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article imageReview: This week’s releases are breaking the rules Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 29, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an innovative style of filmmaking; a prequel that surpasses its predecessor; a couple of bold auteur statements; a heavy metal journey; an animated, romantic sci-fi; and a compelling true story.
2001: A Space Odyssey (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Stanley Kubrick’s Academy Award®-winning achievement is a compelling drama of man vs. machine, melding music and motion. Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke) first visits our prehistoric ape-ancestry past, then leaps millennia into colonized space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) into uncharted space, perhaps even into immortality.
For those lucky enough to see the 70 mm print in theatres, watching this high-def, remastered version may be a step down depending on your home entertainment system. But this is probably the most visually striking version of the picture you can now own. Feeling your furniture rumble under the signature percussion and seeing the deepest blacks of space from the comfort of your home is still a transcendent experience. Kubrick's masterpiece deserves nothing less and with Christopher Nolan supervising the master, it is certainly the best possible rendering. While HAL 9000 is undoubtedly one of the most iconic sci-fi characters, there's so much more in the film to admire. Moreover, multiple elements of the movie have been replicated as it remains a staple of pop culture 50 years later. From the evolution of apes (also played by humans, though their performances were so good no one believed they were actors) to the cultivation of a mysterious planet, this is truly a science fiction odyssey.
Special features include: commentary by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood; “The Making of a Myth”; “Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001”; “Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001”; “2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future”; “What Is Out There?”; “2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork”; “Look: Stanley Kubrick!”; “11/27/66 Interview with Stanley Kubrick” [audio only]; original theatrical trailer; art cards; and premium booklet. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Blindspotting (Blu-ray) (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment & VVS Films
Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new
beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and
when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.
Diggs and Casal have been off-screen friends for a long time so their chemistry is about as genuine as one can get. Moreover, they co-wrote the script so they’re comfortable with their characters and the setting. Collin is actually a pretty good guy and Miles is the bad influence that runs them askew of the law. As hipsters and artists move into their neighbourhood, the division of race and class becomes more prominent and is deftly illustrated by a bottle of juice at the local convenience store. The film culminates in an unexpected yet poignant spoken word performance that brings the film’s events full circle and restores balance to the pair’s friendship.
Special features include: commentary by director Carlos López Estrada; commentary by writers/actors Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; and “Carlos López Estrada: A Director’s Diary.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment & VVS Films)
Critters Collection (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
In Critters, the terrified Brown family are trapped in a deadly nightmare and must fight for their lives against a litter of extraterrestrial, bloodthirsty monsters. But it's a losing battle until two intergalactic bounty hunters arrive, determined to blow the creatures off the planet. In Critters 2: The Main Course, some eggs have survived and are popping open, bringing another horde of the little creatures. Brad Brown (Scott Grimes) returns to fight them along with three bounty hunters. In Critters 3, Josh (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a beleaguered Angelino who must lead the fight against the little monsters as they invade an L.A. apartment building. In the final film, Critters 4, a super strain of genetically engineered monsters are designed to take over the universe. This time, Brad Dourif and Angela Bassett must battle the little bloodthirsty hairballs in space.
Even though writer Domonic Muir penned the script before the more popular film’s release, it will always be considered a Gremlins rip-off — though in actuality, the success of that movie opened the door for this one to be made. In any case, the first and second pictures are fun tales about ravenous alien furballs with typical story arcs of families and townsfolk banning together to end the menace… with the help of some very powerful space guns and an unnecessarily half-naked woman (but it was the ‘80s). The third movie is a bit darker with some real villainous characters from Earth to also contend with, while the final installment is probably best described as Alien with mutant hairballs.
Special features include: commentaries by producer Barry Opper and star Don Opper; commentaries with Critter designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo; commentary by director Mick Garris; commentary with producer/director Rupert Harvey; making-of featurettes; alternate ending; “For Brian: A Tribute to Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muir”; behind-the-scenes footage; still galleries; TV spots; and trailers. (Scream Factory)
Elizabeth I and Her Enemies (DVD)
Queen Elizabeth I was one of England’s greatest monarchs, but she spent her life surrounded by enemies. Born in 1533 to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate when her mother was beheaded after losing the king’s favor. Elizabeth fought hard for her crown — and even harder to keep it — as foreign powers, scheming nobles, and members of her own family sought to topple her. Surviving assassination attempts, rebellions, and accusations of treason, Elizabeth had to overcome numerous adversaries to become one of history’s most remarkable figures.
While not as compelling as Netflix’s narrative series about the monarch, this four-part documentary is a lurid look at the life of a Queen everyone wanted to dethrone. Her childhood was difficult as she was repeatedly blamed and scorned for matters that weren’t her doing. The re-enactments that accompany the voiceover narration give life to the historical events, while the countless scandals that plagued her reign are frequently shocking and sad. From birth to death, the show chronicles Queen Elizabeth I’s struggle to retain her rule and her sanity in the face of difficult decisions and multiple beheadings.
There are no special features. (Acorn)
Fireworks (Blu-ray & DVD)
GKIDS & Shout Factory
Shy Norimichi and fast-talking Yusuke are both enraptured by the same elusive classmate, Nazuna. But Nazuna, unhappy over her mother’s decision to remarry and leave their countryside town, plans to run away and has secretly chosen Norimichi to accompany her. When things don’t go as planned, Norimichi discovers that a glowing multi-coloured ball found in the sea has the power to reset the clock and give them a second chance to be together. But each reset adds new complications and takes them farther and farther away from the real world — until they risk losing sight of reality altogether.
This is a rare and sophisticated animated time travel story that doubles as a romantic adventure. It’s all very happenstance as at least the first few do-overs are initiated by accident. But Danny quickly gets the hang of it and suddenly they can make no mistakes that can't be fixed. However, the intriguing part of this particular narrative is the fireworks are made different each time they alter events, which seems acceptable though there's no telling what else might've changed. It's appropriately fast-paced and allows a couple of kids to find out what could’ve been if they'd done certain things differently.
Special features include: behind the scenes with the English cast; and theatrical trailers. (GKIDS & Shout Factory)
Heavy Trip (DVD)
Doppelganger Releasing
Turo (Johannes Holopainen) is stuck in a small village in the Finnish countryside where his greatest passion is being the lead vocalist for the amateur metal band, Impaled Rektum. The only problem is that he and his fellow headbangers have practiced for 12 years without playing a single gig. But that’s all about to change when the guys meet the promoter of a huge heavy metal music festival in Norway and decide it’s now or never. Hitting the road in a stolen van with a corpse and a new drummer from the local mental hospital, Impaled Rektum travels across Scandinavia to make their dreams a reality.
While it certainly helps if viewers like death metal, this is a comedy that will appeal to anyone willing to give the unconventional group a chance. Their individual personalities are typical of movies about musicians: the lead singer is secretly lovesick, the guitarist is “an artist,” the bassist invents an extravagant stage persona, and the drummer will jump head first into anything. A widespread misunderstanding and unqualified ambition lead to a number of humorous incidents, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to make their dreams come true. Moreover, since the music is credible, the bonus features include real metal musicians commenting on the quality of their original song.
Special features include: bonus scenes and blooper reel; “Heavy Trip Goes to Texas”; “Jouni Tulkku & the Star Mustaches Karaoke”; real bands react to Impaled Rektum; and “Flooding Secretions” original song. (Doppelganger Releasing)
Jack Irish: Season 2 (Blu-ray)
Jack Irish’s (Guy Pearce) life has hit a rough patch: the horse-racing world is in turmoil; Jack’s beloved local pub may be sold; and his journalist girlfriend, Linda (Marta Dusseldorp), has left him. Then the suspicious death of an international student at a dubious Australian college plunges Jack into a high-stakes investigation. To crack the case, Jack will need Linda’s help, along with assistance from a beautiful, enigmatic psychiatrist, Dr. Rory Finch (Danielle Cormack).
Jack unknowingly steps in a big pile this season, though once he’s in it he’s unwilling to walk away regardless of the increasing danger and mounting corpses. The mystery is a little difficult to follow as there are so many people (many of whom are deceased) involved in the cover-up. There are also a couple of side stories in which Jack is involved, but the main investigation is the key plot. Still, there is drama at the horse track with the return of a rival who wants to win the upcoming cup at any cost, and his mentor’s granddaughter comes for a visit in spite of his passing, which leaves Jack to clean-up the mess.
Special features include: season one recap; cast interviews; behind-the-scenes featurette; and tweet readings. (Acorn)
Papillon (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Henri “Papillon” Charrière (Charlie Hunnam) is a safecracker from the Parisian underworld who is framed for murder and condemned to life in the notorious penal colony on Devil’s Island. Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely alliance with quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega (Rami Malek), who in exchange for protection, agrees to finance Papillon’s escape.
This is a remake of the 1973 film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman based on Charrière’s biography. Hunnam brings the right balance of charm and physicality to the character as the safecracker must be able to convince people to work with him as well as fend off attacks by greedy prisoners. Malek, conversely, is a meek forger who wouldn’t survive on his own, but who frequently causes more complications than necessary. The film chronicles several daring escapes and spans nearly a decade of incarceration, in which the pair demonstrate an evolving alliance that must be credited to both men’s performances. Yet even at more than two hours, it remains captivating from beginning to end.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Elevation Pictures)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Blu-ray)
Enigmatic Hester Appleyard (Natalie Dormer) runs a finishing school for young ladies in an isolated mansion. On Valentine’s Day, 1900, several of the schoolgirls attend a field trip to Hanging Rock, but three of the girls and one of their teachers mysteriously disappear. As the police search the Australian wilderness for the missing women, Hester struggles to keep her college afloat amid the rumours and speculation that overtake the town.
This is a complex mystery that hints at a potentially supernatural cause, though the reality is likely simpler and melancholier. Hester’s secret past isn’t revealed until the latter half of the series, though it’s obvious from the start she’s not who she pretends to be. The narrative goes back-and-forth between the present and recent past as it attempts to explain what could’ve happened to the missing girls, but those who do know aren’t talking either. It’s a bit uneven, which fits the erratic behaviour of the teenaged girls; however, it makes the narrative somewhat choppy, which in turn makes it difficult to connect with the characters. Therefore, the miniseries relies on the audience’s curiosity to see the story to the end rather than any emotional investment.
Special features include: cast interviews; crew interviews; and behind-the-scenes footage. (Acorn)
Rocko's Modern Life: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Modern life got you down? Take a break from all the pesky neighbors, freeloading pals and hazardous household chores with Rocko. Plus, stick around for more loony life lessons, like when Rocko realizes garbage day is a very dangerous day, Heffer rushes to the hospital after eating way too many pasture puffies, a fortune cookie tells Filburt bad luck will infest his pathetic soul for all eternity, and more.
Spongebob Squarepants is the PG version of this show, while Duckman is its wittier counterpart, though the two shows were released around the same time. Rocko is a wallaby, who’s often mistaken for various other rodents. He works at a video store for an overbearing boss, whose main concern is the bottom line. Heffer is his dimwitted friend, and Filburt can be either smart or senseless depending on the plot. Each episode consists of two shorter, unrelated stories, centring on some ridiculous situation that’s resolved by the end. Unfortunately, unlike the two aforementioned series, these Nickelodeon characters’ blunders are frequently irritating and only occasionally funny.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
School Daze (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Amidst gala coronations, football, fraternities, parades and parties, the students of Mission College find themselves caught up in romance and relationships, rituals and rivalries during one outrageous homecoming weekend.
Writer/director/actor Spike Lee’s 1988 movie about college fraternities and sororities seemed like a black perspective à la Revenge of the Nerds, but it also doubled as a deeper commentary about discrimination in the black community related to skin tone and the style of their hair. His third feature is often surreal as the ladies sing through their rivalry and the guys experience bizarre displays of masculinity, which culminates in a tense step competition. However, it becomes clear most of them are struggling with their self-identity and that in spite of their perceived differences inside the prestigious school, they’re all considered the privileged kids who don’t know what’s what by the locals. This was Laurence Fishburne’s first leading role, but the film featured a number of young actors just starting out, including Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Kadeem Hardison, Jasmine Guy and Darryl M. Bell. The bonus features also contain a lot of enlightening behind-the-scenes info, such as Lee housing the opposing groups in different hotels to create authentic enmity.
Special features include: commentary by Spike Lee; cast commentary by Tisha Campbell-Martin, Rusty Cundieff, Bill Nunn, Darryl Bell and Kadeem Hardison; “Birth of a Nation”; “College Daze”; “Making a Mark”; 2018 Q&A with Spike Lee and select cast and crew members, with some special guests; three music videos. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Searching (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
After David Kim’s (John Cho) 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case. But after 37 hours and not a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet — where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop.
As storytelling continues to evolve, filmmakers will continue to feel the freedom and inclination to explore different styles and techniques for sharing their narratives. This film isn't the first to be told via social media apps and non-traditional cameras, but it is one of the most impressive. David’s search for his daughter is unique in that he uses her social channels to retrace her steps via her digital footprints, which also reveals how little he knows about her life. It's every teen's and parent’s worst nightmare as he rifles through her computer, uncovering all the things she never wanted him to know. More than a progressive approach, it’s an effective thriller with interesting twists told entirely via in-story cameras.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Aneesh Chaganty and writer/producer Sev Ohanian; “Changing The Language Of Cinema”; “Update Username: Cast and Characters”; and “Searching For Easter Eggs.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Star Trek: Discovery: Season One (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) was one of Starfleets’s most respected first officers — and now its first mutineer. A human raised as a Vulcan, Michael learned early that “all life is born from chaos.” Her defiance of a direct order resulted in an all-out war with the Klingon Empire, and she was sentenced to life in prison — until Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) recruits her aboard the U.S.S. Discovery. Joining her on this journey are First Officer Saru (Doug Jones), Chief of Security Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), Chief Engineer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), and Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Together, their powers of logic, science and compassion will meld on their quest for victory, survival and ultimately, peace in the universe.
This reimagining of the Star Trek franchise works surprisingly well, feeling more contemporary in spite of its prequel status and adopting a more linear narrative for the season. There are a couple of episodes that focus on a single plot resolved by its end, but there’s a greater focus on Michael’s overarching story as she develops into a more competent office and faces unbelievable circumstances. This series spends significant time where other Star Trek programs only briefly ventured. There are also more unexpected twists than could have been anticipated, keeping fans on their toes and on the edge of their seats for most of the second half of the season. The cast is excellent, each bringing something different to their varying personalities, while showing they can pull together when necessary.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; 10 behind-the-scenes featurettes; and promos. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
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