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article imageReview: Mixed motives cause dilemmas in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 11, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a reimagined zombie classic; an adult cartoon that broke all the rules; a cop series dealing with real racial tensions; a time travel action thriller; and an assassin’s final job gets personal.
24 Hours to Live (Blu-ray & Digital copy or Blu-ray & DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment & VVS Films
Travis Conrad (Ethan Hawke) is a former special-ops marine turned mercenary who is lured out of retirement by the covert company that used to employ him. After Travis is killed during a brutal firefight, a new regeneration surgery gives him a second chance at life — and one last shot at redemption.
As many movies have shown before, good assassins are never truly retired; similarly, they don’t get breaks either. So David isn’t surprised when he’s sought out during a hiatus, though the payday on this assignment would make anyone drop whatever they were doing. What follows is a series of gunfights in which David uses his exceptional skills to destroy the opposition, depending on which side he’s currently fighting, as he battles his way to the top to punish those who so callously used him. Of course, audiences are expected to side with David in this even though his killer-for-hire status clearly makes him the villain in most situations. Hawke has played these types of characters before, so he’s comfortable in the role even if the ethics of the character are more complicated in this film that feels like a less hyper or stylized Crank.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment & VVS Films)
A Bad Moms Christmas (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Three under-appreciated and over-burdened women — Cindy, Molly and Rebecca (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) — rebel against the challenges and expectations of the Super Bowl for moms: Christmas. And if creating a more perfect holiday for their families wasn’t hard enough, they have to do all of that while hosting and entertaining their own mothers (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon). By the end of the journey, our moms will redefine how to make the holidays special for all and discover a closer relationship with their mothers.
In the first film, these three women decided perfection was not a realistic goal, and the health and happiness of their loved ones — and themselves — was all that truly mattered. However, after that big step forward, the holidays have pushed them two steps back. Between striving for a flawless Christmas and trying to please their mothers, they’re once again losing sight of what’s important. Nonetheless, it’s their mothers who are the centre of attention in the sequel. Baranski is overbearing, Hines is distressingly clingy and Sarandon is still sowing her wild oats. This is Us’ Michael Hartley also makes an appearance as a stripper competing in a Santa contest that no one will want to miss.
Special features include: additional scenes; gag reel; crew music video; and theatrical trailers. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Belle Epoque (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Spain, 1931 is a politically divided nation and on the brink of war. With allegiances torn between Republican and Traditionalist factions, Fernando (Jorge Sanz), a disillusioned soldier, has chosen a third option — going AWOL. Fate intervenes during his escape when he meets Manolo (Fernando Fernán Gómez), an admiring land owner who sees himself mirrored in the young man and welcomes him into his home — a home inhabited by Manolo’s four visiting daughters, each more beautiful than the other. Clara (Miriam Díaz-Aroca), Violeta (Ariadna Gil), Rocío (Maribel Verdú) and Luz (Penélope Cruz) will prove to be more than just a pleasant distraction for Fernando.
This is a movie that’s been seen before (or at least sounds like the lead-up to the punchline in a dirty joke) as Manolo tries to keep Fernando away from his beautiful daughters. However, the young women welcome the poor soldier into their arms (and beds) as each embraces their attraction to him regardless of their circumstances… or the feelings of Luz, who’s hopelessly fallen in love with him. It’s humorous as the girls share the details of their exploits with each other, frustrating Fernando as each rejects his proposal after their encounter. The fun continues when their mother returns from her singing tour with her lover, who feels jilted when she wants to spend time with her husband. It’s all very risqué, but wholly amusing.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Five years after an epidemic nearly wiped out the world’s population, Dr. Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton) lives in an underground bunker among a small group of military personnel and survivalists, working on a cure while fighting armies of the undead. When a dangerous patient (Johnathon Schaech) from Zoe’s past infiltrates the bunker, he just might hold the key to saving humanity… or ending it.
Taking its inspiration from George Romero’s zombie classic, filmmakers turn this film into a tale of obsession and survival. Only ever referring to the undead as “rotters,” the survivors take so many unnecessary risks in order to support Zoe’s research that it becomes ridiculous. Although Miguel seems a little extreme in his caution, he at least has the right idea about how to keep those in the compound safe. Conversely, their comfort in their security is the only acceptable explanation for the perimeter breach at the centre of the story. There’s a lot of human error audiences are asked to accept in this picture, but filmmakers may be expecting their audiences to ignore too much in this instance.
Special features include: “Reviving Horror” featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Duckman: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
He’s crude. He’s rude. He’s lewd. Yes, he’s the total dick: Duckman (Jason Alexander), the slovenly, smart-mouthed, private eye ladies don’t like and men don’t want to be like. Together with Cornfed, his portly, porcine partner in crime solving, this defective detective amazingly manages to solve crimes and be a single parent to his dysfunctional sons at the same time.
Alexander simply has a voice that lends itself well to animated characters, particularly ones who are generally frustrated with life like his Seinfeld character, George Costanza. In this case, the widowed private detective is regularly berated by his sister-in-law, outsmarted by his conjoined twins and stunned by the stupidity of his eldest son. In the meantime, Duckman’s arch nemesis, King Chicken, is constantly plotting to ruin his life by attacking the detective directly or through his family; and his mysterious sidekick, Cornfed, does most of the case solving while his employer becomes entangled in other matters. One of the earliest made-for-adults cartoons, this show hasn’t lost its edge nearly 25 years later.
Special features include: “What the Hell are you Starin’ At?”; “Six Degress of Duckman”; “Designing Duckman”; video of the original animatic drawings and animation from the unaired pilot; walk cycles, expressions, storyboards and pencil tests; and promo spots. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
East West 101: Series 1 (DVD)
As a devout Muslim in a post-9/11 world, detective Zane Malik (Don Hany) feels constant pressure to prove himself to overcome society’s fear and suspicion. Smart and ambitious, Malik works for metropolitan Sydney’s Major Crime Squad, where he frequently clashes with his old-school superior, Senior Detective Raw Crowley (William McInnes). The two rarely see eye to eye, but when personal traumas impact their professional lives, they come to realize that they need each other’s help to find justice.
The primary objective of this show appears to be to demonstrate the difficulties faced by Muslims (and other people with brown skin) post-9/11. In spite of working in primarily Muslim neighbourhoods, Zane seems to be the only one to speak the language, which is an obvious hindrance during various murder investigations. Moreover, many in the community feel persecuted and underrepresented, hindering their desire to cooperate with police. These sentiments surface throughout the show as each episode focuses on a new case to solve in the district, while the overarching search for a shooter from Zane’s past connects them all together. It’s a hard-hitting crime show, but the characters lack some of the attraction/engagement of their contemporaries.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Acorn)
Jamón Jamón (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
The film traces the romantic entanglements of the beautiful and pregnant underwear factory worker Silvia (Penélope Cruz); José Luis (Jordi Mollà), the father of her child and heir to the factory fortune; Raul (Javier Bardem), underwear model, seducer and would-be-bullfighter; and Conchita (Stefania Sandrelli), José Luis’ doting mother, family matriarch and Raul’s lover. Through a series of Machiavellian plot machinations, Conchita will seek to tear apart the relationship between her wealthy son and the second-class Silvia.
This film is the epitome of a narrative in which everyone is literally sleeping with everyone (and their mother). Nonetheless, this portrayal of lust and love — though the presence of the latter is questionable — is intriguing because of the tangled web everyone has woven. It’s sensual from beginning to end, concluding with two of the lovers beating each other with pieces of meat (the irony of which shouldn’t be lost on audiences). Bardem is young and virile, confident in his manhood (double-meaning intended) and willing to do anything to achieve his goals. Cruz is similarly young, beautiful and in control of her sexuality, though she becomes less sure of with whom she’d like to spend the rest of her life. Like an R-rated soap opera, there is lots of sex, nudity and betrayal… and finally, a fatal duel.
There are special features. (Olive Films)
Kill Order (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Chaos erupts when a group of armed men break into a high school classroom. They target David (Chris Mark), a quiet kid who secretly suffers from unexplained memories of a horrifying past. Tapping into a previously unknown strength, David fights off his attackers and goes on the run. With his life and the lives of his loved ones in jeopardy, David must master the use of his new superhuman strength and fighting skills to find the people responsible and get his revenge.
This is one of those movies that presents an interesting concept, but has trouble executing it. The origins of David’s latent powers aren’t fleshed out enough, instead creating more questions than answers as it deepens the mystery rather than resolves it. The fight scenes are comprised of quick movements and occasional feats of superhuman strength, which at least provides some level of entertainment. Conversely, the too-glossy villain and his Wesker/Resident Evil impression are too over-the-top to accept. This movie showed some promise, but it never really gets it all together.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
The Red Squirrel (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Jota (Nancho Novo), a musician with a career in decline and a romantic life in shambles, is on the verge of ending his life by jumping from a bridge when a mysterious figure on a motorcycle comes roaring — quite literally — into his life. Rushing to aid the injured cyclist, Jota discovers the driver is a beautiful young woman (Emma Suárez) who’s lost her memory in the crash. Seeing an opportunity to start a new life, Jota creates a fictional backstory for Sofia, the amnesia victim whom he now calls Lisa, claiming that they’re a couple. Fearing her growing suspicion of his ruse, Jota cuts Lisa’s hospital stay short by whisking her off to The Red Squirrel, a remote campground far away from prying eyes. But they soon attract the attention of the other campers, leading to an escalation in Lisa’s erratic behavior. What secrets are hiding in Lisa’s past? And who is Félix (Carmelo Gómez), the mysterious stranger in search of Sofia?
The tale of an amnesiac woman being falsely claimed by a strange man was a semi-popular narrative once upon a time, though it’s now evident this scenario is more problematic than it is romantic. In any case, there is supposed to be an emotional connection between Jota and Sofia/Lisa, though one couldn’t tell by watching them — instead of chemistry, they seem to have a low-level animosity for each other as they challenge and defy each other at almost every turn. Moreover, their campsite neighbours’ interest in their lives is more than just a little friendly and their children’s inappropriate games are kind of off-putting. There are just so many peculiarities in this narrative that it’s difficult to ignore them in favour of the also awkward story.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Reset (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA
In the near future, scientist Xia Tian (Yang Mi) is on the verge of a major discovery: time travel. After she successfully sends living tissue back in time by 110 minutes, her years of work seem to have paid off, but everything unravels when her young son is kidnapped and held for a hefty ransom — all of her research. When the drop goes sour and her son is killed, Xia Tian desperately sends herself back in time using her prototype, where she discovers multiple versions of her future self. Now, all of the Xia Tians must band together to save their son.
The beginning of this film is rather dull as the scientists are shown to have finally made a breakthrough in their research, little of which is understandable to the average person. In any case, since the how of their work isn’t important, any attempt to try to comprehend it is wasted along with the time dedicated to these scenes. Then the unexpected kidnapping occurs and the pace picks up. There are multiple issues with the narrative, though they’re surprisingly more to do with the characters’ actions instead of the time travel. The conclusion is predictable, though the motives for the crime are slightly less so (mostly because motivation isn’t mentioned until the reveal). Overall the picture is somewhat problematic, but Xia Tian’s determination to save her son is compelling.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Walking Out (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Once a year, fourteen-year-old David (Josh Wiggins) travels from his mother's home in Texas to visit his loner father, Cal (Matt Bomer), in the remote mountains of Montana. There, the two embark on their annual hunting excursion, during which the taciturn Cal attempts to connect with his smartphone-addicted son. But when a terrifying turn of events leaves Cal critically wounded, it's up to the teenage David to summon enough strength for both of them.
What happens when someone with almost no survival skills is stranded in the middle of nowhere and tasked with finding his way out of the woods? This tiresome movie answers that question with a boring repetition of snow and whining juxtaposed with pure strength and determination to try. The “turn of events” that lead to David and Cal’s predicament are a combination of the worst possible outcomes and unheeded inexperience. Watching the pair struggle through the mostly invariable wilderness isn’t fun for anyone. However, the daring ending does show some mettle from the filmmakers who maintain a conclusion appropriate for the narrative.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Woody Woodpecker (DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Woody must protect his forest home from Lance Walters (Timothy Omundson), who starts building his dream mansion in the forest with his son, Tommy (Graham Verchere), and fiancée, Vanessa (Thaila Ayala). To make matters worse, he must avoid the clutches of two grizzly poachers. With a series of crazy hijinks to sabotage their plans, Woody proves he’ll stop at nothing to defend his turf.
This beloved character is growing nearer the century mark of its creation and as the bonus features show, it’s evolved a lot over the decades. What began as a somewhat frightening character developed into an amusing trickster with a signature laugh. And even though Woody isn’t exactly as many will remember him, this movie does a fair job in staying true to his personality. The humans are oblivious to the endangered bird’s quips, which are therefore only for the benefit of the audience; nonetheless, his chiding of poachers and bullies is amusing much of the time. The human aspect of the story and its attempt at a message of environmental conservation are less entertaining as the over-the-top acting becomes a bit trying to watch.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Guess Who? The Evolution of Woody”; and “Working with Woody.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
More about A Bad Moms Christmas, 24 Hours to Live, Day of the Dead Bloodline, Duckman, belle epoque
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