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article imageReview: This week’s releases try to find answers to the unknown Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 10, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an exceptional transformation and performance; a blessing that doubles as a curse; a new, self-aware chapter; a picture that changes direction midway through the journey; and a memorable curtain call.
Alien [40th Anniversary Edition] (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The crew of the deep space tug Nostromo awaken from stasis during a voyage home to Earth when their ship’s computer detects what is believed to be an alien distress signal coming from the desolate nearby moon, LV-426. While investigating, one of the crew, Kane (John Hurt), is attacked by an alien creature that latches to his face and he is rushed back to the Nostromo to receive medical treatment. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the ship’s warrant officer, advises against Kane’s return due to quarantine regulations - but her orders are ignored by Ash (Ian Holm), bringing the Nostromo under threat from a mysterious, extraterrestrial apex predator with violent and lethal survival instincts.
This film launched a franchise that endures 40 years later, is still producing new stories and continues to be a consistent pop culture influence. Director Ridley Scott’s science fiction saga introduced audiences to one of the most iconic “final girls” in Ripley, as well as H.R. Giger’s dark and magnificent art. This movie doesn’t just feature one monster as the creatures attack in various stages of their lifecycles, each of which is equally gross and unsettling. Even though it works as a straightforward science fiction picture, there is much more to delve into if the viewer chooses to look deeper. Scott is meticulous in creating each scene in this film so that it stays with viewers and the bonus features further explore its intricacies.
Special features include: 1979 theatrical version; 2003 director’s cut; 2003 commentary by director Ridley Scott, and the cast and crew; 1999 commentary by director Ridley Scott; deleted scenes; final theatrical isolated score; and composer’s original isolated score. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Blaze (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
The film is inspired by the life of Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), the unsung songwriting legend of the outlaw music movement that gave the world the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. Weaving together three different periods of time, the different strands explore his love affair with Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat); his last, dark night on Earth; and the impact his music had on his fans, friends, and foes.
Anyone aware of Ethan Hawke’s eclectic tastes won’t be surprised to learn he directed this biopic about a lesser known musician in an equally little-known genre. Hawke also appears in the film (from behind) as the man interviewing Blaze’s bandmates after his death. The movie intertwines its three narratives in a way that can be occasionally confusing since the only way to identify which timeline you’re currently in is the length of Blaze’s beard in the scene. His time with Sybil is whimsical and romantic, but only lasts as long as they’re isolated from the outside world. When he decides to immerse himself in his musical career, everything starts to go downhill, which eventually leads to his unexpected death. Without knowing much about Blaze, Dickey seems to fit the bill rather well, and Shawkat is his perfect counterpart.
Special features include: commentary by director Ethan Hawke; behind-the-scenes featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Destroyer (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
A police detective (Nicole Kidman) reconnects with people from an undercover assignment in her distant past in order to make peace.
This isn’t a unique storyline, though it is exceptionally well-told by director Karyn Kusama. However, what is distinctive is it features a female protagonist in a typically male narrative. It’s not a touching tale of redemption and Erin’s maternal instincts are anything but traditional. Balancing her personal life and work is not really a priority, and she’s not concerned about what anyone might think of her. Outstanding doesn’t begin to describe Kidman’s performance. It’s hard to believe she had it in her, but her portrayal of Erin is unflinching and a career best. Kidman wears Erin’s darkness all over her face, while letting the sparkle into young Erin’s eyes when she talks about the future. She plays the rough anti-heroine with such authenticity, it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen.
Special features include: commentary by director Karyn Kusama; commentary by writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi; making-of featurette; and gallery. (Elevation Pictures)
Enigma (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
The CIA discovers a Russian plot to assassinate five soviet dissidents on Christmas Day, but they do not know who they are. Detective Alex Holbeck (Martin Sheen) is recruited in Paris by the CIA and sent to East Berlin to steal the scrambler of the Enigma, the machine used by the soviet intelligence for communication. On the arrival, Holbeck discovers that the KGB and East Germany government know he has arrived and arrested his contacts. Holbeck meets his former lover, the lawyer Karen Reinhardt, and she gives him a safe house. The Russian agent Dimitri Vasilikov (Sam Neill) and the East German agent Kurt Limmer (Derek Jacobi) try to find Holbeck's whereabouts using different methods, while Karen seduces Dimitri to get the information about the location of the soldiers that Holbeck needs.
This is an intense espionage film that’s most significant flaw is the obvious choice not to use any of the native tongues or actors for the foreign roles. Nonetheless, it’s an engaging thriller in which people are always on the verge of being caught and those that are face torture and/or death. The fact that Holbeck is risking his life and those of his contacts for something that may prove inconsequential in the end is appropriately appalling, yet it doesn’t diminish the importance of the mission’s success to their survival. Except for the fact that Sheen and Neill are culturally miscast, they do well in their antagonistic roles with the former adeptly adopting several personas over the course of the film.
There are no special features. (Arrow Video)
Forrest Gump [25th Anniversary Edition] (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Stupid is as stupid does, says Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) as he discusses his relative level of intelligence with a stranger while waiting for a bus. Despite his sub-normal IQ, Gump leads a truly charmed life, with a ringside seat for many of the most memorable events of the second half of the 20th century. Entirely without trying, Forrest teaches Elvis Presley to dance, becomes a football star, meets John F. Kennedy, serves with honour in Vietnam, meets Lyndon Johnson, speaks at an anti-war rally at the Washington Monument, hangs out with the Yippies, defeats the Chinese national team in table tennis, meets Richard Nixon, discovers the break-in at the Watergate, opens a profitable shrimping business, becomes an original investor in Apple Computers, and decides to run back and forth across the country for several years. Meanwhile, as the remarkable parade of his life goes by, Forrest never forgets Jenny (Robin Wright Penn), the girl he loved as a boy, who makes her own journey through the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s that is far more troubled than the path Forrest happens upon.
Hanks has a longstanding habit of playing iconic roles in movies and this is undoubtedly one of his most memorable. Gump captured the hearts of audiences as he stumbled through life, unwittingly contributing to all these historical events, which are cleverly portrayed by splicing him into actual archival footage. In between making history, he is in constant pursuit of free-spirited Jenny who always treated him well and stole his own heart in the process. The other humanizing aspect of this picture not requiring visual effects is the friendship he forges with Bubba Blue (Mykelti Williamson), who Forrest in some ways takes under his own ill-formed wing. This film was a game changer when it was released and it’s still easy to see why all these years later.
Special features include: commentary by director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter; commentary by producer Wendy Finerman; “Musical Signposts to History”; “Greenbow Diary”; “The Art of Screenplay Adaptation”; “”Getting Past Impossible — Forrest Gump and the Visual Effect Revolution”; “Little Forrest”; “An Evening with Forrest Gump”; “The Magic of Makeup”; “Through the Ears of Forrest Gump — Sound Design”; “Building the World of Gump — Production Design”; “Seeing is Believing — The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump”; and screen tests. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are now facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than it can be rebuilt. The battle to defeat the invaders and restore harmony to the LEGO universe will take Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a galaxy filled with fantastic planets, strange characters and catchy new songs. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are.
While the first film was already self-aware, the sequel takes it a step further by letting the characters peek behind the curtain and glimpse their creators — and potential destroyers. However, the bleak storyline is consistently lightened by the amazing characters who’ve reprised their roles in this picture. Arnett’s Batman is still one of the most entertaining characters in the Lego-verse, particularly as he’s easily manipulated by the enemy. Pratt pulls double duty, but creates two distinct personalities using just his voice. “Everything is Awesome” was an integral part of the first film, so audiences expect something similar from the sequel. Instead, filmmakers take a different approach to the soundtrack. Like kids’ lyrics, the songs are very factual this time around. "Catchy Song" aptly sings, “This song is gonna get stuck inside your head”; and “Everything’s not Awesome” is self-explanatory. It’s still a memorable track list, but completely literal and meta in a manner that once again raises its self-awareness.
Special features include: commentary by filmmakers; outtakes and deleted scenes; “They Come in Pieces: Assembling The LEGO Movie 2”; “LEGO Sets in Action”; “LEGO Designers”; “Emmet’s Holiday Party: A LEGO Movie Short”; “ Super Cool” music video; and promotion spots. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Prodigy (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
Sarah (Taylor Schilling) is a mother whose young son Miles' (Jackson Robert Scott) disturbing behavior signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force, has overtaken him. Fearing for her family's safety, Sarah must choose between her maternal instinct to love and protect Miles, and a desperate need to investigate what — or who — is causing his dark turn.
This is a slightly different take on The Omen narrative as it borrows a little from Child’s Play for an added twist. Although it takes time for the signs to manifest, it’s clear early on what happened when Miles was born. Director Nicholas McCarthy does a good job in representing the supernatural presence, giving it more weight as the story progresses. Over time, genuinely eerie moments give way to terrifying ones that are amplified by the excellent performance by Scott, who in spite of his age manages to convey the pure menace of Miles’ occupier. In spite of its similarities to other narratives, they still manage to make it their own and deliver a solid supernatural thriller.
Special features include: commentary by director Nicholas McCarthy; featurettes; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Scared Stiff (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video
Kate Christopher (Mary Page Keller) is a singer who moves into an old colonial mansion with her son and psychologist boyfriend David (Andrew Stevens). But when they make a gruesome discovery in the boarded-up attic, it soon becomes clear the mansion carries with it a dark past that is about to terrorize them in the present.
This is a ghoulish tale of voodoo and poltergeists. Beginning more than 100 years earlier, the master of the house is shown to be a despicable man and slave trader who holds equal contempt for his family. Using magic, the slaves condemn him and try to protect his wife from his ire. With Kate’s arrival and her uncanny resemblance to the master’s wife, his spirit stirs and brings hell raining down on the house once again. Of course, David’s professional opinion is that she must be relapsing so it’s up to her and her son to stop the ghastly master. The classic ‘80’s practical special effects make the film both creepy and campy as the decayed master haunts his new houseguests, while the final act includes a barrage of icky dead people.
Special features include: commentary by director Richard Friedman, producer Dan Bacaner and film historian Robert Ehlinger; making-of featurette; interview with composer Billy Barber; image gallery; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options. (Arrow Video)
Serenity (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Elevation Pictures
Dill (Matthew McConaughey), a fishing boat captain, juggles facing his mysterious past and finding himself ensnared in a reality where nothing is what it seems.
This movie appears fairly straightforward — until Dill finally meets with the thin man in the suit (Jeremy Strong) that’s been pursuing him all over the island. Then, suddenly, everything that seemed a little strange takes on greater significance and what follows only confirms/confuses matters. Dill is clearly a man with a few demons at his back, but it turns out there’s something bigger at play of which even he was unaware. The infusion of a science fiction subplot is not entirely unexpected, though it’s still a somewhat surprising turn of events that steers the conclusion in a very different direction. Dill walks the line between charmer and antagonist, the latter emerging when his obsession gets the better of him. McConaughey is flawless as the character’s charisma comes naturally to him, while the gradual bewilderment turned resolution evolves genuinely.
There are no special features. (Elevation Pictures)
Summer Stock (Blu-ray)
Warner Archive Collection
Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) is a farm owner who gets more than a bit riled up when her aspiring-actress sister (Gloria De Haven) appears with a theatrical troupe that wants to stage a musical in the family’s barn. But Jane goes from cornpone to cosmopolitan by the show's climax, making cinema history with the show-stopping closer, "Get Happy."
This was Garland’s final MGM musical as the bonus features reveal she was suffering from health issues at the time and required the support of friends, like co-star Gene Kelly, to complete the picture. Yet, you wouldn’t know it by watching the movie — she’s vibrant, fiery and occasionally gives audiences a glimpse of the young girl who captured their hearts in Oz. Her duets with Kelly are flawlessly captivating as they tap and glide across the screen, perfectly in sync and making every intricate step appear effortless. The remastered picture is beautiful as the colours pop from the screen and enliven the already energetic numbers.
Special Features: Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock (featurette); Vintage Pete Smith Specialty Short “Did’ja Know” (SD); Vintage Tex Avery cartoon “The Cuckoo Clock” (HD); Theatrical Trailer (Warner Archive Collection)
Three Men on a Horse (DVD)
Warner Archive Collection
Erwin Trowbridge (Frank McHugh) is a greeting card poet who daydreams by picking horses and keeping track of his imaginary winnings in a little black book. When his wife (Joan Blondell) finds the book, she’s sure the colourful names are aliases for Erwin’s wide range of girlfriends. He’s also in hot water at work, where his boss expects fifty Mother’s Day greeting card poems by noon. Erwin takes refuge in a nearby saloon where he gives a tip to three small-time gamblers. When they win big, they kidnap poor Erwin and start racking up the score of a lifetime.
The film is based on an acclaimed comedy that played 96 weeks on Broadway and went on to several other successes. However, after seeing the film, it’d be hard to imagine anyone but McHugh in the role. From the initial brief exchange with the man picking up their dry cleaning to the final moments in which Erwin finally gets what he deserves, the entire picture is played for laughs and it works almost every time. The way the gamblers treat Erwin is oddly amusing as they try to befriend him while also strong-arming him into giving them more race picks. His accuracy is uncanny, particularly since he knows nothing about horse racing. The conclusion is a bit abrupt, but still a very funny way for the picture to end.
There are no special features. (Warner Archive Collection)
What Men Want (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is a successful sports agent who’s constantly boxed out by her male colleagues. After a wild night out with her girls, she mysteriously gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts. With her newfound power, Ali looks to outsmart her colleagues as she races to sign the next basketball superstar, but the lengths she has to go to will put her relationship with her best friends and new love interest to the test.
Ali is all too aware that she’s working in a boy’s club and so she may be overcompensating a little in order to solidify her position. But when she’s told to “stay in her lane,” that sends her over the edge. In this gender-reversed version of the Mel Gibson picture of a similar name, an impromptu session with a fortune teller suddenly gives Ali the ability to hear men’s thoughts. Much of what she hears is embarrassing, but not surprising. However, it gives her a better understanding of how she’s viewed by others and who she can really rely on for support. This is an entertaining comedy, which also includes some pretty blatant commentary on misogyny and sexism in the workplace.
Special features include: commentary by director Adam Shankman; deleted and extended scenes with introduction by director Adam Shankman; “The Dream Team”; “Flipping the Narrative”; “What DO Men Want?”; “Poker Night”; “Ali + Athletes”; “Sister Spills the Tea infomercial”; and gag reel with introduction by director Adam Shankman. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
More about The Lego Movie 2 The Second Part, Destroyer, What Men Want, Serenity, Alien
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