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article imageReview: This week’s releases centre on new beginnings with mixed results Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 15, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a director’s sophomore horror picture that exceeds his breakout debut; a redeeming third season; another scary sequel; new toy misadventures; a short-lived comedy series; and a movie that deliberately skews reality.
Annabelle Comes Home (Blu-ray)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc on innocent victims, demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) lock the possessed doll in their home’s special artifact room, placing her behind sacred glass. But when the doll escapes and awakens the room’s evil spirits, it conjures up an unholy night of horror for the Warrens’ daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), and her friends as they desperately battle to bring Annabelle’s reign of terror to an end.
A quick look at longstanding horror franchises will reveal a devolution of quality over time, both in narrative and their ability to frighten audiences. However, The Conjuring has avoided this pitfall for the most part by diversifying their offerings and branching out to explore more interesting “characters” in greater detail. This is the third movie dedicated to Annabelle, but it goes even deeper into the Warren archive. While Annabelle is still the wicked star of this story, there are a number of other terrors set free in the house, including a creepy board game, an ancient samurai, a murderous spirit and a werewolf. Since it’s difficult to know where the next fright will come from, there are numerous slow-building scares (many of which amount to nothing). These are balanced with a lot of jump scares as the characters are frequently startled by knocking and slamming. This is not the scariest movie in the franchise, but first-time director and horror screenwriter Gary Dauberman delivers a solid horror picture that will keep viewers on edge and occasionally give them a good jolt to briefly relieve the tension.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Artifact Room & the Occult”; “The Light & the Love”; and “Behind the Scenes: The Ferryman/Demon, The Bloody Bride, The Werewolf.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Gwen (Blu-ray)
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RLJ Entertainment
Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) is a young girl whose life seems to be collapsing around her. Struggling with her mother’s (Maxine Peake) mysterious illness, her father's absence and a group of angry villagers threatening to take her farm, Gwen must find the strength to guide her family through the darkness. But as a malevolent presence begins to take grip of her home, it becomes apparent there is a greater evil that may be too strong to overcome.
This is another dark, subtle, slow-burn in the same vein as The Witch. Gwen is a teenaged-girl with adult responsibilities, caring for her sister, doing half the chores when her mother is well and all of them when she’s ill. However, these tasks are made more difficult by her mother’s progressively harsh judgement and sometimes cruel punishment. It certainly feels as if her mother has been possessed by some evil entity gradually coarsening her personality. In the meantime, the local businessman interested in their farm becomes increasingly more aggressive in his demands, posing another risk to the vulnerable family trying to survive the harsh elements in a patriarchal society. A cross between horror and an eerily intense thriller, the pieces of the puzzle slowly come into place, but saving every member of the homestead may not be possible.
Special features include: interviews with Maxine Peake and Eleanor Worthington-Cox. (RLJ Entertainment)
Life with Lucy: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Lucy (Lucille Ball) is a widowed grandmother who decides to “help” her late husband’s partner, Curtis (Gale Gordon), run their family’s hardware store.
Ball cemented her status as TV’s favourite redhead on the I Love Lucy show, but that wasn’t the last audiences would see her. Embracing her age, she transitioned into more senior roles — in this case, a meddling grandmother who spoils her grandkids and drives her daughter crazy. Coincidentally, her son-in-law is also Curtis’ son, making their relationships more complex than most families’. Lucy and Curtis have a long history of not getting along, but both are willing to try to put aside their differences for the sake of the business… which usually means Curtis overlooking some kooky mix-up caused by Lucy. The series included some notable guest appearances by John Ritter, Peter Graves, Sally Kemp and others, but it still wasn’t able to avoid the axe after the first season.
Special features include: Entertainment Tonight segments; Hour Magazine segments featuring Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon; and promos. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Midsommar (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
After a family tragedy, a young American couple joins some friends at a midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that grow increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.
Writer/director Ari Aster already demonstrated his talent for weird, slow burning horror in Hereditary. He now takes viewers into a remote Swedish village where his characters are at the mercy of their hosts with little hope of escape. It begins as the ideal anthropology project with unstudied traditions, whimsical rituals and unbelievably kind people. However, a seemingly minor transgression shows they may not be as hospitable as they seem. Things become progressively weirder and more violent as the festival continues, which slowly begins to put the Americans on edge in spite of their friend’s assurances that everything is voluntary. Suddenly, their alternative acid trip looks tame compared to the frenetic energy that begins to overtake the participants. There’s a disturbing disconnect between the happy daytime activities and the sinister truth unfolding. Aster takes audiences on a journey that’s impossible to prepare for, which is part of what makes it so engrossing.
Special features include: “Let the Festivities Begin: Manifesting Midsommar”; and “Bear in a Cage™” promo. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Toy Story 4 (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Disney Studios
When Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang join Bonnie on a road trip with her new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky (Tony Hale), the innocent little spork’s antics launch Woody on a wild quest filled with unexpected new characters — and a long lost friend.
This franchise never fails to entertain or touch audience’s hearts. Woody’s been through a lot and gone through a couple of kids, but this is a movie in which someone finally asks him what he wants. It’s also incredibly fitting that Bo Beep (Annie Potts) would be the one to return to help him figure it out. However, one of the fun things about this world is its ability to regularly introduce new characters. Ducky and Bunny are played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele respectively, and they bring their acclaimed sense of humour to the pair of stuffed prizes. Keanu Reeves aptly plays a Canadian motorcycle stunt driver, while Christina Hendricks portrays the red-haired menace, Gabby Gabby. And then, of course, there’s Forky whose confused identity is perfect for Hale. While there’s still lots of fun and adventure, there’s also some serious notes to the picture that continues to instill it with the multi-layered narrative that keep fans coming back.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Bo Rebooted”; “Toy Stories”; “Woody and Buzz”; “Toy Box”; and “Let’s Ride with Ally Maki.” (Disney Studios)
True Detective: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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HBO Home Entertainment
In 2015, retired detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali), his memory failing, looks back at the disappearance of 12-year-old Will and ten-year-old Julie Purcell, recalling the days and weeks immediately following the 1980 crime, as well as developments in 1990, when he and his former partner, Roland West (Stephen Dorff), were subpoenaed after a major break in the case. Playing out in three separate time periods, the third season tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades.
This is a return to form for the series that received a lot of criticism when the second season didn’t live up to the standards set by the first. However, showrunners redeemed themselves with this third season. The officially unsolved case is certainly intriguing as it was almost as if the kids vanished. They left to play one afternoon, as witnessed by a number of neighbours, and then that was it. Hays and West are good detectives, but with so little evidence and such a large suspect pool, they’re job is made very difficult. Ali and Dorff deliver great performances as they portray these men at three different stages of their lives. In the early stages, they show grit and dedication; while in retirement, everything seems a bit cloudier though they still have moments of sharpness and prove they were always good at their jobs.
Special features include: deleted scenes; finale extended cut; “Designing the Decades”; and “Music of Season 3.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
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