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article imageReview: The end is nigh in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 21, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an unfulfilled promise of greatness; a gripping horror movie; a classic Halloween comedy; the ends of several series; and an interesting approach to alien contact.
Bull: Season 2 (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) is the charismatic founder of TAC, a trial consulting firm specializing in leveraging the human factors that can tip the scales of justice in favor of his clients. With three psychology degrees, human behavior expert Dr. Bull can read people like a book.
As always, the strategies TAC uses and the cases they take on are pretty fascinating. The season begins a little rocky as one of the team members announces they’re leaving to pursue a higher education, while the business is out of money in small part due to Bull’s extravagant tastes. Of course, being highly skilled and in-demand does lead to shorter-term financial issues than most people may experience. Bull, surprisingly, finds himself a little rattled a couple of times early on in the season: first, as he faces someone in court who knows his techniques; and again, when Roxy finds a life of her own and is no longer available to him 24/7… though that has its own consequences.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Bull Pen”; “Bull by the Horns”; “20 Questions with Michael Weatherly”; pilot episodes of Seal Team and The Good Fight; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Goldstone (Blu-ray)
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Arclight Films
Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) arrives in the frontier town of Goldstone on a missing-persons inquiry, and what seems like a simple investigation unearths a web of crime, corruption, human trafficking and the exploitation of aboriginal lands.
This begins as a gritty detective story set on the frontier and slowly transitions into a dusty mob story where even thinking of speaking against the family puts a noose around your neck. For Swan, the investigation is personal and he knows there’s more to the story than anyone is telling. Local cop Josh Waters (Alex Russell) is completely oblivious to what’s happening in his town, though as its corruption is gradually revealed to him he’s not willing to turn a blind eye to their seedy dealings. It’s a relatively slow-paced narrative, but remains a fairly compelling whodunit-turned-burn-them-all story.
Special features include: “The Corruption of Goldstone”; “Detective Jay Swan”; “The Indigenous People of Australia”; “Alex Russell as Josh Waters”; “Ivan Sen”; and “Jacki Weaver as The Mayor.” (Arclight Films)
Hereditary (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
When the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter's (Toni Collette) family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.
There are many types of horror movies, each with their own formulas and styles. But in each category, there are really good and incredibly bad films, which in many cases is the result of the delivery of the story. First-time feature writer/director Ari Aster clearly understands what makes a good horror picture and employs those techniques in his debut. Using an eerie soundtrack and brief glimpses of something sinister, he builds an intensifying atmosphere. Rather than be preoccupied with jump scares, he opts to focus on the creepiness of particular scenes and let the room — and whatever may be lurking in it — speak for itself. Intertwined with a family’s grief and potential mental health issues, the role of inheritance takes on more than one meaning in this chilling picture.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Cursed: The True Nature of Hereditary”; and photo gallery. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Hocus Pocus (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Walt Disney Studios
The Sanderson sisters — Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) — are in for a devil of a time when their restless spirits are accidentally conjured up on Halloween night, in 1993 Salem, Massachusetts. Banished 300 years ago for practicing their sorcery, this trio of triple-threat demons vowed to one day reappear — and now they’re back, weaving an outrageous web of chaos. However, to guarantee their immortality, the things they need are the very things that could bring them down: Max Dennison (Omri Katz), his little sister Dani (Thora Birch), and the Allison (Vinessa Shaw) are three kids with the power to make or break the witches’ spell.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this Halloween classic became an annual favourite immediately following its release. The Sanderson sisters are a hilarious trio who quip and insult each other as family are apt to do, while doing their unified march towards eternal life. They’ve also awakened in a world vastly different than their own, which provides its own distractions. In the meantime, Max, with the help of a boy trapped in the body of a cat and one of the witch’s long-dead boyfriends, does everything he can to protect his sister. This adventure remains timeless as it hasn’t lost an ounce of humour or charm over the years. Moreover, the trio of actresses truly gave themselves to these roles, which immediately enhances the film’s quality and entertainment.
Special features include: commentary by cast and crew; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes secrets; fun facts and trivia; concept art and storyboards; and original 1993 production featurette. (Walt Disney Studios)
Once Upon a Time: The Seventh and Final Season (Blu-ray)
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ABC Studios
A few years after the final battle in Storybrooke, a grown-up Henry Mills leaves home in search of his own destiny. What he finds is true love with a new incarnation of Cinderella and unexpected danger from her hateful stepmother and stepsister — plus the added menace of Mother Gothel, a villainous sorceress. When a new Dark Curse erases his and everyone else’s memories, it’s up to Henry and Cinderella’s daughter Lucy, with the help of Regina, Wish-Realm Hook, Gold and Zelena, to defeat Gothel and end her reign of terror.
For a final season, this series pulls out all the stops. Everyone has once again resumed new, “normal” identities, living regular lives in a modern city. In the meantime, flashbacks attempt to fill in the gaps and describe the tragic occurrences that led to their current predicament. Hook’s story is perhaps one of the saddest as he’s become one of the chief targets for sob fairy tales. Regina proves as strong-willed as ever, leading the charge against the new evil witches, though she is definitely outnumbered this time around. This reimagining of these classic stories continues to be fascinating as well as very over-the-top, but they do a nice job of wrapping a bow of redemption and happy endings around the finale.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted scenes; “And They Lived Happily Ever After”; “Capturing Magic: Lana’s Directorial Debut”; and “The Fairest Bloopers of Them All.” (ABC Studios)
Rapid Fire (Blu-ray)
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Twilight Time
Jake Lo (Brandon Lee) is a Los Angeles art student who unwittingly gets involved with a deadly mafia drug distributor (Nick Mancuso). He is then recruited by a police lieutenant (Powers Boothe) and his tough but attractive partner (Kate Hodge) to help nab both the Mafioso and his deadly associate, Kinman Tau (Tzi Ma).
Lee’s feature debut wasn’t the best movie, but it allowed him to display his potential as an actor, which would be tragically realized a couple of years later in The Crow. One of the interesting aspects about Lee’s character is he’s playing a mixed-race college student who faces derision from his peers who believe he’s not acting like a “real” Chinese person because he’s choosing not to participate in their activism. With his chiseled features and dark eyes, Lee had patent leading man qualities as well as the fighting abilities he inherited from his famous father, Bruce Lee. The police expect and permit a lot of involvement from their latest informant, but the one-man wrecking crew was a fairly common narrative in the ‘90s.
Special features include: commentary by composer Christopher Young and film historian Nick Redman; isolated music track; “Introducing Brandon Lee”; and original theatrical trailer. (Twilight Time)
Scandal: The Final Two Seasons (DVD)
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ABC Studios
Despite Olivia Pope's (Kerry Washington) best efforts, Frankie Vargas wins the Presidency; however, all bets are off when he's assassinated. A new era begins as Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) becomes President. But the real authority lies with the new, self-appointed head of B613: Olivia. Unfortunately, the more power Olivia gains, the more of her soul she loses, until a battle of wills with Rowan (Joe Morton) leads to a shattering betrayal.
This series is so outrageous, it surpasses even the scheming and greed of House of Cards. If there were ever these many deaths in and around the White House and its staff, democracy would collapse. Nonetheless, this is a guilty-pleasure soap opera with a political setting and primetime TV slot akin to Dallas, but with far more murder mysteries. Bringing the series to a close, Olivia finally makes it to the highest echelons of power only to let it go to her head, while learning the higher on the ladder you climb the more people there are below trying to bring you down. She still can’t get Fitz out of her system, but Quinn and Charlie aim for something a little permanent. As everyone’s closets get more crowded with the numerous skeletons they keep in there, the precarious tower in which the preside is starting to tilt in a way that may reveal all their hidden secrets before all is said and done.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and extended episodes. (ABC Studios)
Scorpion: The Final Season (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Walter (Elyes Gabel) is the leader of a group of misfit masterminds as eccentric as they are intelligent. In the final season, new allies as well as old enemies join the team as their genius brains face the toughest challenges yet.
After the events of the previous season, this final chapter begins expectedly — before taking a high-speed turn off the track and heading straight for the edge of a cliff. Cabe has always held himself responsible for the well-being of the team, so when his ability to ensure their safety is compromised he has a lot of difficulty adapting — or accepting the same help he’d give them in a heartbeat. With everyone blissfully paired off, Sly longs for what he had so briefly but is kept occupied with his alderman duties. In the meantime, Toby and Happy’s approach to their relationship is amusingly filled with acronyms, and Walter and Paige try to figure out how to separate their business and personal lives.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Dance with Me”; “Unlikely Heroes: Scorpion Season 4”; “Go with the Flo”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Seventh Sign (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Abby Quinn (Demi Moore) is a young woman who discovers that she and her unborn child play a terrifying part in the chain of events destined to end the world. Already troubled with a difficult pregnancy, Abby grows more distraught once she and her husband (Michael Biehn) rent their studio apartment to David (Jürgen Prochnow), an enigmatic drifter. As Abby becomes ensnared in a series of otherworldly experiences, it becomes apparent that David is carrying out the mythical prophecies of Judgment Day ... and that she has been chosen as the instrument of the Seventh Sign. But can Abby — or anyone — stand between the wrath of God and the future of humanity?
This depiction of the Biblical apocalypse is pretty extreme and definitive. Over the course of the latter half of Abby’s pregnancy, a harbinger subsequently breaks the seals on envelopes that contain various omens and unleash them on the world. These alarming phenomena include the death of sea life around the coast of Haiti and an impossibly ravaging frost in the Middle East. As with many of these films, Abby’s husband attributes her paranoia to hysterics related to her pregnancy, which he simply attempts to appease rather than believe. Yet David is a bit of a creepy character even before he starts to reveal his true interest in the Quinn family. Nonetheless, the film’s conclusion is quite memorable for its demonstrable love and peculiar prophecy.
Special features include: interview with actor Michael Biehn; interview with director Carl Schultz; interview with actor Peter Friedman; interview with actor John Taylor; interviews with screenwriters W.W. Wicket and George Kaplan; and TV spots. (Scream Factory)
Spongebob Squarepasnts: Holiday 2-Pack (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
It’s a Spongebob Christmas: Created entirely in stop-motion animation, this special double-length episode finds all of Bikini Bottom in a festive mood as they prepare for Santa’s arrival. But not Plankton, who’s once again expecting a lump of coal. So he comes up with his most diabolic new scheme yet, which will practically guarantee he finally gets the gift he’s always wanted — the Krabby Patty secret formula.
The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom: In this haunting stop-motion spooktacular, nothing gives SpongeBob a fright on Halloween night — not even when the Flying Dutchman traps all his friends! Can SpongeBob get some sense scared into him and save his buds from a ghostly fate?
One of the main attractions of these TV specials is they are both presented in stop motion rather than the usual animation. The Christmas story is the more amusing of the two specials as Plankton tries to make everyone in Bikini Bottom mean so that he’s the only good person Santa will find in the entire town. However, Spongebob proves oddly immune to being unkind, which puts a wrench in his diabolical plan. In the Halloween special, Spongebob is equally resilient and insusceptible to fear. However, his usual naiveté causes him to miss the fact that the Dutchman really is threatening his friends. In the end, all evil plans are foiled and things return to normal under the sea.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Superfly (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cocaine kingpin Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) realizes that it's time to get out of the game after surviving a violent attack from a crazed rival. Hoping for one last score, Priest and his partner travel to Mexico to arrange a deal. The career criminal now finds himself trying to outmaneuver the cartel, two corrupt police officers and all the double-crossers that threaten his path to freedom.
There was something dynamic and standout about the original film, and this film just doesn’t have it. In spite of the filmmakers attempts to capture the key elements of its predecessor, including a central soundtrack, there’s little to differentiate this movie from the many other made with similar subject matter. Jackson may have the look, but he isn’t the most compelling actor, which is more obvious as he’s paired with veterans, such as Michael Kenneth Williams and Esai Morales. Watching this movie is just a matter of going through the motions, though it does have an atypical ending.
Special features include: “Trap Talk: The Music”; “Director X Scene Breakdown”; “Superfly: The Remix”; Future’s “No Shame” music video featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR; making-of “No Shame” music video. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
UFO (DVD)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Derek (Alex Sharp), a brilliant college student, haunted by a childhood UFO sighting, believes that mysterious sightings reported at multiple airports across the United States are UFO’s. With the help of his girlfriend, Natalie (Ella Purnell), and his advanced mathematics professor, Dr. Hendricks (Gillian Anderson), Derek races to unravel the mystery with FBI special agent Franklin Ahls (David Strathairn) on his heels.
Even though this is yet another movie about alien visitors, there’s something strangely fascinating about its approach. Even without understanding the equations Derek is using, it’s an interesting theory to suppose math would be a universal language by which two unknown species may connect. Derek’s obsession becomes all-consuming, causing him to miss important appointments and fail his loved ones. Dr. Hendricks makes an interesting comparison between Thomas Edison and Derek, pointing out that being friends with either of them in spite of their brilliance is a hazard. Yet, actually making contact with the extraterrestrials is not at the crux of this movie, but rather deciphering the puzzles they’ve left behind… perhaps as tests to see if we’re worthy of — or capable of even understanding — their knowledge.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Watcher in the Woods (DVD)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
When Jan Carstairs (Tallulah Evans) and her family rent a manor in the idyllic British countryside, the owner, Mrs. Aylwood (Anjelica Huston), notices that Jan bears a striking resemblance to her daughter, Karen, who disappeared more than 20 years ago. Mrs. Aylwood warns Jan to stay out of the surrounding woods, and when strange occurrences unnerve the family, Jan suspects they are linked to what happened to Karen. As Jan begins to unravel the truth, she and her little sister, Ellie (Dixie Egerickx), may not be able to escape “The Watcher in the Woods.”
This begins as a haunted house film, but evolves into a PG tale of mystical woods and missing children. The scariest elements of the movie include broken mirrors, brief apparitions and whispers from an unknown source. While Jan’s mother is slightly closer to believing something is wrong with the house, her father is adamant that nothing is out of the ordinary in spite of Ellie’s new spells. Mrs. Aylwood is also very mysterious with a shadowy reputation, but she has her reasons for being guarded. There’s nothing significant or especially captivating about this narrative, though it may satisfy younger viewers.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
More about hocus pocus, Superfly, Once Upon a Time, Bull, Goldstone
 
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