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article imageReview: Fear is the ultimate motivator in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 28, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an acclaimed war drama; a bizarre family reunion; an equally fun sequel; a documentary about an underappreciated art; an unnecessary follow-up picture; and a dated but amusing adventure.
1917 (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
In 1917 at the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.
Even a great narrative can fall short if it’s not presented correctly. However, director Sam Mendes’ unique approach to this story sets it apart from other similar tales. To put audiences in the thick of it with the two soldiers, the entire two-hour film appears to be shot in a single take. It’s like a choreographed dance as Roger Deakins’ camera seamlessly moves from in-front to behind the protagonists, never missing a beat. It’s spectacular to witness for the first 10 minutes before the effect gradually fades out of notice and into its purpose, which is to immerse audiences into the picture. Given the demanding nature of the storytelling method, the actors are remarkable. Moving through a maze of trenches, they hit all their marks while delivering the dramatic dialogue of two young men tasked with a critical errand.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Sam Mendes; Commentary with director of photography Roger Deakins; “Allied Forces: Making 1917”; “The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes”; “The Music of 1917”; “In The Trenches”; and “Recreating History.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
April Fool’s Day [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
When Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) invited her college friends up to her parents' secluded island home for the time of their lives, she forgot to tell them it just might be the last time of their lives. As soon as the kids arrive on the island, someone starts trimming the guest list ... one murder at a time. What starts out as a weekend of harmless "April Fool's Day" pranks turns into a bloody battle for survival.
This movie has a similar feel to Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” but with the less mature element of everyone pulling pranks on each other throughout the trip. They’re also young, so everyone is trying to hook up while visiting the isolated island. But when dead bodies begin to turn up all around the property and the only escape is hours away, they do what every group in a horror movie does — they split up to look for the others. Muffy’s strange behaviour is pretty easy to explain, but there is an amusing twist to the narrative that filmmakers then ruin by giving it another turn.
Special features include: “Horror with A Twist,” an interview with director Fred Walton; “Well of Lies,” an interview with actress Deborah Goodrich Royce; “Looking Forward to Dessert,” an interview with actor Clayton Rohner; “Bloody Unforgettable,” an interview with composer Charles Bernstein; “The Eye of Deception,” an interview with cinematographer Charles Minsky; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Come to Daddy (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood), a privileged man-child, arrives at the beautiful and remote coastal cabin of his estranged father, who he hasn't seen in 30 years. He quickly discovers that not only is Dad a disapproving jerk, but he also has a shady past that is rushing to catch up with him. Now, hundreds of miles from his cushy comfort zone, Norval must battle with demons both real and perceived in order to reconnect with a father he barely knows.
This is a movie that begins as an awkward family reunion and turns into an off-the-rails bloody mess — as one would maybe expect from a movie featuring Wood and Stephen McHattie, and directed by horror producer Ant Timpson. Norval is a bit of a strange young man who’s difficult to pin down, though he does appear to be managing his issues. Meanwhile, his estranged father is a stand-offish alcoholic who doesn’t show any interest in getting to know him in spite of inviting him to his remote cabin on the beach. The truth of their unease leads to several murders and Norval discovering he’s capable of more than he imagined. This unusual, bizarre movie takes audiences on a dark journey that is very entertaining thanks to the committed actors and a well-developed script.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Grudge (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
A curse born in Japan is simultaneously unleashed in the U.S. Those who encounter it are consumed by its fury and met with a violent fate.
This movie transplants the entire story to the United States, only briefly beginning in Japan so the ghost can attach itself and be transported. The narrative jumps between three families gradually ripped apart by the murderous spirit, all residing in the same house that Kayako now occupies with the tortured ghosts her victims. In the meantime, in the present, a struggling single mother whose police duties took her to the house is now cursed. The director’s “Easter eggs” unfortunately feel less like homages than rip-offs of all the stories that came before it, appearing to be less original and to contribute little to the overall franchise. The tension-building scenes are not especially effective, though it does deliver some creepy moments and the rare jump scare.
Special features include: alternative ending; extended scenes; “The Cast of the Cursed”; “Designing Death”; and “Easter Egg Haunt.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Jumanji: The Next Level (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The sequel catches up with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) three years after their first adventure in Jumanji’s mystical video game world. When Spencer goes missing inside the game ahead of the group’s planned reunion from college, his friends, along with his grandfather (Danny DeVito) and his grandfather’s friend (Danny Glover), once again inhabit the avatars of Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) to rescue him. As they return to Jumanji, they discover that nothing is as they expect. With more action and surprises, the players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape.
To shake things up this time around, even though the avatars are the same, the players who inhabit them are different. Fridge is more than dismayed to be trapped in an athletically inept body, while the older gents are enamoured with their newfound mobility and knowledge. The new mission seems a little simpler this time around, though the game itself is more difficult — particularly for those unfamiliar with general gameplay. The humour is on par with its predecessor, bringing new hijinks as the avatars take on the personalities of DeVito’s and Glover’s elderly characters. The shuffling of players also results in new strengths and weaknesses, which makes the game a little more interesting. The ending is a tad clumsy, but it’s forgivable as everything else in the picture is so enjoyable.
Special features include: “Journey Through the Jungle: The Making of Jumanji”; “Meet the Players: A Heroic Cast”; “Attack of the Rhinos!”; “Surviving the Jungle: Spectacular Stunts!”; “Book to Board Game to Big Screen & Beyond! Celebrating the Legacy of Jumanji”; “Jumanji, Jumanji” music video by Jack Black and Nick Jonas; and gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Stuffed (DVD)
Music Box Films Home Entertainment
Told through the eyes and hands of acclaimed artists across the world, the documentary explores the surprising and misunderstood world of taxidermy, where sculptors are also scientists. Showcasing a diverse subculture, from an all-female studio in Los Angeles that has elevated taxidermy to the forefront of fashion and modern art, to fine artists in the Netherlands. It reveals taxidermy as an unlikely vehicle for pushing creative boundaries and highlighting the importance of preserving nature.
Taxidermy is generally considered a creepy hobby, but this documentary illustrates that it’s a scientific art that serves a purpose and can bring beauty into the world. The artists are certainly a little eccentric, but they’ve spent years studying and perfecting their craft. Interviewing taxidermists from around the world, they describe their passion for capturing the spirit of the animals they stuff as well as the importance of accuracy when displaying them. Each artist takes great pride in their work and nothing about what’s shown seems unsettling. The film also highlights a world competition in which the most skillful taxidermists submit their work for judging. Overall, it’s an intriguing documentary about a misunderstood profession.
Special features include: commentary by director Erin Derham; making-of featurette; and taxidermy art and poster galleries. (Music Box Films Home Entertainment)
The Wizard [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
Haunted by a family tragedy, and desperate to get to California for some unknown reason, young Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards) flees with his conniving brother, Corey (Fred Savage). Along the way, they encounter Haley (Jenny Lewis), a street-smart teen on her way to Reno. Together, they make their way to California, pursued by a sinister bounty hunter, as well as the boys’ father (Beau Bridges) and brother (Christian Slater). Meanwhile, their ticket to California just might be found in Jimmy’s hidden talent: video games!
This is a movie that could only be made in the ‘80s as three children hitchhike across state lines, hustling and gambling to make enough money to pay for food and the occasional real fare. Corey is following his gut, while Haley has the street smarts that keep them alive. Still, they make stupid, childish errors that repeatedly put them back to square one. While the kids take an indirect route to a national video game competition, Corey and Jimmy’s dad must outwit and outrun a devious bounty hunter determined to retrieve the kids for a reward, which he contends outweighs the father’s concern for their safety. Though it’s not discussed much in the film, one of the bonus features addresses the fact that Jimmy may have been autistic and its portrayal in the picture.
Special features include: commentary by director Todd Holland; deleted scenes; “The Road to Cali-forn-ia”; “How Can I Help You? Confessions of a Game Play Counselor”; “A Clinical Analysis of The Wizard”; post-screening Q&A from Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2019 With Luke Edwards, David Chisholm and Ken Topolsky; and photo gallery. (Shout Select)
More about 1917, Jumanji The Next Level, Come to Daddy, The Grudge, April fools day
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