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article imageReview: This week’s releases rehash the past Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 2, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a couple of old musicals; a superhero movie like no other; an infinite second chance; and the origin of modern crime fighting.
A Street Cat Named Bob (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
When James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand-to-mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas. Soon the two were inseparable and their adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled past.
This is one of those inspiring, uplifting stories that is that much more moving because it involves the love of an animal. James seems to be a talented musician/songwriter, undiscovered and busking for food money… and before his recovery, for heroin money. Bob turns out to be the best thing to happen to him, though his track record of poor decision-making and ongoing streak of bad luck does cause a few issues before they finally find their place in their world. Based on a true story and inspiration for a best-selling book, the real-life James and Bob turned each other’s lives around to become advocates for people with similar backgrounds — it’s only their story that makes the movie even remotely exceptional.
Special features include: cast interviews; behind-the-scenes footage; and slide show. (MVD Visual)
Before I Fall (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) has everything: the perfect friends, the perfect guy and seemingly the perfect future. But after one fateful night, Sam is trapped reliving the same day over and over, and starts to question just how perfect her life really was. As she untangles the mystery of a life derailed, she must also unwind the secrets of those closest to her, and discover the power of a single day to make a difference – before she runs out of time for good.
Taking its cue from the classic Groundhog Day, this movie wants its lead character to learn a lesson. Thus, Sam relives an unknown number of days as she tries to figure out what to do with this additional time. The film depicts the highlights of her numerous experiences, though the purpose of her loop while noble doesn’t really seem to have a greater meaning. As the only one to see the effects of her “mean girl” clique, it’s hard to imagine an impact beyond Sam’s own understanding of life… which perhaps is meant to serve as a potential model for the afterlife. In any case, the variations of her day are relatively interesting, though it gets off to a slow start.
There are no special features. (Elevation Pictures)
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Beautiful and haunted Joan (Emma Roberts) makes a bloody and determined pilgrimage across a frozen landscape toward a prestigious all-girls prep school, where Rose (Lucy Boynton) and Kat (Kiernan Shipka) find themselves stranded after their parents mysteriously fail to retrieve them for winter break. As Joan gets closer, Rose watches in horror while Kat suffers terrifying visions and becomes possessed by an unseen force.
This a fairly dark film (literally and figuratively) with a very minimal premise. Rose is a mostly well-respected student with a secret bad girl streak, trying to manage issues with her boyfriend before winter break. Kat’s story is less clear, but she’s clearly troubled as she seeks the approval of the headmaster while unable to connect with her parents. Joan appears to have had a violent recent past, but little else is revealed about her. It’s not until the end that the significance of these characters to each other is explained, which results in a relatively good twist. However, the ambiguity of everything leading up to the conclusion grows tedious.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Osgood Perkins; and a making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Brain Damage (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Meet Elmer. He’s your local, friendly parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian (Rick Hearst) comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite’s preferred food source — brains.
This acid-trip of an ‘80s picture sounds like something definitely concocted while under the influence as the phallus parasite both consumes brains and injects a euphoric drug into its host. The narrative doesn’t go much beyond this premise, providing a vague origin story for the creature and a mounting pile of bodies. At best, an ambiguous commentary on addiction, James pushes away everything else in his life in favour of the organism and the high it supplies. Of course, the price of ecstasy is slightly higher than average since it requires human sacrifices. The whole thing is rather ridiculous, a perception exasperated by the Elmer’s bizarre voice.
Special features include: “Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage”; “The Effects of Brain Damage”; “Animating Elmer”; “Karen Ogle: A Look Back”; “Elmer’s Turf: The NYC Locations of Brain Damage”; “Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession”; Q&A with Frank Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival; “Bygone Behemoth,” animated short; image galleries; original theatrical trailer; limited edition O-card with exclusive artwork; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck; and collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold, illustrated with original archive stills and posters. (Arrow Video)
The Climber (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
The film charts the rise and inevitable fall of small-time smuggler Aldo (Joe Dallesandro). Beaten and abandoned by the local gang boss after he tries to skim off some profits for himself, Aldo forms his own group of misfits in order to exact revenge.
In spite of being an Italian production, this movie is very similar to American gangster movies, such as Scarface, in which a low-level hood decides he wants to be a top dog. Aldo is quite strategic when composing his gang and preparing to challenge for a piece of the pie; as a result, he experiences some immediate and unexpected success. He manages to establish himself relatively quickly as a threat, and is smart enough to know who to deal with and how to handle them. Aldo’s rise to power is an appealing story, but the ending doesn’t fit with the rest of the narrative which makes the whole film rather disappointing.
Special features include: “Little Joe’s Adventures in Europe”; reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon. (Arrow Video)
Code of a Killer (DVD)
When the trail goes cold on the homicides of two teenage girls, Detective David Baker (David Threlfall) contacts Dr. Alec Jeffreys (John Simm), who has made headlines with his ground-breaking DNA research. Together they attempt what has never been done before — to solve a crime through DNA profiling. Facing public opposition and lack of funding, Baker and Jeffreys conduct the world’s first “DNA manhunt” to find the girls’ murderer and stop a serial killer in his tracks.
This movie is part crime drama, part scientific chronicle. With two unsolved murders on their hands and a confession that doesn’t add up, the police are under a lot of pressure to put the killer in jail. In the meantime, Jeffreys and his team just recently identified how to check and identify DNA patterns, as well as use them to link people to each other. Their earliest applications involve proving parentage in immigration cases. However, Baker is a forward-thinking detective and sees the possible criminal applications for the science. While the manner by which they find the murderer would no longer be feasible, it is fascinating to see how Jeffreys’ research was first used in what now seems such a natural function.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Acorn)
Fist Fight (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
On the last day of the school year, mild-mannered high school English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is trying his best to keep it together amidst outrageous senior pranks, a dysfunctional administration and budget cuts that are putting his job on the line just as his wife is expecting their second baby. But things go from bad to worse when Campbell crosses the school’s toughest and most feared teacher, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), causing Strickland to be fired. To Campbell’s shock — not to mention utter terror — Strickland responds by challenging him to a fist fight after school. News of the fight spreads like wildfire as Campbell takes ever more desperate measures to avoid getting the crap beaten out of him. But if he actually shows up and throws down, it may end up being the very thing this school, and Andy Campbell, needed.
School fights always garner an audience and this is probably one of the largest as the match is set between two teachers instead of students. Unfortunately, the lead up to the violent climax is less entertaining. The most irritating part about the movie is the ludicrous last day of school pranks being unleashed throughout; from vandalized personal property to physical injury, there appear to be no limits to their hijinks. On top of that, Strickland is a lunatic and most of the other teachers seem too incompetent for employment, which makes it difficult to care about their potential dismissals. However, the last act that starts with Campbell’s father-daughter dance number and is followed by the epic schoolyard fight are undoubtedly the picture’s best moments… though you could probably skip ahead to the corresponding chapters and still fully enjoy these scenes.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Hart to Hart: The Complete Series (DVD)
Shout Factory
Jonathan and Jennifer Hart (Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers), a wealthy and glamorous couple, always manage to find themselves caught up in intrigue and adventure, which they escape with the help of their loyal and gravel-voiced servant Max (Lionel Stander).
In addition to depicting a picture-perfect marriage, each episode revolves around some scandal from which they must extract themselves. From kidnapping for ransom to assassination attempts to dangerous exes, trouble always seems to find the couple. Outside of generally being in the wrong place at the wrong time, they don’t have any training or reason to not let the police handle things except for their personal sense of justice. Even though the main characters are the loving couple, Max is the heart of the show. He’s sweet, funny and always there when they need him to either bail them out or lend some helpful advice. The show lasted five seasons, which equals a lot of adventures for the affluent couple.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Hunted (DVD)
VVS Films
A photojournalist (Zoë Bell) gets more than she bargained for when she snaps a photo of a shadowy religious figure in the jungles of Columbia, triggering a fight for a life.
Bell gained low-level celebrity status when Quentin Tarantino hailed her work as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the Kill Bill films and then later gave her a role in his homage to midnight cinema, Death Proof. Since then, she’s found work in little known pictures like this one that generally end up not being very good. Although efforts are made to make the non-combatant photojournalist’s actions seem amateurish, it’s still difficult to believe someone without training would be able to outlast guerilla soldiers in the jungle. Moreover, while the bookends of the film are adequate, everything in between is mind-numbing. It’s only at the beginning and end that anything appears to be accomplished; the rest is implausible filler.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
Kiss Me, Kate (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
When the egotistical Fred Graham (Brent Barrett) mounts a musical adaptation of The Taming of The Shrew — with himself as director, producer, and star — he's got the perfect leading lady in mind: his movie star ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Rachel York). The fireworks between the two both onstage and off seem destined to explode the entire production…or will a romantic flame that's “Too Darn Hot” be rekindled?
This is a cross between a musical and a screwball comedy as Fred and Lilli are constantly under each other’s skin, see-sawing back and forth between loving each other and hating each other with the fiery passion that only comes from once being in love. The songs are recited both on- and off-stage, and are actually quite catchy. The film’s humour is reminiscent of a Howard Hawkes/Cary Grant picture in which the male lead is torn between his desire and his masculinity — Fred still loves Lilli, but he won’t outright ask her to return to him. In the meantime, there are matters of mistaken identity, debt-collecting thugs and a show that must go on.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Logan (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
In the near future, a weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) cares for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) in a hideout on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
The overall condition of the future is relatively unchanged for non-mutants. The state of mutant affairs is an entirely different matter as their futures are rather bleak — circumstances reflected in the desolate Mexican desert where Logan lives. Repeated attempts to shut down the Weapon X program have never been fully successful as the government and military’s desire for superior soldiers has almost always superseded the X-Men’s commitment to destroying their research. This is not a typical X-Men movie and there’s good reason it’s not titled a “Wolverine” sequel. Although it features spectacular action sequences and epic battles, it’s really about a man who feels he has little to still offer the world. The weight of decades of losing friends and innocents is heavy on his shoulders and he’s being crushed by it. The black-and-white version of the film included in this release perfectly complements the darker, sombre tone of the film and is undeniably striking.
Special features include: commentary by director James Mangold; deleted scenes with optional commentary by James Mangold; making-of featurette; and Logan Noir, black and white version of the film. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Outsiders: Seasons One and Two (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
For untold generations, the Farrell, Shay and McGintuk families of Kentucky’s Shay Mountain have existed as a society unto themselves, living by the same laws and rituals as their pagan fathers. A struggle for power and control continues in the rugged hills of Appalachia as the battle between the clan and the town escalates with the Farrells becoming more isolated than ever before. The uneasy truce that had previously existed between the townspeople and the family tribe came to an abrupt end when Big Coal headed up the mountain and the standoff continues to have repercussions, putting everyone to the test as they’re forced to face new challenges and enemies.
In the first season, the mountain clans are shown to be a rough bunch who fight each other for fun and honour, so it’s no surprise they’re prepared to fight tooth-and-nail to preserve their way of life on what they consider to be their land. Picking up during the battle that ended the that season, the remainder of season two continues to pit the Farrells against the coal company — but the latter has greater resources and frequently gains the upper-hand. In the meantime, a nearby all-female clan takes to the new leader and seeks refuge among the Farrells; though they clearly have their own agenda that will cause greater division. Li'l Foster ventures into town on a quest, but is incarcerated by the new, overzealous pseudo-sheriff who tries to make an example of him. Hasil, in the meantime, is torn between his mountain family and the one he’s trying to start with Sally-Ann. With yet another cliff-hanger, it will be interesting to see what the next chapter brings.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Set in the early 20th century, Oklahoma centres on singing cowboy Curly McLain (Hugh Jackman) who tries to woo and win the heart of his childhood friend, Laurey Williams (Josefina Gabrielle).
Though it’s technically a film, this is essentially a high-production taping of a live stage show; the action (and the cameras) never leave the stage, shooting the various set changes and curtain calls. It’s certainly a strange experience as the viewer is not really “just a member of the audience” due to the various camera angles, yet the limitations of the stage prevent it from being a full-fledged movie. Jackman et al. are terrific in their roles, confidently and skillfully singing the songs and depicting the drama. The intimacy brought to Laurey’s dream sequence is probably the most significant benefit of the style, while the rest is either entertaining or lacklustre.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; musical numbers guide. (Shout Factory)
More about Logan, fist fight, Before I Fall, The Blackcoats Daughter, Rodgers and Hammerstein Oklahoma
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