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article imageReview: Women are at the heart of this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 22, 2019 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a failed attempt to adapt a great storyline; a classic sleeper children’s horror fantasy; an intimate portrait of a young wife; amateur teenage detectives looking for the truth between rumours; and a knockout performance.
The Case of Hana & Alice (Blu-ray)
GKids & Shout Factory
When Alice transfers to a new middle school, she hears an urban legend about a student who disappeared the previous year and is suspected to have been killed by his fellow students. Even worse, Alice discovers she lives next door to a supposedly haunted home, occupied by a reclusive classmate named Hana. Hana and Alice decide to investigate this “murder case” together, but soon find their lack of detective skills may be an obstacle.
This is primarily a tale of how bizarre and cruel being a teenager can be. Alice is tormented by her classmates for being the new girl assigned the dead boy’s seat. In the same way, she’s ultimately accepted after the class’ witch performs a ritual and deems Alice blessed. The tale of the boy killed by one of his four wives by “anaphylaxis” is hard to believe, but does appear to have some truth in it. After learning what she can from the witch, Alice eventually befriends Hana to get to the bottom of the story. In its animated form, the narrative and the girls’ actions seem slightly less odd because they’re not being performed in live action. Nonetheless, the animation is beautiful and does an excellent job of capturing the characters’ surroundings.
Special features include: interview with voice actors Yu Aoi And Anne Suzuki; film completion press conference; film premiere stage greeting; interview with director Shunji Iwai; message from animator Makoto Shinkai; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (GKids & Shout Factory)
Duplicity (Blu-ray)
Mill Creek Entertainment
Two sexy spies-turned-corporate operatives (Julia Roberts and Clive Owen) are in the midst of a clandestine love affair. When they find themselves on either side of an all-out corporate war, they'll put everything on the line to remain one double-cross ahead in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy certainly enjoys making pictures with complex narratives that audiences cannot watch casually without losing track of the narrative. There’s a lot of jumping back-and-forth between timelines as they show what’s currently happening, then flashback to how they got there. However, nothing beats the opening credit sequence in which company heads played by Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson have an all-out, slow-motion brawl on the tarmac with ties and fists flying everywhere. There isn’t a lot of chemistry between Roberts and Owen, but they make it work well enough since their relationship is somewhat antagonistic anyway. The key to enjoying this picture is following all the threads and piecing together the whole, which is more work than some viewers may want to put into a movie.
There are no special features. (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Elementary: The Final Season (DVD)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
The final season finds Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) returning to the place where Sherlock’s storied legend began — London. Having tied and confessed to a murder he did not commit — to protect Watson’s good name — Sherlock moved back to England to avoid jail time. Loyal Dr. Joan Watson followed him across the pond, where the detective duo jump right into more intriguing cases and encounter a slate of clever criminals, relentless adversaries and at least one old nemesis. Back in New York, Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) feel the absence of their former consultants, but it may not be too long before unorthodox crimes and common enemies bring the foursome back together.
Beginning the season as consultants at Scotland Yard, the detective duo is not thrilled about their new vocations. When a case with a personal connection brings them back to New York, they’re also forced to address Holmes’ outstanding warrant and reach out for unlikely assistance. In the meantime, they also take on a new foe in the form of a tech billionaire who offers a solution to crime, but is really just trying to extend the reach of his own power. Their services are also surprisingly requested by someone who would be one of their peers if it wasn’t for particular circumstances. As the series comes to an end, so does one of the show’s chief rivalries… maybe. Fast-forwarding several years, the pair is still facing adversity together, though their opponent had drastically changed.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Mystery Solved: The Final Season”; “Holmes is Where the Heart Is”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Jezebel (Blu-ray)
Warner Archive Collection
When Julie’s (Bette Davis) constant attempts to make her fiancé Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda) jealous spectacularly backfires, Preston breaks the engagement and leaves town. His return sparks an explosion of jealousy and vengeance.
This is one of Davis’ most acclaimed performances as she portrays a woman who chases away her own happiness, only take a revenge that hurts her more deeply in the end. Julie is the epitome of a Southern Belle, wearing beautiful dresses, dainty hairstyles, convincing everyone to bend to her will with her manipulative charms – and reacting to being scorned with fiery vengeance. Preston, on the other hand, is repeatedly pushed to the limits by her and her pawns, forcing him to take invasive action for his own peace of mind. Those around Julie are acutely aware of her tactics, yet no one’s been able to convince her to stop. Although the film is black-and-white, there’s an integral scene in which Julie wears an inappropriate red dress and it’s clear from the performances she’s broken social protocol and will not be easily forgiven. The transfer is excellent and brings a terrific talent back to the forefront.
Special Features: commentary by film historian Jeanine Basinger; Featurette "Jezebel: Legend of the South"; vintage musical short "Melody Masters: Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra"; classic cartoon " Daffy Duck in Hollywood"; rarely-seen promo-teaser "Ramblin 'Round the Hollywood Studio with the Candid Cameraman"; and theatrical reissue trailer. (Warner Archive Collection)
The Third Wife (DVD)
Film Movement
In late 19th century Vietnam, 14-year-old May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) becomes the third wife to a wealthy landowner. She quickly learns that she can gain status and security if she gives birth to a male child, but her burgeoning attraction to Xuan (Mai Thu Huong Maya), the second wife, puts her fragile standing in jeopardy. As May observes the unfolding tragedy of forbidden love and its devastating consequences, she must make a choice, to either carry on in silence, or forge a path towards personal freedom.
In spite of May’s young age, it’s somewhat of a comfort that her husband is not very old or cruel. He appears to have a good relationship with all of his wives, and the first wife is firm but kind. However, it’s a very sensual film in which the camera doesn’t look immediately away when a couple is in the throes of passion; it lingers just long enough to create a bit of a stir. However, the house is not entirely in order as the family’s only son is rejecting his arranged marriage and causing a raucous by drinking too much. This tragedy is observed from afar, but is still equally sad. The film doesn’t really end with a resolution, but rather the assurance that life will go on.
Special features include: commentary by director Ash Mayfair; NYAFF interview with Mayfair; and short film, “Grasshopper.” (Film Movement)
The Witches (Blu-ray)
Warner Archive Collection
A boy (Jasen Fisher) is turned into a mouse, but must find a way to turn the tables on a secret coven of witches about to launch a plan to rule the world.
Released in 1990, this lesser-known picture became a sleeper classic as it portrayed fairy tale witches in a contemporary narrative. Amusingly, the witches are gathering for a national conference, led by the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston), at which they plan to unveil an insidious plan to rid the world of its greatest pest: children. Of course, the boy is not alone as his fanciful grandmother immediately believes his story and his best friend is along for the ride. The practical effects include transmogrification and hideous facial prosthetics that differentiate the witches from humans. From the imaginations of three of the greatest storytellers of the time — author Roald Dahl, director Nicolas Roeg and executive producer Jim Henson — this movie is a wonderful and memorable fantasy that deserves more recognition and a broader audience.
There are no special features. (Warner Archive Collection)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
During a rescue mission in space, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is transformed into the infinitely powerful and dangerous Dark Phoenix. As Jean spirals out of control, the X-Men must unite to face their most devastating enemy yet — one of their own.
The first thing to get out of the way is this feels like a misguided attempt to shoehorn this amazing narrative into the “trending” women of power film movement. It certainly had the potential since there is an opportunity to highlight three significant female X-Men in the picture, but its approach is way off course. Making Jean a hysterical woman killing her feelings rather than eating them is just an easy way to induce mass destruction, but doesn’t do the Phoenix justice. The visual depiction of the Phoenix is appealing. She begins as a disorienting force in space, lighting the galaxy’s darkness aflame. When Jean begins to lose control, her eyes blaze and her skin cracks revealing an inferno beneath the surface. When the power becomes all encompassing, she’s surrounded by a fiery aura that reflects the intense energy contained within her. Overall, it’s stunning. Consequently, now that the mutant heroes are back under the Marvel umbrella, fans can hope they’ll retake the reins and maybe one day deliver the Phoenix movie everyone deserves.
Special features include: commentary by Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker; deleted scenes; “Rise of the Phoenix: The Making of Dark Phoenix” (5-part documentary); “Scene Breakdown: The 5th Avenue Sequence”; and “How to Fly Your Jet to Space with Beast.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
More about XMen Dark Phoenix, The Third Wife, The Case of Hana and Alice, Duplicity, Elementary
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