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article imageReview: This week’s releases embrace the darkness Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 21, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include DC’s spirited answer to Deadpool; a new, darker take on a twisted fairy tale; the latest chapter in a troubled family’s criminal saga; a history lesson; and a woman on a journey of discovery.
Birds of Prey and the Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz (Chris Messina), put a target on a young girl named Cass (Ella Jay Basco), the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley (Margot Robbie), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez)’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.
While Suicide Squad was deemed somewhat of a disaster, there was general agreement that Robbie stole the show as the former-psychologist-turned-outrageous-criminal. Therefore, giving Harley her own vehicle was a bit of a no-brainer and another shot to redeem the DCU. Once again hoping to utilize the girl power movement, the film portrays macho flexing and misogyny at every turn, and a group of women who won’t be pushed around anymore. However, written and directed by women — Christina Hodson and Cathy Yan, respectively — the depiction of these situations has a greater level of sincerity over tokenism. The action sequences are fast-paced and cringe-worthy as the women perform acrobatic kicks and utilize their environment to defeat their opponents. Moreover, they’re almost always fighting multiple assailants using weapons of convenience rather than guns or blades, which makes for some very creative bouts that aren’t always fatal. In addition, the almost all-female soundtrack infuses the film with energy that seems to invigorate the characters.
Special features include: “Birds Eye View Mode”; “Birds of Prey: Birds of a Feather”; “Grime and Crime”; “Wild Nerds”; “Romanesque”; “Sanity is Sooo Last Season”; “A Love/Skate Relationship”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
D-Day: Normandy 1944 [75th Anniversary Edition] (4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
June 6, 1944: The largest Allied operation of World War II began in Normandy, France. Yet few know in detail exactly why and how, from the end of 1943 through August 1944, this region became the most important location in the world. Exploring history, military strategy, science, technology and the enduring human spirit, the film will educate and appeal to all. Narrated by Tom Brokaw, the documentary pays tribute to those who gave their lives for our liberty ... a duty of memory, a duty of gratitude.
This 100-minute documentary recounts the most significant events that occurred in and around Normandy. Using letters written by soldiers, re-enactments and illustrated strategies, the film outlines the victories that led to the tide changing and contributed to the Allies’ success. Brokaw’s narration is tonally appropriate, as he has a perceivable interest in the history he’s describing and his voice has an inherit weight to it. The film doesn’t go especially in-depth into the details of the operation, but unfamiliar viewers will gain a better understanding of the events’ importance in the war and the reasons it was successful.
Special features include: interview with director Pascal Vuong; interview with narrator Tom Brokaw; interview with historical advisor Peter Herrly; “Behind The Scenes: Normandy”; and “Behind The Scenes: Sand Animation.” (Shout Factory)
Gretel & Hansel (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl (Sophia Lillis) leads her little brother (Samuel Leakey) into a dark wood in desperate search for food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.
This is not the classic tale of a magical cabin in the woods made of sweets and a witch that puts fattened children in her oven. Instead, the witch is a mysterious, elderly woman who lives alone, but welcomes them into her home. There’s always an abundance of food and she only asks that they help with some of the chores in return. However, there’s something creepy about the whole situation, which makes Gretel suspicious and uneasy. But when the witch reveals they have more in common than she realized, Gretel is faced with a difficult decision. It’s a very well-constructed version of the fairy tale that’s extra dark — literally and figuratively — though the ending is a tad too ambiguous for the typically more candid genre.
Special features include: “Storybook.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Photograph (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Mae (Issa Rae) is a young woman whose mother, a famed photographer, passes away and leaves her with tons of unanswered questions. In her journey to finding out more about her own origins, Mae stumbles upon not only a letter and photos her mother left behind, but also an unexpected and powerful romance with an up-and-coming journalist (Lakeith Stanfield).
This movie melds timelines to compare Mae’s life with that of her mother. Mae’s mother was an ambitious woman who would not be held back by the small town in which she grew up or a man with no desire for change. She started over when she left, but she built a very successful life and almost never looked back. In the present, Mae is trying to navigate a new relationship with a lot of unexpected challenges upfront, while also discovering her mother had a life about which she knew nothing. Unfortunately, the fragmented storytelling style makes it difficult to connect with any of the characters.
Special features include: “Shooting The Photograph”; “Culture in Film”; and “The Film Through Photographs.” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Ray Donovan: Season Seven (DVD)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
While Ray (Liev Schreiber) makes progress in therapy, there are dangers from the past that require the Ray Donovan of old. Between NYC Mayor Ed Feratti (Zach Grenier), an unrelenting NYPD officer hunting for the truth and clients old and new, Ray struggles to find the balance between fixing for clients and fixing himself. And when Feratti's corruption brings a piece of Mickey’s (Jon Voight) past back to New York, Ray is forced to seek answers to long-buried questions.
Although Ray’s therapy is working, his life is becoming more complicated with potential murder raps, favours to repay favours, and a family that just can’t stay out of trouble. This is a very intense season with Ray on the brink of spiraling more than once, though he always manages to get the job done. Much of what he’s trying to fix are messes created by Mickey, into which he always pulls the rest of the family. As Terry’s illness worsens, he becomes desperate and seeks a new age treatment, and Bunchy finds doing the right thing is not always awarded. Much of this season seems like a breaking point for various characters, but their situation always improves when they find a way to repair their relationships and work together.
Special features include: “Dash Directs”; and “Deconstructing Ray.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)
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