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article imageReview: There’s a lot of dark days in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 12, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an atypical look at being a teenager; a heartbreaking depiction of oppression; the new action hero on the block; a real-life story of survival; and a couple of resurrections.
A Prayer Before Dawn (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Based on the true story of Billy Moore (Joe Cole), a young English boxer incarcerated in two of Thailand’s most violent prisons. When the prison authorities allow Billy to participate in Muay Thai boxing tournaments, Billy goes from one savage fight to the next in a relentless journey to preserve his life and regain his freedom.
Writer/director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire creates a very gritty portrait of prison life in a foreign country. Most of the prisoners and guards only speak Thai, and most of those who do know English don’t know much save for a drug dealing sentry and a ladyboy Billy befriends. For this reason, there isn’t a lot of dialogue and when they do speak it’s often in bursts. Billy witnesses rape, death, sickness and incurs beatings during his time, which have some serious health repercussions. Cole delivers a genuine performance, supported by authentic conditions as the film was shot in an actual Thai prison and the cast of prisoners was comprised of real inmates. The film begins just before Billy’s arrest, but his background is explored further in the two bonus features on the disc.
Special features include: “Locked Inside the Walls: Making A Prayer Before Dawn”; and “Billy Moore: In His Own Words.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Angels Wear White (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
In a small seaside town, two schoolgirls are assaulted by a middle-aged man in a motel. Mia (Vicky Chen), a teenager who was working on reception that night, is the only witness. For fear of losing her job, she says nothing. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Wen (Meijun Zhou), one of the victims, finds that her troubles have only just begun. Trapped in a world that offers them no safety, Mia and Wen will have to find their own way out.
This is a terribly sad story of abuse and indifference. Mia’s boss isn’t often around, but when he is it’s usually to criticize or chastise his obviously too young employee who has yet to produce her ID card. Moreover, everywhere she turns someone is interested in her sex. Wen is even younger, escaping her abusive mother in karaoke bars and alcohol. Thus, when they’re assaulted by a high-ranking predator, fear of the punishment they’ll face overrides their need to immediately tell. It’s even more upsetting to watch Mia, who’s not much older than the victims, help cover-up what happened for fear of her own safety. With only a female lawyer willing to hear these girls, the movie becomes increasingly difficult to watch as it reflects the reality for many young women around the world, which is also represented by the giant Marilyn Monroe statue that places visitors beneath her skirt.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Eighth Grade (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Thirteen-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year — before she begins high school.
This is an interesting depiction of a teenage girl who is primarily positive — a characteristic rarely seen consistently throughout a young adult narrative. Raised by her supportive, single father, his attractiveness suddenly opens the door for her to attend a “cool kid’s” birthday pool party. But even more shockingly, she doesn’t try to conform to meet their standards and even defends her geeky gift. She’s also a child of social media and has her own vlog through which she tries to encourage others to be positive and outgoing. This movie feels like an anomaly in sea of pictures about bullying, teen suicide, addiction and disorders, and serves as a nice (potentially naïve) reminder that sometimes kids are just kids.
Special features include: commentary with director Bo Burnham and actress Elsie Fisher; deleted scenes; “You’re Not Alone: Life in Eighth Grade”; and music video. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Evil Dead (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell launched their careers with this horror movie that relished in blood and gore, and making its leading man miserable. The film is frightening, but also finds humour through its smart-mouthed Deadites. It’s incredibly quotable and Ash is a blue collar hero audiences really enjoy throwing their support behind. Moreover, he’s a bit of a screw-up, so watching him blunder through these precise rituals and haphazardly fight his possessed friends is amusing. Through nearly 40 years, the film spawned several sequels and an equally entertaining TV series that recently concluded, demonstrating the timelessness of the original picture.
Special features include: commentary with writer/director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Man in the Iron Mask 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
Louis XIII, King of France, had a son, Louis (Leonardo DiCaprio), who succeeded his father to the throne. But, known to very few, the heir had a twin brother, Philippe (also DiCaprio), hidden away after birth and forced to languish in prison, his identity unknown behind an iron mask. His brother, now grown and King Louis XIV, proved to be both corrupt and a tyrant. Louis sends Athos’ son, Raoul off to certain death in war, so that he could have his betrothed for himself. Athos (John Malkovich), together with two of the other Musketeers, Porthos (Gérard Depardieu) and Aramis (Jeremy Irons), swear revenge. Only D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) remains loyal to the crown, but will he join his former compatriots to free Philippe from prison, kill the king, and put Philippe on the throne in his place?
This is a fascinating tale that combines history and legend as the Musketeers take it upon themselves to save their country from a tyrant, while not technically betraying the throne since they aid the second of its rightful heirs. The manner in which Philippe was incarcerated is horrendous and acted as a punishment even though he’d done nothing wrong. DiCaprio plays the contrasting parts well so that in spite of their shared physical appearance, it’s not difficult to see the differences. The A-list actors playing Musketeers are predictably excellent, especially in the concluding battle as their characters’ bravery and fidelity take centre stage. The film, in turn, stands the test of time because its narrative is so compelling and, in some ways, romantic.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Randall Wallace; interview with producer Paul Hitchcock; interview with production designer Anthony Pratt; behind-the-scenes featurette; “Myth and The Musketeers”; “Director’s Take”; alternate mask prototypes; theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Skyscraper (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) is a former FBI hostage team leader, U.S. war veteran and amputee. While on assignment in Hong Kong as an assessor for security in skyscrapers, he comes to find the tallest and safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he has been framed for it. Wanted and on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and save his family who is trapped inside the building… above the fire line.
The filmmakers make good use of Johnson’s physique, having him muscle his way through several obstacles, including the police, robbers and soaring monkey bars. Toss in a few good lines of dialogue, particularly his quip about duct tape, and audiences have themselves a star. The main problem with this film is the bad guys are seriously lacking in personality. Every time the movie cuts away from Will or his family, the pace noticeably slows. With lots of action and not a lot of character building, this picture seems made to appeal to the market in which it’s set. There are definitely some parallels to its more Western counterparts, but the over-the-top prowess and big explosive scenes vs. more direct conflicts places the focus on watching the action rather than engaging with the characters, which is fine but not memorable
Special features include: commentary by director Rawson Marshall Thurber; deleted and extended scenes with director commentary; “Dwayne Johnson: Embodying a Hero”; “Inspiration”; “Opposing Forces”; “Friends No More”; “Kids in Action”; and “Pineapple Pitch.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
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