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article imageReview: Even the best laid plans go awry in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 19, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the culmination of more than a decade of movies; a one-of-a-kind look inside the ISS; a story of forbidden love punishable by angry mobs; a Toho classic; and a drama featuring comedic actors.
Avengers: Endgame (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Marvel Studios
The fourth installment of the Avengers series is the culmination of 22 interconnected films and the climax of an epic journey. Earth’s heroes will finally understand how fragile our reality is — and the sacrifices that must be made to uphold it — in a story of friendship, teamwork and setting aside differences to overcome an impossible obstacle.
In short, this film does everything you need it to in none of the ways you expected. In spite of the numerous fan theories about how this chapter would end, the Russo brothers defy expectations and give fans a movie they didn’t anticipate, but will be grateful to have. The first moments of the film are a continuation of the difficult losses felt at the end of Infinity War, but later hearing “Come and Get Your Love” blast over the scene is a reminder of the good times we’ve shared over the years. This picture is more of a drama in which the beloved characters fans followed for more than decade are trying to come to terms with unimaginable circumstances. This narrative is built on deeply felt emotions that overwhelms the need for action for an extended period during the movie. Instead, audiences are asked to experience this intense bereavement alongside the franchise’s personalities, leaving the fighting to later when they have something to fight for. There are some epic moments in this picture, some of which will cause viewers to cry tears of joy and sadness. But that is what fans want and need from a movie that is the culmination of so many years of work and dedication.
Special features include: commentary by directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; deleted scenes; visionary intro; “Remembering Stan Lee”; “Setting The Tone: Casting Robert Downey Jr.”; “A Man Out of Time: Creating Captain America”; “Black Widow: Whatever It Takes”; “The Russo Brothers: Journey to Endgame”; “The Women of the MCU”; “Bro Thor”; and gag reel. (Marvel Studios)
I Love Lucy: Colorized Collection (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
The laughs never stop with 16 full-length colorized I Love Lucy episodes, including “Lucy's Italian Movie”, “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”, “Job Switching”, and more Lucy favourites in colour.
The hijinks of the Cuban entertainer and his ambitious housewife serve up the type of comedy that is truly timeless. Though some of the issues over which they argue are impossibly dated as are the household roles to which they ascribe, their chemistry and the witty scripts are classic. There's never a dull moment at the Ricardo residence with Lucy regularly scheming to be a part of Ricky's show and Ricky constantly concealing any opportunity she may have to do so. Throw in their meddling neighbours and best friends, Ethel and Fred Mertz, and there's literally no end to the messes they can get themselves tangled into. From growing to love the feeling of grapes squishing between her toes to getting drunk off of vitamin juice to stuffing herself like a chipmunk on a chocolate line, they keep the laughs coming.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Lonesome Dove (Blu-ray steelbook)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
Augustus McCrea (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones), former Texas Rangers, are partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weakness. He is obsessed with the dream of creating a new homestead. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else. Call’s dream not only drags Gus along in its wake, but also draws in a group of fearless wranglers, trackers and scouts. Through sandstorms, stampedes, bandits, floods and snow, these characters live on to become legends of the great American West.
This TV miniseries was incredibly popular when it first aired in 1981 and it’s maintained its prestige over the years thanks to excellent acting and an interesting storyline. It’s a (stereo)typical depiction of cowboys vs. Indians, but it’s also cowboys vs. the elements as some of them succumb to nature’s more dangerous creations. The friendship between Duvall’s and Jones’ characters is softer than many of the others played on screen as they share their secrets and dreams. They and Danny Glover’s character bonded through the war and stuck together to try to make a life after it. There’s also the young up-and-comers portrayed by Ricky Schroder and D.B. Sweeney, who are taught quickly about life’s hardships and losses. Diane Lane plays the prostitute trying to get out of the business. Although her role is used to show the softer side of Duvall’s character, she’s also a bit of a cop-out to demonstrate some of the extreme violence of the wild West.
Special features include: “On Location with Director Simon Wincer”; “Remembering Lonesome Dove: Vintage Interviews with the Cast”; “Interview with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Larry McMurtry”; “Blueprints of a Masterpiece: Original Sketches and Concept Drawings”; and montage. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Maze (Blu-ray)
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MVD Visual
The film charts how inmate Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) became the chief architect of the largest prison escape in Europe since World War II – an escape which he plans but does not go on himself. Up against him is the most state-of-the-art and secure prison in the whole of Europe – a prison within a prison. While scheming his way towards pulling off this feat, Larry comes into close contact with prison warder Gordon Close (Barry Ward). Initially, Gordon holds all the power in their relationship and rejects all of Larry's attempts at establishing a friendship between them. Bit by bit, Larry wears down Gordon's defenses, maneuvering himself into a position of trust. During all this time, however, Larry is scheming behind Gordon's back, gleaning as much information as he can and working with other prisoners in a separate block to engineer their escape. When the escape finally takes place, thirty-eight prisoners reach the main gate and nineteen get away.
This is an interesting picture as the scheme is hatched in a highly politicized atmosphere both inside and outside the prison walls. Larry is the last man standing following a deadly hunger strike and Bobby Sands is doing well in the polls even though he’s currently imprisoned. The tensions inside the blocks rise as Loyalists and the IRA are kept in close quarters, and the guards’ attitudes worsen each time there’s another terrorist attack inside their borders. Even the hierarchy within the IRA and their decision-making process is cause for curiousity. The plan is complex and requires a lot of pieces to fall into place, as well as a number of props that they obtain with disturbing ease. Gordon’s reaction to the breakout is on the one hand expected as he accuses Larry of orchestrating it even though he remained behind, but on the other surprising as he sees the flaws in the system and his own behaviour that allowed the plan to work. The movie’s effort to include all the details makes it a little lengthy, but the conclusion includes an update on all the escapees to ensure viewers’ closure.
Special features include: commentary by directory Stephen Burke; and “81” short film. (MVD Visual)
Mothra (Blu-ray steelbook)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
Following reports of human life on Infant Island, the supposedly deserted site of atomic bomb tests, an international expedition to the heavily-radiated island discovers a native tribe and tiny twin female fairies called "Shobijin" who guard a sacred egg. The overzealous expedition leader kidnaps the Shobijin to exhibit in a Tokyo stage show, but soon they summon their protector, hatching the egg and releasing a giant caterpillar. When Mothra arrives in Japan and finally transforms into the ultimate beast, impervious to modern weapons, the nation and its people face their destruction.
Unlike Mothra’s kaiju brethren, Godzilla, it did not emerge from the historical depths to simply wreak havoc on civilization. It is, in fact, a protector summoned to help its guardians. As a result, it takes a long time for Mothra to even make an appearance as most of the film focuses on the outside intrusion on the island. In the meantime, the scientists and film crew try to rescue the tiny women from their greedy kidnapper, though breaking and entering, and avoiding detection isn’t really where their strengths lie. Mothra’s initial state is a giant caterpillar, which destroys while manoeuvering it’s round bulk around and through buildings. The real spectacle comes when it transforms into an enormous moth and the sheer power of its wings threatens to destroy the entire city. Even the conclusion is pretty low-key as they find a solution that prevents any further loss of life.
Special features include: Japanese and U.S. edits of the film; commentary; photo gallery; and trailers. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
The Old Man and the Sea (DVD)
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S’more Entertainment
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Ernest Hemingway, the film follows Santiago (Anthony Quinn), an experienced but aging Cuban fisherman who is suffering a lengthy string of bad luck, having not caught a fish in more than 80 days. The parents of his apprentice Manolin, forbid him to go out with Santiago. Yet every night, Manolin visits Santiago, helping him prepare for the next days fishing excursion. Santiago makes the decision to change his habits and venture far to the north of Cuba, into the Gulf Stream where he feels his luck will change. He soon hooks a massive marlin, but the mighty fish starts dragging the boat further away from his home port. For two days, he fights the massive marlin and finally manages to bring him to the side of his boat. But his journey turns into a fight for his life.
This is one of Quinn’s last great performances. Santiago is a determined man who wholeheartedly believes his big catch is still out there waiting for him. To most, this is the ravings of a desperate man, but he’s so self-assure it’s difficult to believe he won’t eventually succeed. Trying to reel in a large fish generally requires more than one person, but this is yet another sign of Santiago’s resiliency. It’s difficult to know how many would really believe his tale of survival, first against the marlin and then against a frenzy of sharks bent on taking his trophy. In the meantime, back on dryland, a Hemingway-esque man alienates his wife by insisting they stay on the island so he can follow Santiago’s story of drought and, hopefully, eventual triumph. A fan of the underdog, he’s sure Santiago will be a great subject for his next book.
There are no special features. (S’more Entertainment)
Rafiki (DVD)
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Film Movement
The film is a love story between two young women in a country that still criminalizes homosexuality. Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) have long been told that “good Kenyan girls become Kenyan wives” — but they yearn for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls encourage each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, Kena and Ziki must choose between happiness and safety.
In spite of much of the progress made around the world, homosexuals are still not accepted members of society in many countries. Therefore, coming out to almost anyone is nearly unimaginable for fear of arrest, severe punishment and further backlash against the accused’s family. This anti-gay attitude prevails amongst Kena’s friends and family, but fear compels her to stay silent to the point that her first fight with Ziki is over a covert public display of affection. The film makes it very clear that being closeted is a necessity of survival, not a choice in their country. While the ending does offer some hope for the future, it’s difficult to thoroughly enjoy without the change in context.
Special features include: short film “Hudson.” (Film Movement)
Space Station — IMAX (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
This is the first cinematic journey to the International Space Station (ISS), where audiences can experience for themselves life in zero gravity aboard the new station. Tom Cruise narrates this fascinating look at the high-flying laboratory where today’s space heroes develop technologies to make possible future voyages to Mars and provide solutions to earthbound problems.
As noted in the synopsis, this is the most complete depiction of life in the ISS as the astronauts were provided with cameras to capture some of their everyday happenings. The film demonstrates the challenges of eating, sleeping, exercising and making repairs in space. Some of the humour is predictably cheesy, but one really gets a sense of what life on the station is like as Cruise audibly points out the differences to living on Earth. His narration complements the images as his voice is not only familiar, but incredibly personable. His descriptions help audiences understand what they’re seeing, while not being too scientific or matter of fact. One of the key elements of the film that some may gloss over is the camaraderie amongst the astronauts from around the world, which is actually quite gratifying to see.
Special features include: commentary by director; “Adventures In Space - Interviews with Tom Cruise, Director Toni Myers and the Astronauts aboard”; “Expedition 7- An Audio Visual Tour of the ISS”; and “STS-108 – An Audio Visual Tour aboard Endeavor to the ISS.” (Mill Creek Entertainment)
The Stranger Beside Me: The Ted Bundy Story (Blu-ray)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
Ann Rule (Barbara Hershey) is an ex-cop working the suicide hotlines in Seattle. To make ends meet, she indulges in another obsession — writing true-crime stories. She has a daughter, a fulfilling life, and a good friend in a man named Ted Bundy (Billy Campbell), a handsome and intelligent charmer who’s just been accepted into law school in Utah. What’s captivating Ann’s attention now is a string of brutal murders—missing-women cases that have stretched from Utah to Seattle. It’s being called the most intriguing unsolved series of crimes since Jack the Ripper and she's been offered the chance to turn her articles into a book. But the more she digs and uncovers, a dreadful and unavoidable truth is staring her directly in the face - her friend Ted.
Infamous criminals have always fascinated people, so over the years there have been a number of movies and documentaries exploring the crimes and the person that committed them. While Ted Bundy is currently back in the spotlight due to a recent documentary and the Zac Efron picture, he’s always been a topic of discussion. In 1990, Campbell took on the role of the magnetic serial killer who repeatedly escaped custody and believed he could outsmart the authorities until the bitter end. The movie captures his audacity, approaching women in broad daylight, in crowded areas and using his inherent charm to lure them somewhere he could incapacitate them. Bundy’s story is so crazy, it couldn’t be imaginary. Consequently, the film is based on Rule’s book chronicling her friendship with the yet-to-be-discovered murderer, as well as feelings of guilt for not suspecting him sooner.
There are no special features. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Trial by Fire (DVD)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In 1992, Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O’Connell), a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak, was convicted of arson-related triple homicide and put on death row. This is the true-life Texas story of the unlikely bond that formed between Willingham and Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern), a Houston mother of two, who battled against the state for 12 years to try and save Willingham by exposing suppressed evidence and illogical conclusions.
Thanks to a number of true crime documentary and film series, people are being made aware of miscarriages of justice from the past, as well as those occurring right now. This is one of the former as Todd was assigned a terrible lawyer who offered no defense and sentenced to death for an unspeakable crime. Amazingly, the closest he gets to an appeal is not when a specializing law firm reviews the case, but when Elizabeth begins to track down the witnesses and evidence. Their friendship is interesting as Todd had no one and Elizabeth seemed like the kind to get attached to stray dogs. Although the film uses their friendship as a jumping off point, not a lot of their correspondence is seen as focus shifts to multiple mistakes made during his trial. The conclusion is as bizarre as it gets, though there would be longer term repercussions.
Special features include: photo gallery. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Vice Squad (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Princess (Season Hubley) is a single mom by day, a Hollywood prostitute by night. A volatile cop, Tom Walsh (Gary Swanson), uses her to trap a sadistic pimp named Ramrod (Wings Hauser), who murdered one of her friends. But when Ramrod escapes police custody, Princess is in grave danger. No matter which way she turns, Ramrod is coming for her. On the street, the real trick is staying alive.
The film opens with a note that the movie integrates real-life incidents from the street, which isn’t really hard to believe since crimes include solicitation, prostitution and pimps assaulting or killing their girls. Ramrod has a particular mean streak, opting to mutilate women when he’s punishing them for a betrayal. Walsh goes beyond the stereotype of determined cop, coercing Princess into a very dangerous sting operation by threatening her family and aggressively revealing her friend’s disfigured corpse – it doesn’t give him much favour with audiences. Princess, on the other hand, is portrayed as a woman just living the life and making a living – she isn’t beholden to anyone, makes her own choices and keeps all the money. The two-way chase is actually fairly exhilarating and ends as expected.
Special features include: commentary by director Gary Sherman and producer Brian Frankish; commentary by director Gary Sherman; “Tracking the Beast,” an interview with actor Gary Swanson; “Of Poltergeist and Neon Lights,” an interview with director Gary Sherman; “Hollywood Magic,” an interview with producer Brian Frankish; “The Roots of Reality,” an interview with actress Beverly Todd; “Catching A Killer,” an interview with actor Pepe Serna; “Princess Driver,” an interview with actor Michael Ensign; “Hollywood Streetwalking”; still galleries; TV and radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Winter Passing (Blu-ray)
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MVD Visual
When a book editor (Amy Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden's (Zooey Deschanel) parents, Reese must return home to recover them. But upon returning, she finds her widowed dad (Ed Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside, and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky, wanna-be musician (Will Ferrell). As Reese begins to understand her roots, she learns to accept who she's become.
This is a bit of an odd picture as it features two actors – Deschanel and Ferrell – not typically known for their dramatic work, though it does reunite the pair for the first time since 2004’s Elf. Reese loves her dad, but the dramatic differences in his behaviour and lifestyle since she last saw him are understandably unsettling. She’s not entirely sure what to think of his roommates/caregivers/lover as he can’t seem to do without them and vice versa. Reese experiences and expresses a lot of emotions during her brief visit, including anger, love, disappointment, regret and confusion, which in some cases causes her to lash out and in others try to better understand. It’s a strange dynamic, but everyone plays their roles well to produce an engaging extended-family drama.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (MVD Visual)
More about Avengers Endgame, Winter Passing, Rafiki, I Love Lucy, Lonesome Dove
 
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