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article imageReview: This week’s releases find the silver lining in loss Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 17, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include one of last year’s best dramas; an impressively accurate biopic; an unconventional animated film; a step-up for the DC cinematic universe; and the next chapter in the LEGO ‘Star Wars’ saga.
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Blu-ray & DVD)
GKids & Shout Factory
There is light and beauty, even in the darkest of worlds. Stranded on an island in a post-apocalyptic world, teenager Dinky and her friends hatch a dangerous plan to escape in the hope of finding a better life. Meanwhile, her old friend Birdboy has shut himself off from the world, pursued by the police and haunted by demon tormentors. But unbeknownst to anyone, he contains a secret inside him that could change the world forever.
It’s been said there are certain movies that can only be made in animated form; conversely, there are other stories one may be surprised to see as animated films due to its association with children’s pictures. This narrative deals with environmental devastation, unemployment, abuse, addiction, depression and multiple illegal activities. Yet the sooty illustrations deftly convey all these things with a dark sense of humour and graphic imagery that causes the film to be spellbinding, but not necessarily something that’d be deemed “enjoyable.” Based on Alberto Vázquez’s graphic novel and award-winning short film, the anthropomorphic animals that live in this harsh world are pitiful while their endless hope is moving.
Special features include: interview with the filmmakers; Birdboy original short film; Decorado short film by Alberto Vázquez; and theatrical trailer. (GKids & Shout Factory)
Call Me by Your Name (Blu-ray & Digital)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
It’s the summer of 1983 in Italy and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17-year-old, spends his days in his family’s villa transcribing and playing classical music and reading. Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming American scholar arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
This is a coming of age film that is rare in its sincerity and lack of fantasy. Elio, via his independence and thoughtfulness, gives the impression of a mature young man… a near-adult; though it’s obvious to audiences he’s still on the cusp of adulthood with many firsts still ahead. Oliver is aware of all of this when he begins flirting with the teen, but he’s also intrigued by Elio and his evanescent position in life. The pair have a wonderful chemistry as they first repel one another like two magnets before the attraction between them is too difficult to resist. However, one of the most elevating moments in the film is actually a conversation near the end of the picture between Elio and his father, likely leading to the latter’s awards recognition. In short, this is a beautiful adaptation about first love and loss.
Special features include: commentary by actors Timothée Chalamet & Michael Stuhlbarg; making-of featurette; “In Conversation with Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg & Luca Guadagnino”; and music video for “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Children of the Corn: Runaway (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
The film tells the story of young, pregnant Ruth (Marci Miller), who escapes a murderous child cult in a small Midwestern town. She spends the next decade living anonymously in an attempt to spare her son the horrors that she experienced as a child. Ruth and her son (Jake Ryan Scott) end up in a small Oklahoma town, but something is following her. Now, she must confront this evil or lose her child.
Even though this is a franchise with eight sequels, few of the movies have anything to do with the ones that preceded them. In this case, Ruth’s escape from her deadly cult of children is shown in snippets throughout the picture until audiences have a complete understanding of her past and how it affects her present. Using a number of clichés, it’s not all that difficult to figure out what’s happening or how the story will end. It’s amazing the pair even made it this far, but less surprising that their journey comes to a head in this judgemental town.
Special features include: deleted scene. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Disaster Artist (Blu-ray, DVD & 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. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
When this season returns, the families are brought together in the vibrant and violent ecotone of the U.S.-Mexico border. With international lines done away with following the world’s end, the characters must attempt to rebuild not only society, but their families as well.
Much like in its counterpart, the characters are constantly in search of community, protection… and peace. But even when they find it, any semblance of armistice during war is temporary. Escaping a cruelly run base, they find refuge at a ranch, which is soon to be under siege over a land dispute with aboriginals. In the meantime, water is becoming scarce as someone takes control of the local supply. Death and betrayal are as reliable as any impending Walker attack, creating threats everywhere — especially where one thought they were safe. By the end of this season, once solid alliances are fractured and in some ways they’re back to where they started.
Special features include: commentaries; and deleted and extended scenes. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Justice League (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy) (Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) — it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
The first half of the movie is a muddled mix of trying to enlist the young heroes and protecting the Mother Boxes. Unfortunately, this section lacks structure as it jumps from story to story with no real direction. This movie is only two hours long; however, it feels as if they’re still trying to cram in three hours’ worth of story. The battle involving the Amazons occurs quite early in the picture, which is the most exciting thing to happen for some time after. With previous DC pictures considered too dark, there’s a definite effort to make this movie lighter in tone. The Flash is undoubtedly the most amusing aspect of the film, playing the role of the novice in awe of this new world to which he’s received a special invitation. This film is meant to set up the superhero standalones expected over the next couple of years, as well as establish the future of DC team-ups, which it does rather effectively. Audiences will definitely be ready to see more of Miller’s Flash and get more than a glimpse at Momoa’s Aquaman who shows potential in several scenes.
Special features include: “Road to Justice”; “Heart of Justice”; “Technology of the Justice League”; “Justice League: The New Heroes”; “The Return of Superman”; “Steppenwolf the Conqueror”; “Suit Up: The Look of the League”; and four “Scene Studies.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Kickboxer: Retaliation (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
One year after finding vengeance for his murdered brother, MMA champion Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) finds himself back in Thailand – kidnapped and imprisoned there by a powerful gangster (Christopher Lambert). His only shot at freedom is to win an underground death match against a 400lb killer enhanced with state-of the-art drugs (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). To make it out alive, he seeks training unlike anything he’s ever endured, with the help of the legendary Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and fellow prisoner Briggs (Mike Tyson).
The latest installment in this franchise reboot takes a page out of Rocky IV’s book as Kurt is set to fight a man thought to be unbeatable — though his opponent is far more monstrous. Unsurprisingly, he adopts an unconventional training regimen with a variety of teachers in order to gain the necessary skills to defeat the beast and win his freedom. Van Damme resumes his role as the sarcastic teacher who could still kick anyone’s butt in spite of being blind, while Tyson emerges as a differently skilled but still formidable fighter. Their bout is one of the film’s most anticipated scenes, though the results aren’t entirely unexpected.
Special features include: “Meet the Fighters”; and trailer. (Well Go USA)
Knightfall: Season One (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
The series follows the Knights Templar, who for 200 years were the most elite warriors of the Crusades. We meet the Templars after the fall of the city of Acre — where the Holy Grail was lost — and rejoin them years later in Paris as they embark on a mission to find the lost Cup of Christ. It recounts the complex, bloody relationships between the Templars, the Church, and the King of France, and the dark events leading to the Templar Order’s demise.
This is a salacious depiction of medieval times in which the bloody battles and clandestine sex are matched in graphic detail. From adultery to unexpected betrayals, there is never a dull moment as the quest for the Grail often takes a backseat to dealings with the royal family; even the Pope is required to stick a pin it while he counsels the King. The season gets a little mushy in the final third as some of the head Templar’s decisions become clouded by emotions, but the last seconds of the finale are unquestionably the most intriguing. The actors are also engaging, helping History definitely narrow the gap in show quality versus their competitors.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures: Complete Season Two (DVD)
Disney Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm
The three Freemaker siblings — Rowan, Kordi and Zander — have found a new home with the Rebel fleet. But working with the Rebels in their fight to bring down the Empire brings them face to face with brutal Imperial forces, desperate Hutts, conniving Sith Lords and the Emperor’s latest plaything, M-OC.
Now that the Freemakers have joined the rebels, Rowan is able lend his Force Building abilities to the Alliance. Most notably, he designs the ultimate weapon to counter the Imperial fleet and for which the siblings spend much of the season gathering difficult-to-find parts. While Darth Vader focuses his efforts on powering the second Death Star, the Emperor becomes obsessed with capturing Rowan and turning him to the dark side. M-OC is a formidable opponent who becomes more competent with each subsequent meeting and he’s definitely an intimidating pursuer. The series is still filled with its signature LEGO humour, as well as cameos by several movie favourites.
Special features include: five bonus shorts. (Disney Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm)
Newton’s Law: Series 1 (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
When her offices are firebombed by an angry client, consulting solicitor Josephine Newton (Claudia Karvan) is forced to take a new job as a barrister at Knox, a high-powered legal firm where her old flame Lewis (Toby Schmitz) works. Worried about leaving behind her former clients turned colleagues, Josephine sets up a new legal office in the building’s basement for Johnny (Sean Keenan), a reformed car thief, and Helena (Georgina Naidu), a brilliant legal mind with a crippling fear of courtrooms. As Josephine tackles high-profile cases with Lewis upstairs, she secretly consults with Helena and Johnny downstairs. Throw in a teenage daughter and a husband (Brett Tucker) who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of a trial separation, and Josephine’s new life is more hectic than ever.
This series combines courtroom drama with comedy as Josephine attempts to keep everyone on track. They deal with some pretty serious cases, but keep things light with the less conventional underground office. Upstairs, Josephine is working to disprove murder charges, launch a class action lawsuit and, most remarkably, prevent a transgendered teen’s parents from stopping her hormone treatment. Helena’s panic attacks begin to feel a little gimmicky near the end of the season, but Johnny’s ingenuity remains charming all the way through. Each episode deals with a different case that is resolved in an hour, which is expected; however, some of the problems Josephine has with her daughter don’t appear to be settled, yet don’t carry through to the next episode occasionally causing a bit of a continuity problem.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and cast and crew interviews. (RLJ Entertainment)
Scalpel (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Dr. Phillip Reynolds (Robert Lansing) is a man whose daughter Heather (Judith Chapman) has run away from home a year prior following the suspicious death of her boyfriend. When he happens across a young woman one night, her face beaten beyond recognition, the unhinged Reynolds sees this as an opportunity to put his trusty scalpel to use — hatching a plan to "reconstruct" her face in the image of his missing daughter, and so claim her sizeable inheritance.
This is a narrative with few likeable characters, though that appears to be the point to some extent. Phillip is a despicable man with an unhealthy obsession with his daughter. Though his reasons for giving the injured woman a makeover seem to be monetary, he clearly has ulterior motives that take longer to come to light. The woman, who is embracing the situation to improve her own station, is guilty by association, though she can’t really be blamed for accepting the sizeable compensation. However, when a complication arises that should derail the whole plan, the minimal disruption it causes is disappointing. Nonetheless, the conclusion attempts to bring it all back on track.
Special features include: commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith; crew interviews; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil. (Arrow Video)
More about justice league, the disaster artist, Call Me by Your Name, Birdboy The Forgotten Children, Children of the Corn Runaway
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