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article imageReview: New on DVD for February 18 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 19, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a first-rate horror picture; a few excellent documentaries chronicling a range subjects; and two TV shows that take betrayal to new levels.
The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (Blu-ray)
RLJ Entertainment / Image Entertainment
Seventeen-year-old Mariah Mundi’s (Aneurin Barnard) life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped. Following a trail of clues to the darkly majestic Prince Regent Hotel, Mariah discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long-lost artifact that grants limitless wealth — but also devastating supernatural power. With the fate of his world, and his family at stake, Mariah will risk everything to unravel the curse of the Midas Box.
Altering the legend of King Midas' touch is a brave endeavor that pays off to create an interesting twist in the storyline. However, the execution of the quest is less thrilling. The venture is structured perfectly, containing numerous near misses, unethical villains and an unimaginable treasure; but it's never truly exciting. Mariah's passion for the mission is simply lacking, in spite of how personal it is and what he has at stake; especially in comparison to Charity (Michael Sheen), who is the liveliest of any of the characters. But when the protagonist cannot muster up the excitement that such a caper should instill, it's nearly impossible for the audience to do it for him.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (RLJ Entertainment / Image Entertainment)
Banshee Chapter (DVD)
Anne (Katia Winter), a young journalist with an appetite for controversy, follows the trail of a strange government research chemical that might have caused the disappearance of her close friend (Michael McMillian). After tracing the substance to the desert ranch of an infamous retired novelist (Ted Levine), she's drawn into an experience of terror and frightening entities that she cannot escape. The labyrinth trail of evidence leads her into the disturbing world of black ops chemical projects, unexplained radio transmissions, and shadowy disfigured entities in the blackness of night. Anne will do anything to uncover what lies behind her friend's disappearance. But to her horror, she discovers that it wants to find her too.
The title says little about the subject matter, but the narrative is actually extrapolated from real events in which the CIA drugged unknowing civilians for military research. Paired with rumors about the government's attempt to harness unnatural forces, this story is just true enough to be extra creepy. Newcomer Blair Erickson has a superb understanding of horror, atmosphere, anticipation and surprise. As unidentified intruders bang on closed doors and babbling victims insist "they're" coming, the viewer is equally uneasy in the dark that is filled with ignorance and fear. There is one section in a basement that is more of a plot device than well-developed scare tactic, but it may still work for some and can be forgiven in context by the rest. The found footage point-of-view quickly gives way to a more traditional shooting style, and mock archival film sprinkled throughout the picture provide the "real" element instead.
There are no special features. (levelFILM)
Cutie and the Boxer (DVD)
Mongrel Media
Once a rising star in the '70's New York art scene, 80-year-old "boxing" painter Ushio Shinohara is prepping for his latest show, hoping to reinvigorate his career. His wife and de facto assistant, Noriko, seeks her own recognition through her "Cutie" illustrations, which depict their chaotic 40-year marriage.
The title is a reference to their artistic work, which constitutes the surface story. Though Ushio was once a mainstay of the New York art scene, he now struggles to sell his work to pay the bills. An artist as well, Noriko has always lived in the shadow of his public genius. However, after nearly 40 years and a long break from painting, she has finally found her own voice and is ready to receive recognition as more than just Ushio's "assistant." Splicing in home video throughout the narrative is another window into the early years of their relationship, during which Noriko's idealism was crushed by the burden of parenthood and an alcoholic husband. Combined with candid interviews and amusing animations, this is a documentary that shines a light on artistic and marital struggles, and a couple that’s endured through them all.
Special features include: deleted scenes; Shinohara: The Last Artist by Rod McCall; Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival; and “Action is Art: A Study of Ushio Shinohara's Boxing Painting.” (Mongrel Media)
Dallas: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Warner Bros. Home Media Distribution
J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), one of the most iconic television villains of all time, takes his last breath under very suspicious circumstances — but not before stirring up a season's worth of Texas-size trouble. J.R. deviously guides his son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), in stealing the family business from Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy), while the ladies take their own sides. Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) runs for governor; Ann (Brenda Strong) takes aim at her ex, Harris (Mitch Pileggi); and Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) and Elena (Jordana Brewster) prove that being beautiful and fighting dirty sometimes go hand in hand. Plus, Elena's brother, Drew (Kuno Becker), and Ann's long-lost daughter, Emma (Emma Bell), add their own agendas to life at Southfork.
While the feuding, conniving and slapping carried on from last season, this season holds the distinction of being J.R.'s final. Hagman's unexpected death was skillfully handled by the writers, who kept his spirit alive by allowing the iconic character to continue pulling the strings from beyond the grave. Though his would be the ultimate scheme, his family and enemies remain busy hatching their own plans to deceive and usurp each other. John Ross proves finally he is his father's soon, while Bobby shows he is not beyond using his brother's tactics. The farewell episode to J.R. begins with a special opening in tribute to the character and actor, and is followed by a touching goodbye by old and new faces. Last minute reveals in the season finale promise fireworks in the upcoming season that will involve scorned women and new players.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Fashion Files”; “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” extended cut episode; Dallas at PaleyFest 2013; “The Battle for Ewing Energies: Blood is Thicker than Oil”; “Memories of Larry Hagman: A Cast and Crew Tribute”; and “One Last Conversation with Larry Hagman.” (Warner Bros. Home Media Distribution)
Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
In the third season, the Lannisters barely hold on to the throne after a savage naval onslaught from Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), while stirrings in the north threaten to alter the overall balance of power. Robb Stark (Richard Madden), King in the North, faces major calamity in his efforts to build on his victories over the Lannisters while beyond the Wall, Mance Ryder (Ciarán Hinds) and his huge army of wildlings continue their inexorable march south. Across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) — reunited with her three fast-maturing dragons — attempts to raise an army to sail with her from Essos, in hopes of eventually claiming the Iron Throne.
The tide is changing for many of the characters after last season, but not all for the good. After defending the throne from the threatening siege, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is not granted the expected award or recognition for his efforts; he is instead poised for a new battle against his despicable father. Daenerys is renewed and ready to strike, though her advisors are weary of her apparent imprudence. With everyone planning attack or working to stand against one, the web of betrayals grows wider and ever more intricate. Although none shall compare to what is now known as "The Red Wedding" in episode nine. Even though the knowledge of its existence removes some of the anticipation, it still comes as a shock. As is the case in war, not everyone makes it to the next season but there will be exciting story arcs on the horizon.
Special features include: 12 commentaries with cast and crew; deleted and extended scenes; in-episode guide; “’The Rains of Castmere’ Unveiled”; “Histories and Lore”; “Roots of Westeros”; “A Gathering Storm”; “The Politics of Marriage”; “Inside the Wildlings”; and new characters. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Hindenburg (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
On May 6th, 1937, the world’s largest passenger airship was attempting to dock near Lakehurst, New Jersey when it suddenly erupted in flames and crashed to the ground. But what really caused The Hindenburg tragedy? This two-part miniseries that reveals what may have been a deadly conspiracy: When a corrupt American oil tycoon plots to sabotage the floating German leviathan, the ship’s young designer and the mogul's beloved daughter find themselves in a desperate on-board race to uncover the truth.
With any catastrophe of this magnitude, speculation of its cause and motivations for sabotage abound. There are several theories, but clearly the most exciting is a planted explosive. This hypothesis is made even more thrilling when the players are only revealed gradually, the motivation is mostly monetary and the clock is ticking. Part of the narrative mirrors the love story in Titanic as a young couple from different stations in life fall for each other but are kept apart by uncontrollable circumstances. In this case the young man is wanted for murder rather than theft. Though the historical setting is unique in that it has not often been used as a backdrop, it is still simply a place for a relatively standard hero tale to unfold.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Human Scale (DVD)
Mongrel Media
Fifty percent of the world's population lives in urban areas. By 2050 this will increase to 80 percent. Life in a mega city is both enchanting and problematic. Today we face peak oil, climate change, loneliness and severe health issues due to our way of life. But why? Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl has studied human behavior in cities through 40 years. He has documented how modern cities repel human interaction, and argues that we can build cities in a way which takes human needs for inclusion and intimacy into account.
Urban sprawl is an issue cities are having increasingly more difficulty addressing. The solution would seem to be more creativity in the planning stages, but that effort is useless if it never sees the light of day. In one city, an urban planning group’s attempt at a pedestrian area is rejected by the traffic authorities who quickly revert the space to a roadway. There are some very clever ideas about changing how we live, some of which have even been implemented but many of which are still in the stages of a pipedream. However, the uninflated numbers and statistics demonstrate the necessity for rapid action versus discussions and idleness.
Special features include: Discussions with Jan Gehl, Helle Søholt, Camilla van Deurs and Kristian Villadsen. (Mongrel Media)
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (DVD)
During a sweltering summer in New York City, 13-year-old Mister's (Skylan Brooks) hard-living mother (Jennifer Hudson) is apprehended by the police, leaving the boy and nine-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon) alone to forage for food while dodging child protective services and the destructive scenarios of the Brooklyn projects. Faced with more than any child can be expected to bear, the resourceful Mister nevertheless feels he is an unstoppable force against seemingly unmovable obstacles. But what really keeps the pair in the survival game is much more Mister's vulnerability than his larger-than-life attitude.
This film uses the audience as a punching bag, delivering one blow after another. From Mister’s classroom disappointments to his mother’s public addiction to horrific signs of child abuse, the narrative puts these boys’ pitiful lives on display to pull at the viewers’ heartstrings and endear them to these children. Nonetheless, in spite of its progressively manipulative story arc, it is well-told and impeccably acted. Brooks captures the anger that masks Mister’s vulnerability with a keen understanding of the intense conflicts with which he struggles daily. Conversely, Dizon’s Peter is fragile and desperate to be loved. While the conclusion is an attempt at redemption, it is less complete than the alternate ending included in the bonus features.
Special features include: commentary by director George Tillman, Jr. and actors Brooks and Dizon; deleted scenes with optional commentary; “Rehearsal to scene” comparison; “BOOTCAMP” skateboard instruction video; and “BOOTCAMP” drug counselor character research. (levelFILM)
Spinning Plates (DVD)
The film follows three restaurants and the people who make them what they are. These stories range from Alinea, the seventh-best restaurant in the world, whose chef, Grant Achatz, must battle life-threatening cancer; to a 150-year-old family restaurant in Iowa with an unbreakable bond with its community; to a fledgling Mexican restaurant whose immigrant owners risk everything to provide a better life for their young daughter.
The three stories are told in parallel, which keeps their development consistent but also fragmented. Each restaurateur is given approximately two to five minutes and then the narrative switches to another of the establishments. Identifying the common thread of each section determines that they are answering an unspoken question, such as “How did you begin?” or “What kind of experience do you offer your customers?” While Alinea’s tale complements the other stories, Achatz’s journey could clearly be the focus of its own documentary; however, it would be subject to endless comparisons to El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. One eventually grows accustomed to the disjointed style of storytelling, but it still leaves something to be desired.
There are no special features. (levelFILM)
The Summit (DVD)
Mongrel Media
In August 2008, 18 mountain climbers reached the top of K2. Forty-eight hours later, 11 people were dead. While memorials paid tribute to those killed, there were also condemnations about the "why." Why do these athletes risk everything to reach a place humans are simply not meant to go? Based on the testimony of those who survived the climb, this film chronicles what unfolded in those fateful hours.
"The only one that really knows what happened is the mountain." This is a statement made by a loved one of one of the 11 climbers who never made it back from the trek — and it couldn't be truer. Yet filmmakers try to retrace the steps of the couple dozen men and women who made the initial attempt for the summit, sorting through conflicting accounts and allowing many of the climbers to describe the events in their own words through interviews and archival footage. The recreation of events enhances their accounts, providing a visual version to accompany their verbal descriptions and try to help the viewer better comprehend the delicacy and severity of their situations.
There are no special features. (Mongrel Media)
More about Banshee Chapter, cutie and the boxer, Dallas, Game Of Thrones, Hindenburg
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