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article imageReview: This week’s releases are packed with founded suspicions Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 9, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a couple of timeless classics; an interesting look at the creative process; a comedy of parental errors; a poignant animated film; and an amusing collection of early black-and-white pictures.
Basket Case (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) is a pretty ordinary guy. His formerly conjoined twin Belial, on the other hand, is a deformed, fleshy lump whom he carries around in a wicker basket. Arriving in the Big Apple and taking up a room at the seedy Hotel Broslin, the pair set about hunting down and butchering the surgeons responsible for their separation. But tensions flare up when Duane starts spending time with a pretty blonde secretary, and Belial's homicidal tendencies reach bloody new extremes.
This is one of those quirky horror movies made on a shoestring budget that became popular with the midnight cinema crowd, much to writer/director Frank Henenlotter’s chagrin. However, when making this film for himself, he didn’t realize how engrossing these contrasting brothers could be. The script was altered during shooting to fit their limited budget and special effects constraints, which results in some of the more amusing aspects of the picture. The imperfect stop motion animation briefly used for Belial adds to the picture’s charm, though to reduce the amount of puppetry required his scenes are often shot from the first-person perspective. The interviews in the bonus features are very revealing and enhance this unusual but enjoyable viewing experience.
Special features include: commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck; new making-of featurette; “Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley”; “Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins”; “Blood, BASKET and Beyond”; “Belial Goes to the Drive-In”; “In Search of the Hotel Broslin”; Slash of the Knife (1972), a short film by Frank Henenlotter; Belial's Dream (2017, 5 mins), a new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan; “Behind-the-Scenes of Belial's Dream”; outtakes; trailers, tv spots and radio spots; extensive still galleries; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck. (Arrow Video)
The Breadwinner (DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy in order to support her family. In disguise, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom — and danger. With undaunted courage, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family.
This is a very emotional film that takes some of the worst challenges facing people, particularly women, living under the Taliban, and weaves them together into a singular story. Based on a book by Deborah Ellis and executive produced by Angelina Jolie, filmmakers use two distinct animation styles to distinguish between Parvana’s harsh reality and the fantasy quest of the young man in her story. In spite of the cruelty that surrounds her, Parvana is still a child who can find joy in friendship, family and candy. The combined tales of two heroes — Parvana and the protagonist in her saga — are captivating, though the likeliness of a fairy tale happy ending in either is slim.
Special features include: commentary by filmmakers; introduction by director Nora Twomey and executive producer Angelina Jolie; “Animating the Film”; “Behind the Scenes with the Cast”; “Creating the Music and Sound”; and “Telling the Story.” (Elevation Pictures)
The 'Burbs [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
A suburbanite’s plans for a peaceful vacation at home are disturbed by a creepy new family on the block. Much to the disappointment of his wife (Carrie Fisher), Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) and his three neighbours (Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman and Rick Ducommun) set out to investigate the next-door residence after they begin to observe strange happenings.
Before Hanks became an award-winning powerhouse, he spent the ‘80s making hilarious, timeless comedies. He was often the somewhat tightly-wound guy who had amusingly explosive displays of anger and/or hysteria. In this picture, Ray knows he shouldn’t poke his nose in his neighbours’ business, but curiosity and suspicion get the better of him — not to mention his less hesitant friends who have no problem spying on the odd new family on the block. In their defense, the neighbours are very peculiar and appear to do a lot of strange things under the cover of night. In spite of being wholly absurd and released nearly 30 years ago, this movie remains a comedy classic that still delivers a few good laughs.
Special features include: commentary by writer Dana Olsen, moderated by author Calum Waddell; alternate ending; making-of featurette; interviews with director Joe Dante, editor Marshall Harvey, and director of photography (additional scenes) John Hora; original workprint from Joe Dante’s archive (includes deleted and extended scenes); behind-the-scenes still gallery; stills and posters gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Chokeslam (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
After hastily proposing marriage to his best friend Sheena (Amanda Crew) in front of their entire high school and being turned down, Corey (Chris Marquette) found himself humiliated and stuck in their hometown. Sheena, conversely, became a world-renowned professional wrestler, famous for her legendary temper in and out of the ring. Now she’s coming home for their high school reunion and Corey hopes to win her back by organizing a special benefit match… except his plan may blow-up in his face when it attracts international scouts that could revive her career overseas.
There may be too much happening in this picture to characters who are not especially engaging. Sheena is a very strong woman — in more ways than one — but she also seems unwilling to make difficult choices in her life, which has led to her relationship with a sleazy, selfish promoter who she can’t seem to recognize is a jerk. In the meantime, Corey foolishly and repeatedly puts himself out there, letting his past issues drive his narrative. Then there’s his new friend, played by Michael Eklund, who is clearly not as great as Corey seems to believe. All of these personalities combine for an only mildly entertaining movie.
Special features include: production featurette; and theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
The Crucifixion (DVD)
VVS Films
When a priest is jailed for the murder of a nun on whom he was performing an exorcism, an investigative journalist (Sophie Cookson) strives to determine whether he in fact murdered a mentally ill person, or if he actually lost the battle with a demonic presence.
The movie begins with a non-believer attempting to prove her theory that the priest is murderer. She sneaks into restricted areas, begs to speak to people who’ve pledged silence on the matter, and uncovers evidence that support her idea. However, the closer she gets to the story (which is apparently based in truth), the stranger her experiences become. She begins having vivid dreams and seeing things while awake; the only one she can confide in is a young priest who’s been assisting in her investigation. At this point the story takes a sharp turn into a more traditional exorcism picture that includes the usual good vs. evil vs. sheer will.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
The Disaster Artist (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures & Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Based on the best-selling tell-all book about the making of the cult-classic disasterpiece The Room, the film tells the true story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) — an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable — into a celebration of friendship, artistic expression, and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds.
Wiseau has been an enigma since the day his directorial debut, The Room, was received with riotous laughter, which he unexpectedly embraced. Since then, the movie became a rep cinema/midnight favourite, but still little was known about Wiseau. This biopic doesn’t answer the big questions, such as where he’s from or how old he is, though it does provide some insight into this perplexing personality and his relationship with his best friend and Room star, Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco). James Franco delivers an uncannily accurate portrayal of Wiseau, while also directing the complex movie within a movie within a movie. The side-by-side comparisons during the credits of this film’s version of The Room and the original demonstrate everyone’s dedication to doing this as well as possible.
Special features include: commentary with James Franco, Dave Franco, Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, and more; “Oh, Hi Mark!: Making a Disaster”; “Directing a Disaster”; “Just a Guy Leaning on a Wall: Getting to Know Tommy”; gag reel; and theatrical trailer. (Elevation Pictures)
Father Figures (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Fraternal twins Kyle (Owen Wilson) and Peter (Ed Helms) accidentally discover they’ve been living with a lie all their lives. The kindly man in the photo on their mantle isn’t their father after all, but an invention their mother (Glenn Close) concocted to conceal the truth: that she actually doesn’t know who their real father is. See, it was the ‘70s, and things were crazy, and…well, you know. Armed with only a handful of clues, the brothers resolve to find the mystery man in what results in a wild road trip of discovery and revelations — about their mother, themselves and each other.
This is a goofy comedy that combines aspects of a road movie with family humour. While Ben Stiller did a similar, less tongue-in-cheek version of this story more than 20 years ago, this movie goes all the way with the ridiculous possibilities of their parentage. The potential fathers vary widely from each other with one being extremely successful and another being a career criminal. Yet, in conversation with each would-be-dad, some detail proves the timing was off — but, this other guy could fit the bill. Of course, Wilson and Helms couldn’t be more different, which also leads to a lot of predictable conflict between the twins. However, this most notably boils over when the pair pick-up and nearly kill a hitchhiker.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Governor: The Complete Collection (DVD)
After a disastrous riot at Barfield Prison, Helen Hewitt (Janet McTeer) helps investigate an inmate’s suspicious death. When the governor of Barfield is subsequently ousted, Helen takes the job, becoming the youngest woman in charge of an all-male prison. Determined to clean up the place, she causes resentment among both prisoners and officers with her new ideas and no-nonsense attitude. Despite the odds stacked against her, Helen works tirelessly to earn the respect she deserves.
In spite of what series creator Lynda La Plante may have believed, this 12-episode series does not have a satisfactory ending; instead, the second season ends on a cliff-hanger that will never be resolved. As the series’ focus initially appears to be the prison administration, there’s hardly a repeat prisoner and most of the conflicts are restricted to a single episode. In addition to jumping ahead two years, the format changes in the second season so certain stories bridge multiple episodes and more characters have recurring roles. Nonetheless, in spite of Helen’s unique position, the show doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from similar series, which probably contributed to its early demise.
There are no special features. (Acorn)
Lady Bird (DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against, but is exactly like, her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird's father (Tracy Letts) loses his job.
Set in 2002 in writer/director Greta Gerwig’s hometown of Sacremento, this film is a classic yet untraditional coming-of-age story. Lady Bird is a typically rebellious teen who hates everything about her town and family, and can’t wait to go to a faraway college. In the meantime, she tries out for the school play and rotates friends depending on whether she wants to feel loved or popular. There are two relationships at the forefront of Lady Bird’s existence — the first is with her mother, which is a complex love-hate bond that is often tested but never broken; and the other is with her best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), which is caring and wonderful… until it isn’t. Every aspect of this picture comes together to tell an engaging story about a young woman who will stick with audiences long after the movie’s end.
Special features include: commentary by writer-director Greta Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy; and “Realizing Lady Bird.” (Elevation Pictures)
Legion: The Complete Season One (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
David Haller (Dan Stevens) is a troubled young man who may be more than human. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of mental hospitals for years. Institutionalized once again, David spends his time with his chatterbox friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change. But a startling encounter with a new patient (Rachel Keller) forces David to confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real. A haunted man, David escapes from the hospital and with the help of a nurturing but demanding therapist (Jean Smart) and her team of specialists’ unconventional methods, David embarks on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery that leads to a new world of possibilities...and a new level of unexpected danger.
This new series is essentially an X-Men spin-off, though no familiar characters drop in for a cameo. These people have mutant abilities, though none of those shown appear to manifest via physical differences. Yet, their powers are formidable. However, unlike other similar narratives, this series takes a more mature approach to the story that isn’t exactly linear or easy to follow. Subsequent episodes do not always appear to directly follow the ones that preceded them and characters’ understanding of reality is often altered. David’s immeasurable abilities are tied to something darker that the team of specialists spend the first season trying to uncover; but what they find is highly unexpected and incredibly dangerous. And through a very foolish action, creators set up what will likely be an interesting second season.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Fractured Reality: A Different Kind of Hero”; and seven featurettes. (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Man Who Invented Christmas (DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
The true story of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) created the most celebrated holiday tale of all: A Christmas Carol. See how Dickens uses his real experiences and vivid imagination to bring Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and the other classic characters to life, and follow the crazy madcap rush to get the book ready for Christmas.
This is a tale that attempts to seamlessly blend fantasy and reality, as experienced by Dickens. While the writer tries to find ideas for his next book, he encounters inspirations for the majority of his most famous characters via everyday encounters. Collecting names and traits in his notebook, he begins to frantically write the classic tale. However, the film also attempts to capture the strain his process placed on his family, as well as the challenging relationship Dickens has with his father. Although the movie is trying to convey several aspects of Dickens’ life, the one that sticks out above all others is his interactions with the fictional personalities of his book. Many writers talk about the characters telling them the story and this is an entertaining representation of that method.
Special features include: “The Story Behind The Man Who Invented Christmas.” (Elevation Pictures)
Peppa Pig: Easter Bunny (DVD)
Entertainment One & Fox Home Entertainment
Join Peppa this Easter when she gets a visit from the Easter Bunny.
This collection consists of 12 episodes in which Peppa and her friends learn valuable lessons, while being very cute. Though only the first story is actually Easter-related, they are all Spring themed. From taking care of Granny Pig’s chickens to tending to their garden, Peppa and her friends have fun while also being kind to each other. The episodes are short but amusing, making them perfect for any attention span. And the bonus Easter egg wraps featuring Peppa and her friends make this a great addition for fans.
There are no special features. (Entertainment One & Fox Home Entertainment)
Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938 Limited Edition (Blu-ray + DVD)
Arrow Academy
This collection brings together a quartet of 1930s features by Sacha Guitry, the celebrated French filmmaker, playwright and actor of the stage and screen, each based on his earlier works. Indiscretions (Le Nouveau testament) follows a holier-than-though physician who is scuppered by his own hypocrisy. My Father Was Right (Mon pére avait raison) tells of a man who, after being left by his wife for another man, raises his son to be wary of women. Let's Make a Dream… (Faisons un rêve...) is another story of mistrust, between husband, wife and lovers. And the history of one of France's most famous streets is retold in Up the Champs-Élysées (Remontons les Champs- Élysées), featuring multiple performances from Guitry himself.
Each of these films is laced with humour as the characters cuckold each other, often while seeking revenge for some perceived slight even though almost no one involved is wholly innocent. Husbands and wives (and extramarital affairs) appear to have been of particular interest to Guitry as even the history of Champs-Élysées is centred on the dalliances of a certain house’s occupants. Beginning with the king’s mistress, who would secretly receive him there, the love lives of each generation instruct the narrative. In the aptly titled first film, the doctor’s indiscretions – and the double-standard he attempts to hold his wife to – come to light in a bizarre series of events. Each boasts excellent acting and engaging (though salacious) scripts that will still entertain audiences.
Special features include: introduction to the films of Sacha Guitry by French cinema expert and academic Ginette Vincendeau; selected scene commentaries by Vincendeau; four video essays on different Guitry themes by critic Philippe Durant; interviews about Guitry with writher and director Francis Vebe, and filmmaker Pascal Thomas; sound test; theatrical trailer; reversible sleeves featuring newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow for all films; 60-page limited edition book featuring new writing on the films. (Arrow Academy)
The Sandlot – 25th Anniversary Collector Edition (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
It’s the early 1960s and fifth-grader Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) has just moved into town with his folks (Karen Allen and Denis Leary). Kids call him a dork — he can’t even throw a baseball! But that changes when the leader of the neighborhood gang (Mike Vitar) recruits him to play on the nearby sandlot field. It’s the beginning of a magical summer of baseball, wild adventures, first kisses and fearsome confrontations with the dreaded beast and its owner (James Earl Jones) who live behind the left field fence. Soon nine boys have become best friends, Scotty is part of a team, and their leader has become a local legend.
This is a classic coming-of-age story built around America’s favourite game, a dog and an unforgettable summer (when all things worth remembering happen). This group of boys (a couple of which also featured in The Mighty Ducks franchise) have terrific chemistry, which is essential in a film like this one. Twenty-five years later, the movie is as entertaining as the day it was released as this ragtag group of kids beat the odds time and again to triumph over the rival uniformed team and conquer the backyard dog known as “Beast” to the neighbourhood. A couple of guys would become local legends, and Smalls would learn about much more than baseball and “The Great Bambino” before they all headed back to school that year — and audiences are more than happy not to miss a minute of it (or collect their respective rookie cards included in the release).
Special features include: featurette; TV spots and theatrical trailer; and a set of 10 custom Topps baseball cards created exclusively for this release. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Sweet Virginia (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
In the wake of a triple murder that leaves the residents of a remote Alaskan outpost on edge, tightly wound drifter Elwood (Christopher Abbott) checks into a motel run by Sam (Jon Bernthal), a former rodeo champion whose imposing physical presence conceals a troubled soul. Bound together by their outsider status, the two men strike up an uneasy friendship — a dangerous association that will set off a new wave of violence and unleash Sam’s darkest demons.
This is a gritty movie with a pretty basic, yet intense, plot. Sam, in spite of his intimidating and somewhat gruff exterior seems like an all-around nice, decent guy. He’s kind to those he knows and not quick to judge strangers — in short, an archetype to which Bernthal is becoming accustomed. Elwood, conversely, wears his trouble on his sleeve, though how bad it is one can’t tell without getting dangerously close. Abbott portrays the socially awkward young man well, always looking like he’s trying too hard or is out of his depth when not holding a gun. Overall, the narrative unfolds at a good pace for a movie that is still somewhat of a slow burn.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Twilight People (Blu-ray & DVD)
MVD Visual
Matt Farrell (John Ashley) is plucked from the sea while skin-diving and taken to the foreboding fortress of Dr. Gordon. He is to become part of the doctor's diabolical experiment to create a race of super people. This twisted and maniacal doctor's experiments have so far only created terrifying and hideous creatures. His human guinea pigs, freed by the doctor's own daughter, turn the island hideaway into a bloodbath of revenge and terror.
This is a ‘70s picture that doesn’t pay much attention to the laws of nature, simply taking a strange idea and running with it. Akin to The Island of Dr. Moreau, the mad scientist has spliced together humans with various animal species, creating people who are now more wild than civilized. Matt, of course, is having none of it, and the doctor’s daughter, swayed by her attraction to him and her increasing intolerance for her father’s project, agrees to help him escape. There’s an extended chase sequence in the jungle, designed to showcase the feral nature of the experiments. This isn’t exactly the picture you’d expect from the title, but it is one you’d expect from that era.
Special features include: commentary by film historian, Toby Roan; video interview with director Eddie Romero; and original theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
More about The Breadwinner, The Man Who Invented Christmas, Father Figures, Basket Case, The Burbs
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