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article imageReview: The wrong things for the right reasons in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 9, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an outrageous narrative based on a true story; the release of a film as it was always meant to be seen; a violent game behind bars; an entertaining tale of cops and robbers; and another of Marvel’s TV hits.
A Town Called Panic: The Collection (Blu-ray)
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GKids
Cowboy and Indian are always up to some harebrained scheme, with Horse left to clean up the mess. In Christmas Panic, their out-of-control antics lead Horse to call Santa and cancel the presents. But the boys figure they can still save Christmas … if they break into their neighbour's house to steal his yule log. In Back to School Panic, a class quiz promises a fantastic prize, but only Pig knows the answer. Cowboy and Indian use a special shrinking potion to sneak into Pig's brain, where they discover a bacon-packed world that is more than they bargained for.
A combination of two short films and 20 even shorter episodes, this collection features all the odd little characters’ adventures — and they’re surprisingly off-putting. Cowboy and Indian are best friends (brothers?) in this world, but they’re also small delinquents who repeatedly cause trouble for their guardian, Horse. Each narrative centres on them somehow creating mischief, or clearly breaking the law, without any thought to the consequences of their actions. While this may be amusing at first, continued viewing gradually makes it trying to watch. Still, that doesn’t take away from the creative uses found for old childhood toys.
Special features include: short film “The Sound of the Grey.” (GKids)
Acceptable Risk (Blu-ray)
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Acorn
When Sarah Manning’s (Elaine Cassidy) husband, Lee, is killed while on business in Montreal, her life back in Dublin starts to spin out of control. Sarah soon realizes she knew little about her husband’s past or his job at a powerful international pharmaceutical company. Assigned to the case, Detective Emer Byrne (Angeline Ball) doggedly investigates the conflicting evidence, even in defiance of her superior’s order. As more lies surface, Sarah begins to suspect that Lee’s murder could be connected to the death of her first husband. Did both men know a terrible secret that got them killed?
This six-part series is a murder mystery that gets increasingly complicated the further Sarah prods for the truth regarding her husband’s murder. Unfortunately, at times it seems a little too complex to keep audiences engaged in the story. Each new discovery predictably connects the death to a larger conspiracy and more powerful people, but it’s all somewhat convoluted. While getting to the last episode provides the satisfaction of finding out exactly who was involved and why they orchestrated such an elaborate cover-up resulting in so many lives lost, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the time invested in watching.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and cast interviews. (Acorn)
The Adventurers (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Well Go USA
The world’s top thieves — the infamous and charismatic Cheung (Andy Lau), his former partner in crime, Xiao (Tony Yang), and beautiful chameleon Ye (Shu Qi) — join forces to pull off the heist of a lifetime. But when they find themselves pursued across Europe by a legendary French detective (Jean Reno), they’ll have to take their game to the next level.
This is a classic tale of cop vs. thief as Cheung constantly stays one step ahead of the detective. However, in spite of his interest in rare jewellery, Cheung’s motivations for these elaborate heists are far more personal than mere greed. Xiao is basically Cheung’s comedic sidekick, handling most of the technical aspects of their jobs while their new female partner leads diversions and getaways. Of course, Cheung is also torn between his mission and his love for the woman he left behind. Mostly staying true to the genre’s formula, the film doesn’t offer much that is new, but it is an enjoyable watch with many twists before the inevitable conclusion.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
American Made (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a TWA pilot, is recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America and soon finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States. The clandestine operation that would be exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair scandal spawns the birth of the Medellin cartel and almost brings down the Reagan White House.
There are stories that sound too ridiculous to be true and others that are too crazy not to be true — this tale falls somewhere between those. The ever-ageless Cruise takes on the role of an ambitious pilot who lacks just enough ethics to ignore the drug- and gun-smuggling, and focus on all the money he’s raking in in exchange that also conveniently pays off any lingering voices of conscience in his head — after all, he’s helping the CIA. The film is reminiscent of Blow, even featuring a few of the same characters, namely Pablo Escobar. It’s relatively fast-paced, passing years of status quo to jump to a moment of significance, such as near-death experiences, raids and arrests by various U.S. agencies, and the ultimate denial of his existence.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “American Storytellers”; “Cruise and Liman: A Conversation”; “In the Wings”; “Shooting American Made”; “Flying High”; and “The Real Barry Seal.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (4K UHD & Blu-ray)
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RLJ Entertainment
A former boxer named Bradley (Vince Vaughn) loses his job as an auto mechanic, and his troubled marriage is about to expire. At this crossroads in his life, he feels that he has no better option than to work for an old buddy as a drug courier. This vocation improves his situation until the terrible day that he finds himself in a gunfight between a group of police officers and his own ruthless allies. When the smoke clears, Bradley is badly hurt and thrown in prison, where his enemies force him to commit acts of violence that turn the place into a savage battleground.
This film first made waves on the film festival circuit, where Vaughn’s slightly more fit physique and badass attitude caught audience’s attentions. Never really known for his physicality in movies, he’s surprisingly impressive in this epically violent picture as he moves through scenes like they’re levels in a game, defeating the innocent and guilty alike to get to the next stage. This analogy is enhanced by the scene in which Bradley destroys a car with his bare-hands, Street Fighter-style. The plot is unsurprisingly uncomplicated as the focus is on the choreography and special effects, though Don Johnson’s appearance as a malicious prison warden does add a little something extra to the film.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and Beyond Fest Q&A with cast and crew. (RLJ Entertainment)
Interstellar (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Ex-pilot-turned-farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), must leave his family and a foundering Earth behind to lead an expedition traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.
This was one of the most talked about movies of 2014. Not only was it a stunning spectacle set in space that’s equally attractive in 4K, but it also presented relatively sound science in a fictional context. Each of the planets they visit on their voyage offers a different environment and a variety of dangers. One of the most intriguing and breathtaking is a world that’s surface is covered in deep oceans and where time moves more slowly than outside of its atmosphere. McConaughey is joined by actors including Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, John Lithgow and Jessica Chastain to tell this captivating tale, which makes elements of Star Trek seem possible. In addition, the robots, TARS and CASE, insert their own personalities into the narrative — one of which is very sarcastic and consequently amusing. It’s not to say the film doesn’t have some issues, but they are so negligible that this remains a must-see picture that benefits from multiple viewings.
Special features include: “The Science of Interstellar”; “Plotting the Interstellar Journey”; “Life on Cooper’s Farm”; “The Dust”; “TARS and CASE”; “The Cosmic Sounds of Interstellar”; “The Space Suits”; “The Endurance”; “Shooting in Iceland: Miller’s Planet/Mann’s Planet”; “The Ranger and the Lander”; “Miniatures in Space”; “The Simulation of Zero-G”; “Celestial Landmarks”; “Across All Dimensions and Time”; “Final Thoughts”; and trailers. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Luke Cage: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
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Marvel TV
Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, escaped convict Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is just trying to live under the radar. Mysteriously blessed — or cursed — with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin, he hides his abilities and shuns getting involved. But when ruthless crime boss Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes turns his beloved city of Harlem into a bloodbath of chaos and carnage, Luke is forced to come out of the shadows and embrace his ultimate destiny.
Even though this character already got a pretty meaty introduction in Netflix’s other original series, Jessica Jones, there was still a lot we didn’t know about Luke. But this series answers those questions, serving as his origin story. It presents a very strong narrative, which explains how he gained his powers and what it means to have such abilities in his part of Hell’s Kitchen (an area of the city he later learns is shared with three other superheroes). Nurse Claire (Rosario Dawson) continues to be the link between shows, helping Luke when he’s made impossibly vulnerable. The fact that this series didn’t pull any punches while featuring a strong, black male figure standing up for what is right isn’t (or shouldn’t be) lost on most viewers in the current political and social climate.
Special features include: “Offstage at Harlem’s Paradise.” (Marvel TV)
Mayhem (4K UHD & Blu-ray)
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RLJ Entertainment
Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is having a really bad day. After being unjustly fired from his job, he discovers that the law firm’s building is under quarantine for a mysterious and dangerous virus. Chaos erupts throughout the office as the victims of the disease begin acting out their wildest impulses. Joining forces with a former client (Samara Weaving) who has a grudge of her own, Derek savagely fights tooth and nail to get to the executives on the top floor and settle the score once and for all.
Virus movies that cause victims to crave living flesh, or more specifically brains, have been a long standard, but this one is a little different. While one of the most prominent symptoms is unprovoked violence, the infected are just as likely to participate in other taboo activities, such as public sex acts or other lewd behaviour that may be offensive but not harmful. Although no one is immune, at least some of the infected are able to retain some level of cognition (though it’s unclear how or why) and attempt to use the situation to their advantage, including the film’s protagonist. It would have been more interesting, however, if filmmakers had allowed a little more time to explore the consequences of everyone’s actions, though they are regularly referenced in relation to other incidents throughout the picture.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (RLJ Entertainment)
South Park: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as these four animated tykes take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
Though the previous season seemed like it would be the last for Kenny, he makes an unexpected return via Cartman who also learns his friend is unexpected difficult to replace. Audiences are introduced to Butters’ alter ego Professor Chaos, but his plans for mass destruction aren’t as original as he thought. The Lord of the Rings parody is especially entertaining as the boys fight their way to the video store. And once again, the town’s parents go overboard in their attempts to protect their kids by employing the one Chinese resident to build a wall, which is inexplicably attacked by Mongolians.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as these four animated tykes take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
This season’s first episode returns to show’s pilot, lifting scenes to build a more extensive alien narrative. The mix-up involving Timmy and Jimmy’s club for cripples with the “Crips” is absurdly funny, while Cartman’s “Jennifer Lopez” hand-puppet gets crazy attention from none other than Ben Affleck. The children’s version of Hooters is disturbing but funny, while the attack on Rob Reiner is socially apt. This season would also be the first time the show creators broach the topic of Mormons, which would later be the subject of the Broadway show.
Special features include commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Eighth Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as these four animated tykes take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
Starting a little differently, the first episode features anime versions of the boys in which their game of pretend goes terribly awry. Stan and Kenny’s crusade against Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ goes to some strange places, while poor Kyle is confused by its message. The Michael Jackson episode takes several jabs at the then-still-living popstar, while Paris Hilton is hideously portrayed leading up to an unbelievable showdown with Mr. Slave. And the show demonstrated the problem with allowing the public to rename anything by popular vote.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Ninth Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Season four marks the boys’ passage into fourth grade and the launch of their boy band, Fingerbang. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
The fourth episode of the season featuring a battle for Kenny’s soul actually won an Emmy in 2005 for outstanding animated program, while the Scientology episode mocking the organization’s more famous members was ranked No. 17 in TV Guide’s list of 100 greatest episodes. Meanwhile, the boys purposefully try to lose their baseball games because they hate playing and Stan’s dad is a total embarrassment. Cartman goes unsurprisingly too far with a prank, which leads him to lead a rebellion of redheaded kids for equal rights. Though the simplest things can make Cartman mad, such as simply and effectively ignoring him entirely.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Tenth Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and the about-to-be permanently departed Kenny as they take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
Chef makes his final appearance in the season’s opening episode, as voice actor Isaac Hayes quit the show following some controversy the previous season. Before hybrid cars were made a standard option for buyers, the dedicated storyline took aim at all the people who thought they were better humans for making the environmental choice via an uncomfortable concept vehicle. Family Guy and Warcraft both receive a fair amount of attention this season, while dog trainer Cesar Millan is tasked with training Cartman in a hilarious episode. Cartman’s Dog, The Bounty Hunter impression was also spawned to monitor the elementary school’s halls.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and the about-to-be permanently departed Kenny as they take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
This season included an Emmy-winning three-episode story arc in which terrorists attack “Imaginationland” and the kids must team with the imaginary good side to fight the evil forces. The other half of this story is Kyle’s very unfortunate loss of a bet to Cartman, which requires unspeakable payment. Butters’ parents once again overreact to his behaviour, sending him to a straight camp. Stan and Wendy reconcile after a fourth grade debacle brings them together. Cartman once again believes he’s found a loophole to behave badly, but pretending to have Tourette syndrome starts to weigh on him mentally.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Stolen (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Charlotte Lockton (Alice Eve) has settled in the South Island of New Zealand with her wealthy British husband, David, but her dreams of a new life and prosperous future are shattered when David is murdered and her baby son is kidnapped. When a ransom note arrives, she realizes her only option is to track him down on her own. Charlotte’s quest forces her on a dangerous journey of survival through an untamed world to fight to the death for what she holds most dear.
Set in New Zealand’s Wild West, this story of a woman trying to find her kidnapped son is a poor addition to the genre. There are several aspects of the story that seem forced, causing the film to feel uneven and artificial. The one takeaway seems to be that no matter how horrible women treat each other, in a world controlled by men they’re there to help when needed the most. In Petunia’s case, she is in constant need of assistance and she’ll take it from man or woman. Though she is finally forced to stand up for herself alone, it’s a painful journey for audiences.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
More about American Made, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Luke Cage, Interstellar, A Town Called Panic
 
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