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article imageReview: This week’s releases only think they know what they want Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 26, 2021 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the first two seasons of a hard-hitting animated series; the prehistoric age with a modern twist; a movie that blurs its protagonist’s reality; a historical mystery; a cartoon throwback; and several cinematic classics.
The Croods: A New Age (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The Croods have survived fanged beasts, natural disasters and even young love, but now they must face their biggest challenge yet: another family! In search of a new home, the Croods discover a walled-in paradise created by the sophisticated Betterman family (emphasis on the “better”). As they try to coexist, the differences between the two families escalate into a full-blown feud. But when a new threat forces both families to embark on an epic adventure, they must all learn to work together...or they’ll all go extinct.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and Eep’s (Emma Stone) growing romance is starting to feel a little stifled in the sleep pile, prompting the couple to contemplate looking for their own space and a little privacy. But first, they need to find the fabled paradise of “tomorrow” where everyone will be safe. It turns out tomorrow is already occupied by the inventive Bettermans, who have built quite the infrastructure in their prehistoric, gated property. The conflicts between the families are fairly predictable as their ways of life are completely contradictory, though the centre of their disagreement may be a bit of surprise. Belt’s screen time is a bit limited, but the addition of his pink counterpart, Sash, doubles the cuteness. The sequel is still packed with family-friendly fun, including a barrel of punch monkeys and a thrilling rescue.
Special features include: commentary by director Joel Crawford, producer Mark Swift, head of story Januel Mercado and editor Jim Ryan; deleted scenes; “Dear Diary: World’s First Pranks”; “Family Movie Night: Little Red Bronana Bread”; “To: Gerard”; “The Croods’ Family Album”; “The Evolution of…”; “How to Draw: Caveman Style”; “Famileaf Album”; “Stone Age Snack Attack”; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Fear of Rain (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
For teenager Rain Burroughs (Madison Iseman), a diagnosis with schizophrenia means that every day is a struggle as she tries to figure out which of the disturbing images, harrowing voices, and traumatic feelings she experiences are real and which are all in her mind. But when Rain insists against her parents’ (Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick, Jr.) advice that the shadows and cries from her neighbor’s attic are hiding a dark secret, she enlists help from Caleb (Israel Broussard), the charmingly awkward new boy at school — who himself may not be real.
It’s been less than a year since Words on Bathroom Walls depicted a teenager coping with a recent diagnosis of schizophrenia. Although this movie deals with a similar subject, it lacks its predecessor’s sense of humour. Rain’s episodes range from intrusive to severe, including violent outbursts linked to her hallucinations. She’s on a rotating mix of medication as they try to control her symptoms and keep her from being institutionalized. In the meantime, her illness is so serious she has trouble distinguishing real from imaginary, including people with whom she interacts. This story is further complicated by her obsession with the potential criminal activity next door, which she risks everything to prove. Iseman’s performance is convincing as Rain struggles with her hallucinations, which generally trumps any of the regular teenage issues also plaguing her. Though the narrative tries to incorporate a few twists, the results aren’t especially surprising; though the ending remains satisfying.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and “Collective Fear: A Conversation.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Harley Quinn: The Complete First and Second Seasons (Blu-ray)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) finally breaks things off once and for all with Joker (Alan Tudyk) and attempts to make it on her own as the criminal Queenpin of Gotham City. With the help of Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) and a ragtag crew of DC castoffs, Harley tries to earn a seat at the biggest table in villainy: the Legion of Doom. Don’t worry — she’s got this. Or does she? In Season 2, Harley has defeated Joker, and Gotham City is hers for the taking…what’s left of it, that is. Her celebration in the newly created chaos is cut short when Penguin, Bane, Mr. Freeze, The Riddler and Two-Face join forces to restore order in the criminal underworld. Calling themselves the Injustice League, they’re intent on keeping Harley and her crew from taking control as the top villains in Gotham.
The series shares a similar jumping off point as Harley’s standalone feature film, though that’s where the similarities end. Ivy isn’t much of a team player, but she and Harley form a bond as underestimated female villains. Harley is determined to make a name for herself without Joker, but her crew of misfits and rejects don’t give her much credibility. However, the series evolves into much more than Harley’s misplaced efforts to prove herself as she gradually realizes she’s better off without Joker and the Injustice League. The episode centred on Mr. Freeze serves as an unexpected turning point for the show and the characters’ arcs. Ivy’s role grows to nearly equal Harley’s on the show, though her motivations and approach to life are wholly different. Similarly, Harley’s crew grow more complete personalities and become integral parts of the series. Unlike most of their feature film properties, DC has done an excellent job with their animated movies and TV series, and this show follows suit by never disappointing.
There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Horizon Line (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Former couple Sara (Allison Williams) and Jackson (Alexander Dreymon) board a single-engine plane for a routine and casual flight to their friend’s tropical island wedding. However, within minutes of takeoff, their pilot (Keith David) suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving them with no idea where they are and no clue how to land the plane. With nothing but miles of ocean and sky in every direction, and a terrifying storm that’s about to envelop them, Sara and Jackson have only one shot — and there’s no going back.
The first act is dedicated to establishing Sara and Jackson’s relationship, from their awkward separation to their equally uncomfortable reunion. Considering the pilot was showing signs of illness before they took off, it’s not at all surprising he becomes sick during the flight. As they take the controls, it’s one disaster after another followed by one foolish decision after another. From a shortened fuel supply to a massive storm to a lack of radio communication, they face numerous obstacles. However, even under pressure, both Sara and Jackson make terrible decisions. Moreover, watching them perform these tasks via convenient edits and impossible feats of strengths just makes it all that much more absurd. The final moments in which yet another threat is briefly teased before being immediately diffused is the last straw in a pile of disappointment.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Inside Amy Schumer: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
It's finally here: all four seasons of the ground-breaking sketch series in one box set. All the sketches, all the guest stars (including Amber Rose, Justin Long and Jon Glaser), and all the best of Amy Schumer.
This sketch comedy show combined multiple elements to deliver a variety of comedic styles in each episode. Interludes of stand-up introduce the themes or topics for each show, which include dating, sex, genitals and other things involving the human condition. The “man on the street segments” feature Schumer interviewing random strangers who provide very candid and potentially exaggerated answers to her often intimate and/or prying questions. The sketches are short and frequently include recognizable guest stars who go all in on the ridiculous narratives. However, most notable is how the show tackles crude and even taboo subjects openly and head-on. Schumer doesn’t shy away from any subject or try to address it gently – she challenges expectations of women by defying them in every possible way.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurettes; unaired sketches; outtakes; and more. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
John Hughes 5-Movie Collection (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
Originally released on February 28, 1986, Pretty in Pink celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2021. Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a high school girl from the other side of town. Blane (Andrew McCarthy) is the wealthy heartthrob who asks her to prom. But as fast as their romance builds, it’s threatened by the painful reality of peer pressure. 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful is the story of young love in which Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) finds her feelings for her best friend, Keith (Eric Stoltz), run deeper than just friendship. When Keith gets a date with the most popular girl in school (Lea Thompson), the girl's old boyfriend is unable to let go of her and plans to get back at Keith. Also celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2021 is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Matthew Broderick stars as a delightfully charming high school student who, with his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best bud Cameron (Alan Ruck), ditches school to enjoy one perfect day as a kid with no responsibilities. Planes, Trains and Automobiles follows a businessman (Steve Martin) who is struggling to get home for Thanksgiving, but burdened by one travel mishap after another, as well as the company of an annoying traveling salesman (John Candy). She’s Having a Baby follows an aspiring writer (Kevin Bacon) who must face up to the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood in spite of his persistent doubts and unfulfilled ambitions.
Even though John Hughes didn’t direct all of the films he penned, he became the voice of the ‘80s because of his ability to capture realistic, relatable characters. Teens dealing with social hierarchies, unrequited love and coming-of-age, full of angst and optimism, hoping to make it through today because tomorrow has to be better. Fantasies of a perfect day away from the pressures of school, parents and college admissions. But Hughes’ narratives were not restricted to the young. Newlyweds starting their lives together are suddenly forced to alter their plans due to an unplanned but still welcome pregnancy, resulting in the husband having second-thoughts in the form of dreams and hallucinations. In the end, the best of this collection is the movie that delivers the most laughs by pairing two of the era’s greatest comedic talents. Many more titles emerged from Hughes’ brilliant mind, but this is a good sampling.
Special features include: Pretty in Pink: “Filmmaker Focus with director Howard Deutch”; “The Lost Dance: The Original Ending”; and original theatrical trailer; Some Kind of Wonderful: commentary by director Howard Deutch and Lea Thompson; “A Conversation with director Howard Deutch”; making-of featurette; “Meet the Cast of Some Kind of Wonderful”; and “John Hughes Time Capsule”; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off”; making-of featurette; “Who is Ferris Bueller?”; “The World According to Ben Stein”; “Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes”; and “Class Album”; Planes, Trains and Automobiles: deleted scene; “Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles”; “John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (2-Part Documentary)”; “John Hughes for Adults”; and “A Tribute to John Candy”; and She’s Having a Baby: “From the Archives: Kevin Bacon Interviews John Hughes”; and theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Lady Sings the Blues (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Entertainment
The essence of Billie Holiday, one of America's most loved and memorable blues singers, is captured in a tour-de-force debut performance by singer Diana Ross. Filled with the greatest songs of the incomparable 'Lady Day,' this film biography received five Academy Award nominations, including Ross for 'Best Actress.'
Billie Holiday’s name and music lived well beyond her short, tragic life and this biopic illustrates the difficult road that paved her way to stardom. The bonus features reveal the project was specially designed for Ross and she delivers a breakout performance. Growing up in brothels and destined to carry on the family tradition of manual labour, Holiday is convinced her voice can help her rise above her station. Her confidence and determination to be a legitimate singer draws people to her, enchanting a piano player (Richard Pryor) and notorious ladies’ man (Billy Dee Williams), and grabbing the attention of other aspiring artists. Unfortunately, her success is riddled by heartbreak as she becomes addicted to heroin and every up leads to a deeper, harder down. Ross confesses she never tried to emulate Holiday, but rather put herself in her place and feel everything she experienced. This is a very demanding approach, but it pays off.
Special features include: commentary by executive producer Berry Gordy, director Sidney Furie and artist manager Shelly Berger; deleted scenes; and “Behind the Blues: Lady Sings the Blues.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Last Vermeer (Blu-ray)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
While Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), a Dutch Jew, was fighting in the Resistance during the Second World War, the witty, debonair art connoisseur Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was hosting hedonistic soirees and selling Dutch art treasures to Hermann Göring and other top Nazis. Following the war, Piller becomes an investigator assigned the task of identifying and redistributing stolen art, resulting in the flamboyant van Meegeren being accused of collaboration — a crime punishable by death. But, despite mounting evidence, Piller, with the aid of his assistant (Vicky Krieps), becomes increasingly convinced of Han’s innocence and finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting to save his life.
As the Allied forces tried to round-up all the Nazi conspirators, they came across some cases that were not as clear cut as they first appeared. Piller made it his personal mission to uncover as many collaborators as possible in order to get some justice for all the lives lost. However, van Meegeren is clever, charming and potentially telling the truth about his innocence. The story has several twists and many layers of complexity. The mystery and its investigation are expertly woven together without the use of tired devices like flashbacks. It’s a thrilling race to uncover the truth, though there is very little action in the picture – instead, it keeps audience’s attention with its gripping detective story.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Mandabi (Blu-ray)
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Criterion Collection
This second feature by Ousmane Sembène was the first movie ever made in the Wolof language — a major step toward the realization of the trailblazing Senegalese filmmaker’s dream of creating a cinema by, about, and for Africans. After jobless Ibrahima Dieng receives a money order for 25,000 francs from a nephew who works in Paris, news of his windfall quickly spreads among his neighbors, who flock to him for loans even as he finds his attempts to cash the order stymied in a maze of bureaucracy, and new troubles rain down on his head.
The film is grounded in the challenges produced by colonialism. Ibrahima’s lack of education and small town trust is pummelled by the corruption and greed of the big city. At home, there is an endless line of people hoping to benefit from his windfall as poverty and hunger plague’s his neighbours, as well as his own family. Meanwhile, in the city, he’s consistently blocked by bureaucratic red tape. Taking on more debt to try to jump through the costly hoops necessary to cash the money order, day after day Ibrahima tries and fails to work within the system. The issues he faces are understandably frustrating, yet he never gives up hope that it will eventually work out in his favour. His plight is very relatable and his naiveté mostly forgivable, making the story personal and universal. The discussions in the bonus features shed light on the film’s importance at the time of its release, as well as its continued relevance.
Special features include: introduction by film scholar Aboubakar Sanogo; conversation from 2020 with author and screenwriter Boubacar Boris Diop and sociologist and feminist activist Marie Angélique Savané; “Praise Song”; “Tauw,” a 1970 short film by Sembène; an essay by critic and scholar Tiana Reid; excerpts from a 1969 interview with Sembène; and a new edition of Sembène’s 1966 novella “The Money Order,” on which the film is based. (Criterion Collection)
Scooby-Doo! The Sword and the Scoob (DVD)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Take a journey back in time to King Arthur’s court in this legendary saga of wizards, knights, dragons…and Scooby-Doo! An evil sorceress tries to seize power in Camelot, so King Arthur needs the help of our favorite super sleuths to save his throne. But will their valiant efforts only make things royally worse?
In this zany adventure, the Scooby gang take on medieval cosplay and become immersed in the ultimate role-playing game. King Arthur and Shaggy have a surprising amount in common, though only one of them wields Excalibur. While Shaggy bonds with his highness, Daphne seizes the opportunity to demonstrate a woman can be as good as and better than the King’s champions, besting the knights in everything from jousting to archery. Velma stays on the case, meeting the legendary Merlin, who tries to convince her magic is real and necessary to her solving the mystery. The narrative also incorporates another classic cartoon, resulting in an unexpected reveal at the end.
Special features include: three bonus cartoons. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Smooth Talk (Blu-ray)
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Criterion Collection
Suspended between carefree youth and the harsh realities of the adult world, a teenage girl experiences an unsettling awakening in this haunting vision of innocence lost. Connie (Laura Dern) is the fifteen-year-old black sheep of her family whose summertime idyll of beach trips, mall hangouts, and innocent flirtations is shattered by an encounter with a mysterious stranger named Arnold Friend (Treat Williams).
The film is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Eighteen-year-old Dern didn’t necessarily look young enough to play Connie, but she certainly captured the competing priorities of a 14-year-old girl. In classic ‘80s style, Connie leaves her house as her parents’ modest daughter only to change her outfit as soon as she’s beyond their watchful stares. However, when she finally receives the adult attention she thought she desired from Friend, she begins to regret her need to grow up so quickly. Of course, it doesn’t help that Williams’ character is wholly intimidating and incredibly predatory. The exchange between them in the final act is one of the most uncomfortable conversations to witness, as the layers of innuendo swell and the risk to Connie mounts. Though the rest of the film is fairly pedestrian, these final scenes are paramount. Listening to them talk about the film all these years later in the bonus features brings perspective to the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner.
Special features include: conversation among director Joyce Chopra, author Joyce Carol Oates, and actor Laura Dern from the 2020 New York Film Festival; new interview with Chopra; new interviews with actors Mary Kay Place and Treat Williams; new interview with production designer David Wasco; KPFK Pacifica Radio interview with Chopra from 1985; “Joyce at 34” (1972), “Girls at 12” (1975), and “Clorae and Albie” (1976), three short films by Chopra; audio reading of the 1966 Life magazine article “The Pied Piper of Tucson,” which inspired the short story by Oates; essay by poet and memoirist Honor Moore; a 1986 New York Times article by Oates about the adaptation; and Oates’s 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (Criterion Collection)
More about The Croods A New Age, harley quinn, Inside Amy Schumer, The Last Vermeer, Fear of Rain
 
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