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article imageReview: Past choices have serious consequences in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 11, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a new disturbing horror story from the small screen; Jack Sparrow’s latest adventure with new friends; a multi-generational Southern drama; and details of a shocking financial scandal.
American Horror Story: Roanoke (Blu-ray)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Told in true-crime documentary style, “My Roanoke Nightmare” — this season’s show within the show — chronicles shocking paranormal events. Hoping to begin a peaceful new life in a rustic North Carolina farmhouse, Shelby and Matt Miller (Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr.) flee Los Angeles, only to find murder, mayhem and madness. From a girl ghost to a swine monster to murderous nurse sisters to a sadistic cult leader known as “The Butcher” (Kathy Bates), the couple’s home is filled with nonstop terrors.
It seems each season of this show claims the position of being the weirdest of the series, but this one may hold that title for years to come. Without explaining (or knowing) the premise of the show, it may take a few minutes to realize you’re watching a show within a show. Each of the characters are played by two actors: the “real-life” person who experienced the supernatural phenomenon at the farmhouse and the performers playing them in the re-enactments. The ghosts are quite disturbing with horrific origin stories and unfettered access to the couple’s home. Things are made more complicated by their personal demons, which often conspire with the real ones haunting the house. As usual, there are many familiar faces behind various disguises and make-up as cast members once again take on new roles.
Special features include: The Paley Center for Media: Q&A with Cast and Creative Team from PaleyFest 2017; and promos. (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Book of Henry (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Susan (Naomi Watts) is a single mother of two, working as a waitress in a small town. Her son, Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), is an 11-year-old genius who not only manages the family finances but acts as emotional support for his mother and younger brother (Jacob Tremblay). When Henry discovers that the girl next door has a terrible secret, he implores Susan to take matters into her own hands.
This movie seems to begin as one thing and then evolve into something entirely different that is moving and unique. In spite of Henry’s genius, it feels as if Susan relies too heavily on him to handle all the household decisions. The fact that he’s suffering severe headaches that may be stress-related in many ways condemns her as a mother even though she also appears very loving and present (most of the time). However, Susan’s dependence and deference to Henry takes an interesting turn when he asks her to do something unthinkable while backing up his request with his usual logic and evidence. There are a few laughs sprinkled throughout, but in spite of its lightheartedness the film deals with some pretty heavy issues that combine for a compelling feature.
Special features include: “Filming The Book of Henry”; and “The Book of Henry: The Cast.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Cinema Novo (DVD)
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Icarus Films
This is a film essay that poetically investigates the eponymous Brazilian film movement, the most prominent in Latin America in the past century, through the analysis of its main auteurs: Nelson Pereira do Santos, Glauber Rocha, Leon Hirszman, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Ruy Guerra, Cacá Diegue, Walter Lima Jr, Paulo César Saraceni, among others.
For cinephiles and film lovers interested in the ‘60s movement, this documentary provides an intriguing opportunity to hear about it from its creators. The directors who developed the film style, which borrowed from most of the international movements that preceded it, talk about the regional conditions that contributed to their need for a new, collaborative voice, their varied approaches to moviemaking, and influences from around the world. Rather than incorporating the voice of a scholar to narrate the film, the filmmakers tell their own story via archival footage that captures their passion for cinema.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Cult of Chucky (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Confined to an asylum for the criminally insane for the past four years, Nica (Fiona Dourif) is wrongly convinced that she, not Chucky, murdered her entire family. But when her psychiatrist introduces a new group-therapy tool — a “Good Guy” doll — a string of grisly deaths plague the asylum and Nica starts to wonder if maybe she isn’t crazy after all. Andy (Alex Vincent), Chucky’s now-grownup nemesis from the original film, races to Nica’s aid. But to save her, he’ll have to get past Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), Chucky’s long-ago bride, who will do anything, no matter how deadly or depraved, to help her beloved devil doll.
With a seemingly endless supply of Good Guy dolls, Chucky never seems to die — just transfer bodies. However, the discovery of a new spell means now his “immortality” is even more eternal as he uses his newfound permanency to continue to torture some of his previous victims. An asylum is the perfect place for Chucky to hide since no one will believe anyone that says there’s a living doll walking around and killing people. But someone has to take the blame as the bodies begin to pile up. Unfortunately Nica’s doctor has ulterior motives to keeping her unwell, while Tiffany continues to make sure her little man has everything he needs in place. The return of a full-grown Andy played by the same actor is an interesting addition to the narrative, though it doesn’t seem like he’s accomplished much for the good fight over the years.
Special features include: commentary by director/writer Don Mancini and head puppeteer Tony Gardner; “Inside the Insanity of Cult of Chucky”; and “Good Guy Gone Bad: The Incarnations of Chucky.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Game Changer (Blu-ray)
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Well Go USA
Two escaped prisoners join one of the most powerful gangs in Shanghai, the Green Gang, as the right-hand men of the head boss Mr. Tang. When Mr. Tang tries to gain total control over business dealings in Shanghai, he discovers his closest allies are not who they seem and turns against his own men to protect his power.
This is a very complex Chinese gangster movie with a lot of unfinished business pushing its way to the surface. The two prisoners are united by accident, but prove quite complementary to each other. They are almost immediately like brothers, which makes what comes later much more difficult. Mr. Tang is a ruthless man who has his eye on the prize and will not allow anyone to stand in his way of complete domination of the local dealings. Unfortunately the young people closest to him are the ones who suffer for his choices and ambition. The fight scenes are quite impressive, as is the drama that gradually links them all helplessly together.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Home for the Holidays (Blu-ray)
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Shout Select
Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is heading home for yet another chaotic and exasperating family Thanksgiving. But a new visitor offers some interesting possibilities. If they can duck the flying turkeys, this romance may just have a chance.
For anyone who enjoys dysfunctional family comedies, this is definitely one of the most entertaining. Directed by Jodie Foster and also starring Robert Downey Jr., Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft, this film sweeps audiences up into the family’s chaos where poorly kept secrets repeatedly threaten to ruin the family gathering. The dialogue is exceptional and its delivery memorable as people hide in bathrooms for a moment’s peace, admit some of the harshest realities that emphasize you don’t get to choose your relatives, relive happy memories secluded in the basement and eventually agree to do it all again at Christmas. It’s a well-paced comedy that can easily become a holiday tradition since repeat viewings are always pleasurable (and sometimes cathartic).
Special features include: commentary by director Jodi Foster; gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Jackals (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
When Justin Powell (Ben Sullivan) is captured by two ski-masked men and dragged back to a secluded cabin, it’s anything but a standard kidnapping. Waiting for Justin at the cabin is his father (Johnathon Schaech), mother (Deborah Kara Unger), brother (Nick Roux) and former girlfriend (Chelsea Ricketts). Together, they are dedicated to freeing him from the sinister brainwashing he’s undergone at the hands of a vicious cult known as The Jackals. With the help of Jimmy Levine (Stephen Dorff), an experienced cult deprogrammer, the family does their best to bring Justin back to reality … but their plans go awry when the cult descends upon the cabin, demanding Justin back.
Movies about dangerous cults did very well in the ‘80s when it seemed everyone was afraid of Satan worshippers, the Hari Krishna were on every street corner and mass suicides occupied news headlines. But with the addition of masks, this film is what the Manson Family could’ve looked like if they hadn’t been stopped. A cross between The Strangers and Assault on Precinct 13, the masked assailants surround the house and silently demand the release of their brethren. When their request is ignored, the violence begins. The filmmakers do an excellent job in creating and maintaining a charged atmosphere in which anything can happen and not everyone is going to make it out alive.
Special features include: commentary with director Kevin Greutert and writer Jared Rivet; interviews with the cast and crew; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Loch Ness (Blu-ray)
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Acorn
Set against Scotland’s hauntingly beautiful landscapes, this series follows Annie Redford (Laura Fraser), a small-town detective thrown into her first murder case. When a man is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, DCI Lauren Quigley (Siobhan Finneran) arrives to lead the inquiry, along with forensic psychologist Blake Albrighton (Don Gilet). The local police clash with these outsiders, but when more bodies turn up, the team theorizes that a serial killer is stalking the shores of Loch Ness.
The brooding Scottish landscape does a lot to give this mystery thriller some character as the police scour the area for a potential serial killer. However, varying experience on the force and with the locals makes for a lot of friction during the investigation; combined with stubborn determination, the detectives have full plates. Although everyone begins very by-the-book, circumstances cause them to occasionally bend the rules. Moreover, the tactics employed to identify the killer are interesting and in some ways only possible in a small town. Conversely, the motivations for the murders are always far more nefarious then the idyllic surroundings would indicate.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; cast interviews; and photo gallery. (Acorn TV)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Disney Home Entertainment
Down-on-his-luck Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) feels the winds of ill fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil's Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea — notably Jack.
This film serves as a semi-reboot for the franchise, introducing a new, young pair of soon-to-be-in-love characters to lead the adventures of the never-ending franchise. Fortunately, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina (Kaya Scodelario) are quite likeable. As new villains threaten the pirates the couple are sure to become, they will undoubtedly find their way back to Jack in order to once again save him and the world. Bardem is a very impressive villain, relishing the opportunity to play this indestructible force set on revenge. As usual, there are some very striking visuals throughout the film. Salazar’s ship and its many secrets are striking as it often moves like a killer whale on the hunt, destroying its opponents with a single lunge. His and his crew’s decayed appearance is certainly some of the best creations of the franchise; the captain’s hair is always floating behind him as if the man was still underwater and the skeletal ship is a wonder in high-def.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “A Return to the Sea”; “Telling Tales: A Sit-down with Brenton & Kaya”; “The Matador & The Bull: Secrets of Salazar & The Silent Mary”; “First Mate Confidential”; “Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks”; “Wings Over the Caribbean”; “An Enduring Legacy”; “Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary”; and bloopers. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Queen of the Desert (Blu-ray & DVD)
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IFC Films & Shout
Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman) rebels against the stifling rigidity of life, leaving it behind for a chance to travel to Tehran. There, she begins a lifelong adventure across the Arab world, a journey marked by danger, a passionate affair with a British officer (James Franco) and an encounter with the legendary T.E. Lawrence (Robert Pattinson).
Director Werner Herzog tackles the real-life story of a female scholar who defied tradition to become an authority on Arab relations in his latest non-documentary work. The narrative is a relatively simple one, but it’s enhanced by Herzog’s penchant for realism and long shots. As a result, the many details of any given scene provide a quality of authenticity he’s honed over decades. Kidman appears to surrender herself to the picture, enduring heat and sand to deliver a respectable performance. In telling Gertrude’s story, the film seems to make the point that women are far better equipped for diplomacy. Travelling across the desert as a single woman without a man at her side, she navigates these sometimes dangerous and opposing tribes without violence and builds numerous friendships along the way.
There are no special features. (IFC Films & Shout)
The Son: The Complete First Season (DVD)
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AMC
This is a sweeping family saga that spans three generations of the McCullough family. The series traces the transformation of Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan) from a good-natured innocent to calculating killer. He loses everything on the wild frontier, setting him on a path to building a ranching-and-oil dynasty of unsurpassed wealth and privilege. It explores how Eli’s ruthlessness and quest for power trigger consequences that span generations, as the McCulloghs rise to become one of the most powerful family dynasties in Texas.
At first this series appears to have a slow start and with only 10 episodes to work with that could be highly detrimental. However, once one begins to notice the intricacies of the intertwining stories, the far-reaching consequences of their actions and the many gaps still to be filled, becoming engaged in the narrative just happens. Young Eli’s tale is more attention-grabbing as he does what he can to survive amongst the indigenous people who kidnapped him as well as find some manner of regaining his dignity. Brosnan’s Eli appears to have taken what he learned from living with the tribe and found a business application for it. His ambition and ruthlessness make a dangerous combination that unavoidably influences the lives and actions of his children.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (AMC)
Vikings: Season 4 Volume 2 (Blu-ray)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Ragnar’s return to Kattegat following his shameful defeat in Paris escalates tension among his sons. Determined to save what remains of his legacy, Ragnar recruits Ivar for a perilous voyage to England, where he plans to attack the Saxons. Meanwhile, a prophecy that a woman will one day rule Kattegat deepens Aslaug and Lagertha’s feud.
While there’s no doubt this series grows better with age, it’s also hard to deny this second half of season four was a rough one. Ragnar is seriously struggling after being defeated. He’s lost the respect of his warriors and is questioning whether he still has a role to play in the future of his people… or if they’d just be better off without him. As Ragnar sets sail for England with one son, some of the others head to the Mediterranean with different intentions. However several old scores are settled this season, resulting in surprising and significant deaths that inevitably have widespread repercussions.
Special features include: deleted scenes; extended/director’s/unrated episodes; extended international versions of every episode; and behind-the-scenes featurettes. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Warm Bodies (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
After a zombie epidemic, R (Nicholas Hoult) — a highly unusual zombie — encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer) — a human survivor — and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human and sets off a chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world.
The first zombie rom-com is as much fun now as it was when it was first released a few years ago. The train-of-thought voiceover is used perfectly in this picture as R demonstrates more cognitive thinking than anyone believed a zombie was capable. His attempts to woo Julie in spite of their challenging circumstances is sweet and funny; and although a relationship between the proverbial Romeo and Juliet should be appalling, it’s difficult not to root for these kids to get together. Rob Corddry has a supporting role as another zombie and is as close to a friend as R has, so the pair are not entirely unfamiliar with social relationships no matter how unusual. The undead details are far clearer than in previous formats and the vibrant colours of their romance pop off the screen.
Special features include: commentary with screenwriter/director Jonathan Levine, and actors Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer; deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Levine; “Boy Meets, Er, Doesn’t Eat Girl”; “R&J”; “A Little Less Dead”; “Extreme Zombie Makeover!”; “A Wreck in Progress”; “Bustin’ Caps”; “Beware the Boneys”; “Whimsical Sweetness: Teresa Palmer’s Warm Bodies Home Movies”; “Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry”; gag reel; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Wizard of Lies (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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HBO Home Entertainment
This drama dissects the events that led to the Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff’s (Robert De Niro) stunning downfall in December 2008 for defrauding investors of over $65 billion in the most infamous Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. The film recounts Madoff's audacious deceptions that culminated in his vilification, while catapulting his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and two sons into a harsh and unrelenting spotlight with tragic consequences.
When this story broke, the magnitude of Madoff’s deception was astounding. From his high-profile clients to the everyday Joe saving for the future, he took all their money and his family unknowingly lived in ignorant luxury. However, while the film recounts various events, some of the most interesting scenes occur in the visitation room of Madoff’s prison where he shamelessly describes how he was able to get away with it for so long. Blaming a failure of the system as well as the naiveté (i.e. trust) of his investors, Madoff appears to show no remorse for his transgressions. Most notably, De Niro demonstrates that in spite of the many less-demanding roles he’s played in recent years, he still has the chops to bring this complex character to life.
Special features include: interviews with cast and crew. (HBO Home Entertainment)
More about Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cult of Chucky, The Book of Henry, American Horror Story Roanoke, The Wizard of Lies
 
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