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article imageReview: There’s added meaning in many of this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 20, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include unacknowledged inspiration; a despicable business plan; a thriller with the most unexpected ending; a classic horror anthology; an Oscar nominee; and a dystopian fiction with real ramifications.
Bigger Fatter Liar (DVD)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Kevin Shepherd (Ricky Garcia) has gotten away with lying his entire life, but when scheming producer Larry Wolf (Barry Bostwick) steals Kevin’s idea for a hot new video game, the tables get turned. Kevin realizes he’s met his match — a bigger, fatter liar. When Wolf refuses to admit the truth Kevin declares, “Game on,” as he and his best friend, Becca (Jodelle Ferland), stop at nothing to get Wolf to tell the truth, plotting a series of devious pranks to set the record straight.
It’s been 15 years since the first movie, Big Fat Liar, came out, starring Frankie Muniz. Now they’ve decided to revisit the concept with an even more ridiculous concept that boils down to home invasion, fraud and harassment bordering on assault. Moreover, the power of hackers — no matter how young —is once again exaggerated with these two kids virtually able to do whatever they want to their target with a few “simple” measures. Nonetheless, Bostwick is such a good sport as he spends most of the film in outlandish clown make-up, over which even more make-up is slathered to create equally outrageous looks.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and “The Players.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Founder (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment & The Weinstein Company
Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman, respectively), who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.
The McDonald brothers created the fast food chain model most people are familiar with today. After failing to expand the pioneering restaurant themselves, they decided to simply be happy with their little shop. Then Ray came along and offered them the whole country. If they’d been different types of men, the money would’ve been enough to make them complacent; but they were passionate about their business and wanted to make sure every franchise lived up to their standards. So eventually they started to regularly butt heads with Ray and he started looking for ways to get rid of them. In case it hasn’t been made clear already, Ray is not a likeable guy. He’s charming and enthusiastic and makes everyone he’s talking to feel like the greatest person alive — but that’s the smarmy salesman in him. In most cases, he’s measuring your worth and how he may be able to use you in the future. Keaton is superb at portraying this two-faced character in a manner that causes audiences to be riveted by him rather than just wholly repulsed.
Special features include: “The Story Behind the Story”; “Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc”; “The McDonald Brothers”; “The Production Design”; “Building McDonald’s: Time Lapse Video”; and press conference with filmmakers and cast. (Anchor Bay Entertainment & The Weinstein Company)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Shout Factory
In the not-so-distant future, the strong-willed and beautiful Kate (Natasha Richardson) possesses a precious commodity that most women have lost and most men want to control: fertility. Having committed a crime by trying to escape the country, she is sentenced to life as a Handmaid. Leaving a brain-washing bootcamp that turns fertile women into surrogate mothers for elite men and their infertile wives, Kate thinks she's made out well when she's assigned to an eminent party leader (Robert Duvall) and his wife (Faye Dunaway). But when she learns that he's sterile, she's faced with the impossible choice: produce him an heir or die.
Based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction, the film essentially portrays the rise of a wealthy, elite class and the loss of women’s rights, particularly those related to reproduction. Lower class women are prostitutes or surrogates, though the difference is slim. Moreover, the privileged and those permitted to serve them are establishing an exclusively white society where black men are carted off in the backs of trucks. The only hope is the resistance fighters who wage war against leaders and try to rescue women destined to be breeders. Of course since the new ruling class also nurtures a strong belief in God, there’s nothing artificial about the insemination process, which is akin to watching a bizarre rape meant to simulate matching a stud with another farm animal. This story is often referenced when discussing the recent reduction of American women’s reproductive rights, and the reasons why remain obvious in this film adaptation.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Original Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Following the investigations of Hawaii Five-0, an elite branch of the Hawaii State Police answerable only to the governor and headed by stalwart Detective Captain Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord).
When it ended in 1980 after 12 seasons, it was the longest running police procedural to ever air on television. The record has since been broken several times, but the show’s influence lives on. “Book ‘em Danno!” became an embedded pop culture reference, while McGarrett’s need to wear a dark suit among his more casual colleagues was a distinguished statement. Unlike modern crime dramas, the series was unconcerned with the characters’ personal lives; instead, it concentrated on solving the episode’s designated case. Shot almost solely in Hawaii and primarily in real locations, the show drew a lot of attention to the small island which had only become an official state nine years earlier. The series also led to the development of Magnum P.I., which utilized much of the same infrastructure left by its predecessor.
Special features include: episodic promos on select episodes. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Hidden Figures (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Fox Home Entertainment
The incredible untold true story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) — brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.
These women were all smart enough to gain employment in critical positions at the government agency, yet they were treated as less than their white counterparts. Promotions were granted rarely if it all, though there were some senior staff members willing to look past the colour of their skins to see their potential for so much more than just computing. The story is supported by terrific acting by everyone involved. The women have unique and strong personalities demonstrating the perseverance of their real-life counterparts who were determined to contribute to the best of their abilities, regardless of the many obstacles that stand in their way. While Mary and Katherine are likely closer in age, the former is more outgoing and high-spirited while the latter is more of a dormouse with the heart of a lion. Conversely, Dorothy is older and more concerned with job security since she and the other computers don’t share the additional skills of her friends.
Special features include: commentary by Theodore Melfi and Taraji P. Henson; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Filming in Georgia”; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Ocean Waves (Blu-ray & DVD)
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GKids & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Taku and his best friend Yutaka are headed back to school for what looks like another uneventful year. But they soon find their friendship tested by the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful new transfer student from Tokyo whose attitude vacillates wildly from flirty and flippant to melancholic. When Taku joins Rikako on a trip to Tokyo, the school erupts with rumors, and the three friends are forced to come to terms with their changing relationships.
The film is a credible rollercoaster of emotions as Taku recounts how his life was turned upside-down by Rikako. She clearly has a lot going on in her home life and is rebelling in various ways to oppose her parents. Moreover she uses the boys’ attraction to her to get what she wants, regardless of what her interference may do to their friendship. Though the key events that test their relationships are shown episodically, it has the manic feel of adolescence where everything is new and a little crazy. Of course the teen drama is also beautifully animated, standing as the first film not directed by studio founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. This release also includes an amusing animated short that provides an overview of goings on at Studio Ghibli.
Special features include: “Looking Back: Staff Reunion”; feature-length layouts for the film; U.S. theatrical trailer; and never-before-released short, “The Ghiblies: Episode 2.” (GKids & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Property is No Longer a Theft (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Arrow Academy
A young bank clerk (Flavio Bucci), denied a loan by his employer, decides to exact his revenge the local butcher (Ugo Tognazzi) who is not only a nasty, violent, greedy piece of work but also one of the bank’s star customers. Quitting his job, the clerk devotes all of his time tormenting the butcher, stealing his possessions one-by-one, including his mistress (Daria Nicolodi).
This is a peculiar Italian film in which many of the characters’ actions are frequently confusing. The bank clerk has an unusual allergy to money, making his choice to follow in his father’s footsteps and work at the bank a questionable one. The butcher is always looking for ways to accumulate more wealth, by any means necessary; a method the bank clerk eventually adopts as well. One of the most amusing ironies is even though the clerk is trying to punish the butcher for his affluence, he enables him to dishonestly gain even more money. The clerk’s obsession with destroying the butcher causes him to spiral out of control and soon he’s developed an insatiable greed of his own. The clerk’s encounters with the mistress are some of the strangest in the film, while the bizarre and somewhat unexpected conclusion creates more questions than answers.
Special features include: interview with actor Flavio Bucci; interview with producer Claudio Mancini; interview with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh. (Arrow Academy)
Sleepless (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Undercover police officer Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) thrives in the high stakes web of corrupt cops and the mob-controlled casino underground of Las Vegas. But when a heist goes wrong and a crew of homicidal gangsters kidnaps Downs’ teenage son, he must evade an internal affairs investigation, rescue his son, and bring the kidnappers to justice all in one sleepless, pulse-pounding night.
The premise sounds a little like a movie that may have starred Liam Neeson, but this one is astonishingly even more circular than a Taken movie. The first act sets up the rest of the film with the botched robbery and the eventual kidnapping of Downs’ son. Then he’s on a mission to recover the stolen goods and rescue his son, all the while convincing his ex-wife everything is fine. With internal affairs tailing him, Downs spends most of the movie racing to or from someone. And since most of the narrative unfolds within the confines of a casino’s various spaces, there’s a faint sense repetition. Moreover, there are so many people after the missing drugs, it becomes tiresome watching them constantly run into each other for pointless exchanges.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Split (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Kevin Crumb’s (James McAvoy) fractured mind has revealed 23 personalities, but one remains dangerously submerged, set to materialize and dominate the others. He reaches a war for dominance among all those that rage within him, threatening his stability and impacting the survival of everyone around him, including the three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula, respectively) some of his personalities kidnapped.
Characters with DID have previously been at the centre of thrillers and horror movies with the most recognized being John Lithgow’s character in Raising Cain. While M. Night Shyamalan’s depiction of the illness should not be considered medically accurate as it certainly takes liberties in its crude representation, it is a bit more ambitious than many of its predecessors. The filmmaker uses the condition to explore an idea that’s been raised in several of his previous films: the infinite potential of our minds and bodies to do unbelievable things. This movie has two twists. The first is rather straightforward and requires no explanation. The second however, which occurs mid-credits, may not mean anything to some viewers; but for those who’ve followed Shyamalan’s career, it will be earth-shattering and change the entire context of the film. McAvoy takes on the challenges of this role with ease. His portrayals of Dennis, a man with OCD; Patricia, a thoughtful woman who’d do anything to protect Kevin; Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy; Barry, a fashion designer; and several others is astounding. Each personality is distinct and are occasionally present concurrently for important conversations. His ability to tie together all of these identities is remarkable.
Special features include: deleted scenes; alternate ending; making-of featurette; “The Many Faces of James McAvoy”; and “The Filmmaker’s Eye: M. Night Shyamalan.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Tales from the Hood [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Stack, Ball and Bulldog arrive at a local funeral parlor to retrieve a lost drug stash held by the mortician Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III). But Mr. Simms has plans for the boys. He leads them on a tour of his establishment, introducing them to his corpses. Even the dead have tales to tell and Mr. Simms is willing to tell them all. And you better listen – because when you're in the 'hood, even everyday life can lead to extraordinary terror.
Horror anthologies are a genre classic, though good ones are difficult to find. The best ones start with a great framing story that leads into several frightening and/or shocking short tales. This film, particularly the last segment, also includes some social commentary since many of the stories were in some way inspired by real life. The first tale deals with police brutality; the second is about domestic abuse; the third is related to the lasting repercussions of slavery; and the last one points out the futility of black-on-black violence. They are all engaging shorts with interesting twists that blend the real with the extraordinary. The framing story’s conclusion is a little over the top, but they had some of the top special effects artists from the ‘80s working on the film so at least it all looks fantastic.
Special features include: commentary by director/writer Rusty Cundieff; new making-of featurette; vintage making-of featurette; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Toni Erdmann (DVD)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Winfried (Peter Simonischek) rarely sees Ines (Sandra Hüller) since she left for a high-powered corporate job. So when he drops by to visit, the two quickly find themselves at odds as his quirky antics clash with her slick lifestyle. Determined to be part of her world, Winfried reappears as alter ego “Toni Erdmann,” an outrageous life coach who turns his daughter’s career plans upside-down. In the course of all the madness, the two discover that maybe they have more in common than they imagined.
This movie was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, and received many accolades on the festival circuit and throughout awards season. It’s about a bizarre father-daughter relationship, in which it appears he’s trying to convince her to loosen up. She’s incredibly high-strung and under a lot of pressure to prove her value to two companies — her employer and the one that hired them as a consultant — while overcoming the stigmas attached to her gender. Meanwhile, even though Toni and his haphazard wig and fake teeth are not having a negative influence on her career, his constant presence is throwing her off her game and generally adding to her stress rather than reducing it. The conclusion is probably the most rewarding part of the movie as the inevitable happens and yet still manages to deliver some surprises.
Special features include: commentary by actors Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller, and producer Janine Jackowski; and AFI Fest Q&A with actors Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller and Ingrid Bisu and producer Janine Jackowski. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
More about Hidden Figures, The Founder, Split, Toni Erdmann, Tales from the Hood
 
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