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article imageReview: Protection comes at a cost in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 25, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an interactive story of death and redemption; a legendary man’s history; a modern-day wild West; a classic animated series; an animal caper; and a film about downward spirals.
Batman: Death in the Family (Blu-ray & Digital code)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The infamous murder of Batman protégé Jason Todd will be undone, and the destinies of Batman, Robin and The Joker will play out in shocking new ways as viewers make multiple choices to control the story.
This is Warner Bros.’s first interactive home entertainment release. The “choose your own adventure” style narrative allows viewers to select characters’ actions, which in turn influences the story’s direction. The choices are quite serious as the heroes contemplate breaking their own rules, including committing murder. Each scenario has two to three options, and there are a total of seven endings. The best part about this release is, unlike Netflix’s interactive Black Mirror episode, viewers can return to specific choices to change their selection and follow a different path. Beyond being a unique experience, the gimmick is supported by an excellent story about the Dark Knight, Robin and Red Hood. The narrative was adapted from the 1988 DC event in which fans were able to vote by telephone to determine the story’s ending.
Special features include: four 2019-2020 DC Showcase shorts: “Sgt. Rock”, “Death”, “The Phantom Stranger” and “Adam Strange” with optional commentary; and three other non-interactive versions of the Batman: Death in the Family. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
It's been 10 years since the creation of the Great Truce, an elaborate joint-species surveillance system designed and monitored by cats and dogs to keep the peace when conflicts arise. But when a tech-savvy villain hacks into wireless networks to use frequencies only heard by cats and dogs, he manipulates them into conflict and the worldwide battle between cats and dogs is back on. Now, a team of inexperienced and untested agents will have to use their old-school animal instincts to restore order and peace between cats and dogs everywhere.
The premises of these movies are not intended to be profound or complicated — but they are meant to be very cute. It seems by default of living in the building that houses the animals’ underground headquarters, a cat and dog are made agents of the truce in spite of their inexperience. Guided by their retired mentor, the unlikely pair turn out to be the only ones capable of stopping this diabolical plan. In the meantime, a group of unusual, unwanted pets in a nearby pet shop are tired of being overlooked in favour of their furrier counterparts. Led by an ostentatious cockatoo (George Lopez), the animals from the rear of the store scheme to find their way into people’s homes. It’s all a bit silly, but the talking animals make it all worthwhile.
Special features include: making-of featurette; “Cast Reveals All: Deep Animal Thoughts”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Grant (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
This is the remarkable and quintessentially American story of a humble man who overcomes incredible obstacles to rise to the highest ranks of power and save the nation not once, but twice. This complete three-part miniseries seamlessly blends expert commentary, dramatic re-enactments, and beautifully enhanced archival imagery to reveal the true legacy of the unlikely hero who led the nation during its greatest tests: the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Ulysses S. Grant is a name most people know. But while many of those people are aware he led the North to victory during the Civil War, many do not know the details of his military career or his personal history. Each episode spans approximately 90 minutes and covers his life from his first less-successful stint in the army to after his victorious return home. There are interesting insights about his personal politics regarding slavery, particularly versus that of his in-laws. In addition, the series gives equal weight to his wins and tragic losses as it discusses his war strategy and leadership style. The combination of re-enactments, narration and talking heads keeps the narrative moving, while ensuring audiences receive the information in a manner that keeps them engaged.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Requiem for a Dream (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Four people are pursuing their visions of happiness. But even as everything begins to fall apart, they refuse to let go, plummeting with their dreams into a nightmarish, gut-wrenching freefall.
Adapting any of Hubert Selby, Jr.’s books is a daunting task as his talent lies in writing characters who reach heartbreaking, devastating lows not easily digested by the average consumer. For this tale, the truncated story includes many of the key events in the characters’ downfalls, though there’s something about the screen that allows viewers to keep their tragedy at arm’s length. That said, the performances are exceptional. Ellen Burstyn’s portrayal of a woman unknowingly prescribed speed and her subsequent struggle with hallucinations and illness is probably the saddest as she becomes an accidental addict. Conversely, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans — all of who were at the early stages of their careers and trying to prove their dramatic chops — play friends who are junkies doing whatever is required to secure their next high with dark consequences. Director Darren Aronofsky does an excellent job capturing this feverish nightmare, even if it could never truly live up to the book, by making his own rules.
Special features include: commentary by director Darren Aronofsky; commentary by director of photography Matthew Libatique; deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Darren Aronofsky; “On Set: 1999”; “Transcendent Moments: The Score of Requiem for a Dream”; “Ellen Burstyn on Requiem for a Dream”; “Through Their Eyes: Revisiting Requiem for a Dream”; “Memories, Dreams, & Addictions: Ellen Burstyn Interviews Hubert Selby, Jr.”; and marketing gallery. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Showcasing the episodes in the three-segment form as they originally aired, these retro hits soar through space and time to deliver justice. First, intergalactic policeman Space Ghost navigates the cosmos in his tricked-out spaceship, The Phantom Cruiser, battling villains like Brak and Zorak with his legendary suit and powerful wristbands. Then, Dino Boy teams with caveman Ugh and dinosaur Bronty to go primeval on the ancient menaces of their primitive home. And finally, Space Ghost flies again with more extraterrestrial adventures and thrilling takedowns. This compilation also features the dynamic six-part Space Ghost episode The Council of Doom.
These are cartoon classics from the ’60s that still have an avid fan following today. There’s something about the simplicity of the stories and hand-drawn animation that remains appealing in these shows. Each narrative only spans about seven minutes, keeping the adventures short and to the point. On the other hand, the brevity of the chapters causes some of the tales to end somewhat abruptly or via a far-fetched solution. But the absurdity of some of the storylines is part of the fun. Since most of the cartoons were created by the same studios, fans will also recognize some of the voices as the same actors who worked on other popular programs, like the original Scooby Doo series.
Special features include: feature-length profile, “Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Yellowstone: Season One (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Entertainment
The TV series chronicles the Dutton family, led by John Dutton (Kevin Costner), who controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. Amid shifting alliances, unsolved murders, open wounds, and hard-earned respect, the ranch is in constant conflict with those it borders — an expanding town, an Indian reservation, and America’s first national park. This is a world where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both.
In the first season, the Dutton’s are in conflict with each other as much as they are fighting outside challengers to their way of life. John has assigned each of his children roles and if they are unable to fulfill those roles to his satisfaction, he is not very forgiving. Outside of the homestead, John is battling the local Indigenous population for the use of land around his property. The feud turns deadly and snowballs into a dangerous battle of wills. Like a Western film, the nine-episode series is a slow-burn that gradually reveals more about the characters as it unfolds. They’re quite interesting people with sordid backgrounds as the flashbacks include a much younger John and his children.
Special features include: “Inside Yellowstone”; “Costner on Yellowstone Cowboy Camp”; “Character Spots”; “Production Design”; “Special Effects”; “Taylor Sheridan and Kevin Costner on Yellowstone”; official theme music composed by Brian Tyler. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Yellowstone: Season Two (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Determined to protect his ranch and his family’s legacy by any means necessary, John Dutton (Kevin Costner) turns up the heat. As the violence escalates and alliances shift, the ranch experiences some of its most dangerous affairs yet.
The follow-up season is unquestionably more dramatic (and melodramatic) than the first. More powerful players enter the scene — including local rancher-mobsters — making the battle for supremacy much more dangerous. The extremes these “businessmen” go to retain to their power and control over a particular trade is cringe-worthy, as is the fragility of their egos as they make decisions that protect their pride more than their loved ones. The flashbacks are also much more intense as the kids’ more scarring memories are revealed and viewers learn why Rip (Cole Hauser) is so loyal to John. It ends like a Wild West showdown should and leaves the next season pretty wide open as far as story direction.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes; “Inside Yellowstone”; “Behind the Story”; “Costner on Yellowstone: Season 2”; “Fight Choreography”; and “Stories from the Bunkhouse.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)
More about Batman Death in the Family, Cats and Dogs 3 Paws Unite, Yellowstone, Grant, Requiem for a Dream
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