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article imageReview: Hardships lead to new beginnings in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 7, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a new picture from out-of-the-box thinkers; a mother who will stop at nothing to save her daughter; a beautiful relationship that transcends species; an animated ghost story; and a friendship that can survive anything.
The Beach Bum (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) is a rebellious rogue who always lives life by his own rules.
Filmmaker Harmony Korine has built his reputation by making somewhat raunchy, not always logical movies about bigger-than-life, ostentatious characters. He’s certainly not trying to please everyone, but those who do tolerate/appreciate his style are generally rewarded with fitting but outrageous performances from top actors. This round includes the likes of McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill and Martin Lawrence. While this role feels like it was made for McConaughey, it’s even more interesting to hear the actor describe all the ways the carefree character differs from his real personality in the bonus feature. The film is mostly linear, but sometimes erratic as the editing doesn’t follow traditional rules nor does the narrative feel a need to explain any series of events. Yet, audiences will want to spend every minute with Moondog thanks to McConaughey’s outstanding performance.
Special features include: cast and crew interviews. (VVS Films)
Deadsight (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Mara Madigan (Liv Collins) is a pregnant police officer about to go on maternity leave. But on her last day on the job, she wakes up to a world ravaged by a nightmarish and bloody plague of the living dead. Amidst the chaos and violence, she finds Ben Neilson (Adam Seybold), a man who is virtually blind, helpless, and has a mystery shrouding his past. Somehow these two must put their heads together and find a way to safety to escape this living hell.
While this is a post-apocalyptic narrative, it is fairly light on the zombies. Perhaps it’s the area’s remoteness, but it seems as if for most of the film the characters are going to the zombies rather than vice versa. Ben wakes up in an overturned ambulance, blind and armed only with the railing from his stretcher, yet he manages to find safety. Mara at least has a gun and figures on aiming for the head pretty early. They also don’t ignore the fact that the more able-bodied Mara is put in greater danger by the slower, impaired Ben. There’s a loose explanation for the outbreak provided around the midway point of the movie, but it’s only verbal and could have been enhanced with just a few visual flashbacks.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
Escape Plan: The Extractors (Blu-ray & DVD combo)
VVS Films
Set out on a path for revenge against the creator of the high-tech prison from where they just escaped, Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and his entire team cross paths with Shen, another notorious prison breaker and ally searching for the kidnapped daughter of a Chinese billionaire. Their desire for revenge and new mission collide when they break into Devil’s Station, an impenetrable gothic prison where the girl is being held hostage. A prison created by none other than their sworn enemy (Devon Sawa).
This is the third movie in the series, which features returning cast members from one or both of its predecessors. Unfortunately that’s the only thing to return. Where the other films boasted Draconian, maze-like prisons in which the characters find themselves trapped, this one has them breaking into a fairly old and not at all elaborate facility. The overall story is also weaker, though it does bring Jin Zhang into the fold. However, there’s nothing unique about this picture and the extraction plan is actually pretty simple, comparatively. It’s nice to see former teen heartthrob Sawa in a new movie, but everyone could have done better.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (VVS Films)
Furie (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
When a little girl is kidnapped by a trafficking ring, they soon find they messed with the wrong child. Her mother (Veronica Ngo), a notorious former gang leader, is close on their trail and will go to any lengths to bring her daughter home.
Based on the mother’s former life and current occupation, it feels safe to assume the abduction of her daughter in broad daylight is connected — especially when the kidnappers don’t discard her during the city-wide chase, deeming the whole thing too much trouble. But that’s apparently just a red herring and as she tells them later, they took the wrong kid. Her search is difficult since she’s poor and doesn’t have her own transportation, though she also proves to be incredibly resourceful. The eventual involvement of a police detective is somewhat farcical as she’s able to find out more in a few hours than the cops did in months, even though their walls are plastered with images of missing kids and supposed leads. In spite of some of the actors not being expert martial artists, they carry the action well and Ngo is especially impressive.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurettes; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
The Heiresses (DVD)
Icarus Films
Chela (Ana Brun) and Chiquita (Margarita Irun), both descended from wealthy families in Asunción, Paraguay, have been together for more than 30 years. But recently their financial situation has worsened and they begin selling off their inherited possessions. But when their debts lead to Chiquita being imprisoned on fraud charges, Chela is forced to face a new reality. Driving for the first time in years, she begins to provide a local taxi service to a group of elderly wealthy ladies. As Chela settles into her new life, she encounters the much younger Angy (Ana Ivanova), forging a fresh and invigorating new connection. Chela finally begins to break out of her shell and engage with the world, embarking on her own personal, intimate revolution.
This is a slow but subtly eventful picture as Chela is forced to find her independence while Chiquita is incarcerated. At the film’s start, Chela barely wants to get out of bed, let alone socialize. Driving for the elderly women gives her purpose, even though Chiquita thinks it’s silly and potentially dangerous. However, the real game changer is Angy who does what she wants and answers to no one. She speaks freely of her relationships, of which there seems to have been many, and encourages Chela out of her shell. Having relied on Chiquita for so long and surrendering the limelight to her, Chela is initially overwhelmed to be the centre of someone else’s attention suddenly. However, the conclusion is both shocking and satisfying as it makes an unexpected choice.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Mia and the White Lion (Blu-ray & DVD)
Shout Factory
The film centers on a willful young girl named Mia (Daniah De Villiers) whose life is turned upside down when her family decides to leave London to manage a lion farm in South Africa. When a beautiful white lion, Charlie, is born, Mia finds happiness once again and develops a special bond with the growing cub. As Charlie grows to full size, Mia uncovers an upsetting secret kept hidden by her father. Distraught that Charlie could be in danger, Mia decides to rescue him. The two friends set out on an incredible journey across the South African savanna in search of a sanctuary where Charlie can live out his life in freedom.
The most amazing aspect of this film is it was filmed over three years with real-life lions. The director wanted the actors and animals to be wholly comfortable with each other, so they spent a lot of time getting to know each other. But it was time well spent, as the relationship between Mia and Charlie is beautiful. The lion is exceptionally loving with the girl and very obedient, making it understandable that she’s forgotten he’s a wild, predatory animal. Mia’s brother also has a special relationship with the animals on the farm with his favourite being a mischievous meerkat that’s always humorously popping out of unexpected places. The film doubles as a PSA against canned hunting, which is a deplorable industry that still does big business in South Africa.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “The Extraordinary Friendship”; interview with director Gilles de Maistre; interview with actress Daniah De Villiers; casting footage; still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Okko’s Inn (Blu-ray & DVD)
GKids & Shout Factory
After losing her parents in a car accident, Okko goes to live in the countryside with her grandmother, who runs a traditional inn near an ancient spring said to have healing waters. Okko soon discovers there are spirits living there only she can see — welcoming ghosts who keep her company, play games and help her navigate her new environment. Okko strives to be a gracious host, and this is soon put to the test by a string of challenging guests with different stories. But ultimately Okko discovers that dedicating herself to others becomes the key to taking care of herself.
This is an unexpected ghost story in which Okko encounters numerous spirits who mostly want to help her — though they initially frighten her. It seems as if the inn is a bit of a ghost magnet as the young girl is visited by more than one over the course of the picture. However, on the non-supernatural side of the story, Okko is trying to adapt to her new home and responsibilities. With the support of a young boy’s ghost who’s somewhat attached himself to her, she learns the ropes of being a good host, but also how to put the best parts of herself forward. The animation is lovely and the conclusion is somewhat overly gracious, but very much in-line with the narrative.
Special features include: interview with director Kitaro Kosaka; interview with Seiran Kobayashi (Okko); Q&A with director and producers at Japanese premiere; and trailers. (GKIDS & Shout Factory)
SoulMate (DVD)
Cheng Cheng Films
The film portrays the decades-long friendship between two disparate women — Ansheng (Dongyu Zhou) and July (Sichun Ma) — who both struggle to find positions for their real selves in the modern world.
This is the story of a friendship that experienced a lot of ups and downs, which consequently resulted in long absences. July was studious, while Ansheng was wild at heart. Yet, together, they struck a balance of mischief and compassion. As the years went on, their opposing personalities took them on very different paths. Sadly, the thing to eventually come between them is a boy… though it’s the same boy that would eventually reunite them. To some extent the story is told in flashbacks, but both the present and past timelines are equally prevalent. The relationship between the girls feels genuine, as does their disinterest in a traditional Chinese life. Ansheng is the first to break-free, embracing her independence, but July’s familial ties makes it more difficult for her to deviate. As postcards become integral to the tale, this release of the film includes a postcard that viewers are encouraged to send to their best friend.
There are no special features. (Cheng Cheng Films)
Swing Kids (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA
Set during the Korean War, the soldiers at a POW camp plan a tap show to distract both themselves and the prisoners from the hardships of war. Led by a former Broadway dancer and a rebellious North Korean soldier, the band of prisoners find a new sense of freedom in dancing.
This is a period musical that’s a little inconsistent and a bit too long, but still enjoyable. Most of the music is American, ranging from big band to R&B/rock, which makes most of the dance sequences lively. There’s also fantasy incorporated into some of the choreography as some of the performers do the impossible. As the camp is a micro-community, much of the political divisiveness from the external world also exists in a concentrated form, including racism and political strife. A mix of English, Korean, Mandarin and Japanese, there is also room for a lot of comical translations as few members of the ragtag group actually speak the same language and some find other ways to communicate with each other.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
More about The Beach Bum, Mia and the White Lion, Escape Plan The Extractors, Furie, SoulMate
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