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article imageReview: This week’s releases garnered a number of golden statues Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 14, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a few 2017 Oscar winners; a women’s prison series that rivals OITNB; a couple of classic ‘80s films; and a bemused drama.
Collateral Beauty (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
When a successful New York ad executive, Howard Inlet (Will Smith), suffers a personal tragedy and retreats from life, his friends devise a drastic plan to reach him before he loses everything. Pushing him to the very edge, they force him to confront the truth in surprising and profoundly human ways.
This film feels like a bit of fairy tale in which reality and fantasy are so intertwined, it’s difficult to see where one stops and the other begins. After discovering Howard has written scathing letters to Death, Time and Love, his business partners choose to make these abstract concepts real by hiring actors to respond in-person. The whole idea seems rather cruel since he is clearly suffering and they’ve invited/paid these strangers to toy with his emotions; these feelings swell as Howard seems to worsen after each encounter and he finds another manner of healing. The excellent actors involved — Smith, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Kate Winslet — make this movie worth watching, though the story is somewhat lost in itself.
Special features include: “A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Fences (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
In 1950s Pittsburgh, former Negro-league baseball player Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down.
This film is an actors’ movie and everyone brings their A-game. Having already performed August Wilson’s play together on stage, they were all familiar with the material and each other; but nothing could prepare viewers for the powerhouse performances they deliver in this picture. Viola Davis is absolutely deserving of her Oscar win and Washington should’ve had a better shot at best actor because they are both exceptional. However it’s an ensemble piece and they are supported by a talented group, including Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson and Russell Hornsby. The narrative is so powerful and moving, audiences will find themselves enveloped by the love and sorrow of the characters. And at the end of the film when it seems to have loosened its grip, it comes back for one more punch followed by a ray of sunshine.
Special features include: “Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen”; “The Company of Fences”; “Building Fences: Denzel Washington”; “Playing the Part: Rose Maxson”; and “August Wilson’s Hill District.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Firestarter [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Charlene "Charlie" McGee (Drew Barrymore) is an eight-year-old child who has the amazing ability to start fires with just a glance. Can her psychic power and the love of her father save her from "The Shop," the threatening government agency which wants to control her…or destroy her?
This is one of child star Barrymore’s most well-known pictures and she’s actually quite impressive for her age… though a little hammy at times. Martin Sheen runs The Shop, but is not the out-and-out villain — he only calls the shots — that honour is reserved for George C. Scott who proves to be masterfully deceptive and an excellent shot. To ignite something, Charlie only needs to look at it so there’s no awkward hand gestures with which to contend. Her father’s less natural abilities consequently require more effort, which is translated to strained expressions and nosebleeds. If this was released more recently, the conclusion would spawn various sequels; but the ‘80s were content to just leave Charlie alone after this movie.
Special features include: commentary by director Mark L. Lester; making-of featurette; “Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories”; exclusive performance of “Charlie’s Theme” by Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream; still gallery; radio spot; theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)
Hacksaw Ridge (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures & Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. He was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon, as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong. As an army medic, he single-handedly evacuated the wounded from behind enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers, was wounded by a grenade, and hit by snipers. Doss was the first conscientious objector to ever earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The six-time Oscar-nominated movie is basically divided into two parts: the first half depicts Desmond’s life before the war and his stateside struggle to make it to the front; the second half shows the war Desmond fought so hard to get to in all its mud-caked, bloody glory. This section is incredibly intense because it feels exceptionally realistic. Director Mel Gibson does an excellent job familiarizing viewers with the person before turning him into the invincible hero — knowing he’s just a man doing what he thinks is right causes his feats to hold even greater significance. The filmmaker also has an eye for staging dramatic action, taking audiences into the war via deliberate camera placement and gritty aesthetics. The film rests on Garfield’s shoulders and he draws viewers into the story without ever missing a beat. He is very convincing, though it’s difficult to understand how someone of his (and the real Desmond’s) stature could accomplish all he did on that ridge.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Veterans Day Greeting with Mel Gibson”; and theatrical trailer. (Elevation Pictures)
Jackie (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) grapples with unimaginable grief and trauma. But her faith and strength lead her to a new life with her children. While she honors her husband’s remarkable legacy, she also leaves her own indelible mark.
This is a relatively concentrated look at the days following Kennedy’s murder through the eyes of his wife, “Jackie.” It’s morbidly fascinating to see the decisions made surrounding his funeral and her near-desperate desire to ensure he would be remembered even though he wouldn’t see-through many of the items he put into action. This film and LBJ have depicted similar events surrounding Johnson’s swearing in on Air Force One and Robert Kennedy’s (Peter Sarsgaard) feelings on the matter. The interview component that directs the narrative is as interesting as the events Jackie recounts with Billy Crudup’s journalist character, probing but also centerting the censorship and control she requires. Portman is a great fit visually, but her accent was a little too exaggerated.
Special features include: “From Jackie to Camelot”; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Moonlight (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
The film chronicles three defining chapters in the life of a young black man growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.
Writer/director Barry Jenkins’ tale of a young man’s journey from poverty and neglect to a confident criminal that remains vulnerable in spite of his literal armour is exceptional. Rather than manipulate the audience into pitying the main character with images of child abuse or other horrors, it draws them into his world so they can experience the good and bad alongside him. Viewers feel his shame for his mother’s (Naomie Harris) behaviour, which is countered by the warmth and love showered upon him by strangers-turned-friends, Paula and Juan (played by Janelle Monáe and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali respectively). Harris and Ali are unquestionably deserving of supporting actor recognition for their conflicting roles in the story. No attention is drawn to the leaps in time, but each part of the film represents an excerpt from an important moment in Little/Chiron/Black’s life as he navigates and struggles with being gay in a black community. Striking cinematography creates a poignant realism that grips the audience from beginning to end.
Special features include: commentary by director Barry Jenkins; “Ensemble of Emotion: The Making of Moonlight”; “Poetry through Collaboration: The Music of Moonlight”; and “Cruel Beauty: Filming in Miami.” (Elevation Pictures)
Red Dawn [Collector's Edition] (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
When Communist paratroopers descend on a Colorado high school football field, a group of the town’s young people (Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey) wages an all-out guerilla war to save their town — and their country.
Conceived at the height of the Cold War, this is one of those worst-case scenario, what-if narratives. There are several other historical falsehoods required for this story to exist, which makes it more of a science fiction movie even though it doesn’t contain the genre’s traditional trademarks. Director John Milius’ radical patriotism and gun advocacy clearly influence the picture and its characters. Several of the young actors had worked together on The Outsiders just before this shoot, and most notably Swayze and Grey would co-star in Dirty Dancing even though their impressions of each other weren’t encouraging the first time around. It’s both unbelievable and captivating to watch these kids challenge an organized invading force, while also seeing the conflicted response of one of the military leaders who used to be a guerilla fighter himself.
Special features include: "A Look Back at Red Dawn"; "Red Dawn Rising"; ass "Training For WWIII"; "Building The Red Menace"; "WWIII Comes To Town"; and original theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Six (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Navy SEAL Team Six are modern American warriors whose mission to eliminate a Taliban leader in Afghanistan goes awry when they uncover a U.S. citizen working with the terrorists. Inspired by real missions, the series captures the inside world of America’s elite special operations unit: what these SEALs do, their personal lives, combat, and the life-and-death decisions they make.
This miniseries splits its time between the unit’s personal affairs and their missions, which primarily revolve around the rescue of one of their former team members (Walter Goggins) who has been captured by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Before they can determine his exact whereabouts, Daesh becomes involved and things become more complicated. While they searching for their missing comrade, he’s trying to keep a group of kidnapped schoolgirls and their teacher safe. In between new developments, the men deal with the results of their absenteeism at home, which is causing strains within their families. The stress on their wives is shown, but not thoroughly explored as the main focus is on the brotherhood between the SEALs.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Wentworth: Season 1 (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Kind-hearted Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) arrives at Wentworth Prison, arrested for the attempted murder of her abusive husband, and is thrown headfirst into an unforgiving world with rules of its own. Desperate to protect her teenage daughter, Bea tries to stay out of trouble but gets caught up in a brutal rivalry between celebrity inmate Franky (Nicole da Silva) and former mob boss Jacs (Kris McQuade). When a shocking murder inflames tensions at the prison, Bea realizes that life behind bars is a constant struggle to survive.
This series premiered around the same time as Orange is the New Black in the UK, though the American show’s popularity has increased interest in its counterpart. One of the most interesting comparisons between the shows is the British system often seems more civilized, though its internal politics are far more brutal. Battles for supremacy are bloody and not even the guards are above moral impropriety. Bea’s character is a fish out of water that involves herself in matters better left alone, which leads to a shocking retaliation and less surprising reprisal. Through episodes in which their pasts are affecting their presents, audiences are shown how the main characters ended up in jail. Though there are a couple of mysteries to solve throughout the season, it follows a pretty definitive trajectory into the season finale.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; cast and crew interviews; set tours; and photo gallery. (RLJ Entertainment)
Wentworth: Season 2 (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Drastic changes are in store for the women at Wentworth Prison. Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) languishes in solitary, plotting revenge for her daughter’s murder, while Franky (Nicole da Silva) runs the prison unopposed. But the arrival of sadistic new governor Joan Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) threatens Franky’s top-dog status. With Franky’s contraband operation in her crosshairs, Ferguson attempts to recruit informants, and the inmates are forced to choose sides.
This season far exceeds the first and it is primarily due to the arrival of the new governor. Ferguson is immediately a force to be reckoned with, but her character is so much more than that. Outwitting everyone around her — prisoners and guards alike — she becomes a puppeteer, manipulating them all in any manner she sees fit. Her agenda is not revealed until late in the season, but by then she’s already become the most interesting character on the show. Meanwhile, Bea is unsurprisingly manoeuvering for a higher ranking position amongst the prisoners after her plans for revenge are finalized. And as two new women alter the dynamic, one of the inmates finally gets her freedom — though she discovers life on the outside isn’t all that different from prison.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; cast and crew interviews; and photo gallery. (RLJ Entertainment)
More about Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, Jackie, Collateral Beauty
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