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article imageReview: This week’s releases show some things never change Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 27, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the anniversary of a grim but exaggerated horror tale; the special release of a madcap Beatlemania adventure; a DC success; a true story that could use some help; and JLo doing her on-screen thing again.
Accident (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA
When a foursome “borrows” a car for one night of fun, what starts as a wild joy ride turns into a nightmare. After a violent crash, they discover that being stuck at the bottom of a ravine in an overturned car is the least of their problems. The psychotic owner of the car that they stole has them in his crosshairs and will stop at nothing to get both the car and its contents back.
The main narrative is told linearly, but as things start to happen there are flashbacks to a few hours earlier as characters lay blame and come clean about how they ended up in this mess. It maintains a pretty good pace until the accident and then things get slower, muddier and, in some cases, more senseless. Everyone is quick to blame someone else for putting them in this predicament, though they’re all guilty in some way or another. The added threat of the car’s owners fits the overarching story, but it’s not entirely necessary. There is enough going on between the crashed car’s passengers being trapped, the cliff above crumbling and the group of victims turning on each other to fill 90 minutes.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Aquaman (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
When the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) is forced to abandon her infant son, his father, the lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison), raises Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) alone. Able to survive the harshest depths of the ocean and on the surface world above, the child of two worlds grew to be a hero to both eventually returning to Atlantis to become their King in addition to being a founding member of the Justice League as Aquaman.
Like his colleagues, Aquaman doesn’t play well with others — but that’s basically where the similarities end. He’s got a dark sense of humour and his eyes dance with mischief when he’s about to embark on something dangerous. Orm (Patrick Wilson), Arthur’s half-brother, definitely has a valid grievance against humans. His first warning to the surface world is to return their garbage and warships to the land from whence they came. People are flabbergasted when their beaches are suddenly littered with their refuse, but at least one conspiracy theorist (Randall Park) has some idea of what’s happening. Director James Wan is not concerned with shoehorning his film into the greater DCEU, which gives him the freedom to make a film that rolls Aquaman’s origin story and an exciting plot into a movie that surpasses most of the studio’s other efforts. Momoa brings his unique personality to Aquaman, imbuing him with sarcasm, roguery and a personally defined sense of honour that doesn’t always coincide with others’. His individualism made him a standout in the DC team-up and it continues here as he dominates his scenes — and not just physically.
Special features include: “Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman”; “Becoming Aquaman”; “James Wan: World Builder”; “Aqua Tech”; “Atlantis Warfare”; “The Dark Depths of Black Manta”; “Heroines of Atlantis”; “Villaneous Training”; “Kingdoms of the Seven Seas”; “Creating Undersea Creatures”; “A Match Made in Atlantis”; and scene study breakdowns. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
At Eternity’s Gate (DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
A look at the life of painter Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) during the time he lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France.
This movie has two focuses: Van Gogh and Dafoe’s performances. As was often the case, the painter was not appreciated by his contemporaries. Everyone he encounters in the film has an opinion they’re not afraid to share about his work and few of them are good. Even his friend’s (Oscar Isaac) idea of support is trying to convince him to change his style. Van Gogh’s only true ally was his brother (Rupert Friend), who believed in his work when no one else did. The flipside of this is Dafoe’s exceptional performance as the mentally ill artist. He seamlessly conveys his anxiety, disturbing behaviour and uncompromising passion for painting. Regardless of how factual this picture is, it seems to capture the essence of a misunderstood man.
Special features include: “Made by a Painter”; “Channeling Van Gogh”; “Vision of Van Gogh.” (Elevation Pictures)
Ben is Back (DVD & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Nineteen-year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns to his family's suburban home on Christmas Eve. Ben's mom, Holly (Julia Roberts), is relieved and welcoming but wary of her son's drug addiction. Over a turbulent 24 hours, new truths are revealed, and a mother's undying love gets put to the test as Holly does everything in her power to keep Ben clean.
There were several movies about addiction released over the last several months, but this is one of the best of 2018. Ben is in recovery and surprises his family with an unannounced holiday visit from rehab. His mother and siblings welcome him with open arms, but everyone else is more skeptical. However, the mother is not blind to her son’s issues — she also immediately hides every prescription and concealable item of value… just in case. Instead, the unexpected but still distressing occurs. Mother and son are forced to relive some of his lowest moments in a dramatic, heart-wrenching narrative that captures the pain and shame of recovery and facing one’s past.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Peter Hedges; and photo gallery. (Elevation Pictures)
The Body Snatcher (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
A doctor (Henry Daniell) needs cadavers for medical studies and Cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) is willing to provide them one way or another.
This film marks the last on-screen pairing of Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The ghoulish narrative seems like an obvious inspiration for the Re-Animator franchise, which also called for fresher and fresher corpses to conduct their experiments. The cabman has no scruples about stealing people’s loved ones from the graveyard, while his willingness to kill for his job escalates quickly. There’s also an ill little girl presenting different types of ethical dilemmas as the doctor refuses to treat her even though he may be the only one who can help her. Val Lewton’s movies can always be counted on to deliver a particular level of creepiness and this film doesn’t disappoint.
Special features include: commentary by director Robert Wise and writer/film historian Steve Haberman; “You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting The Body Snatcher”; “Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy”; and still galleries. (Scream Factory)
Brighton Beach Memoirs (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
Fifteen-year-old Eugene Jerome (Jonathan Silverman) is desperately trying to uncover life’s mysteries, but his family keeps hiding the clues. Even so, he manages to keep his priorities — baseball and girls — firmly in order.
Eugene is an aspiring writer so most of the picture is seen from his perspective, though it does often stray beyond his purview. But he’s so obsessed with seeing a naked woman — particularly his attractive cousin — he’s incapable of adding much else to the narrative. Instead, the rest of his family are the ones worth watching. His older brother is a well-intentioned screw-up; back under the same roof, his mother and aunt are slowly building to a much-delayed blowout; and his father is trying to keep the family together and in good spirits. There isn’t anything particularly unique or notable about this snapshot of a family in the 1930’s, but it delivers enough entertainment for at least one watch.
Special features include: original theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Blu-ray)
Criterion Collection
On February 9, 1964, the Beatles made their first live appearance on American television on The Ed Sullivan Show, ratcheting up the frenzy of a fan base whose ecstatic devotion to the band heralded an explosive new wave of youth culture. This movie looks back to that fateful weekend, following six New Jersey teenagers, each with different reasons for wanting to see the Fab Four, on a madcap mission to Manhattan to meet the band and score tickets to the show.
This movie seems to get its energy from The Beatles’ own frenetic film, A Hard Day’s Night. The film opens with Sullivan preparing the show’s ushers for the impending hysteria. The kids are quickly separated when they get to the city, leaving audiences to follow the adventures of the four main girls whose names mirror the first letter of the band members’ names. Ironically, the one least excited to go on the adventure has a change of heart when she experiences an awakening after being unexpectedly submerged in their world. The bonus features emphasize there’s no movie without the soundtrack, which is true to some extent, but the film is truly made by these charismatic young actors and a fun script. In the casual chat with Steven Spielberg, he reveals why he was impressed with director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale’s short and why he never mentored anyone else. Conversely, the filmmaking duo describe how Spielberg got them their first gig and even offered to pay for sections of the film when they got pushback from the studio, as well as all the things they learned and would never do again. The commentary and interview with the actors combine for a well-rounded and interesting behind-the-scenes perspective of the production in which it’s clear everyone enjoyed being on set.
Special features include: commentary from 2004 by director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale; new conversation among Zemeckis, Gale, and executive producer Steven Spielberg; new interview with actors Nancy Allen and Marc McClure; The Lift (1972) and A Field of Honor (1973), two early short films by Zemeckis; radio spots; trailer; and essay by critic Scott Tobias. (Criterion Collection)
King of Thieves (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
A famous thief in his younger years, widower Brian Reader (Michael Caine), 77 years of age, pulls together a band of misfit criminals to plot an unprecedented burglary at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit. The thieves, all in their 60s and 70s except for one, manage to escape with allegedly £200 million worth of stolen jewels and money. When police are called to the scene and the investigation starts, the cracks between the eccentric gang members begin to show as they fight over how to share the goods and become increasingly distrustful of each other.
The old saying goes, “There’s no honour among thieves,” and this movie is the perfect demonstration of that sentiment. Based on a true story, each man is a criminal to some degree, though the complexity and value of their heists varied. However, while they’re all familiar with each other, they don’t all trust one another to split the profits and keep their mouths shut. The job isn’t even done before the bickering starts and more than one member of the crew backs out. The film relies on the robbers’ ages to entertain viewers, and some of their one-liners and mishaps are entertaining. Unfortunately, these are moments that don’t run through the entire picture. The calibre of actors is astounding, but the movie would’ve been improved with a better script.
Special features include: “King of Thieves: A Bloody Good Idea.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Perfect Blue (Blu-ray & DVD)
Rising pop star Mima has quit singing to pursue a career as an actress and model, but her fans aren’t ready to see her go. Encouraged by her managers, Mima takes on a recurring role on a popular TV show, when suddenly her handlers and collaborators begin turning up murdered. Harboring feelings of guilt and haunted by visions of her former self, Mima’s reality and fantasy meld into a frenzied paranoia. As her stalker closes in, in-person and online, the threat he poses is more real than even Mima knows.
This is an anime that’s also a psychological thriller. It’s clear early on that Mima has a stalker, but not much is done about it. In the meantime, she’s haunted by the pop singing version of herself as she grapples with self-doubt and possible regret for leaving a successful career to start anew as an actress. She’s offered a recurring role because of her popularity, but she’s also asked to do some pretty explicit scenes. Graphic violence and sexuality appear frequently throughout the narrative, including an unexplained nude photo shoot. The film intentionally confuses fantasy with reality as Mima loses her ability to distinguish between the two. While it’s obvious the gravity-defying apparition of her former career is a delusion, nothing else is apparent. The result is a compelling mystery that uses its medium to its advantage, while also occasionally causing viewers to forget it’s animated.
Special features include: “Lectures by Satoshi Kon”; “Into The Blue”; cast and crew interviews; “Angel of Your Heart” recording sessions; “Angel of Your Heart” full English version; and theatrical trailers. (GKids)
Pet Sematary (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
After moving to an idyllic home in the countryside, life seems perfect for the Creed family...but not for long. Louis and Rachel Creed (Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby) and their two young children settle in to a house that sits next door to a pet cemetery — built next to an ancient Indian burial ground. Their mysterious new neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), hides the cemetery's darkest secret...until a family tragedy brings the secret to life. Now, an unthinkable evil is about to be resurrected.
More than 150 of Stephen King's stories have been made for the big and small screen, but only a small number have been personally adapted by the writer. This is one of those rarities. He also had final director approval and selected Mary Lambert for the job. There’s undoubtedly a lot that must be forgiven for this narrative to work — has no one ever heard of a fence?! — but it does work in its own campy, horror way. While Louis’ ghostly guardian feels like he was lifted from An American Werewolf in London, there are more genuinely creepy characters like Rachel’s sister. Gwynne is great as the knowledgeable old man of the tale and Miko Hughes is outstanding as the three-year-old tyke that gains a penchant for human flesh. “Come play with me.”
Special features include: commentary by director Mary Lambert; “Fear and Remembrance”; “Revisitation — New Interview with Mary Lambert”; “Stephen King Territory”; “The Characters”; “Filming the Horror”; and image galleries. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Second Act (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Maya (Jennifer Lopez) is a 40-year-old woman struggling with frustrations of not having achieved more in life. As an experienced, quick-witted, perceptive employee, she is passed over for a promotion solely because she doesn’t have a college degree. Until, that is, she gets the chance to prove that street smarts are as valuable as book smarts, and that it is never too late for a second act.
In spite of being a star-aligning fantasy, the film does shine a light on an important issue regarding education and employment. Gone are the days when know-how and on-the-job experience was enough; now, almost every job wants a college/university education just to get in the door. Consequently, the man who does get the job over Maya doesn’t know the first thing about management. This is the girl power, screen fluff Lopez has always been great at bringing to life and this movie is just as enjoyable as her previous rom-com outings… only now, the romance takes a backseat to her reconciling her life’s shortcomings. Though Milo Ventimiglia isn’t a partner anyone would ignore for too long.
Special features include: “Connections”; “Empowerment”; and “Friendship.” (Elevation Pictures)
The Street Fighter Collection (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
The Street Fighter: Terry Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is a mercenary hired by both the yakuza and the mafia to kidnap a wealthy heiress, but when he isn’t paid, a violent clash ensues.
Return of the Street Fighter: Tsurugi (Chiba) is hired by the mob to kill two informants, but when he realizes one is an old friend, he refuses, and now he is the one being hunted.
The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge: When Tsurugi is double crossed by the Ôwada clan, he takes off with something they want, which results in him being chased by a group of deadly assassins.
In the first picture, Terry is a complete thug with no loyalties and no hesitation about destroying his opponents. Martial arts is the only weapon he needs and he uses it to separate his enemies from several of their organs. In the bonus features, Chiba interestingly notes that even though this character was a breakout success, he didn’t enjoy performing the ultra-violence it demanded and only did so to please his associates. In the subsequent pictures, Terry gradually starts to fight for good, but in his own way. By the last movie, he’s repeatedly double-crossed and transitions into somewhat of an anti-hero. The traditional English dubs always sound silly at first, but these are generally good enough to eventually be nearly forgotten so the film can simply be taken in without distractions.
Special features include: “Street Fighting Man”; “Cutting Moments – The Street Fighter trailer”; U.S. theatrical trailers; Japanese theatrical trailers; and still galleries. (Shout Select)
Warning Sign (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
In the rolling Utah countryside, a small town is host to a fortress-like research facility, which the townspeople believe is developing new advancements in agriculture. But deep within is a top-secret project to create a bioweapon that turns anyone exposed to it into a raging, psychotic killer. When the unthinkable happens and the facility is locked down, Sheriff Cal Morse (Sam Waterston) must choose between keeping the town safe and rescuing his wife Joanie (Kathleen Quinlan), who is trapped inside. But for Major Connolly (Yaphet Kotto), there is only one remorseless solution: contain the deadly virus — at all costs.
This movie feels like it was inspired by The Crazies, while it adopts a diluted version of classic gross-out horror such as boils and oozing infections. What’s interesting is the “healthy” townspeople on the outside are nearly as violently insane as those contaminated with the virus. The explanation for the experiment escaping containment is rather clever, while the key to the antidote makes less sense. They find interesting ways to infiltrate the sealed facility, which also calls into question its overall security considering what it houses. The ousted scientist (Jeffrey DeMunn) proves way more useful than anyone else, though it’s a bit surprising he’d know so much about such a variety of helpful subjects. The military response for containment and fabrication is typical, though one keeps waiting for a more weaponized response from them.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Hal Barwood; interview with director/co-writer Hal Barwood; interview with producer Jim Bloom; still galleries; TV spot; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
The Witches (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Haunted by the terrors of her experience with African witch-doctors, school teacher Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine) accepts an appointment as headmistress at the Haddaby School run by Alan Bax (Alec McCowen) and his sister Stephanie (Kay Walsh). Gwen initially revels in the peacefulness she has found in the quiet English countryside, but soon begins to sense "undercurrents." Before long, a local boy falls into a coma and Gwen discovers a voodoo doll impaled by pins. The danger that follows brings her face to face with witchcraft as a series of disasters unfold and lead her to the horrible truth.
If anyone’s ever wondered if Fontaine would’ve made a good scream queen, this movie answers that question. It’s a bit of an odd tale as very little information is provided in the beginning of the movie to explain the hostilities and then Gwen is back home. She also ignores the red flags about her new employers, which are subtle at first before becoming more prominent. Consequently, Gwen is in a position in which she’s constantly frightened, but determined to power through and keep her pupils safe. The villain’s goal is perfectly comprehensible, but its execution doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems easily foiled.
Special features include: commentary by filmmaker/historian Ted Newsom; “Hammer Glamour”; still gallery; and trailers. (Scream Factory)
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