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article imageReview: Murder doesn’t go unanswered in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 9, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a heroic epic; a raw look at adolescence; a classic rom-com; a disturbing thriller; and an affecting true account of war.
8mm (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
One man (Nicolas Cage) becomes obsessed with the search for the truth about a six-year-old crime — and his ultimate discovery of the truth about himself.
This is one of Cage’s darker pictures and a surprising turn by director Joel Schumacher who decided to take a break from blockbuster filmmaking in 1999. Written by the same team that created Seven, it definitely has a similar vibe as Lester leads viewers into the sordid backrooms of underground porn. It takes a while for Cage to settle into the role, but he’s most convincing in the final act. Conversely, Joaquin Phoenix’s supporting role as Lester’s guide to seedy L.A. is immediately and consistently excellent. They don’t cut any corners while exploring this world, narrowly missing an NC-17 rating by depicting what they could and leaving the rest to viewers’ imaginations. Consequently, it remains one of the year’s most intense crime thrillers.
Special features include: commentary by producer/director Joel Schumacher; an interview with Schumacher; behind-the-scenes featurette; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
The Great Battle (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
The story of the Siege of Ansi, where Goguryeo forces held their fortress against 200,000 invading Tang soldiers in a battle that raged for 88 days.
This is an epic tale reminiscent of the last installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in which an outnumbered army holds their own against impossible odds. The Ansi commander proves to be a brilliant tactical planner, outmanoeuvring the Tang leader at every step. In addition, his forces, which consist of men and women, are brave, loyal, disciplined and well-trained. The commander’s closest advisors are granted a bit more character development so viewers have a few main players on which to focus when they clash. There are multiple battles and each is brutal as soldiers are impaled, maimed and decapitated. All these elements make for an exciting narrative that keeps audiences glued to their seats from start to finish.
Special features include: production commentary; “About the Characters”; and trailers. (Well Go USA)
Hell Fest (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
A group of friends are bound for a horror-themed Halloween event at a local amusement park — a sprawling labyrinth of rides, games, and mazes that travels the country and happens to be in town. But for one visitor, the ghoulish carnival of nightmares is not the attraction — it’s a hunting ground. On the night the friends attend, a masked serial killer turns the amusement park into his own playground, terrorizing attendees while the rest of the patrons believe it’s all part of the show.
This is an interesting concept, but for fans of horror-themed parks it’s difficult to swallow. Filmmakers attempt to create a realistic setting, but then take too many liberties to maintain it. “Touching” between characters and staff would never be permitted, waiver or no, as it presents significant safety risks for everyone. Moreover, a park that’s able to employ security at the gate would likely have staff in every room of their mazes like most comparable attractions. Instead, the killer conveniently stalks and slaughters his victims in empty areas of the park, whether inside a maze or an employees-only section, and no one ever happens upon them. There’s definitely some creativity in the horror designs and Tony Todd’s cameo is amusing, but there’s too much that doesn’t make sense to really enjoy it.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Mid90s (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is a 13-year-old in 90s-era L.A. who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is a raw, authentic look at being a troubled teen in a lower income neighbourhood. A cross between Kids and Lords of Dogtown, Stevie is a good kid that really wants to fit in somewhere at any cost. His parents are deceased and his older brother (Lucas Hedges) deals with his angst through violent, marking outbursts. The skaters Stevie attaches himself to are already drifting apart as they grow older and their goals change, but for now there’s still the ideal of close friendships and hanging out. Their antics include acts of kindness, delinquent behaviour, pubescent hook-ups and a lot of stupidity that makes it hard to believe they’re even alive still. But there’s something very engaging about the film and its characters, as well as the gritty, exposed filming style.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Jonah Hill and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt; and deleted scenes. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Schindler’s List [25th Anniversary Edition] (4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. It is the triumph of one man who made a difference and the drama of those who survived one of the darkest chapters in human history because of what he did.
The numbers and details of the Holocaust are horrifying, but it’s the individual accounts that hammer home what it meant to live during this war. Director Steven Spielberg creates an incredible, enduring picture that is as poignant and important now as when it was released 25 years earlier. Neeson and Ralph Fiennes leads the cast, giving two incredible and contrasting performances as Nazis with very different perspectives on the exterminations. On the edge of so many scenes is Ben Kingsley, who also portrays a significant role in the lives of the survivors. Primarily filmed in black-and-white, the few scenes of colour become even more important, including the closing scenes of the actors and their real-life counterparts. The Tribeca retrospective sheds light on the production, while the full-length documentary gives voice to the survivors.
Special features include: “Schindler’s List: 25 Years Later”; “Voices from the List”; “USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg”; and “I Witness.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
When Harry Met Sally… (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
Will sex ruin a perfect relationship between a man and a woman? That’s what Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) debate while sharing a drive from Chicago to New York. Eleven years of friendship later, they’re still no closer to finding the answer. Will these two best friends ever accept that they’re a perfect match … or will they continue to deny the attraction that exists between them?
This is one of the ultimate romantic comedies that’s repeatedly referenced and to which many similar, real-life friends compare their relationship, however erroneously according to writer Nora Ephron. Crystal and Ryan are the perfect on-screen match, though it takes a long time for them to figure it out. In the meantime, there’s a lot of the usual dating issues singles experience from casual school romance to long-term young adult love to awkward encounters with exes. Yet, Harry and Sally’s friendship is quite unique as it began with blunt, often inappropriate, honesty. The real-life love stories sprinkled throughout the movie also add to its charm. Moreover, the extended interview with Crystal and director Rob Reiner in the bonus features is an amusing look behind-the-scenes of the film and their friendship.
Special features include: commentary by director Rob Reiner, writer Nora Ephron and actor Billy Crystal; commentary by director Rob Reiner; deleted scenes; documentary; “Scenes from a Friendship”; vintage featurettes; music video by Harry Connick Jr.; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Winter Brothers (DVD)
Icarus Films
A film set in a rural chalk-mining community during a cold winter. We follow two brothers working in this harsh environment focusing on the younger one, Emil, who distills moonshine made from stolen chemicals from the factory. He is an outsider, an oddball, who made a conscious choice for loneliness and is only accepted by the mining community due to his older brother Johan. Emil longs for passion, for being wanted and loved. When a fellow worker becomes sick, the moonshine and Emil are prime suspects. Gradually a violent feud erupts between him and the tightly-knit mining community. Emil feels betrayed by his brother when he finds out that the neighbor girl Anna, the subject of his unfulfilled desires, chooses his older brother instead of him.
This movie tells a very specific story and doesn’t feel the need to spend any time introducing its main characters or their location. Without the synopsis, it’s even up to the audience to infer the men’s relationship from their interactions. The core story is interesting as Emil’s illegal enterprise is put under the microscope and he suffers the repercussions of his possible mistake. The unconventional storytelling approach makes the film feel more real, and the violence and scorn harsher. Nothing is embellished and everything about it is kept to a minimal. Even the ending simply finds a stopping place in the narrative with one-half being oddly touching, and the other sad and unfortunate.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
More about Mid90s, schindler's list, The Great Battle, when harry met sally, 8mm
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