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article imageReview: New on DVD for November 14 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 14, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a woman vying for the title of top MI6 agent; a horror reboot that pays tribute to its predecessor; a lovely animated adaptation; and a murder mystery with a wretched conclusion.
Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (DVD)
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Acorn
While traveling on the luxurious Orient Express, Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) meets Samuel Ratchett (Toby Jones), an unsavory businessman who fears for his life. Not caring for the man or his money, Poirot declines his demand for professional protection. But when Ratchett is stabbed to death, the detective is determined to find the culprit. Did an assassin sneak aboard in the night — or is there a killer hiding on the snowbound train?
Christie’s classic murder-mystery has been adapted for the screen, big and small, many times over the years. The problem with this is, no matter how terrific the cast, you can only be surprised by the staggering, concluding twist once. Thus, watching the umpteenth version of this story, one regards each character with suspicion not of their role in the crime, but for the slightest indication that they’ve given their secret away. Nevertheless, the cast of this 2010 edition is quite stellar, including Jones, Jessica Chastain, David Morrissey and Hugh Bonneville. Poirot is his typical unwavering self and each plays their respective part to a tee, though some definitely standout more than others, and the cinematography to capture all the action within the tight confines of the train is noteworthy.
There are no special features. (Acorn)
Amityville: The Awakening (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Belle (Bella Thorne) and her family — including her comatose twin brother (Cameron Monaghan) — move into a new house, but when strange phenomena begin to occur, she suspects her mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) isn’t telling her everything. Belle soon realizes, they just moved into the infamous Amityville house.
Moving into a house of evil is generally a bad idea; moving into it with a vessel ripe for possession is therefore probably worse. The Amityville house has been dormant for 40 years, but as one character points out that number has great significance in religious ideology. The incorporation of the original film and story with this reboot is actually done quite well as its existence is somewhat integral to the storyline – and consequently to getting some of the references or homages. The conclusion, of course, takes a giant leap beyond the supernatural occurrences of its predecessor, which somewhat cheapens the whole picture. And even though this was probably just a paycheck for Leigh, she is still one of the best parts of the movie.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Atomic Blonde (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
When Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent on a covert mission into Cold War Berlin, she must use all of the spycraft, sensuality and savagery she has to stay alive in the ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. Broughton must navigate her way through a deadly game of spies to recover a priceless dossier, while fighting ferocious killers along the way.
Lorraine never appears weak or less capable than her male counterparts, though some opponents are tougher than others (almost comically at times). Her fight against a group of armed men in an abandoned building is definitely one of the film’s best and most brutal sequences. The music in the movie is an energetic and inspired mix of ‘80s pop rock. Although the action isn’t exactly choreographed to the beat of the song, it tends to match the tempo and atmosphere of Cold War Germany. Theron has never been afraid to put her body through the wringer or show an unattractive side of herself for a role. In this case, her gorgeous exterior is repeatedly pummelled so the first image of her on the screen is covered in head-to-toe cuts and bruises. Unfortunately, the plot gets a little muddy around the middle as everyone goes behind everyone else’s back, but the basic mission is solid. A cross between John Wick and James Bond, she doesn’t nearly approach the former’s body count nor the latter’s globetrotting — but she does look good in a suit, likes her vodka on the rocks and doesn’t back down until the job is done.
Special features include: commentary by director David Leitch and editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir; deleted and extended scenes; “Welcome to Berlin”; “Blondes Have More Gun”; “Spymaster”; “Anatomy of a Fight Scene”; “Story in Motion: Agent Broughton”; and “Story in Motion: The Chase.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Darkness Rising (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Scream Factory
For years, Madison (Tara Holt) has been tormented by her memories of a traumatic incident: the murder of her younger sister at the hands of their own mother. Joined by her fiancé (Bryce Johnson) and cousin (Katrina Law), Madison returns to her childhood home just before it's slated to be demolished. Seeking closure, the trio instead find themselves pursued by the same malevolent, supernatural presence that drove Madison's mother to unthinkable violence.
There is a plethora of horror movies out there with a great concept, but poor execution. The opening and closing scenes are definitely intriguing, but seem to have no connection to what is occurring in the house. Amy finds potentially tangible evidence something strange is happening in the house, yet says nothing until her loved ones are in serious danger. As creepy as the whole situation seems to be and as well as filmmakers seem to know the right buttons to push, it just doesn’t come together as a convincing horror story.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
Evil in the Time of Heroes (DVD)
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Doppelganger Releasing
Ancient Greece. When blood-thirsty zombies begin to wreak havoc, only a mysterious cloaked hero (Billy Zane) with otherworldly weapons can save the day. Flash-forward to the present when Athens is once again beset by a savage undead horde and a ragtag band of human survivors is the last hope for the city’s survival… with a little help from the ancient cloaked hero.
This Greek zombie movie is somewhat closer to an infection than the walking dead, but that distinction doesn’t help make sense of the overall narrative. Beginning in ancient times, the film than leaps forward several centuries to a contemporary outbreak. The survivors at the centre of the narrative are staying alive via sheer luck, and mysterious strategies that are completely illogical and unnecessary to the overall picture. The revelation that immortals are amongst them, capable of ending the war and devastation is just one more nonsensical element of the story… which is capped off with the near silent appearance of Zane.
Special features include: original film storyboards. (Doppelganger Releasing)
In This Corner of the World (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Shout Factory
Suzu is a young girl from Hiroshima who’s just become a bride in the nearby city of Kure during World War II. Suzu’s life is thrown into chaos when her town is bombed during the war. Her perseverance and courage underpin this tale of the everyday challenges faced by the Japanese in the midst of a violent, war-torn country.
Based on the award-winning manga by Fumiyo Kouno, this is a very relatable and heartening tale of life during war times that happens to be beautifully animated. Suzu is accepted into an arranged marriage, and has trouble assimilating into her new life and family. Her sister-in-law is mean and her husband is usually at work, so finding her place away from home is that much more difficult. However the story is also unfolding during wartime, which brings the added pressures of air raids, rations, displacement and other hardships. Each day and month that passes brings the narrative closer to the day the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, making audiences anxious about the fate of Suzu and her family. As a result, after this trying and emotional journey, the concluding sentiment is incredibly heartfelt and powerful.
Special features include: “A Look at Post-Screening Q&As with director Sunao Katabuchi and producer Taro Maki”; 16-page preview of the graphic novel that inspired the film; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
The Incredible Shrinking Woman [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
She was an ordinary housewife who gave so much … and got so little. Exposed to a heady mix of household chemicals, Pat Kramer (Lily Tomlin) contracts a strange side effect: she begins to shrink. Baffling doctors, Pat’s diminishing size starts to really bring her down until her story captures the hearts of the American people and the attention of a sinister group of scientists bent on world domination. Getting out of this predicament while still taking care of her family will be no small feat.
It would seem this film was originally supposed to be positioned as a social commentary regarding the health and environmental consequences of the mass amount of chemicals used in the average household. Before “green” products were readily available in stores, cleaning solutions were jam-packed with harsh ingredients thought to have potentially negative side effects. Of course, Marge’s reaction to these substances is so extreme that its absurdity mostly overshadows any messaging except when it’s hitting audiences over the head. Nonetheless, Tomlin is excellent in her oversized sets as the illusion of her size is carried out quite seamlessly and practically in this 1981 picture. Unfortunately, when the gorilla is introduced, it all kind of goes downhill.
Special features include: deleted scene; a conversation with actress Lily Tomlin and writer/executive producer Jane Wagner; interview with director Joel Schumacher; interview with cinematographer and visual effects supervisor Bruce Logan; audio interview with composer Suzanne Ciani; “On Location: Now and Then”; still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Killing Ground (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Scream Factory
In need of a break from the pressures of city life, Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) head to a remote beach for a romantic weekend camping trip. When they stumble upon an abandoned campsite, they're concerned. When they discover a lone, traumatized child nearby, they're scared. And when they encounter two sadistic sociopaths (Aaron Glenane and Aaron Pedersen), they're in for one hell of a getaway.
Maybe it’s a sense of boredom or disenfranchisement, but it seems – at least according to the movies – that small-town folk or those living in the country are much more likely to be rapists and serial killers. This is definitely the case for the pair of sadists in this picture who get their kicks from other people’s suffering. In spite the worst of the brutality occurring off-screen, the implications of the scene to which the camera returns are more than enough to turn one’s stomach. These violence-for-the-sake-of-violence pictures are becoming somewhat tired. Even though this movie takes a slightly more novel approach to its telling, it’s still centred on the same senseless carnage that supposedly made viewers afraid of the Outback in 2005.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
When Little Mariah (Breanna Yde) sees a darling little puppy named “Princess” at the pet store, she suddenly knows exactly what she wants for Christmas. Before her Christmas wish can come true, she must prove that she can dog-sit her uncle’s dog, Jack, a scraggly rascal; in fact, the worst dog in the county. Jack turns Mariah and her family’s perfect holiday preparations upside down. It wasn’t exactly the Christmas she wished for…it was more than she ever wanted.
The film is based on the iconic Christmas song most famously sung by Mariah Carey and the illustrated book of the same name. Carey narrates the animated feature, which sees a young version of herself desperate for a puppy. However, because she has her sights set on another dog, she’s not very kind to Jack; instead she tries to do the bare minimum to care for him to prove she deserves the dog of her dreams. Apparently no one in her family thought through how that would be unfair to everyone, including Jack. Nonetheless, the puppy’s misbehaviour is cute and relatable for anyone who’s raised a pup, while Little Mariah’s dedication is admirable. There’s also an amusing side story in which her grandfather repeatedly tries to sabotage their neighbour’s Christmas display.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett) and the gang are back, returning to Liberty Park after they are forced to leave their easy life at the nut store. Getting back to nature is the last thing Surly wants to do, but when a greedy mayor decides to destroy the park to build an amusement park, Surly and his ragtag critter friends must band together to save the place they call home.
There is a lot happening in this movie. It begins in a nut paradise where everyone is eating their fill, but since that’s not a very interesting story this simple life doesn’t last very long. Surly is typically crabby, especially since losing his free ride; but insulting his ego and endangering his friends seem to be the most effective way to motivate him. As he and Buddy find themselves in a tight situation, the film recounts how they met and became inseparable friends. A few new characters are also introduced, including a tough mouse who doesn’t like to be called “cute” and a French bulldog who’s unfortunately owned by the equivalent of Tiny Toons’ Elmira… but worse. After many humorous mishaps, the animals band together to takedown the mayor, which is made exponentially easier due to all the corner-cutting used while building his theme park.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Cal Brunker and producer/co-writer Bob Barlen; deleted scene; concept art reel; and animation progression reels. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Wind River (Blu-ray & DVD)
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VVS Films
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is an experienced tracker and hunter who discovers the frozen dead body of a teenage girl. Cory teams up with rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) and Tribal Police Chief Ben Shoyo (Graham Greene) to piece together what happened, and track down those responsible for the grisly crime. The deeper Cory, Jane, and Ben dive into the investigation, the more they put their own lives at risk.
Renner and Olsen are reunited in a tale much different than their earlier superhero adventures. This murder-mystery also involves a lot of politics because the dead girl is aboriginal and Jane is an outsider assigned to a territory she doesn’t understand. Within hours of landing and beginning the investigation, she finds herself in an uphill battle against the elements — she’s just flown from Las Vegas to Wyoming during winter — and an unfamiliarity with the local community, which causes a lot of tension during house calls. Cory, on the other hand, is well-versed on the land and customs, but uninterested in holding Jane’s hand while giving her the CliffsNotes. There’s a lot of sorrow and anger in this picture and not all of it stems from recent events as years of neglect inform the characters’ deep-rooted emotions. The crime is actually pretty horrific, so it’s satisfying when the punishment matches; though that feeling is short-lived as the epilogue reminds viewers of the countless unsolved murders involving aboriginal women.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and behind-the-scenes featurette. (VVS Films)
More about Atomic Blonde, In This Corner of the World, Wind River, Amityville The Awakening, Agatha Christies Murder on the Orient Express
 
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