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article imageReview: Threats abound in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 23, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the still reigning best thriller of the year; a moving stop-motion animation; a race against the clock; a furry hero’s latest adventure; and the re-release of a classic anime.
Extortion (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
At a Caribbean resort, Kevin Riley (Elon Bailey) and his family take a carefree boat ride that turns tragic when they’re stranded on an island. Near death, they’re rescued by a local fisherman (Barkhad Abdi) who demands a million dollars, then vanishes. Kevin must race to find his dying wife (Bethany Joy Lenz) and son on an unknown island before their time runs out.
This is a captivating, ticking-clock thriller in which Kevin has an indeterminate but finite amount of time to save his family. Unfortunately a combination of factors cause the police to be suspicious of him and show less interest in finding the mystery fisherman who knows his family’s exact location. Kevin’s desperation to return to them should have alleviated their doubts somewhat since he’s literally mad with anxiety; instead, he takes matters into his own hands with repeatedly disastrous results. Due to the unorthodox path of the narrative, it would have been interesting if the film didn’t stop as soon as it does and at least provided a slightly further glimpse of the family’s fate. Bailey is convincing as the frantic father, while Danny Glover has a smaller role as the lead detective assigned to the case.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Phil Volken and producer Alina Shraybman; behind-the-scenes featurette; photo gallery; and trailer gallery. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Get Out (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-American man, and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), a young white woman, have been dating for several months, she invites him for a weekend getaway at her family’s upstate home with parents Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford). At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behaviour as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.
This is a very interesting time for this movie to be released because as much as there’s something very wrong happening at the Armitage’s, most of the early anxiety is generated via well-meaning, covert racism stemming from the interracial relationship. Another layer of trepidation is caused by Missy and Dean’s insistence she hypnotize Chris — to help him stop smoking. He rightly refuses since he’s just met these people who are clearly to some degree uncomfortable with his skin colour and there has been no trust established between himself and the psychiatrist. Writer/director Jordan Peele’s talent for creating a genuine sense of fear on screen is a pleasant surprise. The tension escalates slowly as stranger and stranger things occur. He has a keen understanding of how to weave a narrative that grips audiences from start to finish, where and how to best utilize jump scares, and that the scariest movies are rooted in reality. The original ending is included in the bonus features as are a number of variations of the selected conclusion, though most will agree Peele picked the right one.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Jordan Peele; alternate ending and deleted scenes with commentary by writer/director Jordan Peele; “Unveiling the Horror of Get Out”; and Q&A discussion with Jordan Peel and cast. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Great Wall (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
An elite force makes a valiant stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure.
The monsters, created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), are essentially large reptiles that appear to have survived past the age of dinosaurs. The four-legged creatures are massive, yet agile. But in spite of the intelligence they display, they’re basically mindless drones reminiscent of any number of similar creatures that came before. Director Zhang Yimou is behind three of the most visually impressive Chinese films to reach Western audiences; therefore, it’s not surprising there are some truly exceptional sequences in this film. The synchronicity with which the army prepares for the first attack is extraordinary. Before the splendour gives way to carnage, the execution of their assaults is also exquisite. Unfortunately the imagery is not matched by the story, which is choppy and uninteresting. Elements of the characters’ backstories meant to create mystery only leave them feeling underdeveloped. And as much as writer Tony Gilroy clearly enjoys writing roles for Matt Damon, this one shouldn’t have been about him. The one commendable aspect of the script is the equal treatment of the male and female warriors
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “Matt Damon in China”; “Working with Director Zhang Yimou”; “The Great Wall Visual Effects”; “Man vs. Monster”; “Weapons of War”; and “Designing a Spectacular World.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Max 2: White House Hero (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Max’s new assignment brings him to Washington, D.C. to serve on the U.S. president’s Secret Service detail. When a foreign leader arrives with his precocious daughter, Alex (Francesca Capaldi), tensions arise between the two countries. First son TJ (Zane Austin), along with Max and Alex, uncover a dangerous plot that puts both nations in jeopardy. A highly sensitive mission will put Max’s specialized skills, intelligence and loyalty to the test.
While Max is definitely still a key player in this film, the two kids – TJ and Alex – have a much greater role to play in the story. Nonetheless, Max is there when they need him the most to lend a furry hand. The Russian accents in this film are comical, particularly the last one to be pulled out which doesn’t even sound remotely authentic. Sure to appeal to a younger audience, the child dignitaries Nancy Drew their way to uncovering a mass conspiracy to largely upset foreign relations. Even though Max is supposed to be a part of the Secret Service, his behaviour is much more playful and friendly than is typical of K9s in similar positions. In other words, Max works hard but plays hard.
Special features include: “Max 2: A Ruff Life”; and making-of featurette. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
My Life as a Zucchini (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
After befriending a kind police officer, nine-year-old Zucchini is taken to a foster home filled with other orphans his age. Though he struggles to find his place at first, with the help of his new friends, Zucchini learns to trust and love again as he searches for a new family of his own.
The Academy Award-nominated film is a moving stop-motion animation that deals with issues not typically covered in the genre. Zucchini’s mother is an abusive alcoholic and most of the stories of the other kids at the orphanage are similarly bleak. However, even when things look to be their worst, there’s always a silver lining. His friendship with the police officer who handled his case is uplifting, as is the relationship he strikes up with the new girl at the home. In spite of their hardships and occasional disputes, it’s heartening to see all the kids care for each other. The animation is not as polished as Laika’s, but that’s undeniably part of its charm. Moreover, the “audition tape” that runs during the credits is an incredible touch – especially considering the length of time required to create such a scene, as discussed in the bonus features.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “The Genie in a Tin of Ravioli” short film; and US trailer. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Sailor Moon R: The Movie (Blu-ray & DVD)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
When he was still a child, Mamoru gave a single rose as thanks to an alien boy who helped him cope with the loss of his parents. Since then, his long-forgotten friend Fiore has searched across the galaxy for a flower worthy of his gesture. Fiore’s final choice is the beautiful Xenian flower, which has a very dark side — it has the power to fatally drain energy from human life. Now, Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians must go into space to stop the impending destruction and save Mamoru.
It’s been decades since the anime series went off the air and this film was released, but its fandom is still strong. To reward their years of dedication, the uncut feature-length film has been re-released. The narrative seems to take place near the end of the series as Sailor Moon is still a bit of a klutz, but she’s taken this time to mature quite a bit emotionally. When someone tries to threaten her relationship with Tuxedo Mask, she’s confident in their bond; and when it comes to her friends, there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for them. Fiore is an interesting villain because he’s not entirely the bad guy as he seems to be unknowingly controlled by the Xenian flower; at the same time, it’s difficult to know what his desire for revenge may have caused him to do otherwise. It’s odd to hear different voices giving life to these beloved characters in the new redub, but it’s even more wonderful to see them defeating evil again.
Special features include: “Make Up! Sailor Guardians”; “cast interview; and L.A. premier Q&A. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
More about Get out, The Great Wall, My Life as a Zucchini, Extortion, Max 2 White House Hero
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