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article imageReview: People are trying to find their way in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 15, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the next chapter in an assassin’s tale; a love story with global implications; a new season of animated satire; and a few titles from our recent pasts.
A Cure for Wellness (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
An ambitious young executive (Dane DeHaan) is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a remote and mysterious “wellness center.” When he begins to unravel the retreat’s terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests there longing for the cure.
The problem with a two-hour horror movie is undoubtedly pacing. It’s incredibly difficult to maintain an intense atmosphere for that extended period of time, let alone keep the audience’s attention. These are significant issues in director Gore Verbinski’s slow thriller, which runs 146 minutes and frequently meanders in the halls of the great building. The overall narrative is undoubtedly one great, suspenseful, unsettling, gothic mystery; but a movie cannot run on bizarre and mysterious alone for that long. Nonetheless, the picture is visually arresting. The sets consist of a lot of white on white as the facility’s interior emanates a sense of tranquility. These fair surroundings are in stark contrast with the areas in which the secrets are kept. The restricted sections of the building and grounds are made eerier by their distinct darkness.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Meditations”; “The Score”; and trailers. (Fox Home Entertainment)
A United Kingdom (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
When the king of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and a white English woman (Rosamund Pike) decided to marry just as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa in the 1940s, it caused an international uproar. But their passionate romance triumphed over every obstacle and changed the course of African history.
The film depicts a time in which it’s appalling to see how much of a say the government and other authority figures believed they had in what occurred in people’s bedrooms. It’s shocking to hear the multitude of people insist in no uncertain terms that the interracial couple immediately end their relationship. However, it’s simultaneously heartening to watch as their love and commitment to each other remains unwavering in public and private. Oyelowo and Pike project a beautiful partnership and convincing devotion as they portray the real-life proof that love can conquer all. Filmmakers do a good job of condensing 20 years into 110 minutes so that it doesn’t feel incomplete or rushed.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Filming in Botswana”; “The Legacy of Seretse and Ruth”; and London Film Festival opening night gala premiere. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Aftermath (Blu-ray & DVD)
VVS Films
Two strangers’ lives become inextricably bound together after a devastating plane crash. Inspired by real events, the film tells a story of guilt and revenge after an air traffic controller’s (Scoot McNairy) error causes the death of a construction foreman’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) wife and daughter.
This is a heart-wrenching story of grief that is not easily overcome. For Schwarzenegger’s character, his life loses all meaning the instant he learns of the accident. All of the air is sucked out of the room, and it’s impossible to imagine the devastating blow he experiences emotionally and physically. Conversely, the controller suffers a different level of pain because he was on duty when the accident occurred. Although he didn’t personally lose anyone, the heartache he feels is excruciating. Though the camera seems to keep its distance from the two characters, it does provide a superficial look into their separate but related struggles. The scene in which the foreman meets with the airline’s lawyers is especially painful because of its content and probable nearness to reality.
Special features include: commentaries; interviews with director Elliott Lester and director of photography (VVS Films)
Americano (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Cuco is a Mexican boy parrot that would rather imitate the crazy stunts of his TV parrot superhero, El Americano, than help with his chores at the family bird circus. Yet when a gang of bully birds threatens his ringmaster father and takes over the circus, Cuco sets off on a journey to Hollywood to enlist his hero in his fight, only to discover the true hero within himself.
This is a pretty silly cartoon in which a young parrot and his two friends runaway with no knowledge of the outside world, using a placemat with landmarks written on it to find their television hero. Of course, he’s not everything they’d hoped for when they do locate his lavish birdbath. In the meantime, the bullies are on their tail feathers, making their journey even more perilous. The lesson to be learned is made evident long before the end of the narrative, though they’re sure to hit audiences over the head with it when the time comes. It’s a very colourful animated movie, but just lacks substance.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Andy Griffith Show: Return to Mayberry (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
After turning in his sheriff’s badge to become a postal inspector in Cleveland, Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) returns to Mayberry for the birth of his first grandchild. But when his former deputy Barney Fife’s (Don Knotts) campaign for sheriff is derailed, Andy must once again solve the town’s problems with his trademark good humour and charm.
There is absolutely no other purpose to this movie than nostalgia and the joy of seeing the cast reunited on screen in the roles they each made famous (and conversely for which they became famous). Andy is welcomed back into town with open arms, but his plan for a seamless return is overturned by the usual Mayberry hijinks. Opie (Ron Howard) is running the local newspaper, but his role in the film is rather limited; instead, focus rightly remains on Andy and Barney… and the “monster” lurking in the nearby fishing hole. Fans of the original series will delight in this follow-up, particularly since some of its stars have since passed.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Bones: The Flesh & Bones Collection (DVD)
Fox Home Entertainment
Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) has an uncanny ability to solve the FBI’s most bizarre, gruesome mysteries. Along with hard-nosed agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), and the quirky “squints” (Michaela Conlin, T.J. Thyne, Tamara Taylor, John Francis Daley) at Washington’s Jeffersonian Institute, Brennan tackles cases involving everyone from serial killers to senior citizens. As the series unfolds, Brennan and Booth find themselves as deeply in love as they are in danger.
The initial seasons of this show were equal to any of the many crime dramas/procedurals on in the evening at the time. The cases were engaging, and Bones’ methods of analysis and crime-solving were fascinating and, more importantly, different than most of the other approaches on TV. The team of squints were amusing, each bringing a diverse and somewhat eccentric personality to the table. Eventually their personal relationships, particularly that between Brennan and Booth, began to dominate the narrative; and even though they were still solving crimes, it began to get that primetime soap feel. Still, there were some engaging multi-episode plots involving a serial killer, the unexpected betrayal of a team member and a thorough analysis of the JFK assassination.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; visual effects featurette; “Back to the Lab: A Bones Retrospective”; “Bones at Comic-Con”; “Bones: Inspired by the Life of Forensic Anthropologist and Author Kathy Reichs”; and gag reel. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
The zany twosome is back for some smoke-enhanced misadventures in this comedy. This time, Cheech (Cheech Marin) must deal with an angry neighbor and losing his job, all while trying to score with a sexy young lady. Meanwhile, Chong (Tommy Chong) meets Cheech's cousin, Red (Marin in a dual role), and the two buds have a wild time buzzing around Hollyweird in a Ferrari. Along the way, the dynamic duo find time for some mishaps at a movie set, the welfare office, a hotel, a brothel, a music store, a rich girl's house, a comedy club, the ultimate weed field and on a UFO.
After Up in Smoke, the weed-fuelled pair return for more crazy adventures that still make little sense except to show that anything can happen in a Cheech and Chong movie. The decked out van with bouncing hydraulics, the condemned house next to a conservative white picket fence, partying with upper-class white folks and eventually being abducted by aliens is just an overview of the escalation of zany antics they experience. The expectations were set in the previous film and this one goes for the gusto… though most could probably do without the band sequences in which they perform tone-deaf music. The interview with Marin in the bonus features is actually quite enlightening, and worth watching for a brief history of the duo and the movies.
Special features include: new interview with Cheech Marin; radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Home Entertainment
Drago (voice of Patrick Stewart) the magnificent dragon was bonded with King Gareth. But when the king dies, his potential heirs, twin grandchildren who possess the dragon’s unique strengths, use their inherited powers against each other to vie for the throne. When Drago’s source of power — known as the Heartfire — is stolen, more than the throne is at stake; the siblings must end their rivalry with swords and sorcery or the kingdom may fall.
In the same tradition as the previous Dragonheart films, the narrative is a fantasy of epic proportions with dragons, inhuman strength and the ability to manipulate fire. Nonetheless, the story is pretty straightforward revolving around years of hurt feelings and battles for supremacy. There is one unexpected revelation that turns the tides, but it’s not until the last act that it’s revealed. Drago continues to be an odd character, both superior to yet highly concerned with the affairs of man. Stewart is an excellent choice for the majestic voice of the creature as he’s able to express so much with this tone. This movie is probably better than the last installment, but the bar hadn’t been set very high.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “The Magic Behind Drago”; and “Inside the Castle.” (Universal Home Entertainment)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Legendary hit man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is forced out of retirement again by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome, where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.
This sequel introduces several familiar faces in key roles throughout the film, yet with one exception they become entrenched in this unreal reality. Reeves appears very at home playing this character, which continues to exude exceptional cool. As the narrative picks up more-or-less where the first film left off, it’s as if he never took off the suit in between pictures. Even though “car-fu” and “gun-fu” remain key components of the film, choreographers clearly worked to make each sequence different from any they’d done previously. John faces a lot more resistance, yet Reeves still appears totally comfortable grappling with and shooting his opponents, who often appear in large numbers and contribute to a much higher body count. One of the elements that was most fascinating in the first film was the formality of the underworld. Everyone dresses well, behaves accordingly and respects the long ago established rules enforced by a tradition more powerful than any one of them. That realm is further explored in the sequel as viewers are offered a better understanding of what membership to the exclusive Continental Club actually provides its clientele.
Special features include: commentary by director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves; deleted scenes; “Retrowick: Exploring the Unexpected Success of John Wick”; “Training John Wick”; “Wick-Vizzed”; “Friends, Companions: The Keanu/Chad Partnership”; “As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick”; “Car Fu Ride-Along”; “Chamber Check: Evolution of a Fight Scene”; “Wick’s Toolbox”; “Kill Count”; “Dog Wick” short; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Juice (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
This crime drama follows a group of inner-city teens in pursuit of power and respect, which they call “the juice.” Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Q (Omar Epps), Raheem (Khalil Kain) and Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) are four Harlem friends who spend their days skipping school, getting in fights, and casually shoplifting. The only member of the group who has plans for the future is Q, who dreams of becoming a deejay. But one day Bishop happens to see James Cagney in White Heat and the film inspires him to buy a gun. His plan is to rob a corner store and split the money. Everyone goes along with the plan except for Q, who is competing that night in a deejay contest. At the club, Q is a rousing success, but he spies the stern faces of his friends through the cheering crowd and realizes that he has to go along with the robbery, which goes completely wrong.
Coming out after Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, this is another important narrative to emerge that represented the experiences of young black men in inner-cities. Even though delinquency is essentially a way of life, there are a number of lines one chooses to cross or not. While at least three of the four seem like a decent group of kids, it’s surprising to see how quickly and easily they’re willing to risk their futures — because they don’t think they have one. Q is the only one trying to give some meaning to his life, and thus protests the most to this half-baked plan. Bishop, conversely, is a wild card with no interest in staying between the lines. Shakur’s acting debut is a powerful one alongside a young Epps who also exhibits great potential. The bonus features provide a lot of insight into the production, including the original ending and what it was like on set for all these green actors.
Special features include: commentary by director Ernest R. Dickerson; “You've Got the Juice Now”; “The Wrecking Crew”; “Sip the Juice: The Music”; and “Stay in the Scene: The Interview.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The LEGO Batman Movie (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The self-described leading man — LEGO Batman (Will Arnett) — stars in his own big-screen adventure. But there are big changes brewing in Gotham City, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.
The LEGO Movie was like nothing anyone had experienced, and the appetite for more was immediate and voracious. The ideal candidate for this picture was obviously Batman since his character was such a standout in the first film. Unfortunately the bar was set very high and this movie just can’t live up to its predecessor. There are undoubtedly funny scenes and LEGO Batman remains an amusing character, completely oblivious to just about everything not about him. Obviously it’s unfair to judge this movie based on the last one, but it’s also inevitable due to their similarities. It’s hard to say about a movie that revolves around tiny mini figures, but it’s often possibly too silly.
Special features include: director and crew commentary; deleted scenes; “Brick by Brick: Making of the LEGO Batman”; original animation shorts; “One Brick at a Time: Making the Lego Batman Movie”; “Inside Wayne Manor”; “Behind the Brick”; “Me and My Mini Fig”; “Comic Con Panel”; “The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short”; rebrick contest winners; social promos; and trailers. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Numb3rs: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
We use math every day to predict weather, tell time and handle money… and two brilliant brothers use it to solve crime. When cases defy ordinary solutions, dedicated FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) turns to his younger sibling, Professor Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz), a mathematical prodigy. Don’s unstoppable crime-fighting squad includes David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard), Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno), Megan Reeves (Diane Farr), and Nikki Betancourt (Sophina Brown). When the calculations become challenging, Charlie reaches out to his colleagues, theoretical physicist Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) and computational mathematician Amita Ramanujaan (Navi Rawat). At home, both brothers rely on their advice of their father, Alan (Judd Hirsch).
While this crime drama/procedural wasn’t for everyone, it was quite fascinating to see the showrunners integrate some element of math into every case. To emphasize the intricacies of Charlie’s calculations, the perspective would change when he is working out a problem. Probably the best part about this show is how it tries to normalize genius as each of the characters have relatively normal relationships and interactions with their crime-fighting colleagues. Hirsch’s sage is also a highlight, but that’s expected. Like most of these types of shows, the plots start to become a little messy as the characters gain complexity; but they still manage to wrap it all up in the final season with a big, neat bow.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted scenes; “Crunching Numb3rs: Season One”; “Point of Origin: Inside the Unaired Pilot”; audition reels with optional commentary by Mark Saks; “Do the Math: The Caltech Analysis”; “Charlievision: FX Sequences 1.0”; “Crunching Numb3rs: Season Two”; “Behind the Scenes with Nicolas Falacci”; “Behind the Scenes with David Krumholtz”; “Crunching Numb3rs: Season Three”; “Eppes Central”; “Set House Tour”; “Crunching Numb3rs: Trust Metric”; “Crunching Numb3rs: Season Five”; “Celebrating 100”; “Coming Full Circle: Numb3rs The Final Season”; “The Women of Numb3rs”; “Pixel Perfect: The Digital Cinematography of Numb3rs”; production photo gallery with Nicolas Falacci; and blooper reels. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Pelle the Conqueror (Blu-ray)
Film Movement
Lasse (Max von Sydow), an elderly and widowed farmer, and his young son, Pelle (Pelle Hvenegaard), join a boat-load of immigrants to escape from impoverished rural Sweden to Denmark’s Baltic island of Bornholm. They are employed at a large farm in Denmark, where they are treated as the lowest of the low. It is ultimately their loving relationship which sustains them through a difficult year.
This is a sincere drama about a boy and his father as the boy begins to realize his father is not everything he imagined. Though the elder man often talks a big game and promises things beyond his reach, he quickly disappoints his son when he’s unable to deliver; Pelle is especially put out when his father’s cowardice or poor decision-making causes him to lose face in front of others. As a result, Pelle is shown to act out in different ways, some of which seem normal and others that are unnecessarily cruel. It’s interesting to follow the inevitable trajectory of the father-son relationship, which is made even more significant by Pelle’s young age.
Special features include: commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie; and essay by Terrence Rafferty. (Film Movement)
Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Get ready for farm-fresh fun and laughter with Shaun the Sheep and his barnyard buddies, as they set the scene for more mayhem on the farm. Laugh out loud as Shaun tries to outfox a fox, Bitzer discovers his jazzy side, and the sheep try to sell everything on the farm to the highest bidder. Shaun and his friends deliver seven hilarious adventures full of animal antics that will make the whole family cock-a-doodle doo!
This release contains seven episodes that unfold in 45 minutes, yet they’re funnier than most 30-minute sitcoms. Aardman has a knack for creating these hilarious shorts that are simple and don’t require any dialogue. There’s never any misunderstanding of the comedy, nor a need for the episode to extend beyond the average five minutes. Shaun proves to be an adequate cook, but Bitzer’s fondness for fresh black pepper may ruin the Farmer’s date. The unbelievable yard sale they hold is probably one of the best tales, while the determined fox is gladly reminiscent of its Looney Tunes’ counterparts.
Special features include: “Building-a-Pig”; and “Timmy’s Tune #2” music video. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
South Park: The Complete Twentieth Season (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle confront the real-world consequences of online trolling, battle the memberberry epidemic, come to terms with Cartman having a girlfriend, and survive the 2016 presidential election.
This is the second season in which creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have opted to do season-long story arcs instead of the usual episodic narratives. As a result, they provide one of the most apt, comedic commentaries of the election without expanding the focus beyond the candidates and the voters. And yet, for fans of the show, Cartman having a girlfriend is probably the more significant storyline of the season. While the persecution of online trolls is somewhat less sharp, they’re definitely shining a light on their motives as well. It’s still difficult to be completely on board with the new format since it’s at the expense of some of the wider-ranging commentary the duo used to provide, but it’s also easy to see their breakdown of the election couldn’t have worked any other way.
Special features include: season commentary by Trey Parker and Matt Stone; “#SocialCommentary on all episodes; deleted scenes; and Comic-Con 2016 extended panel with Matt and Trey. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Wolf Guy (Blu-ray & DVD)
Arrow Video
Akira Inugami (Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba) is the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes. After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers. At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind.
This is far from a traditional, Western werewolf movie. To start, Inugami never actually transforms into a hairy creature. However, he does have supernatural strength and is shockingly invincible, able to heal potentially fatal wounds. Though the cabaret singer is physically normal, she is exacting her revenge on those that harmed her in a unique manner. As a result, they are both of interest to the government though she’s easier to control. The deeper Inugami investigates the various murders and cover-ups, the more tragic the story becomes and is increasingly less likely to have a happy ending. The interviews in the bonus features are interesting as the director talks about the production and casting very candidly, and Chiba discusses his career as an actor and teacher — it’s too bad this release only contains volume one of his interview.
Special features include: interview with actor Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba; interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi; interview with producer Toru Yoshida; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter. (Arrow Video)
More about A Cure for Wellness, John Wick Chapter 2, The LEGO Batman Movie, A United Kingdom, Aftermath
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