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article imageReview: Limits are meant to be tested in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 31, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include several cult classics; an inspiring story of rising above expectations; the second chapter of taking care of business off the field; and an animated movie that strived to achieve more than the one before it.
Ballers: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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HBO Home Entertainment
Things are getting more competitive and complicated for retired football star-turned-financial-manager Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson). As the lines between professional and personal blur in his pursuit of lasting success and glory, Spencer must face demons from the past when he goes head-to-head with the biggest business manager on the scene. Meanwhile, Spencer’s closest friends and clients struggle to find their footing. A humbled Ricky (John David Washington) explores his options as a free agent, while getting to know the father who left him behind; Charles (Omar Miller) tries to balance a new baby and his future in the game; and Vernon (Donovan Carter) deals with the consequences of his life off the field. Returning to help Spencer juggle lucrative deals and big personalities are his outrageous business partner, Joe (Rob Corddry), level-headed agent, Jason (Troy Garity) and girlfriend/sports reporter, Tracy (Arielle Kebbel).
Everything gets a lot more complicated for everyone in the second season. Even though Ricky learned to be more of a team player last season, he’s got too many people weighing in on which team he should go to and it’s slowly limiting his options. Charles simply loves the game too much to walk away, but there may only be room for the job or family in his life. Vernon continues to be one of the sweetest guys in the game; thankfully, Reggie is starting to make better (mostly) decisions for him. Jason continues to have the tough conversations with teams, but he may have met one of his greatest challenges in a potential draft pick that needs significant damage control. Meanwhile, Spencer’s appetite for success puts him and Joe in direct competition with someone who’s way out of their league. Scrambling to make reparations and regain his advantage, Spencer is forced to face some hard truths that will undoubtedly affect the man he is next season.
Special features include: “Inside the Episode” for all 10 episodes. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Barbie Video Game Hero (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
When Barbie magically gets pulled into her favourite video game, she is excited to see she’s transformed into a fun roller-skating character. In the game, she meets Cutie, the lovable cloud-shaped friend, and Bella, the roller-skating princess. Together, they soon discover a mischievous emoji is trying to take control of the game. As they travel from level to level, Barbie must rely on her amazing gaming skills and out-of-the-box thinking to save her team and beat the game.
Other than the fact Barbie has created a game featuring llamas called “Cupcake Cavern,” this is a good girls who code narrative. In addition to having to beat every level to defeat the virus, Barbie also demonstrates the value of teamwork and creativity. The movie itself is fun because each level changes the type of game they’re in — they begin in a modern, smooth-edged game; then go to a 2-D universe; and end in the nostalgic world of 8-bit gaming. While Barbie’s new friends could benefit from some diversity, the overall narrative is amusing and vibrant. It’s also a positive (if incredibly pink) representation of female gamers and coders that is vague but a beneficial step forward.
Special features include: bonus shorts; “Change the Game” music video; Barbie dreamtopia: “Theme Song”; “Sweetville”; and “Sparkle Mountain.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Lair of the White Worm: Collector’s Series (Blu-ray)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant) returns to his country castle in England. Legend has it that James’ distant ancestor once slayed the local dragon — a monstrous white worm with a fondness for the sweet flesh of virgins. The young lord dismisses the legend as folklore, until archaeology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) explores James’ property and unearths a massive reptilian skull and a pagan snake god’s ancient site of worship. When James’ virtuous girlfriend, Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg), suddenly disappears, James and Angus set out to investigate the foreboding cavern said to be the worm’s lair, where a centuries-old mystery begins to uncoil.
In spite of being a UK production, this film is exactly like other similar American occult movies — but with accents and bagpipes. However, this picture also benefits from being early entries in the careers of Grant and Capaldi, as well as from director Ken Russell steering the typically unusual ship. Therefore it has all of their charm, as well as Russell’s keen filmmaking techniques. The narrative is rather inventive, attempting to make the legend seem as realistic as possible by providing legitimate-sounding explanations for things and allowing the characters to use realistic solutions, including giant speakers that were a cornerstone of the ‘80s. This movie is incredibly entertaining thanks to the enchanting cast and script.
Special features include: commentary by director Ken Russell; commentary by Lisi Russell in conversation with film historian Matthew Melia; “Worm Food: The Effects of The Lair of the White Worm”; “Cutting For Ken,” an interview with editor Peter Davies; “Marycentery,” an interview with actress Sammi Davis; and “Trailers From Hell” featuring an introduction and commentary with producer Dan Ireland. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Parents: Collector’s Series (Blu-ray)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Meet the Laemles. Dad’s (Randy Quaid) got a great job, mom (Mary Beth Hurt) has all the modern conveniences a happy homemaker could ask for, and ten-year-old Michael (Bryan Madorsky) has great new friends and two parents who kill him with kindness. They’re the all-American family… or are they? Michael can’t figure out why his family serves leftovers every night. “Leftovers? Well, what were they before they were leftovers?” questions young Michael. “Leftovers-to-be,” smiles dad. Dad’s bringing home the bacon… and a whole lot more. Michael’s parents are getting away with murder — making home where the horror is.
This movie became a cult classic for its peculiar portrayal of the American family, which illustrates not everything is always as perfect as it seems. In spite of not being able to deduce what his parents are up to, Michael’s perceptive personality convinces him something isn’t right about them; combined with the blood-soaked nightmares he has, it’s not surprising he’s suspicious. Quaid and Hurt are excellent in the roles of Michael’s parents — they’re a picturesque couple, but there’s something not quite right with either of them. Director Bob Balaban’s adds to the audience’s uneasiness with fantastic eerily designed set pieces, skewed lighting arrangements and strange camera angles. The scenes particularly in which the camera circles the characters with the patterned wallpaper in the background are especially effective.
Special features include: commentary by director Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef; isolated score selections/audio interview with composer Jonathan Elias; “Leftovers to Be” with screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne; “Mother’s Day” with actress Mary Beth Hurt; “Inside Out” with director of photography Robin Vidgeon; “Vintage Tastes” with decorative consultant Yolando Cuomo; still gallery; radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Pinocchio: Walt Disney Signature Collection (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Home Entertainment
With his faithful friend Jiminy Cricket by his side, Pinocchio embarks on fantastic adventures that test his bravery, loyalty and honesty until the triumphs in his quest for his heart’s desire to become a real boy.
This was the second feature-length animated film released by Disney. Having used the profits from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to build a state-of-the-art studio, Walt Disney wanted to explore the limits of the medium via this episodic story of a wooden boy. Therefore, although the tale feels a little disjointed on occasion, it was meant to push the limits of what was possible even further. In the context of contemporary concerns regarding child trafficking, the narrative is increasingly disturbing; but at the time, it was more of a lesson of bad choices and listening to one’s conscience. The newly created characters are unforgettable and the drawings remain impressive to this day. The bonus features provide additional insight into the fascinating process of producing the film.
Special features include: “The Pinocchio Project: ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’”; “Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island”; “In Walt’s Words: Pinocchio”; Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa”; and classic bonus features. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Poltergeist II: The Other Side [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
The Freeling family (JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O'Rourke and Oliver Robins) settles into a new home following the annihilation of their former residence by terrifying visitors from the netherworld. But the spirits of the dead are still hell-bent on luring the family's clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne to "the other side."
After the Freeling family’s house disappeared at the end of the first film, they moved in with Diane’s mother who is convinced Carol Ann is being targeted because she’s clairvoyant — a trait that runs in their family, even if Diane denies it. Other than providing a new explanation for the girl’s magnetism, this movie also delves deeper into the ghosts’ histories. Assisted primarily by Taylor, an aboriginal, with brief appearances by Tangina, the family must once again face-off against Kane. There are more elaborate, still-practical monsters worked into this movie, which were inspired by concepts provided by artist H.R. Geiger (his involvement is explored in a bonus feature). The sequel is definitely more grotesque than the original, though Julian Beck’s Kane is unquestionably the best in the series.
Special features include: commentary by writer/producer Michael Grais; commentary by Poltergeist II webmaster David Furtney; “Robbie's Return,” an interview with Oliver Robins; “The Spirit World,” an interview with special effects designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson And Screaming Mad George; “Ghosts Of Giger,” a look at the contributions of artist H.R. Giger; “They're Back: The Making of Poltergeist II”; “Monster Shop and Ghostmakers: The Magic of Poltergeist II”; still galleries; TV spots; an theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Poltergeist III [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Sent by her parents to live in a Chicago highrise with her aunt (Nancy Allen) and uncle (Tom Skeritt), Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke) discovers she must now face demons more frightening than ever before. Led by the Reverend Kane (Nathan Davis), the spirits have moved from invading homes to taking over an entire skyscraper. They are lurking behind every mirror… waiting. Fortunately, Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) returns to battle these malevolent forces.
O'Rourke and Rubenstein were the only ones to return from the first films. It seems unlikely after everything the family went through that they’d let Carol Ann out of their sight for any length of time, but alas here she is staying with never-before-mentioned relatives. It’s somewhat upsetting that Skerritt’s character is more committed to protecting Carol Ann than her own aunt, but that seems to be aligned with the male hero narrative that holds until the final showdown. The self-contained office building/residence/shopping centre is also somewhat disconcerting, though it definitely makes some of the script ideas more convenient. This would unknowingly be the last film in the series as O'Rourke would pass away shortly after; though the only signs of her illness in the film are her unusually puffy cheeks in some scenes.
Special features include: commentary by director Gary Sherman; commentary by Poltergeist III webmaster David Furtney; alternate ending; “High Spirits,” an interview with screenwriter Brian Taggert; “Reflections,” an interview with actress Nancy Allen; “Mirror Images,” an interview with special effects creator John Caglione, Jr.; still galleries; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Queen of Katwe (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Home Entertainment
Based on a true story, Phiona Mutesi’s (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl from the streets of Uganda, world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of this film is the closeness of its release to the real-life events that inspired it. Rather than wait to see where Phiona will go in adulthood or until she’s old and grey, filmmakers choose to tell her story now because of the impact it could have on other young women or children from impoverished backgrounds. Her natural ability to play chess is remarkable as is the dedication of the man who ran the club for local children. Everything about this movie is inspiring and the epilogue that pairs the actors with their real-life counterparts is incredibly touching — not only because their performances are wonderful, but because it shows their portrayals are supported by those who inspired them. The bonus features expand on this idea of getting it right, which is a commendable one.
Special features include: commentary by director Mira Nair; deleted scenes; “Queen Of Katwe: Their Story”; “A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight”; “In The Studio With Alicia Keys”; Alicia Keys’ “Back To Life” lyric video; and Young Cardamom & HAB “#1 Spice” music video. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Robert Langdon 3 Movie Set: The Da Vinci Code / Angels & Demons / Inferno (Blu-ray)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The Da Vinci Code: The murder of a curator at the Louvre reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected since the days of Christ. Only the victim's granddaughter and Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a famed symbologist, can untangle the clues he left behind. The two become both suspects and detectives searching for not only the murderer but also the stunning secret of the ages he was charged to protect.
Angels & Demons: Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is the most respected symbologist in the United States, using his knowledge in order to decode a symbol on the skin of a murder victim. The clues put him on the trail of an international conspiracy involving the Catholic Church.
Inferno: The famous symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia and finds himself the target of a manhunt. Langdon teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a virus that would wipe out half of the world’s population.
Robert Langdon is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, who in spite of being a high-ranking public enemy of the Church is also their first call when a fatal mystery is plaguing the Vatican. As with any murder-mystery, the enjoyment comes from gathering the clues with the protagonist and following them to the next one until the culprit is caught. However these cases are so complex and entangled with ancient lore, it’s nearly impossible for the viewer to piece together the puzzle without Langdon’s guidance — though they may still be able identify the ultimate villain before the big reveal. The first film’s theories regarding the Holy Grail and Jesus’ life were considered controversial, though it did involve the most intriguing whodunit. The second movie pairs Langdon with a CERN scientist capable of disarming the unstable bomb once it’s found, but refreshingly her role doesn’t double as a love interest for the hero. Unlike the previous two films, Robert is not always the smartest person in the room in the third film. His amnesia puts him at a significant disadvantage; however since it’s only affecting his memories for the last 48 hours, he’s still able to contribute in matters that require his extensive knowledge of Italian history and Dante.
Special features unavailable. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
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