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

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 15, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a bizarre yet enjoyable alien romance; two very different but amusing comedies; the first half of a game-changer; the latest chapter in a father-daughter crime drama; and a murder suspect who can’t decide his own innocence
Avengers: Infinity War (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Marvel Entertainment & Walt Disney Studios
The Avengers and their superhero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin).
This is the first time a lot of these characters are meeting each other, or even learning of each other’s existence, which leads to some interesting exchanges and a lot of chest puffing amongst the stronger personalities. The most anticipated and amusing of these is when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) meets Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), two men who believe they’re always right and know everything. Similarly, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) initial meeting includes some (unintentional?) name calling and peacocking. These first-time interactions provide a lot of the film’s humour, in addition to the high-intensity comic relief that’s become typical of the franchise. Beginning with an immediately hard-hitting scene, there’s no time for the narrative to slow down: the fight isn’t coming — it’s here and there’s nowhere to hide. There are numerous clashes of varying size that are gradually leading up to the main confrontation; but Thanos isn’t a sit-back-and-watch kind of guy, so he’s out there doing his part to further his own goal. Two hours later, part one of this spectacular journey comes to a close and after a few jaw-dropping scenes they go for a shocking mic drop.
Special features include: commentary by Anthony and Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; deleted and extended scenes; “Strange Alchemy”; “The Mad Titan”; “Beyond the Battle: Titan”; “Beyond the Battle: Wakanda”; and gag reel. (Marvel Entertainment & Walt Disney Studios)
Blacklist: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Feeling surprisingly unencumbered, Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) is back and in the process of rebuilding his criminal empire. His lust for life is ever-present as he lays the foundation for this new enterprise — one that he'll design with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) by his side. Liz finds herself torn between her role as an FBI agent and the temptation to act on her more criminal instincts. In a world where the search for Blacklisters has become a family trade, Red will undoubtedly reclaim his moniker as the "Concierge of Crime."
Red is doing everything he can to rebuild his criminal empire after the death of Mr. Kaplan, but as most things in his life it proves rather complicated. They still point the task force in the direction of more despicable blacklisters, but Red also needs some of them to help him re-establish his reign. In the meantime, Tom is leading his own dangerous investigation to solve a mystery stowed in a suitcase — a secret that someone will do anything to keep. Liz is once again put through the wringer this season, though she also appears to become shrewder with each brush with death. The finale is quite possibly one of the most explosive of the series as a huge reveal will lead to many more questions next season.
Special features include: commentaries by showrunners; deleted scenes; “Celebrating 100 Episodes!”; “Like Father/Like Daughter”; and gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
London, 1977. Enn (Alex Sharp) is a shy suburban teenager who sneaks out to after-hours punk parties. One night, Enn and his friends meet some teens who seem like they’re from another planet; in fact, they are from another planet, visiting Earth to complete a mysterious rite of passage. Enn falls for beautiful alien Zan (Elle Fanning) – and into a delirious adventure that will test the limits of their love.
Based on a story by Neil Gaiman and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, this movie is a total trip and not at all as you’d expect. The punk scene in this film is in its early, purist stages before it was primarily a fashion trend, when kids would make their own clothes to rebel against the conformity by which they were surrounded. In spite of being his first film role, Sharp is excellent as Enn tries to navigate his first love as well as her peculiarities, which he attributes to her being American rather than an alien. The chemistry between him and Fanning really elevates the narrative, which is constantly spinning in new, unpredictable directions. Moreover, Nicole Kidman portrays surrogate mother to the local punks and their bands; she’s absolutely stellar as the loud, insensitive matriarch and it’d be great if she played more roles like this one. The other aliens are unlike any seen before, from their outfits to their specialties, adding another level of amusement to the picture. This is an all-around captivating movie with an equally strange but satisfying conclusion.
Special features include: commentary by director John Cameron Mitchell and actors Elle Fanning and Alex Sharp; deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Life is good for Van (Ryan Reynolds): he’s got a co-ed in every closet and a party to go to every night. His slick reputation even catches the eye of sexy Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid), an on-campus reporter determined to expose the naked truth behind his wild exterior. When Gwen enters his life and his father stops paying for his tuition, after seven years Van’s days as the king of Coolidge College may be over.
In college comedy tradition, this R-rated picture has no limits to the lengths it will go for a hearty, and often cringe-worthy, laugh. Van is basically the king of spring break all school-year long. However, outside of some disgusting revenge pranks on a group of frat guys, Van is also the kindest guy on campus, using his charm and popularity to benefit everyone. There’s no way this movie works without Reynolds’ persuasive smile and magnetism — he’s likeable even when he’s being borderline obnoxious or plotting sickening payback. Kal Penn’s commitment to his intern character is also hilarious and irreplaceable. But be warned, no one that watches this movie can ever regard bulldogs, pastries, protein shakes, or tutors the same way again.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Sweet Drunken Idiot Kommentary”; “Party Legends, Pledges, and ‘Bull’-ies”; “Ultimate College Party Guide”; “Gwen-ezuma’s Revenge”; “Testicles of the Animal Kingdom” interactive quizzicle; “Write That Down” quotes from and inspired by the film; Sugarcult “Bouncing Off the Walls” music video; burly TV specials, “Half Baked,” “Imposter,” “Movie Junky”; Comedy Central’s “Reel Comedy: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder”; Van Wilder Blu-Book Exam: Exclusive Blu-ray Interactive Game; and outtakes. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Pickings (Blu-ray)
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Dark Passage Films
Jo Lee-Haywood (Elyse Price) is a devoted single mother and sister who divides her time between her family and Pickings, the local Michigan tavern that she owns. Easy, right? Wrong! When a local mob boss (Emil Ferzola) and his goons try to muscle in and wet their beaks off Jo’s hard work, it’s up to Jo to embrace her inner demons, and tap into her mysterious and violent past to protect her family and livelihood. It doesn’t take too long for the haunted, hardboiled Jo and her pistol-packing posse to lock-and-load and take on the mob the only way they know how.
This movie blends neo-noir with the spaghetti western as it also plays with narrative timelines and storytelling styles. The picture unfolds in colour, black-and-white and animation, which at first glance seems as if it would be jarring but actually works quite well within the story’s Tarantino-esque style and structure. The narrative is as much about Jo as her daughter, who plays a significant role in running the bar. The introduction to at least one member of Jo’s posse is rather amusing as he demonstrates his no-nonsense attitude before even fully entering the frame. The gangsters don’t appear as frightening as they’re made out to be, but they make up for what they lack in appearance with outright brutality.
Special features include: commentary; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; “The Mop,” a short film; and “The Way it Goes” music video. (Dark Passage Films)
SEAL Team: Season One (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
It takes a special breed of warrior to become a Navy SEAL. The first season of SEAL Team reveals the intense, high-stakes world of these dedicated global guardians who live and die on the front lines of America’s war on terror.
It seems that David Boreanaz enjoyed playing the role of a military man as he trades the label of “former solider” in Bones for “active duty” in this new series. He leads a specialty team on covert operations around the world, performing rescue and reconnaissance missions that often bring them under enemy fire. Most episodes revolve around a single objective, but the connecting thread is the soldiers and their personal lives. The season is somewhat long at 18 episodes so, as is often the case with these types of shows, the main storyline transitions around the halfway point. Nonetheless, there is a lot of realism communicated as viewers are taken behind-the-scenes of not only the ground action but also what occurs in the strategy tents back at base. Not sure how long they can maintain this pace, but it’s a respectable initial run.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Debriefing”; “Tour of Duty”; “On Location”; “Corporal Canine: Meet Dita”; “Set Tour”; gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Sid Caesar: The Works (DVD)
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Shout Factory
Without Sid Caesar, comedy would have been a lot less funny. In 1949, television was an infant technology. No one knew how long or whether it was going to last at all. A 27-year-old Broadway star, along with a team of writers and performers who would become legendary, including Imogene Coca, Nanette Fabray, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, and Woody Allen, revolutionized sketch comedy by telling stories rooted in the human condition. They redefined television sketch comedy and paved the way for generations to follow with his influence reverberating throughout Saturday Night Live (Caesar hosted the show in 1983 and was named an honorary cast member), Reiner’s The Dick Van Dyke Show, Brooksfilms’ My Favorite Year and Simon’s Broadway hit Laughter on the 23rd Floor, to name a few examples.
This collection is a great way to revisit Caesar’s hilarity or introduce new soon-to-be-fans to his work. Many of the sketches are rooted in everyday life, which makes for great comedy. From bickering married couples to disagreeable co-workers to shafted bosses to feuding strangers, they’ve got it all and it’s hilarious. The first disc begins with an awkward but humorous conversation as a woman must tell her husband she wrecked their car by driving through a storefront. Later on, a man and woman almost tear a stranger apart at a bus station as each is convinced they know which route is best for him. Caesar’s skits also find inspiration in pop culture. A great example of this is their version of A Streetcar Named Desire.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Spinning Man (Blu-ray)
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VVS Films
Evan Birch (Guy Pearce) is a family man and esteemed professor at a distinguished college, where his charm and reputation have made his philosophy class very popular. When a female student named Joyce goes missing, Evan’s previous off-campus dalliances make his wife (Minnie Driver) question his alibi. Gruff police detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) has even more reason to be suspicious when crucial evidence makes Evan the prime suspect in Joyce’s disappearance. Suddenly, the questions Evan faces aren’t merely academic — they’re a matter of life or death.
This is a murder mystery in which it’s entirely unclear whether the prime suspect is the killer. The professor debates truth in his classrooms, making it easy for Evan to use his words to turn conversations around in his favour. His wife has caught on to his tricks and will no longer tolerate them, but the detective sees it as a challenge to prove his suspicions. After all, the old adage says “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” While many signs appear to point to Evan, even glimpses into his seemingly guilty conscience, there’s also holes in the story (a witness account that should be foolproof) as well as its conclusion (which feels a little like a copout). It’s difficult decide if the haphazard narrative is simply messy or unavoidably gripping so perhaps it’s both in equal parts.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (VVS Films)
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