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article imageReview: This week’s releases reside in the periphery Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 13, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include teens having difficulties coping; an up-and-coming serial killer; the latest season about all the tough calls off the field; an anniversary that may be foggy for some; and a new, energetic entry in the dance genre.
13 Reasons Why: Season One (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) returns home from high school to discover a box of cassette tapes, recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), his classmate and secret crush, who died by suicide only two weeks before. Hannah’s tapes reveal the 13 reasons that led to her untimely death, and the people she felt were responsible. This begins an emotional journey of suspense and heartbreak to uncover the mystery behind Hannah’s tragic end.
This show deals with a lot of challenging subjects that are especially relevant in today’s society. However, what makes it difficult to watch is that it deals with these issues with such realism. Bullying, rape, betrayal and heartbreak are some of the key topics on Hannah’s cassettes — and while some may dismiss adolescent experiences as exaggerated or incidents that make you stronger, this series demonstrates that attitude doesn’t cut it. Clay listens to each tape in an effort to find clues that will explain her death, investigating any loose ends and blaming all those who appear to have contributed to it; but for the audience, it’s a reminder (or awakening) to how hard growing up can be, which is emphasized by the exceptional cast of young people playing these tough roles.
Special features include: “Hannah and Clay: An Unfinished Love Story”; “Justin Foley: Not your Typical Jock”; “Discovering Jessica Davis”; “Bringing the Book to Life”; “13 Things About Me”; and “Beyond the Reasons.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
After dying unexpectedly, firefighter Ja-hong (Tae-hyun Cha) is taken to the afterlife by three guardians, where only after passing seven trials and proving he lived a noble life will he be able to reincarnate.
This is an interesting tale that appears to mix Dante’s Inferno and Egyptian mythology related to Osiris. The afterlife is a rather fearful place filled with judgement for all of one’s past sins, from the oldest to the most recent. Based on the guardians’ stats, getting reincarnated is not an easy feat; and audiences are provided glimpses of the fates of those who are found guilty in one of their various trials. However, the story is not restricted to the underworld as another terrible accident in the world of the living threatens Ja-hong’s chances for success. Overall, this is an engaging picture that embodies many people’s fears of what may await them after death.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; character intros; and trailers. (Well Go USA)
Ballers: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
This season, Spencer (Dwayne Johnson), along with long-time colleague Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), return with a new outlook and fresh goals, hoping to forge bonds with new players across the country while improving his relationships with existing clients. In an ever-changing business where the shelf life for stardom and multi-million-dollar contracts are short, Spencer is intent on proving that the key to successful sports management isn't just about making money and having fun – it's about delivering on the promises you make.
Even though Spencer is no longer in crisis, that doesn’t seem to stop him from creating more drama and stress. As his boss attempts to reel in bigger fish, using Spencer’s charm as a lure, the money manager decides he’s no longer satisfied handling individual clients — he wants an entire franchise. However, he has enemies in the upper echelons of the NFL he didn’t even know existed and they’re not about to let Spencer get an easy touchdown. In the meantime, the clients he worked so hard to maintain are being neglected and making stupid decisions in his absence. The end of this season takes an odd turn, which doesn’t have a clear path into the next chapter.
There are no special features. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Braven (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
When Joe (Jason Momoa) and his father (Stephen Lang) arrive at their remote hunting cabin, they’re hoping for a quiet weekend. What they find is a stash of heroin, hidden in the cabin by drug traffickers. When the criminals suddenly descend upon the cabin, Joe and his father must make a kill-or-be-killed stand for survival.
It seems that all one needs to survive a gang of murderous drug dealers are some guns and hunting skills. When Joe and his dad are set upon by a group of armed, tactless men unwilling to handle the matter quietly, they immediately go into defensive mode. With no interest in the drugs, things could have gone smoothly; but now it’s war. And to complicate things, Joe’s father is suffering from dementia, which means he’s not always able to have Joe’s back during their standoff with the criminals. Nonetheless, this is a fast-paced home invasion-type narrative in which the homeowners always seem to be at an advantage — particularly when they have the physicality of Momoa and Lang.
Special features include: “The Braven’s Views.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Gate II (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
The sequel picks up again with Terry (Louis Tripp), the teenage sorcerer, summoning beings from the other side whose powers can be used to grant any wish. Unfortunately, before the Gate closes again, a "minion" — a tiny disciple of Satan himself — manages to slip through to our dimension. When the creature is kidnapped, all hell breaks loose.
This movie is in line with its predecessor as a group of teenagers bungle their way through black magic and its consequences. It doesn’t make sense that after a gang of bullies interrupt Terry’s ceremony he invites them to participate, except that he was desperate to complete the ritual by any means necessary. The tiny minion they pull through the gate wreaks havoc everywhere, though he’s not as defenceless as he appears. The kids wish for the usual materialistic things, but like the monkey’s paw they don’t turn out exactly as planned. The film then delivers a great ending that is expected but still satisfying for this silly ‘80s fair.
Special features include: “Return To The Nightmare – A Look Back At Gate II”; “From The Depths”; video promo and video store contest promo; still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Honey: Rise Up and Dance (DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Aspiring street dancer Skyler (Teyana Taylor) is at a major crossroads in her life. She’s decided to try out for the same dance crew as her formally-trained sister Tosha (Sierra McClain) in order to compete for a college scholarship, but is discouraged by her family and boyfriend who doubt that her new, edgy talent is enough for her to win. Determined to prove them all wrong, Skyler practices non-stop in Atlanta’s underground dance scene and catches the eye of Tyrell (Bryshere Y. Gray). He helps her take her sexy dance and hip-hop battle skills to the next level in order to achieve her dreams.
This film follows the dance genre formula to a tee, while also incorporating its own flavour of hip-hop. However, some of the characters’ attitudes in the movie don’t mesh. Skyler’s mom and boyfriend want her to get an education and not “waste” her time dancing; yet, the fact that she’s using her passion to potentially get a full-ride doesn’t seem to register for either of them. Similarly, Skyler’s reactions to Tyrell’s repeated dishonesty are in conflict with her strong personality. Nonetheless, the music is expectedly stimulating as everyone spends more than half their screen time practicing for the closing battle (which is actually a bit underwhelming in comparison).
There are no special features. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Knowing (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) is a professor who deciphers a coded message with terrifyingly accurate predictions about every major world disaster. Looking to protect his family and prevent future calamities, he enlists the reluctant help of Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne), daughter of the now-deceased author of the prophecies. His quest to understand the message and his own family's involvement in them becomes a heart-pounding race against time as he faces the ultimate disaster.
If every fatal disaster in history occurred based on a cryptic schedule, is there a way of preventing them from happening? This is a sci-fi thriller with a very intriguing concept, though it develops somewhat unevenly and gives away the answer to the mystery at its centre rather early. Diana believably struggles with the barrage of information John unleashes on her, but once convinced she rides her emotions on the brink of hysterics. Cage is casted well as the professor, as he has that vague oddness about him (stereo)typical of science-types. However, the delivery of many of his lines are occasionally over-the-top; while everyone else in the film is playing the script straight, Cage utters the phrase “How am I supposed to save the world?” with such false intensity, it’s laughable — but then again, he’s practically turned that into a signature.
Special features include: commentary by director Alex Proyas; “Knowing All: The Making of a Futuristic Thriller”; “Visions of the Apocalypse”; and “5 Things Worth Knowing About Knowing.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
My Friend Dahmer (Blu-ray)
MVD Visual
Jeff Dahmer (Ross Lynch) is an awkward teenager struggling to make it through high school with a family life in ruins. He collects roadkill, fixates on a neighbourhood jogger (Vincent Kartheiser), and copes with his unstable mother (Anne Heche) and well-intentioned father (Dallas Roberts). He begins to act out at school, and his goofball antics win over a group of band-nerds who form The Dahmer Fan Club, headed by Derf Backderf (Alex Wolff). But this camaraderie can't mask his growing depravity. Approaching graduation, Jeff spirals further out of control, inching ever closer to madness.
This is a movie that doesn’t try to justify or explain Dahmer’s degeneracy, but rather illustrate how it evolved from within him. Based on a comic by his former schoolmate, Derf, the film attempts to capture all the little things that seem to be such obvious signs in hindsight. As the story only captures the year immediately before his first murder, it fittingly ends with his initial step towards becoming a serial killer. Lynch is phenomenal as the socially awkward teen with an unhealthy fascination with death and creature’s insides. While Dahmer’s family chooses to ignore the possible implications of his hobbies, his friends begin to suspect there may be something more wrong the former loner.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; interview with Lynch; and theatrical trailer. (MVD Visual)
Puppy Dog Pals (DVD)
Disney Junior
They're cute, cuddly and all collared up for pup-tacular adventures! While their owner Bob is away, adorable puppy brothers Bingo and Rolly embark on missions stretching from their own backyard to locations all around the world. With support from their "big sister" Hissy, a neighborhood full of animal friends and Bob's high-tech inventions, these heroes are always ready to unleash totally paw-some fun.
This children’s TV series about a couple of adventurous pug puppies is absolutely adorable. Notably, each of their escapades is first inspired by Bob, who either expresses a desire or problem before leaving for the day. The pups then devise a plan to take care of said matter for Bob, which includes travelling to Hawaii to bring him back sand from the beach, going to Egypt to help find the suddenly missing pyramids, or more simply cleaning the house so Bob has more time to play when he gets home. The robot dog invention meant to care for the puppies in Bob’s absence is also pretty amusing, while Hissy is actually pretty kind to them in spite of being a cat.
There are no special features. (Disney Junior)
Push (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
The excitement starts when a future-seeing Watcher (Dakota Fanning) convinces a telekinetic Mover (Chris Evans) to help steal a briefcase that holds a billion-dollar secret. But to outrun government agents, led by Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou) they must enlist a mind-controlling Pusher (Camilla Belle) who could be their salvation — or their doom.
Based on the long-held conspiracy that various governments have done experiments attempting to harness people’s extra-sensory powers, this movie supposes they may have actually succeeded. There appears to be an underground of people with various abilities, who know how to get in touch with each other; as well as people working on both sides of the cause. The “super” element allows the narrative to go in otherwise implausible directions, while the characters’ various powers lead to intense showdowns between several factions interested in the suitcase. Even though they’re not trying to save the world, their quest to save themselves is still pretty gripping… though it would’ve been nice to see where the next chapter took them.
Special features include: commentary by director Paul McGuigan and actors Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning; deleted scenes; “The Science Behind The Fiction”; and “Breaking Down the 9 Types of Psychics.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Tad travels to Las Vegas to attend archaeologist Sara Lavroff’s presentation of her latest discovery — the papyrus that show the existence of the Necklace of Midas, the mythical King who turned everything he touched into gold. But this happy reunion will be clouded when an evil rich man kidnaps Sara in order to find the talisman and get infinite wealth. Along with his friends, Tad will have to use his wit to rescue Sara on a trip around the world, where he will meet new friends…and new villains.
This is a fun animated adventure à la Indiana Jones. Tad is supposed to be a novice archaeologist, but he generally has the answers as they try to piece together the clues to save Sara. Moreover, he’s actually pretty brave as he ventures into potentially booby-trapped locations and stands face-to-face with gangs of armed thugs. Tad is the nerd-turned-hero who just wants his chance to get the girl… and prevent world domination by the story’s villain. The “map” to the treasure leads them across the desert and gets them into some hairy situations, but the final outcome of this story is still predictable — although the final step to get them there may not be.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The Tribes of Palos Verdes (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
When teenage Medina (Maika Monroe) moves with her family to the picture-perfect paradise of Palos Verdes, California, they seem headed for a happy new chapter in their lives. But old troubles soon catch up to them, as her parents’ marriage disintegrates, her mother (Jennifer Garner) spirals into an emotional freefall, and her twin brother (Cody Fern) turns to drugs. Caught in the middle of it all, Medina must rely on her inner strength to become the stabilizing force in her family, while finding refuge in a new passion: surfing.
This is a family going through very hard times. The parents seek allies in the wrong places, while the children bear the brunt of their poor decision-making. Medina’s father (Justin Kirk) attempts to win her over to his side of the divorce, while her mother, who was already emotionally unstable, begins to use her brother as a crutch. The latter, unfortunately, cracks under the pressure of his new role as “man of the house” and starts self-medicating. There are some truly devastating scenes in this movie, but even though the narrator has already foreshadowed what’s to come, watching is like being unable to turn away from a train wreck.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Up in Smoke 40th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
There's nothing straight about this movie. But here's the dope anyway: Cheech and Chong make their film debut in this rock 'n' roll comedy, bringing with them the same madness, lifestyles and sketches that sold over 10 million records in the early '70s. Cheech and Chong's marijuana-laced humour keeps their spirits high and leads them to an outrageous finale in L.A.'s Roxy Theatre, where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong dresses as a large red quaalude.
First released in 1978, this movie is undoubtedly a product of its time. With almost no narrative direction, it’s essentially a series of comedy sketches stitched together in a nearly coherent order. However, at almost no time will a truck basically made from marijuana, crossing the border from Mexico into the US next to a car full of nuns, not be funny. This movie gave their comedy style a visual component, which opened up whole other avenues for them to make people laugh — with the help of a number of other improv actors. One of the key components of this release are the various interviews with the duo, in which they reminisce about the making of this film and their even older career.
Special features include: commentary by Cheech Marin and director Lou Adler; deleted scenes with optional commentary; “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40”; “Lighting It Up: A Look Back at Up In Smoke”; “Earache My Eye”; Cheech & Chong’s “The Man Song”; vintage radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Vice Principals: The Complete Series (DVD & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
In a southern suburban high school, Vice Principals Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walter Goggins) are a pair of ambitious administrators wagged in an epic power struggle to become school principal. After the long-time principal steps down to tend to his ailing wife, these bitter antagonists are forced to put their mutual disdain aside to form an unholy alliance in order to sabotage the new appointed principal Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). As the school year continues and new semesters brings changes, Gamby and Russell learn that the only thing harder than gaining power is holding on to it.
This show is completely over the top as Gamby and Russell repeatedly take their feud and ambitions too far. In the first season, most of their so-called pranks intended to sabotage Belinda’s career can be darkly humorous but are unquestionably despicable. The opening episode sets the tone for their mayhem and the last proves there is no low too low for them. In the concluding season, Gamby is concerned with becoming one of the cool faculty members, while Russell’s personal and professional lives are imploding. They bring in ridiculous consultants and cheat on standardized tests, all in the name of making the school better… and making themselves look good. The series ends the only way it could — with just a touch of weirdness because no one would want it any other way. Still, it’s definitely an acquired taste… or perhaps one you just can’t decide if you like even though you can’t stop consuming it.
Special features include: commentaries by cast and crew; deleted scenes; and blooper reel. (HBO Home Entertainment)
More about My Friend Dahmer, Ballers, The Tribes of Palos Verdes, 13 Reasons Why, Along with the Gods The Two Worlds
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