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article imageReview: No one ends where they began in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 2, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a must-see horror picture; a new chapter in a fuzzy character’s life; everything about life after death; an apt adaptation; and a Tom Cruise triple feature.
Days of Thunder (4K Ultra HD & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
Race car driver Cole Trickle’s (Tom Cruise) talent and ambition are surpassed only by his burning need to win. Discovered by businessman Tim Daland (Randy Quaid), Cole is teamed with legendary crew chief and car-builder Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) to race for the Winston Cup at the Daytona 500. A fiery crash nearly ends Cole’s career and he must turn to a beautiful doctor (Nicole Kidman) to regain his nerve and the true courage needed to race, to win and to live.
Audiences have traditionally been kept on the periphery of professional racing, watching from the stands as drivers come dangerously close to each other and speed through treacherous turns. This film took viewers onto the track and into the cars, giving them a taste of the exhilaration and risk — even inspiring an amusement park experience. Of course the movie’s total runtime is shorter than an actual race, but they do a good job getting to know Tim and Cole and building the relationship between Cole and Harry. Even though the movie follows the typical sports formula of the underdog facing challenges and rising to the occasion, there’s something very engaging about the picture. In addition, this new high-def transfer gives the screen an even richer perspective.
Special features include: “Filmmaker Focus”; and isolated score. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Emma. (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital code)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Handsome, clever and rich, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a restless “queen bee” without rivals in her sleepy little English town. In this satire of social class, Emma must navigate her way through the challenges of growing up, misguided matches and romantic missteps to realize the love that has been there all along.
Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, Emma was one of the original mean girls. As the book was also the basis of Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, it’s easy to see the similarities in the narrative. Emma is deemed the peak of society with other women happy to orbit around her. She takes a less fortunate young woman under her wing and tries to make her a good match of the surrounding bachelors, but proves to wound up in herself to notice they only have eyes for her. In the meantime, her childhood best friend and neighbour is the voice of reason, though she regularly ignores him. Director Autumn de Wilde balances the period drama with a cultivated sense of humour that audiences will enjoy.
Special features include: commentary by director Autumn de Wilde, screenwriter Eleanor Catton, and director of photography Christopher Blauvelt; deleted scenes; “A Playful Tease”; “Crafting a Colorful World”; “The Autumn Gaze”; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Good Place: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
What happens when we die? It’s a question everyone has asked, since the beginning of time. But when Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies tragically, she finds out that the afterlife is amazing: full of frozen yogurt, soulmates, and wonderful people who have done incredible things with their lives. It is absolutely perfect. The only problem is Eleanor herself. She isn’t supposed to be in The Good Place. In fact, her life decisions wouldn’t have gotten her even close. But due to a clerical error, she’s been given someone else’s reward and now has to struggle with being good in order to make sure her secret isn’t discovered.
This is a very engaging depiction of the afterlife with fantastic season finales and an eventual series finale that provides audiences with closure. Ted Danson plays the “architect” of this quaint, post-death existence. But his future is intertwined with its success, so when strange things begin to plague the should-be-perfect town he starts to panic. In the meantime, Eleanor is doing her best to fit in — even though it’s completely contradictory to her nature. Her “soulmate” was a professor of morals and ethics, but teaching Eleanor how to be a good person may be a greater challenge than any for which he’s prepared. Soon they discover there are others keeping secrets and the circle of people who know keeps widening. This is an excellent series that keeps its audiences on their toes with its unique storylines and premise. The dark comedy finds humour in its characters’ flaws and even more so in their failings, which are numerous as they endure countless reboots and schemes gone awry.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; extended episodes; finale special hosted by Seth Meyers; 2019 San Diego Comic-Con Panel; table read for the season one episode "Mindy St. Claire"; visual effects reels; and gag reels. (Shout Factory)
Sonic the Hedgehog (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
Powered with incredible speed, Sonic the Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz), a.k.a. “The Blue Blur,” embraces his new home on Earth. That is, until he accidentally knocks out the power grid and sparks the attention of super-uncool evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Now it’s super-villain vs. super-sonic in an all-out race across the globe to stop Robotnik from using his unique power for world domination. Sonic teams up with “The Donut Lord,” a.k.a. Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), to save the planet.
Sega’s creation was one of the system’s most popular video games, evolving over the years as graphics improved and Sonic’s personality grew. There was an animated series in the ‘90s and it took nearly 30 years for the adorable hedgehog to make it to the big screen. Although the trailer looked goofy, the movie is surprisingly entertaining. Marsden is charming as usual, while Schwartz’ portrayal of the impulsive Sonic is endearing. However, Carrey’s return to form is definitely the film’s highlight. Taking on the villain with all the enthusiasm he exuded in the ‘90s, he appears to be having the best time, which spreads to viewers through the screen. The bonus features provides some interesting insights into Sonic’s past and the post-credit sequence shows a glimpse of where he might go next.
Special features include: commentary by director Jeff Fowler and the voice of Sonic, Ben Schwartz; deleted scenes; “Around the World in 80 Seconds”; “For the Love of Sonic”; “Building Robotnik with Jim Carrey”; “The Blue Blur: Origins of Sonic”; “Sonic On Set”; “Speed Me Up” music video; and bloopers. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Tigers Are Not Afraid steelbook (Blu-ray)
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RLJE Films
A haunting horror fairy tale set against the backdrop of Mexico’s devastating drug war, the film follows a group of orphaned children who are unexpectedly given three magical wishes. As they run from the cartel that murdered their parents and the ghosts that haunt them, they must decide how to use this special gift to save their own lives and the people they love.
It took a few years for this film to get a home release, but as a must-see movie, one hopes it will reach an even broader audience now. Writer/director Issa López delivers an exceptional narrative that blends real and fantastical horrors. When young Estrella’s mother doesn’t come home, her only hope of survival is joining forces with a group of orphan boys who live on a nearby rooftop. Unfortunately, Estrella’s wishes all have a terrible catch, though she still uses them out of desperation. She’s equally afraid of the haunting monster that resembles her mother, and the cartel thugs who hunt them night and day. The imagery is entrancing from the street art to the children’s struggles, while the narrative grips audiences with all-around horrifying incidents.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Issa López; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; casting sessions; and photo galleries. (RLJE Films)
Top Gun (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
Maverick (Tom Cruise) is a young, in-your-face U.S. fighter pilot with a need for speed, a lot to prove, and even more to learn. As a student in the Navy’s elite flying school, he completes to be the best of the best. But a civilian instructor (Kelly McGillis) teaches him a few things that cannot be learned in the classroom.
In 1986, Cruise was quickly climbing the ranks of Hollywood sex symbols and this picture cemented his position at the top of the heap. It raised him above his formerly boyish roles, letting him finally play a character with some edge. “I feel the need — the need for speed!” His partnership with Anthony Edwards is a memorable pairing that drives the film, while the exciting air combat scenes constantly inject the film with bursts of adrenaline. Moreover, these fast-paced scenes are far more captivating in high definition. The film has aged well and continues to be a source of entertainment even after repeat viewings — not to mention a pop culture staple.
Special features include: commentary by director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-screenwriter Jack Epps Jr. and naval experts; a six-part making-of documentary; “On Your Six: Thirty Years of Top Gun”; multi-angle storyboards with optional commentary by Scott; “Best of the Best: Inside the real Top Gun”; behind-the-scenes featurette; survival training featurette; Tom Cruise interviews; four music videos; and TV spots. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
War of the Worlds (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is an ordinary man who summons extraordinary courage to protect his children when a global army of alien invaders set their sights and their devastating war machines upon Earth and the entire human population.
This film attempts to bring H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel to life in the 21st century. People are shocked when lethal alien crafts rise up from beneath their cities and begin to annihilate the population. The three-legged, multi-story machines clomp through urban and rural areas, indiscriminately killing everyone in their sights. Ray is the “ordinary guy” through which all of the mayhem is viewed. It’s a slightly unexpected role for Cruise since he typically portrays “good guys” and Ray is a bit of a deadbeat and not a great parental role model — but his fatherly instincts to protect his kids is gradually redeeming. It’s not a great movie, but the special effects around the aliens’ arrival and pursuit is good, though the poor 4K transfer on this release doesn’t do it justice.
Special features include: “Revisiting the Invasion”; “The H.G. Wells Legacy”; “Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds”; “Characters: The Family Unit”; “Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens”; “Scoring War of the Worlds”; “We Are Not Alone”; previsualization; production diaries; galleries; and teaser trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Way Back (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Back in high school, Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) had everything going for him. A basketball phenom, he could have punched his ticket to college or even the pros, but, instead, he chose to walk away from the game, forfeiting his future. Jack’s glory days are long gone…but, as it turns out, not forgotten. Years later, he gets the chance to take back his life when he is asked to coach the struggling basketball team at his alma mater. Jack reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself, and as the boys start to come together as a team and win, Jack may get his last shot at redemption.
While many of these types of sports dramas are based on real-life stories, this one is fiction. However, Affleck did draw upon his own experiences as an alcoholic to inform the character’s behaviour and struggles. Consequently, Affleck delivers an authentic performance that must have been difficult for him. Although coaching gives Jack’s life new meaning, it only temporarily distracts him from the reasons he drinks and it’s not long before his alcoholism interferes with this aspect of his life too. The film doesn’t have the standard happy ending, which rings truer for the type of story it’s telling, though it also doesn’t provide audiences with much closure.
Special features include: “Every Loss Is Another Fight: The Road to Redemption”; and “The Way Back: This Sporting Life.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
More about Tigers Are Not Afraid, The Good Place, sonic the hedgehog, The Way Back, Days of Thunder
 
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