt to transport a holy relic to Rome. Threatened at every turn by savage tribes, traitorous Norman soldiers and those that seek the power they believe the relic holds, the young man finds surprising courage while faced with deadly challenges that will push his body, mind and spirit to the breaking point.
Early on the relic feels as if it may be akin to the ark in Indiana Jones, but it’s revealed to be far less glamorous — a fact which only complicates the idea that so many are willing to die or kill for something so ordinary. The sets are rather unadorned, primarily relying on the natural landscapes and costumes to create the appropriate atmosphere. The religious messenger played by Stanley Weber is proven a fool as he holds his faith above the practical dangers easily visible to the naked eye. Holland’s novice is unfamiliar with the outside world, but still better equipped to deal with its complications than some of his brethren. Bernthal’s character is mute, but clearly capable of more than he cares to share until there are no other options. His trajectory is probably the most appealing and tragic in the picture.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
Ruby (Blu-ray & DVD)
MVD Visual
The movie begins in 1935, where Ruby Clair (Piper Laurie), beautiful hostess of a Florida gambling house, watches in horror as her gangster boyfriend is gunned down, his bullet-riddled body sinking slowly into a dark, foggy bayou. That same night Ruby's baby is born. Fast forward to 1951. Ruby now owns a drive-in operated by a crew of ex-convicts she has befriended and her beautiful daughter has never uttered a sound since she was born. Then one-by-one her theatre employees are savagely murdered. Could it be the work of a rival criminal settling an old score? Or could it be an evil wreaking vengeance from beyond the grave? A psychologist from the state prison tries to find out — and what he discovers is not for the squeamish.
Even though the roundabout revenge plot isn’t entirely straightforward, in the end it is pretty conventional. Ruby’s boyfriend went down in a hail of gunfire, so the idea that he’d want payback from beyond the grave isn’t exactly uncommon. The audience is invited to connect the dots and come up with their own conclusion, but there aren’t a lot other options available from which to choose. At least the relatively inventive deaths somewhat make up for the less imaginative narrative. Using whatever may be at hand, including a reel of celluloid film, the killer shows no mercy. Although the murders occur off-screen, the resulting carnage still packs a punch.
Special features include: commentary by director Curtis Harrington and actress Piper Laurie; commentary by David Del Valle & ‘Curtis Harrington’ expert, Nate Bell; Sinister Image Episode — David Del Valle interviews Curtis Harrington; liner notes by Nate Bell; and theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
The Survivalist (Blu-ray & DVD)
Shout Factory
In a post-apocalyptic future ravaged by overpopulation, a lone survivor (Martin McCann) mercilessly protects his remote sliver of property from intruders. When a mother (Olwen Fouéré) and daughter (Mia Goth) in search of food and shelter show up at his doorstep, he’s suspicious, but cautiously allows them in. Soon, an uneasy alliance born of necessity forms between the trio — but distrust and paranoia threaten to give way to violence at any moment.
This is a bare-bones post-apocalyptic narrative with a very small cast and minimal dialogue. Save for a few intrusions, the focus is on the three characters forced together by loneliness as much as need. The mother and daughter are desperate for food and shelter; the man has the basics, but is alone and grudgingly in need of companionship. A fragile peace forms between them and alliances begin to shift, but nothing can last forever when you’re constantly under threat. They’ve all clearly been through a lot before viewers joined their journey, so their abandonment of casual conversation is not surprising; yet the lack of chatter gradually becomes less noticeable due to the still evolving story. This movie is definitely an instance in which simpler is better.
Special features include: making-of featurette; three short films; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
The Suspicious Death of Minor (Blu-ray & DVD)
Arrow Video
Undercover cop Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli) is on the trail of a Milanese criminal outfit following the brutal murder of an underage prostitute. But a killer-for-hire is also on the prowl, bumping off witnesses before they have a chance to talk.
This Italian crime drama has a lot in common with its American counterparts. Paolo plays by his own rules, shaking down suspects and paying off witnesses to get the information he needs. He’s pretty good at following the leads he uncovers and appears to know how to navigate the criminal underworld. However, none of these skills matter when the hitman gets there before him. Nonetheless, Paolo still manages to get pretty close to the head of the illegal operation, but with so much at stake they’re willing to do anything to push him off the trail.
Special features include: commentary by Troy Howarth, author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films”; new interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon; and collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Barry Forshaw. (Arrow Video)
More about The Beguiled, The House, A Fish Called Wanda, Children of the Corn, Demonic
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