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article imageReview: Women and veterans are hot topics in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 14, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include true depictions of the consequences of war; female empowerment done the right way and wrong way; a technological revolution; and a realistic depiction of an alien encounter.
4th Man Out (DVD)
MVD Visual
Adam (Evan Todd) is your average working-class guy living in small-town America. He’s an auto mechanic who spends his free time with his tight-knit band of bros — Chris (Parker Young), Nick (Chord Overstreet) and Ortu (Jon Gabrus) — with whom he does everything. But there is something about Adam that even his friends don’t know. When he comes out, his best friend Chris promises him nothing will change; but, of course, some things do. After the initial shock, the boys quickly come around to the fact that Adam is still the same dude, but when his double date with Chris ends disastrously, a drunken misunderstanding threatens to derail the group’s entire dynamic.
This is a mostly positive (if uninformed) coming out narrative that attempts to illustrate stereotypes don’t apply to everyone. Adam is happy with the state of his friendships before his announcement and would prefer they didn’t stop drinking beer, watching sports, playing poker or going to bars. While his friends initially attempt to label him (generally acting like they’ve only ever seen caricatures of gay people), they eventually find a way to support him via asexual dating advice and simply not acting differently around him. Their efforts, although exaggerated, are actually kind of sweet. The main focus is on Adam and Chris whose friendship is tested in the most unrealistic ways, though the film still manages to maintain some level of ignorant charm.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Addicted to Fresno (DVD)
MVD Visual
Shannon (Judy Greer) is fresh out of sex rehab when her younger, overly optimistic lesbian sister Martha (Natasha Lyonne) lands her a job as a maid at Fresno Suites, the local hotel. When Shannon jeopardizes her fresh start by accidentally killing a hotel guest after a post-rehab relapse, Martha goes to great lengths to help her sister cover up her crime.
The bond of family is unique in that it’s not one anyone chooses, yet it is incredibly difficult to break. However, the power of the attachment is not always healthy for those involved. Shannon and Martha can’t stand to lose each other, but Shannon is turning her sister’s life upside-down. Although Martha thinks she’s helping her troubled sibling, Shannon isn’t actually doing anything to help herself. The result is chaos and leads to murder, grand larceny and frequent betrayals. There is another pair of siblings that briefly appear throughout the narrative who more clearly exemplify the toxicity of co-dependent relationships and the relief one can experience by finally putting themselves first.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Arrival (4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team races against time to decipher their intent. As tensions mount between fearful governments, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) discovers the aliens’ true purpose and, to avert global war, takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly humanity.
Director Denis Villeneuve transfers his dramatic narrative skills to this gripping science fiction story, which is grounded in realism. Rather than trying to communicate via Morse code and light shows, the authorities opt to learn the aliens’ language. Notwithstanding the fictitious scenario depicted, the film does an excellent job enacting what could actually happen if aliens came to Earth without too many fanciful flourishes. Most notably, it rejects the doom-and-gloom and blockbuster battles at the centre of its brawn-over-brains predecessors’ narratives. Though it often appears like Adams’ and Jeremy Renner’s characters are the only things standing between humanity and interstellar war, there is a more intimate story unfolding via a secondary narrative that doesn’t come to the foreground until just the right moment. The 4K resolution is striking in the scenes in which Louise and others enter the spaceship; in spite of the darkness, the details of the walls are well-defined and the aliens are clearly visible in their misty environments. Moreover, the grand landscapes featuring the onyx monolith over a green pasture are simply breathtaking. Finally, the special features provide interesting details regarding the construction of the aliens, their language and Villeneuve’s desire to make the movie as realistic as possible.
Special features include: “Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival”; “Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design”; “Eternal Recurrence: The Score”; “Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process”; and “Principles of Time, Memory & Language.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The story is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing battle in Iraq and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through a sequence of flashbacks, the truth about what really happened is revealed — contrasting the realities of the war with America’s distorted perceptions of heroism.
Since Vietnam, people’s relationship with returning soldiers has been complicated. Bravo is back on U.S. soil for a short time to bury their fallen comrade and “be honoured” at a football game before returning to duty. However, game day runs the gamut of their experiences in relation to the war and their homecoming — his family is divided in their opinions, he’s offered psychological treatment, thanked and beaten by strangers, his uniform earns him the attentions of a cheerleader and his story’s worth is evaluated by Hollywood. It’s obvious Billy and some other members of the squad are suffering from PTSD, yet no one is willing to acknowledge it or the potentially negative effects such an event may have on the soldiers. This isn’t a movie you’d typically expect to be in 3D, but director Ang Lee definitely had a philosophy for using it and it would have been interesting to see his vision.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Into Battle and Onto the Field: Stepping Inside Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”; “Recreating the Halftime Show”; “The Brotherhood of Combat”; and “Assembling A Cast.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Eagle Huntress (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Aisholpan is a 13-year-old girl training to become the first female in 12 generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries.
Although Aisholpan’s aspirations are uncommon, this is a story of female empowerment that also illustrates her persistence must be supported by her family to be successful. Most of the Mongolian men are very traditional, believing women should tend to the home; in spite of Aisholpan’s desire to help her father with the herd and hunt, the rules of their culture dictate she would not have been able to do so if her father didn’t allow it. But she obviously has an aptitude for these pursuits and her father recognizes this, so he goes against tradition and teaches her the family business, so to speak. As audiences watch Aisholpan hone her skills, they are invested in the outcome of the eagle hunter competition and her first hunt. Filmmakers do an excellent job showing this story from a variety of angles using different camera techniques, which are explained in the special features.
Special features include: commentary by director Otto Bell; and “Capturing The Eagle Huntress.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Edge of Seventeen (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) and Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) are inseparable best friends attempting to navigate high school together... until Nadine discovers her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), and Krista have been secretly dating behind her back. They soon realize that there is a fine line between best friends and worst enemies.
Being a teenage girl has been an eternally difficult task and it seems to be increasingly so with the invention of social media and instant messaging. Nadine has always felt like an outcast, particularly in the shadow of her popular jock brother, but sharing her misery with Krista made life tolerable. When she loses her best friend, Nadine spirals out of control and makes some terrible decisions in an attempt to find a new place in the world. She and her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) have never gotten along, while she confides in and often receives hostile advice from her English teacher (Woody Harrelson). Although Nadine’s life is a comedic exaggeration, her feelings of not belonging are genuine and relatable.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and gag reel. (VVS Films)
Jim: The James Foley Story (DVD)
MVD Visual
In August 2014, the video execution of American conflict journalist James Foley by the militant group ISIS challenged the world to deal with a new face of terror. But 40-year-old Foley was more than just the victim of this brutal killing. Seen through the lens of filmmaker Brian Oakes, Foley’s childhood friend, the film takes viewers from small-town New England to the adrenaline-fuelled front lines of Libya and Syria, where Foley pushed the limits of danger to report on the plight of civilians impacted by war. The documentary culminates in Foley’s 2012 capture by ISIS, and the confusion and emotional upheaval that followed, ending in his tragic death nearly two years later.
As noted in the documentary, Jim’s murder was one of the most well-known events in recent U.S. history. Therefore, this film attempts to answer the question that seems to be asked most: “Why was Foley there to begin with?” By tracing his life and career via interviews with friends, family, colleagues and archival footage of Foley speaking about his experiences, Oakes attempts to help viewers understand why someone would choose to endanger their lives by being a war correspondent as well as the effects of that choice on their loved ones. In addition to exploring his career, the film also describes his final days. Most effective in this respect are the interviews with his fellow captives, who along with faceless recreations are able to recreate life in the ISIL prison before the group became a household name.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
King Cobra (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
It's 2006, YouTube is in its infancy, and internet porn is still behind a paywall. Taking the stage name Brent Corrigan, a fresh-faced, wannabe adult video performer (Garrett Clayton) is molded into a star by Stephen (Christian Slater), a closeted gay porn mogul who runs the skin flick empire Cobra Video from his seemingly ordinary suburban home. But as Brent's rise and demands for more money put him at odds with his boss, he also attracts the attention of a rival producer (James Franco) and his unstable lover (Keegan Allen) who will stop at nothing to squash Cobra Video and steal its No. 1 star.
The pornography industry was often considered the Wild West in its early days with new providers popping up at random and rivalries being born out of talent acquisition. Stephen doesn’t force Brent to star in his films, though their own intimacy is somewhat one-sided. The parallel story features Franco and Allen’s co-dependent, irrational partnership that is undoubtedly going to result in some disaster. It’s a little strange to see Slater and Franco in these roles, but they’re equally convincing in their performances with the latter expectedly playing the more outrageous character. Nonetheless the narrative isn’t really unpredictable, though its lascivious subject matter is sure to peak some curiosity.
Special features include: commentary by director/co-writer Justin Kelly; outtakes; and trailer. (Shout Factory)
Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders (DVD)
MVD Visual
Two of the most notorious unsolved cases in the history of American crime — the murders of renowned rap stars Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls — have been the subject of exhaustive investigations, relentless speculation, and a web of conspiracy theories and dark secrets. Using invaluable information sourced from hundreds of police case files, taped confessions never before shown on film, and interviews with lead detective Greg Kading and other witnesses, this is an account of the task force that finally exposed the shocking truth behind the deaths of the two rap music icons.
This is one of the dullest documentaries on what should be an engaging subject. When recounting the murders of such larger-than-life figures, the approach should reflect their lives to some extent. Instead filmmakers create a boring visual report of the crimes, using white talking heads, incoherent 911 recordings, diagrams and police documents. At one point, even though Dr. Dre is clearly identified by a victim of a crime, the narrator lumps him into “other” participants, contributing to the sanitization of his past recently seen in Straight Outta Compton. Trying to keep track of all the major players and the non-linear timeline through mostly voiceovers and on-screen text eventually becomes mind-numbing and confusing.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Nerdland (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Aspiring actor John (Paul Rudd) and wannabe screenwriter Elliot (Patton Oswalt) are slacker best friends who have seen their dreams of super-stardom fizzle. With their 30th birthdays looming and desperation growing, they decide that in this 24/7, celebrity-obsessed world of over-shared navel-gazing, there are more ways to get famous than ever before — so why not become famous by the end of the day, at any cost? With only the grudging support of a wacky collectible store owner (Hannibal Buress) and their one-sided love for a pair of equally fame hungry women (Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) to keep them going, John and Elliot troll Los Angeles on an attention grabbing journey of reckless publicity stunts and failed heroics.
This animated feature represents the longing experienced by those who go to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune. The many horror stories that emerge almost always start with someone expecting their big break. In this case, John and Elliot feel this is their last chance to make a name for themselves; though their approaches to doing so are questionable at best. Unfortunately, their confidence in their talents isn’t supported by their accounts of previous experiences — much like their one-sided love affairs. The cast of supporting characters make significant contributions to this unconventional narrative, each bringing a different level of absurdity to the over-the-top story.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Priceless (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Desperate and at a crossroads, James (Joel Smallbone) agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked. But when he discovers what he is delivering is actually a who, James is compelled to help two frightened sisters who are unaware of the danger that awaits them.
This is apparently a story inspired by true events combined with the band, for KING & COUNTRY’s, philosophy that women are “priceless.” This story of human trafficking and the one man who decides to take down the ring he worked for is over-the-top and preachy, even if it is in line with the filmmakers’ purpose. It’s also kind of disheartening that in order to tell a tale meant to emphasize a woman’s worth, they must first make the women in the narrative desperate and victims of abuse. In spite of the sisters finding strength in each other and never giving up hope of escape, it takes a man — James — to rescue them and recover their worth.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “The Heart Behind the Film”; exclusive performance by For King & Country; and trailers. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Quarry: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
In Memphis during the early 1970s, Marine Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) returns home from his second tour of duty in Vietnam. With his relationship with his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour) growing tenuous, Mac finds himself tempted by a lucrative offer from The Broker (Peter Mullan), a shady criminal involved in a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River. After a series of events, Mac — whom The Broker codenames "Quarry" — finds himself conscripted against his better judgment into The Broker's crew, a turn of events that has dire consequences for both himself and Joni.
This is an intriguing depiction of returned Vietnam War veterans that doesn’t attempt to sugar coat their homecoming in the context of a much more complex narrative. The initial episodes portray the protests, their difficulty finding work and PTSD. As the story continues to unfold, the characters and their situations grow increasingly complicated with and without them knowing. One of the most informative episodes confines Mac and Joni in a hotel room, where they are forced to confront their pasts, present and the feelings they’ve harboured based on those events. The season finale brings the tale full circle and is the most powerful of the eight captivating chapters. Paired with the inquiry scenes in the special features, Mac’s experiences and actions become even clearer. Moreover, the southern ‘70s soundtrack is an always present character in the show that adds to its distinguished mood.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Inside Quarry”; “Quan Thang Inquiry Scenes”; “About Quarry”; “Music of Memphis”; “Recreating 1972”; “Love Letters”; car chase picture in picture; and music videos. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Silicon Cowboys (DVD)
MVD Visual
Launched in 1992 by three friends in a Houston diner, Compaq Computer set out to build a portable PC to take on IBM, the world’s most powerful tech company. Many had tried cloning the industry leader’s code, only to be trounced by IBM and its high-priced lawyers. The documentary explores the remarkable David vs. Goliath story, and eventual demise, of Compaq, an unlikely upstart who altered the future of computing and helped shape the world as we know it today.
Even though their inception and success is one of the most interesting in the tech industry, Compaq’s lack of contemporary brand recognition often keeps them out of the conversation regarding computer innovation. Yet this succinct documentary demonstrates how they paved the way for a competitive market and portable devices. The more exciting aspects of their story have been depicted in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, but this film expands on the company’s history and captures the sentiment of its employees. The three founding members are each present to tell their part of the story, as well as other executives who were there since the early stages of the business’ rapid growth. It’s also fascinating to see the risks companies were willing to take to instil competition and how patent lawsuits became a method of stifling the opposition.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Star Trek: Enterprise: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) pilots the Earth’s first Warp-5 capable ship, Enterprise NX-01, on a long-range mission of research and discovery beginning in the year 2150. During his command, Captain Archer and his crew will face life-threatening challenges from the Xindi, an enemy bent on annihilating humanity via a planet-destroying super weapon, and from Terra Prime, a human terrorist group — as well as a host of problems stirred up by the ever-present Romulans.
Following in Star Wars’ footsteps in more than just a storyline, this series is positioned as a prequel to the original one featuring Captain Kirk and his crew. However after meeting many of these aliens in a different context, it can be difficult to wrap one’s head around them being hostile or outright enemies. Moreover, the basic aesthetic is so far improved from the original, it’s a challenge to imagine it occurred before the show from the ‘60s. Archer’s chief engineer (Connor Trinneer) and the doctor (John Billingsley) are the most entertaining members of the crew, while the rest seem to just be going through the motions. The new aliens, on the other hand, have some creative abilities and appearances that help draw audiences into the stories.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Yoga Hosers (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Invincible Pictures
Fifteen-year-olds Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) are on their smartphones constantly, sing in a small band and take yoga classes. The girls will do just about anything to receive an invitation to a senior party. But when they discover the leader of a Nazi splinter group has been raising an army of monsters beneath the store where they work, the teens team up with legendary man-hunter, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp), to stop the world-threatening uprising.
Reuniting many of the actors from Kevin Smith’s Tusk, this movie matches that effort in its absurdity while taking direction from other creature features of the ‘80s. However, it doesn’t quite capture the magic of those fan favourites even though the miniature sausage Nazis are unlike anything ever depicted. Smith has talked at length about wanting to make a genre movie that featured female protagonists — it was a bonus that he was able to make the movie with his own daughter and her best friend, who just happens to be the daughter of Depp and Vanessa Paradis who also appear in the film. Smith’s passion projects haven’t had the mass appeal he may have hoped for, but this picture is occasionally impressive.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Invincible Pictures)
More about Arrival, Yoga Hosers, The Edge of Seventeen, The Eagle Huntress, Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk
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