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article imageReview: Reality and imagination collide in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 29, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include captivating images that inspire wonder and sympathy; the latest antics of a discredited spy organization; and the continued adventures in a wonderful world of magic.
A Monster Calls (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Young Conor’s (Lewis MacDougall) life takes a turn after his mother (Felicity Jones) becomes ill and he moves in with his unsympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). As an escape, Conor turns to his artwork and conjures up a 40-foot-high monster (voice of Liam Neeson) who becomes a most unlikely ally by guiding him on a journey of courage, faith and truth that fuses imagination and reality.
This narrative overlays a dark subject with a surreal fantasy, though it doesn’t quite strike an effective balance between the two. Each time the tree monster comes, he shares an ambiguous story with Conor that’s meant to help him better understand the world if he can decipher its meaning. The story he eventually wants Conor to tell has obvious significance and a predictable outcome, though that doesn’t make it less heartbreaking. Moreover, his strained relationship with his grandmother and the behaviour they both exhibit makes it difficult to feel compassion for either one of them. Having been released in close proximity to The BFG, this movie definitely suffered in comparison… but mostly because it’s simply not as good.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; and “Making of the Tales.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Archer: The Complete Season Seven (DVD)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Following their disastrous turn as government agents-turned-drug dealers, the team reinvents themselves as a Los Angeles-based P.I. firm. Their first case? Protecting a vampy actress from blackmail — and Archer’s libido. They also grapple with a terminator mummy who wants his mommy, spinning robot legs, Archer’s desperate voice mail message, gunmen clowns, and life as hostages, all leading to a cliff-hanger featuring a body floating in a swimming pool — like you’d see in a classy noir film or something. Also, shut up!
Embarking on another standalone plotline for another season, the team now finds ways to screw the privileged public by charging enormous sums to poorly complete tasks. Hired by famous Hollywood actresses and directors (as well as a psychotic cyborg), the team goes undercover at parties and on film sets to solve a mystery or offer precarious protection. The dynamics, which is by far one of the show’s most appealing aspects, remain unchanged. Though the arrival of the sexy actress definitely puts a strain on Lana and Archer’s already volatile relationship. The concise 10-episode season ends on a shocking cliff-hanger that won’t be resolved until next season. The raunchy table reading in the bonus features is hilarious mayhem, while the arbitrary rating system Archer uses to evaluate Bond movies is even funnier.
Special features include: “Archer Reviews Bond”; and “Archer Live! Reading” table read from San Diego Comic Con. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Blast-Off (Blu-ray)
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Olive Films
P. T. Barnum (Burl Ives) is a blustering showman who at first balks at, then embraces the idea of a projectile which could travel to the moon. And if anyone is going to make sure that America reaches the moon first, it’s Phineas T. Barnum!
This is a madcap comedy in which everyone seems to have an angle, most of which has very little to do with actually sending a man to the moon. In one of the many amusing scenes, they unveil their plans and scale model for the rocket — when asked how the traveller is expected to return to Earth, they exclaim no one ever mentioned he had to come back! Later, after some adjustments, the ship is modified to accommodate a return trip, complete with carpeted ceilings — because that will be the floor on the way back. Meanwhile, dashing young American, Gaylord Sullivan (Troy Donahue), is trying to ensure the nearly married woman he absconded with, Madelaine (Daliah Lavi), will wait for him; however she’s having great difficulty giving up the man she left at the altar, especially after he catches up with them.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
The Delinquents (Blu-ray)
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Olive Films
Scotty (Tom Laughlin) is a young man drawn into a potentially deadly friendship when he inadvertently becomes involved with “the wrong crowd.” Naiveté will lead Scotty and his girlfriend, Janice (Rosemary Howard), into dangerous waters when adolescent fun escalates into robbery, assault and kidnapping.
This is one of director Robert Altman’s earliest films, positioned as a cautionary tale for parents and teenagers. It demonstrates a young person may not even recognize they’ve fallen in with the wrong people until it’s too late. At first they seem like your friend, and everything is fun and games; then, all of a sudden, they’re trying to take advantage of your girlfriend and you’re being chased by the police. It feels like the type of movie that could have been shown in the classroom as a lesson of “what not to do.” And to make it that much more convincing, the bad seeds are as attractive as the good ones — because you’re not always going to be able to judge a book by its cover.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets of 1926 New York, threatening to expose the wizarding community. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures. When unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose, a band of unlikely heroes must recover the missing beasts before they come to harm, but their mission puts them on a collision course with Dark forces.
Even though the sense of whimsy first conveyed 15 years ago remains, the locale and politics are significantly different. English wizards had somewhat of an antagonistic relationship with muggles, but they still attempted to co-exist with them and were accepted by many. Conversely Americans try to conceal their existence from the No-Maj, prohibiting any interaction between them and erasing the memories of anyone who witnesses a magical act. Newt is used to using his abilities indiscriminately and does so repeatedly throughout the narrative. However, the most fascinating is his suitcase which gives “bigger on the inside” new meaning, and the amusing creatures within it that seem cute enough to cuddle in 4K. Redmayne is an excellent selection to carry this new franchise as he exudes an innocent yet playful charm with an underlying sense of justice. And Fogler is hilarious as the wide-eyed newb that manages to stay pretty grounded in spite of all the new and fantastic things he learns over the course of his friendship with Newt.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins!”; “Character”; “Creatures” and “Design.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Just a Sigh (DVD)
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Icarus Films
In the short break between performances in Calais, stage actress Alix (Emmanuelle Devos) makes a quick escape to Paris. On the train, she meets a mysterious English stranger (Gabriel Byrne) and is inexplicably drawn toward him. She follows him and loves him for a few hours before facing what could be a new life.
This movie has a similar premise to Before Sunrise, though it lacks the youthful passion of its predecessor. Alix is due back in Calais the same day, but she repeatedly misses or delays her departure in the hopes of capturing one more thing in Paris — whether it’s money, a chance meeting or a moment of clarity. If the roles had been reversed, this would seem like a creepy stalker story in which a man reads too much into a few shared glances and an innocent request for directions; however, since Alix shows up unexpected and uninvited at the man’s event, it’s interpreted as harmless and romantic if still a little awkward. This double standard gives them permission to enjoy each other’s company without expecting it to turn sinister. Nonetheless, the movie does feel like it’s lacking something to really hold audience’s attention.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Monster High: Electrified (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Picture Home Entertainment
When Clawdeen dreams of opening a salon made for monsters and normal, Frankie has the perfect place — an abandoned power station outside town. But the idea sparks negative voltage when Moanica plots to ruin the whole thing and replace the celebration with something a little more… shocking! Luckily the ghouls have a secret weapon on their side… Twyla, the daughter of the Boogey Man, and the perfect ghoul to unearth any mystery. Along with her ghoulfriends, they must thwart Moanica’s plan, charge up their outfits, save the normie town from darkness and open the most voltageous salon ever.
This is a movie based on characters from the popular franchise, who, if it wasn’t for their looks, would be like any other tween story set in a high school. Frankie and her friends are popular girls who also try to be super nice to everyone, while Moanica hangs out with a group of zombie teen boys who do her malicious bidding. The girls have bizarre looks and powers related to their classic monster heritage, such as the Wolfman or Dracula, yet they’re more stylish than frightening. The multiple storylines are a little disjointed even though they’re clearly connected, but it all adds up to a lot of fun for the target audience. Moreover, the bonus episode is an amusing Frozen-style tale that includes some ice hockey.
Special features include: “Epic Winter” episode. (Universal Picture Home Entertainment)
Patriot’s Day (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Based upon the dramatic real-life manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, the film follows Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) as he joins brave survivors, first responders and investigators in a race against time to find the bombers before they strike again.
Filmmakers felt the best way to respect the victims of this terrorist attack was to depict the events with as much realism as possible. Filming on a studio lot to limit the impact on survivors, director Peter Berg recreates the day of the bombing with chilling authenticity — an aspect enhanced by the vivid, lifelike images of the 4K picture. The scenes of blood, severed limbs and chaos only lasts a few minutes, but it’s definitely the most powerful section of the movie. What follows are previously unknown details of the extensive investigation that began with the need to identify the suspects and then locate them. In the meantime they reimagine the brothers’ actions over the same time period, revealing unfamiliar aspects of their near-escape and eventual takedown. A lot of the bonus features are dedicated to the real-life survivors of the incident, which further illustrates the cast and crew’s commitment to getting it right by them.
Special features include: “Boston Strong: True Stories of Courage”; “The Boston Bond: Recounting the Tale”; “The Real Patriots: The Local Heroes’ Stories”; “The Cast Remembers”; “Actors Meet Real-Life Counterparts: A 2-Part Series”; and “Researching the Day.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Phaedra (Blu-ray)
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Olive Films
Set against some of Europe’s most beautiful backdrops including Paris, London and Greece, Phaedra (Melina Mercouri) presents its classical mythological tropes in a modern setting, where the beautiful, moneyed and bored Phaedra will face the tragic results of a doomed love affair with her stepson, Alexis (Anthony Perkins).
This is the contemporary telling of a Greek myth, in which a woman seduces her husband’s son and destroys their household. From the moment Phaedra and Alexis meet, there is an uneasy flirtation that can only result in disaster. Acting on their urges, the pair are eventually separated and left to rue their mistake until Alexis’ father insists he come and help run the family business. Their reunion is volatile as the stepson despises the rift she’s causing between him and his father — particularly since she refuses to let him move on from their infidelity. Phaedra’s nihilistic dedication to their relationship is sure to doom them both in epic Greek fashion with symbolic disaster, preventable deaths and madness.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Planet Earth II (4K Ultra HD)
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BBC Home Entertainment
The documentary series is an immersive exploration of the islands, mountains, jungles, grasslands, deserts, and cities of the world. The journey to the four corners of the globe to discover the extreme forces that shape life in each of these iconic landscapes, and the remarkable ways animals manage to overcome the challenges of surviving in the wildest places on Earth.
This 4K release is categorically the most gorgeous picture that has ever played on UHD home theatres. The contrasts of colours and visible, miniscule details of the creatures portrayed makes everything so lifelike, it often feels like you are there next to the cameras. Scenes that especially standout include the creation of the lava islands in the first episode with the molten reds popping off the screen against the charred blacks, and the tiny, unbelievably colourful Wilson’s bird of paradise in the “Jungles” episode whose mating dance is recorded from above for the first-time, giving audiences the same view as the female he’s attempting to attract. And that is just one of 17 filming firsts captured in the breathtaking series.
Special features include: “Planet Earth Diaries.” (BBC Home Entertainment)
Silence (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Two Christian missionaries (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) at a time when Christianity was outlawed. When they are captured and imprisoned, both men are plunged into an odyssey that will test their faith, challenge their sanity and, perhaps, risk their very lives.
Director Martin Scorsese’s epic exploration of Christians in hostile territory is still a Western one in spite of its setting. Based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name, the story is told from the perspective of the Portuguese Jesuits (with inconsistent accents). Upon arriving in Japan, they’re appalled by the conditions of their would-be parishioners and the brutality of the rulers, which causes them to question God’s ability to let his worshippers suffer. The fact that the religion was viewed as another way for Europeans to subjugate the Japanese is not positioned as a valid reason for rejection — though the violence was obviously extreme. The film focuses on Garfield’s character with Neeson’s and Driver’s representing his options, each having chosen different paths when they found themselves
trapped in similar situations by the Japanese inquisitor. It’s a captivating, technically accomplished picture, however its focus on Garfield’s character’s soul searching when there are at least three equally captivating Japanese characters is problematic.
Special features include: “Martin Scorsese’s Journey into Silence.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
More about Patriot's Day, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Planet Earth II, Silence, A Monster Calls
 
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