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article imageReview: Determination is a double-edged sword in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 28, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include families torn apart; a stunning origin story; cops with their own way of doing things; and an action extravaganza in a new director-approved format.
Allied (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) are two of the world’s deadliest spies, who fall in love while undercover on a top-secret mission and marry during World War II. But when Max learns his wife may be secretly conspiring with the enemy, he has only 72 hours to prove her innocence and save his family before he must do the unthinkable.
The first half of the film takes place in Casablanca where the assassination of a high-ranking Nazi is being planned. Predictably, Max and Marianne are initially all-business and have a general distaste for one another that comes with two strangers being told to trust each other with their lives. However the importance of their mission brings them closer together, leading to the passage of many months between marriage, the birth of their first child and their current predicament. The latter half of the movie in which Max desperately tries to find the truth is far more interesting, perhaps because audiences are now acquainted with the characters or because the stakes seem higher than they did previously. Pitt and Cotillard don’t have a fiery chemistry, but they’re much more believable as a domestic couple in distress.
Special features include: “Story of Allied”; “From Stages to the Sahara: The Production Design of Allied”; “Through the Lens: Directing with Robert Zemeckis”; “A Stitch in Time: The Costumes of Allied”; “‘Til Death Do Us Part: Max and Marianne”; “Guys and Gals: The Ensemble Cast”; “Lights, Pixels, ACTION! The Visual Effects of Allied”; “Behind the Wheel: The Vehicles of Allied”; “Locked and Loaded: The Weapons of Allied”; and ‘That Swingin’ Sound: The Music of Allied.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Creepy (DVD)
Icarus Films
A year after a botched hostage negotiation with a serial killer turned deadly, ex-detective, Koichi (Hidetoshi Nishijima), and his wife move into a new house with a very strange new neighbour (Teruyuki Kagawa). Then his old cop colleagues come calling for his help on a mysterious case, which may be related to the unusual goings-on next door.
Japanese filmmakers continue to make some of the best thrillers because they’re not afraid of a slow build-up or a crazy yet completely logical twist. There’s just something about the new neighbour that doesn’t seem right to Koichi and his daughter’s behaviour enhances this feeling. However, he’s once again becoming preoccupied with an unsolved case and is unable to fully explore his suspicions at home — though his wife may be getting too close for comfort. The film’s title is the perfect description of not only the neighbour character, but the movie’s overall atmosphere. Yet the truth of what’s really going in Koichi’s case and next door is pretty unpredictable, making this a rousing, must-see thriller.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Deadtime Stories (Blu-ray & DVD)
Scream Factory
Travel on a mysterious journey to a medieval world populated by blood-crazed witches, evil experiments and captive maidens. Then from the catacombs and dark caverns of medieval Europe, you'll plunge into modern suburbia and the adventures of a female jogger stalked by a savage werewolf. Finally, sensuality will become macabre, black comedy as you follow the trail of three bank robbers who share their country house hideaway with a sweet murderess.
Filmmakers apply their own bloody, lascivious twist on children’s fairy tales, recited by a young boy’s creepy uncle who doesn’t appear to have any business taking care of his nephew. His versions of the stories include grisly murders, naked women and telekinesis on steroids. Besides being inappropriate bedtime stories, they are all poorly written and generally badly acted. Everything about the twisted tales is ridiculous and exaggerated, even for a campy ‘80s horror movie. The one exception to the film’s quality is the special effects, which are actually fairly elaborate for a picture like this and look pretty good on screen.
Special features include: commentary by co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman; deleted scenes; “I Like The Grotesque,” an interview with co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman; interviews with actors Cathryn de Prume, Melissa Leo and Scott Valentine; an alternate cut of the first story; still gallery; and theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)
Doctor Strange (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Marvel Entertainment
World-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes forever after a horrific car accident renders his hands useless. When traditional medicine fails him, he travels to remote Kamar-Taj in search of a cure, but instead discovers mystical arts and becomes a powerful sorcerer battling dark forces bent on destroying our reality.
This is possibly the best Marvel cinematic origin story since the first Iron Man movie. The script is excellent, finding the perfect balance between action, drama and comedy. Strange is incredibly intelligent with a sarcastic sense of humour similar to Tony Stark’s, but cheekier. This is also one of the studio’s most visually stunning pictures. Their magic is represented by visible gold drawings that are suspended in the air and can be manipulated by the creator to open portals or be used as a weapon against an enemy. Each outline is an ornate yet fleeting piece of art. However, the most eye-catching moments consist of moving landscapes and reimagined buildings. The characters appear trapped in an ever-changing M. C. Escher painting, from endless hallways to spiralling staircases to nowhere. Cumberbatch flawlessly captures the character’s sarcasm and determination, convincingly delivering every smart-aleck line and displaying a mix of vulnerability and strength. The bonus features exploring how some of the sequences were done are appealing, but nothing beats the continuation of Thor’s life on Earth.
Special features include: commentary by director Scott Derrickson; deleted scenes; “A Strange Transformation”; “Strange Company”; “The Fabric of Reality”; “Across Time and Space”; “The Score-cerer Supreme”; Marvel Studios phase 3 exclusive look; “Team Thor: Part 2”; and gag reel. (Marvel Entertainment)
Evelyn (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Inspired by a custody case brought before the Irish courts in 1955, Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) is a father fighting for the custody of his three children after their mother abandons them. Due to the Irish law of the time, children could not be raised by one parent in what the courts considered “a broken home,” thus allowing the Doyle children to be placed in church-run orphanages, where neglect and cruelty were not out of the ordinary. Desmond, with the help of the kindly chemist and love interest (Julianna Margulies), a local solicitor (Stephen Rea) and two tough-as-nails lawyers (Alan Bates and Aidan Quinn), will take his fight to the highest courts to win their freedom.
This moving story was brought to light by the real-life inspiration for the title character who insisted someone tell her father’s story. Doyle’s determination to reunite his family led to a Supreme Court decision that would assist in many other single-parents regaining custody of their children. The idea of kids being raised in the system in spite having at least one capable, loving guardian seems absurd now, but it was the norm before the Doyle decision. The dedication and passion Brosnan exhibits throughout the film is genuine, while his team of lawyers lend some humour and hard truths to his fight. Young Evelyn’s testimony brings down the courthouse with its innocent honesty, but the weight of the case is never diminished.
Special features include: commentary by director Bruce Beresford; commentary by actor Pierce Brosnan and producer Beau St. Clair; behind-the-scenes featurette; “The Story Behind the Story”; and theatrical trailer. (Olive Films)
The Gate: Vestron Video Collector’s Series (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
When best friends Glen (Stephen Dorff) and Terry (Louis Tripp) stumble across a mysterious crystalline rock in Glen’s backyard, they quickly dig up the newly sodden lawn searching for more precious stones. Instead, they unearth The Gate — an underground chamber of terrifying demonic evil. The teenagers soon understand what evil they’ve released as they are overcome with an assortment of horrific experiences. With fiendish followers invading suburbia, it’s now up to the kids to discover the secret that can lock The Gate forever… if it’s not too late.
This is a classic and beloved ‘80s creature feature with a fragmented narrative and awesome monsters. There isn’t a steady flow within the film as it seems to jump between various aspects of the story and its characters. Glen and Terry are the definition of opposites attract with Terry being an early delinquent that enjoys heavy metal and the dark arts, while Glen is practically afraid of his own shadow; though their differences are almost a matter of narrative convenience and Glen eventually proves himself. The small monsters that takeover the house are adorable in the same way hairless rats can be considered cute. The bonus features provide fascinating insight into how the effects were accomplished using costumes, oversized sets and perspective.
Special features include: commentary by director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin, and special effects designer & supervisor Randall William Cook; commentary by special effects designer & supervisor Randall William Cook, special make-up effects artist Craig Reardon, special effects artist Frank Carere and matte photographer Bill Taylor; making-of featurette; isolated score selections and audio interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson; “The Gate: Unlocked”; “Minion Maker”; “From Hell It Came”; “The Workman Speaks!”; “Made in Canada”; “From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate”; “The Gatekeepers”; storyboard gallery; behind-the-scenes gallery; and TV spot and trailers. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Klansman (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
A powder keg of racial tensions is ignited in a small Alabama town when a black man is accused of raping a white woman. Played out against the backdrop of the civil rights, the town sheriff (Lee Marvin) is taxed with keeping the peace while a liberal-minded landowner (Richard Burton) finds himself caught in the middle of a heated war involving the town and the Ku Klux Klan.
This 1974 movie about the KKK’s control over a small town is difficult to watch because of the violence and injustice it portrays. Several women are raped and sexually assaulted, men are tortured and murdered, and members of the local white supremacist group tout their racism like a badge of honour. While there are a few characters standing up for what’s right, they simply don’t seem to be doing enough. The sheriff tries to keep the peace and his job by not upsetting the Klan, but it’s often at the expense of the town’s black population. O.J. Simpson plays a young man who decides in the face of inequality, violence must beget violence. During an impassioned monologue, he expresses some of the same sentiments as was voiced by more hostile activists, such as the Black Panthers. The ending seems to deliver a message that there can be no winners in such situations, but getting there takes some effort.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Mad Max: Fury Road: Black and Chrome Edition (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Haunted by his turbulent past, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) wanders alone until he’s swept up with a group, led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), fleeing across the Wasteland. In hot pursuit: a warlord who gathers his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly.
This movie maintains a near perfect approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with good reason. Franchise creator George Miller returned to the helm to bring audiences one of the most impressive action movies to ever grace the screen. Essentially one long chase sequence, the plot is fairly simple and absolutely acceptable in its minimalism. Still set in a barren post-apocalyptic world in which gas and water are the world’s most valued commodities, Max has resigned to just surviving until he meets Furiosa. She is the true hero of this tale, leading a feminist charge against a misogynistic dictator. The action sequences in this picture are unbelievably composed of primarily practical stunts and are unsurprisingly enhanced in black-and-white. Moreover, the monochromatic contrast of the vehicles in the barren wasteland as well as the close-ups of Immortan Joe and the War Boys is simply spectacular — this version of the film deserves a full, if brief, theatrical release. The limited use of CGI gives the picture an exhilarating quality not otherwise possible. Moreover, the bonus features provides fascinating in-depth explorations of the stunts, character development and props designed for the film.
Special features include: Special features include: deleted scenes; “Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road”; “Fury on Four Wheels”; “The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa”; “The Tools of the Wasteland”; “The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome”; and “Crash & Smash.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Police (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Louis Mangin (Gerard Depardieu) is a policier known for his hard-nosed interrogation tactics. His code of honour will be tested when he finds himself attracted to a drug dealer’s girlfriend, Noria (Sophie Marceau), who is also a suspect in a drug smuggling syndicate.
Much of this picture occurs within the police station as they interrogate suspects, often physically coercing them to dispense information or confess. This line of questioning seems to be pretty routine for Mangin, though very little about his character appears to be conventional. His best friend is a defense lawyer that represents many of those arrested by Mangin. Moreover, the cop doesn’t have any qualms about taking female crime victims back to his apartment for the night as he sees himself as quite the ladies’ man. There isn’t much to like about him or Noria, which makes watching the movie a little trying since they are at the centre of it all.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Shut In (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
A child psychologist (Naomi Watts) living an isolated life in rural New England is struggling to put her life back together after the loss of her husband. She’s a strong woman whose courage is put to the test when she’s caught in a deadly storm, trapped in her home, and cut off from the world around her.
This is yet another narrative that tries to keep its protagonist in limbo: is she losing her mind, or is something truly strange transpiring in her house? It doesn’t take a seasoned fan of horror movies or thrillers to figure out what is happening fairly early in the film, which reduces the impact of the “twist ending.” Moreover, the frequent lucid dreams become somewhat tiresome since they can only be differentiated from the rest of the movie after she awakens. Nonetheless, the picture’s concept is interesting and potentially terrifying; it just doesn’t feel well-executed. And finally, The Room’s Jacob Tremblay is used so inadequately in this movie even though viewers know what he can do on screen.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and cast and crew interviews. (VVS Films)
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