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article imageReview: This week’s new releases features familiar characters Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 8, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a very amusing depiction of what pets do when their owners are away; a new election conspiracy theory; a gritty drama about dreams and consequences; and a new LEGO cartoon.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are back in their big-screen debut. Still oozing glitz and glamour while clubbing their way around London, the beloved boozers find themselves in a media firestorm when they’re blamed for accidentally killing Kate Moss at a fashion event.
The thing about expanding a long-running TV show into a feature-length film is it often feels like one extended episode … and even without having seen the original series, this still seems like a single episode with a larger budget and 100 minutes to tell it. For those unfamiliar with the characters, the first act can seem rather jarring as these two outrageous women go about their vacuous lives and annoy Edina’s straight-laced daughter. However, once everyone’s settled into the narrative, it becomes rather amusing to watch them try to fix their mistakes by making others. In addition, there are several great cameos provided by Moss, Jon Hamm and Dame Edna.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “On Set with Dame Edna”; “Have A Look, Sweetie Darling!”; “Locations”; “Legacy”; “Cameos”; “Drag Queens”; “Fashion”; “Characters”; outtakes; and galley. (Fox Home Entertainment)
BrainDead: Season One (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
When struggling documentary filmmaker Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) takes a job working with her brother, Senator Luke Healy (Danny Pino), she soon discovers there’s more to Washington, D.C. than meets the eye. As tension grow amongst political parties, so does a conspiracy involving alien bugs replacing the brains of several members of Congress. The investigation unfolds while the infection spreads. Whatever’s happening, it’s clear this isn’t politics as usual.
For those looking for an explanation of the recent U.S. election, it would seem alien, brain-eating ants is as useful an answer as any at this point. The recap at the start of each episode is a good indication that this is a comedy since it’s delivered in song and occasionally doesn’t even recount earlier events. The political rivalries generally play out in backroom dealings and backstabbing, but the public displays are often more amusing — particularly as the takeover spreads. After becoming suspicious of everyone’s strange behaviour, Laurel teams up with a medical resident and a conspiracy theorist to investigate the cause and cure for the invasion. Whether the conclusion is abrupt simply for the comedic value or because they weren’t renewed for a second season is mostly irrelevant since it works perfectly and the epilogue doesn’t keep audiences hanging for an ending that never arrives.
Special features include: “Trickle-Down Invasion: The Story of BrainDead”; “Strange Bedfellows: The Characters of BrainDead”; “The Third Party: The Politics of BrainDead”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
C.H.U.D. (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
In downtown Manhattan, a police captain’s (Christopher Curry) hunt for his missing wife leads to the discovery of a series of mysterious disappearances in the area. Extending his search into the tunnels and sewers below the city streets, it soon becomes clear that something monstrous is lurking in that subterranean world — and it won’t stay there much longer.
The recently reviewed sequel has little in common with this film as it took a humorous approach to the concept of “cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers” by moving them above ground and making them similar to zombies. This film is more of a serious horror movie concerned with government cover-ups and people’s general disregard for a city’s poor. One of the main characters played by Daniel Stern is unsurprised to learn the captain only started investigating because someone “important” went missing since no one blinked an eye when he reported the disappearance of a dozen destitute people. The creatures themselves are only occasionally glimpsed and often in fragments, largely shifting focus to the human monsters that created them.
Special features include: integral and original theatrical cut; isolated score; commentary by director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry; interview with production designer William Bilowit; interview with special make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione, Jr.; “Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D.”; behind-the-scenes gallery; extended shower scene; original theatrical trailer; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford; and collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Gingold. (Arrow Video)
Dark Water (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) is a single mother struggling to win sole custody of her only child, Ikuko (Rio Kanno). When they move into a new home within a dilapidated and long-forgotten apartment complex, Yoshimi begins to experience startling visions and unexplainable sounds, calling her mental well-being into question, and endangering not only her custody of Ikuko, but perhaps their lives as well.
This is another of Ringu director Hideo Nakata’s forays into the supernatural; although it demonstrates his affinity for the genre, it definitely doesn’t have the horror elements that made his other pictures international successes. While it’s clear there is something going on, perhaps even haunting this family, Yoshimi’s connection to the apparition is not obvious. In fact there’s a good chance she’s having a mental breakdown and is imagining all the strange occurrences. Nonetheless, there is the odd creepy scene that may deliver a few goosebumps; though it eventually evolves into a convoluted mystery in which the oddly shaped puzzle pieces don’t fit together especially well even if the big picture gradually grows evident. It’s also somewhat peculiar that the interview with Nakata in the bonus features focuses more on Ringu than the production of this picture.
Special features include: making-of featurette; interview with director Hideo Nakata; interview with novelist Koji Suzuki”; interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi; interview with actress Hitomi Kuroki; interview with actress Asami Mizukawa; interview with theme song artist Shikao Suga; trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain. (Arrow Video)
The Devil’s Dolls (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
According to an ancient Guatemalan tradition, parents teach their children to allay their troubles by giving them handmade "worry dolls" just before bedtime. But when several of these talismans — which once belonged to a notorious mass murderer — find their way into the hands of unsuspecting residents of a small Southern town, it sets off a grisly wave of bloodshed.
For a genre in which originality is a rare commodity, this film actually manages to inject some ingenuity into its narrative. Possession, serial killers and voodoo certainly aren’t new concepts, but this movie does present them in an engaging and relatively novel way. The worry dolls present a fresh entry into these storylines, while also opening the door for some interesting special effects. The characters are undoubtedly common stereotypes, but they are well-employed to tell this story of a deadly mistake. The affected characters are very convincing when they lose control, even if the effects are inconsistent. The conclusion can also be quite shocking, though it does slam on the brakes before going too far.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
Eliminators (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
When his home in London is attacked, a former federal agent (Scott Adkins) must come out of hiding in the witness protection program to protect his daughter. With his true identity exposed to the criminal underworld, he goes on the run with Europe’s most dangerous assassin (Stu Bennett a.k.a. WWE’s Wade Barrett) on his trail and must use every trick he knows to keep his family alive.
Adkins is currently trying to establish himself as the modern-day Steven Segal or Jean-Claude Van Damme by starring in similarly straightforward action narratives in which the hero overcomes insurmountable odds to save the day. This is the latest in a string of action movies in which the martial artist plays a man with a particular skillset who has to rescue his family or simply do what’s right. Unfortunately none of these films have gone very far, though his name is recognized among action fans. In this movie, Adkins faces off against Bennett, who’s better known as a former wrestling champion and undoubtedly representative of the film’s producers. In spite of their varying styles, their fight scenes are impressive and they make good adversaries.
Special features include: “Bishop for Hire”; and “Hand-to-Hand Bishop.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Greenleaf: Season One (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Estranged daughter and disillusioned preacher Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge) returned home after 20 years on the occasion of the mysterious death of her sister, Faith. As she re-enters the world of Calvary Fellowship World Ministries, the Memphis mega-church run by her powerful parents Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David) and Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynn Whitfield), it becomes evident that things are not as virtuous as they seem and the family’s outward display of faith hides sin and misdeeds.
This is the newest primetime soap opera to hit the airwaves, produced by Oprah Winfrey who also has a supporting role in the series. Like its renowned predecessors, the storyline revolves around infidelity, secrets, scandal, money and a shooting. The Greenleafs wield a lot of power in their town and specifically amongst their congregation, but all their success also brings a lot of attention from those who would judge them ethically and legally. There is one particular skeleton in their collective closet that underlies most of the first season’s narrative and will captivate audiences leading into the next. The acting by everyone involved is excellent and surprisingly believable.
Special features include: “Creating Greenleaf”; “Greenleaf Musicians”; “The Oprah Winfrey Conversations”; and bloopers. (Lionsgate)
I am Bolt (DVD)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Usain Bolt is a globally adored icon. He is a man who defines athletics, transcends sport and embodies his homeland; a man whose signature lightning pose has become a symbol of inspiration for generations now and to come. This documentary lets us see the real man behind the Triple Treble Olympic Gold Medals for the very first time. Bolt shares unprecedented access to himself, welcoming cameras into his life as an Olympic & sporting legend, best friend, teammate and son.
Even though the track-and-field superstar captured fans’ attention more than a decade ago, it’s on the eve of his retirement that filmmakers create a documentary to reflect on the road thus far and the success he’s experienced. They are given intimate access to the athlete, and his family and team. Archival footage and interviews recount how a 15-year-old Bolt won his first gold medal in competition. Although he didn’t want to squander his natural gift, he admits to often struggling with the dedication required to be a top athlete — he’s shown partying and lounging with his friends, and talks about how he’d often rather be having fun than training. Yet when he’s on the track, he strives to be the best and his coach doesn’t let him rest until he achieves it. Probably the most insightful moments occur when Bolt talks about what it’s like to be on the starting line and racing to the finish. The only real disappointment is they include the rivalry with Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympics, but not the widely publicized one with Andre De Grasse in 2016.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Initiation (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Kelly’s (Daphne Zuniga) new sorority has a special initiation ritual in store for her — an after-hours break-in of her father’s department store. But what begins as a night of harmless college fun turns sour when, once inside the enormous mall, Kelly and her fellow pledges find themselves locked in for the night with a deadly intruder stalking the corridors.
There are several storylines unfolding in this narrative, none of which appear to be connected until the end at which point there’s a big reveal that makes very little sense. Except for Kelly and her circle of friends who appear to be in their 20s, the sorority appears to consist of a bunch of 30-something fitness instructors. In addition to the conclusion, there are several other scenes or plot developments that aren’t logical, such as the rape victim’s spontaneous confession that leads to sex in a department store bed or the lack of police involvement even though the killer escaped from a mental institution. In the end, this is a rather silly story that almost seems to have been conceived because they’d have access to an empty mall.
Special features include: extended scene; commentary by The Hysteria Continues; interview with actor Christopher Bradley; interview with actress Joy Jones; interview with writer Charles Pratt, Jr.; original theatrical trailer; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn; and collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver. (Arrow Video)
Jason Bourne (4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Nearly a decade since fans last saw the former operative, Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) return reveals key secrets about his origins.
In spite of the efforts to reboot the franchise with Jeremy Renner, Damon is back to play one of his most recognizable roles. Audiences are provided a glimpse of how he’s spent his time and stayed off the grid before he’s drawn back in by the prospect of learning how he got into the program and what his dad’s connection was to the project. Julia Stiles reprises her role and Tommy Lee Jones steps in as the head authority figure with both playing important parts in Bourne’s latest saga — though the main rivalry is staged between him and Alicia Vikander, whose character believes she can bring him back into the fold alive. There are still plenty of action scenes, though they’re not as extensive as they once were (which is unfortunate considering the ultra high-def display); however, the track Bourne is following is somewhat repetitive, making the movie feel like it could’ve been a little shorter.
Special features include: “Bringing Back Bourne”; “Bourne to Fight”; “The Athens Escape”; and “Las Vegas Showdown.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Kicks (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Fifteen-year-old Brandon (Jahking Guillory) longs for a pair of the freshest sneakers that money can buy to help him escape the reality of being poor and picked on by everyone. Working hard to finally get the new kicks, he finds they have made him a target after they are promptly snatched by a local hood. Brandon and his two best friends embark on a dangerous and exciting journey where nothing is as simple as it seems.
What begins as a rather straightforward, urban adventure that takes the teens into unfamiliar territory becomes a powerful narrative that explores loyalty, manhood and gangland rivalries. The script is very gritty and doesn’t try to sugar coat any aspect of its characters’ lives. Brandon is so obsessed with getting and then retrieving his Air Jordan’s, the consequences of his actions never seem to register. In the meantime, the gang leader he confronts doesn’t see a problem with conducting business in front of his toddler or teaching him violence is the only response in spite of the occasional sweet father-son moment shared between them. The last act of this film is gripping, while remaining true to the overall tale.
Special features include: “Kicks: One-on-One”; and photo gallery. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures: Complete Season One (Blu-ray)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Taking place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, this new Lego Star Wars series follows a family of scavengers who build and sell starships from battle debris strewn throughout the galaxy. When their youngest discovers a natural connection with the Force through an ancient artifact — the Kyber Saber — he and his family are thrown into an epic struggle against the Empire to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. The Freemakers explore new worlds, meet new and familiar characters and discover the strength of family.
This series doesn’t include as much of the humour one has come to expect from the LEGO narratives, but it’s certainly still there and frequently pops up unexpectedly. The villainous characters remain the main source of comedy as Darth Vader’s pairing with Emperor Palpatine is particularly funny. The Freemakers are an interesting group as their familial bond increases their loyalty to each other, which consequently leads to numerous dangerous rescues. Many other characters also make appearances throughout the series, including Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian. The Freemakers even make a deal with a bunch of Wookies, leading to an amusing alliance. The continuous fight between good and evil at the centre of the Star Wars universe remains very prevalent in this narrative, while providing an alternative perspective to the story. It also comes with a fun set of six character magnets.
Special features include: “The Freemaker Adventures: Meet the Freemaker Family”; and “Freemaker Salvage and Repair.” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
The Secret Life of Pets (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
When their owners leave for the day, pets from the building gossip with their friends, satisfy their sweet tooth, and throw outrageous parties. But when a pampered terrier (Louis C.K.) and his unruly new “roommate” from the pound (Eric Stonestreet) get lost in the urban jungle of New York City, they must put aside their differences to survive the epic journey back home.
This is a movie in which everyone will find a favourite (or two, or three), which is a marketing team’s dream. Illumination isn’t necessarily producing Oscar contenders, but audiences can generally rely on their movies to be entertaining. The plot is one seen frequently involving kids in their early teens and below as they thwart a babysitter and try to make everything right before their parents return home. However, substituting them with adorable pets provides more possibilities for inventive adventures and cuter subjects with unique traits to go on the journey. Led by the sweet-on-the-outside-vicious-on-the-inside white bunny, Snowball (Kevin Hart), the collection of reptiles, mammals and fish get along better than most, bonded by their abandonment and desire to be part of a family. Their stories are also a subtle reminder to be a responsible pet owner.
Special features include: “How to Make an Animated Film”; “Anatomy of a Scene”; “All About the Pets”; “Animals can Talk: Meet the Actors”; “Hairstylist to the Dogs”; “The Best of Snowball”; and three mini-movies. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Shannara Chronicles: Season One (DVD)
MTV & Paramount Home Media Distribution
Set thousands of years in the future, the series follows three heroes — elf-human hybrid Wil (Austin Butler), Elvin Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton), and human rover Eretria (Ivana Baquero) — as they embark on a quest to stop an evil Demon army from destroying the world.
This new MTV series is part Lord of the Rings and part Labyrinth with a hint of Dungeons and Dragons. Elves are historically elitist with many long-standing rules and traditions, but Amberle disrupts all of this when she competes for a customarily male position, and befriends a Halfling and human. With the help of a druid and seer, the trio selected and brought together by fate must save the world from falling prey to an ancient demon returned. In this sense it’s a like the Power Rangers as the boss villain dispatches a series of minions to do his bidding and defeat the world’s potential heroes. But through a mix of magic and cunning, the ragtag group generally comes out on top.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; “Meet the Characters”; “Exploring New Zealand”; Terry Brooks interview; and “Making of the Dagda Mor.” (MTV & Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Vamp (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) want to make the right impression at college, so they devise a plan to get them into the best frat house on campus. They head to the After Dark Club where they want to find a stripper for a party their friends won’t forget — instead they find themselves among vampires led by Kinky Katrina (Grace Jones).
Jones is more widely recognized for her role in Conan the Destroyer, but here she plays a similarly quiet killer with a more literal thirst for blood. The film drifts between ‘80s teen movie and horror comedy as the goofy characters try to be cool in situations way out of their league while dealing with an unexpected horde of vampires in a seedy neighbourhood. The whole thing makes very little sense as the survivors run around within a radius of a few blocks in an attempt to escape, while the vampires try to manage internal conflicts and keep their already poorly kept secret from getting out. The occasional appearance of a local gang also doesn’t contribute much to the narrative, though they do add to the number of familiar faces in the picture.
Special features include: “One of those Nights: The Making of Vamp”; behind-the-scenes rehearsals; Dracula Bites the Big Apple (1979), Richard Wenk’s celebrated short film; blooper reel; image gallery; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil; and booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher. (Arrow Video)
Zoo: Season Two (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Animals have been hunted, enslaved and slaughtered by humans for millennia — now it’s their turn. What started as a string of animal attacks has evolved into a global war between beast and man, but when maverick zoologist Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and his team uncover a secret plan to exterminate all wildlife on the planet, they learn that humans are still the most dangerous animals of all.
This season picks up where the previous one left off with the group on the verge of curing this strange and dangerous anomaly. But nothing is as simple as it seems and most of them must risk their lives at one point or another to ensure they stay on track. In addition, Jackson begins to have a strange reaction to the bite of an infected animal, which may be connected to a secondary strain of the virus. This season also reveals a new conspiracy at every turn as they get closer to the truth, as well as the need to confront various daddy issues harboured by several members of the group. While watching the final episodes unfold, audiences may be surprised to learn the series has been renewed for a third season… but apparently there’s more to come and viewers will just have to wait and see what that entails.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Metamorphosis: A Look at Season Two”; “Welcome to the Bird”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
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