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article imageReview: This week’s releases find you can’t keep running Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 16, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a tale of revenge served with a side of wit; a worthwhile collector’s edition; a martial arts extravaganza; a complicated friendship; an unusual Western; and an unsuspecting superhero.
Cold Pursuit (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures & Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is a snowplow driver whose quiet family life is upended after his son’s murder. Nels begins a vengeful hunt for Viking (Tom Bateman), the drug lord he holds responsible for the killing, eliminating Viking’s associates one by one. As Nels draws closer to Viking, his actions bring even more unexpected and violent consequences, as he proves that revenge is all in the execution.
This is an adaptation of a Norwegian film; however, it is uniquely directed by the same person who helmed the original. The rivalry is altered to take on a cowboys vs. Indians vibe with the lone gunman at the centre. Nels unwittingly sets off a gang war with his less than subtle quest for revenge. Other than being an avid hunter, there’s no indication he’s armed with anything more than practical know-how and deep-seated anger; yet, he’s able to surprise and overpower several of Viking’s associates. While there is a fair amount of action in the picture, it’s more notable quality is a witty and dark sense of humour that raises the movie above the typical vengeance plot. Betrayal from all sides characterizes the film, while each death is cleverly marked with a title card mimicking a grave marker.
Special features include: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; interview with actor Liam Neeson; and interview with director Hans Petter Moland. (Elevation Pictures & Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Miss Bala (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), drives to Tijuana, Mexico to visit her best friend who is competing in the local “Miss Baja” beauty pageant. During a night out, her friend is abducted and Gloria finds herself a pawn in a dangerous game being played by the CIA, the DEA and a charismatic yet ruthless cartel kingpin, Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova). Finding power she never knew she had, Gloria plays one organization against the other as she seeks to rescue her friend. Surviving will require all of her cunning, inventiveness, and strength.
Gloria makes a lot of tough decisions over the course of her captivity. Whether it’s to run or aide her kidnappers, each choice is the result of a quick risk calculation. She never underestimates Lino, but his attempts to convince her the other side is worse than him starts to work and puts her in an even more dangerous position. There are a lot of factors at play and Rodriguez reacts to all of them authentically. Whether she’s pleading for her life, pulling herself together or lashing out, it feels like she’s in the moment. This is obviously a giant leap from her mild-mannered TV role, but she steps up to the challenge and embraces the opportunity to play a Latin-American protagonist on the big screen. Cordova is also very convincing, but it’s his icy blue eyes that draw audience’s attention during close-ups.
Special features include: commentary by director Catherine Hardwicke, executive producer Jamie Marshall, and associate producer Shayda Frost; deleted and extended scenes; making-of featurette; “Gina: The Unstoppable Strength of a Woman”; “The Bigger the Bang: Action on Set”; and “A Look into the Stunts and Costumes with Catherine Hardwicke.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
My Brilliant Friend: The Complete First Season (DVD)
HBO Home Entertainment
When the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman immersed in a house full of books, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship. Set in a dangerous and fascinating Naples, she tries to describe the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant companion and — in a way — both her best friend and her worst enemy.
Beginning as children, the relationship between Elena and Lila was always both antagonistic and nurturing. Lila was the shoemaker’s daughter, shunned by her classmates for being both smart and strange. However, Elena also sees her strength and courage — traits she wants to mimic in her own life. Together they embark on semi-dangerous adventures, but they’re also engaged in an unspoken academic rivalry to be the best. When Lila’s parents refuse to let her continue going to school, the latter contest becomes complicated but not concluded. Lila is strong-willed, and finds ways to get and do what she wants no matter what anyone else thinks or wants. Consequently, Elena finds she both can’t live without her and hates being around her. The setting in a fairly isolated post-WWII Naples adds character to the movie as the haves and have-nots are defined by their actions during the war.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and “Invitation to the Set.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
Never Grow Old (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Debauchery, greed, murder — welcome to Garlow. The once-peaceful frontier town is now a den of vice after vicious outlaw Dutch Albert (John Cusack) and his gang arrived and began gunning down their opposition. Undertaker Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch) must choose between the blood money he makes burying the murderers’ victims, and the threats he and his family face.
This is an unconventional Western as it’s told from the perspective of the town’s undertaker. Under the guidance of the local preacher, Garlow had been dry and rid of sinful indulgences, like gambling and prostitution. However, one of the first things Dutch does upon arriving is reopen the saloon — yet, Patrick’s increase in customers aren’t from bar fights as most of the deceased are put down by the gang’s own guns. Profiting from these criminal acts puts a rift between Patrick and his religious wife, but he’s more concerned about the interest one of Dutch’s men has shown in her. It’s a very slow narrative, following as Dutch’s grip on the town tightens. However, the most annoying part of the film is it starts with a scene from the last act, which in time foreshadows how they got to that point; but it would’ve had a greater impact if the story was allowed to play out chronologically.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Princess Mononoke [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
GKIDS & Shout Factory
Inflicted with a deadly curse, the young warrior Ashitaka heads west in search of a cure. There, he stumbles into a bitter conflict between Lady Eboshi and the proud people of Iron Town, and the enigmatic Princess Mononoke, a young girl raised by wolves, who will stop at nothing to prevent the humans from destroying her home, and the forest spirits and animal gods who live there.
Most of Hiyao Miyazaki’s films carry a message and this one is no different. Moreover, simply because he works in animation, one cannot make the assumption that all of his pictures are appropriate for all ages. This movie is dark and violent as it confronts issues about war and environmental degradation, yet it does not look any less beautiful than of the director’s other creations. The idea of good vs. evil is replaced by a more fluid concept of shifting motives based on the situation and the personality. No one character is the definitive villain or hero as they all make noble and questionable decisions throughout the narrative. Moreover, the conclusion declines a fairy tale ending, instead choosing one that remains true to the individuals involved. This hardcover collector’s set marks the first time the film’s soundtrack is available on CD in North America. In addition, Miyazaki’s poems about the characters are beautiful and flowing insights into his feelings about the personalities.
Special features include: soundtrack disc; feature-length storyboards; “Princess Mononoke in the U.S.A.”; “Behind the Microphone”; and original TV spots; theatrical trailers; and 40-page book with art and essays. (GKIDS & Shout Factory)
Triple Threat (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
When a hit contract is taken out on a billionaire’s daughter (Celina Jade) intent on bringing down a major crime syndicate, a team of wanted mercenaries (Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen and Iko Uwais) must take on a group of professional assassins (Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Michael Bisping) to stop them from hitting their target.
The obvious selling point for this movie is its action stars, which include a half-dozen of the biggest international martial arts actors. Most notably, it includes several fights that match the Asian artists against the Americans, as well as a couple of smaller battles between the mercenaries. Fans of action and martial arts movies will definitely not want to miss this collaboration. Even though the story is a bit weak, particularly the assassins’ semi-mysterious employer, the fight sequences are top-notch and worth wading through the uneven narrative. Uwais is uncharacteristically ineffective in most of his battles, while Jaa and Chen do a lot of the heavy lifting. The final clash involving Adkins is probably one of the more impressive bouts in the film.
Special features include: interview with the cast; and trailers. (Well Go USA)
Valentine: The Dark Avenger (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
City of Batavia has been infested with robbery and violence. Srimaya (Estelle Linden), a waitress at a café, dreams of a glamorous life as an actress. A chance meeting with a film director and his assistant leads to a life-changing series of events for Srimaya, as they take her on a thrilling adventure that finds the waitress-turned-actress transforming into the person Batavia City needs and deserves most: a consummate kick-ass superhero. Taking to the streets as "Valentine," she becomes a role model to the people of Batavia, and a foil to the city's lowlifes and ne'er-do-wells. But when a sinister masked villain emerges from the shadows of the night, Srimaya realizes that all of her vigilante exploits were a mere dress rehearsal for the ultimate showdown.
This is an unconventional superhero movie in that the protagonist is unaware she’s being primed to become a real-life crime-fighter rather than just a hero on the screen. Plucked from obscurity thanks to her combination of good looks and martial arts skills, Srimaya’s confidence is boosted by neat crusader gadgets and assurances she won’t be injured during confrontations with armed robbers. In the age of social media, she quickly becomes the city’s saviour, but the constant delay of the actual movie production starts to put her on edge. In the meantime, “The Shadow” is terrorizing Batavia and demanding the police bend to his will — but the purpose of his campaign may be almost as noble as Valentine’s, though he takes the completely opposite approach. The dialogue is a bit stiff, but the independent comic-turned-movie has potential… except that the post-credit sequence makes no sense in the context of this narrative.
Special features include: image gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
More about Cold Pursuit, My Brilliant Friend, Triple Threat, princess mononoke, Miss Bala
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