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article imageReview: Journeys evolve unexpectedly in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 7, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a common enemy that unites two armies; a trio of friends on an important and outrageous mission; a questionable tradition; another chapter in space diplomacy; and a young man who realizes a seemingly impossible dream.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Four teenage girls embark on a diving adventure, exploring a submerged Mayan city. Once inside, their rush of excitement turns into a jolt of terror as they discover the sunken ruins are a hunting ground for deadly great white sharks. With their air supply steadily dwindling, the friends must navigate the underwater labyrinth of claustrophobic caves and eerie tunnels in search of a way out of their watery hell.
This is one of those bad ideas from the start. Before being attacked, they’ve already made irreparable errors, and endangered their lives as well as the archeological project. Although they do get to witness some pretty amazing sights before it all goes wrong. Once again unfolding almost entirely underwater, the picture relies on the murkiness of the water to hide its monster until it’s upon its victim. The sharks are slightly different than the ones from the first film, but they still have an unnatural desire to pursue and eat the girls. The characters’ survival rates are pretty predictable, while it also borrows from other shark movies for key scenes. However, the first picture offered greater intensity where this one relies on mediocre jump scares.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Johannes Roberts, producer James Harris, and writer Ernest Riera; and “Diving Deeper: Uncaging 47 Meters Down.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Blu-ray & DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The flightless angry birds and the scheming green piggies take their beef to the next level. When a new threat emerges that puts both Bird and Pig Island in danger, Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) recruit Chuck’s sister Silver (Rachel Bloom) and team up with pigs Leonard (Bill Hader), his assistant, Courtney (Awkwafina), and techpig, Garry (Sterling K. Brown), to forge an unsteady truce and form an unlikely super team to save their homes.
It obviously would’ve been less interesting to watch the birds and pigs resume their feud, so instead storytellers invent a mutual enemy that will force them to work together. The truce is very fragile at the start, especially since Red refuses to trust Leonard until it’s too late. However, putting all the birds and pigs in the same room to scheme together is a recipe for imprudent ideas and hilarity. Yet, the funniest scenes are centred on the hatchlings who’ve made a colossal mistake they must fix before anyone notices. Once again, it’s fairly predictable but adorably comic. And there’s even more cute comedy in the shorts found in the bonus features.
Special features include: making-of featurette; new mini movie, six classic hatchling movies; “DIY Family Fun”; “Bird Watching”; “Meet the New Birds & Pigs”; “Hatching the Hatchlings”; “Happy Thanks-pigging”; and “Jingle Birds: A Holiday Song From The Cast of Angry Birds 2.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (Blu-ray & DVD)
Filmmaker Luis Buñuel is left penniless after the scandalous premiere of his film, L’Age d’Or. However, his good friend, the sculptor Ramón Acín, buys a lottery ticket with the promise that if he wins, he will pay for Buñuel’s next film. Incredibly, luck is on their side, so they set out to make the movie: an unconventional documentary about the desperately poor Las Hurdes region in Spain. Buñuel’s initially callous approach to the extreme poverty and situations he encounters (or creates) gradually leads to a filmmaking experience that will transform him forever.
Buñuel is the acclaimed Spanish filmmaker also responsible for the short film, Un Chien Andalou, but his artistry didn’t bring him immediate praise. This animated picture recreates the behind-the-scenes struggles of the film crew who had trouble reconciling Buñuel’s vision with the documentary they thought they were making. The surrealist director cannot seem to help staging horrific scenes of torture and death to make his point, while also offending locals with his blasphemous antics. Since the movie is about the making of another film, creators smartly splice in actual footage from the movie, replacing what would have been animated recreations of the scenes. It serves as a constant reminder that this really happened, as well as enhances the narrative experience. The bonus features also include the 2000 documentary, in which a filmmaker returns to Las Hurdes to record their reactions to the film.
Special features include: interview with director; feature-length documentary, Buñuel's Prisoners; and trailers. (GKids)
The Farewell (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment and VVS Films
After learning that her family’s beloved matriarch, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), has been given mere weeks to live, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (Awkwafina) returns to Changchun to find that her family has decided to keep the news from Nai Nai. While the family gathers under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, Billi rediscovers the country she left as a child, and is forever changed by her grandmother’s wondrous spirit.
While a very good drama, the film is also a fascinating exploration of a cultural tradition with which many people may not agree and/or understand. The narrative is based on actual events in the life of writer/director Lulu Wang who was in Billi’s position when her own grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. This is Awkwafina’s first truly dramatic role and she does well, though she lacks expression in certain moments. In spite of the dire purpose for the gathering, the film is an entertaining family dramedy with many lighter moments to relieve the sadness. The bonus features are interesting as Wang and Awkwafina discuss their connections to the script and their opinions of the family’s choice to conceal medical information.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Lulu Wang and cinematographer Anna Franquesa-Solano; deleted scenes; “Nothing but the Truth: Confessions of a Writer-Director”; and
“Going Home: A Conversation with Awkwafina.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment & VVS Films)
Good Boys (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
After being invited to his first kissing party, 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay) is panicking because he doesn’t know how to kiss. Eager for some pointers, Max and his best friends Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) decide to use Max’s dad’s drone — which Max is forbidden to touch — to spy on a teenage couple making out next door. But when things go ridiculously wrong, the drone is destroyed. Desperate to replace it before Max’s dad (Will Forte) gets home, the boys skip school and set off on an odyssey of epically bad decisions involving some accidentally stolen drugs, frat-house paintball, and running from both the cops and two terrifying teenage girls.
This is a younger generation’s Superbad, but with some twists as the boys are not all at the same level of puberty and their interests are growing farther apart. However, they’re all committed to replacing Max’s dad’s drone, and ensuring he avoids being grounded so he can still go to the party and kiss his dream girl. Their mission puts them in a lot of unexpected situations, including a frat house, the middle of a freeway and in an awkward negotiation with a could-be pedophile. The running gag through all of this, though, is their misidentification and repeated misappropriation of their parents’ sex toys. The flow stumbles occasionally as the movie is more a series of skits stitched together, but the payoff is in the final montage.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Gene Stupnitsky and producer/co-writer Lee Eisenberg; alternate ending; deleted and extended scenes; “Boys for Real”; “Welcome to Vancouver”; “A Fine Line”; “Ask Your Parents”; “Bad Girls”; and “Guest Stars.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Peanut Butter Falcon (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from a residential nursing home to fulfill his dream of attending the pro wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). On the road, Zak meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a small-time outlaw who becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together, they set out on a wild, life-changing journey and try to convince Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a kind nursing-home employee charged with bringing Zak back, to join them.
The background of this film is as interesting as the picture itself. Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz were at a special needs camp where they met Gottsagen, who wanted to star in a movie. As there aren’t many feature opportunities for a person with Down syndrome, they built an entire narrative around Gottsagen, incorporating his interests and recruiting a great cast. The result is a heartwarming road trip movie that takes place primarily by foot and on water. However, most notably, it doesn’t feel like an attempt to placate an underrepresented demographic. The script is solid with a purposeful storyline and realistic dialogue. And even though Church plays Zak’s wrestling idol, a couple of real-life superstars also take the ring: Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mick Foley.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and photo gallery. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping [Limited Edition Steelbook] (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
After a two-year, sold-out, worldwide tour, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) is the biggest name in music. Then, his sophomore album flops with Rolling Stone rating it with a “sh*t emoji.” The film goes behind the scenes as Conner faces a crisis of popularity, leaving fans, sycophants and rivals all wondering what to do when Conner4Real is no longer the dopest star of all.
Based on the already popular Saturday Night Live “Digital Shorts” featuring music by The Lonely Island, this film hit the ground running with an audience already interested in what 90 minutes with the outrageous singing group would offer. Fortunately, they wouldn’t be disappointed. The first 15 minutes of the film is packed with so much laughter, viewers shouldn’t be surprised to find tears in their eyes. This goes on a little longer before adopting a more sustainable ebb and flow of narrative development and comedy. With the help of a lot of celebrities, this movie uses the absurdity of the music business, and the entertainment industry in general, to its complete advantage. There are also far too many cameos to list, but there are undoubtedly some memorable ones, including Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots, Maya Rudolph, Sarah Silverman, Justin Timberlake and producer Judd Apatow.
Special features include: commentary by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone; deleted scenes; interview outtakes; bonus footage; music videos; and gag reel. (Shout Factory)
Spirited Away [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Disney Home Entertainment
A young girl, Chihiro (Daveigh Chase), is trapped in a strange new world of spirits. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, she must call on the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world.
This movie delivered Studio Ghibli and the brilliant Hiyao Miyazaki their first Oscar for best animated feature, and it was more than deserving of the honour. It’s one of the director’s most visually captivating pictures — which is saying a lot considering his résumé — with an array of fantastic characters and creatures. The tiny balls of soot that work in the boiler room are totally enchanting, while the many spirits and supernatural beings capture viewers’ imaginations. From the giant baby to the river spirit to “No Face,” these unique creations demand your complete attention. Chihiro often finds herself in some sort of trouble, but there are a number of kind and unusual characters willing to help her adjust; and once she does, she becomes the driving force of her own fate.
Special features include: “Behind the Microphone”; feature-length storyboards; original theatrical trailers; and TV spots. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Star Trek: Discovery: Season Two (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
After answering a distress signal from the U.S.S. Enterprise, this season finds the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery joining forces with Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) on a new mission to investigate seven mysterious red signals and the appearance of an unknown being called the Red Angel. While the crew must work together to unravel their meaning and origin, First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is forced to face her past with the return of her estranged brother, Spock (Ethan Peck).
This season continues to take on a continuous narrative arc rather than an episodic structure. The season begins with some surprising news regarding the ship’s command structure, but Pike’s people management skills are above-average, making the transition mostly painless. However, the show continues to demonstrate it’s not afraid to kill any of its characters, while also teasing several goodbyes throughout the season and repeatedly pulling on fans’ heartstrings. Much of this season has to do with Michael’s recent and distant past as news about Spock, her parents and Ash is constantly throwing her for a loop. Paul also finds hope at the end of a dark tunnel, only to see his greatest wish evolve into further heartbreak. The season finale is exceptionally intense with lots of feelings and uncertainty that promises a very exciting third chapter.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted and extended scenes; behind-the-scenes featurettes; two “short Treks”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Warrior: Season 1 (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
Based on the writings of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, the series is set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century. It follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances. After proving his worth as a fighter, Ah Sahm becomes a hatchet man for the Hope Wei, one of Chinatown’s most powerful tongs (Chinese organized crime family). Over the course of the season, Ah Sahm crosses boundaries inside and outside Chinatown.
Followers of Lee's career will undoubtedly see his influences in the series, particularly in Ah Sahm who Koji plays as the legend might have done. There isn't a lot of background provided about the tongs, but it's not difficult to identify the different factions and the scheming underway that's set to disrupt the decades-long truce. As the series continues, more is revealed about various relationships and rivalries, while new connections and rivalries are forged. The fight scenes are well choreographed with two major events occurring late in the season: an all-out street brawl between two tongs and a dual between each of their chosen champions. The series takes a turn in the final chapters, promising an interesting change in dynamics for the next season.
Special features include: “Inside the Episode.” (HBO Home Enertainment)
More about Good Boys, The Farewell, 47 Meters Down Uncaged, The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Angry Birds Movie 2
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