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article imageReview: What one must isn’t always what one wants in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 21, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a gripping movie based on true events; a documentary that chooses to focus beyond the obvious; the penultimate season of a game-changing series; and a horror origin story that’s much better than expected.
Ducktales: Woo-oo! (DVD)
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Disney Home Entertainment
Left with no other options, Donald Duck reluctantly takes his mischief-making nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie (Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz and Bobby Moynihan) to McDuck Manor, stately home of their rich, reclusive, great-uncle Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant). Enthralled by the exploits of their once-legendary great-uncle, the triplets and their fearless new friend Webby (Kate Micucci) unwittingly unleash secret totems from Scrooge’s epic past, launching the entire family on a daring, deep-sea quest for the Lost City of Atlantis.
This is the latest reboot from the Disney afternoon cartoon lineup and although the nephews’ voices are very different, they’ve otherwise done a fair job relaunching the series. While Scrooge begins as a crotchety has-been, the boys remind him of the fun he once had filling his home with forgotten treasure. The 44-minute episode feels like two storylines stitched together by classic Donald Duck and his unintentional errors in judgement, as well as his determination to keep his nephews safe. The triplets are a bit more annoying now, but Webby creates a balance with her cute naiveté. The shorts in the bonus features provide some additional humour via these still charming characters.
Special features include: six bonus shorts, “Welcome to Duckburg!” (Disney Home Entertainment)
Dunkirk (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces, trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea and facing an impossible situation as the enemy closes in. The story unfolds on land, sea and air. RAF Spitfires engage the enemy in the skies above the Channel, trying to protect the defenseless men below. Meanwhile, hundreds of small boats manned by both military and civilians are mounting a desperate rescue effort, risking their lives in a race against time to save even a fraction of their army.
As he’s demonstrated in the past, writer/director Christopher Nolan enjoys playing with narrative timelines, so it’s not surprising to see them a bit jumbled in this film — though it may take audiences a few scenes to realize that is the case, in spite of the hint at the start. As noted, there are three key stories unfolding with different protagonists, including those played by Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Kenneth Branagh, whose tales may eventually converge. While this is undoubtedly a war movie, it’s not a conventional one as most of the characters are not actively engaging the enemy. Still, shot on 70 mm and now transferred to 4K, the picture is exceptional as it rotates between the three areas of engagement. The acting is superb, but it’s the accounts of brave and scared men that leaves its mark on audiences — not who played them in the movie.
Special features include: “Creation: Revisiting the Miracle”; “Creation: Dunkerque”; “Creation: Expanding the Frame”; “Creation: The In-Camera Approach”; “Land: Rebuilding the Mole”; “Land: The Army On the Beach”; “Land: Uniform Approach”; “Air: Taking to the Air”; “Air: Inside the Cockpit”; “Sea: Assembling the Naval Fleet”; “Sea: Launching the Moonstone”; “Sea: Taking to the Sea”; “Sea: Sinking the Ships”; “Sea: The Little Ships”; “Conclusion: Turning Up the Tension”; and “Conclusion: The Dunkirk Spirit.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) (Blu-ray)
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Shout Select
The November 13, 2015 terrorist attack in Paris claimed 130 lives around the city — 89 of them at the Eagles of Death Metal's Bataclan Theatre concert. The film spotlights the American rock band as they recount their experiences before and after the tragic events. The film explores the deep bonds between band co-founders Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme (also a member of Queens of the Stone Age), as well as the intense connection the band has always had with its devoted fans, which moved them to return to Paris to perform once again in February 2016.
This documentary is much more than a chronicle of a band as they and their fans experienced something profoundly life-changing together. However, the focus of director Colin Hanks’ film is not just the terrorist attacks, but who the men that lead the band are off-stage. Beginning with two childhood friends, two-thirds of the picture centres on Hughes and Homme’s relationship and the creation of Eagles of Death Metal, which was ironically an attempt to save Homme. As the narrative traces their increasing popularity, fans who are also survivors describe their connection to the music. Then of course, the film arrives at that fatal night and everyone recounts their story of survival… and Bono and Edge of U2 tells of how they became involved. While there’s nothing special about the presentation of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, Hanks does an excellent job capturing the humanity of everyone who would come together again for a concert at the same venue just months later.
There are no special features. (Shout Select)
Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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HBO Home Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has finally set sail for Westeros with her armies, dragons and new Hand of the Queen, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has been named King of the North after defeating Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards and returning Winterfell to House Stark. In King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has seized the Iron Throne by incinerating the High Sparrow, his followers and her rivals in the Sept of Baelor. But as old alliances fracture and new ones emerge, an army of dead men marches on the Wall, threatening to end the game of thrones forever.
Firstly, with all that happens this season, it feels very short — and at only seven episodes, it is briefer than any season prior to this one. Moreover, it feels like the penultimate season as the war between the living and the dead takes precedence over most squabbles for territory. While unexpected alliances are made, some longstanding ones are broken and at least one character finally gets their comeuppance. Daenerys’ dragons have grown even larger, making them a true threat and important ally in any upcoming war. Yet the startling season finale cliff-hangers promise an exciting and difficult end to the award-winning series. This release also comes with a bonus disc, which contains an enlightening, animated account of the history of Westeros.
Special features include: commentary by cast and crew on every episode; “Histories and Lore”; in-episode guide; “Fire & Steel: Creating the Invasion of Westeros”; “From Imagination to Reality: Inside the Art Department”; and “Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
Leatherface (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In Texas, years before the events of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in the early days of the infamous Sawyer family, the youngest child is sentenced to a mental hospital after a suspicious incident leaves the sheriff’s daughter dead. Ten years later, he kidnaps a young nurse and escapes with three other inmates. Pursued by authorities, including the deranged sheriff out to avenge his daughter’s death, the Sawyer teen goes on a violent road trip from hell, molding him into the monster now known as Leatherface.
The film is directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who many horror fans will remember for their brutal contributions to the wave of new French extremism about a decade ago. Outside of the family’s name and the brief appearance of a chainsaw, there’s nothing that connects most of this film to its predecessor than its title. But that’s probably one of the things that makes it so intriguing. Audiences familiar with Tobe Hooper’s film and its sequels will wonder how this mild-mannered boy could become the ghastly serial killer of legend — and this picture doesn’t tell you until the end of the last act, when the audience can sympathize with Jed and perhaps understand what causes him to take on this malicious persona. His transformation occurs gradually throughout the picture, but it’s unquestionably complete by the credits.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
In the battle for Ninjago City, Lloyd (Dave Franco), high school student by day and Green Ninja by night, gets thrown into the ultimate adventure with his secret ninja warrior friends. Led by the wise and wisecracking Master Wu (Jackie Chan), they must defeat evil warlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), the worst guy ever, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad. On their courageous journey, they learn to band together to unleash their inner power in an epic showdown to save the city.
The LEGO movies have found their niche in the funny and absurd. Having launched the franchise with more familiar characters, the toymakers have now provided personalities to their original creations and brought them to the screen. Obviously a group of coloured ninjas that fight their enemies in giant machines has a familiar ring to it, but they still manage to make the story their own with the introduction of goofy Garmadon, who is feared by Ninjango’s citizens but is really more of an evil joke that likes sharks and other water creatures. Otherwise this film doesn’t divert much from the narratives it’s imitating, though it does have a great sense of humour and a giant kitten that’s even more adorable in 3D.
Special features include: mini movies; music videos; and sneak peek of LEGO Ninjago TV series. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
mother! (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
A couple's (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
This movie captures absolute madness with complete authenticity, which is why the chaos and confusion it depicts can be understood and forgiven. The film begins with a relatively benign invitation to a stranger and then spirals out of control; then the insanity is briefly reeled in before going entirely off the rails again. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky set out to make a complicated picture, both physically and narratively, which required a tremendous commitment from the actors who endured months of rehearsals. Lawrence is especially impressive as the entire movie is from her perspective, requiring some interesting manoeuvres as illustrated in the bonus features as they shot the whole thing on 16 mm. While it’s certainly not going to appeal to everyone, this film is quite extraordinary.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and “The Makeup FX of mother!” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Tangled: The Series: Queen for a Day (DVD)
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Disney Home Entertainment
When the King (Clancy Brown) and Queen (Julie Bowen) leave town, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is set to lead. However, when a blizzard threatens to destroy Corona, the Princess is faced with some tough decisions.
It’s been previously shown that Rapunzel is having some difficulty adjusting to living the life of a princess in a castle with her parents, who set the rules for her and the kingdom. So when she’s left in charge during their trip, she feels like she has something to prove to them and herself. Unfortunately, Rapunzel finds herself in a position in which she’ll lose the kingdom or a friend so she must choose the lesser harm — though her adventurous spirit does come in handy. Eugene’s motives often seem a little questionable in these stories, but he always comes through in the end. This extended episode also shows the origin story of a potential villain, though the story is somewhat tragic. The bonus features include some of the princess’ diary entries, in which she describes those closest to her in brief, humorous anecdotes.
Special features include: four “Inside the Journal” shorts. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Victoria & Abdul (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
This is the extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s (Judi Dench) remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favour with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.
This film is incredibly funny, which is somewhat unexpected as it accounts some of the Queen’s last months; however, more predictably, it’s also the sad tale of an elderly woman whose only happiness is questioned and plotted against. Abdul is no one special in India, but he’s selected as a last resort for this auspicious opportunity. However, he turns out to be surprisingly charming and one of the few things that still causes the Queen to smile. She, conversely, is stubborn and refuses to have others dictate to her; so even when the political elements of this friendship increase in complexity, she determines to ignore them. Dench is outstanding as the Queen, conveying so much meaning (and sometimes resentment) in a look. Fazal simply portrays a good man without any malice, who takes pleasure in making Victoria happy. They appear to have a lovely relationship, even if it was unadvisable.
Special features include: “Judi & Ali”; and “The Look of Victoria & Abdul.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Violent Years (Blu-ray)
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MVD Visual
“I shot a cop — SO WHAT!” So say the girl gang thrill-killers of Ed Wood’s delirious picture. Paula Perkins is a good-girl-gone-bad who leads her degenerate teenage hellcats down a path of gas station hijackings, pajama party orgies, and cold-blooded murder.
Infamous director Ed Wood’s teen violence drama flips the genre on its head, featuring “teenage” girls as the hellion protagonists. The girls are as bad as any male gang depicted at the time, robbing people at gunpoint, bullying innocent bystanders and raping(?) young men. There’s no history to their delinquency as the audience joins the story after multiple crimes have already been committed, but in Paula’s case the blame is placed on her absentee parents. Most of the acting beyond a couple of the primary characters is terrible; though the unconventional story is relatively appealing. There’s also a less unusual bonus movie in which a young man is driven mad by his need to avenge his brother, who he believes was wrongly executed.
Special features include: commentary by filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer, Rudolph Grey; and bonus movie, Anatomy of a Psycho. (MVD Visual)
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