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article imageReview: The tides are changing in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 3, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a classic study of familial relationships; a new motorcycle narrative; a musical story for a music man; the king of giants; a fresh pet adventure; and a princess determined to realize her dreams.
The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Criterion Collection
The film is a portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone. Secrets and deceptions strain the already tenuous relationship of a childless, middle-aged couple, as the wife’s city-bred sophistication bumps up against the husband’s small-town simplicity, and a generational sea change — in the form of her headstrong, modern niece — sweeps over their household.
One of the signs of a true master is timelessness. In spite of being released in 1952, this film still presents a poignant study of arranged marriage. Yasujirō Ozu’s interest in family relationships infused his work, and was complemented by his economical approach to scenes. For instance, when the husband is called to the boss’ office, there isn’t a lot of time spent watching him go to the meeting. The stationary camera is generally positioned centrally, so action can and does occur outside of the frame, while it also allows people to move between the foreground and background. This is most notable in the last act as the couple enter their kitchen — seemingly for the first time — to find the ingredients for the title dish, which organically leads to a reconciliation. In the meantime, the niece’s more modern attitude and opposition to arranged marriage is reflective of the changes brought by the American occupation as the narrative unfolds only seven years after Hiroshima. The movie is unexpectedly comedic at times, particularly when the wife is sneaking off to the spa with her friends, though there is some biting humour directed at the troubled marriage. The story unfolds in multiple locations, including baseball stadiums, pachinko parlors, and ramen shops around Tokyo.
Special features include: What Did the Lady Forget?, a 1937 feature by Yasujiro Ozu; video essay by film scholar David Bordwell; “Ozu & Noda,” a new documentary by Daniel Raim on Ozu’s longtime collaboration with screenwriter Kogo Noda; and an essay by scholar Junji Yoshida. (Criterion Collection)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species —thought to be mere myths — rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.
The movie preceding this one positioned Godzilla as a creature that maintains the world’s balance. Therefore, when the big three are released, Godzilla rises to restore order. The result is some epic monster clashes on land, and in the sea and air. The big improvement from the last picture is these battles are visible to audiences, rather than shrouded in darkness and quick editing. Their appearances and subsequent fights are undoubtedly the highpoints of the film. But there’s not a lot more to praise in this movie. The choppy and cliché dialogue is often laughable and moderately annoying. The string of self-sacrifices are very melodramatic and seemingly unnecessary. Then there’s the problematic reasoning that informs the main plot, borrowing from science fiction narratives (and to some extent, the MCU). It’s incredibly flawed and leads to plot-driven mistake that likely would not be made under normal circumstances.
Special features include: commentary by director Michael Dougherty; deleted scenes; “Godzilla: Nature's Fearsome Guardian”; “Mothra: Queen of the Monsters”; “King Ghidorah: The Living Extinction Machine”; “Rodan: Airborne God of Fire”; “Godzilla 2.0”; “Making Morthra”; “Creating Ghidorah”; “Reimagining Rodan”; “The Yunnan Temple”; “Castle Bravo”; “The Antarctic Base”; “The Isla de Mara Volcano”; “The Undersea Lair”; “Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature”; “Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight”; “Monsters Are Real”; “Welcome to the Monsterverse.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
After Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) enlists his best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) to help reclaim the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco, they begin a search for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. A wistful odyssey populated by skaters, squatters, street preachers, playwrights, and other locals on the margins, the film is a sweeping story of hometowns and how they’re made — and kept alive — by the people who love them.
While countless films have been set in San Francisco, this movie peels back the glossy finish to look at the real city and the effects gentrification has had on its inhabitants. Jimmie grew up in what is now considered a nice up-and-coming neighbourhood, but his family lost the house he vows to one day take back more than a decade earlier — so, in the meantime, he maintains its exterior against the current owners’ protests. Jimmie and Mont are very different from stereotypical black characters, though there are still the guys who hang out on street corners posturing. They’re both dreamers, which unfortunately clouds their perception of reality on occasion. But reality also seems to have taken a step into another, less desirable realm in which Segway guided tours wheel past private homes and locally-born citizens are treated like interlopers.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Joe Talbot; and “Ode to the City.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Mayans M.C.: Season 1 (DVD)
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Fox Home Entertainment
In a post-Jax Teller world, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo) is fresh out of prison and a prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the Cali/Mexi border. Now, EZ must carve out his new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with the American Dream in his grasp.
As the outlaw biker series, Sons of Anarchy, wrapped up, there was already talk of a spin-off that would follow the exploits of their sometimes-allies, the Mayan Motorcycle Club. The show focuses on a more southern chapter with a lot of dealings in Mexico and a partnership with an infamous cartel. By the end of the first episode, viewers are made aware of a mole and shortly after that, a side gig supporting a rebel alliance rising against the Mexican drug cartels. The brotherhood is still at the centre of the narrative, but this time there are also actual sibling members of the club. The characters seem more thoughtful in this series, though it lacks some of the intensity (and violence) of its predecessor. There is some crossover with SOA, as Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera), now El Padrino, is regularly present at the table, though none of the main characters play a significant role. It will be interesting to see where the late revelations and deals lead next season.
Special features include: “The Creation of Mayans M.C.”; “Hit the Ground Roaring”; “Customizing the Mayans’ Signature Bikes”; and promos. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Miss Arizona (DVD)
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Cinedigm
Rose Raynes (Johanna Braddy) was crowned Miss Arizona — 15 years ago. Now a bored housewife trapped in a less-than-ideal marriage, Rose accepts an invitation to teach a life skills class at a women’s shelter. Digging out the relics of her pageant queen past, Rose attempts to share her platform speech with a room of four disinterested women dodging abusive exes. But when trouble shows up at the shelter, what the women really need is for Rose’s shiny SUV to get them out of Dodge. The five embark on a wild, all-night adventure through L.A.’s darkest streets and wildest drag club as the women fight to survive, and in so doing, discover what they need most.
Some people definitely have it easier than others, but that doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t have problems of their own. In this case, Rose seems like she shouldn’t have a care in the world — especially compared to the women at the group home — but she’s deeply unhappy and has no idea how to drag herself out of this rut. These women from the opposite side of the tracks present an opportunity for her to start living life again in ways she’d have never done on her own… mostly because they involve breaking the rules or the law. The drag contest is a mixed bag, though it does at least have an appropriate outcome. Unfortunately, Rose’s revelation and their Thelma and Louise adventure multiplied all feels very superficial and like it could’ve done a better job at exploring the strife of an unfulfilled housewife.
There are no special features. (Cinedigm)
Rocketman (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
This is a musical celebration set to Elton John’s most beloved songs. Discover how a shy, small-town boy becomes one of the most iconic figures in rock & roll (Taron Egerton).
It seems fitting that John’s life would be told in the form of a musical set to his catalogue of hits. It begins at a turning point in his life and uses flashbacks to recount what brought him to an AA meeting in a flashy costume. The film shows a boy finding he has a natural gift for music, but finding little support at home beyond his loving grandmother. His family would disappoint him more than once as unconditional love was not practiced in their home. But John quickly grows up and learns he’s going to have to carve his own path, which he does with talent and flair. One of the most remarkable parts of the movie is the recreation of many of the performer’s iconic outfits, from spandex to glitter to outrageous eye and footwear. Egerton is outstanding, which is also the opinion of Elton John himself as professed in the bonus features.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; extended musical numbers; “It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride: Creative Vision”; “Becoming Elton John: Taron’s Transformation”; “Larger Than Life: Production Design & Costuming”; “Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers”; “Music Reimagined: The Studio Sessions”; Rocketman lyric companion: sing-along with select songs; and Rocketman Jukebox: Jump Straight to the Music. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Terrier Max (Patton Oswalt) is coping with major life changes after Katie’s marriage and the arrival of a toddler, Liam. Meanwhile, Gidget (Jenny Slate) tries to rescue Max’s favorite toy from a cat-packed apartment with a little help from her feline friend, Chloe (Lake Bell), who has discovered the joys of catnip. And Snowball (Kevin Hart) believes, despite the other pets’ teasing, that he’s a superhero after his owner starts dressing him in superhero pajamas. But when Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), a fearless Shih Tzu, shows up to ask for Snowball’s help on a dangerous mission, he’ll have to summon the courage to become the hero he’s been pretending to be.
There’s basically three wholly separate narratives unfolding over the course of the film: 1) Max’s cowardice and love for Liam; 2) Snowball’s rescue of a captive tiger; and 3) Gidget’s infiltration of an apartment full of cats. All the fun characters from the original film return, though there’s definitely more of a focus on the three main personalities this time around. Max’s fear brings him to the attention of Rooster (Harrison Ford), a farm dog with a tough exterior that resolves to bring Max back to his senses and cure his anxiety. This is a movie of moments. The overall story targets a slightly younger audience than before, but there is enough for everyone to enjoy sprinkled throughout.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; mini movies; making-of mini movies; “Character Pods”; “A Party Fit for a Pet”; “Pops’ Puppy Training School with Kevin Hart”; “Pets Yule Log”; “My Buddy and Me”; “Pets with Jobs: A Documentary”; “Relax the Cat: The Secret Life of Pets Massage”; “Production Pets”; “Frame by Frame: How to Make a Flip Book”; and lyric videos. (
Shadow (DVD)
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Well Go USA
In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.
From famed wire-fu director, Zhang Yimou, this is a dark tale illuminated with stunning choreography and battle sequences. The Shadow is merely a pawn in a cruel man’s plot for revenge, though it’s unknown if he was always so merciless as his kinder wife seems quite devoted to supporting his plan. The subject of his vengeance is only on-screen briefly before the rematch, though the focus is on his unique fighting style and cunning. The idea that a warrior’s ferocity can be countered by a more feminine combat style leads to several incredible scenes involving bladed umbrellas and a surprise attack. The film is expectedly lengthy, but Yimou is so purposeful with his scenes it would be difficult to pinpoint anything that could be labelled superfluous.
Special features include: making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; and trailers. (Well Go USA)
The Spanish Princess (DVD)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Returning to the world of Tudor royal court intrigue, the story is uniquely told from the point of view of the women, which also sheds light on a previously untold corner of history: the lives of people of colour living and working in 16th-century London. Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) is the strong-willed young Princess of Spain, who has been promised the English throne since she was a child. She arrives in a gray, rain-lashed England with her glorious and diverse court, including her ladies-in-waiting Lina (Stephanie Levi-John) — a Spanish noble of African-Iberian descent — and the sweet and free-spirited Rosa. When her husband, Prince Arthur (Angus Imrie), dies suddenly, the throne seems lost to Catherine until she devises an audacious plan and sets her sights on the new heir, the charismatic and headstrong Prince Harry (Ruairi O'Connor), who will one day rule as King Henry VIII.
Since the story is divulged from the women’s point of view, the men’s roles are minimalized to being pawns in their strategies to gain greater power. Catherine’s arrival at the castle immediately launches a battle of wills between the English royals and herself. While she gets along with their sons well enough, their grandmother makes many of the house’s decisions and does not like their new would-be-queen. There is much scheming on both their parts as they try to outwit each other and secure the throne, as well as the Tudor legacy. While Catherine is not above lying to get what she wants, lady-grandmother is far more cruel and conniving in her efforts to get rid of the Spanish princess. In the meantime, Lina endeavours to keep their house in order in spite of the many setbacks. While the drama is likely spread over years, it’s all truncated to create a consistently intriguing miniseries.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
More about Godzilla King of the Monsters, Rocketman, Mayans MC, The Secret Life of Pets 2, The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice
 
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