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article imageReview: Teamwork is key in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 8, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a legendary duo’s catalogue; the new adventures of a young explorer; a fresh take on an exorcism story; an excellent adaptation of an acclaimed novel; and a woman with nothing left to lose.
Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
This collection comes with all 28 of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s iconic films from the height of their popularity at Universal Pictures, spanning 1940-1965. Featuring their most popular movies such as Buck Privates, Who Done It? and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, this set is filled with some of the most hilarious routines of all time, including “Who’s on First?”!
Abbott and Costello’s pictures are an eternal source of comedy as their gags are timeless and their partnership legendary. In these films, they have every job from detectives to cowboys and each time they are the pillars of how not to do it. Yet, it always works out in their favour save for a few mishaps and numerous misunderstandings. Though many of the gags were the same, particularly Costello being the only witness to something remarkable, they continued to work no matter how many times they were repeated. They’d perfected their shtick and there was no reason to stray. Some of the greatest titles in this collection are the duos encounters with Universal’s horror icons, which likely had some influence on the creation of the Scooby Doo character dynamics. This is a must-have for fans and a great introduction for the novice.
Special features include: commentary; production notes; still gallery; and theatrical trailers. (Shout Factory)
Blinded by the Light (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The film tells the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in the town of Luton, England, in 1987. Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father (Kulvinder Ghir). But when a classmate (Aaron Phagura) introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful lyrics. As Javed discovers a cathartic outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to find the courage to express himself in his own unique voice.
Everyone has a favourite band, musician, album and/or song that spoke to them during their formative years. The moment you realize this person you’ve never met has put your deepest feelings to music is a revelation. For Javed, a Pakistani raised in the UK, that person happens to be blue collar, American-born Springsteen. His music is integrated into the film as Javed not only sways to the songs, but absorbs the lyrics that float around him on the screen. Other than his love for “The Boss,” the movie is also about Javid’s desire to define his own identity versus who his father wants him to be and who everyone else expects because of his ethnicity. It’s a great story that many will be able to identify with, though few may match his enthusiasm for Springsteen.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Memoir to Movie”; and “The Most Crazy Thing.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Catch-22 (DVD)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
“Yo-yo” Yossarian (Christopher Abbott) is a bombardier whose frantic obsession every time he goes up on a mission is “to come down alive.” The real enemy for Yossarian and his rag-tag bunch of friends is the bureaucracy of the military, inverting logic at every turn. The pinnacle of this is “Catch-22,” a military by-law which states that if you fly your missions, you’re crazy, and don’t have to fly them; all you have to do is ask. But if you ask not to, then you’re sane, and so you have to fly them.
Based on Joseph Heller’s fictional novel, the narrative is a critical portrayal of the American military and its twisted ploys to keep bodies in the field. In just six episodes, the series captures the mental strain Yo-yo and his fellow soldiers experience. From watching their friends constantly die to repeatedly being ordered to go into horribly perilous airspace, they must each find a way to cope or risk losing their minds. Their mechanisms vary, including finding solace in misguided love, senseless violence, relentless positivity, and schemes to make the best of the worst situation. While a couple of the main cast may be recognizable, most are unknowns who do an incredible job with these roles. George Clooney and Grant Heslov direct two episodes each, while also making brief appearances throughout the series.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Cogs of War”; and outtakes. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Charlie's Angels: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
Once upon a time, there were three girls who went to work for Charles Townsend, a mysterious man they never got to see, at his Beverly Hills detective agency. And they became the sexiest private eyes to ever grace TV.
This series made stars of Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd. Their hair and style were envied and copied throughout the ‘70s, while the series was must-watch TV. Since no one ever saw Charlie, every episode was inherently infused with secrecy and the possibility of finally solving the mystery of his identity. In the meantime, the Angels had their own specialties and no trouble getting the job done. Bosley was Charlie’s loyal go-between, though he occasionally needed some rescuing as well. With Charlie getting the inside scoop on bad guys, Bosley would send the team off with a word of caution, and they’d infiltrate and stop whatever crime the villain planned to commit. The show spawned less successful copycats, as well as several movies featuring Hollywood stars.
There are no special features. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
The unforgettable life and music of legendary rock pioneer Chuck Berry are celebrated in this landmark feature film, capturing an once-in-a-lifetime gathering of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest. In 1986, Keith Richards invited a roster of brilliant musicians to honor Berry for an evening of music to commemorate Berry’s 60th birthday, including performances by Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, and Julian Lennon, along with archival footage of an unforgettable duet by Berry and John Lennon.
For music enthusiasts, this is a definitive documentary celebrating a great artist. But it also looks at the music industry from the perspective of black musicians who had to fight harder to be heard in every respect. Little Richard features prominently in the interviews as the two artists were breaking in around the same time and could corroborate each other’s experiences. Richards also speaks a lot about Berry, having worked with him in various capacities and sharing how he has trouble keeping up with guitarist’s genius. In the meantime, the performances are outstanding as Berry takes the stage with other incredible artists, including John Lennon’s son in a sincere tribute to both men. Finally, the archival footage is a great reminder of Berry’s illustrious career.
Special features include: introduction by director Taylor Hackford; making-of documentary; “Witnesses to History”; documentary; "Chuckisms"; "The Burnt Scrapbook"; 54 minutes of rehearsal footage; and trailer. (Shout Factory)
The Divine Fury (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Well Go USA
After losing his father at a young age in a terrible accident, Yong-hu (Park Seo-joon) abandons his Christian faith and chooses to only believe in himself. Now as an adult, Yong-hu is a champion MMA fighter and has everything he has ever wanted — until a mysterious wound appears in the palm of his hand. He solicits help from a local priest, Father Ahn (Ahn Sung-Ki), hoping the priest can help relieve him of the painful markings only to find himself in the middle of a dangerous fight against otherworldly evil forces seeking to wreak havoc on the human world.
Exorcist movies can be quite formulaic as a priest is called to save the soul of someone possessed by an evil spirit. Typically, there is death, bile, dark secrets and a few gravity-defying assaults. However, this movie changes it up by putting a non-believer blessed with a miracle at its centre. He’s paired with a priest with an unusual number of cases in the city, though Yong-hu’s gift means Ahn is exercising more spirits with less effort. Since Yong-hu is also an MMA fighter, this picture includes more physicality than most as he holds off and restrains the evil so they can complete their rituals. The first and last sequences are the most impressive, though he also fights a boy with superhuman strength. It’s a bit long, but still a fresh take on a tired narrative.
Special features include: making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her biggest challenge yet — high school. When her parents mysteriously disappear while searching for the Lost City of Gold, Dora must swing into action and lead a group of ill-equipped high schoolers on a wild quest to save them. Dora and her new friends navigate the jungle, outrun treasure hunters, and solve ancient puzzles to unlock the mystery of the fabled city.
These characters have been around for so long that some of their viewers are now grown up with children of their own. Therefore, this movie tries to appeal to old and new fans by presenting a fun and adventurous story that plays like a slightly more mature, extended episode from the series. Diego is certainly older (and taller) now, hoping Dora won’t diminish any of the cool credits he’s managed to rack up. She, on the other hand, is the same old spunky kid who comes off a bit weird, but is great in sticky situations. Their two new friends round out the group as an over-achieving problem-solver and a semi-brave boy. There’s an amusing throwback to the animated series, as well as lots of Boots and Swiper to keep everyone entertained.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “All About Dora”; “Can You Say Pelicula?”; “Dora In Flower Vision”; “Dora’s Jungle House”; and bloopers. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Fan (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Sally Ross (Lauren Bacall) is a renowned Broadway star, glamorous celebrity, and the object of adoration for countless admirers. But among all the loving little people lurks a young man (Michael Biehn) whose devotion teeters on the edge of madness. His impassioned letters to her are initially a source of pleasure, but as he attempts to realize his ultimate fantasy — and is met with rejection — the stakes are raised to terrifying heights that might bring on the final curtain for Sally.
Since Sally is a celebrity, the police take her concerns about a stalker a bit more seriously. She’s provided a police escort and a detective to help identify the gradually emboldened killer. His letters and tokens begin as sweet symbols of admiration, but his obsession is clearly dangerous and he won’t let anyone stand between him and Sally any longer. Bacall is playing a character that was likely very close to home for her as Sally’s days as a Hollywood headliner have passed and instead she’s starring in a stage musical that needs her name more than her talent. The bonus features include several memories of her on-set… but they aren’t all flattering.
Special features include: commentary by cult film director David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle, moderated by Scream Factory marketing director Jeff Nelson; “Number One Fan”; “Fan Service”; “Fanning the Flames”; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
The Handmaid’s Tale: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
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Fox Home Entertainment
After two intense seasons, the women of Gilead are ready to strike back at the twisted fundamentalist regime that rules Gilead. They’re armed with a plan, and will band together to pull off a bold and daring attack. Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is done trying to be the dutiful wife and goes against her husband (Joseph Fiennes) (and Gilead) in order to get what she truly wants: her daughter Nicole. At the same time, June (Elisabeth Moss) is also done playing by Gilead’s rules. She has made alliances with her new Commander and the Martha network in order to save the children living in Gilead.
The first season was an introduction to Gilead and its oppressive way of life. In the second, June’s decided it’s time to change things up and she begins to take a stand for a better future. By this season, she’s ready to burn it all to the ground and doesn’t care who ends up on the collateral damage pile. Using Commander Laurence’s own sense of defiance to her advantage, June puts in motion a plan that will turn Gilead on its head next season. In the meantime, Serena’s peace with their world has long been teetering. She agreed to all of this so she could have a child, so when all her sacrifices don’t even amount to that, it causes her to re-evaluate her loyalties — an audit she also forces her husband to perform. Each season is becoming increasingly powerful and the next promises to be a barnburner.
Special features include: “Power Play: Gilead’s Women Fight Back.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Kominsky Method: The Complete First Season (DVD)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Sandy Kominsky’s (Michael Douglas) life didn’t turn out the way he’d planned. His dream of having a successful acting career was slowly and inexorably replaced with the reality of being a mere acting coach. Sandy is now dealing with the even harsher reality of being an old man in a youth-obsessed culture. Clinging to his best friend and long-time agent Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin), the two men are forced to confront loneliness, health issues, the loss of loved ones, financial calamity, grown-up children with grown-up problems, and estrangement from a world that is undergoing constant and rapid change.
While this show is about two aging friends navigating the highs and lows of their advanced years, there’s also not a lot happening outside of their personal relationships. Sandy starts dating one of his students, who is at least age appropriate and his intellectual match (or better). His adult daughter is trying to balance running his life and acting studio with making her own dreams a reality. In the meantime, Norman is much more realistic/fatalistic about their age. As attending funerals becomes more commonplace, he struggles with forming new relationships. The series rests on the performances and camaraderie between Douglas and Arkin, and they are excellent on both counts.
There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Legend of Billie Jean (Blu-ray)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
When local rich kid Hubie Pyatt (Barry Tubb) steals and wrecks Binx Davy's (Christian Slater) beloved motor scooter, Binx's older sister Billie Jean (Helen Slater) demands the $608 it costs to fix it. Binx accidentally shoots Mr. Pyatt (Richard Bradford) during a confrontation, and he and Billie Jean flee town, accompanied by Billie Jean's girlfriends Ophelia (Martha Gehman) and Putter (Yeardley Smith). They become fugitives and when they pick up a very willing hostage, Lloyd (Keith Gordon), they become criminals. Billie Jean becomes a legend in her own time, a symbol of freedom to teenagers everywhere.
This was a little known ‘80s movie that many came across on cable, but its spirit and atypical feminist narrative resonated with young women — in the movie and in the audience. The Pyatts are clearly the villains, but the father is extra despicable as demonstrated by his actions, which include attempted rape, seeking vigilante justice and profiting off his own victim. While Binx and Putter leap off the screen at even their young ages, Billie Jean doesn’t quite have the same commanding presence. Nonetheless, she’s attractive, likeable and a good fit for the character, winning everyone over with her kindness and doe eyes. Luckily the script and director are strong enough to guide her to where she needs to be, creating an impassioned argument for teen rebellion.
Special features include: commentary by Helen Slater and Yeardley Smith. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Little Women/Marie Antoinette Double Feature (Blu-ray)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
Little Women: Louisa May Alcott's classic coming-of-age story follows the childhood adventures of the four free-spirited March sisters: beautiful Meg (Trini Alvarado), fragile Beth (Claire Danes), romantic Amy (Kirsten Dunst) and impetuous Jo (Winona Ryder), who's determined to defy social conventions by seeking her fame and fortune as a writer. As Jo chronicles the family's struggle during the war, their turbulent romances and their lasting friendship, her story unwraps a gift of humor and heartfelt emotions.
Marie Antoinette: An intimate re-telling of the turbulent life of history's favorite villainess, Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst). The ill-fated child princess married France's young and indifferent King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). Feeling isolated in a royal court rife with scandal and intrigue, Marie Antoinette defied both royalty and commoner by living like a rock star, which served only to seal her fate.
This could be considered a Kirsten Dunst double feature, showing the actress at two different ages and stages of her career. The first film is a definitive adaptation of Alcott’s novel about four teenage girls becoming women in the 1800s, while dealing with the hardships of war, scarcity and loss. The movie captures all the major events in the book and stays within a reasonable runtime. Some of the casting choices are questionable, but it’s all passable. The latter film features an older Dunst in the trying position of being married to a finicky king at a time of potential war. The stylistically bright period drama includes multiple fashion montages, adorable attention-seeking dogs and a general avoidance of conflict. The pictures’ subjects are incredibly different as one deals with prudence and the other extravagance. On the other hand, their mutual focus on female characters makes them a complementary pair.
There are no special features. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Road Games (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) is a lone trucker who plays games to keep his sanity on long hauls through the desolate Australian Outback who comes across a free-spirited hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) looking for excitement with a game of her own. And somewhere up ahead is a maniac in a van whose game may be butchering young women along the highway. But when the killer decides to raise the stakes, Quid's game becomes personal ... and the rules of this road are about to take some very deadly turns.
This is an intriguing murder mystery as it seems like the prime suspect has been decided, but the story’s protagonist is still somewhat suspicious. There is evidence enough to make them both look guilty, but choosing the wrong one could mean the hitchhiker’s life. While Curtis’ character is seen a few times early on, she doesn’t really join the narrative until later and proves the perfect companion for Pat as she’s willing to entertain his theories about the murderer. On the other hand, the first woman he agrees to take to her destination has the complete opposite reaction to his suspicions and runs in the other direction. Yet, even after the case appears to have been solved, there’s still an intriguing level of ambiguity that follows through to the end credits.
Special features include: commentary with cinematographer Vincent Monton, production coordinator Helen Watts and costume designer Aphrodite Kondos, moderated by filmmaker Mark Hartley; commentary with producer/director Richard Franklin; making-of featurette; “Australian Long Haul”; 1980 script read with producer/director Richard Franklin and actors Stacy Keach And Marion Edwards; composer Brian May music demos accompanied by stills and poster gallery; interviews with cast and crew; gallery of stills, production shots, storyboards, newspaper reviews, promotional and artwork materials; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (40th Anniversary Edition Steelbook) (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
Based on director Allan Arkush’s own high school fantasy, the 1979 cult film takes place at Vince Lombardi High School — the wildest, most rockin’ high school around! That is, until a thug of a principal, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), comes along and tries to make the school a totalitarian state. With the help of the Ramones, the students of Vince Lombardi battle Miss Togar's iron-fisted rule.
This is a rock musical classic that features songs from the Ramones, who also make an amusing sometimes awkward appearance. Even though it’s considered a Ramones musical, other artists, including Alice Cooper, Todd Rundgren, Chuck Berry and Devo, are also on the soundtrack. The script revolves around oddball humour. The main story centres on No. 1 fan, Riff Randell’s (P.J. Soles) efforts to get her hit song into the hands of the band. A stranger sub-story involves a popular jock (Vincent Van Patten) who can’t get a date seeking the services of a jack-of-all-trades (Clint Howard). Their training sessions are impractical and inappropriate, but in line with the film’s eccentric comedy. The movie is energetic and entertainingly imaginative with a great soundtrack, checking off all the right boxes.
Special features include: commentary by Allan Arkush, Mike Finnell and Richard Whitley;
commentary by Allan Arkush and actors P.J. Soles And Clint Howard; commentary by Richard Whitley and Russ Dvonch; and commentary With executive producer Roger Corman And actress Dey Young; ““Class Of ’79: 40 Years Of Rock ‘N’ Roll High School”; “Back To School: A Retrospective”; “Staying After Class”; interview with Roger Corman conducted by Leonard Maltin; interview with Allan Arkush; radio and TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
The Thing (Blu-ray)
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Mill Creek Entertainment
When paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) travels to an isolated outpost in Antarctica for the expedition of a lifetime, she joins an international team that unearths a remarkable discovery. Their elation quickly turns to fear as they realize their experiment has freed a mysterious being from its frozen prison. Paranoia spreads like an epidemic as a creature that can mimic anything it touches will pit human against human as it tries to survive and flourish.
This movie is a prelude to John Carpenter’s film of the same name. Consequently, the bonus features describe the impressive attention to detail of the filmmakers who tried to preserve as much continuity between the two pictures as possible. On the flipside, there’s almost too many parallels between the two movies, making it occasionally feel more like a copycat than a prequel. Upon arriving, the American team must deal with the language barrier as they and most of the Norwegians don’t share a common tongue. This makes yelling at each during attacks quite inefficient. Joel Edgerton plays the American pilot who also becomes stranded at the outpost, giving Kate some backup. The advancements in CGI enhance the monstrous effects, though kudos to the team for still doing most of them practically.
Special features include: commentary by director Matthijs van Heijningen and producer Eric Newman; deleted and extended scenes; “The Thing Evolves”; “Fire & Ice”; and trailer. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
More about Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Blinded by the Light, the handmaid's tale, The Kominsky Method, Abbott and Costello
 
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