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article imageReview: This week’s releases confront the past for a better future Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 13, 2016 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include updates of a couple of classic movies or franchises; a new TV series that’s definitely shaking up the usual formula; a return to form for a beleaguered actor; and the third chapter in a murderous film series.
A Very Nick Jr. Christmas (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join a race to save Christmas with Blaze, and take a genie-fied sleigh ride with Shimmer and Shine. Then join Dora, the Bubble Guppies and Wally for more holiday (and Trolliday) cheer.
Holiday episodes are almost expected from most TV series and children’s shows are no different. In this collection, each of the five selected programs create their own version of a Christmas story that is unique to their style. In Blaze and the Monster Machines, Santa’s sleigh and elves are actual vehicles. In Shimmer and Shine, the genies take Cassandra to the North Pole to meet Santa and ensure her friend gets his wish. Conversely, Dora and Friends focuses on the spirit of the season rather than a specific holiday and the Bubble Guppies make it a very musical holiday. Finally, there are two episodes of Wallykazam!, which celebrate “Trollidays” with Wally’s friends. Each episode also maintains their typical level of learning and interaction, occasionally asking viewers to “say it with them” in order to accomplish the task at hand.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Angels & Demons (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is the most respected symbologist in the United States, using his knowledge in order to decode a symbol on the skin of a murder victim. The clues put him on the trail of an international conspiracy involving the Catholic Church.
This is the second film featuring modern-day Sherlock Holmes Robert Langdon, who in spite of being a high-ranking public enemy of the Church is also their first call when a fatal mystery is plaguing the Vatican. As with any murder-mystery, the enjoyment comes from gathering the clues with the protagonist and following them to the next one until the culprit is caught. However this case is so complex and entangled with ancient lore, it’s nearly impossible for the viewer to piece together the puzzle without Langdon’s guidance — though they may still be able identify the ultimate villain before the big reveal. Langdon is paired with a CERN scientist capable of disarming the unstable bomb once it’s found, but refreshingly her role doesn’t double as a love interest for the hero. In spite of being based on Dan Brown’s book, the narrative seems very visual with director Ron Howard’s team doing an excellent job of recreating many key religious locations.
Special features include: deleted, extended and alternate scenes; “Legacy of Langdon”; “Rome Was Not Built in a Day”; “Writing Angels & Demons”; “Characters in Search of the True Story”; CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge”; Handling Props; “Angels & Demons: The Final Story”; “The is an Ambigram”; “First Look at Inferno”; and theatrical trailer. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Blood Father (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
When his estranged teenaged daughter (Erin Moriarty) is targeted by a drug cartel, ex-convict John Link (Mel Gibson) must call upon connections from his criminal past and his own lethal skills to save his daughter’s future.
This film feels more familiar for Gibson. Since getting out of prison, he’s been living quietly in the desert, going to AA meetings and providing tattoo services from his trailer. In short, he’s keeping his nose clean. But when his daughter calls, strung out and running for her life, his priorities unsurprisingly change a little. It’s still not a rapid flip of the switch as he tries to reason with her pursuers and not kill them on the spot, tallying up the charges for each offense as they go and risking everything he’s worked to build for himself. It’s not an over-the-top action movie, but it’s certainly thrilling in a way that’s reminiscent of Gibson’s ‘80s and ‘90s work. William H. Macy plays his best friend and confidant, while Diego Luna is the bad guy suggestive of a Sin City character.
Special features include: “Lost Souls: On the Road with Blood Father.” (Lionsgate)
Broken Vows (DVD)
Tara (Jaimie Alexander) finds her life unraveling after hooking up with bartender Patrick (Wes Bentley) during her bachelorette party in New Orleans. Patrick becomes obsessed with Tara, not knowing she’s about to marry Michael (Cam Gigandet), and tracks her down to her quiet California home. As Patrick’s obsession turns violent, Tara stands to not only lose her marriage and her loved ones, but also her life.
This is a pretty standard stalker story that escalates very quickly, due in large part to Tara losing her phone to Patrick. Because of her indiscretion she’s reluctant to report Patrick’s behaviour, but he appears dangerous enough early on that the delay seems nonsensical and will definitely have consequences. As Patrick tries to up end her life, Tara continues to try to keep it a secret, which proves to be an unsurprisingly bad strategy. Bentley’s character isn’t an outright villain, but rather a man obsessed and willing to do anything; in other words, he’s clearly mentally unstable but not in the same way a psycho serial killer may be portrayed. He walks this line adequately and is far more intriguing than Gigandet’s bland fiancé character. Still, the exaggerated contrast between the bad boy and boy next door is a little too much here.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate)
Genius (DVD)
Elevation Pictures
The film centres on the real-life relationship between literary giant Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and renowned editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth). Transformative and irrepressible, this friendship will change the lives of these brilliant, but very different men forever.
This is a dialogue-heavy drama that lacks some of the charisma of other literary biopics; which is not to say the men don’t have big personalities, but that they’re not the most engaging characters to watch. Wolfe is young, prolific and obsessive, refusing to let his work stand on its own and constantly adding more text. He’s desperate to be published again, but equally reluctant to trim the enormous volume so it’s marketable. It’s Perkins’ job to steer Wolfe in the right direction by befriending him, setting hard limits and cutting the fat. While Perkins is warned he’ll eventually be burned by the young writer’s bright flame, he’s still uncontrollably drawn to it like a moth. All of this is very interesting if you’re familiar with either man’s work or have a keen interest in editing; otherwise it’s a rather mundane story about a difficult friendship.
There are no special features. (Elevation Pictures)
Ghostbusters (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Together, a group of supernatural enthusiasts (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones) team up to save Manhattan from a sudden invasion of spirits, spooks and slime that engulfs the city.
This is a great script, regardless of who was casted to deliver the lines. It’s funny, respectful and even a tad scary at times. Filmmakers casted a group of very capable women to bring these characters to life, as well as received the cameo-based blessing of most of the original, surviving cast. Holtzmann’s personality is unquestionably the most bizarre as it seems to naturally consist of equal parts bold, stoner, brilliant science nerd, goth and crazy, and McKinnon is perfect in the role. Abby and Erin each have their personal quirks as the former is an unwavering believer and the latter is slightly neurotic; and McCarthy and Wiig play them so well it’s apparent the roles were written with them in mind. The structure of the narrative is somewhat familiar as the team goes from laughing stock, to the mayor’s lackeys, to necessities for survival as the city is plunged into supernatural chaos. Director Paul Feig also goes to great lengths to pay homage to the film’s predecessors.
Special features include: commentaries by filmmakers; extended and theatrical versions of the film; deleted and alternate scenes; “Chris Hemsworth is ‘Kevin’”; “The Ghosts of Ghostbusters”; “Meet the Team”; “Visual Effects: 30 Years Later”; “Slime Time”; “Jokes-A-Plenty” alternate take reels; gag reels; and photo gallery. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
It's A Wonderful Life: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
No one is born to be a failure. No one is poor who has friends. This is the classic tale of George Bailey (James Stewart) and his Christmas Eve visit with a guardian angel.
Closing in on a century, this Christmas classic remains an annual tradition in many households. George represents a lot of people who envision one life for themselves, but end up with another. Unfulfilled goals and dreams can weigh heavily on a person, especially when things aren’t currently going their way. But the moral of this story is to appreciate what one has and the people with who you are surrounded — a regular reminder of this lesson via yearly viewings is probably not a bad idea anyway. Stewart is perfectly casted as he can portray both George’s generous and irritable moods. The audience wants to root for his character as much as they jeer Mr. Potter’s Scrooge-like personality. While many may prefer the original black-and-white version, this release also includes the colourized version as well as a relatively informative bonus feature that explores the film’s production and reveals a few on-set tidbits.
Special features include: original black-and-white and colourized versions of film; making-of featurette; theatrical trailer; and limited edition art cards featuring images of original ads and lobby cards. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Legend of Tarzan (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
It has been 10 years since the man once known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Margot Robbie) at his side. Now he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.
In spite of so many iterations of this classic story being produced over the years, this movie still finds a different way to approach the narrative while staying true to some of its main conventions, such as swinging from vines, communing with the animals and rescuing Jane (who is thankfully still quite capable on her own). However, this story is different in that it is about John Clayton reconnecting with his roots and no longer shunning the world he tried to leave behind. Yet upon returning, he’s immediately comfortable in the wilder yet familiar surroundings; apparently you can take the man out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the man. Conversely, Samuel L. Jackson’s George Washington Williams is the outsider and struggles to keep up with John. Waltz is still a born villain, but there are many greater dangers they face including those seeking justice for earlier wrongs.
Special features include: “Tarzan Reborn”; “Battles and Bare Knuckled Brawls”; “Tarzan and Jane’s Unfailing Love”; “Creating the Virtual Jungle”; “Gabon to the Big Screen”; “Stop Ivory” PSA. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Preacher: Season One (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is a conflicted preacher in a small Texas town who is inhabited by a mysterious entity that allows him to develop a highly unconventional power. Jesse, along with his fearless sidekicks, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), an Irish vampire, and Tulip (Ruth Negga), a trained marksman, embark on a wild, dark journey that is unlike any other.
For better or worse, this series is unlike most other TV shows. Based on the graphic novel series, it’s dark, gritty and complex. Jesse has a sordid past that is only hinted at via various tales of delinquency or flashbacks that generally relate to his violently deceased preacher father. Tulip is an equally captivating and mysterious character who intimately shares Jesse’s past and wishes they could go back to their old ways. Cassidy is one of the least vampire-like vampires to grace the screen, save his amusing outfits used to shield him against the sun. Similarly, Eugene, a.k.a. “Arseface,” is a very nuanced character with a tragic and somewhat ambiguous backstory — though there are a lot of theories regarding his relationship to Lacey. Adding regenerating angels and a devilish ability to the mix makes this one of the strangest and most intriguing shows on television.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “The Unfilmable Pilot”; and “The Stunts of Preacher.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Purge: Election Year (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
It has been two years since Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) stopped himself from a regrettable act of revenge on Purge Night — the 12 hours of lawlessness. This year, the annual ritual comes at the eve of a heated presidential election with the nation deeply divided between those who are pro- and anti-Purge. As head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), Leo’s mission is to protect her during her controversial and contested run for president. But when a betrayal forces them onto the streets of Washington, D.C. on the one night when no help is available, they must stay alive or both be sacrificed for their sins against the state.
The first film was mostly restricted to the interior of a captive home, while the second took audiences outside into the centre of the chaos. The third installment is the country’s chance to put an end to the barbaric practice, but ends up being more like a crazier version of London Has Fallen in which the lone surviving bodyguard must prevent a political asset from ending up in the wrong hands. A new decree gives the local militia the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to upend the ruling class, but Charlie tries to convince them to take the high road and leave ending the Purge to her… of course this also means they have to help keep her safe for the rest of the night too. However, the level of crazy brutality in this chapter is a little difficult to swallow.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Inside The Purge”; and “Character Spotlight: Leo.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Thing (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
In the winter of 1982, a twelve-man research team at a remote Antarctic research station discovers an alien buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. Soon unfrozen, the form-changing alien wreaks havoc, creates terror… and becomes one of them.
This is one of John Carpenter’s most favoured films, even though it’s a remake of a ‘50s picture. But one of the elements that make the movie so memorable is its monster effects. No one ever forgets the thing that manifests in the dog kennel or the horror on the operating table. The visual aspects combine with the helpless isolation and claustrophobic storm to create a chilling atmosphere. With no one to trust and the possibility of total assimilation, it’s not long before it becomes every man for himself. Kurt Russell’s character is an unofficial leader amongst the group, but even he isn’t immune to their suspicions or hysteria. The ending is relatively conventional for the period and genre, but it’s getting to that conclusion that makes this movie so attractive. Moreover, the numerous new bonus features provide fascinating insights about filming in severe cold and creating the effects.
Special features include: network TV broadcast version of the film; commentary by director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell; commentary by director of photography Dean Cundey; commentary by co-producer Stuart Cohen; “Requiem For A Shape Shifter”; “The Men Of Outpost 31”; “Assembling And Assimilation”; “Behind The Chameleon: The Sights Of The Thing”; “Sounds From The Cold”; “Between The Lines”; “Back Into The Cold: A Return To The Shooting Locations Of The Thing”; “The Art Of Mike Ploog Gallery”; “John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape”; vintage making-of featurettes; vintage interviews with John Carpenter, Kurt Russell and Rob Bottin; vintage behind-the-scenes footage; annotated production archive; outtakes; still gallery; TV and radio spots; and teaser and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
More about Ghostbusters, Preacher, The Legend of Tarzan, Angels and Demons, A Very Nick Jr Christmas
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