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article imageReview: This week’s releases are full of surprises Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 22, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a couple of classic horror movies; an unexpected personal revelation; a complex period drama that earns its lengthiness; a surprising comedy series; and a worthwhile rom-com.
Air Force One (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
When Russian neo-nationalists hijack Air Force One, the world's most secure and extraordinary aircraft, an uncompromising U.S. President (Harrison Ford) who has just told the world he will not negotiate with terrorists is faced with a nearly impossible decision to give in to terrorist demands or sacrifice not only the country's dignity, but the lives of his wife and daughter.
Ford was a ‘80s/‘90s action hero, starring in various thrillers in which he played dignified men in dangerous situations. It’s not difficult to imagine him as the American president, nor is it a stretch for him to be in that position and be a skilled war veteran. He certainly appears a little rusty in the infiltration department, but he displays notable courage. Even now, a fictional hijacking movie at two-plus hours seems a bit long, but there’s enough action to maintain a good pace and spare little time for boredom. Twenty years later, there’s also a remarkable number of younger, recognizable faces on the screen, including Gary Oldman, William H. Macy and Glenn Close, making this a blockbuster with some definite star credibility.
Special features include: commentary by director Wolfgang Petersen. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Candyman [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
When Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) hears about Candyman (Tony Todd), a slave spirit with a hook hand who is said to haunt a notorious housing project, she thinks she has a new twist for her thesis. Braving the gang-ridden territory to visit the site, Helen arrogantly assumes Candyman can't really exist ... until he appears, igniting a string of terrifying, grisly slayings. But the police don't believe in monsters, and charge Helen with the crimes. And the only one who can set her free is Candyman.
This was a powerful horror narrative that emerged in the ‘90s. Not only did it feature a commanding, black antagonist, it relied on America’s sordid history to explain his brutal origin that resulted in an eternal monster. Moreover, there is a sexual overtone to the adversarial relationship between Candyman and Helen, which was unpopular at the time. In spite of all of Candyman’s menacing, the murders are committed off-screen and people’s versions of the legend create an even scarier killer than he physically presents. To this end, no one really knows what happens while Helen is blacked out, but the aftermath paints a horrific story.
Special features include: commentary with writer-director Bernard Rose and actor Tony Todd; commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman; commentary with director Bernard Rose, author Clive Barker, producer Alan Poul and actors Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen and Kasi Lemmons; commentary with director Bernard Rose, from “The Movie Crypt Podcast” hosted by filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch; “Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos”; “Clive Barker: Raising Hell”; “Interview with actor Tony Todd”; “Bernard Rose’s Storyboards”; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Crazy Rich Asians (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The story follows New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she accompanies her long-time boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. Not only is he the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families, but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh) taking aim.
This is a classic rom-com narrative that’s been transported to the East, which adds its own mark to the genre’s traditions. There are a number of jaw-dropping scenes in the film, from the sting of Nick’s mother bluntly voicing her opinion to the aerial view of Nick’s childhood estate to one of the most stunning and moving weddings ever shown on screen. There’s also several cringe-worthy moments, but they don’t have much impact on the film’s overall enjoyment as they work within the context of the narrative. Many of the characters are over-the-top stereotypes, though that works really well in the landscape of the nouveau riche and always-rich spoiled brats. Based on the first book in a series/trilogy by Kevin Kwan, this modern rom-com is the first Hollywood movie in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast — yet the story it tells is universally entertaining.
Special features include: commentary by director Jon M. Chu and novelist Kevin Kwan; deleted scenes; “Crazy Rich Fun”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Dances with Wolves [Collector’s Edition Steelbook] (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Lt. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is a Civil War hero who befriends a tribe of Native Americans while stationed at a desolate outpost on the frontier. What follows is a series of unforgettable moments — from Dunbar’s tender scenes with Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell) to the thrilling buffalo hunt.
There is an astounding 50-minute difference between the extended and original cuts of this film, though both were eventually released theatrically. While the shorter version isn’t really missing anything, the longer cut doesn’t feel like it has fat to trim. Dunbar’s integration into Sioux life is an example of how things could have gone if settlers arrived with a more open mind. He takes the time to befriend them, learn their ways and eventually become a member of their tribe. While the latter may have been an overreach, the rest was possible in the beginning. Everyone’s performances are excellent as Costner takes the time to make a film that is both accessible and genuine… though the ending is disheartening, even if it is credible.
Special features include: extended and theatrical cut; commentary with actor/producer/director Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson; commentary with director of photography Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis; making-of featurette; “A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier”; “The Creation of an Epic - A Retrospective Documentary”; “Second Wind”; “Confederate March and Music”; “Getting the Point”; “Burying the Hatchet”; “Animatronic Buffalo”; music video; poster and photo galleries; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Detectorists: Complete Collection (DVD)
The TV series follows two misfit friends and metal-detecting enthusiasts as they scour the English countryside for treasure. Budding archaeologist Andy (Michael Crook) muddles through his relationship with his girlfriend, Becky (Rachael Stirling), and struggles to live up to the expectations of her imperious mother (Diana Rigg). Meanwhile, hapless romantic Lance (Toby Jones) flounders in the dating pool until an unexpected person enters his life. But even as their hobby provides them refuge from their everyday problems, it also forces them to contend with rival detectorists clubs, double-crossing acquaintances, and development that threatens their favourite fields.
This short-lived series is filled with oddballs who make the most mundane hobby interesting to everyone, in spite of few people caring much about it. Unlike a lot of buddy comedies, this one doesn’t ever try to destroy Andy and Lance’s friendship. Instead, they are always on each other’s sides ready to give advice or dig a hole. Moreover, they’re all incredibly likeable, which makes watching them find worthless baubles in a field for 30-minutes over 18 episodes for three seasons surprisingly enjoyable. Crook, who is also the writer/director, wraps up the story nicely, though he technically does it twice since he wasn’t sure there would be a third season.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurettes; Series 2 Christmas Special episode; cast interviews; and photo gallery. (Acorn)
Dog Days (DVD)
Elevation Pictures
When a barista (Vanessa Hudgens) finds a stray Chihuahua, she learns that a love struck customer (Jon Bass) heads a rescue agency. Meanwhile, a widower’s (Ron Cephas Jones) pug changes life for its adoptive parents, pups help a newscaster (Nina Dobrev) cope with her co-host (Tone Bell), and a slacker musician (Adam Pally) reluctantly pet-sits his sister’s scruffy Labradoodle.
This is one of those cross-sectional narratives in which a group of unconnected people’s lives unexpectedly intertwine via their K-9s. The cute factor is obvious, especially when the small Chihuahua is fitted with a tiny pink helmet and a little girl’s world is brightened by an overweight pug. Each story is about humans being brought closer together by their love for animals and, in some cases, realizing their own flaws in the process. It’s sweet, funny and ultimately forgettable, but the cast is convincing and the narrative is paced well without becoming confusing in spite of the many predictable storylines.
There are no special features. (Elevation Pictures)
Elementary: The Sixth Season (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
In the sixth season, the famed detective Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) faces the devastating possibility of losing his one-of-a-kind deductive skills when he is diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome, a disorder that causes physical and cognitive symptoms including memory loss. With his career, calling and sobriety all at stake, he must rely even more on his steadfast partner Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). Together, they continue in their mission to crack the NYPD’s most baffling crimes and puzzling cases.
Sherlock goes through a lot this season, facing potentially life-changing health issues, coping with the deaths of people important in his life and thwarting threats against his life. Much of it falls into the everyday goings-on of the world’s most famous detective, but his personal issues are a different story. In the meantime, Watson has a revelation that leads her to make a life-altering decision — though taking the next step proves far more difficult. The investigations they were work on are typically fascinating, including two separate cases involving severed heads, contract killers, confusing motives and a well-mannered serial killer.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other”; “Making Friends Can Be Murder”; and “Elementary: Case in Point.” (Paramount Media Home Distribution)
Kin (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Recently released from prison, Jimmy (Jack Reynor) hopes to reconnect with his younger adopted brother, Eli (Myles Truitt), and estranged father (Dennis Quaid). But after a run-in with a vengeful criminal (James Franco), Jimmy and Eli become fugitives with one hope for survival: a metallic box from another dimension that transforms into a super-powered weapon and leads Eli to discover his true identity — a hero destined for greatness.
This is a complicated story about siblings who don’t know each other very well and are each keeping an important secret. While Jimmy’s secret is liable to tear them apart, Eli’s is one that brings them closer together in unlawful ways. However, behind all the family drama, there’s also a sci-fi story unfolding in which futuristic soldiers are retracing the brothers’ steps in an attempt to regain what is theirs. The latter is mostly on the periphery until the end, when they arrive just in time to right some wrongs and deliver a John Connor-esqe message of future importance. It’s a solid, occasionally inflated, story that leaves audiences on a cliff-hanger they’ll actually want to see through to the next chapter, if it’s made.
Special features include: commentary with co-directors Jonathan and Josh Baker and screenwriter Daniel Casey; deleted scenes; “Thicker Than Water: The Making of Kin” eight-part documentary; “Enhanced Visual FX Breakdown”; “Bag Man: Original Short” with optional audio commentary by co-directors Jonathan and Josh Baker; and “Learned Behavoir: Special Features at Work.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
MDMA (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
When Angie (Annie Q.), a damaged but brilliant young woman from a tough urban background, is accepted at a prestigious university, she sees a way out of her troubled life. But when her financial aid is cut, she breaks into the organic chemistry lab and synthesizes the drug Ecstasy in order to supplement her income and stay in school. Becoming one of the west coast's largest distributors of "X," cutting deals on campus and in posh nightclubs, her dual life — as a "model minority" coed and a profit-driven drug dealer — becomes further complicated by the effect it has on those she cares about the most, including a young underprivileged girl who reminds Angie of her own dark past. As Angie’s increasingly reckless ways spin her life and the lives of those around her out of control, she must learn to transcend the hardships of her past and step into the light.
This is a movie in which someone’s brilliance is used for evil, though she can’t see that as it’s happening. Angie didn’t have a traditional upbringing and is far from the archetypal Chinese daughter. She likes to party, drink, do drugs and cause trouble, and burning the candle at both ends starts to take its toll. However, during these stupors, she has flashbacks to her own unpleasant childhood and abuse, which undoubtedly contribute to her current behaviour. But all things that rise up must eventually come crashing down, and Angie comes down hard. Annie Q. has a complete grasp of her character and portrays her kindness and likability in juxtaposition with her manic, tweaker personality.
Special features include: commentary with writer/director/producer Angie Wang; “Angie Wang — working with Annie Q”; “Francesca Eastwood — working with Angie Wang”; “Authentic 80’s — Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe”; “Big Man on Campus - Choreographing A Kiss”; L.A. Premiere; theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Puzzle (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
After years of concerning herself exclusively with the needs and wants of her husband and sons, Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) has found something that she wants to do: puzzling. Stepping out of her domestic bubble to pursue her new hobby, Agnes meets Robert (Irrfan Khan), a wealthy, reclusive inventor who recruits her as his partner for an upcoming world jigsaw tournament. Each day she spends out in the world, takes Agnes further along on the road to a new understanding of herself and an assertiveness that finds her pushing back against the assumptions and routines that have until now defined her role in her family.
This is an unusual coming-of-age story as it revolves around a middle-aged woman who’s never lived her life for herself. The first scene with Agnes is incredibly telling about her situation and from then on, her unhappiness is repeatedly raised by several different characters. Macdonald is perfect for this role as she portrays the mousey housewife who gains confidence and becomes her own woman in front of audience’s eyes. Her process isn’t exactly ethical, but the only way she can find herself is to go against everything she thought she believed in. Robert is smart and worldly, representative of all things missing in Agnes’ life, and Khan brings a sophistication to the character that’s inherent to him.
Special features include: commentary by director Marc Turtletaub; alternate ending; and “Completing the Puzzle.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Scorpion: The Complete Series (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Take a group of misfit super-geniuses, one brainy kid, his beautiful mom, a super spy and you have Scorpion. Inspired by the true-life story of hacker Walter O’Brien, this brilliant, quirky team starring — Katherine McPhee (Paige), Elyes Gabel (Walter), Jadyn Wong (Happy), Eddie Kay Thomas (Toby), Robert Patrick (Cabe), and Ari Stidham (Sylvester) combine brainpower, street smarts, and clashing personalities to defend the world against global threats.
This is a crime investigation series made less serious than its counterparts by the team’s unique personalities. Toby is continuously monitoring people’s body; Happy is impulsive and can be relied on for apt commentary; Sylvester’s fascination with statistics means he always has a probability update, good or bad; and Walter’s emotional issues make him the coolest of the group. Cabe believes in them wholly, while Paige navigates the world for the socially inept crime fighters and they help her connect to her prodigy son. The world is constantly in peril, leaving it up to the group of genius friends to devise solutions to complicated situations and save one or hundreds of lives. Yet even though the weekly premise is constant, the problems they encounter are extraordinary and captivating. In addition, there are also the personal dramas including fatal illnesses, near-death experiences, unrequited love and general disagreements. Team Scorpion experiences a lot of emotional growth over four years, but it’s constantly tested with major confessions and proposals.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Living on the Edge”; “Meet Team Scorpion”; “Inside the Brain with Eddie Kaye Thomas”; stunt featurette; “Quintis”; “Breaking Brilliance”; “Unlikely Heroes”; “Creating Reality: Visual Effects”; “Geeky Gadgets”; “Scorpion: The Comic Book”; “Location, Location, Location”; “Unlikely Heroes”; “You’re Invited”; “Scorp Beats”; “Mock Me Up”; “Dance with Me”; “Unlikely Heroes: Scorpion Season 4”; “Go with the Flo”; and gag reel. (Paramount Media Home Distribution)
Urban Legend (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
When New England college student Natalie (Alicia Witt) finds herself at the center of a series of sadistic murders seemingly inspired by urban legends, she resolves to find the truth about her school's own legend: a 25-year-old story of a student massacre at the hands of an abnormal Psych professor. As the fraternities prepare to celebrate the macabre anniversary, Natalie discovers that she is the focus of the crazed killer's intentions in the ultimate urban legend — the unfolding story of her own horrific murder.
This movie combines some of the most infamous urban legends and uses them as creative ways for a serial killer to torment a college campus. The murders are bloody, entertaining and numerous, allowing this horror movie to still stand-up 20 years later and for fans to debate which deadly re-enactment is their favourite. Moreover, the distinctive style of the kills makes the movie memorable, even if the identity of the killer can be predicted fairly easily if you follow the clues. Loretta Devine makes her mark as the campus security guard, but the film also features (a bleach-blonde) Joshua Jackson, Michael Rosenbaum, Jared Leto, Tara Reid, Danielle Harris and Robert Englund.
Special features include: commentary by director Jamie Blanks, producer Michael McDonnell, assistant Edgar Pablos, moderated by author Peter M. Bracke; commentary by director Jamie Blanks, writer Silvio Horta, and actor Michael Rosenbaum; deleted scene; “Urban Legacy,” an eight-part making-of documentary; archival making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes footage; gag reel; and TV spots. (Scream Factory)
Urban Legends: Final Cut (Blu-ray & DVD)
Scream Factory
At Alpine University, someone is determined to win the best film award at any cost — even if it means eliminating the competition. No one is safe and everyone is a suspect.
Loretta Devine is back with her spunky, save-the-day attitude, but this movie doesn’t have a lot else in common with its predecessor. This time they enroll Joey Lawrence, Eva Mendes, Anthony Anderson and Jennifer Morrison to play the potential victims. The film school students are all stereotypes of art kids who either take their jobs too seriously or not serious enough. It does incorporate some new urban legends, including one of the creepiest tales involving a dog, as well as a new serial killer costume now borrowing from fencing to mask the faceless killer, but it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor, which is probably the next installment was straight to video.
Special features include: commentary by director John Ottman; deleted scenes with optional commentary by Ottman; vintage making-of featurette; “The Legend Continues: Urban Legends: Final Cut”; interview with actress Jessica Cauffiel; gag reel; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
More about Crazy Rich Asians, Air force one, Candyman, Dances with wolves, Detectorists
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