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article imageReview: This week’s releases go where no one has gone before Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 27, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include old and new animated friends; a harrowing tale of women rulers; a dark remake; an extended snapshot of life; a very pink collection; and a movie that depicts where it all started.
Between Worlds (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Joe (Nicolas Cage) is a struggling truck driver haunted by the memory of his deceased wife and daughter. Joe’s life takes a dramatic turn when he meets Julie (Franka Potente), a woman with mysterious spiritual powers, whose daughter, Billie, lies in a coma. Julie enlists Joe’s help to stop Billie from crossing over to the spirit world, but when Billie awakes, her body is possessed by the vengeful spirit of Joe’s dead wife.
Most people are aware of Cage’s fascination with the supernatural, so it’s never surprising to see him pop up in one of these direct-to-video-type pictures dealing with ghosts, possession or demons. Unfortunately, like many of the ones that came before it, this isn’t a very good movie. Potente fittingly plays a German immigrant, abandoned by her soldier husband — but the role just doesn’t suit her. Cage portrays a sloppy alcoholic who doesn’t put up a lot of resistance to the sexual advances of a teenage girl, possessed or not. And Julie’s “guide” through this body-hijacking is a nurse who seems insightful, but not enough to have realized the mistake when it happened. It’s a very messy script that didn’t deserve either of its lead actors.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Front Runner (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Charismatic politician Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) captured the imaginations of young voters and was considered the overwhelming front runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. But his campaign was sidelined by the story of an extramarital relationship with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). As tabloid journalism and political journalism merged for the first time, Senator Hart was forced to drop out of the race, leaving a profound and lasting impact on American politics and the world stage.
It’s not hard to remember a time when a politician’s personal relations — extra-marital or otherwise — didn’t warrant front page news. But this movie depicts the moment the tides changed. Reporters and editors decided Hart should be held accountable for not only his administrative ethics, but his personal ones too. Suddenly, saying you were moral was not enough if you weren’t always living up to the standards set in your office/campaign. This scrutiny has continued, but it’s interesting to see how it all began; consequently, it would’ve been great to see more of the discussion in the newsrooms about this scandal becoming newsworthy. Jackman is excellent in portraying a man audiences will likely pity, commend and dislike as he tries to shift blame.
Special features include: commentary by filmmakers; deleted scenes; and “The Unmaking of a Candidate.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Happy Hour (Blu-ray)
Icarus Films
Four 30-something-year-old women in the misty seaside city of Kobe navigate the unsteady currents of their work, domestic and romantic lives, and an unexpected rift that propels each to a new, richer understanding of life and love.
In spite of these women only knowing each other as a group for a few years, they are very tightly bonded. So a closely kept secret feels like a betrayal of their friendship — especially when revealed in front of strangers. Each woman is navigating a difficult period in their love life, which includes divorce, dissatisfaction, infidelity and uncertainty. Even though the film follows each character pretty intimately, the audience is still occasionally kept on the periphery regarding their actual feelings or intentions, which can be quite complicated. Sitting down for a five-hour-and-17-minute movie is a daunting task and there are sections that seem to go on too long for little reason; but, on the flipside, these women are actually engaging characters dealing with real-life issues that will capture and retain viewers’ attentions.
Special features include: cast interviews. (Icarus Films)
Legally Blonde Collection (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
Legally Blonde: Elle’s (Reese Witherspoon) boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), dumps her for mean girl Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair) and Harvard Law, so she decides she should go too — what, like it’s hard? With her loyal sidekick Bruiser, the handsome Emmett (Luke Wilson) and new friend Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge) by her side, Elle hits the books and fights to be taken seriously, while she helps her friends stand up for themselves.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde: Elle (Witherspoon) storms the Capital in her one-of-a-kind fashion to pass a bill against animal testing, turning DC on its stuffy, boring head.
The first film in this collection skyrocketed Witherspoon to the top. Her films had done well before, but this was a hit. Elle wasn’t going to be everyone’s role model, but she was a prime example of a young woman who maintained her self-respect even when everyone tried to put her down. Of course, she had rich, white privilege to fall back on – but that didn’t stop her from being utterly likeable and an unexpected underdog. The second film jumps ahead a few years and Elle’s life couldn’t be more perfect. In fact, things are so good she can quit her job and devote herself to the thankless work of advocating for animal welfare. This movie is certainly more absurd than the first, which seemed impossible at the time. But Elle hasn’t changed, so it’s still an enjoyable tale of pink conquering all and renewed promise of what can be expected of the impending third installment.
Special features include: commentaries; deleted scenes; featurettes; music videos; gag reel; and theatrical trailers. (Short Select)
The Little Mermaid (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Disney Home Entertainment
Ariel, a mermaid princess, makes a Faustian bargain with Ursula, the unscrupulous sea-witch, in order to meet a human prince on land.
Disney is a major influence in many kids’ lives. So depending on when they were born, certain films tend to carry weight with a particular age group. This is definitely one for the early ‘80s babies. Ariel’s (and Scully’s) confusion over the use of certain household items are still humorous, while Sebastian’s battle with the cook has not lost its fervour. “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” are unforgettable songs forever imprinted on fans’ memories. In hindsight, there are also some super creepy parts, like Ursula’s garden of souls and the violent last battle that uses a ship as a massive weapon. Still, it’s a favourite among many and this new 4K transfer emphasizes the vibrancy that always leapt from the screen.
Special features include: “Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies”; “What I Want from You is Your Voice”; “Stories from Walt’s Office: Gadgets and Gizmos”; and sing-along mode. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Mary Queen of Scots (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The charismatic Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) lived a turbulent life. Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry and instead returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. By birth, she also has a rival claim to the throne of Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), who rules as the Queen of England. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Rivals in power and in love, the two queens make very different choices about marriage and children. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both queens — driving them apart, as each woman experiences the bitter cost of power.
Though the film is named after Mary, Elizabeth had more than a supporting role in her reign in spite being miles away. Even though they each had a country to govern, they were often preoccupied with the other’s opinions, plots and downfall. Mary’s fate is calamitous, yet she’s portrayed as a strong, intelligent ruler who demands respect because she’s a woman in power rather than attempt to shed her femininity like her counterpart. Ronan appears so delicate and attractive, but opposite her kindness is ferocious might and determination to retain the crown. Her slight stature is deceiving and invites challengers, but she proves time and again to be a relentless and shrewd opponent. One of the most immediately notable aspects of Robbie’s character is her beauty is marred early on by disease and her face concealed by heavy make-up to hide the scars. As a result, the striking actress whose roles have often revolved around her appearance is now relying solely on her talent — and she is formidable.
Special features include: commentary by director Josie Rourke and composer Max Richter; “An Epic Confrontation”; “Tudor Feminism”; and “Something about Marys.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Mole People (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
A party of archeologists come upon an unusual race of albino beings who shun all forms of light and have mutant mole men as their slaves. Because of their “magical cylinders of fire” (a.k.a. flashlights), these archaeologists are treated like gods — until they try to liberate the mole people. Can the archaeologists escape this hallowed mountain in Asia … or will they be destroyed in a strange underground world?
This was the first of Universal’s pictures to incorporate stock footage into a horror/science fiction film, though other studios had been using this trick for a while. The differences in quality were obvious, but it saved time and money if filmmakers didn’t have to shoot every second of the movie. This was also Virgil Vogel’s directorial debut, but the expert editor was well-versed in the genre and knew how to get it done. Nonetheless, the result is a sort of silly story in which a few archeologists find an ancient civilization that lives by different rules and must, therefore, be assimilated to stop their barbarianism rather than studied and understood. The anecdotes in the making-of bonus feature are interesting as they describe the end of an era, and the influence of the studio system on the film’s cast and narrative.
Special features include: commentary with film historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter; making-of featurette; Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode “The Mole People” (2/15/97); still galleries; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Ralph Breaks the Internet (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Disney Home Entertainment
Ralph (John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) risk it all by traveling to the Internet in search of a part to save her game. When Vanellope embraces this thrilling new world, Ralph realizes he may lose the only friend he’s ever had.
Much like Vanellope, viewers may find the pair’s daily routine at the beginning of the film a bit dry — but it gets exponentially better after they slide into the internet. This movie envisions an infinite city in which major websites are housed in branded skyscrapers. It’s vibrant and everything moves very quickly, which is great for Vanellope but really discombobulates Ralph. Par for the course, there’s a lot of story going on in front of all these dazzling visuals. Where Vanellope feels like a big fish in a little bowl, Ralph is perfectly content and can’t understand why his bestie doesn’t feel the same way. It’s that turmoil that manifests into the movie’s main villain, which takes on a fitting form considering the events and actions that lead to its appearance. Nonetheless, the duo’s venture into the internet is incredibly entertaining and highlights include an eBay auction gone terribly wrong, the liberation of the Disney princesses and passersby consisting of a number of characters from other properties.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “How We Broke the Internet”; and Easter eggs. (Disney Home Entertainment)
The Vengeance of She (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
A young beautiful woman named Carol (Olinka Berova) is plagued by hallucinatory voices calling her "Ayesha" and is drawn by a mysterious force toward the east. During her voyage, she meets Dr. Philip Smith (Edward Judd) who decides to accompany Carol to her unknown destination. Eventually the two reach the lost city of Kuma where Carol is greeted as the reincarnation of Queen Ayesha, the beloved of King Killikrates (John Richardson).
The film’s title and narrative don’t really connect. The name suggests a woman taking revenge against people who wronged her, while the movie is about a woman chosen to be the vessel for the resurrection of a long dead queen. Carol is quite resigned to her fate, but Philip insists they stop it and is the main instigator at the end of the story. It’s uncertain how these people on the other side of the world even selected Carol, but her journey to their city is far from uneventful even though her own contributions are minimal. In addition to all the body stealing, there’s other treachery afoot in the king’s court that adds another dimension to the ritual. In the end, the bonus feature about Hammer movies may prove more interesting to some viewers.
Special features include: commentary by the Monster Party podcast hosts Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe and James Gonis; interviews with assistant director Terence Clegg, visual effects artist Joy Cuff and clapper/loader Trevor Coop; “World of Hammer – Lands Before Time”; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Willard (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
For years, Willard Stiles (Crispin Glover) has been trapped in a dead-end job with no friends and no future. Willard's life seems hopeless until he makes an eerie discovery: he shares a powerful bond with the rats that dwell in his basement. Now a guy who has been trampled in the rat race his entire life is suddenly ready to tear up the competition ... beginning with his boss.
This is a remake of a 1971 picture, which also spawned a sequel starring the rat. Both protagonists discover they command a rat army, though their application of the information is slightly different. Willard picks a clever white rat as his favourite and names it Socrates, but that incites the jealousy of the largest rat, nicknamed “Big Ben.” A power struggle follows between Willard and Ben, though its victims tend to be innocent bystanders. Willard is definitely entitled to his anger as he’s treated very poorly throughout the picture by all but one character. Glover brings a particular creepiness to the character that his predecessor, Bruce Davison, didn’t have. The result is a far more sinister film with ghastly outcomes.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Glen Morgan and director of photography Robert McLachlan; commentary by animal trainers Mark Harden and David Allsberry of Animals for Hollywood; commentary with writer/director Glen Morgan, producer James Wong, actors Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey; deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary; behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the electronic press kit; “The Road to Willard,” an interview with writer/director Glen Morgan; “Destination Willard,” an interview with director of photography Robert McLachlan; “The Rat Trainer’s Notebook,” behind-the-scenes footage from Animals for Hollywood; “The Year of the Rat”; “Rat People: Friends or Foes? – A Real Rat Documentary”; music video “Ben” by Crispin Hellion Glover with optional commentary; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
More about MARY Queen of Scots, Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Front Runner, The Little Mermaid, Between Worlds
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