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article imageReview: The world is a scary place in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 7, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a surprisingly exceptional origin story; a chilling horror anthology; a fairy tale, coming-of-age story; a full-tilt romance; and the film that launched a still-expanding franchise.
Adrift (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
As the two avid sailors set out on a journey across the ocean, Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) couldn't anticipate they would be sailing directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami awakens to find Richard badly injured and their boat in ruins. With no hope for rescue, Tami must find the strength and determination to save herself and the only man she has ever loved.
This story is harrowing, inspiring, heartbreaking and almost entirely true. It begins immediately following the storm as Tami awakens alone below deck. As she takes over boat repairs and navigation, the narrative flashes back to her arrival in a coastal town where she’d meet her would-be fiancé, Richard. Her appetite for adventure and life, and love for Richard are paralleled with her struggle to survive on limited rations and a compromised boat. Woodley and Claflin have excellent chemistry that helps lure audiences into this amazing tale of endurance, which at its core is also a love story. The warmth of their courtship is contrasted with the harsh light of being stranded. The conclusion is hard-hitting, but not entirely unexpected.
Special features include: commentary by director Baltasar Kormákur and Shailene Woodley; deleted scenes; “Survival at Sea”; “Journey Home”; and “Braving the Elements.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Beast (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Beast
Moll (Jessie Buckley) is a troubled woman, still living at home, stifled by the small island community around her. When she meets Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a free-spirited stranger, a whole new world opens up to her and she begins to feel alive for the first time, falling madly in love. Finally breaking free from her family, Moll moves in with Pascal to start a new life. But when Pascal is arrested as the key suspect in a series of brutal murders, Moll is left isolated and afraid, and finds herself forced to make choices that will impact her life forever.
Most modern-day fairy tales tend to still be a literal extension of the originals. However, there are less common instances in which the fabled elements serve as inspiration for a more complex narrative. Moll is clearly a Cinderella-type character, governed by other members of her family and subdued into doing their constant bidding with a smile. But there’s no fairy godmother to provide useful advice or a carriage to take her away. And although Pascal appears to be Prince Charming, there’s always the risk that he’s actually the Big Bad Wolf killing little girls in the woods. Buckley and Flynn have a strong understanding of their characters’ nuances as each new layer presents a fresh challenge for their relationship. Although Moll is in her late-twenties, this is still a coming-of-age story as Pascal gives her the confidence she needs to become her own person.
Special features include: making-of featurette; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Big Fish & Begonia (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Shout Studios
Under the ocean are a mystical race of beings that control the tide and the changing of the seasons. One of these beings, a restless young girl named Chun, wants to experience the human world, not simply observe it. When she turns 16, she is allowed to transform into a dolphin to explore the human world. However, the world is a dangerous place. Trapped in a vortex, she is nearly killed but saved at the last minute by a human boy, who drowns as a result. Consumed by guilt, Chun decides to go on an epic adventure to give the boy life again. As protector of his soul, Chun must defeat those who stand in her way, including her own family.
This is a beautiful film with an even more remarkable behind-the-scenes story. The making-of documentary is extraordinary as the filmmakers describe the 12-year journey from conception to screen, which includes money problems, several departures and a crowdfunding campaign that saved the movie. The passion the creators have for this film shines through every frame with its striking detail and splendour. The colour palette is also lovely with natural tones that pop with bright reds and all-encompassing blues. There are a lot of moments that may cause viewers to gasp or hold their breath, and also scenes that are simply breathtaking. The story is a wonderful fairy tale of secret worlds, love, death, resurrection and transformation, all of which are complex and often costly.
Special features include: making-of documentary; short film; music videos; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Studios)
Brainscan (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
When Michael (Edward Furlong), a lonely teenager, orders the latest interactive video game, the new high-tech wizardry penetrates his subconscious, where his darkest impulses lead him through a deadly maze of murder, deception and desire. Pursued by homicide detective (Frank Langella) and prodded by "The Trickster" (T. Ryder Smith) who materializes into his room, Michael is torn between the worlds of good and evil, of reality and fantasy and, ultimately, life and death.
Although it was made in the mid-‘90s, to some extent this movie predicted the video games of our near future: a fully immersive experience in which it feels like the player is physically in the game space. The fact that it turns out a demon is pulling the strings and the crimes you committed may actually be real is a whole other matter. This film was released at the peak of Furlong’s popularity, just a few years after Terminator 2, in which he exhibits the same bravado, but has no guardian to keep him safe this time around. Nonetheless, it’s as easy to become engrossed in Michael’s problem as it is for him to become sucked into the video game.
Special features include: commentary by assistant to the director Tara Georges Flynn; deleted scene; behind-the-scenes footage; “Trickin’ With Trickster”; “A Virtual Debut”; “Talking With Trickster”; “Merging Realities”; “Musical Virtuosity”; still galleries; TV spot; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Brothers (DVD)
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Well Go USA
Once a poor vagrant, Chen Tiejin has since risen through the ranks of the Red Army and become an experienced Captain. Tiejin and his Red Army troops are locked in a heated battle with the Kuomintang Army as he faces off against a particularly skilled soldier of the opposing side. Just as he’s about to deliver the death blow, Tiejin stops dead in his tracks — the soldier is his brother he was separated from five years earlier.
As compelling as their battle of wills is, it’s difficult to understand why they are fighting to start. Big brother is a bit of a screw up, landing them in a paddy wagon after being out of jail for less than 24 hours; but he’s also tried his best to protect his younger sibling, which is what leads to their latest separation. Since they were divided through an act of love, one would think Tiejin would be more forgiving; instead, he’s even more hostile after their reunion. Outside of this irrational response, the action sequences are adequate and the remainder of the story passable.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
Ghost Stories (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
A debunker of all things paranormal, Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) has devoted his life to exposing phony psychics and fraudulent supernatural shenanigans. His skepticism is tested, however, when he receives a case file on three chilling and inexplicable incidents: a night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) haunted by disturbing visions as he patrols an abandoned asylum; an edgy young man (Alex Lawther) involved in a hellish car accident deep in the woods; and a wealthy former banker (Martin Freeman) visited by the spirit of his unborn child. Even more disturbing is that each of these macabre stories seems to have a sinister connection to Professor Goodman’s own life. Will they make a believer of him yet?
The first scene in the film shows Goodman publicly discrediting a psychic who claims to be able to speak to the deceased, which does well to introduce his personality and set up the stories to come. The three tales he sets out to investigate can certainly be labelled paranormal incidents… or tricks of the imagination, driven by some sort of mental breakdown. However, each of the narratives reveal some sort of personal connection to Goodman, the most obvious and mysterious being an old photograph on someone else’s wall. This is an excellent horror anthology that does well to link its accounts in more than one way, while leading up to a framing story that will chill viewers with even the slightest fear that it could happen to them.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
The Good Karma Hospital: Series 2 (DVD)
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Acorn
British transplant Dr. Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia) furthers her career under the watch of her formidable boss, Dr. Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman). While Lydia’s boyfriend, beach bar owner Greg (Neil Morrissey), tries to help newly widowed Paul (Philip Jackson) overcome the death of his wife, Ruby continues to spar with her handsome but standoffish colleague, Dr. Gabriel Varma (James Krishna Floyd). Then a link to Ruby’s estranged family brings her closer than ever to Gabriel.
Now that audiences know the characters, this season is about going beneath the surface and exploring deeper aspects of who they are outside of their professions. Lydia’s relationship with Greg reveals a lot about how each of them approaches the world and their connections to it as Paul’s presence forces Greg to ask the tough questions. An intimate chat with a patient’s father puts things into perspective for Ruby, which just happens to coincide with an unexpected discovery. Mari, in the meantime, has a tough season, twice losing futures she thought were secure. The series also touches on some serious issues regarding health risks related to poverty, domestic abuse, alternative medicine, assisted death and adoption.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Acorn)
The House of Tomorrow (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
Sebastian (Asa Butterfield) is a 16-year-old who has spent most of his life with his Nana (Ellen Burstyn) in their geodesic dome home, a tourist attraction where she raises him on the futurist teachings of her former mentor Buckminster Fuller in hopes that one day Sebastian will carry Fuller's torch and make the world a better place. But when illness sidelines Nana, Sebastian begins sneaking around with Jared (Alex Wolff), a chain-smoking, punk-obsessed sixteen-year-old with a heart transplant who lives in the suburbs with his Bible-banging single father, Alan (Nick Offerman), and teenage sister Meredith (Maude Apatow). Sebastian and Jared form a punk band and with his Nana's dreams, his first real friendship, and a church talent show at stake, Sebastian must decide if he wants to become the next Buckminster Fuller, the next Sid Vicious, or something else entirely.
While Fuller’s real-life teachings regarding the environment and sustainable living are sprinkled throughout the narrative, the movie is primarily about Sebastian’s awakening to a world he’d mostly only read about. Jared thinks he’s a bit strange, but with so many people treating him with kid gloves due to his heart condition, he can’t be too picky about his friends. Sebastian understands the teachings his Nana has instilled in him, but he didn’t necessarily comprehend what he was trying to save or why doing so may be more difficult than he could’ve anticipated. Alan is kind and concerned, which generally puts his heart in the right place even though his kids find him mostly annoying or embarrassing. Nana seems a little out of touch, but Burstyn is so wonderful you almost forget she’s one of society’s outcasts.
Special features include: commentary with screenwriter/director Peter Livolsi and cast members Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolf and Maude Apatow; “Ellen Burstyn in Conversation with Peter Livolsi”; and “NYC Premiere Q&A.” (Shout Factory)
Predator (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Deep in the jungle, several bodies have been discovered skinned and hanging from trees although who or what could have done this is a mystery. Military covert specialist Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team are called in to eliminate the threat, but once in the heart of the menacing jungle, they discover something far worse than they could ever have imagined, the Predator alien which has come to earth with cloaking technology, extensive combat skills and a desire to hunt humans for sport.
“Get to the chopper!” That’s only one of the lines or scenes in this movie that still resonates more than 30 years after its initial release. Dutch’s team is elite, but as fans would later learn, so is the alien warrior. It’s also better equipped for the battle and knows its enemy, having already encountered and defeated other soldiers. The awesome squad also includes Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and director of the upcoming The Predator, Shane Black. The first visuals of something cloaked in the trees followed by actual images of the Predator are brilliant examples of suspense with an equally powerful payoff. The practical monster would become iconic, while the film would kick-off a franchise with a still expanding narrative that’s included rites of passage; extra-terrestrial, universe-spanning vendettas; and unlikely alliances.
Special features include: audio commentary by director John McTiernan; text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfeld; deleted scene and outtakes; making-of featurette; “Predator: Evolution of a Species-Hunters of Extreme Perfection”; special effects featurettes; short takes with the filmmakers; and photo gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Trench 11 (DVD)
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RLJ Entertainment
A highly contagious biological weapon created by German forces in WWI is discovered by Allied troops as they explore an abandoned underground bunker. Realizing they need to contain and destroy the threat, their mission becomes a fight for survival when one of their own is infected by the deadly parasite and begins to violently attack them. The soldiers now need to not only save themselves, but must stop the outbreak before it spreads to the rest of the world.
This is a movie that extrapolates from history to imagine an even greater evil that could have been unleashed if such things were possible. The Nazi’s human science experiments are notorious with purposes ranging from racial superiority to biological weapons; but this picture takes it a step further to reanimating the dead. Apparently the trial was abandoned, but some of the evidence was concealed rather than destroyed, leading to the current threat. After a couple of conspiracies and pure ignorance of the menace created, the film devolves into a basic zombie movie with period uniforms.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
The Unborn (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
A young wife (Brooke Adams) suspects that a mysterious doctor (James Karen) has inseminated her with mutated sperm in an attempt to create a super-human fetus. Unfortunately, there are extreme side-effects.
While the real-life stories are not quite so menacing, there have been some horrific accounts of doctors misleading and abusing their IVF patients’ trust. This film gives that betrayal a ghoulish twist as the babies are prepared to commit parricide to preserve itself. Adams’ character begins to put the pieces together, but there’s so many degrees of ick with which to deal. Her mother is surprisingly supportive, while her husband is at arm’s length after the insemination. There may be some subtext related to genetic selection, unnatural conception and people who want it all at any price, but it’s chiefly a horror movie in which the monster isn’t even born yet — but that doesn’t keep the creepy little scamp from raising some hell from inside the womb.
Special features include: commentary by producer/director Rodman Flender and filmmaker Adam Simon; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Wild at Heart [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Shout Select
Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) are a pair of young lovers on the run from Lula's mother, Marietta (Dern's real-life mother Diane Ladd). Sailor and Lula's journey takes them into the dark heart of America, where dangers and temptations lurk ... and where only their love can truly protect them. But even their all-consuming passion may not withstand the sinister presence of Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe).
This is a bizarre love story that feels like it might’ve served as a precursor for Oliver Stone’s True Romance. Sailor is a bit of a hothead, but he’d do anything for Lula — including rob or kill. With Sailor fresh out of jail, the lovers decide to runaway to California, which begins a journey of strange encounters and dreams that only David Lynch could devise. Ladd, in particular, portrays an irrational woman with obvious issues that her boyfriend, played by Harry Dean Stanton, tries to contain — unsurprisingly, her performance earned an Oscar nomination. Cage’s love for Elvis is permitted to shine through in this picture, while Dern plays the part of his younger girlfriend to a tee as she’s only as smart and strong as she needs to be in any given situation. The ending is absurd, but it’s also fantastically fitting after the strange trip everyone’s gone on together.
Special features include: extended and deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Interview With Novelist Barry Gifford”; “Dell's Lunch Counter: Extended Interviews”; “Specific Spontaneity: Focus On David Lynch”; “Lynch On The DVD Process”; image gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
More about adrift, Beast, The First Purge, Ghost stories, Predator
 
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