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article imageReview: The past and present collide in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 2, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the revival of the original zombie narrative; a new documentary highlighting an old problem; a mediocre action movie elevated by its cast; and the next chapter in a technological revolution.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Ten years after the Academy Award-winning documentary brought climate change to the forefront of mainstream culture, the sequel follows former Vice President Al Gore as he continues his tireless fight, traveling around the globe to educate and inspire the next generation of climate champions.
Unlike the first film which was intended to open people’s eyes to the impact of climate change, this movie is meant as a reminder that the problem still exists and there’s still work to be done. Illustrating the many predictions that have come to fruition over the last decade as well as the increase in extreme weather around the world is one of the ways it reinforces these arguments. While many may be aware of the numerous floods, hurricanes and droughts, it often takes someone to connect the dots for the information to have an impact. The key event in the documentary is the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, at which world leaders committed to reducing greenhouse emissions on a global level after a lot of negotiating and repeated displays of unity following the Bataclan attack. If anything, this release — which maintains the same minimal packaging as its predecessor and was delivered in a plantable envelope — serves as a reminder that this issue still needs to be at the forefront of all decisions, big and small.
Special features include: “Effecting Change: Speaking Truth to Power”; “Truth in Ten – The Facts About Climate Change”; and OneRepublic’s “Truth to Power” lyric video. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Blood Feast (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Arrow Video
Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) is looking to throw a party unlike any other and she gets just that when she hires the decidedly sinister Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) to cater the event. Promising to provide her guests with an authentic Egyptian feast, Ramses promptly sets about acquiring the necessary ingredients — the body parts of nubile young women.
In the film’s introduction, director Herschelll Gordon Lewis claims this was the first-ever feature-length splatter movie, and in spite of the crude effects it certainly does fit into the category. In order to worship an ancient god, Fuad honours her with ritual blood sacrifices and offerings; consequently, he removes certain body parts from his victims to bring back to his altar. The murders and mutilations occur primarily off-screen, leaving the exact details of their deaths to the viewer’s imagination. But there is plenty of blood (a.k.a. red, paint-like substance) and the gruesome results of his actions are front-and-centre once all is said and done. It’s a pretty hollow script, but it does allow for Fuad’s ghoulish fetish.
Special features include: commentary by director Herschelll Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman moderated by Mike Grady; 1963 feature Scum of the Earth; “Blood Perspectives”; “Herschell's History”; “How Herschell Found his Niche”; “Carving Magic”; archival interview with Lewis and David F. Friedman; outtakes; promotional gallery; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil. (Arrow Video)
Broken Sword Hero (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Well Go USA
Based on a real warrior from Thailand’s Ayutthaya period, the film follows the heroics of legendary military general Thongdee (Buakaw Banchamek). From the disparity as a young runaway to the toughest warrior among his people, a legendary fighter with unparalleled skills in Muay Thai and swordplay fights for the freedom of his people.
Thongdee is in a difficult position as he’s bullied by an official’s son, but always blamed for the altercations. When he finally fights back, he jeopardizes his entire family’s livelihood. As an adult, the son still hunts Thongdee in an attempt to recover his reputation, which remains tarnished after his childhood defeat. His weakness is evident at all ages as he lacks the skill to accomplish his goals and relies on the entitlement of his position to intimidate people into doing his bidding. Thongdee, on the other hand, is kind and a talented fighter that seeks to be the best by training with the country’s greatest masters. His journey and its respective stops feel relatively brief as most of his instruction is represented by short montages; though the final result of his learning is displayed in a concluding tournament followed by a quick wrap-up.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Dawn of the Dead [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
The world is in danger when a mysterious virus turns people into mindless, flesh-eating zombies. In a mall in the heartland, a handful of survivors wage a desperate, last-stand battle to stay alive... and human.
This 2004 remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 classic was written by James Gunn and directed by Zack Snyder — therefore it’s not surprising the duo decided fast zombies would be more appropriate for their narrative. The social commentary on consumerism is replaced with general conflict of personalities as the need to survive turns some people into self-serving jerks, others into logical leaders and a couple into plain fools… and then there are those who take on more than one of these roles throughout the movie. The cast, including Sarah Polley, Mekhi Phifer, Ving Rhames, Ty Burrell and Kevin Zegers, is excellent in their respective roles, which is what makes the picture worth watching. Also, the action is predictably spectacular.
Special features include: theatrical and unrated versions of the film; commentary with director Zach Snyder and producer Eric Newman; deleted scenes with optional commentary by Snyder and Newman; “Take A Chance On Me,” an interview with actor Ty Burrell; “Gunn For Hire,” an interview with writer James Gunn; “Punk, Rock, & Zombie,” an interview with actor Jake Weber; “Killing Time At The Mall: The Special Effects Of Dawn Of The Dead,” an interview with special makeup effects artists David Anderson and Heather Langenkamp Anderson; “Splitting Headaches: Anatomy Of Exploding Heads”; “Attack Of The Living Dead”; “Raising The Dead”; “Andy’s Lost Tape”; “Special Report: Zombie Invasion”; “Undead And Loving It: A Mockumentary”; “Drawing The Dead”; storyboard comparisons; still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Humans 2.0 (Blu-ray)
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Acorn
Months after saying goodbye to sentient synth Mia (Gemma Chan), the Hawkins family search for some semblance of normalcy. Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) attend marriage counselling, even as they grow concerned over their daughter’s (Pixie Davies) strange behaviour. But when Niska (Emily Berrington) arrives at their home unannounced, the family is pulled back into the dangerous lives of the synths. As synths begin to gain consciousness all over the world, a mysterious organization starts hunting them down. Leo (Colin Morgan) and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) clash over how to protect the self-aware synths, while a renowned AI scientist (Carrie-Anne Moss) joins a global tech company preparing to release a revolutionary new product.
The synths are in a precarious position. As more of them keep awakening, the corporation is growing more aware of their existence and attempting to round up the problematic units before they can be freed by what is essentially the new resistance. Mia is desperate to find her place in the world, masquerading as a human with unfortunate results. Niska is fighting for synth rights in her own way, as usual, shunning the quiet approach for a bolder challenge of the status quo. Max is worried Leo is losing his way as a new rescue, Esther, pushes him to be more aggressive in helping the synths with no consideration of right or wrong. The season finale is a definite game changer that will have wide-ranging consequences.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Acorn)
Land of the Dead [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
In a modern-day world where the walking dead roam a vast uninhabited wasteland, the living try to lead "normal" lives behind the high walls of a fortified city. A new society has been built by a handful of ruthless opportunists, who live in luxury in the towers of a skyscraper, high above the less fortunate citizens who must eke out a hard life on the streets below. With the survival of the city at stake, a group of mercenaries is called into action to protect the living from the evolving army of the dead waiting outside the city walls.
After the revival of the zombie movie, legendary filmmaker George A. Romero seized the opportunity to continue the story he started. Twenty years earlier, Day of the Dead posited the undead retained some level of mental ability beyond the instinct to devour; now, Bub is superseded by Big Daddy, who mobilizes his fellow walkers to go where the food is being hidden. In the meantime, the capitalist system and its need to ostracize undesirables is giving way to a revolt led by John Leguizamo’s character, who naively but utterly believes there is a place for him in the ivory tower. Meanwhile, Simon Baker plays the guy tasked with keeping the peace and the body count down from all sides. Romero’s societal commentary continues in this picture, though it’s easy to overlook amidst the bigger production value and grander scenes.
Special features include: commentary with writer/director George A. Romero, producer Peter Grunwald, and editor Michael Doherty; commentary with zombie performers Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher and Rob Mayr; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Cholo’s Reckoning,” an interview with actor John Leguizamo; “Charlie’s Story,” an interview with actor Robert Joy; “The Pillsbury Factor,” an interview with actor Pedro Miguel Arce; “Four Of The Apocalypse,” an interview with actors Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks and Jasmin Geljo; “Dream Of The Dead: The Director’s Cut” with optional commentary by director Roy Frumkes; deleted footage from “Dream of the Dead”; “Bringing The Dead To Life”; “Scenes Of Carnage”; “Zombie Effects: From Green Screen To Finished Scene”; “Scream Test – CGI Test”; “Bringing The Storyboards To Life”; “A Day With The Living Dead Hosted By John Leguizamo”; “When Shaun Met George”; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Lilith’s Hell (DVD)
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MVD Visual
A pair of filmmakers tries to work with Ruggero Deodato, director of Cannibal Holocaust to pull off a horror film based on realism. The producer’s family’s house, where the film is to be shot, turns out to have its own secrets hidden behind the walls: secret chambers and ritualistic ceremonies invoking the spirit of Lilith — she who was cursed by God for not obeying Adam in the Garden of Eden. The women in the crew are possessed one by one, and their only salvation is through death.
This is a found footage movie that pays homage to Deodato’s picture by both worshipping his work and attempting to create their own version of it. Nothing happens for nearly the first half of the movie as the film crew gathers equipment, sets up the borrowed house and welcomes the lead actress and her make-up artist who arrive a day early. The producer fashions himself a ladies man, but his usual tricks don’t seem to be working. Beginning with non-threatening sounds around the house, it takes a while for the mayhem to actually start. Then there’s various pauses for exposition so everyone can try to understand exactly what they’re confronting — ghost, demon, god, etc. The aftermath and boundary of their discovery is interesting, but the movie relatively shallow.
Special features include: interview with cast and crew; interview with Ruggero Deodato; and unearthed trailer reel. (MVD Visual)
Slaughter High [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Vestron Video
There’s horror in the halls . . . lynching in the lunchroom . . . murder in the metal shop. Welcome to Slaughter High — where the students are dying to get out. In high school, Marty was the kid all the students teased, taunted, and tortured mercilessly. One day, things went too far — one of their jokes backfired, disfiguring Marty for life. Now, five years later, Marty has arranged a special reunion for all his high school “friends.” The prom queen, the jock, the class clown, the rebel, and a few select others have been invited and it’s going to be a gala of gore.
High school can be a brutal experience for outsiders as they’re bullied and harassed the minute they step out of the proverbial box of mainstream acceptance. On the flipside are the multitude of popular people who believe keeping the interlopers down is a sure-fire way to secure their own positions of power. It seems atrocious that Marty should sustain such serious injuries and his tormentors be so indifferent about their actions, yet it also seems to be the narrative norm. As a result, the audience may not be exactly rooting for the mostly unseen killer, but they’re allowed to enjoy the horrific deaths of the now adult but still self-centred bullies… and no one is pulling any punches on their demises.
Special features include: commentary with co-writers/directors George Dugdale and Peter Litten; audio interview with composer Harry Manfredini featuring isolated music and SFX selections; “Going to Pieces”; “My Days at Doddsville”; alternate title sequence; still gallery; radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Vestron Video)
Unlocked (Blu-ray)
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VVS Films
After failing to apprehend the terrorist behind a Paris attack that claimed dozens of lives, CIA agent Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace) is forced to live in London as a caseworker. Unexpectedly, she is called back into action by her mentor, Eric Lasch (Michael Douglas), when the CIA discovers intel of another imminent attack. While “unlocking” the suspect, Alice discovers that the classified information she has uncovered has been compromised. Running for her life, Alice turns to ex-soldier Jack (Orlando Bloom) to prevent a lethal biological attack on the citizens of London.
This is a typical special ops picture in which the protagonist can trust no one and it’s possible everyone is out to get her. Alice is a formidable target, physically and mentally. She is adept in battle and quick-witted, though under immense pressure she does let the odd thing get by her. She’s also surrounded by men who try to help her and/or kill her, making allies difficult to find. Somewhat predictably, it’s her desire to trust that is typically her downfall. Nonetheless, the familiar cast deliver a solid picture consisting of action and intrigue. In lesser hands, this average script would’ve been tedious — but it’s generally appealing to watch these actors work under Michael Apted’s direction.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (VVS Films)
More about An Inconvenient Sequel Truth to Power, Land of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Unlocked, Blood Feast
 
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