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article imageReview: Lots of reasons to be scared in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 26, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a couple of horror anthologies; a romantic musical; the beginning of a vampire saga; an eccentric teen romance; a mechanical menace; and a haunted house made scarier with time.
A Happening of Monumental Proportions (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
It’s Career Day, and two school administrators have just made a shocking discovery: the dead body of the groundskeeper. They decide to hide the body, sparking a series of comic misadventures for teachers and students on a Career Day that no one will ever forget — no matter how hard they try.
It’s as if nothing is going right for anyone involved in the day’s event. In addition to the dead body, the music teacher is spreading his breakup blues, a new student is sick with loneliness, a father is being forced to meet the husband of his lover and there’s likely going to be a fight before the day is over. Unfolding during a standard eight-hour day, there’s a lot going on but not so much as to lose track. The busy comedy has an all-star cast, including Allison Janney, Common, Jennifer Garner, Katie Holmes, John Cho, Anders Holm, Rob Riggle and Kumail Nanjiani, and is directed by Judy Greer. The individual stories are inherently funny, but with no time to develop the characters audiences are definitely laughing at them rather than with them and occasionally asking “why?”
Special features include: “A Sneak Peek at A Happening of Monumental Proportions.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Creepshow (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
A murdered man emerges from the grave for Father's Day cake. A meteor's ooze makes everything ... grow. A scheming husband plants two lovers up to their necks in terror. A professor selects his wife as a snack for a crated creature. A malevolent millionaire with an insect phobia becomes the prey of a cockroach army.
More than 30 years later, Stephen King and George A. Romero’s horror anthology is still a go-to for many genre fans. The stories become gradually stronger as the movie continues, though each is quite different from the other. The post-mortem paternal celebration is ghoulish, though not unexpected. The fauna-takeover is bizarre, though the foolishness of the man who initiates it (played by King himself) is frustrating. The tale of revenge enacted by Leslie Nielsen upon Ted Danson and Gaylen Ross is compelling, though its conclusion isn’t quite as good. “The Crate” is arguably the best story as audiences are persuaded to condone murder as Hal Holbrook plays a mild-mannered professor and Adrienne Barbeau portrays his obnoxious wife. The final chapter will give anyone even the slightest abhorrence to bugs the heebie-jeebies. And the wrap-around story has a satisfactory beginning and end that suits the picture on a whole.
Special features include: commentary by director of photography Michael Gornick; commentary by composer/first assistant director John Harrison and construction co-ordinator Ed Fountain; deleted scenes; “Terror and the Three Rivers”; “The Comic Book Look”; “Ripped From The Pages”; “The Colors of Creepshow”; “Into The Mix”; “Mondo Macabre”; “Collecting Creepshow”; audio interviews with director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller, and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci; Tom Savini’s behind-the-scenes footage; “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds”; still galleries; TV and radio spots; and theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)
Elvis Presley: The Searcher (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Elvis Presley was a boy from Tupelo who grew up to become the biggest star in music. Along the way, he absorbed a staggering range of influences, creating a revolutionary sound in his lifelong search for self-expression. Following his creative journey from childhood through the final 1976 Jungle Room recording sessions, the film includes never-before-seen photos and footage from private collections worldwide, atmospheric shots taken inside Graceland, Elvis’ iconic home, and more than 20 new interviews with Priscilla Presley and the many artists, session players, producers, engineers and directors who knew him or who were profoundly influenced by him.
This is an extended documentary at 205 minutes, beginning with Elvis’ childhood and following right through to his death, though those involved seem less interested in discussing the end of his life. There are certainly some themes, such as his love for various kinds of music, his kind and easy-going nature, and his inability to sever the toxic relationship with his manager. There are some old interviews with Elvis, but most of the story is told by those who knew him, often in voiceover as archival footage and photos are displayed. They emphasize his natural talent for music and his consistent ability to adapt in the recording studio and life. Priscilla is especially candid when talking about Elvis, though not a lot is said about their life together. Similarly, the icon’s death is noted as writing on the screen and his addiction is almost excused because they were prescribed narcotics. The Colonel is the clear villain in the story as most of the blame is placed at his feet, but it’s still an enlightening look at the King.
Special features include: “In Conversation with Priscilla Presley, Thom Zimny, Jerry Schilling and Scott Goldman.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
House on Haunted Hill (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Twisted theme park bigshot Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush) is hosting a birthday bash for his wife (Famke Janssen) at a house that was once an institute for the criminally insane. Five strangers are each offered a chance to earn $1 million if they can survive a night in the house. But what starts out as a harmless birthday prank soon turns into a night of horrific terror.
This is a remake of a 1959 feature starring Vincent Price. The premises remain the same, but the house’s special effects have received a significant upgrade to scare contemporary audiences. The movie starts with a startling trip to Stephen’s theme park so viewers will be as confused as his guests as to which parlour tricks he is responsible for and which are caused by the house. Almost everything that occurs in the basement is incredibly creepy, particularly as bloody experiments are replayed and manifestations of the past stutter across the room. This is by no means a flawless picture, but director William Malone does understand how to deliver a few good scares.
Special features include: commentary by director William Malone; deleted scenes; interview with director William Malone; interview with composer Don Davis; interview with visual effects supervisor Robert Skotak; never-before-seen storyboards, concept art and behind-the-scenes photos; “A Tale of Two Houses”; “Behind the Visual FX”; movie stills and poster gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Making a Killing (DVD)
MVD Visual
Arthur Herring (Mike Starr) is the mayor, priest and mortician in a quaint small town nestled in the mountains of New Mexico. He and his brother, Vincent (Jude Moran), are well-respected pillars of the community. Arthur and Vincent once agreed to safeguard fellow mortician Lloyd's (Christopher Lloyd) rare coin collection worth a small fortune while he served time in prison, but when Lloyd is released and requests that his coins be returned, the brothers hatch an elaborate scheme to keep his treasure for themselves.
This is one of those true, small-town crime stories in which its seemingly homely citizens have a lot of dark secrets. Arthur and Vincent have lived relatively quiet lives, but Lloyd’s return is turning their world upside-down. Surprised by his early release, the brothers have to move up their own timelines that creates additional difficulties and compromises. There is also a strong criminal element that is both aiding and hindering their plan. Lloyd, in the meantime, wants what’s his but doesn’t pose much of a threat… though that doesn’t mean there isn’t a long list of people who wouldn’t prefer him dead. The ending is dirty and unfortunate, though the epilogue is a bit unexpected.
Special features include: theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Both a prequel and a sequel, the film tells two stories: present day as Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) prepares for the grand reopening of her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) hotel and 1979 when young Donna (Lily James) first arrives on the island. Sophie learns about her mother’s exciting, fun-filled adventures with the young Dynamos, Tanya (Jessica Keenan-Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies), and how young Donna first met her three possible dads Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine) all those years ago.
The beginning of this movie is a little too over-the-top with an absurd valedictorian production followed by an equally exaggerated restaurant performance. However, after getting these out of the way, the film finds its stride and settles into an enjoyable, palatable musical. Young Donna’s adventures are definitely the more interesting of the two as she runs into these handsome men along the way to finding her place in the world. Sophie’s undertaking is less whimsical and filled with a bit more strife. While the ’79 cast don’t completely match their counterparts physically, they do mirror their characters’ spirits — there’s also an amusing comparison at the end as each of the actors dance with their corresponding person in the final musical number. And then there’s Cher’s “Fernando,” which unsurprisingly takes the cake.
Special features include: commentary by director/screenplay writer Ol Parker; commentary by producer Judy Craymer; deleted/extended songs and scenes with commentary by director/screenplay writer Ol Parker; enhanced sing-alongs; “Cast Meets Cast”; “Cast Chats”; “High Jinks”; “Sophie's Story”; “Choreographing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”; “Dancing Queen: Anatomy of a Scene”; “Performing for Legends”; “Class of '79”; “The Story”; “Mamma Mia! Reunited”; “Playing Donna”; “Meeting Cher”; “Costumes and The Dynamos”; “Curtain Call”; and “NBC’s TODAY Show interview with Cher & Judy Craymer.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Maximum Overdrive (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
For three horrifying days, the Earth passes through the tail of a mysterious comet. The skies glow an eerie green as humanity waits to see what the fallout will be. But what they imagine is nothing like the nightmare they find — the comet’s magnetic fields cause all the machines on Earth to suddenly come to life and terrorize their human creators in a horrific killing spree. Now, it’s up to a small group of people trapped in a desolate truck stop to defeat the killer machines — or be killed by them.
Written and directed by Stephen King, this movie doesn’t wait for a sentient future for machines to begin killing humans. Instead, even the most inert mechanism is shown to have a mind of its own as it turns on any person in the vicinity. In spite of trying to limit the amount of blood in the film, there are some memorable deaths and corpses involving a soda dispenser, battery-operated toy car, hair dryer and arcade. Moreover, the entire rock soundtrack is provided by AC/DC, aptly relying on the anthem, “Who Made Who,” to drive specific scenes. The film isn’t the best by any means, but it’s a cult favourite that’s found a place in the heart of many genre fans for unexplainable reasons.
Special features include: commentary by writer Tony Magistrale, author of “Hollywood’s Steven King”; commentary by actor and comedian Jonah Ray and Blumhouse film executive Ryan Turek; “Truck Stop Tales”; “Rage Against the Machines”; “Honeymoon Horrors”; “Maximum Carnage”; “A Kid in King’s Court”; “The Wilmington Factor”; “Who Made Who?”; “Goblin Resurrectus”; behind-the-scenes footage; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Trick 'r Treat (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
The film consists of four interwoven tales set on Halloween night. A high school principal (Dylan Baker) moonlights as a vicious serial killer; the quest of a young virgin (Anna Paquin) for that special someone takes a gruesome turn; a group of teens carries out a cruel prank with disastrous consequences; and a cantankerous old man (Brian Cox) battles a mischievous trick-or-treating demon.
The opening comic book-style sequence is reminiscent of some of the classic horror anthologies, like the above-mentioned Creepshow. The atmosphere created is ideal, as it’s dark but does not appear to be too out of the ordinary. Also, the repeated use of the jack-o’-lanterns’ light to illuminate scenes adds to the Halloween mood while creating eerie shadows and dark spots. Writer/director Michael Dougherty admitted the film is a series of short stories strung together, which is true of most horror collections; however, the others tend to work better because they are shown in sequence rather than weaving them together throughout the span of the film. The individual tales are interesting, but their impact is lost in the transitions. Nonetheless, the most compelling story is definitely the one featuring Sam, the adorable but vicious pumpkin-headed child. He’s quite a riveting character with his supernatural abilities and easily amused demeanour.
Special features include: commentary by director Michael Dougherty; deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by director Michael Dougherty; “Tales of Folklore & Fright: Creating Trick ‘r Treat”; “Tales of Mischief & Mayhem: Filming Trick ‘r Treat”; “Sounds of Shock & Superstition: Scoring Trick ‘r Treat”; “Tales of Dread and Despair: Releasing Trick ‘r Treat”; a short film by Michael Dougherty with optional commentary by Dougherty; “Monster Mash”; “Trick ‘R Treat: The Lore and Legends of Halloween”; “School Bus FX Comparison”; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Twilight (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) doesn't expect much when she moves to the small town of Forks, Washington, until she meets the mysterious and handsome Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) — a boy who's hiding a dark secret: he's a vampire. As their worlds and hearts collide, Edward must battle the bloodlust raging inside him as well as a coterie of undead that would make Bella their prey.
While the film wasn’t likely to bring new admirers to the written series, fans of the book weren’t disgruntled as the movie is loyal to the story they know — just very different. Even at two hours, the first thing fans of Stephenie Meyer’s story noticed was Bella and Edward’s courtship is highly abbreviated. Several of the scenes are combined and they fast track to an intensely reciprocal relationship so the danger presented by the nomad vampires is substantial. Of course, these adjustments were expected and the feelings between the characters are still expressed well enough. On the other hand, the change in tone of two very meaningful moments in the novel may be irksome. This movie thrust Stewart and Pattinson onto the world stage, and they’ve come so far since then.
Special features include: “Twilight Tour…10 Years Later”; “A Conversation with Stephenie Meyer”;
“Music: The Heartbreak of Twilight”; “Becoming Edward”; “Becoming Bella”; “Catherine Hardwick’s Vampire Kiss Montage”; “Catherine Hardwick’s ‘Bella’s Lullaby Remix’” music video; “Edward’s Piano Concert”; “Twilight Cast Interview: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson”; “Twilight Cast Interview: Cam Gigandet”; “Twilight Cast Interview: Edi Gathegi and Rachelle Lefevre”; cast interviews on the red carpet; “Stephenie Meyer Talks About The Twilight Saga.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Valley Girl (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
When Julie Foreman (Deborah Foreman) dumps her preppy boyfriend, the last thing she expects is to find love with the punk rockin’ Randy (Nicolas Cage). The future’s open wide for Julie… but when her disapproving friends (E.G. Daily, Heidi Holicker and Michelle Meyrink) find Randy to be grody to the max, she is caught up in a culture clash between her Valley lifestyle and her Hollywood punk.
Early Cage is incredibly enjoyable. His youthful and unique looks led to several amusing high school roles in which he plays attractive but slightly eccentric young men. Randy is Julie’s opposite in almost every way, which makes her question her attraction to him at every turn. Considering her former beau is a pompous jerk that doesn’t appear to have feelings, it’s not entirely surprising she’d be in the market for something entirely different. This movie follows the formula of a standard teen romance, but the extreme personalities at its centre distinguishes it from other similar pictures. The conversation between director Martha Coolidge and two of the actresses in the bonus features is very revealing regarding the type of movie they set out to make, as well as the industry double standards they encountered during the production.
Special features include: commentary by director Martha Coolidge; “In Conversation – Director Martha Coolidge with Actors E.G. Daily and Heidi Holicker”; “Greetings from the San Fernando Valley”; extended interviews from 2003 with Nicolas Cage, Cameron Dye, Frederic Forrest, E.G. Daily, Colleen Camp, Lee Purcell, Producers Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, Peter Case of The Plimsouls, Josie Cotton, DJ Richard Blade, and more; “Valley Girl: 20 Totally Tubular Years Later”; “In Conversation: Nicolas Cage and Martha Coolidge”; “The Music of Valley Girl”; storyboard to film comparisons; and photo gallery. (Shout Factory)
More about Mama Mia Here We Go Again, creepshow, Trick 'r Treat, House on Haunted Hill, A Happening of Monumental Proportions
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