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article imageReview: Oscar nominees & killers mingle in this week’s releases — part 2 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 13, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a parody of a new cultural phenomenon; a powerhouse performance; the film that could finally get the most-nominated actress an Oscar; a favourite rom-com; an unconventional biopic; and a collection of exuberant works.
Heart of the North (DVD)
Warner Archive
Sgt. Alan Baker (Dick Foran) is a scarlet-clad sentinel of Saskatchewan. When a fellow RCMP (Patric Knowles) is murdered during a gold freight robbery, Baker and his aptly named sidekick Cpl. Bill Hardsack (Allen Jenkins) take charge of his orphaned daughter (Janet Chapman) and the quest for justice. Stymied by an inept inspector (James Stephenson), Sgt. Baker finds himself the target of a criminal conspiracy and the center of a romantic triangle (torn between Gale Page and Gloria Dickson). Disgraced in the corps while an innocent trapper faces a hanging, Baker and Hardsack risk it all in a desperate gambit to tree the real killers.
This is essentially a Western that unfolds amongst Canada’s wilderness with RCMP officers instead of cowboys. It has all the basics, including a train robbery, a posse to retrieve the gold, corrupt authorities, a potential lynching and death. The landscape allows for some action on water as well as land, though most of it does take place in the woods. It’s also got some of the elements of a buddy cop narrative as Baker and Hardsack defy their superiors to do what they know is right. It feels a bit long, but that’s often typical of these films so there’s little not to like otherwise.
There are no special features. (Warner Archive)
Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Norm, the newly crowned polar bear king of the Arctic, travels to New York to accept the keys to the city. But Norm goes from hero to villain when he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. While he is trying to clear his good name, back in the Arctic a vicious bottled-water company has moved in and is starting to steal the ice. Norm must rely on his friends, both old and new, to clear his name and help save his kingdom in a winner take all hockey match.
Unlike the first picture, the movie consists of two narratives rolled up into one film, though it could’ve easily been divided into two separate episodes. Norm’s reputation at home is still fragile among certain species (and relatives), but they still love him in NYC. With his son, Quinn, tagging along for the honour, the big loveable bear is reunited with his human friends, Vera and Olympia Brightly. With their uncanny detective skills and the help of Fong the Hare, the richest animal in the world, they’re able to solve the case. The feud with the ice-stealing company results in Norm’s city friends coming to his home to help them win the tournament against an unscrupulous Russian team. Both stories are amusing, but still quite distinct from each other.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Poison Ivy Collection (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Tempestuous young Ivy (Drew Barrymore) befriends introverted teen Sylvie (Sara Gilbert) and seduces her way into the lives of Sylvie's wealthy family in Poison Ivy. In the follow-up, Poison Ivy 2: Lily, a sheltered art student (Alyssa Milano) finds Ivy's diaries and, after reading them, is lured into uninhibited risk-taking to become a wild woman. Then Ivy's sister (Jaime Pressly) visits the Greer residence in Poison Ivy: The New Seduction, and it doesn't take long for her to use her skills of manipulation to throw the household into a slate of panic and deceit. A college freshman (Miriam McDonald) is invited to join an exclusive campus sisterhood, where cold-blooded ambition causes the group to seduce, blackmail or do away with anyone that gets in their way in Poison Ivy: The Secret Society.
The first film was a sensation with Barrymore’s bad girl persona finding an outlet in the sexy delinquent yearning for a family and willing to take it by any means necessary. Subsequently, Milano takes on the protagonist’s role in an effort to shed her girl-next-door image, even though it turns out she’s not cut out for Ivy’s reckless lifestyle. Then, audiences discover, Ivy has a sister who believes their lives were ruined by another seemingly perfect family on whom she now seeks revenge. The last picture is only connected to the franchise via the sorority’s name, though it’s more like The Skulls then a chaotic, misguided quest for love. The unrated versions of the films border on soft-core porn as the scenes are extended with more close-ups and lingering takes. Each film allows the women to fulfill their sexual desire, but taints it with manipulation and psychopathic tendencies. Consequently, sex almost always has an ulterior motive.
Special features include: unrated versions of the films; commentary by co-writer/director Katt Shea on Poison Ivy; and trailers. (Scream Factory)
The Predator (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The hunt has evolved. Now, the most lethal hunters in the universe are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before….and only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biology professor can prevent the end of the human race.
One of the elements that made the first film so great was its limitations that simply pit a group of soldiers in the jungle against an alien hunter with no external assistance or interference. Conversely, this narrative tries to squeeze in multiple characters and complications that dilute the essence of the film – to the extent that there is very little action even involving the Predator. There’s a fair amount of humour in the film, which works well because of the nature of the characters. Director Shane Black also has fun with the definition of “predator” and how inappropriate it is for this species. The introduction of a couple of new Predator species is an attempt to refresh the franchise, which based on this conclusion will be taken even further in the next sequel. Although they’re interesting, it still feels like they’re underutilized. There’s a formula that works for these movies and they’ve put it aside for something too complex for its own good.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “A Touch of Black”; “Predator Evolution”; “The Takedown Team”; “Predator Catch-Up”; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Professional Sweetheart (DVD)
Warner Archive
Ginger Rogers makes her top-lining debut at the studio that would make her a star in this RKO picture about a “Purity Girl” radio pitchwoman whose yearning to suffer for sinning is stymied by her sponsor’s need for her to be squeaky-clean. They are, after all, the Ippsie Wippsie washcloth company. But Glory Eden (Rogers) isn’t signing a new contract until she gets a chance to sow her very wild oats, so the minds behind her hit radio show decide to set her up with a “professional sweetheart” plucked from her correspondence from her many admirers. The Kentucky hayseed they pick, tall, dark and drawling Jim Davey (Norman Foster), has designs of his own, and the Purity Girl’s faux fiancé might prove to be an oopsie-woopise for Ippsie Wippsie.
Watching this movie from a contemporary point-of-view is incredibly unsettling. However, the morals clauses in stars’ contracts were widely known and accepted at the time. Glory is rightfully frustrated with the men controlling her every movement, though outside of minor rebellions she seems helpless to stop it. It all becomes worse when they arrange a husband for her without knowing anything about him except that he thinks he loves the girl he hears on the radio. Rogers is excellent as the wild child dying to break-free, but everything about this narrative is problematic, including the physical abuse.
There are no special features. (Warner Archive)
Star Trek: 10-Movie Stardate Collection (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Discover the Star Trek Universe and experience every unforgettable moment from Kirk's (William Shatner) triumphant return to the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Picard (Patrick Stewart), Data (Brent Spiner), and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise's final battle for control of the Universe in Star Trek Nemesis. The spirit of the Enterprise lives on.
As Star Trek: The Original Series proved so wildly popular in syndication, 10 years after it ended the studio opted to make a movie starring the original cast. Captain Kirk is promoted to Admiral, but all of the films would still have specially edited TV versions. Kirk’s rebellious nature endures as he steals the Enterprise to save a friend and then avoids a court martial by once again saving the planet in the third and fourth films. Leonard Nimoy would also take the opportunity to take a bigger role behind the camera, directing two of the films and co-writing another. Even though the TV shows were mostly separate, there is some crossover between the first Next Generation film and the original cast. The Wrath of Khan and First Contact are two of the most memorable pictures of the franchise as they both involved the return of formidable enemies that had significant impacts on their respective crews.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Valentine [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Be my Valentine ... or else. Broken hearts and other mortal wounds await a group of dating-scene veterans dying for love.
The release of Scream revived the slasher genre and everyone tried to get in on the game. The movie starred a number of hot young actors, including David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Marley Shelton and Katherine Heigl, and went as far as to borrow a plot device from its acclaimed predecessor. It has the typical whodunit vibe as every male becomes a person of interest, but since the key suspect hasn’t been seen since he was a child anyone is game. The script is mediocre, so watching is more a matter of seeing familiar faces together on screen. The Valentine cards delivered to the victims, however, are next level and should’ve been given more attention in the film.
Special features include: commentary by director Jamie Blanks and filmmaker Don Coscarelli, moderated by author Peter Bracke; commentary by director Jamie Blanks; making-of featurette; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes footage; “Thrill of the Drill,” an interview with actress Denise Richards; “The Final Girl,” an interview with actress Marley Shelton; “Shot Through the Heart,” an interview with actress Jessica Cauffiel; “Writing Valentine,” an interview with co-writers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts; “Editing Valentine,” an interview with editor Steve Mirkovich; “Scoring Valentine”; still gallery; TV spots; theatrical trailer; and Easter egg. (Scream Factory)
The Wife (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
After nearly forty years of marriage, Joan and Joe Castleman (Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce) are complements. Where Joe is casual, Joan is elegant. Where Joe is vain, Joan is self-effacing. And where Joe enjoys his very public role as a Great American Novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm and diplomacy into the private role of the Great Man's Wife. Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work. Joe's literary star has blazed since he and Joan first met in the late 1950s. Thirty-plus years later, they’ve lived a lifetime's shared compromises, secrets, betrayals, and mutual love.
The resentment that starts to boil between Joe and Joan has been simmering for some time, but never had a catalyst until now. As Joan remembers her youth, which included a creative writing class with Joe, it becomes clear she had potential as a writer. However, it’s also during this time that Joan learns how undervalued female authors are and that it’s nearly impossible to turn talent into a career without a penis. This movie isn’t about guessing their deep, dark secrets, but seeing the toll they have on their relationships with each other and their now-adult children. Close turns in an impeccably nuanced performance as Joan is quietly — and gradually more perceptibly — conflicted; the award is the culmination of the many sacrifices made throughout their marriage for Joe’s success, but it’s also the peak of decades of being considered second.
Special features include: “Keeping Secrets: Glenn Close on The Wife”; “In Conversation With Cast of The Wife: Q&A featuring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Annie Starke, Christian Slater and Björn Runge”; and “Q&A with author Meg Wolitzer and Glenn Close.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Check out the first round of this week's releases.
More about The Wife, The Predator, Valentine, Norm of the North Keys to the Kingdom, Star Trek 10Movie Stardate Collection
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