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article imageReview: Perseverance equals survival in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 11, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the final chapter in a destructive saga; a performance that’s better but not the best; a reboot that forgets the important bits; one of cinema’s earliest blockbusters; and a movie that creates more questions than it answ
A Quiet Place [Mondo X Steelbook] (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
A family must navigate their lives in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Knowing that even the slightest whisper or footstep can bring death, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) are determined to find a way to protect their children at all costs while they desperately search for a way to fight back.
This is a brilliant thriller that has almost no spoken dialogue. The characters communicate with their eyes and sign language, which gives them somewhat of an advantage over other survivors since their entire family is proficient in it. It also allows them to create a nearly silent movie without having to sacrifice the connections people have to words and emotions. Krasinski also wrote and directed the film, which he executes with such precision and imagination that audiences will be completely engrossed from the first shot on day 89 of the narrative to several months later when the family begins to prepare for possibly the most ill-advised change to their existence. The gradual reveal of the creatures works well to create suspense and fear, while the constant worry about the slightest noise keeps the tension high throughout the picture.
Special features include: “Creating the Quiet”; “The Sound of Darkness”; and “A Reason for Silence.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Affair: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
The series examines both sides of an illicit romance begun by happily married father Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and married waitress Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson). The effects of their liaison reverberate through every corner of their lives, beginning with their respective spouses, Helen (Maura Tierney) and Cole (Joshua Jackson). But betrayal is not the darkest secret that emerges as an ongoing murder investigation raises more questions and overturns more relationships. No one escapes the consequences as lust, love, grief and guilt continue to clash over five provocative seasons.
The series began by exploring two sides of an affair, in which both participants are married to other people. This started the fascinating examination of the same events from more than one perspective. Sometime their interpretations of the encounters would differ slightly or not at all, while others would barely seem like the same memory. This concept was expanded in the second season as Noah’s and Alison’s spouses were also provided the opportunity to share their perspectives. Over five seasons, audiences watched as these people repeatedly built-up and tore-down their lives with their choices. In the final chapter, Noah and Helen must come to terms with where these paths have led them as they seek redemption from their children and each other. However, the show may have stretched too much when they decided to depict a future in which one of the children touched by these relationships tries to reconcile the trauma proposedly inherited through generations.
Special features include: character profiles; “Tale of Two Costumes”; “Tour of Montauk”; “Memory Lanes”; “Storytelling with Sarah Treem”; “Playing Both Sides”; “Dressing the Part”; “Sink Back into the Ocean”; and “Where Does it End?” (Paramount Home Entertainment)
By the Grace of God (DVD)
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Music Box Films Home Entertainment
Three adult men — Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud), François (Denis Ménochet) and Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud) — come together to expose the code of silence that continues to enable the priest who abused them as boys. The men go to great lengths to denounce the perpetrator and the institution that has always protected him, a risky endeavor that endangers their relationships with their families, along with compromising their own fragile selves.
While the film does try to show timelines, the narratives are rather linear so that they don’t really hold significance. Instead, the focus is on these men’s demand that the Catholic Church be held accountable for allowing ongoing abuse to occur. Through various men and their parents coming forward, it becomes blatantly obvious the hierarchy was aware of the priest’s crimes and yet continued to move him from parish to parish where he continued to violate young boys rather than defrock him and stop it entirely. While the three men mentioned are at the forefront of their fight, their association provides support for many others who were abused – many of whom are now willing to provide their testimony, even though the statute of limitations had passed. It’s a harrowing story that helped turn the tide and reveal the protection of pedophiles, while also changing laws to allow for later accusations to be prosecuted in France.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Beyond Appearances: An Evening with François Ozon”; “Lighting and Costume Tests”; “Recording the Music”; Q&A and debate with director François Ozon and member of the Catholic diocese in Lyon; and poster gallery. (Music Box Films)
Charlie’s Angels (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sabina (Kristen Stewart), Elena (Naomi Scott) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose investigative agency has expanded internationally. The new Angels are among the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe. Under the guidance of Bosley (Elizabeth Banks), the Angels must protect a revolutionary technology from becoming weaponized. They will have to rely on each other as their assignment becomes increasingly treacherous and even those closest to them can no longer be trusted.
This fully woman-powered reboot of the espionage franchise that took Bond girls and put them at the forefront of their own missions still feels like it’s missing something. While the Angels have strong, distinct personalities, they don’t have the unshakeable bonds of their predecessors. Everyone is devoted to the agency and Charlie, but their own relationships seem somewhat weak and forced. It’s also odd that there’d be an effort to cast high profile actors for most of the male roles, yet the selection of “international” women are unrecognizable to most – until the mid-credit scenes. It’s refreshing to see Stewart break away from the sullenness typical of the characters she plays, as she appears to have a lot of fun with this role which is in turn amusing to watch. The action sequences are also good and well-designed for the characters, but it’s lacking a big bang moment.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Stronger Together: The Sisterhood of the Angels”; “Elizabeth Banks: As BOSSley”; “Warriors on Set: Angels in Action”; “Tailored for Danger: Styling the Angels”; “Don’t Call Me Angel” music video featuring Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus & Lana Del Rey; and gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Inherit the Viper (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
For siblings Kip (Josh Hartnett) and Josie Cloney (Margarita Levieva), dealing opioids isn’t just their family business — it’s their only means of survival. When a deal goes fatally wrong, Kip decides he wants out. But Kip’s attempt to escape his family’s legacy ignites a powder keg of violence and betrayal, imperiling Kip, Josie, and their younger brother, Boots (Owen Teague).
It can be difficult to start anew after becoming accustomed to a certain way of life, even if that way is dangerous and illegal. The Cloneys are drug dealers, a risky tradition passed down between generations. Kip is already hesitant to induct their youngest brother into the family trade, as well as concerned about the life into which he could be bringing his own child. Josie doesn’t know anything else and has become engrossed in dealing, while also linking it to Kip’s bond to her. Consequently, she believes if they stop selling drugs, she’ll somehow lose her brother. Kip is, in turn, put in the difficult position of weighing their family’s safety with Josie’s unfettered persistence. The drama moves too quickly and only gives audiences glimpses into the characters, which makes the story feel incomplete.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Masked and Anonymous (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
The enigmatic Jack Fate (Bob Dylan) is a former traveling troubadour who is sprung from jail by his scheming manager to headline a highly sketchy and misguided benefit concert for a decaying America. Fate’s journey finds him crossing paths with a host of humanity, played by an ensemble cast, including Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Penélope Cruz, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Mickey Rourke, and many more.
Director Larry Charles is known for his quirky, almost stream of consciousness narratives in which the eccentric protagonist meanders through a series of scenes with equally unusual characters. However, this time, the odd personalities are played by a who’s who of Hollywood and the wanderer is being portrayed by the enigmatic Dylan. It can be a little difficult to follow at times as people float in and out of the narrative, often doing their own thing in between interacting with Fate. Similarly, the location is hard to pin down as there’s a mix of familiar military, militia and poor – though not typically seen together. But everyone embraces the Charles-Dylan experience and the result is a peculiar but intriguingly original picture.
Special features include: commentary by director Larry Charles; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; interview with Charles; and theatrical trailers. (Shout Factory)
Mind Games (Blu-ray)
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MVD Rewind Collection
Trapped in an unhappy marriage, Dana Lund (Edward Albert) and his wife, Rita (Shawn Weatherly) try to breathe new life into their relationship by taking a trip through northern California with their 10-year-old son Kevin (Matt Norero). Along the way they pick up Eric (Maxwell Caufield), an amiable hitchhiker who’s a psychology student. But Eric’s charm masks the fact that he is psychotic. Sensing the Lund’s vulnerability, he decides to take control of the family, then destroy it through deceit and emotional manipulation. At first the Lunds are easy prey until they realize they’ve become victims of a bizarre reign of terror.
The key problem with this story is the implausibility that a family would let a hitchhiker become an extended member of their clan, joining photos and visiting vacation spots together. The fact that they make him sleep outdoors signals there are some trust issues, but not enough to keep their son from sleeping out there with the stranger. Obviously Caufield’s good looks are supposed to make him seem less threatening and help him infiltrate the crumbling family dynamic, but it’s still too convenient. The parents are so completely clueless and wound up in their own problems, they forget or ignore their priorities to keep their kid safe. This is a far cry from Grease 2, though Caufield is still wielding his charming accent and blue eyes to win people over.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Bob Yari: Portrait of a Producer”; original theatrical trailer; collectible poster; and reversible sleeve. (MVD Rewind Collection)
The Ten Commandments (Blu-ray Digibook)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
The film tells the story of the life of Moses (Charlton Heston). Once favored in the Pharaoh's (Yul Brynner) household, Moses turned his back on a privileged life to lead his people to freedom.
This is an incredibly rare case in which director Cecil B. DeMille directed the silent 1923 version of the story, then revisited the same narrative in 1956 to make an epic, four-hour blockbuster still watched around the religious holidays. Though the original film is two hours long, it’s essentially split into two pictures: one is the telling of Moses and the commandments, and the other is a morality tale in which the characters break the commandments and suffer the consequences. While many of the scenes depicted in the black-and-white film are recreated in the remake, it significantly expands on the story. A rare introduction at the beginning of the film informs audiences the following narrative portrays Moses’ life before God spoke to him and due to its length, an intermission is included. The remake was shot in Egypt and the Sinai with one of the biggest sets ever constructed for a motion picture, resulting in a picture that’s survived the test of time.
Special features include: commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of “Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments”; newsreel of New York premiere; “The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles”; theatrical trailers; photo galleries; and hand-tinted 1923 footage of the exodus and parting of the Red Sea sequence; and behind-the-scenes collectible gallery booklet. (Paramount Home Media)
Trauma Center (Blu-ray)
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VVS Films
A veteran cop (Bruce Willis) must protect an injured young woman (Nicky Whelan) when a pair of vicious killers seek out the only piece of evidence that can implicate them in a grisly murder: the bullet in her leg.
This is a movie with too many “whys” and “why nots.” Someone who’s forgetful requires a life-saving inhaler – why not carry extra? Why fire a traceable weapon? Why wasn’t the bullet removed when she was in the operating room the first time? Why is the bullet in her leg more important than the ones still at the crime scene? These questions keep piling up to the point of annoyance. The script is so obviously contrived to allow for certain plot points, watching the movie becomes futile. Though Willis receives top billing, his role is limited. The picture focuses on this woman’s survival as she runs floor-to-floor in a fully operational, but seemingly empty hospital where no one finds a puddle of blood in the hallway suspicious.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
Uncut Gems (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
A charismatic jeweler (Adam Sandler) makes a high-stakes bet that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. In a precarious high-wire act, he must balance business and family, fending off adversaries on all sides in pursuit of the ultimate win.
Sandler was very vocal about his feelings regarding this movie. He was convinced it was an award-worthy performance, though critic and association ballots painted a different story. That’s not to say it’s not Sandler’s best, non-comedic role, but that’s a different scale than best performance of the year. While it unfolds around an interesting gem with a backstory that could’ve been explored further, it’s difficult to like the jeweler that acquired it. One can empathize with the universal desire to get ahead and make money, but the way he lives his life is very disagreeable. A gambling addict, he makes one bad decision after another in his life and his business. This leads to frequent yelling made even more difficult to understand by the encroaching score with which it’s competing. In the end, it’s just an average movie with a relatively good performance.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
More about A Quiet Place, Uncut Gems, Charlie's angels, The Affair, By the Grace of God
 
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