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article imageReview: This week’s releases include several tests of character Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 8, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the return of a couple of Disney classics; a fascinating drama with an unusual setting; a potential preview to an upcoming blockbuster; and a few takes on the cops vs. robbers theme.
Bambi (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Untitled
Disney Home Entertainment
In this life-changing adventure, Bambi sets off with his best friends Thumper and Flower to explore the wonders and challenges of the woods, and fulfill his destiny as prince of the forest.
In spite of being a beautiful story about friendships and adventure, the one thing most people remember from this movie is the devastation caused by the death of Bambi’s mother at the beginning of the film. Over the years, one realizes the parents almost always die in Disney movies so it becomes a little easier to steel yourself against it; but this has always been a difficult one. Growing up alongside Thumper and Flower, the trio have the cutest experiences learning about their world, including a memorable first encounter with ice. Of course, they eventually grow “old enough” to fall in love and Bambi is tested before he can take his rightful place on the throne. The bonus features provide an enchanting glimpse behind the curtain, where all the magic really happens.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “The Bambi Effect”; “Studio Stories: Bambi”; “Bambi Fawn Facts”; Oswald The Lucky Rabbit short, “Africa Before Dark”; “Trick of the Trade (Excerpt)”; “Inside the Disney Archives”; “The Old Mill: Animated Short”; “The Golden Age”; and original theatrical trailer. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Beauty and the Beast (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Disney Home Entertainment
An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince (Dan Stevens) and a young woman (Emma Watson) who fall in love.
One of the biggest questions regarding this adaptation was whether they’d incorporate the songs that were so fundamental to the original animated film. However, all of the original songs, as well as some new ones, are included in the movie. Moreover, a lot of the choreography — particularly during “Be Our Guest” — is adapted directly from the animated version. On the other hand, the extra songs and minor adjustments to the narrative don’t add enough to create a distinct or even enhanced experience over the animated version – just a longer one since the film runs two hours and nine minutes; nonetheless, the film is still lovely, entertaining and a great joy to watch. The cast is well chosen to bring these iconic characters to life. Even though Stevens is hidden beneath Beast’s façade and his voice is gruffer, his sense of humour and compassion are still able to frequently surface via his delivery of the dialogue and sterling blue eyes. While looking dreamily into the distance doesn’t appear to be a natural state for Watson, she captures Belle’s spirit, curiosity and kindness flawlessly.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Enchanted Table Read”; “A Beauty of a Tale”; “The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast”; “Making a Moment with Celine Dion”; “From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences”; extended song, “Days in the Sun”; “Beauty and the Beast” music video; “Making the Music Video”; and “Disney Song Selection.” (Disney Home Entertainment)
Cops vs. Thugs (Blu-ray)
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Arrow Video
It's 1963 in the southern Japanese city of Kurashima, and tough-as-nails detective Kuno (Bunta Sugawara) oversees a detente between the warring Kawade and Ohara gangs. Best friends with Ohara lieutenant Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata), he understands that there are no clear lines in the underworld, and that everything is colored a different shade of gray. But when random violence interrupts the peace and an ambitious, by-the-books lieutenant (Tatsuo Umemiya) comes to town, Kuno's fragile alliance begins to crumble. Greedy bosses and politicians alike seize the opportunity to wipe out their enemies, and Kuno faces the painful choice of pledging allegiance to his badge or keeping a promise to his brother.
While the title initially suggests this is a story of opposition between the two sides of the law, it actually turns out to be an exploration of the similarities and differences between the two. Kuno and the many other cops that frequent Ohara’s establishments are in a very difficult position when the new lieutenant arrives, since they are friends with the same criminals they are now expected to investigate and arrest. Kuno in particular finds it trying as Hirotani expects him to continue protecting him even though it’s become nearly impossible to do so. During the war, there’s an unusual incident with one of the bosses that changes the tide and forces Hirotani’s hand. Reminiscent of American crime dramas, the ending is not unexpected but it is entirely appropriate for the genre.
Special features include: “Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs”; a new visual essay on cops & criminals in Kinji Fukasaku 's works by film scholar Tom Mes; and theatrical trailer. (Arrow Video)
Enter the Warrior’s Gate (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
After a mysterious chest opens a gateway through time, teen gamer Jack (Uriah Shelton) is transported to an ancient empire terrorized by a cruel barbarian king (Dave Bautista). Jack will need all of his gaming skills as he battles to defeat the barbarian, protect a beautiful princess, and somehow find his way back home.
The script from Luc Besson is an unconventional mashup of American and Asian cinema. Jack is a typical American teenage boy, bullied by his peers and finding refuge in building a video game. However, he’s sucked into a period Chinese action movie in which the princess must be rescued from a cruel leader, played by American Bautista. There are also several random dance sequences weaved into the narrative, which once again marries the cultures. Where The Great Wall failed to make a successful co-production, this movie works by not taking itself too seriously and blending the cultures rather than letting either flounder. This may also serve to provide some insight into Besson’s soon-to-be-released sci-fi epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Special features include: commentary with Director Matthias Hoene; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “The Journey East: Bridging the Cultural Divide.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Golden Years (DVD)
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Acorn
Retired couple Arthur (Bernard Hill) and Martha (Virginia McKenna) Goode lead a simple life in the suburbs, relaxing at home and socializing with friends at their club. But when the nation’s financial crisis empties their hard-earned pension accounts, the couple seizes the opportunity to replenish their funds through a series of bank robberies. Dressed in masks and armed with cucumbers as guns, the unlikely criminal duo makes national news. But with detectives Sid (Alun Armstrong) and Stringer (Brad Moore) closing in on them, and their beloved club in talks to become a supermarket, the Goodes enlist their friends’ help to pull off one last, audacious heist.
At first glance the premises between this UK picture and the American Going in Style sound similar, but the execution is quite different. Arthur and Martha seem to be naturals, easily robbing the local bank with concealed “weapons” and then making their getaway. Obviously, no one suspects the unassuming elderly couple walking down the street a short time after the robbery. And not to be greedy since everyone is suffering the same financial hardships, they spread their newly acquired wealth around. What’s most amusing is the number of people willing to take part when more hands are required to pull off an even larger, final heist in order to save their club, which doubles as a lifeline for most of its patrons.
Special features include: interviews with the cast and crew. (Acorn)
Kingdom: Seasons One and Two (DVD)
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Shout Factory
Former pro fighter, Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo), along with his girlfriend, Lisa (Kiele Sanchez), runs a Mixed Martial Arts gym in Venice, California. Tensions mount when Alvey’s estranged ex-wife, Christina (Joanna Going), stops being estranged. Meanwhile, Lisa’s ex-fiancé, Ryan (Matt Lauria), returns from prison to resurrect his fighting career — with Alvey as his trainer. And although Alvey and Christina’s sons, Jay (Jonathan Tucker) and Nate (Nick Jonas), show promise as fighters, each contends with demons and secrets of his own.
This is less of an inside look at the world of MMA than it is a primetime drama that happens to revolve around fighters. With everyone constantly battling their personal demons, it’s surprising they even have anything to take into the ring when the time comes. Jay and Nate are probably the most appealing characters, though they don’t receive nearly as much screen time; nonetheless, this isn’t really a rare opportunity to see Jonas’ grappling skills since his fighting career is backburnered fairly quickly in season one. Alvey and Ryan can’t seem to stop screwing up, while Lisa allows herself to get dragged into their issues every time. Christina is also interesting only in so far as you’re never really sure what she’s up to or what she may do. The jump from the first to second season is pretty jarring, but it’s not that difficult to catch up and fill in the blanks.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Operation Mekong (Blu-ray & DVD)
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Well Go USA
A band of elite narcotics officers are sent by the Chinese government to uncover the truth behind the ambush of two Chinese commercial vessels traveling down the Mekong River. When it’s discovered the drugs seized from the ships had been planted by a notorious drug cartel, a multi-country joint task force is assembled to stop the criminals. The road to justice is, however, paved with dangerous and deadly obstacles.
The tightknit group of cops working this case, each with their own speciality, is reminiscent of the many similar ensemble action movies seen in American crime dramas and blockbuster movies. The leader works closely with a local detective to infiltrate the drug trade and get closer to the notorious leader. The narrative’s additional element of intrigue is provided by the fact the Chinese officers are working covertly since they are not sanctioned in the country. The villain is a formidable drug lord, recruiting children to build his army in the jungle and maiming those who do not join. The whole operation/film is quite captivating from start to finish as they encounter many twists in the road to justice.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Well Go USA)
The Sense of an Ending (DVD)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long-buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love (Charlotte Rampling), and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago.
This is a fascinating exploration of memory and youth. Tony was generally satisfied with his life until a letter sends him down a rabbit hole of past love, friends and transgressions. Although viewers only witness these previous events through Tony’s eyes, it becomes apparent his versions of events are skewed to some degree. He remembers the good, but had blocked out or altered his less than stellar behaviour during the same time period. However, re-examining these occurrences from a lifetime ago has a positive effect on his current relationships. His connection with his pregnant daughter is of particular interest to the narrative as she requires increased support nearer her due date. Broadbent is always excellent and even though Rampling’s part is comparably smaller, she dominates her scenes with genuine austerity.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and “Doing Right by a Great Book.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Sky on Fire (Blu-ray)
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Well Go USA
The chief security officer at a top-secret medical facility (Daniel Wu) finds himself caught in an explosive battle when a young thief and his accomplices steal a ground-breaking curative medicine. After discovering the true origins of the medicine, the officer must decide whom he can trust to protect the cure from falling into the wrong hands and prevent an all-out war from bringing the city to its knees.
How far would you go to save someone you love? For one man, there are no limits when his sister is diagnosed with advanced cancer and he learns an experimental drug may be the cure. However, in his way (or possibly on his side) is the corrupt pharmaceutical company’s chief security officer, who happens to be very good at his job. The film has several out-of-context flashbacks that only make sense later in the narrative, but the overall story is engaging. Portraying the prescription drugs industry to be as crooked as the illegal one, this movie finds conflict and action around every nefarious corner.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
The Ticket (Blu-ray)
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Shout Select
After James (Dan Stevens), a blind man, inexplicably regains his vision, he becomes possessed by a drive to make a better life for himself. However, his new improvements — a nicer home, a higher paying job, tailored suits, luxury car — leave little room for the people who were part of his old, simpler life: his plain wife (Malin Akerman) and close friend Bob (Oliver Platt). As his relationships buckle under the strain of his snowballing ambition, it becomes uncertain if James can ever return from darkness.
In the film, they share a story about a man who doesn’t try so he never succeeds as a tale of inspiration; the movie’s narrative, on the other hand, is a warning. James’ prayers are miraculously answered, but his true self is revealed when he discovers he can have everything. The film is a fascinating character study, following James’ trajectory after regaining his sight and its fallout. Stevens is generally very charming, but with this role he alters his charisma so that it seems tainted or unnatural. In the background of the narrative, director Ido Fluk shows the audience James’ view of the world with sun-drenched rooms and vibrant colours dominating each scene so they have a greater understanding of what he’s gained… and may lose.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Ido Fluk and writer Sharon Mashihi; and original theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Where the Buffalo Roam [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
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Shout Select
America's leading "Gonzo" journalist, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Bill Murray), is the legendary underground reporter whose passion for writing was second only to his love of weird chemicals, alcohol, violence and insanity. Along with his best friend Carl Lazlo, Esq. (Peter Boyle), Thompson takes audiences on a manic look back at the Sixties and Seventies as an eyewitness to everything from a free-for-all San Francisco drug trial to a one-on-one bathroom interview with then Presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
Most people are familiar with Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but Murray did it first and equally well in this eventually disavowed 1980 version of the gonzo journalist’s life. Several of the same incidents are depicted in both films, though this one is somewhat less psychedelic and exaggerated than its successor. Murray is outstanding as the strange legendary writer who led an unconventional life, but composed some of the greatest, most in-depth articles of the time. Lazlo is essentially a moving target in Thompson’s life, popping up unexpectedly to provide a brief sojourn from everyday life. Boyle’s portrayal of the lawyer is far more radical than Benicio Del Toro’s, focusing on the guerilla warfare mentality he adapts after losing a marijuana case. This is a must see for fans of Murray and/or Thompson.
Special features include: “Inventing the Buffalo: An Interview with Screenwriter John Kaye”; and original theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
The Young Pope (Blu-ray & DVD)
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HBO Home Entertainment
The ten-episode limited series tells the fictional story of Lenny Belardo (Jude Law), a.k.a. Pius XIII, the first-ever American Pope and the youngest elected by the College of Cardinals. At first glance, Lenny's selection over older and more experienced clerics — in particular Cardinal Spencer, a fellow American and Lenny's mentor — seems part of a simple media strategy by Vatican elders, who no doubt expect the new Pope to toe the line and follow their lead. Instead, Pius XIII eschews the counsel of the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Voiello, and enlists the woman who raised him, Sister Mary, to be his chief confidante. To the chagrin of Voiello and the PR reps who would market the handsome and charming young Pope, Lenny refuses to allow himself to be photographed, and he announces a series of severe, hardline initiatives that confound the Vatican status quo.
This is a fascinating portrayal of a highly regarded religious figure that has very little to do with Catholicism. In a few instances, Bible passages are recited to support or refute an argument and there are certain traditions that are upheld, but this is about the man inside the robes. Pius XIII is a complicated figure that intentionally shakes up the order of things at the Vatican, refusing to be their puppet and instead imposing himself as one of the most conservative leaders to wear Papal hat. However, his shocking deviousness and crisis of faith makes it very difficult to see him as the Pope. Diane Keaton and James Cromwell play Pius’ advisors to varying degrees, though they clearly have their work cut out for them. Also, setting the opening to “All Along the Watchtower” was an inspired choice.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and “Inside the Episode.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
More about Beauty and the beast, Where the Buffalo Roam, Cops vs Thugs, Bambi, Enter the Warrior's Gate
 
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