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article imageReview: This week’s releases are fuelled by dedication Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 1, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a team-up between two celebrated actors; a compelling story about a woman awakened; a different take on a familiar fairy tale; a man determined to get revenge; and a still gripping thriller.
Acts of Vengeance (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
A fast-talking lawyer (Antonio Banderas) transforms his body and takes a vow of silence not to be broken until he finds out who killed his wife and daughter, and he has his revenge.
This is the second action movie Banderas released this year and this picture is even more physically demanding than the first. It appears the actor has gotten into excellent shape recently – possibly the best ever – and he doesn’t want to waste it. In the film, the lawyer goes through various stages of grief that are amplified by self-blame and alcohol. Then another violent incident combined with the chance finding of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations leads to a complete 180. He really takes the written words to heart and sets out to do that which the police seem incapable. Banderas appears very capable in the action sequences, doing as many of the stunts himself as possible. The inclusion of an understanding woman seems inappropriate and unnecessary under the circumstances, especially as the stray dog that follows him home provides an emotional tether to the world.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Crown: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The British Empire is in decline, the political world is in disarray, and a young woman takes the throne… a new era is dawning. Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) is a 25-year-old newlywed faced with the daunting prospect of leading the world’s most famous monarchy while forging a relationship with legendary Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (John Lithgow).
The first season of this Netflix series spans the first 10 years of the queen’s reign. She faced so many obstacles due to her gender and youth, almost no one took her seriously for some time — Churchill in particular doubted her ability to rule in spite of his own waning health and weakening fitness to govern. Viewers get an especially intimate perspective of Elizabeth’s personal struggles not just as a ruler, but as a wife and mother. Her husband teeters between supportive and resentful of her position, often pressuring her to break tradition and give him special privileges. The acting is excellent and the story is compelling as it traces the path of a woman who would gain a formidable reputation.
Special features include: photo gallery. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Defiant Ones (Blu-ray & DVD)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Set amid many of the defining societal and cultural events of the past four decades, the documentary tells the stories of two men from different tough neighborhoods — Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine – and their improbable partnership and surprising leading roles in a series of transformative events in contemporary culture.
In spite of beginning at a monumental moment of their partnership, the documentary is the blending of their two largely separate narratives. Yet, it still manages to tell comprehensive stories of both men’s rise to fame even though their paths don’t converge until much later in their careers. Each of the four episodes comprises a parallel section of their lives, cutting back and forth between the two with reasonable if not always intuitive transitions. Both sides provide very candid accounts of their pasts, though there are some noticeable omissions at least in Dre’s narrative. Nonetheless, it’s a fairly interesting film with a lot of high-profile interviews that corroborate their tales and reinforce their position in the industry.
There are no special features. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Fall: Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
Called to Belfast to investigate a high-profile murder, DSI Stella (Gillian Anderson) Gibson quickly realizes that a serial killer prowls the city. The culprit is Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), a grief counselor and family man driven by vicious compulsions. As Gibson closes in on Spector, both the hunter and the hunted outmaneuver each other in a sinister game of cat and mouse. Will Gibson make Spector pay for his crimes before the death toll rises?
The first season introduces the characters of Gibson and Spector who remain entirely separate entities until the last moments of the season finale. The former is an unabashed detective superintendent who stands her ground, makes the tough decisions and is confident in her ability to do her job well. Spector lives a double life: in the one, he is a husband, father and counsellor; in the other, he’s a stalker and murderer who takes pleasure from hurting women. In the second season, Spector’s character is vastly different. With the police now on his trail, he becomes much more calculated and uncaring in his interactions. Meanwhile, Gibson is pushed to question some of her tactics as they have unexpected and possibly fatal consequences. Yet, she maintains her conviction and shows no hint of her uncertainty in public. The concluding chapter takes a very different turn. The cat-and-mouse chase is over, but the game may still be going on. Each season is matched in intensity, but the direction of the story is different as the situation changes constantly and the psychological battle for supremacy takes the characters in various directions through 18 episodes.
Special features include: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; and photo galleries. (Acorn)
Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill! (DVD)
MVD Visual
On Halloween an all-girl rock-n-roll band called “Kill Pussy Kill” ventures out to play their biggest show to-date. However, before hitting the road they manage to unwittingly upset a man. Unfortunately, this man turns out to be an evil genius dead set on revenge. The evil genius manages to lure the girls into his Hell House, and when they wake up from being gassed, they find themselves trapped inside an unescapable room filled with a vicious variety of devices that can kill them as well as a variety of weapons that can be used on each other. The rules are simple: advance through all three rooms and you are allowed to go free. The catch is, in order to make it to the next room, someone must die.
This film is very similar to the Saw concept in that an ominous voice delivers instructions to his captives, which include requesting they cause harm to each other in order to save themselves. The opening sequence, which unusually introduces audiences to the killer, doesn’t explain very much in terms of his motivations for torturing complete strangers except that he lived through a horrific experience himself. In any case, the bandmates’ friendships turn out to not be as strong as some of them believed, leaving them to turn on each other quicker than would be expected. The movie also features a surprise appearance by former ‘80s mainstay, Richard Grieco.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
J.D.’s Revenge (Blu-ray & DVD)
Arrow Films
Law student Ike (Glynn Turman) is enjoying a night on the town with his friends when his life changes dramatically. Taking part in a nightclub hypnosis act, he becomes possessed with the spirit of a violent gangster murdered in the 1940s. Now haunted by the murderous J.D. Walker (David McKnight), Ike launches a revenge campaign against those who had done ‘him’ wrong all those years ago.
This is an interesting combination of Blaxploitation and the supernatural. Ike is a good guy who spends most of his nights studying next to his girlfriend… and J.D. is his complete opposite: a womanizing thug who’d just as soon kiss a woman as hit her. As J.D. gains more control over Ike’s body, all of Ike’s relationships become very strained. In the meantime, flashes of the gangster’s past and murder provide some insight on why he’s returned as a vengeful spirit; though the person who ultimately wronged him isn’t revealed until nearly the end. Turman does a great job portraying a man with two very contradictory personalities, including a complete physical transformation. In the special features, the cast and filmmakers discuss how the picture came to be as well as how they decided to portray J.D.’s presence in various scenes.
Special features include: “The Killing Floor”; “Here Lies J.D. Walker”; gallery; radio spots; original theatrical trailer; and collector’s booklet containing new writing by Kim Newman, author of Nightmare Movies. (Arrow Films)
Misery [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
As Paul Sheldon (James Caan) recuperates from his injuries in the secluded cabin of his benefactor Annie (Kathy Bates), he begins to discover that beneath the seemingly kind and naive exterior of his self-described “number one fan” lurks a mind that is cunning, unhinged, and bent on keeping her favorite writer as her personal prisoner for the rest of his “cock-a-doodie” life … and Paul must engage his savior-turned-captor in a battle of wills that will push them both to the brink.
This is definitely one of the most engaging and thrilling of Stephen King’s adaptations. The film gradually builds the tension in the house as Paul slowly realizes his savior may not have the best of intentions. Once it becomes clear he’s trapped, audiences watch while he tries to find ways to escape or incapacitate his jailer. Unfortunately, the severity of his injuries (which are terrifyingly recreated via make-up effects) and their poor treatment makes everything that much more difficult. And of course there’s the harm she causes him in the famous scene involving a sledgehammer to further prevent the possibility of him running away. Caan plays the cool but panicked writer well, but Bates is outstanding as the seemingly kind-hearted nurse whose personality turns malicious on a dime. This movie is definitely a must for genre fans seeking an intense thriller, even if it was made nearly 30 years ago.
Special features include: commentary by director Rob Reiner; commentary by screenwriter William Goldman; interview with director Rob Reiner; interview with special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero; “Misery Loves Company”; “Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour”; “Diagnosing Annie Wilkes”; “Advice For The Stalked”; “Profile Of A Stalker”; “Celebrity Stalkers”; “Anti-Stalking Laws”; trailers. (Scream Factory)
Operation Petticoat (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
It’s hijinks on the high seas when revered Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman (Cary Grant) and the somewhat unethical Lt. JG Nicholas Holden (Tony Curtis) team to upright the USS Sea Tiger, a flagging submarine that’s seen better days. With some dubious maneuvering (and scavenged parts), things begin to look up for the old war horse until the ship and its crew are forced out to sea by a surprise attack. Limping along and barely held together with its borrowed parts, the Sea Tiger gets some unexpected company when five stranded Army nurses are brought aboard. The game gals will prove that necessity is indeed the mother of invention, initiating a series of renovations to make life aboard the Sea Tiger livable — with the exception of the sub’s accidental pink paint job. Not only is the ship now an eyesore, but a target for both the Japanese and American forces.
Grant, Curtis and director Blake Edwards are an unbeatable combination, resulting in a notably entertaining comedy in an unconventional setting. Sherman is a seasoned Navy captain who has a particular affinity for his current sub, even if it is in shambles at the moment. Holden just wanted the prestige of a uniform without much of the responsibility, which isn’t going to cut it with Sherman… though he’s not above using the lieutenant’s street savvy approach to obtaining the supplies they need for the ship. The addition of the women simply adds to the already chaotic vessel, though their contributions don’t include the flowery colour of the sub. Like any good slapstick comedy, the laughter never stops and the audience is never bored.
Special features include: commentary by critic Adrian Martin; “That’s What Everybody Says About Me” with Jennifer Edwards and actress Lesley Ann Warren; “The Brave Crew of the Petticoat” with actors Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross; “The Captain and His Double: Cary Grant’s Struggle of the Self” with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography; Universal Newsreel footage of Cary Grant and the opening of Operation Petticoat at the Radio City Music Hall; archival footage of the submarine USS Balao, which doubled as the USS Sea Tiger; essay by critic Chris Fujiwara. (Olive Films)
Talon Falls (DVD)
MVD Visual
Four teenagers on a road trip decide to take a detour and find themselves at a haunted house Halloween scream park deep in the woods of southern Kentucky. After witnessing an assortment of torture and gore, they start wondering if what they are experiencing isn’t a little too realistic. Before they know it, each one of them is captured and made part of the horrific attraction they originally thought was all fun and games.
This is one of those films that require a suspension of belief since it’s impossible such a blatantly murderous operation could function for so long without raising suspicion. Later scenes show decayed bodies piled up and new victims caged as they await their turn on the show floor – at least some of these people would be missed. In any case, the teens that try to escape this torture porn haven spend more time running around in circles then getting away. In the meantime, park attendees walk around pointing gleefully at the amazingly realistic scenes of suffering while ignoring the clues that what is happening is real. The narrative concept is interesting, but it remains pretty shallow to the end.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
Tam Cam: The Untold Story (DVD)
MVD Visual
Kind beautiful Tam (Ha Vi) is ill-treated by her stepmother and stepsister, but a fairy guardian watches over her. A demon pretending to be a faithful servant to the king waits for an opportunity to become human. The intrepid prince is asked to marry politically, but he declares that he is going to marry the woman whose feet fit the silk shoes, hoping it’s Tam, whom he met by chance.
This film is an adaptation of a Vietnamese fairy tale that is similar to the Western Cinderella, though far more magical. Tam’s step-family is absolutely horrible to her, but her tale doesn’t end by escaping them and marrying the prince. The demon magistrate continues to orchestrate accidents for the young couple in his bid to take the throne, yet no matter how many obstacles are placed in their way their love keeps them together. This fantastic story unfolds over nearly two hours so it may feel a bit long, but the story is captivating and romantic… even if it get a little at the end with an unexpected (and unnecessary?) monster vs. monster fight.
There’s no special features. (MVD Visual)
Zoology (Blu-ray)
Arrow Academy
Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova) is a middle-aged admin employee at a zoo where her female co-workers take pleasure in making fun of her. She lives with her God-fearing mother and leads a dull existence without prospects, until one day she grows a tail. Medical examinations follow where she meets Peter (Dmitriy Groshev), a young radiologist, and her dreary life is turned upside down.
Although reading the above description removes the element of surprise, going into this movie cold was undoubtedly the best way to watch it as the reveal for her new extremity is very well done. The slow build-up intensifies the audience’s curiosity until finally viewers see the cause for all of these doctor visits. Watching a woman in her 50s go through an awakening care of this young man is quite intriguing. Pessimists will be suspect of Peter’s intentions, though his interest in Natasha appears genuine. She eventually becomes comfortable with herself (and her tail), no longer submitting to her overbearing co-workers and spending less time at home cooped up with her mother. The conclusion is not exactly surprising, though it will feel disappointing after everything that led to that point. Still, it’s fitting for a movie that takes a realistic approach to an unusual condition.
Special features include: “The Tail of Zoology”; “An Appointment with the Doctor”; trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Studio Murugiah. (Arrow Academy)
More about The Crown, The Defiant Ones, Acts of Vengeance, zoology, The fall
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